Five Simple Steps SeriesOpinionPolitics

Five Simple Steps for Reasonable and Responsible Immigration Reform

Is it possible to find compassionate solutions to illegal immigration while strictly enforcing immigration law?

This is a difficult topic because it evokes strong reactions from all sides. Nonetheless, critical reforms are necessary. I have watched this divisive topic tear away at the fabric of our society for too long, while it also slowly chips away at the foundation of our republic.

I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, but I was raised in Miami, Florida. I was literally in the melting pot. The church I attended during my teens had people from just about every nation on earth: African, Asian, Caribbean, European, South American, etc. Skin color or culture didn’t matter.

We were proof that society doesn’t have to divide people based on their difference. We may have shared a common faith, but we still had our own individual aspirations and fears.

Here’s a picture of our youth group on a canoe trip.

That was then… Today, I see a society expressing themselves on social media in ways they never would face to face. The same goes for other online portals (like this one) that allow people to interact via comment strings. Sometimes, it’s just vile.

Immigration reform shouldn’t be framed as an us versus them debate. Framed that way, we’ll never create the unity we need to truly solve the growing divide.

For the minority who want open borders, no attempts to limit illegal immigration will be tolerated. For the minority who hold the most strident convictions against illegal immigrants, no compromise will be tolerated.

I’m not writing this for either minority extreme, although I would hope to persuade them. I’m writing this to get the conversation started for all of us in the middle who want the integrity of our nation preserved by creating solutions that allow us to enforce our laws.

To find reasonable solutions, however, we need to be reasonable. That means we cannot hold an all-or-nothing posture on this issue. There must be a responsible yet compassionate middle ground.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I was once in the “deport them all” camp – because of the laws that were broken, not the people who broke them. But, after carefully considering the lives of the people involved, I’ve softened my stance considerably. I would strongly encourage each reader to carefully consider their own position in light of the real human elements involved. Then, take a moment to reflect on what I propose below before reacting.

So, let’s wade into the deep end…

First, if we are going to be serious about enforcing our immigration laws, we must first secure our borders. That means we really do need to build a wall on both our northern and southern borders. There are very bad people seeking our destruction, and not just politically. They want to destroy us physically, and we have proof they’re entering our country illegally.

We’ll never be able to stop all illegal entries, but we can stop most of them by establishing a real barrier.

As I alluded to in a previous post, we don’t need a separate security force to patrol our borders. We already have a well-trained, well-equipped military that could physically and electronically monitor the border walls. And, before I hear cries of “military state”, neither the wall or its military protection is out of line with other nations that have people bent on their destruction.

For all the environmentalists out there that want to complain about the disruption a wall will cause to habitats, migratory patterns, etc., I have news for you. Animals are smarter than you give them credit for. They’ll adapt. This issue is far too important to be sidelined by concerns over animal rights.

Second, we need to enforce our immigration laws, but we also need to allow for a measure of flexibility concerning those already here. Sure, they’re here illegally, but we are partly to blame, especially certain administrations. We allowed them to come. Some administrations actually enticed them. We may not like it, but that’s our reality.

Any illegal who has already been convicted of a crime should be deported immediately. No jail. No waiting. Immediate deportation, even if the receiving country doesn’t want them. That’s not our problem. They are draining precious resources from our criminal justice system. And, they should be permanently banned from re-entry or any path to citizenship. Period.

Yes, I know illegal entry is a crime in itself, so they’re all technically guilty of committing a crime. Please be patient. I’ll get to that… Here, I’m just talking about those already convicted of a crime.

Any other illegals should be given a window of opportunity to show their good faith as people who want to become legitimate members of the United States melting pot. The window afforded to them will not be a free pass, however.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. We need to account for different segments of the illegal community, offering consequences and/or opportunity commensurate with the crime.

Again, I know all illegal entry is a crime, but we can offer our own show of good faith to those who want to become legitimate members of our melting pot, especially the Dreamers who were brought here by their parents.

Anyone who comes forward during the “window” should be given a path to either citizenship or re-entry, depending on their current status.

If they themselves broke the law by coming here but can prove they are productive, tax-paying members of society, they should either (1) be deported but placed at the front of the line for legal re-entry, or (2) given temporary visas without front-of-the-line status, but required to file for legal residency (green card) and then citizenship. Each case could be reviewed individually, yet guided by strict criteria that weighs the length of their illegal stay and their overall contribution to society. For instance, a longer illegal stay shows greater antipathy for our laws, so that person deserves harsher treatment.

