Illegal entry and the path to citizenship debate arises anew.

The news this morning is that a group of 8 Senators has apparently hammered out a framework for immigration reform and the response to the presence of millions of illegal aliens already living here in the United States.

A bipartisan group of eight senators plans to announce they have agreed on a set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform.

The deal, which will be announced at a news conference Monday afternoon, covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The eight senators expected to endorse the new principles are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

While I’m just fine with seeing Senators actually engaging in the People’s business, I can’t say I’m impressed with the credentials of several of those represented. Dick Durbin’s an ass, Menendez is being given a pass on behavior that would see calls for a lynching if he were a Republican, and McCain’s record on immigration issues has long been a sore point with me. That our immigration system needs reform, however, is a matter that hardly anyone can argue against effectively and I’ve been saying this for years. It does need work and it’s a pretty big deal. So, what’ this framework supposed to accomplish? According to the story, it’s got 4 major goals:

  1. Creating a path to citizenship for the estimated illegal immigrants already in the U.S., contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.
  2. Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
  3. Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.
  4. Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

I first wrote about my stance on immigration reform back in 2005 and I’ve repeated that stance a few times since then. It’s time to do it again, apparently, so here we go. Before I quote my earlier post, however, it’s important to frame it in the context of the larger discussion that was going on at the time. There’s a reference to my absolute requirement in goal #1, above, and that’s securing the border. Note that it says the creation of the path to citizenship is “continent upon” securing the border. We went down this road in 1986, where border security was called for in exchange for amnesty for illegal aliens. The amnesty got rolled out but the border security got thrown away. This cannot be permitted this time and sufficient safeguards need to be enacted to make sure that it doesn’t. Without the border security, I will not support any effort to provide amnesty of any kind nor in any measure. So, that said, what kind of “path” would I support? Let’s start with the post I wrote on this topic back in 2005.

So, in the spirit of debate and that oh-so-elusive yet crucial-for-democracy quality known as “compromise,” I am willing to seek a common ground. I would be willing to support the President’s initiative to bring illegals into the fold with certain assurances. I would be willing to support the foreign worker program so long as our international partner in the matter would adhere to requirements. Let’s start in inverse order and say what another country would need to do for this foreign worker program to work.

First, that country would need to agree to make the process by which their citizens who wish to participate do so without dealing with corrupt officials. That means that their citizens don’t have to cough up bribes to simply fill out forms and get their place in the queue. That means that the process is subject to oversight and audit such that a single clerk can’t open the door for a group of terrorists and get them all in around the security processes. Which leads me to the next requirement, that the country in question would provide and maintain a system by which their citizens’ identities can be confirmed on their way in to the US. If a man shows up with a Mexican birth certificate, there needs to be a system in place that can positively confirm this document is legit. Finally, if that country maintains a border with us – and now I guess we’re talking Canada and Mexico – then that country needs to actively secure its borders such that their citizens aren’t trying to get around our border patrol. That country needs to advise it’s people, in whatever fashion they need to to be sure it’s done, that the US is going to start firing on people trying to circumvent our borders. There will be no appeals and there will be no lawsuits. If someone tries to sneak in through the Arizona desert under the cover of darkness and that person is noticed, then he’s playing with his life and anything that happens to him as a result is his fault.

Note that I’m not saying we have to fire on everyone doing so, only that the option is ours to take as it is seen fit. Again, people looking to sneak past do so at their risk.

Now, what assurances am I looking for to support this program? First, that people who are illegally here must come forward and be recognized by a certain date. No exceptions. Any illegal caught in the US after that date who was here prior to that date gets sent back to their country of origin without delay and without appeal. That individual is blacklisted so far as entry to the US is concerned for life. No foreign worker program, no H-1B visa, no tourist visa, no student visa. They’re persona non grata here in the US and we wish them well in their endeavors abroad. Have a nice day. This “grace period” should be long enough to make sure the message gets to all residents of the US, legal or illegal, but I’m not talking about a year, here. Six months, perhaps. And once the date is set, there is to be no extension made.

From the date the previously-illegal (let’s call them “normalized”, a term I heard over at Hugh Hewitt’s place and it seems to fit) gets into the system that person is under a sort of probationary residence. Prior to achieving legal residency, the commission of any felony whatsoever revokes that person’s normalized status and that person becomes persona non-grata to the US. Same as above: he goes back to his country of origin and he is not permitted back into the states again, period.

Normalized immigrants should not be eligible for unemployment benefits. It is not right that the people of the United States should have to pay the way for someone who came here illegally in the first place. They came here to work in the US, so work.

Normalized immigrants can acquire a drivers’ license for the purpose of operating a motor vehicle only and that license is to be marked as such in some hugely obvious way. That means that such a license cannot be used to acquire a passport or visa or any other form of identification
in any way. These licenses should also use some form of biometrics to positively identify the bearer. As an addendum to being able to drive, every single immigrant to this country should be required to learn a practical and working knowledge of English, both spoken and written. They will be driving the same roads and using the same signage as the rest of us. They need to be predictably able to understand what they’re seeing and hearing. A written and spoken test should be given to each immigrant before they’re licensed to drive.

Normalized immigrants should be assigned a tax ID and taxes withheld from their pay like everyone else. Failure to do so should visit a very stiff penalty upon the employer involved.

Finally, the status of “normalized immigrant” is neither permanent nor something that future immigrants should be granted. For those that are here illegally and abide by the rules to become legal, there should be regular milestones to be met. Their passage of the language requirement, for one, and the length of time they can be here in this country looking for a job should have deadlines. Failure to meet that deadline means they go home. (In these cases, it’s not a permanent thing. They can apply again to come to the US.) A normalized immigrant is one who was here illegally and came forward within the window of recognition. People coming here illegally after that window starts aren’t part of the deal and those people should be sent home, no questions asked.

This is the path to citizenship – coming out of the illegal shadow and into compliance with the law. I have not addressed any kind of penalty these people should incur for having broken our immigration laws to begin with and I’m not opposed to some sort of penalty being applied but I’m also not making that a requirement for my support. I’m unhappy that these people chose to ignore our laws, yes, but I don’t see that being lifted because they coughed up a check. What would make me happy is for them to adhere to our laws and make the public effort I’m talking about, here, to get on the right side of them.

This is a serious debate we should be having, and it needs to take the time to get it right. The dead giveaway, to me, that these politicians are simply trying to use the issue to score political points would be them insisting that we need to hurry up and pass something. McCain, particularly, gave that a try before and I won’t be any more supportive of such an action this time than I was last time. In writing this post, however, I can see that this is going to take more than 1 entry on this blog. So, we’ll end this here and take up the next goal in the framework next post.