Friday, July 02, 2010

Fix the Immigration Mess

When people call for a fix to the immigration system, they are really referring to the mess with illegal immigrants. These are people who entered the US illegally - without going through passport or border control or who have overstayed their visas and otherwise not complied with US immigration law.

There are believed to be 15 million people in the US illegally. That's a considerable amount, and many of the plans bandied about rely on some form of amnesty.

I can't understand why we as a nation would reward people who have broken the US immigration law get some manner of advantage over those people who came to the US legally and conformed to US law.

President Obama knows the system is broken. Republicans like Gov. Chris Christie know the system is broken. That's about it when it comes to consensus.

The problem is what to do about it.
Speaking to lawmakers, academics, and community leaders gathered at American University, Obama touted his plan by stressing the immeasurable contributions that immigrants have made to the United States, and the frequent discrimination they faced throughout history. "Immigrants have always helped to build and defend this country," Obama said.

Obama also put the onus on Republicans to pass a comprehensive immigration law, saying Congress cannot pass it without GOP votes. "That is the political and mathematical reality," he said.

While Obama's plan would include a path to citizenship as well as tighter borders, its chances for passage in Congress don't appear to be great.

Congressional Republicans, and some Democrats, said the government should focus on better law enforcement better moving on to such things as guest worker programs. In the meantime, lawmakers who are already grappling with new Wall Street regulations and an energy bill are also looking at congressional elections only four months from tomorrow.
Legal immigrants have helped build and defend the country - that's not and hasn't been the problem confronting the country these days. It's about the illegal immigrants. It's about border control and enforcing the laws already on the books. Throwing more laws on the books and poor/inadequate enforcement means that the problem continues.

Some kind of pathway for making illegal immigrants status legal is going to happen, but how to make that happen while giving preference to those who legally came to the US and are seeking citizenship through the current channels should be the priority.

To me, amnesty is a non starter because it disincentivizes people coming to the US via legal channels. Why bother going through the hoops if you can cross the border, start up a life here and a few years down the road be given the rights of citizenship or legal resident.

I'd support some kind of fee/penalty, application, and pathway to legal residency - from which citizenship can then follow (if following all the guidelines during that legal residency period). Those who do not pay the fees/penalties, do not fulfill the terms of the application and then the legal residency requirements should be deported (as is and should be current immigration law practice).

The path should give priority to legal immigrants, and not short circuit that approach for illegal aliens.

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