SHOULD THE UNITED STATES RESTRICT IMMIGRATION? OPINION: JOEL B. POLLAK: 'If people can't get across, they won't have to be arrested'.


Should the United States restrict immigration? I think there should be a limit on immigration, but we shouldn't restrict it to zero. I think we need to be smarter about its composition and prioritize people with skills that could help the economy. We have a policy right now that prioritizes family-based immigration, which is not particularly smart. Canada has a more sensible policy that prioritizes skills.

Many conservatives, and liberals too, think we should reduce legal immigration because of competition with American workers from new immigrants. But I see two major economic reasons to continue robust legal immigration. First, legal immigrants with skills create jobs both for themselves and for Americans; and second, we have a very expensive entitlement system that needs more workers paying into it if it's going to survive. So we want to encourage people who are going to generate value.

There are arguments against certain kinds of legal immigration, and we need to ensure that immigrants coming here legally also have an appreciation for American institutions and values. Perhaps we need a more robust way of screening that, but in general I'm pretty supportive of legal immigration.

Do Jews have a special responsibility toward immigrants? The Torah instructs us to welcome the "stranger." In the original Hebrew, however, the word for "stranger" is the same as the word for "convert." The implication is that the "stranger" agrees to obey our laws. The rabbis interpret these verses in precisely that way. Those who cross the U.S. border illegally are disobeying the law, and we do not owe them any special obligation. Arguably, Jews have an obligation to speak up in defense of those fleeing religious persecution and political repression. But at the moment, the asylum process is being abused by many people whose applications are improper or even fraudulent and who are crowding out those truly in need.

Does the family separation controversy reflect a broad desire to reduce immigration levels? No, and the controversy is not really about family separation. The policy was to enforce existing immigration laws, which prohibit detaining parents with their children beyond a certain period. And so when parents were detained for crossing the border illegally, they had to be held separately from their children.

I don't think what's happening has anything to do with restricting legal immigration. We're not enforcing our laws, and child smugglers and criminals...

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