There's No Easy Solution To The Illegal Immigration Issue
By Doug Edelman on (Jun 15, 06)

Though I have written before with suggestions for a multifaceted plan to address the most pressing aspects of the illegal immigration problem, it would be simplistic and short-sighted to believe that a package of 5 or 6 macro-view actions would adequately unravel the tangled ball of twine that 40 years of winking and nodding at the problem has begotten. What we have is a morass.

Main Entry: mo·rass
Pronunciation: mo’ras
Function: noun
Etymology: Dutch moeras, modification of Old French maresc, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English mersc marsh
2 : something that traps, confuses, or impedes (a morass of troubles)

While a kneejerk populist legistative package might be good for incumbents in the next election cycle—but as to whether that might be good for the country in the long term, or whether it might truly address the problems is another question.

Therefore, I’d like to try to sort the facts from the rhetoric, and put forth a balanced viewpoint that might provide a framework for a truly workable starting point to address the problem of illegal immigration.

Border security must be given absolute primacy.  It must be addressed SEPARATELY, DECISIVELY, and IMMEDIATELY.  Beefing up the Border Patrol, supplementing them with National Guard, extending their surveillance capabilities with unmanned aerial vehicles, cameras and sensors, and the building of fences and walls should all be implemented without delay - and apart from any other legislation regarding the handing of illegals already here.  Any politician supporting this viewpoint will be rewarded come election time (and conversely, those opposing this will do so at their own elective peril.) All persons intercepted as they cross or shortly thereafter must be returned to their nation of origin IMMEDIATELY.

The incentives to come illegally must be addressed.  Birthright Citizenship must be constitutionally defined as being extended ONLY to the children of citizens or legal permanent residents of the US.  Eligibilty to receive publicly funded benefits such as welfare, food stamps, etc. must be limited to citizens and legal permanent residents.  Those here on temporary visas or not here legally at all should have no claim on the public dole.

That being said, there arise several flies in the ointment of the simplistic “deport them all” and “no amnesty” and “no guest worker” chants of the masses today.  While this sentiment is certainly understandable—it is unworkable.

I can already hear the slide actions cocking… so let me just ask that you point the barrel to the ground for just a few moments and give the issues a thorough hearing.

There is a dirty little secret that has been barely whispered in Washington, though it’s common knowledge—and is never spoken of outside the beltway.  Politicians have given a wink and a nod to the illegals for generations because there is FREE MONEY in doing so.  While the cliché has the illegals coming across the border and working for some underhanded employer paying them $2 an hour in cash under the table… the reality is that most illegals come with false documentation that gets them hired into real jobs at real—though entry level—wages.  The employers pay them a legitimate paycheck with legitimate withholdings for income tax, Social Security and FICA.  This withheld money is gravy to the politicians.  They collect it from people who will never claim a refund, never collect social security or medicare.  Washington has been hesitant to kill this golden goose.  As a result, we have had 40-50 years of looking the other way at illegal immigration—and that has created a cultural phenomenon with far reaching tentacles which will take more than a little disentangling.

Consider the following scenario.  A 24 year old man has been in the US for eleven years.  Brought in illegally by his parents at age 13, he has since graduated high school, maybe even gone to college.  He has a job that he’s worked for 3 years, a wife, a house and a kid with another on the way.  His wife, by the way, is a legal US citizen.

What do you do?  Send him back?  What about his wife and kids?  Do you split the family?  Easy answers?  Hardly.

On the other hand, do you simply ignore his illegal status and legitimize him with CITIZENSHIP?  Not recommended.

It is necessary, then, to abandon the MACRO view of illegal immigrants and take a more granular approach.

There is a deep confusion in the semantics of the debate over “amnesty” and guest worker programs.

Let’s define terms:  GUEST worker.  A guest is invited and welcomed.  He stays for a time enjoying hospitality—then leaves.

There is a current Guest Worker program, which is highly successful in staffing service and labor businesses such as landscaping, the hospitality industry etc.  The program issues a working visa allowing foreign nationals to enter the US TEMPORARILY to work for a period of time, then they must return. 

The worker may not bring their families with them.  The period of the visa is less than one year.  After they return home they may apply again for another visa.

I spoke recently with Fred Haskett, owner of a landscaping business employing legal temporary workers of this type.  Mr. Haskett is also president of an industry organization representing such business owners.

