Here’s an understatement: illegal immigration is a superheated issue. The all-or-nothing alternatives offered from the extremes on both sides seem unworkable, offering no possibility of compromise. Little wonder that viable solutions have not been seriously discussed for many months. To break the impasse, we need a new plan — one that retains core principles but requires all sides to compromise.
The apparently intractable issues have to be acknowledged up front. Real immigration reform sets forth several principles that (hopefully) can be accepted by a majority of Americans:
1.) Any plan, regardless of its content, must start first with a fully secured border. A solution leaving open the floodgates fails to address the source of the problem and is unworkable.
2.) Every person currently in this country illegally must be known and accounted for, with each having a clear and official status and a timeline that governs the terms of their ability to remain in the U.S. Indeed, illegal immigrants need the security and protection of having an official status to protect them from abuse and exploitation.
3.) Families should not be divided; rather, the legal immigration of whole and intact families should be recognized as a positive benefit to America, as it has proven to be so often in the past.
4.) All immigrants on temporary status must show a means of support for themselves and their dependents, pay taxes, and share in the costs of public benefits they receive — or they should not be allowed to remain in this country. Similarly, benefits such as Social Security that are intended for the benefit of American citizens must be restricted to those citizens only.
5.) There must be legal mechanisms that allow for immediate deportation of those remaining here illegally or who remain by permit and violate our laws. Deportation should be without delay, long process, or the possibility of re-entry.
6.) Employers must be held to strict compliance with both a clear, reliable method to verify the legal status of employees and the obligation to report violations immediately to authorities. While penalties should be substantial for willful violations, there should be no special regulation of the terms of employment between the company and legal workers. A worker with legal status has the ability to make his or her own decisions regarding the acceptability of employment.
A plan that accommodates the elements above would encourage families to stay and prosper, provide needed workers under free-flowing market conditions, require a more inclusive sharing of costs to society, and alleviate the ill will between groups who perceive, rightfully so, an inequality of treatment. It should be noted that mass deportation is not included in the above. Individuals who believe this is a realistically achievable basis for a solution are not serious enough to engage in argument at this point.
The plan rests on the basic concept that every person in this country illegally needs to be given an official status, one that both sets the conditions of their staying in the U.S. and does so under terms agreed upon by the people of America. This is actually not so hard to do if we are willing to acknowledge that legal immigration has been proven to be beneficial to America and if we can accept the reality that millions of people are already here and part of our economic life. At this point, it no longer matters that the condition exists because of a feckless government with no policy regarding security and enforcement. The people in government who created the problem will never have the courage to resolve it, so Americans must force a solution the politicians cannot alter or easily undo. If there is anything for all sides to agree on, it is that we cannot remain where we are.