Strengthening The Middle Class – Immigration and Mass Migrations

I believe the long-term stability and strength of our Nation is predicated on having a large, healthy middle class.

Unfortunately, the United States has been gravitating towards the direction of increased economic disparity for the past several decades – which means a larger amount of wealth is concentrated in a smaller portion of the population. 

Immigration is one of several factors we must consider if we are to begin reducing the economic disparity and strengthen the middle class.

However, given the emotionally-charged nature of this topic we must make one thing clear from the outset: We are all created in God’s image and must resist the impulse to demonize or scapegoat others – regardless of their immigration status.  We can insist on having sustainable, disciplined immigration policy and still treat foreign-born residents with dignity and respect.

Having said that, here are the principles of sustainable immigration policy:

  • We must know who is entering and leaving our country. Period.
    1. There very well may be people in the United States who have racist intentions when they argue for secure borders – and racists and racism must be repudiated; but sustainable and disciplined immigration policy has nothing to do with racism or “disliking” people of color and is a National Security imperative.
    2. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) I witnessed first-hand what happens when you cannot control the influx of fighters and weapons into your theater of operations: https://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/iran-dossier/iran-19-06-ch-4-iraq.
    3. I also served in the US Army Corps of Engineers at US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and we are dangerously naïve if we do not believe our adversaries are utilizing our borders and ports of entries to infiltrate our country. As exhibit A, PLEASE read the USSOUTHCOM Commander’s posture statement before Congress in March 2021 and do a search on “VEO” (Violent Extremist Organization) and “TCO” (Transnational Criminal Organization): https://www.southcom.mil/Portals/7/Documents/Posture%20Statements/SOUTHCOM%202021%20Posture%20Statement_FINAL.pdf?ver=qVZdqbYBi_-rPgtL2LzDkg%3d%3d
  • We must be able to verify the identity of every immigrant coming into the United States.
    1. My Iraqi interpreters sacrificed their own safety and the safety of their families to help us accomplish our missions and ensure that we were able to come back safely to OUR families. Yet, they still went through EXTENSIVE checks and received dozens of letters of recommendation before they were allowed to enter as part of the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/special-immg-visas-iraqis-employed-us-gov.html.  We can debate the efficiency of the labyrinthine process they were asked to follow, but the bottom line is that it is not an unrealistic expectation for EVERY immigrant to be asked to go through a similar process before being admitted to the United States.
    2. This same standard should be in place for our southern border and for any country or region of the world that does not have effective governance in place – because this effective governance in their country of origin is needed to facilitate the necessary background checks and security screenings prior to entering our country.
  • WE (US Citizens) are a large part of the illegal immigration problem.
    1. One of the more startling observations during my time at USSOUTHCOM was how US demand for illegal drugs, human trafficking, other illicit products, and cheap labor was (is) THE primary driver for illegal immigrants from Central America. The flows of these illicit items through Central American countries undermine effective governance in these countries and makes the instability and subsequent human trafficking problem to the United States WORSE.  https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-drugs-are-getting-smuggled-from-south-america-to-the-us-2017-9  
    2. Even for those who are not doing drugs or participating directly in human trafficking, we need to think about how WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM every time we decide to hire an unlicensed contractor or handyman because we want to save a buck on a project around the house… Or every time we insist on a ridiculously cheap Big Mac or other fast food – because that food would not be as inexpensive if we were paying US or legal guest workers to work in these industries.
  • ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE: Our country NEEDS the energy and talent of the best and brightest minds in the world.
    1. I work in information technology (IT) and my personal experience is that my colleagues from abroad (primarily Asia) are some of the kindest, smartest, hardest working, and family-oriented people I have ever met. We NEED people like that in the United States.
    2. We MUST have a pathway to citizenship and a more robust guest worker visa program. We can and SHOULD make these requirements stringent so we do not undermine US workers or incentivize rule-breaking – along with enforcement teeth to punish violators – but we are only hurting ourselves by not introducing common-sense, bi-partisan immigration reform. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_of_Eight_(immigration)
  • Other principles of sustainable immigration policy:
    1. Immigrants who are allowed to enter the country must be self-sufficient. One possible exception to this rule should be made for foreign (e.g. Iraqi and Afghan) interpreters who may need a brief transition period to become productive members of society, since their skills may not translate directly or immediately to our information-based economy; but to be clear, even these individuals cannot remain on public assistance indefinitely.
    2. No matter how kind we think we are being in the short-term, it is completely unsustainable to pay any type of social welfare programs or benefits to undocumented immigrants if our National debt is skyrocketing and we do not know how we are going to fully fund social welfare programs (e.g. social security) for our millennials and Gen: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2021/07/18/social-security-cuts-what-can-you-expect-get-based-your-age/7950130002/  
    3. We cannot participate in a “race to the bottom” in our global economy by off-shoring jobs to countries that do not have the same standards of labor rights, worker protections, etc. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/world/asia/bangladesh-fire-kills-more-than-100-and-injures-many.html – see future essay on STRENGTHENING THE MIDDLE CLASS: Globalization and Trade, for more details.
    4. We cannot rely on immigration as the driver of intellectual capital while continuing to UNDERINVEST in the education of our native born population – see future essay on STRENGTHENING THE MIDDLE CLASS: Education, for more details.

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