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FORMULATING IMMIGRATION POLICY IN A TIME OF REFORM: A PLAN FOR THE COMPENSATED REPATRIATION OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
An NPG Forum Paper
by John Thompson
A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO REFORM IMMIGRATION POLICY
Until 2016, a seemingly insurmountable coalition of interests groups had blocked any serious consideration of the prevailing system of high legal immigration and de facto toleration of illegal immigration. Democratic politicians were increasingly captivated by the vision of an immigration-propelled emerging majority, in which an influx of some 100 million people (80% of them low-skilled immigrants) would drive the population to over 400 million by the middle of
the century. Once the illegal aliens1 – who are concentrated near the bottom of the economic pyramid and isolated from the cultural mainstream – were on a path to citizenship, they would be collecting government benefits, binding them permanently to the Democrats.
Republican voters and legislators should have been expected to recoil at the prospect of a displacement of the native population and a surge in clients for the welfare state, stemming in large part from a collapse in law enforcement. Indeed, during the past 15 years the Congress, led by Republicans, beat back three heavily-lobbied attempts at legalizing the open border through amnesty. Resistance was kept within limits, however, by corporate donors – who were convinced that their best interests lay in rising population and low wages.
The self-imposed silence on immigration in political discourse ended abruptly last year, when the two candidates favoring a tough stance – Trump and Cruz – swept the Republican primaries by wide margins. After winning the presidency, Donald Trump has issued executive orders that strengthen enforcement of present immigration laws while legislation to reduce and rationalize legal immigration has been introduced in the Congress. Contrary to all expectations, therefore, the country is embarking on a major reconsideration of its immigration system.
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