Fred told me of the hoops business owners are put through before they may hire these legal guest workers.  They must document their efforts to fill the positions with domestic workers, and their inability to meet the demands of the business with the available domestic workforce.  “We needed to keep an active workforce of 11 people for the season.  That year we sent out over 22 W2 forms and were frequently short of our 11 person requirement.  With hiring more than twice the number of domestics as we needed for full staffing, we still couldn’t maintain a full staff.” Haskett said.  “The domestic workers we hired had high absenteeism and quit rates.  We had a lot of no-call, no-shows.  One, who was a no-call, no-show then even tried to collect unemployment!!”

Haskett’s company then turned to the Hispanic guest workers.  “Remember, all these people come here LEGALLY.  They leave their families behind for temporary work so they can better support their families.” says Haskett.  “They show up for work.  They care about quality and service.  They meet our customer’s expectation, and ours.” Why is he sold on the success of the program?  “The first year we used these “guest workers”, we had full staffing through the season, and only issued 12 W2 forms.  These people are reliable, they have a work ethic, they desire to do a good quality job, and they are appreciative of the opportunity.  After the season, they return home to their families—but many of them return to us for the following season.”

Haskett’s big fear today is that this program, already limited to only 66,000 workers a year, will be eliminated in the “anti-guest worker noise” that is so prevalent today—as people fear that illegals will suddenly be granted “guest worker” status as a euphemism for amnesty.

“The program is currently tied to the bills in congress today, which will likely die in conference—as the House and Senate are too far apart in their approach.  This program should be increased from 66,000 to at least 250,000… and it will probably die as a casualty of anti-immigration politics.” The results if that happens?  “If we can’t meet our staffing needs through this program, what are our options?  If we cannot meet the demands of our customers, we fail.  If we can’t afford to hire 2-3 domestics for every space we need to fill to meet our obligations to our customers, we’re left with 2 choices—fail… or turn to the illegals!”

Our approach to resolving illegal immigration must be done with scalpel, forceps and sutures… not with an axe or saw.  We must recognize the major distinctions within the issue.

Security and stemming the tide:  There is no question that a draconian “line in the sand” approach to securing the borders is appropriate.  As stated above, we should implement fences, walls, cameras UAVs, National Guard and increased Border Patrol personnel.  There must be an effective BARRIER to illegal crossing of our sovereign border.

LEGAL immigration must be streamlined to reduce the incentive for illegal crossing.  Both immigration for the purpose of legal residency and ultimate citizenship, and temporary worker visas as discussed above must be encouraged and must be addressed SEPARATELY from the effort to address ILLEGAL immigration.

Applicants for entry must be thoroughly vetted for suitability—background checks should be done.

Citizenship is being cheapened by the debate.  We must preserve its value.  Birthright citizenship should only be extended to those who are born to a mother who is a citizen or legal permanent resident.  If this requires a constitutional amendment, let’s get to it!

Eligibility for citizenship thru naturalization should only be extended to those in this country legally.  If someone here illegally wishes to apply for citizenship, they should return to their country of origin, go to the end of the line, and re-enter thru legal channels.

As to the millions of illegals already here in the US—there must be a careful vetting into distinct and discrete groupings, to be dealt with in separate and distinct manners.

1) Undesirables.  ALL those with criminal backgrounds, addictions, etc should be deported without exception.

2) Unencumbered:  Those here illegally who do not have encumberances of legal spouses, or US born children should be deported.  If they wish to return they must re-enter thru legal channels.

3) Dependent.  Those who cannot or will not support themselves but depend on the public dole must either find sponsorship by working family/community or return to their country of origin.

4) Desirable.  Those who arrived illegally, however are gainfully employed, stable, have families and own property should be given the opportunity to apply for legal residency (NOT CITIZENSHIP) with some appropriate compensation for their illegal entry.  (Perhaps 2 years in the military or working for the government on public projects like the fence!) These people could then continue to live and work and participate in the economy as legitimate taxpayers.  They should, however, be excluded from eligibility for public assistance such as welfare, foodstamps, etc.  If we are going to extend them the opportunity for legitimacy, they are responsible to support themselves.  If these people desire CITIZENSHIP and the rights and privileges which accompany that status, they must return to their country of origin, apply for legal entry, and pursue the naturalization process.

As you can see, this is much more complicated than, “Build a wall – Deport ‘em all!”

By Doug Edelman on Jun 15, 06
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