Immigration "Time-Out" (Moratorium)

Legal immigration to the United States is headed for the highest level in American history. More than one million immigrants settle in the United States every year—nearly four times as many immigrants as we were receiving only 30 years ago. Illegal immigration has been rising steadily and has now reached the unprecedented level of over eight million illegal aliens.
For as long as there have been immigration laws on the books, the stated and implied purpose of those regulations has been to protect the livelihoods of American workers, to maintain national security, to preserve a sense of national cohesion, and to prevent destructive population growth. Yet today, our immigration system is so hopelessly overwhelmed and undermanned that the immigration laws have become a mockery. And even as poll after poll shows that the public is anxious to consider a wide array of immigration reforms, legal and illegal immigration continue to careen out of control.

The Problem

Next to the tax code, the immigration law is the most complicated set of statutes on the books. However, while the United States has many immigration laws, we have no immigration policy. There is no laid out overriding set of national objectives for immigration. Immigration decisions are made most often by recent immigrants who petition to have their relatives brought to the U.S. or by illegal immigrants who arrive uninvited. The American people and their government have lost control of the decision-making process.

Furthermore, current immigration levels are so high that immigration officials are unable to thoroughly screen immigrants before allowing them into the country. September 11 exposed the serious breaches in our immigration policies and laws that could be exploited with relative ease and deadly consequences; indeed, all 19 of the hijackers had visas issued to them by the U.S. government. Today’s level of immigration is simply too high to be regulated effectively, too high to ensure proper interior enforcement, and too high to be consistent with U.S. national needs and priorities.

Even after September 11, our borders remain porous and millions of people enter the country illegally each year. Hundreds of thousands of them settle permanently—and we lack any way of knowing who they are or what their intentions may be. The same open borders that allow millions of illegal aliens to enter the U.S. each year have been used by terrorists to infiltrate our country; indeed, recent reports are that 1,000 al-Qaeda members are believed to be in the U.S.

How a Time-Out Would Help

Current immigration policies have overloaded the immigration system, making it impossible to properly screen aliens for admission, track aliens in the U.S., and enforce laws against illegal immigration. Without a reduction in the enormous immigration workload, we won’t be able get a handle on the problem while still facing a flow of more than one million new immigrants every year. (Currently, more than three million people are already on a waiting list to immigrate to the United States and many millions more have the necessary family ties to apply.)

A time-out would bring about a major reduction in immigration for a fixed period of time. Just as one would shut off the main water valve before attempting to fix a leaky pipe, the United States needs to halt most forms of immigration while we repair a dysfunctional policy.

Stopping most forms of immigration temporarily would allow us time to devise an immigration policy which meets our needs, not just the desires of recent and would-be immigrants. It would also allow us to concentrate on stopping the massive illegal immigration problem and regaining control of our borders.

Benefits of a Time-Out

A time-out to temporarily reduce the enormous workload currently facing immigration officers would allow the United States to regain control of its borders and protect the nation against terrorism. By freeing up resources now devoted to the administration of numerous immigration benefits and the processing of massive numbers of new immigration applications and reducing the workload created by numerous special interest provisions in current immigration law, we would allow the new Department of Homeland Security to focus on the domestic fight against terrorism, enhanced border security, and increased interior immigration enforcement.

A time-out would ease the pressure on the environment and give us a chance to repair our institutions. Common sense dictates that we must stop adding new burdens to institutions and systems that are struggling. Making real environmental headway and repairing our failing educational and health care systems will be all but impossible as long as we continue today’s high immigration levels.

An immigration time-out would allow the millions of recent immigrants to pursue the American dream. We have successfully absorbed and assimilated immigrants in the past because we have periodically halted immigration. A break from current high levels would allow recent immigrants to fulfill their aspirations as previous waves of immigrants have.

How Would a Time-Out Work?

FAIR advocates a time-out that would continue only immigration of the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and some legitimate refugees. Until it can be shown that there is a national need for higher levels, immigration should be kept low.

Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would enact a five-year moratorium on many categories of immigration, including extended adult relatives, and would significantly cut back on the number of skilled workers and refugees. 

Updated 8/03