Common sense - almost sounds ridiculous compared to all of the shenanigans of the Capitol beltway. Yet, common sense is just what immigration reform needs to be effective and, in many regards, human to properly correct bad policy and assure a strong physical border.
Current legislation in the U.S. Senate encompasses many of the same miscues of the 1986 immigration bill. The '86 bill did not guarantee funds or statutes to improve and enforce the border. The result? An estimated 10-20 million illegal aliens are now within our borders. Today's Senate proposal does not require any additional border protection. The old bill cost several hundred billion to implement. The current Senate proposal will cost our country $1 Trillion with our national debt now $17 Trillion. In addition, the Senate plan will allow amnesty provisions for immigrants to tap into social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and other state/local social services in short order. This will further burden our national debt.
Now, here's the common sense of what immigration reform should look like.
First, secure the border. Physically improve the Mexico border wall in entirety. Use innovation including perimeter sensors, cameras and border drones to assist border agents in apprehending illegal penetration. Studies report the border improvements can be completed within 2-3 years. Write statutes that each border state Governor must sign-off that their border is secured to their expectations. Finally, have the head of U.S. Border Patrol and Secretary of Homeland Defense also sign-off that the border is ready.
Why have a border first approach? In years gone by, legislation has ignored border protection time after time. Resulting in repeated massing of illegal aliens within our borders. Fix the borders now to prevent the need to consider amnesty in the future.
Secondly, have a program to accelerate legal immigration. Immigrants who are currently in the process of gaining American citizenship will see quicker approval. The thinking is to "clear the system" to prepare for an eventual processing of illegal aliens. This program will start at the same time as the border project. The goal will be to have all legal immigrants approved by the completion of the new border project.
Third, increase the number of border patrol agents. Train and deploy an additional 5,000 agents within three years. Focus agent presence along key areas of the border wall that may be difficult to seal due to harsh terrain, rivers, etc.
Fourth, increase annual immigration levels for high skilled workers. Harken back to previous immigration statutes that encourage highly educated and specialized foreigners to become Americans. This will help advance America's 'brain power' to boost our edge in innovation, technology and economic prosperity.
Finally. Begin to process immigrants who are illegally within our borders for citizenship. This will occur only after the border is complete, legal immigrants are approved, and additional border agents are ready.
Illegal aliens will be allowed to apply for citizenship under very strict guidelines. Here is a short list of proposed steps to address the human element of our country harboring 10+ million illegal aliens.
- If any alien has committed a felony or has a history of lawless behavior, they will be deported by ICE (Immigration & Custom Enforcement Agency) to the country of origin.
- In addition, should a immigrant originate from a known terrorist state, they will be subject to investigation by the FBI, NSA and/or CIA. We do not want to hastily deport a possible terrorist without gaining valuable intelligence. