Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Immigration Reform That Actually Reforms Immigration

I wish I had written this, but I did not. I am posting it with permission of the original author, Adam. It can be found here at Not Everything Is Political.

With all of the brouhaha over the Arizona law about illegal aliens, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit what I think really needs to happen with regards to immigration in the US as a whole.

First of all, with regard to Arizona and what they have done legally, I support what the Arizona legislature has done. Despite the hyperbole, I don’t think that this will lead to some sort of institutionalized profiling. The law specifies that this questioning of whether someone is legal will occur during normal police contact. IOW, the police don’t get to just cruise around the “Hispanic” part of town and hassle people in the street or pull someone over for “driving while brown.” That’s the stuff of hyperbole, not reality.

Now, all of that having been said, we DO need comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. The trick is that “comprehensive” does not need to mean “give ‘em all amnesty.” There are better methods available than that. Serial amnesty does not solve the problem; it perpetuates it.

Immigration in the United States is broken. There’s just no two ways about it. We have ridiculous quotas and asinine levels of red tape. This is not the New World our founders envisioned. Can anyone really envision Adam Smith saying “everyone can come to this new great land and prosper as much as they please, so long as they fill out reams of paperwork and wait in line for a decade?” How preposterous. We’ve built our immigration policy on precedent instead of prudence. Dumb. Very dumb.

The right attitude towards immigration here is to say that if someone is willing to come here, work hard, and be productive, then so long as they’re neither a criminal nor a public health risk, they should be welcome to come and do so. That’s not just a philosophical stance, it’s an economic one, as well: something on the order of about 80% of all people who legally emigrate to the United States literally with only the shirts on their backs move from sub-poverty to middle class and above within ten years of arriving on American shores, and there’s simply no doubt that this is an economic good for the country. And it doesn’t matter from whence these immigrants come: immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are statistically the most likely to succeed, but all groups are wildly successful in aggregate: western Europeans, Africans, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, eastern Europeans, all do well as a group upon arrival in the United States. With little exception, they arrive here, take a risk, utilize our free market economy, and prosper well. So the argument that has often been put forward that “immigrants are killing this country” is simply empty. And that’s not something new with the recent illegal immigration problem: people complained about the Irish and the Jews and a whole host of other groups in the past. “They’re taking all the jobs” and such were the complaints of the past, just as they are today. The difference today is that it’s illegal immigration that is the problem. We just plain don’t know who the hell is coming into the country, and that’s the problem.

So, the problem we, as a country, have to fix, is two-fold:

  1. correct the fucked-up immigration system that we have so that people aren’t “forced” (quotes intentional) into emigrating here illegally in the first place, and;

  2. get the illegals the hell out of this country to correct that problem.

Just giving them amnesty is a stupid and pointless path. That doesn’t remove the problem, it simply ignores it. If we give all these illegal aliens amnesty, do we suddenly know who they are, where they came from, whether they’re criminals or terrorists, or if they are toting around some communicable disease? No, we don’t. We’ve just chosen to turn a blind eye to the problem and legislate the actual problem out of the government’s consciousness when we do that.

What needs to happen is we need to get every illegal out of this country and vet them properly. There’s just no way to vet these people properly unless they are outside of the United States, unless we set up internment camps and go through them one-by-one, and that’s just not politically tolerable in this country. So we need to find another way to get illegals out of this country first, and then vet them accordingly.

So, I propose the following:

  • Make a very public announcement that everyone who is in this country illegally has ninety days to leave. It’s like the bar at last call: you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Go somewhere else and then come back in the right way. All immigration stops during those 90 days; no one who doesn’t already have a long-stay visa gets to stay here for more than 60 days if they arrive after the 90-day announcement.

  • Simultaneously, we will change the entire immigration system in this country. No more quotas. No more of the Duma in DC deciding how many stone masons or proctologists or ditch-diggers or IT professionals. No more of that. The market will decide who is needed where and when, just as it always does and always has. There have been countless generations of immigrants who allegedly came here to do one thing (say, stone masonry) who wound up entrepreneurs in some other industry all together.

So the right way to handle immigration is to say that if you’re interested in coming to this country, then we’re not going to impose artificial limits upon you, as an immigrant. Qualification for emigration to the United States will be as follows:

  • Not a terrorist. Anyone wanting to emigrate here will have to go through a thorough background check. Every anti-terrorism agency in the world will be checked against names, photographs, fingerprints, etc.

  • Not a criminal by U.S. laws. Anyone wanting to emigrate here will go through a criminal check with every police agency worldwide: Interpol, Scotland Yard, etc.

  • Not a public health threat. Position doctors at every embassy and consulate around the world. Immediately prior to departure to the United States, everyone will go through a thorough check-up to rule out communicable diseases, STDs, etc.

Anyone who gets “red-flagged” in this process will certainly have an appeals process open to them, but unless and until they have been ascertained to be none of the above, then they don’t get to come to the U.S.

Once the 90 days are up, sweep the nation and every single illegal gets deported in very short notice. If you’re illegal and caught here after those 90 days are up, then you’re gone and we’re going to auction every asset you have. You’ll be sent home with the shirt on your back and the shoes on your feet and nothing else. It should take about 90-120 days to sweep the nation of the overwhelming majority of remaining illegals. The vast majority will “self-deport” right away. Only a relative few will be left, and they will be rounded up on short notice.

What we need is both a carrot and a stick approach. So I propose an incentive for the illegals who are currently in this country: you get to be first in line for the trip back, so long as you’re not a terrorist, a criminal, or a public health threat. Meet those criteria and you can go and come back in a very short period of time. So those folks who voluntarily leave get to go to the front of the line. That sucks, because it feels like it's rewarding bad behavior, but it both creates the big incentive to leave and also brings back in those who genuinely are here to work hard and be prosperous and add to the U.S. economy.

After this sweep, and we’ve removed as many illegals as is practical, then we open up immigration again as described above. Once someone comes here, they have to do the following for five years from the day that they arrive on our shores, subject to regular check-ins with immigration officials (every 60 days or so should work):

  • No going on any form of government assistance. That means no welfare, no WIC, no SSDI, no Section 8 housing, nothing that is direct or indirect financial aid on a federal, state, or local level.

  • Anyone coming here will have to maintain health insurance, enough to cover themselves up to two million dollars per person in their household. They can do this any way they wish: high-deductible and HSA, self-insure through an escrow account, HMO, PPO, whatever. The only requirement is that they have coverage to two million dollars and they have to have the cash on hand to cover any deductible.

  • Anyone coming here who drives a car must maintain liability insurance on that car, at least $75,000 in property damage and a million in medical.

  • No engaging in any sort of criminal activity. Any offense greater than a first-offense DUI shall be grounds for deportation as soon as the prison sentence is up. Shoplifting? Gone. Pot possession? Gone.

Do all of that (and it’s really not all that much, in comparison to current immigration law), and we will have a long-term fix for immigration in this country. It will both adhere to the basic tenets of freedom and opportunity upon which this land (and eventually country) was founded and fix the very real problem we have at hand. It can’t reasonably be called “unfair” by those illegals who will be targeted. It’s a realsolution to a very real problem. THIS is what “comprehensive reform” actually means.

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