Thursday, July 29, 2010

Immigration Reform (After Securing the Border)

Ready to switch gears (again)?

Ok, Chris. You said we have a fence (we both know we don't). But, I'm going to start from the position that EVERYONE (especially the feds) is on-board with *really* making border security a top-priority-no-excuses issue. That means enforcing existing laws, building and patrolling the border (armed and ready to repel!) building and fixing fences, walls, digging a moat - whatever it takes. Now, out here in the Real World and away from political agendas, that is going to be a MUCH bigger deal than it appears, because a lot of emotions are involved. But regardless... “We've got a fence. What do we do now?”

OK, here's my first stab at it... Take a deep breath. In... Out... In... Out... Go to the Happy Place until you're ready... ;)

2. Take direct aim at the source motivations behind illegal immigration.

First, I'll admit it's not really the fault of worker. They're chasing hopes and dreams and a chance at a better life. I understand that. (For now, I'm going to skip over and dodge the political aspect of encouraging illegals as a vote-buying scheme, but it *is* a real problem.)

As much as it pains me to say it, the problem is with private business. They are explicitly taking advantage of the wink-wink-nod-nod 'enforcement' policies of the government for commercial advantage. Now, those policies are going to change, but that will take time. In the meantime: make it painful for a business to employ illegals. The job market will dry up, which means the game changes. So -

2a. Make it Real Easy for existing illegals to leave the county immediately without legal proceedings.

Be prepared to step up and follow the rules or hit the road. You don't have to stay. You don't have to go. But be ready... The times, they are a-changin'

2b. Announce tomorrow morning that we are going to actively and aggressively enforce the current law for all employers.

Start by tell the IRS the first thing they look for in an audit is for 'employees' that are not legal. That includes taking a hard and careful look at government funded organizations as well. I remember reading how our wonderfully two-faced government insisted that businesses involved in the Katrina recovery make sure they pay all of their illegal workers. Sheesh!

Let's make sure we know there are two groups potentially at fault here: private business *and* government. There are people in the business community knowingly hiring people who are not legally here, and you can tell because they do not pay taxes. That is a clear violation of the law. If you got somebody who is not collecting social security tax, and they are not collecting income tax, they *know* the person they hired is illegal. That business - specifically the owner - should get hammered. I'm talking significant fines, say $10K per person, combined with mandatory jail time, say: 3 months per person, 1 year minimum. The idea is to Make It Painful. BTW - if you employ illegals as part of meeting a government-funded contract obligation, fines and jail time are doubled. Cha-Ching!

HOLD ON! There are a bunch of businesses saying, “Look, they brought me paperwork. Here's my copies. Looks good me. It's not my job to validate it. I even collected the taxes and sent 'em in. Don't blame me.” Fair enough.

If the government cannot run an identity system accurate enough to detect, in real time, that a person is illegal, and you are withholding taxes and doing everything in good faith, the burden is on the government, not on the employer. But, if you know they are illegal and you are not following the law, the burden is on you. That is an easy dividing line for the short run, and that would, overnight, start to transform the entire issue. This leads directly to...

2c. The U.S. Government must immediately sponsor development of a tamper-proof Identification system for non-citizens allowed into the country.

Non-Citizens need ID cards to prove they are here by consent and within the law. At a minimum, we need a quick easy-to-use reference/validation system to confirm legality, via an ID card, is genuine. The technology is available, just do it.

BTW - Checking for an ID-card or otherwise asking for proof of one's citizenship status is a reasonable follow-up request in *any* investigation and especially for hiring, applications for admission to public institutions (e.g., colleges), etc. You don't have to “go looking” for illegals on every street corner, but if someone is stopped for a legitimate reason (or fills out an application), It's OK to ASK. Get Real - It is NOT that big an imposition. If I'm stopped for a traffic violation, I have to show my driver's license don't I? Yes, there should be provisions to prevent abuse of what constitutes 'reasonable', but those instances will be few and should be dealt with harshly. The possibility of misuse is not justification to avoid addressing the problem.

2d. Implement a functional temporary visa program (or a “Guest Worker Visa”, whatever). This really needs to be a separate issue, but I'm including it with #2 because it depends on the ID-card system.

I accept reality. We need a large number of temporary workers. Lots of good reasons. You need the number of people who are being hired, and who are going to be hired for economic expansion because, otherwise, you create a new black market in human trafficking. So how do you regulate and make legal the process of being allowed to work in the United States: how do you track it, and how do you start it?

When a business hires someone, how do they look people who graduate from American colleges and universities? You start with a bias that says we’d like to make absolutely sure, first of all, that if we are going to have X number of people who will get a work visa, it only makes sense that the smartest, best-educated people get the first shot. We don't do that today. Don't make it overly difficult or needlessly complex, but build a priority list, for heaven's sake! If you're just a whatever-I-can-find immigrant, at least give preference to someone who has an existing U.S. citizen as a sponsor. But fill those we-need-the-best-and-brightest slots first while allowing the doors to be open to anyone.

Further, a Worker Visa Program can only work, *IF* it is designed around Contract Law. The applicant must sign a contract to obey the law (all of them) and pay appropriate taxes. You have to supply a biometric for identification purposes: retinal, DNA, whatever. The country you come from has to turn over records every month on who their convicted felons are so we can verify you are not a convicted criminal. The Worker Visa has a limited term (minimum 2 years, maximum 10), and when it expires you LEAVE. Otherwise, get busy on becoming a citizen while you're here on that visa (more to come on this). But feel free to simply re-apply as a Guest Worker if you wish; just go home and get back in line...

And - under contract law - if you violate the terms of the agreement while you're here, back you go. No return for at least a year. Do it again, and you're out for 5 years. Third strike and you're out, permanently. I'm not talking about minor traffic violations, this is about serious and felony level crimes. C'mon, man: be real.

Here's the real kicker - I want to outsource the entire program to Visa, Mastercard, or American Express under a defined, annually renewable and funded contract. They already understand how to run a program like this and there is ZERO reason to believe the federal government could do it half as cheap or effectively. And we don't another bureaucracy anyway.

Within two or three years at most, you could have a system where when somebody showed up, if they did not have absolute proof of being an American citizen, they had an ID card. The card could be quickly and easily verified 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The burden is on the government to make sure the card was accurate, and its not that hard to design cards that are very hard to counterfeit, especially if you include retinal scans or other biometrics. And you'll get a correct answer in only a minute, probably seconds. Do it.

3. Effectively living and working in America requires knowledge of the English Language. We must insist on a consistent standard for communication which applies to citizens and non-citizens alike. That means making English the official language of government and insisting new immigrants or 'Guest Workers' know, understand and can use the English language.

No special privileges. Our signs are in English. Our LAWS are written in English. The vast majority of American citizens speak English as their primary language. I don't care how many languages you speak, but a functional knowledge of English is required. You cannot expect to become a fully-functional participant of this country WITHOUT understanding the language. Deal with it.

4. Path to Citizenship - We must insist on patriotic assimilation for new immigrants by requiring they have a basic (e.g., 1960's 8-grade level) understanding of American history and its founding principles.

Just wanting a paycheck is not good enough. The American people are very much in favor of having people come to America to become Americans.

I like what Theodore Roosevelt said in 1907, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against such men because of creed or birthplace origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also is not an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is the loyalty of the American people.”

Short form: Get rid of the hyphens. Celebrate your ancestral heritage all you want, just do it privately. By immigrating to this country, you have chosen to *BECOME* an American: DO IT. Otherwise, you're just visiting. Have a nice day and travel safely on your way back home.

Whew - I'm trying to wrap up this post, but one nasty topic is left....

We are going to be serious about controlling the border. Serious about getting the Rules of the Game straightened out. Building a Worker Visa Program that is real. Developing a system with functional background checks. And - most important - we are totally committed to making the whole thing enforceable at federal, state, local and private levels from Day One.

Having done all that, you are finally in the position to address dealing with the folks already here illegally. My proposal is painful, but I see no way around it.

Go Home.

You go home and you get the new card at home. You *only* get the card when you go home; no way to get a card while you stay here. If necessary, we'll help you get there. (Which should count against you if you try to come back, though.)... SORRY. Consider it a fresh start. Everybody deserves a chance to start over and do it Right. So - We *insist* that you start your experience of Life in America by obeying the law. We are a country based on the Rule of Law. EVERYBODY has a duty to obey the law. Start by accepting this founding principle of what America stands for and what this means: NO EXCEPTIONS.

“Well, how can you ask them to do that?” Those who say it is too great a burden to require somebody (who is here illegally) to actually go home and start over typically say doing that is imposing an unfair fine on those who can't pay: the amount of money required to go home. Hogwash. If I steal a loaf of bread because I'm hungry and have no money, it doesn't excuse the fact that I *STOLE* to do it. An individual's current economic condition is No Excuse for Breaking the Law. Period.

Besides, in relative terms, it is actually very cheap to go home. Consider: We are talking about people who managed to enter the US illegally, so we *know* they are able to travel. We are not uprooting somebody who was born in Kansas City and never left town and is frightened of waking up in Guatemala. We are saying, “You can go home legally. We are going to give you an express line right through TSA. You need to get a cheap airplane or you can take a bus. There are lots of options: grab five of your friends headed in the same direction and pile in a car. Start walking. Please travel safely. See you when you get back.” Yeah, there are details and some difficult situations - but they are the exception, not the rule (and no reason to avoid the issue).

Here's the key point - People should not expect that it is acceptable to participate in the benefits of life in the United States by breaking the law. Establishing some kind of phony con game to reward (and that's what it is) those who have obviously broken the law is flat-out WRONG. This country is based on the Rule of Law and its core principle is that the Law applies to EVERYONE. Deal with it.

Now, I’m not suggesting we run around looking for reasons to expel anyone. I don't think that is a sustainable policy. In some respects it's anti-human, and I see little to be accomplished by getting into fights where you say, “We are going to pick up somebody in the middle of mowing a yard or loading a truck and try to deport them.” But I also don't see how blindly condoning willful law-breaking, regardless of the emotional reason or sob-story behind it, can ultimately lead to a lawful outcome. It strikes me as in the long run as unwise and inappropriate.

Remember: My key point is this: Dealing with those who are already here illegally is NOT issue #1. We're dealing with human beings, not locusts. We *must* fix the environment (e.g., the fence, economic incentives to break the law) and fix the process (e.g., id cards, guest worker visa, path to citizenship) *BEFORE* tackling what to do about the swarm that made it in the door which shouldn't have been open in the first place. I believe if you have a simple & effective program which provides an effective mechanism to enable those who desire to come, work and live in this country to do so honestly - and operating within the law - you are not going to have those kinds of problems in large numbers.

There. It's a start. Is it complete? No. Are there a lot of details remaining? Sure. At least I got started... I just want to try and reach an agreement on building the foundation for the house, and making sure its solid, before we worry about interior paint colors.

- Steve


  1. Sorry, I was hot and heavy about AGW and just finished another post. I'll put it up and then get back on II. I want you to drive the next time we get on the bump-a-car ride at Six Flags - you're so unpredictable...

  2. I learned multitasking by working on computers all those years. Sorry. But it *is* a fun ride, isn't it? ;-)