Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What a really comprehensive immigration reform would look like

The defenders of the once dead immigration 'reform' bill, now rising vampire-like from the no-cloture grave in the Senate, keep insisting that it is 'not an anmesty'. Somewhat perversely, this claim is right, but for the wrong reason: it is worse than an amnesty.

An amnesty would simply let illegals off the hook, not deport them, not throw them in jail, say, but grandfathering them into guest worker status, not reward them with a track to citizenship. There is something truly perverse about the 21% of Republicans in a recent survey who support a conditional grant of citizenship to current illegals, but oppose an anmesty. It is precisely the grant of citizenship that is the most objectionable feature of the current bill. A mere amnesty could well be part of a sound and sensible fix to the presently broken system of immigration law and border security.

Contrary to some argumentation, amnesties are not always an erosion of the rule of law: continued attempts to enforce bad law, or unenforcable laws, can harm the rule of law more than forgiving some offenses.

Herewith, I propose what a really comprehensive immigration reform would look like:

• Increased border security (mostly aimed at keeping out terrorists, but secondarily to stop illegal immigration generally)
• A guest worker program
• A three month period for current illegals to register as guest workers (a mere amnesty)
• Really tough sanctions against any employer who knowingly or without due diligence employs anyone in the country illegally after the three month registration period is up
• Increased law enforcement resources devoted to enforcing those sanctions
• Physical barriers along the border
• After the three month registration period is up, short prison terms--three months should suffice--followed by deportation for any foreign national in the US without a visa or political assylum claim, or with a visa expired by more than three months (for visas expired by less than three months, just deport them), or in the case of foreign nationals from countries where visas are not required to visit the US, having overstayed the time of their announced visit to the US, or having been found to have illegally taken employment in the US in any event. (The point of this is to interrupt the flow of remittances back to their home country.)
• Statutory limits on social benefits to non-permanent resident non-citizens (for some types of visas, the limits might be more generous--for instance those in the US under a visa program for hi-tech workers might be allowed unemployment benefits, workmans comp, social security, . . . on terms equal to permanent residents).
• Increased quotas for legal immigration from countries from which the US has traditionally gotten lots of economic migrants, and whose citizens do not generally pose a security threat (meaning Latin America, mostly).
• A less burdensome program for employers who can show inadequate supply of highly skilled workers to get long-term visas and permanent residency for immigrants to fill job openings.

Such a reform would simultaneously address all the legitimate desiderata of both the pro-immigrant and restrictionist camps.

Too bad our President and a good chunk of the Congress love illegal immigration so much that they want to reward it with citizenship here, and by giving the spiritual heartland of Serbia to illegal immigrants from Albania in the Balkans.

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