Saturday, August 18, 2012
I’ve Changed My Mind About Amnesty
(Still relevant because the problem still exists.)
I’ve been writing about the dangers of illegal immigration for months now. I have argued for an attack on the problem that features Border Security first, followed by “something” to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants (called “illegals” from now on, for brevity) who are already here. To be honest, the second part has been the least of my concerns, because it can’t be solved until Border Security is achieved.
What Hasn’t Changed
What I summarized above has not changed. I still have no doubt that a physical wall covering much of the border is the absolutely essential first step. It will help immensely, whether or not anything else is done. Surveillance may be necessary for parts of the border. So be it. It will still be an improvement over nothing. Even the physical wall won’t be impenetrable, but it will be very discouraging to potential illegals. Who knows, it might just keep out some real terrorists, or at least make them easier to intercept.
I also believe that it makes no sense whatsoever for our elected officials to publicly debate the details of the second part of the solution until the border is secure. Doing so only creates an “attractive nuisance” that will lead even more illegals to violate our border laws. Until the border is secure, such a debate is a significant distraction from the primary solution.
For these reasons, based on what I’ve read about it, I remain opposed to the new bipartisan Senate “agreement.”
What I’ve Been Thinking About
Since the recent “agreement” was announced regarding an immigration/amnesty bill, I’ve taken some time to think more about the second step necessary (politically necessary, if not really “necessary”) to set things straight in the USA. I’ve read many of the comments on this site, and I’ve heard other people voice their opinions on TV and radio. As a result, I’ve changed my previously unstated position regarding amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens who are already inside the country.
Until now, I had more or less agreed with those who were concerned that the illegals were being rewarded for cheating, for cutting in front of the ones who were following proper procedure and waiting for permission to enter. I wasn’t far from the “no amnesty, no way, no how” position, but I also knew that there was “no way” that 12 to 20 million people were going to be sent from the country within a short span of time, either. And I knew there would be significant economic disruption if they were.
Well, when I heard someone else say that for the umpteenth time yesterday, something clicked. If we decide that we can’t do “nothing” about the illegal residents--that we must do “something” about them--then something that amounts to amnesty is called for. But my idea of "amnesty" isn’t exactly what is in this bill.
I wrote yesterday about the basic plan I always had, and still have, in mind:
(1) Secure the border.
(2) Deport any illegal alien who commits a crime. Family can go too, but doesn't have to. Those who keep their noses clean can stay for as long as they do so. Their punishment is that they know they could slip and get caught any time. Reporting a crime does not constitute cause for deportation. Don't announce this policy until after the border is secure.
But that’s not what changed, at least not much.
(I emphasize again that everything that follows depends upon the border being secured first, so that the entrance of any illegal immigrant becomes a much less frequent event, one that is rightly viewed as a possible homeland security threat. It doesn’t refer to any illegal who is here to commit crimes or acts of terrorism. And of course it can’t possibly cover all the details of a finished plan.)
What Has Changed
I’ve come to believe that it’s a good idea to add some incentives to my plan, to encourage illegals to come forward, identify themselves, and take themselves out of illegal status. That is, grant these people legal status of some sort, call it a Z Visa if you want to, if they come forward and identify themselves. As a prerequisite to receiving the Z Visa, they must accept the tamper-proof (is there such a thing?) ID card proposed in the agreement. Conviction of a felony or numerous acts that constitute dangerous behavior towards the general public (scofflaw behavior) would be grounds for revocation of the Z Visa and deportation. Dates for eligibility, cost of processing, and fines for having entered illegally can be set, too. (Wanted felons need not apply.) But we don’t really have to create a special “pathway” to citizenship for them. The big incentive will be that anybody coming forward won’t have to fear being deported simply for being here illegally any more. (The bipartisan "agreement" is far too detailed, it's unbalanced, and it was announced far too early.)
Why I Changed My Mind
I previously had a problem with the fairness of this kind of thing. People who came here and broke our laws in the process “shouldn’t” be given an advantage over the good people who followed the rules. But yesterday I concluded that I was suffering from a bit of tunnel vision on the subject.
After all, we allow Cuban “refugees” who set foot on our soil without being caught first to stay here, even though they arrive without papers or permission. “Refugees” is in quotes, because our “wet foot, dry foot” policy itself proves that we don’t really think they are refugees (right, Janet Reno and Elian Gonzalez?). They are just people trying to escape poverty and a corrupt government to achieve a better life, and isn’t that essentially what most of the current illegals came here for?
Following this line of reasoning, the primary difference between Cubans who come into the country without permission, and Mexicans (for instance) who do the same, is that Cubans come by sea rather than land, and there are a lot more Mexicans who get here alive than there are Cubans. But both groups of immigrants sometimes risk death to get here. Both show initiative in trying to achieve their goals, and the last time I checked that was something we value here almost as much as we disdain lawbreaking. Both are likely to have given up a significant part of their wealth to get here. But in any event, our government gives the Cuban “refugees” priority status over all other potential immigrants simply because they are already here. Given these facts, I see nothing wrong with providing other illegals with an expedited means to become “legal,” provided they can fulfill all the other requirements, such as proof of identity and no record of felonies or scofflaw behavior.
Finally, the people waiting in line who are being moved back by such an amnesty are themselves not American citizens. If they have a problem with being cheated, let them take it up with their own government. It isn’t our government’s job to prevent unfairness resulting from our immigration policy, when the unfairness is caused by a foreign government’s intransigence. It’s our government’s job to enforce our laws and take actions that are in the best interest of American citizens. And that's why, if we must have some new laws on the subject, it is acceptable to me if they include some provision for an amnesty such as I've described.
This brings me full circle, back to the absolute necessity of securing the border before any of these policies are implemented, in order to prevent a huge influx of people trying to take advantage of any proposed amnesty.
(The original blog brought out lots of thoughtful comments.)