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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Illegal Immigration

In today's Boston Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby has at the Republicans over the new Arizona law on illegal immigrants.  He makes some good points, including noting that bad laws should not be supported by the populace.  I guess I agree with him in a way, but the fact is that the first act of the citizenry with regard to a bad law should be to get it changed.  He did have a nice touch, bringing in Rosa Parks and her arrest in Montgomery in 1955.

With regard to illegal immigration our number one problem is a "do nothing" Congress that has been doing nothing through several sittings.  They could have done something back during the Bush Administration, but they didn't.  They could have done something over the last year and a bit, but they didn't.  They are not likely to do anything this summer.

So, while we are waiting for Niki Tsongas and John Kerry and Scott Brown to do something, here is my proposal for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration and the problem that it is the poster child for, insecurity on our borders, and in particular on our southern border.
  1. Legalize drugs.  What, you ask?  In terms of border insecurity, the movement of illegal drugs up through Mexico or from Mexico into California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas is a major problem and it has not been getting better since we initiated the war on drugs, back in time to 1969, when President Nixon first used the word.  Not only is it soaking up law enforcement resources, it is depriving the Federal Government of needed revenue, which would come to us from a reasonable tax on things like marijuana.  I would agree that being high on drugs, like being drunk, should not be acceptable when driving or when at work.  But, those are different laws from the prohibition on drugs we now flaunt.
  2. A Marshall Plan for Mexico.  It is my suspicion that most Mexicans (they represent 65% of the illegal immigrants) and others come here not because we are the beacon of liberty but because they are either fleeing local violence (see item 1, above) or need work to support their families back home (or who came with them). We are talking economic migration.  If there were good paying jobs at home they would have stayed at home.  It is not skin off our nose or money out of our pocket, in the long run, if Mexico prospers, unless you are looking for a cheap place to retire.  If we help Mexico double their per capita GDP we will provide markets for US goods and will encourage Mexicans to remain Mexicans in Mexico.
  3. Legitimize the Illegal Immigrants.Well, most of them.  We should set up a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants in the United States.  It shouldn't be easy, but it also shouldn't be ridiculous.  In fact, we should offer three tracks—(a) Citizenship, (b) Guest Worker Status, and (c) Illegal Immigrant Status.
    1. Those who choose to become US Citizens should be assessed a $2,000 fee for the paperwork involved in legalizing their status (and the expunging from the records anything about their past illegal status).  They should be prioritized at the end of the queue for Citizenship.  I would take all the current people who are on the list legally and add 10% to that number and then place the illegal immigrants at behind all of those people.  Those who have been patiently standing in line should not suffer for doing it the right way.  Then I would give them a test, in English, and an interview, in English.  Finally, I would ask them to renounce all other allegiances.  (I know that this is different from the process for others becoming US Citizens, but it is so we separate out the economic migrants from those who really wish to be Citizens of these United States.)  Then I would swear them in and make sure their new Social Security Account Number is matched up with whatever bogus number they might have been using previously, so their past earnings are recognized.
    2. As for those who pick the status of Guest Worker Status, I would first assess a $2,000 free for the paperwork involved in legalizing their status (and the expunging from the records anything about their past illegal status).  Then I would give them a choice of status, for up to 50 years as a guest worker, but not past the age of 67.  If they request a status of more than ten years, then at the tenth year I would require that they pass a test in spoken English.  For more than 20 years, a test on reading English as well.  For those who would remain in this country for more than 30 years, I would expect them to demonstrate an understanding of our system of Government, by expecting them, by the 30 year point to pass a test similar to that for Citizenship.  All agreed on ahead of time.  And, I would allow a fast track process for conversion from Guest Worker Status to Citizenship after the ten year point and the payment of an additional fee for paperwork.  In the law I would state that this right of conversion is a solemn commitment on the part of the Government of the United States, not to be taken away.
    3. Finally, those who choose the status of illegal immigrant, I would arrest them and put them in jail and then deport them to their home nation.  I would bar them from reentry into the United States for ten years.  For twenty years if they were convicted of a felony while in the United States.
I think of this as a good solid Republican position.  It says that we should respect the law.  It recognizes the rights of all individuals.  It recognizes the twin economic realities that we need immigration for our economy and that our neighbors need to grow economically so we all benefit.

