Realistic Immigration Laws are Needed (Letter to the Editor)

Rep. Lamar Smith’s "Adhere to rule of law on immigration policy" (Nation, March 24) argues that conservative principles demand a respect for the rule of law, especially regarding our nation’s immigration laws. Mr. Smith seems to have ignored another major foundation of conservative principles: accepting and dealing with reality.

The U.S. has a rampant illegal immigration problem because we let in so few legal immigrants relative to those who want to come here. It’s not a problem with enforcement, it’s a symptom of our extreme prosperity and the relative poverty of many other nations. Our immigration laws must change to reflect that reality and allow mass legal immigration to the United States. Republicans like Mr. Smith rightly criticize their Democratic opponents for crafting laws that ignore economic reality and cause unintended negative consequences. As Alvaro Vargas Llosa of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity said, "Whenever there is a disconnect between the law and reality, reality finds ways of making the law irrelevant." I hope that the rest of Congress heeds that warning in reforming our nation’s immigration laws.