Independence Day thoughts on Immigration

It seems that our President has brought immigration back into the national conversation by proposing "comprehensive immigration reform". What does comprehensive mean? All inclusive? Omnibus? Actually it is code for amnesty along with a bunch of other stuff thrown in to get votes which will never get enforced (except for the amnesty part.)

As a lifelong right-wing, but independent, thinker, I have an opinion on what would work to cure our immigration ills. (If you are a regular reader of The-Asterisk, you will already know that I have an opinion on just about any subject. If you want to know more, leave a comment at the end of this entry.)

My solution is fairly comprehensive, so let me give it a go.

The-Asterisk's Totally Awesome Comprehensive Immigration Reform Plan

1. Nationally sponsored identification card. Privacy nuts... get over it. The cat is out of the privacy bag. The barn door has been left open. It is water under the bridge. Enough metaphors? We are all identified seven ways from Sunday in this nation. If you want to buy cigarettes or alcohol or cash a check or use a credit card or get a bank account or vote (except in Atlanta), you need an ID. In Virginia we just got these sexy, new driver's licenses which have a clear oval window with the image embedded in the plastic. There is embossed lettering on it as well. 1D and 2D bar code on the back. Pretty tough to counterfeit.

Let the federal government specify minimum standards for these cards for all states. Within 5 years EVERYONE must have one. Everyone must carry one. If you are asked to show one and you cannot do it (or you don't have a valid Passport/Visa), or it is bogus, off you go until it is sorted out. Period. Again, get over it. Red and yellow, black and white, doesn't matter what color you are, guilty until proven innocent.

If you can remember your ID card number and the authority which requests your card can pull up that number, you should be OK if you match the picture and description.

Nothing in the Constitution gives you the right to anonymity. In fact, you are required to be enumerated (counted and identified) every 10 years. This is nothing new.

2. Issue a temporary (cough) amnesty (cough) for one year for illegal alien and employer alike. There. I said it. Let's get real. We are not shipping 12 or 16 or 20 million people back to Mexico, England, Pakistan, Nicaragua or wherever the heck they came from. It ain't gonna happen. It isn't practical, it isn't possible and it would certainly push everyone back into the shadows if we tried (which we have proven that we will not do.)

During this one year period, anyone who is undocumented in this country (including expired visas, expired passports and border sneaks) can come forward and get issued a new-style ID card if they provide their name, address, phone number and employer name. They also must declare their next of kin living in the US, their country of origin, ID number from country of origin and their address back home.

This ID card would also contain a FICA account number (SSN) for which employers must immediately begin collecting appropriate taxes and payroll deductions.

These people would henceforth be known as documented guest workers (DGWs).

After one year, anyone caught without an ID card and found to be undocumented will be flown home, courtesy of the US government. They will be biometrically identified before being sent back and if they reappear and get caught, they will be jailed for one year in Arizona under Sheriff Joe Arpaio's supervision before being sent back home again. For employers, after one year of grace, ALL employers will be spot checked and ID cards will be compared with employment records. Violators will be fined severely. Treat an immigration violation like a HIPAA violation. Now that will get their attention!


3. Require all employers to observe relevant state and federal labor laws, including minimum wage. These now documented guest workers would be exempted from federal unemployment taxes (states could opt-in if they wish). If a guest worker loses his/her job, they will NOT be eligible for federal unemployment benefits. If they cannot find a replacement job within 6 months, they must leave the country. Employers must inform their state employment office if a DGW is released from work via an on-line mechanism which scans their ID card for verification. This info is immediately forwarded to the US Department of Labor. (State labor and employer taxation departments should be able to automatically compile this information by recognizing who is added or subtracted on monthly payroll tax submissions.)

Since DGWs and native-born Americans are now competing for jobs on a level playing field, if an able-bodied American refuses to take an available job within a specified radius that is then taken by a DGW, the American will lose his/her unemployment and other welfare benefits. State or contracted employment agencies will attempt to line up citizens for suitable jobs. If these jobs offers are refused by citizens after X number of offers, the citizen would lose their benefits

(The-Asterisk note: there is a dirty little secret which all 'dumb' welfare people are keenly aware of and that is, in MANY cases it makes more financial sense to stay unemployed than it does to take a low paying job. We must do something about this. Tax credits, sliding scale assistance and variable benefits shift the "living wage" responsibility away from employers to taxpayers. I do not like this, but at this point, we will need to suck it up just to get the bigger issues taken care of. Make it economically worth more for someone to get a job than to stay on the dole.)

