Gault's Gulch

April 28, 2010

Today…Let’s Fix Immigration.

 

In the wake of the new Arizona immigration law, it seems that everyone has an opinion about the state of immigration in the United States–of both the legal and illegal variety.  Unfortunately, most of the opinions are wrong.  I say this because in order for a solution to be valid, it not only needs to be ideologically consistent with an existing or sought after code of ethics, it also has to yield the desired result–that is, it has to work.  Most of what I have heard from both the right and the left has been weak on the former and absolutely pathetic in regards to the latter.  So, being the “team player” that I am, I have decided to outline a few key points that, if implemented, would solve the  immigration problems in the U.S. for good.  After all, I have a few minutes to spare before lunch–this afternoon I’m planning to end the drug war, bring peace to the Middle East, and answer all your lingering questions about that damn island on Lost.

***Dramatically ease the restrictions on legal immigration.***

Simple human nature dictates that if you tell people:  “You can’t come here”, then a certain segment of the population will dedicate all of their ingenuity and determination into getting here.  There is simply no practical way to “seal off” the borders of the United States–and no logical reason to do so.  History has shown us that our greatest resource, as a nation, is not our natural resources or anything specific to our white, anglo-saxon population.  Our strength comes from the desire of each individual to flourish in the opportunity-rich atmosphere of a free, capitalistic society.  By our very nature as a young nation, most of this strength and progress has come by way of immigrants and their descendants.  Why, then, would we voluntarily cut ourselves off from the very source of our historical strength by unnecessarily restricting legal immigration?  The simple fact is that people are going to come here as long as this is a good place to live.  The cost of keeping them out is prohibitive and the logistics are untennable.  Opening our borders to anyone without a criminal record and streamlining the naturalization process would allow us to save money, tap talent, increase the tax base, grow the economy, and document our population in ways that no currently debated reform can possibly do.

***End birthright citizenship***

Regardless of how “open” a nation’s border policy may be, there will always be some people we will want to keep out.  Criminals, for example, should not be allowed to ply their illegal trades here in the U.S. and, so, should be turned back at the border.  In turn, criminals will try to enter illegally–they are CRIMINALS after all.  The key to stemming this much smaller tide of illegals is to remove the incentives that encourage them break our immigration laws.  Obviously, one way of doing that is the increase penalties for those who are caught.  Mandatory United States prison sentences should be served by anyone caught entering or residing in the U.S. illegally followed by immediate deportation.  The second prong of this approach is increasing the likelihood that an illegal immigrant will be caught.  This doesn’t mean building some “super-fence” or plastering every inch of the border with cameras.  It means redefining “citizenship” in this country and then making that newly defined status  the criteria for access to all government services.  One of the major reasons why illegal immigrants are willing to risk injury or death crossing our border, abuse at the hands of coyotes, and deportation if caught is because they know that their children will automatically be U.S. citizens if they are born here.  All children should have their citizenship application submitted by their parents after birth for approval by a chartered U.S. agency.  The infrastructure already exists.  The Social Security administration already reviews and approves applications for every birth in the U.S. to get those kids Social Security numbers and entry into the S.S. tax roll.  Citizenship approval could simply be an added function–or ideally, social security should be abolished entirely and the Social Security Administration could easily become the Citizenship Administration.  Finally, any time anyone wants access to a government service or process of any kind, their citizenship card would need to be presented.  Since children of  illegal immigrants would be ineligible for citizenship approval, one of the major incentives for illegal immigration would be removed.

***Amnesty***

I’m a big believer in the idea that even if you don’t like the laws as they are written or even if you believe those laws to be morally wrong, you have an obligation to pay the consequences if you decide to break them.  That is why the idea of giving amnesty or forgiveness to the roughly 12 million illegal aliens that currently reside within the U.S. is unpalatable to me.  I may not agree with the laws that kept them from coming here legally, but they made the decision to break our laws and come here illegally.  They are, by definition, criminals–and should, then, be treated as such.  Unfortunately, there is a matter of practicality and pragmatism that has to be addressed here.  We do not have the means or the funding to deport 12 million people.  Even if we did, our economy would be severely damaged by removing those 12 million people from the jobs that they currently perform.  When any system is broken and a new solution is introduced, the question of what to do with those who were part of the old system will arise.  If we privatized Social Security today, what would happen to those who have paid in their entire lives thusfar?  If we legalized marijuana today, what would happen to the criminal records of those currently incarcerated for possession?  If we open our borders to legal immigration and crack down hard on the very few that are turned away and then attempt, despite every disincentive put in their way, to enter illegally, what should happen to those who already made it in?  I think that the only practical solution is defined amnesty.  Illegals currently living in the U.S. should have their status decriminalized for a very specific period of time–say 18 months.  During this time, they should apply for citizenship under the new, easier rules.  Anyone completing this process by the deadline would have their former status as “illegal” forgiven.  Anyone who does not complete this process in the alotted time should then be incarcerated and then deported as mentioned above.  I think that the number who would try and legalize their status would be so large that the remaining “truly illegals” would be small enough in number to allow this kind of enforcement.

It is never wise to fight a war that is impossible to win.  The “war” against immigration is such a fight.  People will come here.  We simply need to decide whether they will add to or subtract from that which makes us a great nation once they have gotten here.  Making immigration difficult and lengthy only encourages larger and larger numbers of people to circumvent the system.  These people then live isolated from the rest of our society–a drain on law enforcement and social program budgets.  Opening the borders allows us to capitalize on the strength of these new Americans and divert badly needed resources from the fighting of an unwinnable conflict to those problems which can be solved–if we only have the courage and foresight to address them.

 

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