THE PRESENT CONTROVERSY. First, I agree with Trump’s objective of stopping illegal immigration. Trump’s predecessors made a joke of our immigration laws. I credit Trump with raising the issue, although he has flailed around and accomplished virtually nothing with respect to a comprehensive policy that would solve the overall illegal-immigration problem. In fact, he has even managed to shut down the government in a quixotic attempt to at least partly fulfill his campaign promise of a wall the full length of the border at the expense of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Democrats are not much better and seem more intent on posturing and embarrassing Trump than finding a practical solution to our illegal-immigration problem.
THE WALL AND VISA OVERSTAYERS. A 2,000-mile-long wall, which can be defeated by ladders, shovels, or tunnel-digging machines would be a waste of money– our money, not Mexico’s, despite Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Trump’s proposal also ignores the fact that about 50% of the illegal/undocumented immigrants got here by simply overstaying their visas. Those visa overstayers, unlike people sneaking over the border, are not criminals, since overstaying a visa is not a crime, under current law, and merely carries non-criminal penalties. Technically, the visa overstayers probably could properly be called “undocumented”– a term which is a euphemism when applied to people committing a crime by sneaking across the border.
EXISTING ILLEGAL/UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS. A major problem that neither Trump nor the Democrats seem willing to address is the existence of approximately 12 million illegal/undocumented immigrants who came here while enforcement of our immigration laws was lax. BTW, that is about 3.5% of our population. These people are working here, illegally, and probably using fake papers and/or avoiding taxes by getting paid cash off the books. Other than that, almost all of them are probably law-abiding, but their status is clearly bad for them, our society, and our economy. In any event, there is no way that we are going to deport them all. To do so would be both infeasible and inhumane. Furthermore, if they all left, we would take a real economic hit.
A PROPOSED SOLUTION TO THE OVERALL IMMIGRATION PROBLEM.
STOPPING FUTURE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
1. Step up prosecution, under existing laws of anyone now trying to enter the country illegally, putting them in jail and then deporting them, and publicizing this policy throughout Latin America. (Under existing laws, the first illegal entry is a misdemeanor, and subsequent illegal entries are felonies).
2. Enact a federal law requiring police to cooperate with ICE in reporting and detaining illegal/undocumented aliens (i.e., outlawing sanctuary cities).
3. Tighten the rules for receiving asylum and deny it to anyone entering the country except through authorized ports of entry and requiring application to be made at the US embassy of the first country in which the applicant arrives after leaving his or her native country.
4. Extend the present walls and fencing on the Mexican border where an independent panel of border-security experts recommends that such extensions would be cost effective.
5. Mandate employer use of E-verify and prosecute employers who fail to use it.
6. Institute a national ID card, which would have the added benefit of reducing identity theft.
7. Reinstitute a Bracero-type program to facilitate workers from Mexico and other countries coming here temporarily to harvest crops and do other seasonal work.
8. Criminalize overstaying a visa for more than 3 months (right now, as indicated above, it is not a crime).
DEALING WITH THE EXISTING ILLEGAL/UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
DREAMERS: Provide green cards and a path to citizenship for those so-called Dreamers who arrived before January 4, 2016 (Trump’s inauguration date) who have not been convicted of a felony. Upon the second conviction of any felony, they would lose their citizenship and would be deported.
OTHER ILLEGAL/UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS: Immigrants who came here before January 4, 2016 and have not been convicted of a felony would pay a modest fine (adequate to cover the cost of processing and to constitute a penalty for any prior use of fake identities) and would get a green card. They would get no path to citizenship and would be deported upon any felony conviction. (This should be acceptable to Republicans because the green card holders couldn’t vote Democratic.) All others, except the so-called Dreamers, as outlined above, would be subject to deportation.
I have no expertise in immigration law, but the problem does not seem to require much expertise to solve, at least conceptually. The difficulty is probably in the details, but those details would seem to be something that the experts should be able to address and work out, if given the direction to do so. Certainly, some of the proposals outlined above would take time to implement, but it seems that they would eventually resolve the immigration problem that we face now and that will get worse in the future if nothing is done.
Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of The Villages and a frequent contributor to Villages-News.com