All sovereign nations have the right and the duty to protect their borders. While nations do not have the right to keep people within their borders, they do have the right to keep noncitizens out.

In other words, noncitizens do NOT have a right to immigrate; rather, immigration is a privilege granted by a nation to those individuals it chooses.

So, how should nations choose to whom they grant that privilege?

In America, the U.S. Constitution specifically empowers Congress to set immigration policy, and the preamble of the Constitution provides the framework in which that should be done.

The preamble reads, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”

So, under the Constitution, we the people empower our elected officials to establish policies that serve the interests of Americans.

Today in the United States, 22 million Americans want, but cannot find, full-time jobs. Among Americans with only a high school education, one in five (20%) cannot find full-time work.

Among Hispanic Americans with only a high school education, 36 percent cannot find full-time work.

Among Black Americans with only a high school education, 40 percent cannot find full-time work.

Among American teens—16 and 17 year olds—40 percent cannot find full-time jobs. And yet, today in the United States, because our government has abdicated its duty to enforce immigration laws, an estimated 7 million non-agricultural jobs are held by illegal aliens. The vast majority of these illegal aliens have no more than a high school education.

In addition, our government currently grants permanent work permits to an average of 75,000 working-age legal immigrants every single month, under the most generous legal immigration policy in the world. About half of these immigrants have no more than a high school education.

How is it morally or civically acceptable for the U.S. government to not just ignore the plight of 22 million Americans who desperately need jobs, but to actively pursue a policy that actually imports more workers to compete with them for scarce jobs, and that drives down wages?

How is it morally or civically just to import large numbers of foreign workers at the expense of native-born minorities?

How is it morally or civically right to import foreign labor and thereby deny our own young people the entry-level jobs they need to develop a work ethic and begin to climb the economic ladder?

Individually, we have a moral and civic obligation to help all people to the best of our ability. The moral and civic obligation of the United States government, however, must be first and foremost to serve the interests of the American people.

It simply is not moral or civically responsible to offer the American Dream to mass numbers of foreigners at the cost of denying it to the most vulnerable of our fellow Americans.

Remarks by Rosemary Jenks at the Centennial Institute Debate -- January 2011

Legal Immigration