In the USA we have an immigration problem, well perhaps more than one problem. The current system penalizes those who wish to follow our laws and rewards those who do not. It promotes the influx of a criminal element all the while declaring that they are just children escaping poverty. On the other hand we cannot deny that there are people so desperate to find a better life that they will risk life and limb to get here. How do we solve the problem?
Some have said we should just completely open our border and allow free unhindered immigration. Perhaps they should ask the native Americans how that worked out.
Others have said we have to lock the border down tight to prevent illegal immigration. Perhaps we could call it the War on Illegal Immigration, we can model it after the very successful War on Drugs. (Boy I hope the sarcasm was evident there.)
If we analyze illegal immigration we will find people largely belong to one of three camps:
- Migrant workers,
- Refugees, and
Migrants generally don’t want to live here, although our current laws essentially force them to move. Refugees leave their current home because they hope life will generally be better when coming here. Criminals come to exploit new territory.
According to the American Immigration Center, it takes an average of eighteen months for employment based immigration. For other applications it can take as long as ten years. In addition to the wait times, we impose caps on immigration based on the immigrant’s original homeland. It’s easy to understand illegal immigration under those circumstances.
So what’s the solution?
Well first of all there isn’t a foolproof solution. We must be compassionate. We must protect the innocent inside and outside our borders. Ignoring criminals entering the country does not protect the innocent. Promoting the use of smugglers who extort large sums for the promise of passage here does not protect the innocent. We have become guilty of human trafficking by proxy.
Open borders would reduce human trafficking, but increase the influx of criminals at the same time.
A tightly sealed border will just raise the price of being smuggled here.
I propose a multi-part solution. It’s not a perfect solution, but I believe it is a good one for normal immigration issues. There’s an additional problem which I will deal with at the end.
First, reduce wait times by a factor of twelve at least, in some cases more. That is, take all those year numbers and change them to months. If you can’t find anything in someone’s background in ten months it’s probably not there.
Second, double the caps. Reevaluate those numbers after five years, if they haven’t caused major economic problems double them again.
Third, bring back the migrant worker visa. Require a minimal background check when the visa is first applied for and charge a nominal fee. The visa will automatically renew each season unless the worker is convicted of a crime.
These first three will tend to reduce illegal immigration by making it easier for the type of people we want immigrating to get here. The migrant worker visa will allow people to work legally and return legally to their country of origin after the working season is complete. It will encourage them to return home as long as home is safe. At this point illegal immigration should dwindle and be primarily made up of those who we don’t want coming into the country, that is the criminal element. The problem we face today is we can’t tell them from the general immigrating population, these three steps solve that problem for the most part.
Fourth, secure the border. Yes I said it. Now that we have gathered the sheep, we need to protect them by preventing the wolves from coming in. Currently we have to be careful about the methods we use to secure the border because probably most of those crossing illegally are innocents. Since steps one through three have solved that problem we can collapse tunnels, we can forcibly intercept illegals.
Fifth, crack down on crime by immigrants. If you came here with good intentions that’s great. However our society has rules and if you won’t abide by those rules then you can find somewhere else to live. So, if you commit a traffic infraction or something on that level, pay your ticket and your free to stay. If you commit a non-violent crime, you get a time out. My father suggested five years and that sounds pretty good. If you commit a violent crime, you don’t need to be let back in, and step four will make sure you stay out.
Anti-immigrant groups won’t like this solution because it will actually increase the number of immigrants. Open borders advocates won’t like it because it pre-judges people seeking to come here.
What about massive refugees due to crisis?
If people are in a situation where weeks of waiting can mean the difference between life or death, we have to change our response. It is a valid concern that not everyone appearing to flee is actually coming here to escape. Allowing unfettered access to the country in response to a crisis puts at risk those we have worked hard to bring here already. On the other hand, it is inhumane to leave them to suffer and die.
In other countries refugee camps have been setup to accommodate these situations, but often these camps are at best poorly managed and often they can become places of exploitation. While people are in refugee camps their opportunities are limited, and the longer they are there the less prepared they are the become successful immigrants.
I still think the solution to a massive refugee crisis is a form of refugee camps. The federal government has confiscated vast swathes of the South West. I am opposed to that confiscation, but we could put those areas to good use and perhaps redeem it.
We allow large migration into a controlled area, large enough for several settlements and farmland. We allow people to continue in their previous occupations as much as possible. The settlements will require farmers, laborers, merchants, medical personnel, lawyers and others. We should not require that those people meet the same standards as is expected in the general population. They have successfully operated in their homeland and should continue to do so.
While in the settlements the refugees should be given some measure of the constitutional protections given to regular immigrants and citizens, but probably not all protections. I would suggest at a minimum from the bill of rights, the first eight amendments with the exception of the second and fourth would be a good idea.
Also while in the settlements the refugees should be encouraged to learn English if needed and learn how to function in American culture. This will accomplish two things, firstly it will speed adaptation when they are transitioned to normal immigrant status and secondly it will tend to screen out those who are not wanting to be here for legitimate purposes.
The point of the settlements is to relieve the immediate crisis and allow complete immigration to proceed slightly faster than normal but still with some measure of checks. In these instances we should be working with the international community to encourage immigration out of the settlements to other safe countries as well. People should not be languishing in the settlements for years, cycle time should be months.