So the immigration debate has heated up a bit again. Unfortunately, the "security pork in return for amnesty for illegal immigrants" monstrosity that is being debated in the Senate is a million miles from what I believe real immigration reform would look like, and is in fact so bad that I cannot even support it even though I love legal immigration and want far more of it. Below, I have summarized what kind of immigration reform bill we should be discussing.
1: Amend the 14th Amendment by adding the words "of an
American citizen" after the word "born" in Section 1. Only children of
American citizens should automatically qualify for American citizenship
under the Constitution. As a matter of policy, children of permanent
residents should also qualify almost automatically, but this should be
at our discretion. Jus soli "birthright" citizenship is at the
core of our immigration problem, and is a policy which almost all
nations have rejected as being impractical and abusive. The rest of my
plan would only go into effect on passage of the amending amendment.
A national ID policy. Our fragmented system makes enforcing immigration
laws difficult, as well as mucking up voting and facilitating fraud.
This would be coupled with a national voter ID law once the IDs were nearly universally in place.
3: A path to permanent residency
for current illegal immigrants. This should be slower than the path for
legal immigrants, and come with substantial fines in the form of
something like a 10% payroll tax for ten years. The current Senate bill
has fines, but they are so small (~$2000) that they aren't any higher
than the application fees and legal bills illegal immigrants skipped out
on. As part of the amnesty deal, these folks would forgo any chance at
4: A 50% increase in the number of green
cards awarded every year, to approximately 1.5 million. This would
include the reinstatement of the green card lottery. The remainder would
be granted on a points-based system that considered skills, age,
education, income, family connections to the US, English skill, and time
previously spent in the US.
5: Work visas would be
sold, not granted. Each month, a fixed number of 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36
month visas would be auctioned off. Obviously, passing a security screen
would be required before placing bids. Once won, the visa could be
activated any time within the next year and last as long as noted.
Bidding for new visas while under a current one would be allowed, thus
making it possible for someone to stay in the US indefinitely if they
are willing to pay for it and obey our laws. This would cause the price
of residency to be bid up high enough that there would be little
advantage in "importing" cheap foreign workers. It would also ensure
that the companies that really needed to bring over some guru for a
rotation in the US would have little trouble doing so. Note that under
this system, H1B's would no longer exist. Immigrants who won work visas
would be free to work for any employer during the period of their visa,
or not work at all.
6: Use the several billion dollars
per year generated above to speed up USCIS processing times and iron
out any inconveniences that it inflicts on immigrants due to lack of
funds (such as the inability to do biometrics processing overseas).
Get rid of the "travel permit" system. In a modern world, USCIS should
recognize that immigrants to America will often need to move about the
globe. As long as the immigrants are paying their taxes and obeying the
laws of both the US and whatever country they find themselves in, USCIS
shouldn't bother them...and certainly shouldn't force them to come back
to the US repeatedly at USCIS's whim, as is the case now. Additionally,
any US immigrant who is abroad for any length of time should be
considered to be maintaining their US immigration status if they are
living with their American citizen spouse or child, or if they or their
spouse is working for an American company or its international
affiliate. Currently, such people are constantly threatened with having
their immigration status revoked for "abandonment", requiring them to
repeatedly travel back to the US and spend a fortune on legal fees (it
cost my wife and I, as well as my employer, something like $20,000!).
Family-based visas should include a temporary work permit and a Social
Security card. Currently, these people arrive in the US and are promptly
forcably unemployed, as they can't work in the US until their work
permit application comes through in 3-4 months, and they can't leave the
country without voiding their green card application. This is just a
waste of human capital.
9: Get tough on illegal
immigrants and their employers. Rapid deportation should be the norm for
the former, and crushing fines the norm for the latter. Illegal
immigrants and their children should qualify for almost no public
services, including schooling or identification.
10: Increased border security...to the extent Republicans are willing to raise taxes to pay for it, and not one penny more.
There. Plenty of pain on both sides...but everybody wins except future illegal immigrants.