“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John F. Kennedy
The issue of immigration is on the table again. Members of Congress (now less liked than cockroaches and lice), have convened to propose a policy on immigration reform. Similarly, Obama has come out with his plan. I predict that there will be much hullabaloo from the politicians. The media will show groups from both sides up in arms (though making sure to have enough “experts” to declare conservative views as “racist”), opinions will “evolve” on the matter, and in the end the problem will be just as, if not more, broken than it is now. So in twenty years we will be discussing the same problem and why it is unconscionable to deport 100 million “undocumented immigrants.”
I don’t believe the Republican and Democrat parties will reach a solution on their own. Our Government is run by 545 people, who only qualify to be suppliers to manure factories for all the raw materials they keep shoveling! “We the people” need to instruct them on what to do. As I see this issue, the question of offering “a pathway” to the millions of illegal aliens can ONLY be consider if other factors are first addressed. To wave a wand and admit millions without fixing the other factors is like the little Dutch boy trying to plug holes in the dam while it is disintegrating! With nearly as many people entering illegally as legal applicants, this is the only conclusion that can be drawn.
While each plan has some unique features, both call for a pathway to citizenship, improving legal immigration, employment regulations, and incentive programs for target groups. I suggest you click on the links above and take time to read them for yourself.
Obviously, life in the U.S. presents opportunities and benefits other people desire. An open border with unlimited immigration is an untenable position. Conversely, narrowing immigration to a trickle won’t work either. Both sides of the issue MUST agree that a middle ground exists. After September 11th, national security has to be a primary concern while recognizing that not everyone means us harm. We must also consider the benefits or strains immigration has on our prosperity as a nation. Lastly, our culture and heritage only benefit when worthy immigrants are added to the fabric of our nation. Though other considerations must be met, I believe these tenets can guide us to find an amenable solution. With this in mind, here is my analysis and opinions on the plans presented by Congress and Obama.
Pathway to Citizenship:
The pathway to citizenship is how each plan will deal with 11 million illegal aliens. Both plans acknowledge this group has broken laws and must pay fees, penalties, and any taxes owed. New provisions would offer illegal aliens “provisional” or “probationary” legal status if they present themselves. From here they begin the process and move to the back of the line. None can move forward to citizenship until all fees, penalties, and taxes are paid. This is a fairly reasonable plan. Even so, I don’t believe this fulfills their obligation to society and the legal system. If you or I broke the law, we would be locked up while awaiting trial. If we desired to walk the streets freely, we would have to post bail. Similarly, while under this provisional legal status, immigrants should pay a surety bond while their application is considered. I don’t believe it unreasonable for people who often pay thousands of dollars to coyotes, be required to pay a surety. This will act as good faith that they will comply with the legal immigration process and obey all laws.
Though many Federal and State laws are often broken to maintain their residence and employment, I’m not suggesting that we lock up 11 million people. But let’s be realistic, how would they change their pattern of breaking law to become law-abiding residents if there is no punitive recourse? I fear they are being put on equal footing, albeit at the end of the line (while getting to remain in the U.S.), with people who have patiently endured the legal process. Not to mention it would an insult to American citizens. Let me explain.
Paying immigration fees is required of legal immigrants. Paying taxes is required of citizens and legal immigrants. So the only punitive measure is paying the penalty for illegal actions. Presumably, the plans are not looking to investigate all 11 million illegal aliens to learn what crimes they have committed while living and working here illegally. Nor will the plans ask for 11 million people to go to court to have a hearing to decide guilt or innocence, our court system could not handle such an influx. All parties would be dead and buried long before such investigations and prosecutions could be completed.
Our system is based on the belief that there should be no penalty without due process of law. Absent conventional legal process, we must assume that if a penalty is levied, illegal aliens will have to enter a plea bargain of sorts, though for what charge? Likely it will be for illegal entry, 8 USC 1325. As such, the penalty could be as little as a $50 fine. This does not seem commensurate with activity that often involves forgery, fraud, and identity theft, illegal activity that violates Federal and State laws. If you or I committed any of these felonious acts, do you believe we would merely receive a $50 fine? Further, if the Federal Government absolves all 11 million people of other crimes, does this prevent the State Governments from further prosecution under double jeopardy?
