Let’s distinguish right up front the difference between legal and illegal immigration.
Since our country’s establishment we have had legal methods of entering and becoming citizens of our country. Most immigration has been voluntary with some notable exceptions such as imported slaves, prisoners of war, criminals extradited back to the US, and Fidel Castro’s deportation of dangerous criminals in 1980. The US helped set up the country of Liberia for slaves and their descendants who wanted to be repatriated back to Africa. Most slave descendants chose to remain in America as it seemed the better place to pursue their dreams than Africa. It is interesting to note that even many prisoners of war requested and were granted legal immigration status and a path to citizenship.
America has been built by immigrants. Folks from all over the world have left their homes to move to America and build better lives for themselves. Millions of immigrants have come here, became US citizens, assimilated into our culture, and enriched the American tapestry. These people came here because of the freedoms offered in America. America is one of only a handful of countries where one’s station in life is predicated on ability and hard work rather than birthright. They came here because the wealth they created for themselves would be protected by our laws. They came here not to recreate the countries they left behind but rather to start fresh and become Americans. They came to our shores because America was unique in the world – it was a shining city on a hill. The vast majority of Americans who read this are the descendants of these immigrants
The poor and desperate have long sought refuge and haven in the US. During the Irish Potato Famine between 1846 and 1850 nearly 1 million Irish immigrated to America to escape starvation in Ireland. These folks came to America and soon took the lowest and meanest jobs available. They eventually assimilated into American culture and shook off their troubled labels (drunks, brawlers, ne’er do wells, thieves, etc.). Recently, America has had an influx of folks displaced by fighting in Southeast Asia who have likewise entered American society. These are examples of poor and desperate people choosing to come to America and making their entry into our country a win-win situation. Not that the transition has always been smooth and seamless but in the great sweep of American history they are success stories.
Average Joe’s understand the immigrant’s desire to improve their lives. We applaud their frightening and exciting decision to pursue legal entry into our country. We welcome all those who want themselves and their future generations to be Americans.
The plight of Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American folks is similar to those of the Irish and Southeast Asians. Their countries are poor, their courts are corrupt, large areas are lawless and violent, and their is little hope of a better future for so many. Their desire for relief burns no less bright than those who came to America before them.
But here are the problems:
Millions of Mexicans and other Latin Americans have bypassed the legal methods of entry. Instead they come here by sneaking over our borders. By necessity this is disorderly and chaotic. In the process they have disturbed and trashed enormous tracts of land in our southwest deserts. If American industry were doing this every environmentalist worth their salt would be doing their utmost to halt and reverse this desecration of our land. The refuse of millions of desperate people yield millions of tons of pollution. Just think of the number of disposable diapers left behind! Parts of our southwest looks like the world’s largest waste landfill. This is a representative photo being passed around on the internet.
It’s not just honest folks looking for work who cross or borders illegally. Criminals also cross our borders illegally (in fact it wouldn’t be very bright of them to cross it legally). Our porous border situation allows relatively easy access to our country for drug traffickers, identity thieves, common robbers, gang members, arsonists, child molesters, rapists, murderers, etc. Fleeing back over the border to escape capture and prosecution is also a relatively easy act.
American prisons house over 250,000 illegal immigrants convicted of major felonies while here in the country illegally. Illegal immigrants account for about 1/5 of all Federal prisoners. It costs about $60 per day to house an inmate so it costs taxpayers about $15 million a day and about $5.5 billion a year to incarcerate illegal immigrants on charges other than being in our country illegally. Add to that the financial costs of their crimes and the emotional costs paid by their victims. The financial burden imposed on Americans by crime committed by illegal immigrants rises into the tens of billions of dollars annually.
The death toll credited to illegal immigrants may be staggering. According to reports from Congressman Steve King (R-IA) potentially 12 murders and 13 fatal drunk driving incidents are caused daily by illegal immigrants. His numbers are extrapolated from percentages of illegal inmates and numbers of total crimes. The US government does not have separate statistics of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. If Rep. King’s statistics are fairly accurate that means over 9000 deaths a year are attributable to illegal immigrants. By comparison, Islamic terrorists have killed fewer Americans than that in the last decade (including the 9/11 attacks).
It has been said in the media that illegal immigrants do work Americans do not want to do. That is not accurate. There is no work illegal immigrants perform that could not and would not be done by Americans. Middle and High School age kids “detassel” corn in Nebraska. It is hot and repetitive work but they find enough kids to do it for a price that is good for both the kids and the farmers. When we were young; concrete work, drywalling, landscaping, bussing tables, and other tasks currently performed by illegal immigrants were done by non-Hispanic Americans. Illegal immigrants displace American workers more often than they augment the workforce. Young workers are the ones most often displaced by illegal immigrants. From an employers standpoint though illegal immigrants make great employees because they don’t receive traditional benefits, they are low cost employees, and they tolerate poor working conditions. Companies that employ illegal immigrants can offer products and services at lower costs to consumers.
Liberal policies have made it a priority to ensure societal benefits are made available to illegal immigrants. These benefits include: K-12 public education, free healthcare at hospital emergency rooms, non-arrest status in “sanctuary cities”, Medicare for “anchor babies”, fire and police protection, etc.
Some states have tried to give drivers licenses, in-state college tuition, and other privileges to illegal immigrants but do not carry through due to the outcry from taxpayers. States with high illegal immigrant numbers are struggling to keep some hospitals open in the face of so many free services having to be supplied. K-12 education budgets have swelled in part because of the cost of educating children of illegal immigrants.
