Finding Common Ground:
A Proposal to Reform Illegal Immigration Policy
For many years our leaders turned a blind eye toward enforcing US
immigration laws. Cheap labor was good for the economy. But after flooding this
country, illegal aliens have forced Conservatives and Liberals into action.
Unfortunately, more often than not their action has descended into malicious
partisanship, with each side trying to beat the other to death for political
gain. The many manifestations of this bitter divisiveness have opened deep
rifts and chafed threadbare the binding ties of our Country. We have forsaken
the common ground from which graceful compromise might be reached.
For illegal immigration, our common ground is the simple fact that most
Americans are descended from immigrants. By the grace of adopting this simple
forbearance, it's not difficult to discern the legitimate concerns of both the
liberal left and conservative right in dealing with the problem of illegal
The "Right" thinks we must not
accord illegal aliens any status that could abridge the Constitutional Rights
of legal citizens or those seeking citizenship by legal means, nor can the US
afford to continue allowing illegal aliens free and unfettered access to social
services like health care and education.
The "Left" feels that because we fairly lured
illegal aliens to come here in the first place, we must care for them with no
less compassion than we would our own brothers and sisters, and we must accord
whatever rights and provide whatever services are required to do so.
Transcending these rational yet contending propositions, both the Right and
Left recognize that an unchecked flow of illegal aliens provides cover to
criminals and potential terrorists, and this breach must be closed. So while a
few at the hard ends of the political spectrum take predictably hard-line
positions - anything from "round them all up and throw them out" to
"roll out the unconditional welcome mat" - those who embrace common
ground might well seek a course of "tough love," where strict
measures to ensure security are tempered by compassion to synthesize a fair
solution for all.
In many respects, the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of
2007" tried to do this, but at the end of the day the plan's 790 pages
proved unwieldy, and it was viewed by many as granting amnesty. A simpler and
more sure-footed plan might be to synthesize both sides of the debate into a
single and fundamental precept:
Acknowledging the problem is partly of our
own making, we cannot in justice or good conscience deport illegal aliens en
masse, but nor should they enjoy rights or privileges that supercede those of
legal residents and citizens. Thus, though mitigated by our own culpability,
there must be real and durable penalties for illegal aliens having thwarted our
laws and taken advantage of our social safety net.
From this, specific actions and/or laws flow naturally. These actions and
laws might include:
- Close and lock down our borders as quickly as possible
using all possible means.
- During this lockdown period, current law enforcement
practices should remain in effect.
- Once the borders are closed, grant a 6-month
"amnesty." During this temporary amnesty there should be no INS
raids, no deportations, and illegal aliens should be deemed
- During amnesty, visitors in custody should have their
cases reviewed for possible release. Those being held on felony or misdemeanor
charges should be held and processed. Those found guilty of felony crimes or
serial misdemeanors should be deported. Visitors being held who are otherwise
innocent should be released.
- During amnesty, visitors should be given a choice: 1)
Register with the Federal Government - their full names, birth records, country
of origin, in-Country work history, and etc., or 2) Repatriate to their
countries of origin.
- Those who register should be granted "Permanent
Legal Resident" status for a probation period of 12 years.
- During this time they should be barred from obtaining
full US citizenship and from voting.
- Permanent Legal Residents are retroactively subject to
all laws of the United States and are accountable for any crime they may have
committed in the United States prior to registration as well as henceforth.
- At the end of 12 years, Permanent Legal Residents may
obtain full US citizenship by meeting all the qualifications for immigrating
legally, or they may remain Permanent Legal Residents.
- If anyone who chose repatriation during the amnesty
period should later wish to return to the US, they must do so through normal
channels. The highest status they should be permitted to obtain is Permanent
Legal Resident. They should be permanently barred from obtaining full US
citizenship and from voting.
- After the 6-month amnesty period, the status of any
"visitor" who failed to register or repatriate should once again
become "illegal alien" and they should be subject to immediate
detention and deportation.
- Any person so deported should be barred from future
entry into the United States for any reason save a one-time 2-week visitation
with an immediate family member who is terminally ill.
- Following the amnesty period, Permanent Legal Residents
should be issued Social Security numbers and a credit as if having paid $10,000
toward their SS account. Any funds they can document as having paid already may
also be credited.
- Following the amnesty period, Permanent Legal Residents
should carry at 10% wage garnish for every year they are documented to have
been in the US illegally. In lieu of wage garnishment, Permanent Legal
Residents may pay a one-time penalty of $1000 for every year of their illegal
- Children of illegal aliens, if those children were born
prior to or during the amnesty period, should not automatically be
granted US citizenship.
- Children whose parents elected to register and become
permanent residents should be allowed to reside with their parents as legal
residents until the age of 18.
- At the age of 18 they should report to US Immigration
and Naturalization Services to formally declare their country of allegiance.
Those who can document having resided in the US for more then 5 years may
become full US citizens. Those who have been in the US for less than 5 years
and who wish to remain should test to see if they pass all immigration
requirements or enroll in the immigration process and be considered Permanent
Legal Aliens until such time as they obtain citizenship.
- In all cases, anyone who remains in the US should be
required to demonstrate competence in English or take classes to learn English
- School children must demonstrate grade-level proficiency
in English to enroll in public schools. Special schools and/or classes should
be established to teach English for a period of 2 years following the start of
the amnesty period for those who fail to demonstrate competence and/or
- Employers who knowingly employ illegals after the
amnesty period should be subject to severe fines, curtailment of license to do
business, or both.
In a policy so structured there is lenience and penalties in proportionate
measure. At the political level, both the left and the right get concessions,
but the left and the right must compromise too. At the human level, no person
gets thrown out for having entered the US illegally, but neither do they get
rewarded with unfettered citizenship or the vote. No vote. Not forever
prohibited, but neither offered up gratis. That's a Right they must earn
through earnest commitment. And when no votes are at stake for a full three
election cycles, no points can be scored by political interests, thus ensuring
the purest possible effort to do what is right and fair, "with liberty and
justice for all."
Copyright 2009, NetScribe