29 January 2009

How to fix illegal immigration

I'm going to deviate from my plans for a moment to make a point, because it's been really bothering me lately and I need to get it off my chest. It is in regards to illegal immigration, so if you're sick of hearing it, read no further.

I am a first generation American born to Brasilian immigrants who came here legally. My grandfather and grandmother worked very hard to get here and to learn English and assimilate into American culture as much as possible. I never got the sense that they gave up any of their Brasilian/Portuguese heritage by doing this - after all, they did move to the Ironbound (that's a predominately Portuguese neighborhood in Newark, NJ for those of you who don't know). My grandmother, with no more than a 2nd grade education, even went back to school after she retired to shape up her English. Oh, did I mention they’ve paid taxes on every penny they ever earned?

We have an immigration problem in the United States, and there is no real good answer to it. Anyone who studies anything about history will understand that building walls/fences/moats/etc will not keep people from crossing a land border as vast as the Mexico/American border. Doing so serves no purpose other than to waste money and make us look like idiots (HELLO Wall of China, Berlin Wall...think about how those worked out...or didn't).

The fact is people are going to come whether it is legal to do so or not. I think that rather than wasting billions of dollars trying to keep them out, lets make it easier for them to come in! In light of that, I propose the following:

1. Each immigrant must, upon entering the country, register at an immigration office and subject himself to a questionnaire (in his or her native tongue), a photo, and fingerprinting. I want to know who you are, where you came from, the names of your immediate family members, and what you hope to accomplish by coming here. This option is free and available to everyone.

2. In return, you get a "Blue Card" that gives you the right to work and obtain a driver's license and Medicare. When you find work, it is your employers responsibility to register your number so that taxes can be paid into the system JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. That may mean a few extra boxes on the standard W2 form but hey, that's got to cost a lot less than hundreds of miles of useless fences.

3. While this does not give you the right to vote, it DOES give you the right to live, work, pay taxes, and receive medical care in this country. If you so choose, you can eventually become a naturalized citizen. It also gives you the ability to travel freely between the US and wherever it is you came from. So all those seasonal workers who come here in spring to farm...they can GO HOME to their families when the work is over for the season. Giving them free passage means that rather than jerk around in hiding when there's no work, they can just go home, and come back next season. Everybody wins. Oh, and it’s more humane, because this way people don’t have to brave the damn desert to get here. Oh, no more paying a fortune to someone who may – or may not – help you across the border either. Ok, so maybe *everyone* won’t win, but I’m sure those guys will find a new seedy business to get into.

4. Extradition clauses:
a) If you don’t follow these rules (and really, why wouldn’t you?), we will find you and send you back. You will receive no medical care. If you’re dying in the desert, too bad. If you’re about to give birth, that child has no more rights to US soil than you did. Why? Because even though we gave you an easy, safe, and legal way to come here, you didn’t follow our rules. I’m sure there will be some, but really, unless they have something to hide (in which case, we don’t want you here anyway), there’s really no reason not to obtain your Blue Card.
b) That said, if you commit a crime while in my country, you will go to jail. If you commit a serious crime, we reserve the right to send you home no matter how horrible the state of your country is in. We have no tolerance for people who come here to take advantage of everything the US has to offer.
c) Oh, and don't bother committing a serious crime elsewhere and think you can hide in our country. If we find you (and how hard we look is directly related to how much trouble you're in) we will send you back, and I really don't care if that means you're going to have your head chopped off. I've heard this sob story before, and I'm sorry but we just can't save anyone. Want to live? Read up on Gandhi.

Ok, so my plan is far from perfect, but I do think the idea is sound. Think about it: it’s better for them because they now have safe passage to the US and can go home to their families whenever they wish, without having to risk an illegal border crossing. It’s better for us, because now we know who these people are (which will help with this so-called War on Terror, a topic I won’t even touch right now), and beyond that, think of all the money in taxes these people will generate! There’s your economy fix: imagine, affordable healthcare!

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get to work.

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