Donald J. Trump rose to political fame when he identified illegal immigration as a top threat to the United States and advocated a serious crackdown. He also called for much needed reforms in America’s legal immigration policies. As the 2016 presidential election wore on, Trump promised he would not only increase mass deportations of illegals, he would also build a wall—and make Mexico pay for it. Watching President Trump’s speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday, I was heartened he had not abandoned his immigration policies. In many respects, Trump sounds like he wants to go even further.
The mere election of such a vociferously pro-immigration enforcement candidate sent chills up the spines of those around the world looking for an illegal entry into the United States. Indeed, since November 2016, illegal immigration into the United States has dropped precipitously. Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has steadily intensified its crackdown and begun deportations of those illegal immigrants with criminal records.
Virtually overnight, President Trump disproved what every indolent Washington elite has told us about immigration for decades: it can be reversed with strong enforcement. Just look at how remittances—the money that immigrants (both legal and illegal) send back to their countries of origin—have fallen to historic lows since Trump’s election.
Even without the physical border wall, President Trump has already made American immigration policy great again. But there is still more to be done.
Not resting on his laurels, the president announced in Iowa this week that he wanted to disallow eligibility for entitlement benefits to immigrants for at least five years after their arrival. Of course, the usual suspects have ridiculed Trump’s proposal. As usual, these critics are wrong.
Many immigrants today are increasingly dependent on entitlements. Almost from the moment they enter the country, immigrants sign up for a litany of government benefits to buttress their economic standing in the country. It’d be one thing if it were only a handful of immigrants signing up for entitlements. But, it’s not.
align=”left” Not resting on his laurels, the president announced in Iowa this week that he wanted to disallow eligibility for entitlement benefits to immigrants for at least five years after their arrival. Of course, the usual suspects have ridiculed Trump’s proposal. As usual, these critics are wrong.
An astounding 51 percent of families headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) are on some form of public assistance. And it isn’t just the entitlements that immigrants are coming for. They are coming for the wages, but they are not especially interested in spending their money here in the United States. Instead, they send much of their earnings back to their homeland in the form of remittances. In many cases, the immigrants live on the entitlements provided by the United States government and then return all of their earnings back to their families living abroad.
Take Mexico, for instance, which the World Bank has listed as the top recipient of remittances from its citizens residing in the United States. A staggering $25 billion per year in remittances is sent back to Mexico. In fact, Mexico’s economy (the 12th-largest in the world, in terms of GDP) makes more money in remittances from the United States per year than it does from its vast oil supplies.
According to the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank in Washington, D.C., most of those remittances were sent by illegal immigrants. Of course, several other countries besides Mexico enjoy the benefits of having their citizens working in the United States. The World Bank lists (in order) China, India, the Philippines, and Nigeria as rounding out the list of top five countries that receive the most money in the form of remittances from America. As you can see, between their wages and the generous government benefits, a majority of immigrants in the United States are making out like bandits (as are the homelands from which they fled).
At the same time, illegal immigrants increase the financial burden on American taxpayers while lowering employment opportunities and depressing wages. It might very well be the case that immigrants—legal and illegal—are hard workers who “do the jobs Americans won’t do” (to borrow President George W. Bush’s execrable phrase); however, it is still almost certainly the case that too much immigration of this type is a net drain on society.
When my great-grandfather, Joseph Sala, emigrated here from Italy in the early 20th century, he was a young boy who couldn’t speak English and had no money to his name. As a young student, he was mocked by his peers and teachers alike because he couldn’t speak English; he was told he’d be lucky if he managed to end up as the school’s custodian. Did he respond by complaining or by accepting that predicted fate? Did he go on welfare? Did he insist that he was a victim and was entitled to federal recompense for his troubles?
He taught himself English, graduated top of his class, and went on to medical school to become a highly successful doctor in Indiana. He also volunteered to fight in World War II, where he served in the Army in the European Theater. For over 50 years, he practiced medicine and never looked back. He became a pillar of his community. He never asked for help and never accepted a handout from the government—even when he was trying to survive the Great Depression. He contributed more to this country than can ever be quantified. We can always find room for immigrants like Dr. Joseph Sala.
Many millions of people wish to come to the United States for the same reason my great-grandfather did: to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, there are also many people clamoring to come here for the generous government benefits. In the case of many of today’s illegal and legal immigrants, their migration is less of an emotional or ideological attachment to the freedom that American society affords its citizens and more of a transactional relationship.
align=”right” Many millions of people wish to come to the United States for the same reason my great-grandfather did: to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, there are also many people clamoring to come here for the generous government benefits.
It was always true that immigrants came to America, in part, to improve their material circumstances. But there was also a recognition on our part that our freedom and our way of life—that is to say, American culture—was the cause of any likely material improvement. We were not embarrassed to insist that newcomers adapt to our mores if they wanted to get ahead. For a whole host of reasons (and to our own detriment as well as to the detriment of the immigrants themselves) it is no longer the case that we see a connection between prosperity and our way of life. We are ashamed to say that our way is better.
Yet immigrants still come here for economic gain and, when they don’t adopt the skills to get it, we are ashamed and seem to think that we are obligated to provide it through transfer payments. Little wonder, then, that so few seem to care much about integration into the larger American society. Further, with the rise of the cult of political correctness, our society is increasingly unable to encourage new immigrants to fully adapt to our way of life and increasingly tolerant of ungrateful criticism of it.
So, while critics of the President’s immigration plans rightly point out that many immigrants (both legal and illegal) do the jobs that many Americans haven’t readily accepted for years, these immigrants are not doing anything heroic in taking these jobs so much as they are seeking to to elevate the financial standing of themselves and their families back home in their countries of origin, such as Mexico. They care little for bettering the United States—though it is hard to see why they would when we teach them in our schools and through the popular culture what a rotten and corrupt place it has always been.
align=”left” By enacting a five-year ban on entitlements for immigrants; by tightening up our welfare system to prevent illegal immigrants from manipulating the system; and by enforcing immigration laws, we are ensuring that the right immigrants are coming here legally.
For those questioning the degree to which so much of today’s immigration is of a transactional nature for the immigrants, just look at how many illegal immigrants have stopped crossing the border since Trump’s election. If these people were really motivated by an unquenchable desire to live the American Dream, as opposed to simply getting an infusion of quick cash, there’d be no stopping them from entering this country (and very little opposition to it).
By enacting a five-year ban on entitlements for immigrants; by tightening up our welfare system to prevent illegal immigrants from manipulating the system; and by enforcing immigration laws, we are ensuring that the right immigrants are coming here legally. Such policies will mean that people like my Grandpa Joe, as opposed to the killer of Kate Steinle, will come to America.
Even with a five-year moratorium on welfare benefits, with an increase in immigration law enforcement, and with (one hopes) a physical wall, the United States would remain the most desirable location for immigrants. That will not change. In fact, by ensuring the right sort of people (those who will contribute more to our society than they will take) make it in first, the United States could improve its deteriorating political and economic position overall. Of course, we will need to do more to assimilate those of good will who do come. But that is going to take even more work as we must first reinvigorate a love of country in our native born population.
Trump’s proposed reforms are the sort of policies that make citizenship a treasure to those who earn it—as opposed to just another entitlement to those who couldn’t care less about what it means to be an American. Donald Trump has already made America’s immigration policy great again. He needs to keep it that way.
Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@