By any measure there is no doubt that America is undergoing a major immigration crisis. Thousands of people are crossing our borders in the hope of living the American dream. Many of those migrants wind up in major cities, some sent there voluntarily and others shipped there by headline-seeking politicians looking to pander to their anti-immigrant followers.
This Nov. 6 will mark the 37th anniversary of the approval of the Immigration Reform and Control Act by President Ronald Reagan. The bill created a process by which no new immigrants could be admitted into this country without meeting strict standards.There was one major twist in the law: It carried an exemption for anyone who had entered the country before 1982.Those immigrants were granted amnesty and 3 million wound up with a path to citizenship.
President Reagan was no flaming liberal. He strongly believed that America was made stronger by the infusion of new people anxious to work hard, pay taxes, attend houses of worship, and become part of the fiber that makes this country so great. Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming described Reagan’s core belief that “it was not right for people to be abused. Anybody who’s here illegally is going to be abused in some way, either financially or physically. They have no rights.”
Our latest crisis at the border is due to the consistent failure of our U.S.Congress to make any bipartisan effort to solve the crisis that is now upon us. Some members of Congress, all of whom are descendants of immigrants, find it easier to scapegoat the migrants rather than support a sound border policy. Others are unwilling to battle for new laws that would solve the crisis for fear that they will be punished at the ballot box.
So the result of this government malpractice is that places such as New York City are drowning with a migrant population that is caught in a game of finger-pointing between the mayor, the governor, and the mostly silent Biden administration. Many of the migrants crammed into aging hotels would love to work, but they cannot get a work permit from either the federal or city government.
If you stroll around the streets of Manhattan or any other borough, you will find multiple signs proclaiming “help wanted.” There is no doubt that there are plenty of men and women who are willing and able to fill those jobs and become part of our next generation of workers. But our elected federal officials have failed them and there is no hope that things will change.
Some of the louder voices on the right think a bigger border wall is the solution. Others on the left decry the inaction of officials who are paralyzed for lack of funds and a plan. But the genie is out of the bottle — and absent leadership from somewhere, we are destined to face this crisis for a long time to come.
Jerry Kremer is a former New York State assemblyman.