PARIS - As a chronic immigrant, I'm loath to support immigration policies that might make life difficult for anyone seeking to legitimately integrate into and contribute to an adoptive nation. Nonetheless, as the Obama administration attempts to reform U.S. immigration policies, there needs to be some standard of selection for immigrants. That standard should be nothing more or less than meritocracy.
The common argument against meritocracy is the well-worn image of the hard-working illegal immigrant who lives in a dive and toils away in the underground economy to send money to his family back home - who he hopes will one day join him in America. While that type of immigrant is wholeheartedly deserving of sympathy, imagine if such a person represented the acceptable immigration standard. It would defeat the purpose of having any kind of policy at all.
Certainly this person deserves an opportunity at a better life - which is why America and its allies contribute billions of dollars every year to foreign-aid programs and often intervene militarily under humanitarian pretext. It's not like he can't work for Western companies abroad. They're everywhere, particularly in emerging markets. And once you get your foot in the door and prove yourself at one of these companies, you have the opportunity to work your way up to a visa that will legitimately allow you to work in America. Merit-based immigration would eventually favor this person as well.
Will Republicans have the courage to straighten their backbones and defend the principle of merit-based immigration? Or will they ultimately engage President Obama and the Democrats in a race to sell out America for votes? Granted, the immigrants affected by these policies don't even vote, but many of their families and friends do. So do those influenced by the various lobbying groups advocating on behalf of groups of immigrants on the basis of race rather than merit (which is actually pretty racist unto itself).
Obama recently instructed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review deportation policies. There are already so many candidates for deportation that more than 36,000 convicted criminals residing in America illegally were released from detention last year while awaiting deportation proceedings, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is apparently having trouble determining which non-citizens convicted of criminal offenses on U.S. soil should face deportation. Here's a tip to help speed things up: Deport all of them. That's an inherent part of the deal. The assumed risk that one takes when entering a country illegally is that you play the game knowing full well that that one day you might get pulled over by a traffic cop who runs your ID and ends your streak of good luck.
As a legal immigrant, I've always been conscious of the possibility that merely running afoul of the host country's bureaucracy might result in visa-renewal problems - let alone committing any sort of crime. A non-naturalized immigrant's basic right is refugee status, assuming it's warranted - period. Anything more is a privilege.
One Obama proposal recommends raising the family-sponsored immigration cap from 7 percent to 15 percent. The last thing that America needs is more nepotism - this time, enshrined as official policy.
The president wants to introduce, according to a White House press release, "a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs." No. Just no. Can you imagine Russia doing this? Or China? Who cares how "rigorous" the national security and background checks are. Bureaucrats are still conducting them, and we know how well that worked on the guys who managed to get into America on visas to ultimately fly planes into buildings on September 11, 2001.
Yet another proposal "streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence." Presumably, because some non-citizens have chosen to jump the queue and do things illegally, they're now afraid to call the police for fear of deportation. Sounds to me like one of the few incentives that still exists to go to the trouble of immigrating legally.
The administration wants to "expand the pool of individuals who can travel without a visa, and get people into trusted traveler programs so they don't have to wait in line when they arrive." By all means, let's get people "trusted" and let them bypass as much bureaucracy as possible, because that won't be open to exploitation by terrorist groups or anything.
Forget all this counterproductive nonsense. The immigration reform that America needs is simple: Make legal immigration more cost-effective and less cumbersome for those who have earned it.
(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris. She appears frequently on TV and in publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.)
(c) 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.