Democrats and Republicans alike collude in gutting enforcement at the workplace. Policing the border isn’t immigration enforcement. It’s a visually spectacular (and of course hugely expensive) substitute for enforcement. And even those Americans who don’t know the policy details understand that politicians are making immigration promises that they do not intend to keep. The all-pervading bad faith on immigration enforcement opens space for immigration demagogues.
Which is where we have arrived. There’s more to say, including about the obsolescence of refugee policy and the dysfunction of America’s legal immigration system.The reality is that we do have a dysfunctional immigration system, which was made all the more poignant by the headline today was that arrests of undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico are down significantly since Donald Trump took office. The explanation offered is that threats from the Trump administration have discouraged people from trying to make the crossing. It would be nice if it were that easy (so that we could get rid of the silly idea of building a wall), but we will have to see. It is the case, though, that the number of undocumented immigrants represents a very clear failure of Congress to implement an effective immigration policy. For example, one of the big complaints routinely leveled is that someone should not be allowed to stay in the country without papers when there is a very long line of people waiting for visas to enter the country legally. The problem is the mismatch between those people--a large fraction of whom are family members of currently legal immigrants--and the jobs for which employers are looking for workers. Canada has dealt with this issue with its point system that gives higher priority, even to family members, if they have a job skill needed by the Canadian economy. This is one of many ideas that exist for effectively cutting down on undocumented immigration by improving the legal migration system, but so far none has gained much traction in Congress, and I'm not completely sure why they haven't.