Immigration reform should consider what is best for U.S.

This winter has seen multiple proposals for “comprehensive immigration reform,” including the framework by the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Eight” which includes Colorado’s Michael Bennet. Effectively reforming U.S. immigration law requires dealing with enforcement, aliens illegally residing here and future immigration. However, all of these plans say that a solution can only be “comprehensive” if it first legalizes all illegal aliens, massively increases legal immigration and only later enforces immigration law.

These plans arrive at this solution because they represent only the views of foreigners, the employers who would hire them and the politicians who would receive the votes of the newly enfranchised. Disturbingly absent from these plans is any representation of the interests of ordinary American citizens and the needs of the United States as a whole.

Behind this thinking is a set of misguided values. One is that immigration levels should be set by immigrants, not citizens. The major source of legal admissions is sponsorship of extended family members by recent immigrants, not value to the U.S. The only illegal aliens deemed unacceptable enough to deport and the only immigrants who can be denied admission are those who commit violent crimes.

Another attitude is that the size, growth rate and composition of the U.S. population are not important. These politicians don’t want to acknowledge the numerous, obvious connections between population and the great challenges facing this nation, like the affordability of health care, infrastructure, water and energy supplies, school performance and the distribution of wealth. Consequently, their plans don’t propose a numerical cap on total immigration.

By maintaining that the U.S. has chronic labor shortages that require steady immigration, these plans reveal a concept of nationhood fundamentally different from that of most citizens. They say that the U.S. is merely an economy where people come to make money without much concern for the cultural, legal, educational and institutional fabrics that enable their success here. They imply that the citizens who built and advance these fabrics have no more right to benefit from them than new arrivals — that we’re competing as individuals, not as a nation.

These politicians believe that national prosperity is measured by the total economic output within our borders instead of the output per citizen. When U.S. success creates opportunities, they contemptuously believe that, if citizens don’t immediately fill them, foreigners should expediently be imported. They won’t support long-term initiatives to advance citizens into these opportunities. They have the imperious attitude that the U.S. is entitled to all of the world’s smartest people — the very agents of change who could benefit far more people in their homelands.

For less attractive work, they are afraid to enforce the fair labor practices Americans expect while letting the market respond. They could cause the pay and conditions of low-skill jobs to rise to U.S. standards by reducing the flow of immigrant labor, which would cause many of these jobs to be subsumed or exported. Instead they seek to unsustainably continue low-skill immigration while impossibly promising to respect American workers, attempting to assuage their guilt over un-American servitude by awarding citizenship.

True comprehensive immigration reform would start with interior and border enforcement, admit only those immigrants who most benefit the U.S. in numbers that stabilize our population and eventually legalize, without citizenship, those desirable aliens who remain.

Peter M. O’Neill is a U.S. citizen, engineer and community volunteer. He lives in Fort Collins.

Article originally published in the Coloradoan.