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Citizenship lotteries

Immigration Challenge: Be fair, not random.

U.S. citizenship is one of the world’s greatest treasures; one that scores of millions – foreign and domestic – have sacrificed and suffered to attain over the past 200 hundred years. Yet our current system treats citizenship like a lottery. The U.S. government holds a visa lottery every year to give away 55,000 green cards (i.e. a permanent U.S. work permit and a path to citizenship) every year. Is this the way to run an immigration system?

The lottery was originally conceived by Irish-American lawmakers to grant green cards to Irish who were in the country illegally. Eligibility for the “diversity visa lottery” – better known as the “Green Card Lottery” – is determined by national origin (i.e. you are eligible – or not – based on the country of your birth).

Chain reactions 

Immigration Challenge: Prioritize the family in a manageable system.

You may have heard the term “chain migration.” Think of a “chain letter” or any “chain reaction.” These terms describe phenomena where a single action sparks multiple new actions. Another way to describe this would be a “domino effect.” Usually, once the chain reaction starts, it is very hard to stop. Half a century ago, lawmakers unintentionally built a chain reaction into U.S. immigration policy. They all said they weren’t going to change the numbers. They were wrong. Nevertheless, that mistake remains as a core part of current U.S. policy.

Each year, the U.S. issues over a quarter-million green cards based on nothing but the fact that the recipient has an extended-family relationship with an earlier immigrant. Each of those quarter million can go on to sponsor additional relatives, who sponsor theirs, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. America chooses the first immigrant; the chain reaction determines the rest.

Like any chain reaction, the system is all but impossible to manage or control, contributing to unrecoverable backlogs, frustration, and diminished faith in legal immigration itself.

The lawmakers who set the chain reaction in motion promised this would never happen, but “chain migration” remains at the heart of our immigration system today.

Birth Tourism 

Immigration Challenge: Preserve the integrity of our “birthright”.

Citizens of other nations can enter the U.S. on a tourist visa (or cross the border illegally), take a weekend vacation, deliver a baby, and the U.S. government will automatically bestow “birthright citizenship” on the newborn. When the child turns 18, the whole family becomes eligible for green cards, setting off a new “chain migration” (see above). The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was intended to enfranchise former slaves and their descendants, not create the global “birth tourism” industry that we have today.

Rewards for not hiring Americans 

Immigration Challenge: Meet our obligations to our national community.

There is a government program that offers employers a saving of 8.25% when they hire foreign workers. The most popular white-collar temporary visa program – supposedly created to fill urgent labor shortages – allows employers to hire captive foreign workers “even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job.”

Blue-collar guest worker programs likewise have a history of discriminating against Americans and exploiting foreign workers, including teenagers.

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