Illegals

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Apparently this needs to be said out loud – people who sneak into the country by clandestinely crossing a border or beach, have entered the country illegally. They are here illegally. Their first act as an American resident was to break the law. One of the lynchpins of Western Civilization is an adherence to the rule of law, rather than being a cult of personality, and just looking the other way on a class of people defined by an illegal act, weakens that propensity. Blatant unequal application of law is an earmark of banana republics and juntas.

Also needed to be stated up front – the Mexican government will be of no meaningful assistance in this matter, as money sent back home by working illegals in the United States is Mexico’s second largest source of national income, exceeded only by oil. Part of Mexico’s economic model is the exporting of as much poverty to America as they can, any way they can.

This part of the effort regards what to do with that class of people defined by an illegal act. While I do not favor punitive action – save for those convicted of a felony – but their status is not an insignificant feature to be ignored. The GOP document begins: “Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law.” Felons need to be deported, and this includes those casually discovered[1] in the flow of events. All others should be given a path to legitimization.

“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws,” the document goes on, “that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law.” I wholeheartedly agree. While that process (the line waiting for citizenship) desperately needs to be modernized and streamlined, all who present themselves for a path to citizenship should join the line at the rear.

“Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the US, but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” No problem with any of this.

“Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.” Those whose criminal acts are felonious (and the sex offender would qualify) are to be deported. The rest remain in this country illegally.

“Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.” Along with certified border security, yes, I agree.

Well, there you have it. This section concludes the GOP guidelines for sensible immigration reform. In sum, the provisions need to be introduced in phases, both for ease of understanding and sound methodology. Security must come before easement because easement will act as a magnet for yet more illegal immigration. Smarter allocation of visas is overdue, and our competition has been doing this for years. The economy is the backbone of government’s ability to do anything – government creates nothing, before it can give anything to anyone, it must first take it from someone else. Any widesweeping legislation should be sensitive to its effect on the pre-legislation economy. Immediate plans need to be drawn up to modernize the current naturalization process, and it should be done outside government – I would suggest the RAND Corporation, an apolitical research think tank often used by the government to get an objective treatment of a seemingly intractable problem. They pioneered Game Theory, and have “gamed” many scenarios for the US government, military and civilian. They wrote a prescient paper on the operational problems with ObamaCare, down to the late start on programming the interface, predicting software problems with the rollout. Set the DREAM process in motion, and adopt the policy for handling illegals. It needs to be done in sequence and phased-in so that the totality of the reforms does not shock the social or economic systems.


[1] By casually discovered, I mean situations where immigration status surfaces as a result of non-immigration activity (e.g., license check at a traffic stop).

DREAMers

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The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, rejected by Congress in 2007, was essentially resurrected by President Obama’s executive order last year. The GOP document states, “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards[1], and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.”

I support this, assuming it includes stipulations against felony conviction (which would revoke DREAM status) any time before permanent resident status is granted. I do believe, as a general principle, that the child should not suffer for the sins of the parents. I also agree, as a general principle, that one should qualify for an entitlement (and just handing them a green card because they were brought here as a child is class-specific entitlement): if they have a felony conviction, they’re out; if they’ve been out of the country and illegally re-entered the US after the age of majority, they’re out; and so forth.

I have no problem with legitimizing their presence in America (green card), and letting them join the end of line for citizenship if they wish.


[1] Be of good moral character and graduate from US high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least two years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States” or have “served in the armed services for at least two years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.” Military enlistment contracts require an eight-year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years. Language of the DREAM Act.

Immigration Reform

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Once the environment for meaningful reform is stabilized, the GOP document itemizes three concerns: the extended family tail that each legalized immigrant sports; the losing of visitors that we educate and then can’t place here; and the apparently random issuing of employment visas.

“For far too long, the US has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country,” the reform section begins. This is one thing that happened with President Reagan’s amnesty – every illegal that was granted, brought in mothers, fathers, children, etc. That makes no sense from our standpoint. In a world that’s increasingly competitive, we need to pay more attention to what we need, and issue immigration to those having those skills. This speaks to Green Cards, not citizenship, which should be based on those who’ve played by the rules and are in line for naturalization.

“Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America’s colleges and universities, particularly in highly skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in US industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren’t available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity back to their native countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy,” the document goes on. This is a problem that employers have brought to government’s attention for years. It has to do with the quantity of H-1B visas (issued for those with confirmed jobs here), which businesses, particularly in tech fields, say they must forego graduating students – many with post-graduate degrees – that they want to hire but can’t because the limit on H-1Bs has been reached. This is short-sighted on our part, as these newly minted graduates are sent home. The bulk of employment visas are those issued to persons requesting legal status in the United States under conditions of employment. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think we need to put more emphasis on those requested by employers for positions they need filled. This represents immediate contribution to productivity, and to the degree that the positions sought are high-tech, increased entrepreneurialism as well – jobs.

I will add that the process simply must be streamlined – not dumbed-down or relaxed, but made more efficient. It takes too long for an applicant to be legalized, and this day and age, it is without excuse. In light of the ridiculously bungled ObamaCare website, it may seem foolish to ask government to digitize immigrant-to-legalized processes, but something must be done.

“The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the US. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers,” the GOP document continues. This speaks to the H-1B visa problem discussed, above, but also brings agriculture into focus. The bulk of transient Mexican illegal traffic has to do with the seasonal crop-labor of the (mostly) West Coast agricultural industry. If employers are required to verify the legal status of their employees, then we must address their needs or suffer staggeringly more expensive food. Other industries are targets for illegal employment – the hospitality and construction industries, for example – but agriculture has to be addressed.

So a first look at the existing system reveals a few things that should be addressed – haphazard including of extended family in legalizing immigrants, tailoring visas more closely to what the economy needs, and a streamlining of the system for legalization and naturalization. Beyond that, a securing of the border and enforcing employer verification means that we must do something for the agricultural industry, and perhaps the hospitality and construction industries to avoid systemic shocks that could have amplified effects to the economy.

The thing is, whenever Congress does something sweeping, it should be rectified with the fortunes of the economy – that is the one overriding feature of the nation that makes all other things possible. Zimbabwe doesn’t produce world-class anything because Zimbabwe is broke – it’s economy doesn’t permit the pursuit of much above subsistence, and certainly no entitlements for the poor: the whole country’s poor. This will take discipline from both parties, as both parties are used to warping economic projections to fit the bill they want, rather than fitting the provisions of the bill to fit economic realities.

a Truly Great Two Minutes

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I’m not sure how they’ve decided to locate “Presidents Day” – the first Monday whose date is a prime number after the last full moon of winter, or some such – but there are some accomplishments that raise a particular president above being glommed in with all the others. And President Lincoln’s dedication of a cemetery in Pennsylvania is one of those moments.

Here is what he said to us on that chilly November day in 1863.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

I would include this simple speech in that pantheon of great documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as an elegant statement on what America is. And if for nothing else – though there is a great deal else – I choose to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Revolutionary, I know.

And by the way, whatever happened to two-minute presidential speeches?

Accountability

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The second criterion is stated in a single paragraph: “A fully functioning Entry-Exit system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. We must implement this system so we can identify and track down visitors who abuse our laws.”

Three facts define the present circumstance with which any policy must deal: First, there are, and will be for a generation or more, millions of illegal residents that must be locatable for any reasonable attempt to gain control of the situation; second, a reliable, currently available method of identifying a person must be scalable down to the local level, in order to enter people into the system and check them thereafter; third, any such system should be easily and accurately updated, and regularly vetted.

While I believe something like this is required if we are serious about controlling who is our country and why, it would not be a deal-breaker for me.

The third item is also summed up in one simple paragraph: “In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper-based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.” This is a deal-breaker – if something like this isn’t fully implemented (and enforced), going any further is just wasted time and effort.