With Republicans about to assume the majority of seats in both houses of Congress, many policy issues that had been placed on hold due to gridlock are about to receive national focus. One of these is immigration reform. Since the President’s executive order to halt the deportation process of illegal immigrants last November, conservatives have been chomping at the bit to reverse his unconstitutional actions. However, the GOP has yet to produce an alternative policy.
This is in part due to the divisions within the Republican Party. Populist conservatives see President Obama’s actions to be unconstitutional and catering to the Hispanic community, which in their minds may be mostly illegal immigrants anyway. More moderate Republicans are hesitant to make any sudden moves on the issue. Strict enforcement of immigration laws could be interpreted as racist or anti-immigrant. On the other hand doing nothing does pose a national security issue. There are also the fiscal conservatives who see immigration as America’s future labor force and solution for greater economic growth.
With all these internal divisions, one may wonder if it is possible to devise a policy solution that everyone can support unanimously. I think it is possible, but it will require level of compromise that some might find offensive to the purity and righteousness of their own principles.
The first step I see that needs to be taken is acknowledging that deportation of all illegal immigrants is unrealistic and not a satisfying answer to the problem. The numbers used to describe how many illegals are in the country are simply estimates. They are not hard and fast numbers. Therefore, we do not know how many there are or where they all are. This makes deportation impossible logistically. Also, deportation does not prevent them from returning which is part of the problem. This does not mean that the deportation process has no place when discussing immigration reform. But it does mean that we need to find other solutions.
Second, consider implementing a guest visa program similar to the one used in Canada. This would allow those who come to the country illegally solely to find work to do so in a legal manner. Now some might argue that we already have a work visa program and it is easy for people to abuse. No doubt it is. However, this program can be narrowly tailored to help weed out the bad apples of foreign workers. The way Canada’s program works is that the Canadian and Mexican governments work together to identify eligible workers. Those approved can then apply for jobs, and those hired are then provided their visas. Congress, and the President for that matter, could pass the legislation to create a similar program. They could also specify the conditions for employment or let the states decide that for themselves.
Third, a probation period is needed to deal with those already in the US. Obviously those guilty of serious offenses such as rape, murder, theft, etc. should be punished and deported. But for those who are not, they need a chance to prove that they can be upstanding citizens without being immediately rewarded with citizenship through amnesty. Now, someone will probably counter that a probation period is just a delayed form of amnesty. However, amnesty does not require a waiting period to determine if someone should be allowed to avoid legal punishment. Also I’m not proposing a short probation with a few vague rules. Instead, I believe that for those who have come and stayed in the country for the last 5-10 yrs. and do not have a criminal record in this country or in their country of origin may be eligible for a 5 yr. probation. Those eligible may receive driver’s licenses that have to be renewed for each year of probation. They pay an initial $500 fine as well as taxes. But they cannot vote or receive welfare or entitlement benefits for the first 2 and a-half yrs. Infractions, based on severity and number, result in deportation. Those again could be determined by Congress or the states. Everyone else who comes into the country illegally is to be deported. After the probation period ends, the naturalization process can begin for them.
Fourth, those who were brought to the US as minors should be granted a green card and provided a chance to pass a citizenship test. They came to the US against their will or because that was where they families were going. Those reasons should not be held against them.
Fifth, secure the border! Everything I’ve mentioned thus far hinges on the fact that our borders can be kept safe and are not open to a continuous influx of illegal immigrants. Right now we are facing a resource battle of too little funds, equipment, and manpower to monitor the southern border. This can be resolved by requiring new military recruits to begin their first 4 months of service by patrolling the border. ICE agents can direct their movements and instruct them on the proper procedures for certain situations. This will provide the man power needed to monitor the border and discourage drug cartels and smugglers from entering the country illegally. And when the guest worker program is installed, they won’t be handling as many families as ICE is right now.
This is just a simple plan I believe Republicans would generally support. It would require the President to act with Congress and allow Congress to make the first move in the legislative process. It would show that the GOP is not a modern “know-nothing” party, but a party interested in solving the immigration issue and ensuring national security. And it would provide the country a reliable seasonal workforce that doesn’t illegally and unfairly compete with Americans for all low-skill jobs for the entire year.
Of course that doesn’t mean everyone will support it. There will still be conservatives who feel that all we need to do is enforce current laws and deport all illegals. It also doesn’t mean that Democrats or the President will support it since the Democratic Party has been benefitting from “anti-immigrant” Republicans. But despite these potential drawbacks, I believe the plan outlined above offers a new way forward that will positively benefit everyone involved. Foreigners who want to work will have the opportunity to do so legally. Families who want to become citizens of the US can do so without the hassle of going to court for illegally entering the country, but with certain conditions to meet before receiving citizenship. Kids who have been illegally brought here can now at least shed the stigma of their illegal status. And our border will be secured with at least the necessary man power to help halt drug and human trafficking.
If you have an idea of what we can do to fix the immigration issue, please feel free to briefly describe what your policy would like below in the comment section.