4. Fix the interpretation of the 14th Amendment or amend the Constitution to state that non-citizens cannot give birth to a child which then become a United States citizen by virtue of being born within US borders. There should be NO anchor babies. Sorry. The 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution in order to ensure that freed slaves and their children would be ex post facto citizens of the US.

5. Citizenship. Yes, this one is the biggie. Being a DGW gives one absolutely no rights toward becoming a citizen. I don't care how long you have been in this country, working does not equal citizenship. Too bad. Actually, how many guest workers really want to become citizens? Has anyone asked? I am sure they would take it if offered and if they could retain citizenship from their native country. I am not an expert on what it takes to become a citizen, but I know that it is not simple. I would let DGWs queue up for this privilege like everyone else and their date of eligibility would start when they got their ID card.

If I was totally in charge, I would add some requirements to becoming a citizen, like being required to be at least conversational in English. There is no reason that a modern day immigrant cannot learn to speak the language. If they cannot/will not, then sorry. Step aside. Next please!

Oh, and no multilingual ballots anymore. I mean, come on. If you cannot pick out a candidate from a list, select him/her and submit the ballot because you cannot speak English, then how much can you seriously understand about whom you are voting for?

6. Employment/benefits. This one won't sit well with my brethren on the right, but here goes. If a DGW has a job, he/she can stay. If they pay into FICA for the minimum number of months (40 quarters at this writing), they will be able to take some sort of benefit when they become eligible. I would change the benefits for some of the 'social' aspects of Social Security such as disability benefits going to their children. Here is the problem. We allow these individuals to come to our country as long as they are gainfully employed. While here, they are engaging with our economy, buying food, fuel, shelter, clothing, etc. This is good for the US. If they retire here, then they, by definition, are not employed. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, so if they retire or go on disability and no longer work, then the rest of us are paying for their non-work until they leave or die. I would, however, advocate for paying back over time what they put into the system with some interest, even if they are living back home. It is only fair.

7. Borders. Shut them down with extreme prejudice except at approved crossing areas. Put up a decent fence, leaving spaces open for animal migration. Station guards along the border and make it known that if you sneak across, you WILL be shot. It is that simple. I hate to say it, but after a few get shot and get sent back home, wounded, after trying to cross over, a lot fewer will try.

8. Reform the State Department. One reason so many people enter this country illegally is that there are jobs available for them at a better wage than they can get at home but they can ill afford to wait 10 or more years to get here legally. Fix the guest worker program. Don't let people in just so they can hang out in front of the Home Depot waiting for day labor but if there is an employer who will certify that the applicant has a job waiting for him/her upon arrival and that the job will last at least six months, then that person should be able to take the job.

Remember, the job is being offered at the same rates for citizens and the only reason that an employer would go to the trouble to hire someone from outside of the country is that the local people either will not take the job, or they are useless at the job. Either way, this should effect the benefit eligibility for the citizen as well as clear the way for a DGW to take the job.

9. Logistics. This is about how it all works once a DGW is here and working. We usually assume that someone coming to this country to work is uneducated, Mexican and will do menial tasks. While that is certainly true in some cases, it is not for all. Even those who do construction work can make some serious money. There are also a lot of people who come here from all over the world to work who are skilled and highly educated. If they stay here long, they may want to bring their family over, or create a family here. This cannot be stopped.

If a DGW lives here, makes a certain amount of money and pays their taxes, they should be treated accordingly. I know that the argument can be made that the social safety net which has been constructed for the least among us is for our citizens, but lets be honest. Who is more of a burden on our society, someone who will not work, or someone who is doing a needed job (or jobs), pays taxes and needs some help? Our society is bettered by the fact that there are people who are willing to do jobs that "Americans are unwilling to do." This has value.

If an individual works and sends almost all of their money home and does not have money to pay for basic services, then that should be their problem. Base their benefits on W-2, not their ability to pay at that moment.

10. Reform the H1B and other programs for highly educated immigrants. Having foreign students attend our universities and colleges is obviously good for the higher education industry. If they go home and take this learned skill back with them, it is usually a good thing (unless they are a privileged Muslim terrorist who hates America.) However, sometimes the best and the brightest from outside the US can clog the programs at our premier schools, disallowing our own citizens the opportunity to get a slot. If, after graduation, they all then go home or to other industrialized countries, then our nation loses because we will be spending our intellectual capital educating those that will not benefit us at all.

