These several steps toward meaningful reform present an intelligent and rules-based approach to immigration in the twenty-first century.

By Michael W. Gray

The good side of the government shutdown is that I have had time to write. In some ways I write for a living due to my work as a political and economic officer with the Department of State. After fifteen years of mainly overseas service mostly in the ‘stans and Europe, I returned home last summer to teach new officers how to do political and economic work in embassies abroad. As training is not considered an essential task, I was told to stay home, though I was assured via email that this in no way reflects on the importance of my work.

This shutdown hinges on about six billion dollars for a barrier of some sort along the U.S.-Mexico border. This barrier will ostensibly decrease illegal immigration. While there is certainly an element of power politics at play, with both sides wanting the other to “lose,” immigration, both legal and illegal, is the fundamental issue. Few politicians like to discuss immigration, especially those aspiring to the presidency. Candidate Donald Trump, however, decided to take it head on. Combined with many other factors, his willingness to discuss this issue, albeit not always with grace, contributed to his unexpected victory.

People of all political stripes agree our immigration system is broken. Having spent one year implementing U.S. immigration law as the manager of an Immigrant Visa and Diversity Visa Section at a U.S. Embassy overseas, I agree. I was often appalled by what “the law” required. I had joined the Foreign Service to serve the United States. Instead, I felt like a concierge serving the foreign national visa applicants. Early on, I was told “it’s not over till the immigrant wins,” since there were few grounds for denying immigrant visas, regardless of fraud, prior criminal activity, or weak family ties.

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