Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigration and Illegal Aliens

Recently this has bubbled to the surface and the issue de jour. Illegal immigration has become an intractable problem. It has created a powerless underclass similar to the Jim Crow days. This is not acceptable. And further oppression of this class is not acceptable in terms of creating a solution.

The key reason illegal immigrants are here is because there are jobs here. And I don't think that American employers will be happy if this labor force were to disappear. On ABC This Week, even George Will agreed with that. These folks are here and with it becoming harder to cross the border lately, many have stayed here who would have otherwise traveled back. Their children are here and their children are US citizens.

The ultimate solution, of course, is sufficient economic development in their home country such that there are good jobs there as well as here. That development has to come from the ground up as well as the top down. Our best strategy is to let American dollars flow into Mexico, for example, in the hands of Mexican immigrant workers. That money will be the real fuel of better development there. Of course this means borders that are easier to cross in both directions.

But what kind of stick can we use to exercise some control over the potential flood? I think a reasonable control is to ask our immigrant population to some privacy and their anonymity in order to be fully protected under our laws. I think it is reasonable to have an immigrant identification and tracking system complete with fingerprints-on-file and ID cards. Protected immigrants should be required to report their whereabouts and other details about their situation on a regular basis. Employers who use illegals should be severely sanctioned. The idea is to make it so easy for an illegal immigrant to become a protected immigrant that it wouldn't be worth it to an employer to hire illegals. Indeed, employers should be encouraged to bring their existing illegal employees into the legal umbrella. Workers and families currently in the country would be fully graced into legal status.

Future immigrants would have to have an employer sponsor. In order to keep employers from exploiting the immigrants with threats of dropping sponsorship, the period of sponsorship would only be a limited time, say six months. After that time the immigrant would become a free agent: tracked but free to work with anyone they chose.

Any immigrant who was unemployed for some reasonable amount of time would be subject to temporary deportation. After a given period of time they would be welcome to come back in if they had an employer sponsor. Immigrants who fell afoul of the law would find themselves prosecuted and deported for a time oommensurate with the offence. The ultimate carrot is either permanent resident status or citizenship. An immigrant with a good record would have the option to become a citizen at which time the immigrant tracking data would be sealed with noone having access except as authorized by the individual.

This will put the coyotes out of the business of exploiting innocent people. And it will reduce the incentive to pushes otherwise law-abiding people into breaking the law.

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