Monday, December 6, 2010

My Solution to U.S. Immmigration Problems

It seems a commonplace that America's borders are broken. So I start from that amongst other premises. As a consequence of that too many illegal entrants penetrate them. That is another starting premise. Another is that those ensconced in what is called the “immigrants’ rights community” call for in effect a blanket amnesty. I think that is one extreme position. Others call for massive deportations and are at the other impossible end of that spectrum.

There is also a troubled history to deal with, which is common knowledge, and is grist for the enforcement first perspective. Amnesty coupled with tougher enforcement was enacted in 1985 or 86 and the amnesty worked but the enforcement didn’t, causing, as I understand the numbers, a doubling of illegal immigrants from about 5,000,000 to 11 or 12,000,000 now.

So it seems clear that better enforcement must be at the front of the what to do line and that to write that concern off as mere pretext or code for getting tougher and doing nothing else is merely flinging talking point rhetoric.

Some of what Graham and Schumer called for earlier this year sounds sensible to me: biometric security cards so that illegal workers cannot get jobs; profoundly strengthening border security and interior enforcement whether by further legislation or implementing what is already on the books; creating a temporary worker process; effective employment verification holding employers accountable for hiring illegal workers with stiff penalties; a tamper proof ID system; a high tech, tamper proof social security card for those who want to work; zero tolerance for felonious law breakers already arrived; expanding domestic enforcement and better tracking of those overstay their visas.

If an approach along these lines were taken, then, it has become more clear to me, that some kind of citizenship path should be a fundamental constituent of any comprehensive reform. And the path would have to be a reasonably steep one I’d think to reflect that laws have been broken: the steps would include copping to the law breaking; getting properly documented; pay all taxes owing; pay a fine; learn English, other like things.

I would not favour any fixes or amnesty like approaches—like the Dream Act—before the implementation of such overall reform.

I am sympathetic to the arguments for enforcement—a demonstrably secure border first-- first, fixes later but I think those arguments can be accommodated—as a matter of a principled position—within the context of overall reform which has enforcement as a central feature.

The reason I would not remediate before such comprehensive reform is because to do, so, I continue to believe as a sheer matter of common sense, is to signal lack of commitment to enforce the immigration law and therefore to encourage illegal behavior and even incentivize it as MacDonald and Kaus argue.

The perception gets transmitted that over time law breakers will wind up in the same place as those who followed the law. Giving law breakers a pass will in the nature of things only encourage more law breaking and create an unacceptable parity between law breakers and law abiders.

The request for evidence of what spectrum of motives causes illegal immigrants to come is, on reflection, a diversion. If such evidence exists fine; if there is evidence to the contrary fine: bring all the relevant data forth. But the point of amnesty inducing more illegal immigration seems so common sensically self evident that the demand for evidence is to my mind simply a way of evading the blunt truth.

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