My thoughts on immigration reform

Well considering how much political commentary there is on immigration reform I thought I’d add my two cents.

First of all it is my belief that no matter what we do, the #1 important thing that must happen as a result of this is enforcement of the new laws.  Unless laws are complied with, laws are meaningless.  Laws are only complied with when the combination of the risk of getting caught and the penalty for being caught encourages most people to comply with the law.  In the case of immigration, with so many of those seeking to live in the US having very little to lose, there isn’t a strong enough penalty you can give that would deter illegal immigration on it’s own (or said differently with a low risk of being caught).  As a result, the only way to ensure compliance with the law to make the likelihood of being caught very high.

So whatever we do, enforcement of the new law MUST be our top priority.  If it isn’t, whatever our plan is will be meaningless.

Beyond that, my feelings are driven by two factors: respecting the lives of those who want to immigrate legally and relative stability of the US economy.

First, let me state what I think the biggest overlooked aspect of this debate is: employers abusing illegal immigrants.  When the debate is talked about, most speak as if the companies employing illegal immigrants and the immigrants who are illegally employed are perfectly happy with one another and would be content to just see the government leave them alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that although the alternative back home may be worse, most illegal immigrants face a world where they are routinely abused by not being paid for their work (in addition to the low wages to begin with), working in unsafe conditions, and rampant racism.

Why does this occur?  Because the illegal immigrants have no recourse.  They can’t go to law enforcement because they’re illegal.  And that’s the crux of the matter.  Many argue that by letting illegal immigrants into the country we are being humane to them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  By letting them in illegally we are creating an environment where we are allowing them to be abused and we can turn our back in ignorance.  That is morally unacceptable to me.  We must ensure that our borders are enforced not only for “America’s” sake but to ensure the fair treatment of all who live in this country.

Next, I’ll attack another overlooked aspect: subverting minimum wage.  When politicians talk about a “guest worker program” what they’re talking about is a way for US employers to pay below minimum wage to immigrants.  Why should they be able to do that?  What makes these individuals less deserving of minimum wage than the rest of us?  I think that the “guest worker programs” as currently proposed are barbaric and de-humanizing.

I’m perfectly fine with allowing vast numbers of immigrants into our country.  However, that does not give us the right to treat them in sub-human fashion.  If they’re allowed to live here then they deserve the rights that everyone who lives here has.

Finally, what should we do with the illegal immigrants who currently live in the US?  This is the most difficult problem to address particularly considering that the US’s lack of enforcement in the past has been a de facto endorsement of their arrival.  Additionally, I heavily believe in the principle of forgiveness.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us where the right solution is to do the following:

  1. Dramatically step up enforcement on the border
  2. Create a temporary residency program that has a path to permanent residency and citizenship for all immigrants and gives those immigrants the full set of rights of current legal immigrants, including minimum wage.
  3. Allow those who are already living in the country to join the above program with some credit based on the length of their stay although never so much that they immediately become permanent residents.  Despite the fact that they deserve forgiveness, there must be some requirement that they go through a immigration process.  Residents who have arrived in the last year(?) would have to apply similar to non-residents and would not get any time based credit.
  4. Set target number for these programs that are realistic and are “front loaded” to accept the reality that millions are already living here and will be joining the program “mid-stream”

Now, is that so hard?

One Response to “My thoughts on immigration reform”

  1. seth Says:

    excellent article, i am so sorry that i have finally taken the time to read it and not sooner. mine is not as nice but it has some merit too. read it when u can. for some reason i can’t get a direct link to it. it is a ways down on the page but when u see the arizona desert u r there…