Immigrating is relatively easy for those in proximity to the United States -- we have porous borders, and it is easy for illegals to hide and obtain fraudulent identification after they have penetrated the border. Although there is some fear of deportation, unenthusiastic and inconsistent enforcement of immigration laws is the expectation. Further incentives for illegal immigration are easy enrollment in public schools, easy employment for those willing to take jobs others don't want, easy access to health care and easy acquisition of public support through welfare programs. These and other inducements produce an osmotic effect that attracts ever more people to our land.
Any discussion of immigration reform should include bipartisan solutions to these inducements. If these issues are not addressed, solutions will fall short. On the other hand, if all of these issues are addressed firmly and consistently, the osmotic effect will be reversed. Just as people found a way to get here, they would find a way to leave on their own, and others would be less tempted to attempt illegal entry.
Detractors will say that if it were that simple, it already would have been done and we wouldn't be having this discussion. What they fail to account for is the fact that the issues have not been addressed.
A national guest-worker program makes sense and seems to work well in Canada. Noncitizens would have to apply for a guest-worker permit and have a guaranteed job awaiting them. Taxes would be paid at a rate commensurate with other U.S. workers, and special visas would allow for easy entry and egress across borders. Guest-worker status would be granted to individuals and not to groups.
People already here illegally could apply for guest-worker status from outside of the country, meaning they would have to leave first. They should in no way be rewarded for having broken our laws, but if they are wise, they would arrange with their employer before they leave to immediately offer them a legal job as soon as their application is received. When they return, they still would not be U.S. citizens, but they would be legal, and they would be paying taxes. Only jobs that are vacant as a result of a lack of interest by American citizens should be eligible for the guest-worker program.
It is essential that employers bear some responsibility for making sure that no illegal immigrants are hired. Employers who break the rules should receive swift, severe and consistent punishment that constitutes a real deterrent and not a mere inconvenience. A second infraction should be a criminal offense and treated as such.
All of this is irrelevant unless we have secure borders. There is much that can be learned from security personnel in prisons and other secured facilities, and there is a great deal of smart technology that could be employed to achieve secure borders. It is a matter of will rather than ability.
As long as we reward people who break laws, they will continue to break laws. We do need a continual flow of immigrants, but choosers need not be beggars. We make decisions based on our needs. People who refuse to comply with the rules must forfeit chances of legalization in the future. Anyone caught involved in voter fraud should be immediately deported and have his citizenship revoked.
The point is this: We must create a system that disincentivizes illegal immigration and upholds the rule of law while providing us with a steady stream of immigrants from other nations who will strengthen our society. Let's solve the problem and stop playing political football.