A Country’s Right and Obligation to Control Illegal Immigration
Every country has a right and obligation to protect its borders and allow in as a visitor or resident only those persons it deems worthy of admittance. That can be for economic reasons—those persons who will add to the country’s economic well being—or humane reasons—refugees from war-torn countries or persecution, or to reunite families of previously admitted immigrants. It also has the right and obligation to preclude from entry those persons considered dangerous to the welfare and security of its citizens. Yet despite regulations and border security, illegal immigration has always existed and today, because of the sizable number of illegal immigrants in the country, represents an issue that calls for an imaginative solution from a congress or government that lacks imagination.
Facts—Not Dogma—About Illegal Immigrants
Those involved in the immigration debate tend to follow ideological lines, repeating as fact the dogma with which they have long been indoctrinated. Immigrants take American jobs—they do not; immigrants are more apt to commit crimes than Americans—they do not. Nevertheless, they argue, illegal immigrants have broken the law and need to be punished. I agree, but the punishment should fit the crime and that punishment need not be deportation, an action that is detrimental to our own economic and, perhaps, even social well being. Some will argue that deportation is the only punishment and absent that, it’s tantamount to giving them amnesty, a pardon or forgiveness for their crime.
Amnesty or an Alternative
If illegal immigrants were forgiven for their actions and allowed to remain in the country with no penalty that would indeed be amnesty. But a different form of punishment or resolution need not constitute amnesty. Why not consider an alternative that might be more beneficial to both the country and illegal immigrants? After all, providing criminals a second chance after paying their debt to society—time in prison, a fine, community service—is an integral part of our justice system. That is how we should approach illegal immigration. Find the punishment that fits the crime, let the sentence be served, and then grant the immigrant legal status to remain in the country. However, if you are fixated on deportation as the only remedy, this solution is not for you.
Illegal Immigrants Impact on the Economy
In 2014 the Economic Policy Institute issued a report entitled, Facts About Immigration and the U.S. Economy, which addressed several significant issues concerning immigration, immigrants and illegal or (in their term) unauthorized immigrants. With respect to the latter, based on their research, they concluded:
“Unauthorized immigrants are a net positive for public budgets because they contribute more to the system than they take out . . .
“The vast majority pay sales taxes in states with sales taxes, and property taxes through properties that they own or rent. Additionally, most unauthorized immigrant workers also pay payroll and income taxes . . .
“Unauthorized immigrants pay into Social Security via automatic payroll deductions, but they can never claim Social Security benefits. In 2005, it was estimated that unauthorized immigrants paid about $7 billion per year in Social Security taxes that they will never be able to reclaim . . .
“. . . while unauthorized immigrant workers add to the supply of labor, they also consume goods and services, thereby generating economic activity and creating jobs . . . We could remove them, which would indeed reduce the number of workers, but it would also reduce the jobs created by the economic activity they generate.”
Based on that research as well as virtually all others on the subject, illegal immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy, but that, in itself, does not justify ignoring their illegal status. But it does clearly suggest that integrating illegal immigrants into the economy with some legal status could be positive for all concerned. I am firmly convinced if the subject were approached on the basis of how to make that happen, we could arrive at a solution amenable to all.
Making Illegal Immigrants Legal
To that end I therefore propose the following outline of a program to Make Unauthorized Immigrants Legal. I call it the 3R Program: Registration-Resolution-Reprieve.
- All unauthorized immigrants must register with the government within a one-time, open enrollment period, for example, 12 to 18 months.
- Those who register will receive a newly created Registered Immigrant ID card that allows the immigrant to legally remain in the United States and obtain a Social Security Number and driver’s license.
- Those who do not register by the end of the registration period will be subject to immediate deportation.
- A fine will be imposed based on a percentage of future earnings.
- The percentage will be determined by the number of years the unauthorized immigrant has been in the country with a larger percentage for the greater number of years.
- The fine so determined will be paid each following year for a minimum of five to a maximum of ten years, again based on the number of years the unauthorized immigrant has been in the country
- If the unauthorized immigrant demonstrates financial difficulties, the period may be extended with lower (percentage) amounts each year until the full percentage fine is paid.
- During this period the unauthorized immigrant must pay all income and payroll taxes as a legal resident.
- If, for some legitimate reason, a fine proves unworkable, then an appropriate period of community service can be served in its stead.
- At the end the Resolution period, having completed all payments, including all income and payroll taxes, and otherwise not having been convicted of a felony, the unauthorized immigrant gains legal status as a permanent resident.
- If the unauthorized immigrant desires citizenship, applications can be filed at that time (in effect going to the end of the line).
While this program is in effect, it is essential that efforts to curtail illegal immigration be strengthened, including:
- strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the employment of illegal immigrants;
- adding border agents where necessary;
- developing a system to pursue visitors who overstay the time permitted by their visas.
The Outline as a Beginning
Let me reiterate that the aforementioned outline is just that, an outline. It does not portend to address all aspects of the comprehensive program that’s required for a subject as complicated as this. More questions are likely raised than answered, but if a decision is made to solve this problem in a positive manner, I have no doubt there are enough competent individuals in and out of government to do so.