In my experience as a law enforcement officer, if the punishment does not fit the crime, people are not compelled to obey laws. And what is a society that does not respect its laws? Also consider there are people who have suffered legal and financial troubles as a result of these illegal activities. Shouldn’t their recompense be weighed as well?
If we are to accept that 11 million people will be given a pathway, I think it is good that the politicians would consider a punitive measure. However, without a specific plan for penalties, I fear that illegal aliens will receive the equivalent of a mild rebuke. If they are to be absolved of their misdeeds, then the penalty should be weighty enough to sting. Additionally, at least a portion of the penalty monies should be used for some compensation to the victims of forgery, fraud, or identity theft if perpetrated by an illegal alien.
Continuing into the details of the pathway proposal, both plans acknowledge that a pathway must be accompanied with border security and enforcement. We must not repeat history, where previous amnesty was not supported by better efforts to stem the flow of illegal aliens. I am keenly aware that politicians often make promises that they do not keep. The pathway only works if it dovetails with other efforts. We must hold firm on this; else the solution becomes part of the problem. Amnesty or pathway, whichever it is called, cannot be considered until other measures are in place that eliminate what I’ll call pathways to illegalship.
The Senate plan gives specifics about border security; added agents, physical and technological improvements, and Government/civilian oversight. They also advocate creating entry/exit points at seaports and airports to verify coming/going of temporary visas. These entry/exit points should include ports of entry along the borders. As the name suggests, a temporary visa has an expiration date. Tracking those who comply and exit the country should be allowed to reapply for temporary visas as needed. However, those that do not comply should be denied future application for any type of visa.
What both plans get completely right is the denial of Government benefits while under provisional status. This doesn’t mean people won’t try to abuse the system. The problem traditionally has been the fraudulent documents and/or agencies providing benefits to undeserving persons. Much like the E-Verify system, all agencies providing benefits should be required to check the eligibility of recipients prior to dispensing monies, goods, or services.
One argument I’ve heard on benefit the disposition of monies paid into the Social Security System. People argue that even though the person is an illegal alien and/or ineligible for Social Security benefits, the monies are owed to those that paid in. I disagree with this interpretation. Illegal aliens weighed the risks and benefits of breaking the law and fell on the side of illegal activity. There should be no benefit while engaged in illegal activity. If we are to waive a host of criminal acts, there should be no claim to these funds or work credits.
As both plans clearly point out, provisional/probationary immigrants shall receive no benefits, including work credits. Nor should they be required to pay into a benefit they cannot receive.
Lastly, this must be the final “pathway.” In 1986 amnesty was offered to the estimated 3 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. Only half took advantage of this opportunity. If we offer this “pathway,” we must commit to aggressive deportation of ALL those who do not step “out of the shadows.” Regardless of circumstance, if someone chooses to ignore this opportunity, it is their will to break the law. As such, we cannot abide their presence any longer.
This means no bleeding-heart sob story about why some man, woman, or child deserves a chance because they are good people and they just want work, or education, or better lives. Enough! This is a one time offer. Come in and apply or get out. This attitude may seem callous, but we cannot keep putting out the welcome mat for those that have broken in.
Improving Legal Immigration:
Most people perceive that the problem with legal immigration is a backlog due to processing times. While there is truth to that idea, much of the backlog is from quotas set by law. So the debate becomes how many people do we allow in and how quickly can we process those applications.
We often hear how reform must be aimed at keeping families together. However, his argument is a misleading. The way it is portrayed, you would think that some poor kid, living with mom back in the homeland, can’t see dad because our immigration policy. Not true. First, let’s look at some of the numbers. In 2011 statistics from Homeland Security show, over 1 million people received Legal Permanent Resident (“green card”) status. Of these, over 688,000 were family members.
