Monday, February 03, 2014

Bilbo's Immigration Reform Plan, Revisited

It seems that Congress has awakened, stretched, yawned, and decided that it's politically advantageous to take up immigration reform again. This will, of course, end up with the usual result: Republicans will refuse anything that involves a "path to citizenship" and no punishment for illegal immigrants, and Democrats will refuse anything that doesn't give away the store.

Both are stupid, and the problem is likely to go on.

Unless, of course, they adopt my Compromise Immigration Reform Program. I have beaten this lonely drum in this space often enough, and I have sent it to my Senators, my Reprehensive, and the President, all of whom have responded with form letters thanking me for my interest and stressing their readiness to tackle this difficult problem blah, blah, blah, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Yeah, right.

So, Dear Readers, for those of you who have not yet seen Bilbo's Compromise Immigration Reform Plan, here it is again (slightly tweaked from the original version). For those of you who have seen it before, sorry ... just come back tomorrow for something else. If you like this plan, send it to your Congressional delegation and the President. You can even put your own name on it, I don't care. Here we go ...

Bilbo’s Comprehensive Compromise Immigration Reform Plan

First, Congress enacts legislation to create a new category of immigration status – the “Provisional Resident Alien (PRA)” – and designate the status with a new form of ID card – let’s call it a “Blue Card.” Anyone who is in the United States illegally as of the date of enactment will have a grace period of six months to register for PRA status and obtain a Blue Card without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or deportation on any immigration violation charge.  They would, of course, be subject to arrest for outstanding criminal violations unrelated to their immigration status.

A person registering as a PRA must pay a fee of $100 per person or $500 per family (whichever is less) for the privilege of obtaining that status. This fee does two things: it levies a fine for having broken the law in the first place, and it partially funds the cost of the new program.  It provides something for those who oppose blanket amnesty, because it imposes a penalty, albeit a small one, for the willful violation of the law. Many churches and immigrant rights organizations will object to the fine because they think it’s either unfair or too much for poor immigrants to pay; in this case, individuals or organizations who object to making the illegals pay the fine could be offered the opportunity to pay it on behalf those who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t pay it themselves.

Once a person has been granted PRA status, they will be required to obtain a valid social security number, and will be entitled to the same rights, privileges, and social services as other legal immigrants; in exchange, they will be required to obey all laws, pay all taxes, enroll in basic English classes, and otherwise act as responsible members of American society.  They will have the protection of labor laws which require payment of the minimum wage, and with a legal status, will no longer be subject to exploitation by shady employers.

Initial PRA status will be valid for five years.  At the end of this period, the individual must report to the immigration authorities with proof of employment, proof of a clean police record (no felonies), and proof that taxes have been paid.  If these conditions are met, the individual may either extend the PRA status for another five years, or apply for citizenship.  Citizenship is not automatic – it will still have to be earned through the same naturalization process completed by many millions of legal immigrants throughout our history, with the clock for all associated requirements starting at the end of the PRA period, regardless of how long the individual has already been in the country.  This protects the interests of those who have weathered the legal immigration process by preventing previously-illegal immigrants in PRA status from “jumping the line” for quick citizenship.

On the date the grace period for PRA status applications ends, anyone still present illegally in the country will be arrested and deported.  Because the great majority of previously-illegal immigrants will have taken advantage of the opportunity to legalize their status by becoming PRAs, those remaining in an illegal status will probably those with criminal records.  Immigration authorities can then proceed to concentrate on this much smaller number of more dangerous criminals.

United States laws governing citizenship would be changed to state that children born within the United States obtain automatic citizenship only if both parents are US citizens. This helps minimize the problem of sham marriages and “anchor children” used to establish legal residency for people otherwise here illegally.

On the date the law is enacted, most immigration enforcement agents would immediately transfer to border security duty to crack down on  new illegal immigration. Border security will be severely stiffened and those caught attempting illegal entry to the country will be summarily deported after being photographed and fingerprinted. Facilitation of illegal immigration (whether by “coyotes” who help smuggle illegals across the border or by those who knowingly employ illegals) will be made a felony, as will a second illegal immigration attempt.

On the date the grace period for PRA registration ends, a set of very steep fines and jail sentences goes into effect for businesses and individuals hiring persons who are in the country illegally (without a Green or Blue Card).  This will help to remove the economic incentive for businesses to support illegal immigration.

Employers would be responsible for reporting to the immigration authorities any change in the employment status of a PRA. If a person in PRA status is fired from a job or becomes unemployed, his status is revoked and he must leave the country until otherwise eligible to apply for legal immigration in the future.

This takes care of those who are in the country illegally today. But comprehensive immigration reform must also address the need for a responsive program to allow unskilled, low-wage workers to enter the country to take jobs that might otherwise go unfilled. PRA status can be used for these persons, too. Businesses would project their labor requirements, and the State Department would make an appropriate number of PRA visas available to meet the need.  Immigrants would then apply at the US embassy or consulate in their home country for PRA status covering any period of time from six months to five years, and need only maintain a job and pay taxes in order to maintain their status.  At the end of five years, they would also have the opportunity to apply for citizenship under the same rules as any other person in PRA status.

This plan won’t please everyone, but that’s the nature of a compromise, and the ability to compromise is what has been missing from political discourse in this country for too long.  The advantages of the PRA plan are:

1. It offers a way to legitimize the persons already here illegally (who, after all, are too numerous and well-protected to be rounded up and deported), but imposes a fine on them as a condition of legalizing their status (i.e., no reward for having broken the law in the first place).

2. It funds itself, in part, through the fines collected from those applying for PRA status.

3. It provides resources for increased border security by freeing up immigration agents who otherwise spend their days fruitlessly hunting down illegals.

4. It provides a pathway for low-wage workers to legally enter the country and take advantage of economic opportunities not available to them at home, while contributing to the US economy in taxes.

5. It removes the incentive for businesses to hire and exploit illegal immigrants who cannot seek their rights for fear of exposure and deportation.

6. It does not, of itself, provide the “path to citizenship” that is a red line for hard core opponents of immigration reform.

The downside of my plan is, of course, that prices on some goods will rise.  We’ll pay more for the produce picked by immigrants who are finally being paid a decent wage.  But I believe that in the long run, this plan represents a good start toward a stronger America and a better life for those who would share in its dream.

There you go. Sorry for the repetition of the topic over the years, but somebody's got to come up with a valid idea. What do you think? Where does my plan fall short? How can it be improved? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

You tell em!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I think it's a good, workable plan. A big problem with the illegal immigrants is that too many people have a vested interest in their being here since they provide a cheap source of exploitable workers.

I like the blue card idea plus the continuation of the normal naturalization process.

One thing: why do we continue to insist constitutionally that being native-born is a requirement for the Presidency?

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

It would be nice if they could manage to separate out the entry-only illegals from those who engage in criminal activities after they've crossed. We have an escalating drug problem in north Alabama currently, and it's not just the home-grown riff-raff who's doing it.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clarissa said...

Will, ultimately, some states adopting a language other than English as its official language? If the majority is fluent in a language other than English, this might not be a bad thing.

allenwoodhaven said...

Bilbo, you forget one important thing: you are making sense and that is never a popular idea in Congress.

Grand Crapaud said...

What we're doing now simply is not working.