Immigration on the Brain

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 10, 2006 11:05 AM

I was on a blogger conference call with Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, Ga. today. Most everybody wanted to talk about immigration, so I wrote that up first, it being the hot topic and all.

Here are some excerpts from Kingston's intro on immigration:

"We do need to have border security."

"The border control has nothing to do with them but release them."

"You do need to have border security, but if you build a fence, in some areas, that blocks American users from their water."

"American employers do need a guest worker program, and we need someone like American Express running it. I don't think you can ever walk out on American Express, but immigration services can't find anyone."

Capt Ed: You talk about needing a guest worker program without an amnesty program. But having a large guest-worker community of immigrants who aren't assimilating can cause problems down the road, as we've seen with the Muslim population in France. How do we prevent that?

In Kingston's view, a guest-worker program should work like this:

Employers would get three months to register folks who are illegal. Each worker would then get a designated number of months to work in country before they'd have to return home to refile.

Only the first filing would be done on-site in America, but after that, they'd all be documented, so we would know when they're supposed to refile. This program would be coupled with harsh penalties for employers who keep illegals past their legal time periods.

He thinks there could be a dual-track system-- one for workers who want to learn English and do the hard work necessary to eventually become citizens, and another for those who are just guest-workers.

"In the Senate compromise, 10 million illegals would become citizens and that was too quick...The system I'm suggesting would be a lot slower in letting people become citizens and I think it would stop the flow. The Senate version did nothing to stop the flow."

MKH: A follow-up to Capt. Ed's question: How do we make sure these folks are going back home to refile when we clearly can't keep track of them now? And, would you characterize the kinds of protests going on in Georgia, since you're in your home district, and the kind of response you're getting from constituents on this issue.

"The employer would have some skin in the game too."

"To the worker, there would be some clarity, so he wouldn't be subjected to the coyotes...and if he's a victim of a crime, he could actually report it."

"I just don't think the federal government has that kind of capability (to keep track of guest workers), so I think you need to farm it out."

"I do think that private companies would de a much better job."

That last part is speaking my language. If we're going to create a program, please oh Lord do NOT let the government handle it.

He says they had a protest with about 1,000 folks in Savannah, and he's hearing this from constituents:

"I don't quite understand how comeone who's illegal in my country can walk boldly down the streets and demand more rights and more privileges."

John Hawkins: If the Congress and federal government have no appetite for enforcing the laws we have now, how can we trust them to enforce new laws?

"We should go back and look at, 'What in the law is good?'...I don't think we should abandon the current law totally."

"We don't want perfection to be the enemy of progress on this thing."

Kim Priestap: I heard one of the Texas sheriffs in a conference call last week say that just a pair of eyes watching the border is one of the best deterrents to illegal immigration. Will Congress be more supportive of the Minute Men?

"It's amazing to me, listening to those border sheriff's horror stories, that we don't know more about it."

"I think the more they're told, the more we'll appreciate people like the Minute Men."

"I just don't think that the general American public...they don't quite know what's going on."

Enlighten New Jersey: Everyone starts from the premise that we need a guest-worker program. Do we need to import workers? And, when we do, it becomes a guest-family programs, not just a guest-worker program. How many do we need, and how do we keep from importing families?

"I do believe you need to have a guest-worker program," he said, perhaps with the number of workers defined by industry.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 24 percent of agricultural workers are illegal; 17 percent in the cleaning industry; 14 percent in construction; 12 percent in food production.

"I've been talking to contractors in my district and they tell me, unless they hire migrant workers, they cannot compete...Migrants are willing to work longer and harder and they stay on the job and they're great workers."

There are two ways to deal with importing families. Under the kind of program Kingston suggested, after workers registered for the first time, their families would have to go home. If it's truly a guest-worker program, we have to be serious about it and only have workers here, he said.

"Those people are clogging up the emergency rooms and the school rooms and causing a lot more expense to taxpayers."

He added that there are some in favor of rethinking birthright citizenship, or automatic citizenship. There are currently 122 countries in the world who don't have birthright citizenship, he said.