And, I think it might pass muster with my late Mother.

Regards  —  Cliff


Craig H said...

Well said.

ncrossland said...

Point #1. The AZ law is NOT a bad law except by declaration of those who don't want ANY law restricting immigration. In fact, to say that the AZ law is "bad" is a de facto condemnation of the immigration laws aleady on the Federal "books" as the AZ law lifts much of its verbage directly and without change from the Federal statute. The problem with the Federal law is that only the Feds can enforce it and currently they won't....they REFUSE to. So....the AZ simply and effectively allows the state to do what the Feds say they will do but don't.

The immigration process and policy today works....just not in ways that its critics want it to work....or as fast. Even if the Congress makes it kinder and gentler....and faster......there are many....many who currently whine about it....that will gnash their teeth over the new and improved version. And....there will be line jumpers....there are in any sort of "enforced" queueing process. Some folks just don't think law and policy apply to them. They are "special."

I am adamantly opposed to any more "Marshall" or "Marshall-like" plans. China owns 85% of our soaring debt. Let China take care of these third world welfare cases.

To cave into some sort of foreign aid thing is simply and profoundly a back alley mugging. Give us your money or we'll flood you with our poor, our lame, our lazy, our crazy...all every one of our crooks. isn't the Federal government who "pays the bill" on these sorts of "plans." It is Joe Sixpack, Harriet Housewife....and your neighbor...and you. The Federal government doesn't HAVE its OWN money. They have OURS!!! And frankly...I am sick of letting "THEM" spend "MINE."

And if the Mexicans don't like it...and insist on upping the illegal border jump ante, maybe we need to up the border security with a few Wings of F-16's with sensors and bombs...and a full load of minigun ammo.....backed up by maybe a division or so of ground troops. The ROE??? If they hop the fence, we'll throw them back.

I remember being stationed at 1960's Clark AB in the Phillipines. Locals climbing over the perimeter fence at night to burgle homes and warehouses on base was of epidemic proportions. There were all sorts of politically correct actions that didn't work in the slightest. Finally, one Colonel who knew absolutely that his chances of being a general were zero was assigned as the Base Commander. It was a terminal matter what he did. So....he wandered over to the Negrito village.....a tribe given lifetime base residency and quasi-US citizenship status by Gen MacArthur.....and asked them to help. Well....overnight the fence climbing ceased.....and for several weeks...the base drove around with a flatbed truck to haul the lifeless bodies of crooks off of the fence. Word got out. Nobody came any more.

There is an immigration lesson here.

Jack Mitchell said...

Can we get rid of Sen. Zoolander and have Cliff serve the balance of his term?

The New Englander said...

Just want to echo Kad and Jack (okay, not the part about Mr. Zoolander) but about what Cliff is saying here.

First, the acknowledgement that our current drug policy sucks and needs to change; next, on the need to support economic development; and finally, on the need to recognize the fact that there are millions of undocumented workers here who need to be brought out of the shadows.

When I attended the GOP candidates event in Shirley last month, everyone was just trying to outdo one another with the tough stances towards undocumented workers. It was all about "line 'em up and deport 'em" without even addressing the feasibility of that in the first place. I felt so left-leaning that I thought if a gust of wind came it would blow me back across Rte. 2.

Unknown said...

legitimize illegality...swell. Talk about taking the easy road. A lot of people are baptized, circumsized or whatever to start their life. We are now going to have a group who breaks our laws to start their life in our country.

I love this country and do not want it to change because some people do not like theirs.

