Illegal immigration is the elephant in the room and a problem that is not going away in America. While the problem is obvious, the solutions are not. On the far Left we have a proposal to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants in the country and open the borders to accept all comers. On the Right we have a proposal to ship all illegal immigrants back, build a fence and some even go as far as having electrified fences and mine fields to keep anyone out.
I think both proposals are recipes for disaster and neither will have majority support in Congress or with the American people so I propose a compromise that I like to call “Trust but Verify Amnesty.”
I started thinking about this after listening to an NPR program about South Carolina’s tough immigration laws. I must state for the record that with the inaction by the Federal government I support states’ attempt to solve the problem on their own, as South Carolina has. This is why we need a Federal solution to this immigration policy and I think the proposal that I’ll outline in this post addresses this need.
The NPR story covered a family that came to America illegally, owned a small business and had 2 children in elementary school. The parents broke the law coming to the US illegally but the children had nothing to do with this illegal act and the South Carolina law will round them up and send them back to Mexico if the parents are caught by the police and subsequently have their immigration status checked. The parents appeared to be intent on working to provide for their family and by all accounts acted/talked like any other All-American family. What is wrong with people coming to this country who want to work for a living, obey the laws, pay taxes and contribute to the economy? In my opinion, nothing so can’t there be a middle ground where we accept the law abiding, hard working people who want to live up to the American Dream and deport those who do not? I think this is possible and here is my proposal.
Let’s pass legislation that will, in the span of 1 year:
1) Give conditional citizenship to all illegal immigrants currently in the United States and
2) Improve the border security to make it harder for people to break the law and enter our country illegally.
Those who have been granted this conditional citizenship will have to pass all the normal toll gates for becoming a citizen (submitting application, taking test, fingerprinting, taking oath, etc.) and once the application process starts they are on a probation period for 3 years.
Trust but Verify
The “Trust” portion of the plan looks like this – During those 3 years the conditional citizens will have all the rights and privileges granted to naturalized citizens except the right to vote. The “Verify” portion plays out like this – If they are convicted of a crime (other than traffic violations) the person and their immediate family will be immediately deported. Once they go 3 years with no crimes, they will be granted permanent naturalized citizenship and have all the same rights as any US born citizen expect being elligible to be President.
This proposal ensures that those who come to this country with the intent to improve their life and contribute to the American society will be embraced and those who come here to cause mayhem will be extracted with extreme prejudice. This is fair because the rules will be clear up front and if someone wants to be a citizen of the US, obeying the laws for 3 years will be easy.
Critique of the Plan
The Heritage Foundation has a great article on the pros and cons of Amnesty and they point out, correctly, that rewarding illegal behavior will encourage more of it. If we start granting Amnesty to all illegal immigrants then there will be a dramatic increase in border crossings. That is why any Amnesty program must be coupled with preventing more illegal immigrants from entering the country. Increasing the border security and working with Mexico to incentivize them to assist in policing the border has to be done either in parallel with Amnesty or prior to the Amnesty program.
The Amnesty program must have a finite lifetime and once the borders are secured we should end it and deport any illegal immigrant swiftly and this must be a national law so that all states are playing by the same rules.
There are no easy and clean solutions to this problem since the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. We can’t expect those who have been here for years, have kids in school, own businesses and started a new life to willingly move back to Mexico and start the legal immigration process.
A solution to illegal immigration requires adult conversations and adult solutions that the majority of Americans can embrace. I think this proposal is a good jumping off point for that conversation.