Ronald Reagan famously remarked during his farewell address that our country was a “shining city on a hill.” Commenting on immigration he continued by saying, “and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”
Reagan’s words should inform us as immigration reform proposals are forming on Capitol Hill. The debate about how to reform our immigration system, which has been broken for generations, has cleared major hurdles in recent weeks. Business owners and many other stakeholders are pushing for bold, conservative principles in the solutions to fix the system.
As a business owner, it’s encouraging to hear that the Chamber of Commerce and labor unions have agreed upon a deal. I’m eager to see the final details on paper, which I hope fully account for the crucial need for a robust guest-worker program. The deal being crafted is in a political landscape dramatically different than the attempt at reform in 2007.
Many people beg to live in the United States because our ideals of liberty produce results that are powerfully attractive to those born outside of our borders. From the freedom of political and religious expression, to the protections of the rule of law, to the guarantee of opportunity, our nation’s principles are a beacon to the oppressed. When upheld, these ideals create economic and cultural prosperity here at home.
How broken is our system? Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who have applied for a visa more than 20 years ago are just having their applications reviewed today. Prosperity draws immigrants but our laws don’t allow many to enter legally. Our current systems’ blind eye towards supply and demand make a desperate immigrant’s decision somewhat straightforward: just cross the border. The American Dream is too appealing, and rightly so.
As conservatives, we oppose daunting bureaucracy within all parts of government. Our view of the immigration system should be no different.
Border security without a doubt must be strengthened. But we also need a system that will efficiently manage the thousands of immigrants that want to come here legally.
And in dealing with that reality, millions of people have breached our complicated and broken immigration system. Either we can scuttle the entire debate with scare tactics, as many cynical politicians want, or we can push through sensible reforms that we as conservatives should support. Citizenship, as Reagan said, is “one of the most sacred possessions of our people,” but disagreements on this issue should not halt good, necessary reforms.
Blanket amnesty has not worked in the past and shouldn’t be tried again. A new immigration system that allows current unauthorized immigrants to be involved fully in society, paying fines for breaking the immigration laws, and not receiving preferential treatment over legal immigrants is fair. To call any of the current negotiations in Washington, D.C., “amnesty” is flat out dishonest.
Regardless of politics, doing nothing is not an option. It’s for the good of our economy, job creators and families. Albert Einstein, born in Germany, pioneered breakthroughs in physics and played a major role in winning World War II. Sergio Zyman, born in Mexico City, was Chief Marketing Officer of Coca-Cola and ushered in an explosion of sales for the company through his vision. Sergey Brin was born in the Soviet Union and co-founded Google in the United States. America should continue to remain the place where anyone can succeed—no matter the soil of his or her birth.
As Carlos Gutierrez, Cuban immigrant and former U.S. Commerce Secretary, said in a speech, “The United States stands on a path to freedom, prosperity, and stability.” Let’s stay on that path.