Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Immigration Hesitation


Well, someone on Team Obvious finally got through to Dubs, and convinced him to repackage his Immigration Reform plans. Good thing too. The original version took a basically good plan, and sent it out with all the enthusiasm of going to the prom with your mother. Not that the new version has received the support it deserves, nor much attention at all.

The MSM, as usual, has it wrong, suggesting across the board that Bush is pushing his plan to advance his political position. Since he’s not running for office again, and has shown no real concern about what the push polls say anyway, I find that hard to believe. But unfortunately, far too many people with an opinion on the issue of Immigration and Border Security have been unwilling to even give a hearnig to any proposal that does not already line up with their demands 100 percent. That, in a nutshell, is why the Congress has been unwilling to step in and so the heavy lifting on this issue.

According to the President, more than four and a half million people have been intercepted at the border since 2001, but loopholes in the law have prevented their incarceration or deportation for the most part.

Bush’s plan has specific tools, and if nothing else, should be considered for them. The DHS units at the border would get access to the Predator drones, satellite imagery, increased budget and staffing, and inter-agency cooperation. A key clue into how serious Bush takes the issue of border security, is the significant involvement of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in specific planning and resource requisition.

In discussing the demographics of illegals entering the United States, President Bush noted that about 350,000 of the 4.5 million intercepted since 2001 had criminal records. This is a hard number which represents the greatest threat; while we can argue about the threat to the Economy posed by millions of illegal aliens, the far greater threat is represented by men known by their records to be armed lawbreakers, and if terrorists wished to smuggle men or weapons into the United States, these men would be their natural mercenaries. Job One is to better organize the capture and disposition of criminals entering the country, and to shut down networks of human trafficking. This would immediately improve the security of the borders, and make it that much harder for illegals to find help entering the country, and less attractive as a course of action.

The plan essentially has three critical areas of attention:

1. Improve border security to detect and intercept dangerous and criminal entrants.

2. The Congress must pass laws to close loopholes allowing captured aliens to simply walk out of custody, and to make it unpalatable for businesses to knowingly hire illegal workers.

3. The aliens already in this country illegally must be offered a plan which will make it appealing for them to become legitimate citizens, while pursuing, capturing, and deporting any illegal.

The first two parts should be obvious, but many have criticized the third, claiming it is a sort of ‘Amnesty’. Not at all. The problem, as should be obvious, is that America is a land where people do not expect to have to carry papers everywhere to prove they can be allowed there. Once someone has crossed the border, it’s a lot harder to catch them. And, given the poor laws on the books and the way local departments have not often been able to keep custody of illegals they catch, as well as businesses all too willing to turn a blind eye to hiring illegals, most illegals will be able to stay out of sight for a very long time, unless they decide it is in their interest to come forward and declare themselves. That takes both a stick, and a carrot.

The “Guest Worker” program works like this: An illegal alien would apply to be a Guest Worker. To do this, they would have to prove they had no criminal record in their country of origin, satisfy the DHS that they had committed no crime in the United States besides entering and remaining here, provide traceable information, like fingerprints, photographs, and a DNA sample, and swear to abide by the terms of the Guest Worker program. If approved, they would be allowed to work in the United States for one, three, or six years, after which time they would be required to leave the United States and return to their home country. If they wished to become a United States citizen, they would begin the process the same way as anyone else; the Guest Worker program is not designed to give any sort of advantage in gaining citizenship to anyone here illegally in the first place.

The carrot is obvious; legal residency, including the right to legal protection by the police, nominal civil services, and the freedom to work without fear of arrest for being here illegally during the time and terms of the program. The stick is, that ‘one strike’ would get you deported immediately, and the DHS would already know how to find you. Also, a key component of the program is to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. I have already discussed the criminal element, who often live in barrio communities because they know the people are afraid to contact the police; indeed there is no reason for them to want the police there. This program provides for people who want to be law-abiding, to do so, and takes away protection for many criminals, since even one ‘Guest Worker’ in a community means the criminal cannot count on silence anymore. Also, there are illegals who do not want to become U.S. citizens, but simply to work here for the money. This program roots them out, but providing a way to tell who basically is willing to play by the rules if they get another chance, and those who don’t care anyway. It relieves pressure from trying to resolve the issue of all the illegal immigrants, by focusing on the most dangerous and the most uncooperative elements directly. Thus, the program is a distinct winner, if it gets the support it deserves.

Now, some will look at this and remain unsatisfied. Good. No one is saying this is the last step, or even the middle, in addressing the issue. This program will help secure our borders and give options to the people most likely to work with the government. A long-term solution will be difficult, not least because it will require a much more common-sense approach to minimum-wage laws and similar red tape which drive small businesses to the point of rebellion. It will take minorities realizing that the difference between a citizen who obeys the law and an illegal who gains unfairly, is far greater than the difference in skin color or culture. And it will take honest consideration of small step measures, accepting short progress on the way to longer, better, results.

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