Time has come for real immigration reform

I’ve never really had an issue with illegal immigration. If someone is willing to risk life and limb, to run, jump and swim to America for a better life, that’s someone with a work ethic I want living here, as opposed to my fellow American who is too lazy or stupid to get a job in a universe of less than 4 percent unemployment.

Now that I’ve made several of your heads explode let’s have a rational conversation about immigration and what to do about “dreamers,” those immigrants brought here illegally by their parents and who are being the good citizens we want them to be.

First, the Trump administration is correct when it says Congress should make it so those kids can stay and codify it the statute. And for those of you think “Dreamers” are all gang members and criminals, you’d be wrong, as usual. In fact, to qualify for the “Dreamer” program there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through.

According to the federal immigration folks, to be a “Dreamer,” you had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. You must have entered the United States prior to your 16th birthday; resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, and currently be present in the U.S. You also had to have been in the United States on June 15, 2012, and must be physically in the U.S. at the time of filing for your request for deferred action. You entered the United States without border inspection before June 15, 2012, or your immigration status expired before June 15, 2012.

You also must be currently in school, have graduated, or obtained an equivalent certificate of completion from high school, successfully obtained a general equivalency development (GED) certificate, or must have been honorably discharged from the armed forces of the United States. And you must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and must not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

And for the record, “Dreamers” are not a drain on the economy. A recent survey of recipients showed 93 percent of them over that age of 25 are employed; 8 percent own their own businesses. Their average earnings are more than $36,000 annually.

So why anyone who would not want these kids in our country is beyond me. And let’s take it a step further. The hardcore immigration crowd insists that building a wall must be any part of any immigration legislation. Well, here’s a newsflash — actually, illegal immigration to this country is down dramatically. The Trump administration is correct when it says illegal border crossings have plummeted since the Don took office. While it is not the 80 percent that Trump claims, the number is closer to 52 percent.

By the way, a close look at the numbers also shows there are more people here illegally because they have overstayed their visas rather than crossed over the Rio Grande. The Center for Migration Studies found that since 2007, more undocumented aliens came to the United States on a visa and then overstayed versus those who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

As a matter of fact, over the last 10 years, visa overstays have surpassed illegal border crossings by 600,000. And most of the overstays were from Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. So, if we’re going to build a wall, we might want to start near Kabul or Baghdad.

My main point is this. The “Dreamers” are not a problem and tying their ability to stay here and be productive citizens to a silly wall (that you can climb over or tunnel under) is not the answer. We need an immigration plan that was made for the 21st century, and we need to do a better job of tracking people we allow here legally and then forget where they are. This might be too much to ask for, but I can always dream, right?

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.