As a former consular officer, I have some thoughts about immigration reform. They center on (a) judicious discrimination and (b) enforcing laws and policies already on the books.
Carefully considered, intelligently targeted, and, hopefully temporary discriminatory policies towards states, regions, and groups that have imported other countries' problems to the USA should be implemented in USA immigration law. Discrimination is a dirty word today, but it is necessary for law and society to function. The family "discriminates", even against those outsiders with whom it enjoys respectful and amicable relations; while all professions discriminate in favor of specific sets of skills.
In immigration, the US Congress could pass a law that would give the president, in consultation with the Secretaries of State, Homeland Security, and Defense the right to place visa moratoria on states, regions, and groups deemed inimical to US security and public order. Such visa bans--which would cover even family unification and skills-based immmigrant cases as well as non-immigrant categories--would target problems such as terrorism, narcotics and human trafficking, organized crime, and the like. These bans could then be lifted when the executive branch agencies deem the crises that require discrimination to be over.
For example, when I was serving as a consular officer in the Far East, much was made of a "Fujianese" problem--alien smuggling from that coastal province, including links to highly effective organized crime. In the aftermath of the 1989 protests, bona fide Chinese asylum seekers from all over China ended up in Thailand, all claiming that they had originally hoped to go to Fujian and find a way to Taiwan, but that the authorities were watching the area too closely for them. Yet, at the same time, the alien-smuggling gangs operating out of the Fuzhou area (the provincial capital and immediately adjacent counties), did not miss a beat. The same human smuggling operations resulted in populations in several American cities that were for all intents and purposes indentured to smuggling gangs, plus the organization of all but impenetrable criminal gangs dealing in narcotics and vice.
But the problem was not really a "Fujianese" problem. It was highly localized in the city of Fuzhou (the provincial capital) and adjacent counties. While in Bangkok, I was called on to translate when the Thai police arrested a smuggler and gave American immigration officials access to the prisoner. The man's wallet was literally stuffed with the name cards of Communist Party Secretaries, high officers of the Fujian Garrison Commmand, and Chinese government officials. Clearly, the operation the people-smuggler represented was well-connected. But later, when I served in Guangzhou as a consular officer, I could not help but note that whereas almost all cases from the Fuzhou area involved former illegals, Fujianese cases from other parts of the province were run-of-the-mill close relatives of US citizens and lawful permanent residents or students who had been recruited by US companies while in the USA; all legitimate immigration cases under then-current law.
Perhaps had the law allowed the Secretary of State to issue a ban on immigrants and visitors from Fuzhou city, Lianjiang County, and a handful of other nearby localities, and had the Bureau of Consular Affairs the budget and resources for a thorough anti-fraud effort, legal immigrants would not have been inconvenienced, and a clear message sent to corrupt host country authorities and a population prone to accept the blandishments of the smuggling gangs that the road was closed. This might have given incentive to the host country to attack the problem at its root.
Similarly, in the War on Terror, we would not even need to ban Muslim immigration (as some of the more zealous outside of government have suggested). Rather, terror-supporting groups like Falastin Arab Muslims, Lebanese Shi'ites, most of the population of Pakistan, and certain others might be barred from entering the USA until such time as support for anti-American terror among such groups has clearly dimminished. Yet, at the same time, visas would continue to be available to Iraqi and Iranian Kurds, West Africans, Hui, Circassians, and other Muslims whose support for Islamic supremacism is either lacking or sufficiently muted.
Some may argue that such laws and policies would cut the nerve of American humanitarian concern for asylum seekers. Yet no country should be required to admit its avowed enemies. Many from the Fuzhou area of China abuse the asylum system for admission, yet the Fujian-American Association which they support is outspokenly pro-Beijing. Has anyone heard of a German-Jewish emigre association of the World War II era that would even give the Nazis credit for making the trains run on time? The idea that genuine refugees would support the regime that endangered them is preposterous. Further, it is a national disgrace that members of the Mojaheddin-e-Khalq are allowed to use their problems with Khomeini-ite Iran to gain asylum in the USA. These are people who, in their own circles, boast of being the first "revolutionary fighters" into the "nest of spies" back in 1979. No-one should think that the USA has any moral or humanitarian duty to admit such people. Carefully considered and targeted discrimination could allow immigration officers to ban such doubtful entrants while admitting others.
Things like "Diversity IMmigration" should be done away with. The late Ted Kennedy supported the idea back in the 1980's because (a) he was dismayed that his 1965 reforms didn't re-vitalize the Irish and Italian ghettoes that had guaranteed Democratic dominance in New England and (b) a lot of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean immigrants started voting Republican as soon as the ink on their naturalization certificates was dry, and an uncomfortably visible minority of Latin-Americans, did, too. I've noted among my own students that some of the rare Republicans in the community I serve are recent West African immigrants (small businessmen feeling the tax squeeze). The "diversity visa" lottery was the last gasp of Ted Kennedy's attempt to revitalize an important 20th century Democratic base, failed badly, and was derisively referred to as the "Irish Sweepstakes" by those whose job it was to administer it.
Carefully targeted discrimination in the hands of reponsible and carefully trained officers of executive branch agencies would also allow a frank recognition that some cultures are more mutually assimilable than others. The USA cannot afford the sorts of no-go areas and rape zones that afflict some of the Banlieux of French cities, cities of northern England, or Malmo, Sweden. Groups that have made it clear that they intend to form Sharia enclaves in the Dar-el-Harb could be excluded.
I would also retain birthright citizenship (including for children of the American diaspora) and all the legal protections for non-citizens enshrined in the 14th Amendment. I'd even be lenient on, say, bona fide spouses who marry while visiting the USA and whose American spouses don't bother to do the paperwork until ICE finds them a couple of years later. The only change I would introduce would be a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The culture of Islamic polygamy is too dangerous to be allowed to take root in the USA. It was the cradle from which Osama Bin Laden came, and that is enough. As for the current push for homosexual rights, it still remains a clear fact that being raised in a two-parent, heterosexual household is likely to remain best for future generations. Continued vigilance against fraud should be exercised, as well as presumption of fraud in all cases of arranged marriages between persons of great age discrepancies. These, after all, are prima facie opposed to the principle of liberty underlying all of America's founding documents.
Perhaps the chief immigration reforms I would institute would be more funding and staffing for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, ICE, and the Border Patrol in order to better enforce the laws we already have on the books. I'd also deliberately limit asylum to people who are both truly in danger and accepting of American values (i.e., no Communists, pedophiles, or Mojaheddin-e-Khalq). The disfunctionality of the American immigration system seems to be in its being underpaid and overworked, coupled with some of the problems of a corrupt culture in legal and judicial circles in which the lawyer's craft, the temptation of subversion, and political ambition often count for more than either law or justice. But that is a different issue.
more may be said on immigration issues later