Wednesday, December 02, 2015

After years of broken immigration policy, we have a lot of messes to fix

I have gone back and forth in my own stance on illegal immigration. America is an immigrant nation. We depend on immigrants to refresh and energize our nation.

However: no immigration policy is worth the paper it is printed on without the ability to control and secure our borders. What is lost [intentionally or otherwise] in the whole immigration debate is that most Americans would be very generous with respect to changes in immigration policy if only they could rely on whatever policies agreed on could be, and would be enforced.

Thomas Sowell cogently observed:

“What should American immigration policy be? It doesn’t matter what any of us think that policy should be if the borders are not secure, because whoever wants to come across that border will come across anyway, in defiance of whatever the policy might be.

“If legal benefits are conferred on illegal immigrants before the border is secured, we may as well give up any pretense that we have an immigration policy, because benefits conferred are never going to be taken back, no matter how porous the border remains.”

We all know why the borders are not secure. When the top people in government don’t care to enforce the immigration laws, they are not going to be enforced.

“Open” borders and insecure borders are often conflated as the same, but they are absolutely not the same thing.

I’m an “open borders” guy. I believe that the best thing for any nation is free trade. But, no nation is a nation if it cannot control its borders.

Take the pressure to illegally immigrate away by emplacing robust legal pathways, and the border security problem becomes less daunting. But, we do need a secure border. It’s a fundamental part of having a secure nation.

Imperial fiat doesn’t solve any problems and or nation must have secure borders.

That said, it is a very tall and expensive proposition to secure borders when the incentives are so strong to enter illegally. One way to reduce the difficulty is to reduce the incentives:

1. Create a robust guest worker visa program so that the labor demand is satisfied.

2. Further disincentivize illegal entry by making it clear that public benefits will not be made available to illegal immigrants.

Alter the incentives to behavior, you alter the behavior.

The fundamental philosophy on immigration has to be integrated with other critical parts of the national vision we so desperately lack. How does our immigration policy:

1. Relate to our ever-expanding entitlement state?

2. Need to integrate with the new reality of a global economy and the globalization of the workforce?

3. Need to coordinate with Homeland Security and dealing with the threat of global terrorism?

Immigration is core to the historical and future growth of our nation and economy, and we want pro-actively encourage it with the proper priorities and constraints. Imagine the following pillars of immigration policy instead:

1. Immigration policy needs to encourage those who want to come here and “create”, and discourage those who want to “take” (someone else can draft this to make it more PC).

2. We will prioritize entry of those who can enhance U.S. global competitiveness.

3. We welcome those of all races and cultures who meet the above criteria, but seek to integrate them and their progeny into the ever-morphing “American culture”.

4. Given the real threat of global terrorism, we must make sure that entry processes, immigrant tracking, border security, et al will be more stringent than was historically the case.

5. Those currently here illegally will be offered a path to citizenship in line with the above concepts.

A tortured path to eventual citizenship is inevitable: we’re not going to round-up 15 to 20 million people that they think they can count and deport them. Heck, we can’t even afford to build a road, anymore.

But nary a word can be heard or seen from our elected leaders about first shutting the spigot, much less specifically how it might be done. And precious little is heard from the gang of eight, although “border security” is trumpeted as one of their “pillars”.

The path to citizenship is one of the biggest problem with illegal immigration since a significant number of illegal immigrants already reside inside the country. Promising a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform is a problematic issue.

Wherever the government gets involved in putting together databases against which people are vetted for one thing or another, it usually fails at its objectives. Witness the whole guns brouhaha, and that mess that the liberals proclaim as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that depends on the states to update, is out of date and accurate only to the extent that states dedicate the personnel and funds to attend to it.

The way to make a guest-worker program work in a way that doesn’t result in millions more undocumented aliens is to work with incentives.

The way to make immigration work for Americans is multi-layered. But too much attention is paid to the interests of those already here illegally, as if by some right.

First, the border needs to be secured, so that the spigot is turned off. Nothing by way of a “path to citizenship” for illegals will have any meaningful impact on the problem if we don’t first do that.

