Part 2 of a 5-part series on what to do about our immigration problem. See Part 1.
Beginning with the one causing the most pain, what are we to do with all of the illegals currently present in the country? Democrats have dreams of instantly converting all of them to citizens and, of course, Democrats overnight, preferably in time for the next election. This can’t be allowed to happen for the obvious reason. While that’s true, however, my biggest problem with the amnesty idea is I am far from convinced a person whose first act toward their new country was to break the law to get here is likely to make a good citizen. I am not philosophically opposed to the idea of mass deportations; that’s exactly what they deserve under the law and I would not shed a single tear if they got it. But it does not seem to me to be a practical idea. There is no exact count, naturally, but there are somewhere between 11 and 15 million non-citizens and non-residents currently living “off the grid” somewhere in the country. Some of them are knowing border jumpers. Others are visa overstays. Still more are, effectively, indentured servants working as near-slave labor for somebody who smuggled them in on the promise of papers “some day.” And there are some who are actual slaves (no, I am not kidding about that) but thankfully not too many of the last.
Eleven million is 3.5% of 310 million; 15 million is 4.8%. So, somewhere between 3 and 5% of the people living here don’t have the legal right to stick around. Folks, that’s a helluva big number and there are real issues with how to deal with them in a practical sense, never mind the law. They can’t be simply hunted down and killed; we are not Nazis and there is no Nacht und Nebel final solution on our horizon. We’re Americans, for bork’s sake, and we simply wouldn’t do that. Even if we would, the Fifth amendment opens with the words “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…”
Neither is it going to be practical to round them up, bung them into a concentration camp and out-process them for deportation. We don’t have a concentration camp big enough for 11+ million people lying around handy, for one thing. The only one we have (I know about anyway) is Guantanamo and it won’t hold but a few hundred. Where would we build it? I joked about Deaf Smith Country, Texas in a companion piece and God knows it’s big enough and not too busy doing other stuff, but it’s also rolling grass land, just barely rich enough to run cattle on. They get about 18 inches or rain a year, with January temps averaging 22 degrees and July averaging 93. Eleven million people would need over 8 million gallons of water (4200 tons!) a day just to drink, which they surely don’t have, never mind showers and you can forget flush toilets. Can you say cholera epidemic? How would we guard them? DHS currently has 240,000 employees of one or another type and it’s too big already; but that’s not enough guards for that many people no matter how many guard dogs and machine guns they have.
Nor is deportation a quick process. We can’t just put them on a bus or a plane, they don’t have any papers. We would need agreement of the receiving country to send them anywhere anyway. All of them, obviously, are citizens of other countries, and they would have to take them, but how many of them can prove it? Most other countries are much pickier than we are about who they let across the border. And what about the cost? The $3.7 billion the President just requested to deal with the humanitarian crisis (actually man-caused, or maybe Obama-caused, disaster would be better) on the border would be a drop in the bucket when compared against the price tag hanging on trying to resettle 5% of our population into another country. Therefore, no matter how much the rabid righties call for it, or how often the rabid lefties accuse sane people of wanting to, it simply isn’t going to happen. Not in the real world.
So what can we do? The bottom line is, an accommodation will have to be reached somehow. They’re here, and that’s a fact. We won’t shoot them, and we can’t deport them– not all of them, anyway– so we’re going to have to find a way to live with it. What we absolutely don’t do, no matter what, is make them citizens for breaking our laws; at least not without requiring them to make restitution first. The key to making this work is to make the process for the illegals to get square with the law harder, longer and more expensive than just going back wherever they came from and waiting their turn on the roster. That will also answer my primary objection of what kind of citizen they will make.
First, we should require them all to register with DHS within a certain time period, with draconian penalties for failing to do so, say 20 years at hard labor without parole followed by deportation upon completion of sentence. We need infrastructure work? Give them a shovel. If they survive, fine, they can go home when their sentence is over. If not, too bad.
Registration, a clean criminal background check, and a plea of guilty to unlawful entry gets you a Red Card and a tax ID number, and permission to stay in the country. (We can’t require them to plead guilty, it’s against the Fifth amendment; registration without a plea, or a dirty background, gets you in the deportation stream.) Red card holders are not eligible for government assistance of any kind, save school for the children, which they have to pay for; and may not be enfranchised in any election. Red card holders are liable for all back taxes, and must also repay the dollar value of any government assistance they have received while an illegal; and to sign a contract with a repayment plan not to exceed 15 years. Failure to make the payments, or failure to timely file and pay income taxes going forward, falsely obtaining government benefits (to include State benefits) or a felony conviction while in Red Card status merits immediate deportation without trial; just an administrative hearing. No excuses, you pay or you boogie. In the case of a felon, they do their time and then boogie.
Red Card holders who wish to “upgrade” to a Green Card must comply with the above plus do, say, 5 years in the military or 10,000 hours of volunteer community service, then go to the back of the waiting line and fulfill the Green Card requirements. Red Card holders who wish to become citizens, let’s call it 10 years service or 25,000 hours of volunteer community service, then back of the line and comply with the regs.
This is not a perfect solution– that would be enforcing the law on these people– but it should separate the sheep from the goats. Those who wish to become Americans will be given the opportunity. Those who are just here for greener pastures will self-deport.