To the Editor [of The New York Times]:
Two unanswered questions handicap the immigration debate: What is the goal of immigration policy? Who exactly is an immigrant?
President Obama hasn’t answered either question; nor have many of his critics. Our immigration policy should guard the territorial integrity of American borders and enhance the American economy. Adhering to these goals would disperse much fog around current disputation. Mr. Obama might tell us, for example, how many of his chosen four million speak English, and why a family relationship should outweigh skills an immigrant can bring to the American economy.
A fugitive is not an immigrant. To equate the two would equate someone who smashes a window to enter your living room with someone who knocks on your front door to make a request. That the intruder smiles and offers to mow your lawn does not negate his lawless act.
Tens of millions of foreigners over recent years have knocked on our door hoping for United States residency and have awaited the outcome. Decades ago I entered the United States on a student visa from Australia, and stayed on a J1 exchange visa. Later I applied to be an immigrant, and five years after receiving my green card, I got a certificate of citizenship. Far from begrudging the long wait and paperwork, I found the process an excellent test for the honor of United States citizenship.
We need immigrants and have laws to deal with the requests in line with our security and economic interests. It’s a terrible precedent to reward lawbreakers and insult the sincerity of true immigrants.
ROSS TERRILL, Boston, Nov. 24, 2014
The writer is a China expert at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.