PARIS -- A bipartisan group of senators has just lit a soggy fuse under the immigration debate. The statement of principles tabled by four senators from each party is such an impotent byproduct of compromise that calling it bipartisan is redundant. This manifesto of mediocrity fails to address the biggest immigration problems facing America -- starting with the question of "Why?"
Does anyone ever ask WHY there are so many illegal immigrants in America? While it's understandable that foreign citizens want to come to America for the great opportunities, why do so many of them insist on doing it illegally? Maybe -- and I speak from personal experience -- it's because the system has become so complex that only a highly paid immigration lawyer or consultant can navigate it. Why isn't there anything in this new proposal (or anywhere else) acknowledging that one of the reasons why people circumvent proper procedure and instead take their chances by overstaying a visitor's visa or jumping the border is because doing things legally is cost-prohibitive and far too complex? What should be just a process has grown into an entire industry.
I have immigrated to both the U.S. and France. In moving to America as a professional with a job offer in hand (and later in renewing my status), I almost broke the bank on legal and processing fees. At one point, I felt as if I was working just to pay my immigration costs. In France, it was a snap to do all the paperwork myself, and the cost of the initial application and subsequent renewals is reasonable.
Here's the French rationale: If we make the process easy and inexpensive, then almost everyone will willingly do things legally. The entire application process for immigration to France takes place at your local police detachment, which is part of the Interior Ministry (the French equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security). Therefore, there isn't a good excuse for someone to neglect to immigrate legally -- unless you're a criminal who has a natural aversion to police detachments.
France certainly has its own immigration problems, but they're tied primarily to official policy being too lenient, as well as to France being at the behest of the immigration policies of other Eurozone countries.
The regularization of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. should start with the simplification and streamlining of a ridiculously bloated bureaucratic maze that serves no purpose beyond acting as a life-support system for immigration lawyers. Then you'll see who's really a criminal and who simply doesn't have the resources to afford the costly and complex paperwork.
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