Expert discusses immigration issues
Sept. 29, 2008
By Rebecca LaFlure
Reporter


Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., will speak 7 p.m. today in room D110 Baylor Sciences Building about his book, The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal.

Krikorian regularly testifes before Congress, has been published in The Washington Post and The New York Times, has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN and National Public Radio, amoung other prominent television and radio programs.

The Baylor Lariat interviewed Krikorian Friady about his thoughts on controversial immigration issues.


Q: There are many international students that attend Baylor University. What is your opinion in regards to them having the opportunity to study in the United States?


A: Admitting a certain number of foreign students is a good idea. It's good for American students to be exposed to people from abroad, and it's good for foreigners to experience more of the United States.


But, there are two problems with our current foreign student program.


One is it's not temporary. Huge proportions of foreign students end up staying. They use it as an immigration program, and no foreign student should be permitted to stay permanently unless they marry an American citizen.


They should be required to go home. That's the reason they came here ¬*¬*-- to learn more and then go back to help their home countries.


The second problem is that we take too many foreign students.


We have well over half a million foreign students in the United States, and every one of them costs taxpayer's money. Every one of them is subsidized because, even if they pay full tuition, tuition only covers the relatively small part of the cost of an education.


We need to understand that every foreign student admitted takes a place and consumes subsidies that American students would otherwise get. That's not a reason for not having any, but it is an argument for being much more selective and much more limited in the number of foreign students we take.


Q: You make the case in your book that legal immigration to the U.S. poses a problem as well as illegal immigration. May you explain this further?


A: Most the concerns people have about illegal immigration -- effects on tax payers, on sovereignty, on the economy -- are the same for legal immigration.


There's not that much difference. Obviously illegal immigration is illegal and that's an additional problem that it creates, but most of the fall- out created by illegal immigration has nothing to do with legal status. It has to do with numbers alone.


You can't talk about the apex of immigration and focus just on illegal immigration, because really, if legal status were the only problem, we should just have open borders and let in anyone who wants to come legally, and that would be a mistake.


My point is that any change in immigration policy needs to start with illegal immigration, because, until you enforce the law, it doesn't matter what the rules are. Once you get to that point, you then have to ask: is the legal immigration policy sensible? And it's not.


Q: In your opinion, how can the U.S. prevent illegal immigration or decrease immigration in general?


A: Legal immigration is just a federal government program. It can be changed tomorrow; increased, decreased, whatever, so that's not really the issue on how we'd do that.


We can talk about what it should look like, but it's regarding illegal immigration that a lot of people doubt we can really do anything. In other words, it's like the weather or tides, that we just have to lie back and pretend to enjoy it, and we don't.


Illegal immigration isn't that hard to limit.

It can't be stopped completely. Nothing really can, but the question is, how do we minimize it and how do we manage it? That's done in three places.


First, overseas in our visa offices, where we need to be much more strict in giving out visas because a quarter and a half of all illegal aliens got visas and came into the country and never left.


So the first place to limit illegal immigration is abroad by being much more selective in who we give visas to.

The second place you deal with illegal immigration is at the border.


Mostly the border patrol but also for airports and land crossings and everybody understands how you do that better ... All the measures they use: technology, ground censors, what have you.


The third level is inside the country, and that's probably the most important. The key there is making it as difficult as possible for illegal aliens to live a normal life here.

The key to that is insuring that it's very difficult, if not impossible, for illegal immigrants to get a job, because if you can't work, you can't stay here.


Q: Do you think that, (the difficult job process for immigrants), has anything to do with the declining economy as well?


A: Yes, it's both. There's no question that it's both, but the decrease in the illegal population, according to the Census data we looked at, started before the unemployment rate for illegal immigrants went up.


In the past it's been the other way around, as common sense would suggest. People would start losing their jobs, some of them would look around, give up, and then go home.

This time, it was the other way around and the anecdotal evidence reinforces that.


Lots of illegal immigrant interviewed by reporters would say, "Look the economy's not that great, but they're also raiding all these plants and arresting people and it's getting harder to use fake documents so I'm going to pack up and go home."


Q: What should the United States do in response to the millions of illegal immigrants that are already here?

A: The way that's usually discussed is that there are only two options.


One is round them all up and drive them out in a short period of time, mass deportations. Which we can't do even if we wanted to, the numbers are just too big. Or, since we can't do that, we have to legalize them. In other words, there are only two options, amnesty or mass deportation.

In fact, there is a third way.


Rather than magically eliminating the problem either through amnesty or mass deportation, what we do is start enforcing the law consistently across the board, something we've never even tried before, so that the illegal population starts declining each year instead of continually growing.


We've estimated you can reduce the illegal population by half, by normal consistent enforcement measures over a period of 5 years ... After a period of years, we could revisit the question of whether some remaining people should or should not be legalized.


That's a debate that's not even appropriate at this point.


Q: What's your opinion on the current presidential candidates' immigration plans?


A: They're exactly the same so there's nothing to debate between them.


They both want to legalize illegal immigrants who are here, and they both want to increase future legal immigration, and they both promise they will enforce the law at some point in the future.


This has not worked in the past, and it won't work in limiting illegal immigration if we try it again.

It's the same approach that we tried in the 1986 amnesty where illegal immigrants got their citizen status in exchange for promises to enforce the laws in the future, and those promises were never answered.

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