Tracing rational immigration policy

There is a middle ground


(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

By Greg Fournier, Collegian Columnist

Over the past few weeks, more and more attention has been brought to the migrant caravan that is making its way through Mexico. At the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, several migrants tried to storm the border fence and were hit with tear gas fired by United States immigration agents, causing an international outrage and moral panic. Whether or not the use of tear gas was justified, this incident clearly highlights the fact that the climate of the country regarding immigration is uncomfortable and overwhelmingly partisan. On one side, people bearing stickers that say ‘no human being is illegal’ on their laptops seem to argue that there is nothing wrong with immigration and that any attempt to restrict it is just a xenophobic, unconscionable infringement upon human rights. Meanwhile, on the other side, MAGA hat-wearing commentators often express the ideas that immigrants are coming to steal your jobs and kill your family. However, there is a wide middle ground on this issue that no one seems to want to discuss.

First, all forms of immigration have potentially negative consequences. Illegal immigration is clearly not inherently good – hence the word “illegal.” Yet, some people are under the belief that all immigrants should be allowed into the country. But the necessity of immigrationlaws can be seen in full display in the case of Mollie Tibbetts, a 24-year-old woman who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by an illegal immigrant. Though this isn’t necessarily indicative of illegal immigrants as a whole, this case still belies the idea that every immigrant who comes to the U.S. is benevolent. Had there been stricter laws in place to prevent this man from entering the country, Tibbetts would still be alive today.

Even the most progressive countries, particularly ones in Scandinavia, have strict immigration laws. According to, “the Nordic governments are aiming to reduce their desirability as destinations by tightening asylum benefits to the minimum standards.” The American left loves these countries, with Bernie Sanders arguing for the U.S. to adopt Scandinavian economic strategies. Why then don’t they also idealize the Scandinavian immigration policies?

The immigration debate has been rearing its ugly head lately in the European Union as well. The recent rise of right-wing populist parties in this region may be an effect of the worsening migration crisis in the Middle East, and the U.S. should be wary of this.

On the other hand, closing the border completely is not the correct solution, either. There are a few reasons why the border should remain at least slightly porous. Many people would consider immigration to be an economic negative to the country, and an oft-repeated soundbite from President Trump’s campaign is that immigrants are ‘stealing’ American jobs and cheapening labor. According to the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, this is not true. Immigration increases the supply of labor which, in the short run, devalues the price of labor and hence the wages of laborers. However, as prices drop, the demand for labor increases, which can have a net effect of increasing the price of labor over time.

Additionally, there are humanitarian issues to consider: Many people are unaware of or ignore the fact that places like Myanmar and Venezuela are currently suffering through horrendous humanitarian crises. The U.S. has the ability to help people fleeing from other countries who are being hunted or hurt by their governments, and completely closing the border would not allow for that help to be given.

There is an alternative solution to the partisan bickering that has characterized the U.S. immigration debate for the past few years. We need to secure our border. This much is obvious, for reasons mentioned earlier in this article. However, we can’t close it off completely; we need people from other countries to help bolster our economy, and we should offer assistance to people who are fleeing from oppressive regimes. But these refugees should come to designated ports of entry and claim asylum, rather than rushing the border like the migrants at the border are doing now. Immigrants who are here illegally already should be given time to get the proper papers, and if they don’t get them in time, they should be deported.

Stop pretending like the extremes are the only positions available. Exploit the middle ground in the immigration debate and maybe we can have civilized dialogue about an important issue once again. We need to seek compromise to address an issue with considerable consequences.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]