The debate over illegal immigrants is marked repeatedly with exaggerations and deliberate lies over competing positions such that it is virtually impossible to have an intelligent debate without first demonstrating your historic bona fides. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich re-ignited the flames with his recent comments about establishing a guest worker program for illegals who have been here for a significant number of years.
I stand with Mr. Gingrich regarding this element of the immigration debate. Since first addressing the issue in October of 2006 I have consistently opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants. I have criticized both President Ronald Reagan’s amnesty and President George Bush’s path to citizenship. My objection is that each simply encourages a new wave of illegal immigration. I have reiterated time and again that three main things need to be done to address the problem.
First, secure the border. Not some video game’s gimmick with satellites, drones and heat sensing devices but real, effective, hard security – fences, patrols and surveillance. Second, prohibit businesses from hiring illegal immigrants using the E-verify system. The penalty for a second offense should be the loss of an entity’s business license for a significant period – at least one year. And third, barring illegal immigrants from obtaining government services including healthcare, welfare and education. The theory here is to make it very difficult to enter and unattractive if you do – no jobs, no government services. In the states that have begun to implement these latter two programs, illegal immigrants have self-elected to leave.
But let’s be clear, there is virtually no chance that we can deport the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants already present in the United States – it is a logistical nightmare. (Actually the number of illegal immigrants is probably closer to 16-20 million; the 12 million represents the frailties of surveys and the underlying desire by the politically correct to minimize the problem.)
What Mr. Gingrich has proposed is both orderly and realistic. He has reiterated that the borders should be secured before a conversation begins about dealing with the illegals already here. He does not make securing the border conditioned upon “comprehensive immigration reform” (amnesty in liberal speak) as does President Obama and the Democrat Party. Rather he makes securing the border the predicate for even discussing an effective means of dealing with those already here. And when the discussion begins he proposes to implement a guest worker program targeted at those who have been present for a sustained period of time and who have been integrated into the community in terms of work and family.
His proposal has meritorious effects up and down the line. First, it is a guest worker program – not amnesty. The beneficiaries of the program receive the equivalent of a “green card” which authorizes them to be legally in the country so long as they are in compliance with the terms of the program – in this instance have sustained employment and obey the laws. It does not authorize them vote. It does not authorize them to receive welfare or healthcare at government expense (These are the primary reasons that Democrats are so anxious to achieve “comprehensive immigration reform” so as to create yet another bloc of people dependent on the government for their existence and therefore bias to vote for those who provide the subsistence.)
Second, the vetting process of those wishing to take advantage of the “guest worker” program will create four groups of immigrants. One, those who have been here the requisite amount of time, are gainfully employed, and do not have a criminal background – they will be provided “guest worker” status and can be informed of the conditions for retaining that status. Two, those who have been identified as having a criminal or terrorist background – they can be arrested, detained (prosecuted if appropriate) and deported. Three, those who have been identified as not having been here for the requisite period or who have a demonstrated record of unemployment during that period of time – they can be removed from government provided subsistence, detained and deported. And four, those who fail or refuse to participate in the vetting process – they will constitute a smaller, more manageable group of illegals to be sought, detained and deported under existing law.
Third, the guest worker status will provide those eligible with access to some government services. They would pay applicable local, state and federal taxes (including those for Social Security and Medicare). They could acquire specially noted drivers licenses – ones that are sufficiently identifiable so that they cannot be translated into voter registration, as was the case for many years in Oregon. They would have access to unemployment for designated periods of time. They and their families would have access to public education, as well as public arts, libraries and recreation.
And fourth, in order to ensure that illegal entry is not rewarded with a preferential path to citizenship, a requirement should be inserted that requires the applicant to return to his or her country of origin and begin the process in the same fashion as all others. There remains the troubling aspect of “anchor babies” children of illegal immigrants born in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” [Emphasis supplied]
The Congress is empowered to define what is “subject to the jurisdiction” and it should do so immediately so as to not further exacerbate the situation.
The issue of illegal immigrants is a serious problem that undermines the economic well being of local, state and federal governments. It imposes an unsustainable cost on an already overtaxes citizenry. It impacts job availability and threatens our national security. It is a problem that should be addressed in an orderly and intelligent fashion. Secure the borders. Address the causes – jobs (private sector) and welfare (government). Resolve the problems already created – guest worker program and an aggressive deportation of undesirables. But most of all, for those on both the left and the right, deal with the problem intelligently – not emotionally. Thanks Newt for inserting intelligence into an emotional debate.