Are tougher U.S. immigration laws hurting America?
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- Yes? But have you considered...
- No? But have you considered...
…that a tougher immigration policy could help prevent a future terrorist attack on U.S. soil?
9/11 proved that the most serious terrorist threats facing this country originate from outside our borders. Sure, there haven’t been any major attacks on U.S. soil since then, but there are plenty of people out there who have made clear their intention to carry out more attacks.
Many politicians believe that toughening our immigration rules is key to preventing future attacks. After all, the 9/11 hijackers obtained visas and entered the United States with ease.
“For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons,” noted the official report of the 9/11 Commission, which went on to pinpoint the ease with which the hijackers obtained official U.S. identification, such as driver’s licenses, often under aliases. Legislation like the REAL ID Act, which was introduced in 2005 to toughen procedures for obtaining official documentation, will also make life harder for would-be terrorists.
More tough legislation is needed to continue to keep America safe. Look again to the 9/11 attackers, four of whom were given tickets for traffic violations in the run up to the 2001 attacks, and two of whom had overstayed their tourist visas by periods of more than six months when they were stopped. (Don’t underestimate the magnitude of the “overstaying” problem: A whopping 45 percent of illegal immigrants arrived here legally, then overstayed their visas.) Since police officers don’t have access to immigration records or terrorist “watch lists,” they couldn’t check the backgrounds of these men. One can’t help but wonder if 9/11 might have been a day like any other had it been routine for local police officers to run checks and detect and detain dangerous and/or illegal foreigners.
And let’s not forget the importance of border security to the anti-terrorist effort. After all, what is the point of making visas harder to obtain if anyone can simply wander across America’s borders unchallenged? Once inside the United States, countless undocumented migrants are essentially invisible to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
When it comes to fighting terrorism, getting tougher is the only option.
…that being tough on immigration goes against the core notions upon which this country was built: brain capital and the marketplace of ideas?
Immigration doesn’t just mean tandoori chicken and carne asada tacos in your neighborhood: It is a keystone in the creativity and innovation that makes America all that it is. Countless white-collar workers as well as captains of industry — like Google’s Sergey Brin and Intel’s Andrew Grove — are proof that this country has thrived by attracting an influx of talented, hardworking people.
Put the kibosh on immigration and squelch our marvelous culture of creativity — including the creativity that helps us maintain our position as an economic superpower. According to a recent report by a McKinsey consultancy, excessive regulation means that New York City is losing its position as the world’s leading financial capital. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Senator Charles Schumer agree, arguing for immigration reform “so we stop turning away talented and innovative people.”
Economist Philippe Legrain, a former adviser to the director general of the World Trade Organization, adds the example of science, pointing to the many Nobel prizes won by U.S. teams that include foreign-born scientists. “Since diversity boosts innovation,” he says, “and innovation is the source of most economic growth, critics who claim that immigration has few or no economic benefits are profoundly mistaken. Immigration makes for a richer life in every sense.”
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates also regards current immigration policy as a risk to the future of America: In testimony before Congress, he called the current shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States “acute” and warned that if immigration laws weren't relaxed, “U.S. companies will simply not have the talent they need to innovate and compete,” adding that we risk losing our position as the world’s “center of progress” and “global innovation leader.”
And let’s not forget that tougher immigration policy also affects writers, artists and academics who operate outside the business and technology sectors. Ian McEwan, acclaimed British author of Atonement, was detained by U.S. immigration officials, after which he thanked the Department of Homeland Security for “protecting the American public from British novelists.” Indeed, the obstacles to creative types getting visas to the United States are so tough that some arts organizations are now compelled to hire “visa wranglers.”
Keep up the tough immigration policy or make it even tougher, and watch nonnative talent go elsewhere to share their intellectual capital.
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