Whether they’re deported or given a temporary visa, they would still need to file the appropriate immigration and/or citizenship paperwork, normal fees – plus a penalty fee, etc. If sponsorship is required, they must acquire sponsorship, as well. Illegals awarded a temporary visa in this category who fail to meet the requirements should be deported and placed at the end of the line, if they wish to return.

If they were brought here illegally by their parents but can prove they are productive, tax-paying members of society, they should be given a temporary visa and placed at the front of the line for a green card. But, they would still need to file the appropriate immigration paperwork, normal fees (no penalty), etc. within a predefined period, first for their green card and then for citizenship.

If they really want to stay, they should be required to seek citizenship. If they fail to meet the requirements, they should be deported and placed at the end of the line, with a 2-year minimum probationary wait in addition to paying a penalty fee, if they wish to return.

If they were brought here illegally by their parent but are still minors and unable to work, they would be subject to the terms extended to their illegal parents (above or below).

Whether they themselves broke the law by coming here illegally or were brought here by their parents, if they cannot prove they are productive, tax-paying members of society, they need to be deported and placed at the end of the line, with a 2-year minimum probationary wait in addition to paying a penalty fee, if they wish to return.

Any illegal who does not come forward during the window of opportunity should be deported immediately, with no pathway to re-entry. That includes anyone who may have arrived legally but currently holds an expired visa or green card. If they don’t come forward, they are showing their ongoing willful disregard for the law.

Again, I understand those who are here illegally are already showing their willful disregard for our laws, but they may genuinely be seeking a better life yet simply couldn’t afford the legal entrance fees. That’s not an excuse for breaking the law, but it does offer a bit of perspective, and it should be taken into consideration if they can prove they are otherwise law-abiding, productive members of society.

To help enforce these guidelines, every employer should be required to use the E-Verify system. If an employer is caught aiding illegals, the employer should be severely penalized.

If I haven’t accumulated enough people that want to hang me out to dry, now we get to where I may be accused of rallying for a police state. I’m not. But, we don’t have the current resources to police the millions of illegals already here, so I suggest we utilize our consolidated military/Border Patrol/Homeland Security, as referenced in my previous post.

They could collect the information presented by those who willingly come forward and process them accordingly, or they could simply collect the illegals who don’t.

Done cooperatively, it could be a very low-key operation. Otherwise, force could be used as would be appropriate in any seek and seize operation. Remember, they would only be forcefully seeking those who (1) already broke the law by coming here, and (2) are willfully hiding. Scary and unnecessary for those in hiding? Absolutely. But, we have laws for a reason and they need to be enforced.

Third, we need to revisit our immigration and naturalization process, from the filing process itself, to the fee structure, to entry prerequisites. Anyone who seeks resident status or citizenship needs to be able to communicate in English. They also need to prove they are financially viable (like they would for entry to other countries), either by (1) being sponsored (marriage, education, ministry, etc.) by someone financially responsible for them, (2) having employment already secured, or (3) proving they can and will operate a viable business without government aid.

Once here, they should be treated the same as any other member of society. No special grants and no special access to welfare or social services.

Fourth, anyone seeking to legally enter our borders needs to be thoroughly vetted. No vetting, no admittance. If our authorities are unable – for any reason – to reasonably ascertain the necessary background, the individual should not be allowed access to our country. Period.

Fifth, we need to encourage robust foreign exchange partnerships in all sectors to improve the advancement of manufacturing, technology, medicine, etc. both here and abroad. As the saying goes, rising tides raise all ships.

By proactively seeking the best and brightest from other countries while sending our best and brightest abroad, we will foster an atmosphere of international cooperation that can only have a positive impact on society. It will also signal our true character to the international community.

Most US citizens don’t want to prevent legal immigration. We welcome anyone who wants to contribute to our society. We simply want to remove and prevent those who are unwilling or unable to add value, or worse, those seeking our destruction.

Don’t read too much into that statement. It’s meant as intended. Anyone can add value if they strive to be self-sufficient and abide by our laws. Individuals who are here legally but not self-sufficient due to injury or handicap deserve special protections and should be considered valuable members of society.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I would encourage you to pause for a moment to carefully and thoughtfully consider your own.

To further the discussion, what say you?

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