Immigration Reform 2013: Legal Immigrants Are Getting the Short End Of the Stick


Word continues to filter out that the "Gang of Eight" four Republican senators and four Democratic senators are soon going to introduce legislation on immigration reform, an issue which President Barack Obama has made a priority.

This phrase is key, because many people worry that "comprehensive immigration reform" (as it's come to be called) will reward those who broke the law. The concern is that immigrants who illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas will gain an advantage over those immigrants who came here legally. With this in mind, President Obama and the current legislation in the works call for illegal immigrants to get in line behind those who are already applying for permanent legal residence (i.e., a green card) and citizenship.

But does this address the line-jumping concern?

No, it doesn't, because the immigration reform proposed by President Obama and by the Gang of Eight would give illegal immigrants a provisional, probationary status before they become permanent residents. That status would allow them to hold on to their jobs, jobs that they claimed ahead of immigrants legally applying to come to the U.S. (and even ahead of U.S. citizens). Illegal immigrants would still be profiting from law-breaking on the employment front. And getting a job, of course, is one of the main reasons people emigrate to the U.S.

If we're truly going to make illegal immigrants go to the back of the line, we should insist that they apply to come here from their country of citizenship. Or we should crack down on illegal hiring and demand that employers only hire immigrants who are already here legally. I'll grant that neither of these things is likely to happen, since there's not a lot of enthusiasm for the idea that illegal immigrants should (or will) self-deport, or for tougher enforcement on employers.

But the alternative is to allow people to hold on to an advantage they gained unfairly by breaking the law. Maybe there are other considerations that outweigh that unfairness. But it's troubling that most of the people advocating immigration reform don't even acknowledge that there's any unfairness in it at all. And I never hear any illegal immigrants expressing remorse or embarrassment for asking that their line-jumping with respect to jobs be codified into law.

Would we allow a business that ignored health and safety regulations to hold on to the advantage it gained over other businesses? Would we allow an employee who falsified their resume to hold on to the advantage they gained over others? Would we just give up on enforcing the rules because so many people are breaking them, and because it would be too disruptive and break up too many families?

I doubt that such excuses would fly, given that we all know ahead of time that breaking the law sometimes results in a disruption of your life and being separated from your family.

Under the Gang of Eight immigration reform proposal, illegal immigrants won't be going to the back of the job line: immigration reform will instead validate their act of cutting to the front of the line, ahead of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. And, when people once again see others benefit from breaking U.S. immigration and border security law, they will have yet another incentive to ignore those "reformed" laws in the future.

Advocates of immigration reform need to explain why we should certify line-jumping and allow those who broke the law to come out ahead of those who obeyed it.