We won't solve nation's problems without first targeting immigration

OAKLAND, CALIF. — OAKLAND, Calif. -- Americans' main concerns are jobs, the economy, homeland security and health care costs. Can any presidential candidate effectively solve those problems without drastically reducing the influx of temporary or permanent foreign-born workers and families?

In the last three years, this country has suffered a net loss of 2.3 million jobs. The new employment opportunities created during that period have not met the needs of native and foreign-born workers who have since joined the labor markets.


If we continue to massively export high-tech and manufacturing jobs and simultaneously import hundreds of thousands of temporary and permanent foreign nationals of working age every year, how can existing legal resident job seekers find work?

Instead of proposing a $250 million job-training program for community colleges and offering amnesty to an estimated 8 million to 11 million illegal aliens by granting them work permits, shouldn't President Bush advocate enforcement of our immigration laws and a moratorium on most legal immigration?


Immigration advocates argue that illegal immigrants are taking jobs that Americans don't want. But low-skilled natives, white and black, in areas that have low levels of immigration, are still holding those "unwanted" low-end positions such as at hotels and in construction.

Additionally, this country still has millions of low-skilled unemployed workers, able-bodied welfare recipients and nonviolent former prison inmates. Why not give them incentives to take those jobs? Is extending unemployment benefits or welfare the real solution? Instead of yielding to farm operators' demands for more low-skilled foreign-born workers, why not encourage them to mechanize further?

Promoters of mass immigration claim that immigration is needed to boost our economy. Why, then, is California, which receives more immigrants than any other state, on the verge of bankruptcy? The United States was very prosperous in the 1960s with far fewer foreign-born residents than today.

Currently, with 90 million more people since 1970, mostly due to immigration-derived growth, this country is experiencing its highest budget deficits. Low-skilled workers with limited incomes are not likely to pay enough taxes even to offset the cost of educating their children, which averages over $6,000 a child a year, let alone pay for other social services.

Presidential candidates should also realize that successfully reforming this nation's health care system must be coupled with substantial reductions in immigration. Many hospitals are near bankruptcy because of the care they are required by law to provide to illegal aliens. In addition, recent immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for more than half of the growth in our uninsured population. We simply cannot have long-term, fiscally responsible universal health care without substantially reducing immigration or raising taxes.

High illegal immigration also affects our homeland security. Since 9/11, well over $100 billion has been spent on measures supposedly to curb international terrorism. But our borders are more porous than ever. An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 people continue to enter this country illegally every year. Do our presidential candidates believe that no terrorist would attempt to sneak across?

Our law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed, so is it wise to invite millions of legal immigrants and temporary workers, all of whom need screening, to enter this country every year? We should remember that Richard C. Reid, the British shoe bomber, is not an Arab, and that the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were legal as well as illegal immigrants.

The United States has the fiscal, legal and technological means to control immigration. Reducing legal immigration requires only an act of Congress signed into law by the president, as was done in 1924. That law reduced immigration from about 1 million a year at the turn of the 20th century to an average of less than 200,000 a year between 1925 and 1965. If Congress sends a firm and unequivocal message that illegal aliens will never be amnestied and that they will not be able to work or receive benefits, how many could survive here and how many would want to come?


Many immigrants are assets to this country, but massive immigration hurts us all. Immigration reduction is the necessary first step in addressing our critical national problems.

Yeh Ling-Ling is executive director of Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America, a national nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif.