Rutecki: Fixing our broken immigration system

The future of American immigration hinges on our country’s response to two important questions: “Are we a nation of laws?” and “Are we a nation of borders?” I believe our country should cherish both of these things.

However, not everyone agrees with me. For example, in a commencement speech last year at Northeastern University, former Secretary of State John Kerry told graduates to prepare for a “borderless world.” The primary purpose of our national borders is to keep Americans safe. I am strongly in favor of legal immigration and proudly welcome immigrants seeking a better life and the chance to serve our communities. After all, we are to “love thy neighbour as thyself.”

But we cannot give terrorists and drug traffickers the opportunity to flood across our borders illegally and harm us. Homeowners lock their doors at night not because they are against inviting people in, but as a necessary precaution in our dangerous world.  The key to solving our immigration crisis involves opening our nation’s doors to those genuinely seeking to be a part of the American dream, while closing them to evildoers.   

Former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program cannot be a long-term solution. I support the protection DACA provides for otherwise-illegal minors. The United States is the only country many of these people have ever known, and it would be downright cruel to do anything other than to accept them with open arms.

However, Obama’s implementation of DACA belied his campaign promises.

In Obama’s first term, when the Democrats had a large majority in Congress, he promised, “I will make [comprehensive immigration reform] a top priority in my first year as president.”  

However, instead of leading a permanent, legislative approach to seek full citizenship for DACA recipients, he bypassed Congress and signed an executive action that gave them only temporary legal status. Obama put the citizenship of DACA recipients in jeopardy while conveniently being out of office when their protection expired.   

The first way to fix our broken immigration system is to strengthen our border security. President Trump has already shown an initiative to secure the border through an executive order, which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to hire an additional 5,000 border agents and empowers law enforcement to enforce immigration laws to their fullest extent.

The president’s approach has been shown to be successful. For example, the number of illegal crossings have fallen 75% from January of this year to April in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a hotspot for human smuggling.

The second approach to fixing our immigration system is by reforming the U.S. citizenship process. One major problem with the current process is the financial toll involved. Immigration lawyers who help clients through the green card process typically charge between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars, while the cost of some cases can exceed $15,000. This massive expense is a barrier to individuals who are perhaps the most deserving of American citizenship, hard-working people struggling to provide for their families.

Then there is the length of the process. Many applicants spend years navigating through tedious requirements with no guarantee that they will be approved in the end. Congress needs to create a bipartisan solution that significantly eases the pain in applying for citizenship to encourage immigrants to join our country the right way.

I believe adults who enter the U.S. illegally do not deserve the same protection warranted to DACA recipients, and thereby should be deported in accordance with U.S. immigration law.  American citizenship is not a universal right. The people who enter our country unlawfully do so with the full knowledge that they and their family can be legally deported at any time, and bear full responsibility of this consequence. Similarly, if someone burglarizes a house, they can expect to be arrested.

The foundation of immigration reform must revolve around changing our inadequate laws, not subverting them. If Americans want to get rid of borders entirely, they should rally behind John Kerry and do so legislatively at the ballot box.

Paul is a fourth-year student majoring in accounting who loves to play cello.