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 aliens:

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 "visitors."
  • 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 residence.
  • 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 immediately.
  • 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 grade-level mastery.
  • 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