Mobilize the armed forces, including the National Guard, to do this — they need an active mission as we start bringing our military home. If we must amend Posse Comitatus to do it, then do it.

Second, agree on the skills it’s in our interest to attract and adjust our immigration laws to allow freer entry to those who possess them and wish to become Americans. We’re too fixated today on reuniting families, as if we’re the social welfare agency to the planet.

Third, work with incentives on the other end of the scale, for a meaningful guest-worker program. Provide incentives for aliens to go through an effective documentation process, conducted by the armed forces at our borders, not by the states and not by stretched-thin immigration agents.

They need to have work waiting for them, and the incentives need to include minimum pay and access to legal services to guard against abuse; and part of the gimme is that their card gets punched on the way out by some agreed-to date. What that means is that the cost of such labor is going up — but, short of that, nothing else is going to prevent armies of the undocumented wandering our country, awaiting the next demand for amnesty.

Serious penalties have to be enforced against employers who don’t verify employees against the existing documentation.

If the costs of doing this become excessive, then agricultural producers might see some incentive in underwriting far more aggressive automation efforts for picking and packing of fruits and vegetables, forcing down the severity of the problem that way.

Finally, and only when the spigot is shut and the lines entering are better controlled, we’re going to have to talk about a path to citizenship for those already here, with whatever penalties we negotiate.

We can’t deport 15 to 20 million people, but we certainly owe it to ourselves to make sure it’s not 30 to 40 million.

The problem we have with immigration is that law and policy is wrong. In the 1970’s, the multiculturalists took over and enacted policies that encouraged “family reunification” as the goal of immigration. This has resulted in one person from a laboring family coming over and later bringing dozens of family members, some or many of whom are drags on social services.

A better policy would be to focus on the educated and the entrepreneurial. Any student who completes a Masters or PhD in an American university should be granted a path to citizenship. Any entrepreneur from a foreign country should be granted a path to citizenship.

We should seek to legalize aliens that have been in the United States for long periods, or have children that are American citizens under current law. I don’t believe in breaking up families, and feel that this goal is consistent with most thoughtful conservative Republicans.

How about the case of an illegal immigrant brought to this country when he was three years old and was entirely educated in our schools up to and including some college credit? I will use an actual case as an example.

The deportee’s first language was English. He has been once or twice deported, and has tried to gain entry back into the United States, only to be re-captured.

This young man is in his early 20’s, has no known relatives in Mexico, and all of his friends and relatives are in the United States. It did not say what has happened to his parents. I felt horrible for this kid.

Although I am a conservative, I cannot condone a policy that seeks to deport this type of individual.

While we should not grant him citizenship, the U.S. could legalize his permanent residency in the United States. This type of person would not be subject to deportation.

This would create a new class of permanent resident aliens for those illegal aliens that have been in this country long-term or have children that are U.S. citizens. They would not be granted full citizenship or be allowed to vote.

The unanswered question is what status would be afforded to future offspring?

I certainly would propose that any “legalization” even for cases such as the aforementioned, must be accompanied by a change in the 14th amendment to prevent citizenship for children born in the United States unless at least one parent is a U.S. citizen.

Of course, after years of broken immigration policy, we have a lot of messes to fix. They are the result of bad policy as much as of illegal actions by individuals. Any policy on this issue has to include nuance to solve individual cases in a humanitarian way.

For me, the main pathway to citizenship for anybody should be immersion in English language and Western civilization. One thing that has been lost in the last 40 years of bad policy is the notion of the “melting pot.” Instead it has been replaced by multiculturalism.

As part of an immigration fix, English should be made the legal language of the country. Those seeking citizenship must show a high level of understanding of what that entails, including the traditions of law, culture, and commerce on which the U.S. is based.

In the 1980s, we issued a blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants with a promise of immigration reform and border protection. But there wasn’t any reform, and the borders are still very porous.

This time around, I would like to see the reform and border secure first.

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