But the unity we once valued is unraveling.
In the past, new Americans were welcomed with a solemn ceremony that matched the commitment they were making to their adopted homeland. But today’s new citizens have no such uplifting experience.
To qualify they need only pass a standardized, multiple-choice test, often given in their native tongue. In fact, they’re not required to show much knowledge of English. If they can transcribe just one of two dictated sentences (correct spelling and punctuation don’t count), that’s enough to merit citizenship.
And the greater problem is that too many people don’t even go that far. Millions of foreigners are living here today with no expectation of ever becoming citizens. They’re illegal aliens.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many people are here illegally. But the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research group, estimates the U.S. hosted 10.3 million illegal immigrants in 2004, up from an estimated 8.4 million four years earlier. That’s an awful lot of people doing all they can to avoid the American melting pot.
Illegals aren’t coming here to take in the scenery; they’re coming to work. So the best place to fight illegal immigration is on the supply side.
Employers are already required to collect Social Security numbers from everyone they hire and to withhold state and federal taxes from everyone’s wages. The federal government could start addressing the problem by cracking down on employers who hire illegals.
We also should make it easier for employers to fill vacancies legally, by starting a guest worker program that uses private sector expertise to supply documented workers. One way to do this is to allow job agencies, licensed by the government, set up shop in foreign countries and issue worker visas to qualified applicants. Employers could then hire the pre-screened foreigners, confident that they’re hiring legal workers.
We now have the technology to track guest workers while they’re in the U.S. Muslims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj have their retinas scanned on the way into Saudi Arabia and on the way out, so the Saudis know exactly who’s in their country. Similarly, guest workers here could receive an ID card and be subject to a similar scan at any time, thus ensuring they don’t overstay their welcome.