Lynne said...

What I dislike about the "but they're lawbreakers! throw the book at them!" viewpoints is they ignore both elements of practicality and also, automatically dehumanize the personal side of undocumented workers.

Families (as Cliff mentioned) often flee here for the reasons stated. In fact, abject poverty is as much a reason to give someone asylum as violence; it's just impractical to do it for the whole world (since 100% of impoverished people won't fit here). But, what would YOU do if you had a family and couldn't feed them because there were no jobs, or drug violence might kill them? You'd do whatever it takes to give them a better life, even if it means crossing a border at night illegally. If the US were the economic and political nightmare that some of our neighbors are, we'd all be trying to get out to a better place, too. Illegally if needs be.

Immigrants of all stripes (carded and not) are the hardest working people I know and an *intimate* part of our economy. Deporting them is neither practical on the physical side, nor desirable on the economic side. A fair, not free path to citizenship (but one that isn't impossible) is not only the moral thing to do, but also, really the only path that'll work.

Watch the economic sitch in AZ. They'll have the same economic slump as OK where a similar law passed. We need a national plan. This is one place where many conservatives and most liberals agree. And hey, if amnesty was good enough for the sainted Ronnie Reagan, kids...

Craig H said...

I find it profoundly disturbing that some Americans will prefer to support laws that give their government (which they ironically profess to detest) further means to deny citizens their rights.

Yes, the law is sold to us as a means to pursue "illegal" immigrants, but its de facto powers give the state the means to deny citizens their civil rights, and just because the state promises not to do that, is no reason for us to trust that they won't. (They promise us a lot of things, as I'm sure ncrossland will confirm).

Speaking as someone who does not regularly carry their birth certificate or their passport on his person at all times, I would thus be subject to enforcement of the AZ law without regard to my rights against unreasonable search and seizure. I find that unacceptible. No, I do not appear to be Mexican, but in 1983, I did not think myself to appear to be Middle Eastern, (though I have dark hair and was sporting a beard at the time), but I can only imagine what might have occured to me during the frequent detainments and questionings at various national monuments I was visiting in the wake of the Beirut Marine barracks bombing. (I was literally pulled out of line and questioned at each and every one, and, no, I did not find it reassuring).

Citizenship needs to count for more than that.

The New Englander said...

And back to what Bob was saying -- the part that you and I would agree with (and I won't put words in anyone's mouths, but I'll assume some other commenters might, too) is that the lack of security/control is a SERIOUS problem.

I am taking a course right now at Ft. Monmouth (NJ) but all the instructors are from Ft. Huachuca (Sierra Vista, AZ). They deal with the problem of undocumented immigrants in a very personal way.

They have very legitimate fears about how it could affect their homes and livelihoods.

I'm all for taking serious means to police/patrol/control the border to PREVENT the situation in the first place, but I'll stand by my comments regarding the way we should try to bring people here now out of the shadows.

If we had better border security, that wouldn't incentivize future such behavior, because it wouldn't be so easy to do.

ncrossland said...

One of the aspects of this whole emotional drama that never gets discussed is the part of legitimate immigration. I don't know anyone who (and I'm sure that there are many out there with cammies and paintball guns running around in the woods keeping America free for "Americans" whatever THAT means) want to keep out folks who want to improve their lives....and correspondingly....improve the American culture. NOTE: there is NOT an American RACE...only a CULTURE.

So, when folks shoot their mouths off about "immigration reform" perhaps it would be wise to "reform" some aspects of the very dated immigration policy and process. Could we do better with the "LEGITIMATE" process.....I think so....and until we do....and until we effectively close our borders......both problems will continue to escalate. Folks want to come here and live.....because it is better than where they are at the moment. Shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who wants to come here and push drugs vs. someone who wants to come and make a better life.

Anonymous said...

"There is an immigration lesson here."
ah, finally somebody who'll get the trains running on time