While utilizing taxpayer funded benefits illegal immigrants contribute relatively few tax dollars themselves. In fact, a large percent of money earned by illegal immigrants is sent back to family in other countries, primarily Mexico. Money transfers to Mexico from illegal immigrants are around $10 billion a year which is about the same amount generated by tourism in Mexico.
America isn’t the only country to have laws against illegal immigration. Our laws however are fairly lenient and seldom enforced. In contrast, Mexico’s laws against illegal immigration are harsh and enforced. It is hard to fathom how President Vincente Fox of Mexico could have the nerve to denounce Arizona’s laws against illegal immigration as being unjust while at the same time applying a much less “just” form of justice to illegal immigrants into his own country.
What do you suppose would happen if millions of American’s swarmed over the border into Mexico, took jobs away from its citizens, used Mexican taxpayer funded benefits, and sent large amounts of money back to relatives in the US? I doubt President Fox would be singing the same tune.
Liberals want in-place amnesty for illegal immigrants. By doing this they hope to garner political support from the Hispanic population and all the new citizens who will see them as champions. They pretend that the economic lesson of getting more activity if you reward it will also apply to illegal immigration. Reagan provided amnesty to illegal immigrants hoping in vain that we would be able to better secure our borders afterwards. We only got more illegal immigration as millions saw the potential for a quick path to citizenship and no punishment for breaking our laws.
Conservatives say they want to first secure our borders prior to discussing immigration reform. They claim that the faucet must first be shut off before you can effectively drain the sink. However they offer little on how they would reduce the number of illegal immigrants already in our country. Indeed, one of the most often used arguments for amnesty is the problem of what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already here. Amnesty proponents argue that rounding up all the illegal immigrants and shipping them back to Mexico and other places will be inhumane, time consuming, and expensive.
Here at the Average Joe Think Tank we don’t just analyze problems we also offer solutions.
- Phase 1: Secure our borders. The conservatives have this point correct. Without first effectively securing our borders we leave ourselves open to an even greater influx of illegal immigrants in the future. The illegal immigration problem will only continue to worsen and the cost to taxpayers and society will continue to grow. Criminals and even terrorists will still have an easy conduit into our country. Our desert environment will continue to be subjected to abuse that should make the Sierra Club outraged.
- Phase 2: Build processing infrastructure. Concurrent with Phase 1 we should start building temporary infrastructure suitable to the task of processing millions of illegal immigrants. This will occur in all states with the number of processing centers required based on the percentage of illegal immigrants suspected in-state and also based on proximity to our borders.
- Phase 3: Offer temporary enforcement suspension of illegal immigration laws. Announce that illegal immigrants will be allowed unfettered movement to processing facilities. Any illegal immigrant committing a criminal offense during this non-enforcement period will receive doubled sentences.
- Phase 4: Only illegal immigrants who are processed will be allowed entry back into our country. The processing facilities will certify identities, take fingerprints and DNA samples, verify there are no pending criminal charges, and document anchor babies. Suspected criminals will be taken into custody and bound over for trial on their charges.
- Phase 5: Requirements for legal re-entry to America.
- First come first served. Those proceeding the quickest to and clearing through the processing facilities will be given first priority to re-enter as legal immigrants or guest workers. Anchor babies under the age of 18 must accompany their parents back to their home country. This rewards folks for voluntarily moving themselves back to their homeland and helps identify those who most want to become US citizens.
- Each individual over the age of 14 must work a certain amount of time helping to clean the environmental mess left by those who snuck into America. Temporary facilities will be set up to provide shelter, food, and sanitation for the clean-up workers.
- Each individual over the age of 18 must pay a fine prior to leaving the country to offset the cost of processing and to pay for the crime of being in the country illegally. All illegal immigrants must be repatriated except in extraordinary circumstances.
- Phase 6: End the temporary suspension of enforcing illegal immigration laws. Make being in the country illegally less appealing with stiff prison sentences and fines. Put them to work on additional environmental clean-up and border maintenance. Deport them after their sentences are up and bar them from re-entering our country as legal immigrants, guest workers, or even as tourists. Remove citizenship rights for any of their children born in America. This is the punishment for not leaving voluntarily and will dissuade them from attempting to stay behind.
- Phase 7: Give those illegal immigrants who cooperated with the voluntary processing system the opportunity to come back as legal immigrants or guest workers. Those wanting to become legal immigrants will have a time limit in which to become citizens or else they will be deported and given no second opportunity for legal immigration to the US.
- Phase 8: Pressure Mexico and other countries to make themselves places for their citizens to live and thrive. This phase can be implemented at any time and may even be done first. Opportunities must exist for common citizens to make better lives for themselves. For without opportunity there is no hope. If countries made this a priority there would not be near the motivation to legally or illegally immigrate to America.
Our solution provides effective incentives to achieve the desired outcome. We eliminate most of the “rounding up and sending back” problem by providing a tangible reward for illegal immigrants to do this voluntarily. It also provides significant disincentives for those not willing to leave voluntarily. And last but not least it ensures that those who subsequently seek legal immigration are doing it because they truly want to live in our country (as opposed to temporary stays for financial reasons). This puts our country back in the win-win situation we have long enjoyed with legal immigrants enriching the tapestry of our country.