If there are jobs available in the US which can be rightfully filled by US university-trained immigrants, then these people should be able to stay on in the US subject to the rules of the DGW program.

An argument could be made that a newly graduated architectural student from Bangalore would be much more willing to take a lower starting salary than a citizen would and while this may be true, if that person were to go back to India and work for a firm which does outsourcing work for the same firm which might have hired him, where does this put the citizen graduate? He/she doesn't even have a shot at the job. Every time that a protectionist measure is put into place, it usually causes a worse problem where you least expect it. The law of unintended consequences is not one to be taken lightly.

Conclusion. This is as comprehensive as I can get for now. I have hit what I think are the major points. I know that there will be little issues which could trip up the entire package, but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If Congress tries to fix every problem before it happens and protect every special case with a carve-out, then we may as well just leave things as they are and shut up.

The final takeaway: We need guest workers. Let them in if we truly do not have citizens who will/can do the work. If they run out of work, they go home. Citizenship is a completely separate issue and should never be construed to have linkage. Voting should be protected to allow the privilege to only registered citizens and the new ID card would go a long way to making this possible. DGWs are contributing members of our society and should be treated as such, but remember, they are basically hired contractors. We should know it and they should know it as well.


Craig Hollins said…
As usual, a very good read. If you're campaigning to have more foreigners work in the US, I've got to tell you right now that I already have a job.
1. Are you seriously suggesting that you would be happy to be confronted by an official when you're walking the dogs and be made to produce ID and then, because you left your wallet at home, be made to prove you're American? And if you think you might be annoyed you can't advocate it for anyone else either.
2. Realistic but missing out on a great source of tax revenue. Read on below.
3. If this isn't being enforced then everyone should be up in arms about it. Labour (with a u) laws protect the workers from unscrupulous employers. It also keeps competition fair for those that follow the rules. But you might want to ask all the housewives that have part time cleaners if they're prepared to do the work themselves.
4. Debatable but...
5. As above. Foreigners go to the US to live, not to work. Working is part of living. Eventually they'll become part of the community, contributing taxes etc. They may even pick up that accent. Should they be made to live stateless all that time?
6. For the first few years I think you should immediately send home anyone who hasn't got a job until they can get one.
7. If you use land mines I'm sure there will be a reality TV show in it soon.
8. This is where you can make a real difference. Move the state dept to Mexico (or wherever). They can organise work for DGWs before they cross the border. All above board, legal and taxable. You can charge higher tax rates for DWGs to compensate for the costs. Still be cheaper than employing Americans. As an added benefit you can screen all the applicants for suitability, criminal records, terrorist links, left wing tendancies etc.
9. I don't understand your social security system so I won't comment.
Conclusion - I wish we had a Mexico. Cheap labour is one of the great things that allows growing economies to thrive. Look at the countries that had great industrial revolutions and they all had cheap labour to get them going. England, Japan, the US (slavery) and today we see it in Asian countries. Without cheap labour the population have to mow their own lawn leaving them less time to do the harder, higher paying tasks.
The Asterisk said…
Craig, thank you for your insightful (inciteful???) comments. Please note that the US is not currently having much of an immigration problem with Austrailians.

1. I am not suggesting that we would be constantly probed for our ID like Arizona is planning to do (just kidding), but the first thing the police do when they encounter you is usually ask for ID.
2. Uh-huh
3. If the employee is in the shadows, what compels an employer to live up to labor laws? I guess part of the attraction to having UDGWs is that the domestic employer can skirt some rather restricting laws, like how long someone can work before paying extra pay.
4. Yes it is technical
5. They are not stateless. They still have citizenship at home. What if an American came to Perth to work for 10 years? Any obligation to treat him totally like an Austrailian citizen?
6. Agreed (finally)
7. Land mines are so messy. Let's use those cool lasers like in a James Bond movie.
8. I think that the State Dept. is just lazy. Maybe they could hire Blackwater/XE to vett the potential hires.
Conclusion: Agree with the point on cheap labor. Not many countries left where there are massive amounts of people willing to do work on the cheap. Also, mowing the yard is a poor use of time if an individual can make better use of it being productive. I know your tongue was in your cheek, but it is a valid point.

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