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How to Solve the Immigration Mess

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The leadership of this country has chosen to annoy and exasperate many of our citizens by refusing to address the immigration issue. In this era of terrorism, where a porous border places the safety of all Americans at risk, we need to put together a comprehensive plan to resolve this issue. I firmly believe that this is possible.

When President Bush proposed comprehensive immigration reform, I initially supported his ideas. I soon learned that I was wrong. Americans overwhelmingly believe that before any other steps are taken, the border must be secured. Congress reacted to this sentiment in 2006 by authorizing construction of an effective border fence – a project quickly terminated by Barack Obama – but nothing has really changed: Americans still want secure borders. In 1986, we were promised that illegal immigration would be rigorously limited by the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Those promises were not kept and the level of distrust is not only palpable, it is justified.

It’s clear that the first part of a solution must be border security. A three-year project to complete construction of a barrier on the Southern border, including appropriate allocation of federal funds, must be initiated. These three years can be used to straighten out the horrendous record-keeping within the INS, and to confront the thousands of people living here on expired visas. It is a joke that we focus so much on Latin Americans when people from anywhere on the planet can arrive here with a legal permit and then just disappear without any fear of getting caught. You can rest assured that there are plenty of Canadians in this country way beyond their legal limit.

We are also going to have to adopt some form of national identification card (which may be partially addressed by the introduction of secure drivers’ licenses currently under way in several states). There is no person more distrusting of big government than this author, but we have to get real and recognize that we will never have a long-term resolution of the immigration issue without being able to identify whether someone is here legally or not. We all understand that counterfeiting will happen. As sophisticated as we make the card, some smart crook will eventually figure out how to forge it. To argue against ID cards because of potential fraud is as silly as not updating our currency because criminals may find new ways to copy it. Yes, it may be a small imposition on our citizens to get federal identification cards – although if driver’s licenses can be employed, the imposition is minor at best – but there is no reasonable alternative to handling this matter without them.

Another provision that must be legislated is a ban on anchor babies. There is no rational justification for our present policy. Yes, I read the constitution and it does not say that anyone can just come here legally or illegally, have a kid, and then claim that the baby is a citizen. I have never seen a poll on this issue, but it would shock me if more than 15% of Americans thought anchor babies were an acceptable policy.

The remaining component of the solution must be to develop a policy that addresses the future of illegal immigrants currently living within our borders. While this contentious issue will likely be the most difficult to resolve, I believe that there are opportunities for an effective compromise. Some Americans want these people to go to the back of the immigration line or just leave. Many Republicans believe that Democrats want to legalize these people so they can turn them into reliable, lifelong Democratic voters. Personally, I don’t see how anyone can come from a country with completely dysfunctional leadership and then vote for the party of big government, but that is just me.

The solution is to provide a choice to those people here illegally. They can go to the back of the line, or they can stay under the following conditions: 1) They will become citizens in 10 years. 2) They will never be able to vote (remember that they came here illegally and have chosen to stay here in an extraordinary fashion, and thus have not earned the right to vote). 3) They must maintain both automobile and medical insurance, verified by the INS or a related agency. 4) They can receive not governmental benefits – no unemployment, no food stamps, no WIC, and no welfare. If they do not abide by these rules, they forfeit their right to stay here. They can participate in the Social Security and Medicare systems while they are earning their citizenship.

People will have to jettison the idea of collecting back taxes, which quite frankly is a silly and impractical idea. We will never be able to reliably determine what their actual earnings were, and so we will never know how much they owe.

This plan can be drafted into a bill of less than 50 pages – not one of those insidious 2,000-page monstrosities. Both sides will be yelling and screaming about some aspects, but these are all real and reasonable proposals which will not leave a bloodbath in their wake. Mr. Obama, now it’s your turn.

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