As Immigration Debate Ramps Up, Two Sides Square Off

By Chris Adams

Clamping down on both legal and illegal immigration has been a key component of President Donald Trump’s time in the White House.

But given the polarized political climate in Washington, it’s not been easy for either side of the immigration debate to make headway in efforts to either restrict or broaden the nation’s current immigration policies.

In a session with Paul Miller fellows, two experts on the nation’s immigration laws differed on the effectiveness of those laws, how they should be modified and whether it’s politically possible to do so.

Leon Fresco, an immigration law partner at Holland and Knight who was a deputy assistant attorney general for immigration in the Obama Justice Department, and Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, squared off on some of the thorniest immigration problems of the last several years – none of which will be easy to solve.

First up was the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that has allowed “dreamers” to stay in the United States even though their parents brought them to the country illegally when they were young.

The Trump administration has proposed ending the program, and the issue has hit a stalemate in Congress.

That was only the most immediate issue. At the core, Fresco said, the Trump administration is pushing a major change in the very nature of immigration in the U.S. – something that Krikorian said is long overdue.

“I would say there are probably 100 to 200 million people around the world who would move here tomorrow if they could,” Krikorian said. “Our legal immigration system can never satisfy that demand.”

For all the current talk about building a southern wall, both Krikorian and Fresco see an even bigger enforcement issue: people who overstay their visas. Modern technology could enable U.S. authorities to better track people who overstay, using biometric markers and cellphones to pinpoint where people are and whether they have blown past their deadlines.

“We can have the most secure immigration system we want,” Fresco said. “We now live in a world where the technology exists for immigration enforcement.”

Other issues they debated included the future of family immigration – or its subset known as “chain migration”; the status of building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico; and how to handle 11 million immigrants now living illegally in the U.S.

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