Monday, January 24, 2011

The Monday Memo: Illegal Immigration - A Way Forward

Illegal immigration.  Here in Arizona, those two words seem to inject themselves into just about every conversation, even trying to figure what to have for dinner.  I swear its in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.  To some illegal immigration can be summed up in the phrase: What part of "illegal" don't you understand.  For others, illegal immigration is seen as symptom of U.S. domestic economic and foreign policy.  And still yet for others, such as myself, illegal immigration is a very gray area.

No one has a firm grasp on the total numbers, but anywhere between 5 million and 20 million people living and working in the United States are doing so illegally.  Meaning that they do not have legal authorization to be in this country.  Some estimate that around 1/2 of all illegal immigrants are those who didn't "jump the border", but instead overstayed their various visas.  Some came here as students, some as tourists and some as high tech workers.  Whatever their reasons for not returning to their home countries, they have chosen to stay and attempt to live the dream that is America.

Then there are the children.  The ones who didn't make a conscience choice to either migrate to the States illegally or to overstay their various visas.  They are both demonized and lionized as both leeches on government finances and as unwitting victims of choices made by others.

How ever they came to be illegal immigrants, whether by overstaying visas, jumping the border or being the children of illegal immigrants, we have a problem.  The problem isn't necessarily that they are here illegally, the problem is what do we do with them.   Currently there are two very vocal opposing camps on the subject.  One camp wants to round up and depart all the millions of them, the other camp wants to provide a path to citizenship.

If you haven't figured out by now, I am of the view that we need to create a path to citizenship for those already here illegally.  We need to recognize that we cannot afford to round up and deport them all, nor can we keep them in the shadows to be used and abused by those who prey on their immigration status.  We need to figure out a way to give them a path to citizenship that isn't punitive, overly complicated, too easy or disruptive.  Below are a few of my ideas:

Registration and Documentation:
  • Each person here illegally, no matter their age, will be required to visit a Federal Immigration Registration Center.
  • At the FIRC, they will be required to divulge their current address, place of employment and if a child where they are going to school.
  • They will be required to be photographed, fingerprinted and checked against the central criminal database.
  • Those who are not wanted on criminal charges or have not been previously deported for criminal acts will be provided a Federal Temporary Identity Card with which they can obtain employment and education while awaiting becoming a citizen.
Path to Citizenship:
  • If the person is under the age of 18, they must be enrolled in school.  Upon graduation, they can apply for citizenship.
  • Those aged 18 to 30 must enroll in one of the armed forces for a period of no less than 4 years.  After 4 years, they can apply for citizenship.
  • For those older than 30 years of age, they must show that they have been employed for at least 5 years before being eligible to apply for citizenship.
These may not be the best ideas in the world, but I think they are a start.  I welcome any other constructive ideas in the comments.  Please note, none of the comments are censored, but I ask that you keep everything civil.


  1. I submit that we also, as a country, don't have the means to grant them instant citizenship (just to address the polar opposite of deportation). I'm, curious, though, about the costs inherent with conditional visas, and whether said visas allow for immigrants to collect such entitlements as welfare, SSI, low-cost lunches, WIC, etc., and what the influx of 5 to 20 million people on those rolls would do to state budgets.
    Another question: What about future enforcement? It's apparent that current laws have never been adequately enforced. How do we stem the tide?

  2. therealchon,

    You raise some good questions. I will do my best to answer them as I can.

    Let's start with the easiest one, low cost lunches: I think under the current program, which is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (I could be wrong which department handles it), I don't think anyone can be denied the ability for a free or reduced cost lunch at school based on immigration status. As long as their parents are paying taxes (under the FTIC) I don't see an issue with this. I also don't think a child should go hungry at school just because of their immigration status.

    I don't think those on the FTIC should be eligible for welfare, food stamps or SSI.

    As for future enforcement, I think we should beef up making sure those with travel, work & student visas leave the country on or before their expiration. I think we can pay for that extra manpower by increasing the fees on those visas.

    I really think we need to enforce the laws on the books, go after employers who hire undocumented workers and in crease manpower at northern and southern borders. Of course, this doesn't come cheap, but I think the costs will be offset.

    As I mentioned, what I suggest is a starting point, a rough draft if you will. Its up to all of us to flesh it out and come up with the best plan.


When you comment, please be civil and don't spam.