Where it gets a little tricky is the definition of “family.” There are two categories under this immigrant class; “Immediate Family” and “Family-Sponsored.” Immediate family includes spouses, children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. There is no quota to limit the immigration of this type of immigrant. So the little boy and mom aren’t stuck in the homeland because our immigration policy. Where it becomes misleading is the other types of family (such as adult sons/daughters, their spouses/children, brothers, sisters, etc). This category does have a limiting quota. Though it is nice to have these other family members along with you, immigration policy isn’t exactly breaking up the family unit. (See this site to understand different family visas)
Admittedly, these and other classifications of immigrant often wait lengthy periods to gain entry. As stated before, we cannot have open borders, so quotas must remain part of the system, which creates the backlog as applicants wait their turn in line for available openings. Where we must improve efficiency is in the background and security checks. This might be attained by partnering with other countries with high emigrant volume to more easily obtain information on applicants. Additionally, no one has raised the issue of how admitted 11 million new applicants will affect future quotas. Do the levels remain consistent? Or do we need to lower levels while the nation absorbs 11 million new legal immigrants? You can argue that they are already here, but I do not believe a realistic model has been considered to understand the full consequence of absorbing this many into the legal realm of immigration.
Both plans mention the need to improve the legal immigration system. The Senate plan is very vague about how to improve the legal immigration system. There is a need to improve…it is very important…lives are affected by this…blah, blah, blah. No substance, just hot air. What use is a plan if the solution does not address with specificity the system 11 million illegal aliens avoided to get here?
Obama’s plan to improve legal immigration includes increasing the quota of family-sponsored immigration. The plan introduces same-sex relationships to the definition of family. Wide margins of Americans are on one side or the other of this topic. I mention this not to weigh in on the substance of this issue, but wondering the wisdom of including this into immigration reform. As the saying goes, pick your battles. My suspicion is that a relatively small number of people would benefit from this clause. Wouldn’t it be better to table this item? Or could it be that this garners more votes than beneficiaries? Let’s get the tires fixed and get this car down the road before we worry about the cup-holders.
Both plans recognized that employment is the lure that draws illegal aliens to the U.S. Creating regulations and procedures to halt the practice of employing illegal aliens is an extremely important part of the solution. Solving this problem must occur long before any pathways are considered. Both plans advocate a system to provide a quick, reliable method for determining employability. Both plans include significantly increasing penalties for employers that continue to employ illegal aliens. Both plans address the need to prevent fraud and identity theft.
Technologically this is not too difficult a task. The foundation already exists in E-Verify, an internet-based system to check eligibility of perspective employees. Some people may balk at the idea of every American having to submit to E-Verify prior to employment. Conspiracy theories, talk of Big Brother, or fear of a National ID will bring nuts out of the woodworks. However, if we are to eradicate the practice of hiring illegal aliens (thus virtually eliminating the problem), we must accept that everyone must be checked, or the system is useless.
Incentive Programs for Target Groups:
The plans include a desire to separate certain groups from all other immigrants. The Senate plan addresses agricultural workers and the “best and brightest,” while the Obama plan mentions foreign students attending American higher-learning institutions.
The Senate plan introduces a special category for the agricultural worker, desiring to honor a group vital to the food chain of America. The plan states this group “will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population,” but doesn’t identify what that difference will be. Still, by what method will they verify who is an agricultural worker? Could Jose Schmo (yes, Joe Schmo’s Latino cousin) waltz in and claim special status with little proof? I think this provision needs well-defined retooling so we understand what special concessions this group is given and what criteria is used to determine who is part of the group.
Both plans suggest offering green cards to entice foreign graduate students into staying in the U.S. I’m not saying this isn’t a good idea, but I want to be sure they are offering this opportunity to deserving people. It wouldn’t be the first time our Government came up with an idea that sounded great but was executed poorly.
Some great minds around the world were educated here in the U.S., but not all of them turned out to be good people worthy of a green card. Even though a person is a graduate student, doesn’t mean they are the caliber of person we want hanging around. So before we go “stapling” to a diploma (or pinning to their chest) a green card, let’s make sure they aren’t some kind of freak show or junior terrorist. Do not let the desire to retain such people outweigh the need to perform due diligence.
Each of the plans has some other details on how to reform the system, but these were where they had commonality. Again, I invite you to read each plan and question its viability. I urge you to contact your Representative, Senator, and even the President with your concerns, questions, or suggestions. I cannot say it enough that these people in Government are all running around playing their own game. We the people need to band together and set them straight.