On the heels of Congress’ failure to act yet again on any form of immigration relief, Washington continues to demonstrate it does not seriously seek a solution, remedy or even band-aid for what has become not just a problem for our nation, but a source of contention and division between families, neighbors, communities, states and even nations.
Contrary to popular belief, successful immigration reform is both attainable and beneficial for our entire nation.
Our immigration system is a mess. The employment visa process is antiquated and no longer adequately addresses the needs of our nation’s employers; family-based immigration frequently separates families, including spouses and children of U.S. citizens, for years; our porous borders practically invite illegal entry by anyone willing risk their lives to trek through the hot, dry desert; and minimum wage incomes are the norm for many immigrants who willingly accept substandard pay just to live under the radar.
Of course, the most palpable issue today relates to how to deal with the estimated 12-20 million individuals illegally present in the United States. This issue has become so divisive, many opponents of any reform seek arrest and deportation of all illegal immigrants while proponents of reform demand nothing short of full amnesty and fast track to citizenship.
Obviously, consensus on this topic never will be realized without some give and take.
While one side seeks justice, the other expects mercy.
Is there a proper balance between the two?
The answer is a resounding yes, attainable through sacrifice, compromise, understanding and a firm commitment to reform. Immigration reform should not be an amnesty that benefits solely the immigrant. American businesses, schools, neighborhoods, communities, churches and families must be considered a top priority. We all are affected by Congress’ inaction and we all deserve attention and action.
A multi-faceted approach to immigration reform will necessarily provide for border security, legalization (but not citizenship) of the undocumented, assurances to employers of more efficient hiring processes and promises to citizens that their concerns and fears will be allayed.
Let’s consider an example of how immigration reform could work and benefit the United States, its citizens and even the undocumented among us.
First, full funding for border security is a must. Whether we build an actual or a virtual wall, true border security is vital to the protection not only of our borders, but as a promise that the United States will not end up addressing this exact issue again in coming decades. Because no legitimate border security was enacted as part of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, we again face the problem addressed during the Reagan years. Border security is a must.
Second, an accounting of how many potential individuals are here illegally, and who they are, is essential. Let’s get an immediate count, via a registration process that should take no longer than 90 days. This process should specifically disallow use of collected information as an investigatory tool for potential removal.
Third, reform must address the status of all those identified in step number two, striking an equitable balance between the appropriate levels of justice and of mercy each side seeks.
One example of how this could work is the creation of a new immigration status we will call “Lawful Permanent Guest” or “LPG.” Similar, but not identical, to lawful permanent resident status, this status will be available only to individuals who entered illegally prior to a date certain and who have maintained the good moral character and clean criminal history already required by immigration law. It will apply equally to Dreamers, DACA and TPS recipients and all others illegally present in the U.S. LPG status will not be granted to criminals, gang members, or anyone unable to receive legal status under current law.
Once granted, the LPG will acquire all the rights and privileges granted to lawful permanent residents, except that an LPG will never be able to apply for U.S. citizenship or file a petition for a family member. As already allowed by law, an LPG’s children born in the United States will be citizens but will never be allowed to petition for their parents. This is not a removal of a citizen right, but a penalty on the LPG.
Part of the required justice is the penalty imposed for prior illegal presence, even for those brought by their parents as children. The primary penalty is that an LPG will never become a citizen. Of course, mercy plays an important role in this plan as well. Mercy allows for the LPG to live, work, study, travel, raise a family and enjoy the blessings of living without fear in the United States.
Such is the compromise that will result in actual reform.
Fourth and finally, employers must be assured easy compliance with the law and professional-level visas should be modernized to reflect current economic needs of employers. E-Verify should be easily accessible to all employers so they can confirm their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Most employers should be granted immunity for having employed illegal workers in the past.
This proposal is not intended to serve as a final answer to these questions but provides a basic description of one option that will work. It demonstrates that solutions exist, if we will all come to the table to seek real, reasonable reform.
All we need is a legislature that will act and a president who will cooperate, with the goal of bettering the United States, its citizens and its visitors, with little concern or regard for political agendas.
Washington thrives on politics and politics results in gamesmanship and gamesmanship creates discord, but enough is enough! Let’s end the charade once and for all. In this instance, Washington has divided our nation – neighbor against neighbor, city against city, state against state and even family against family. Let us set it all aside and correct this national embarrassment that will only become more divisive and hateful if we do nothing.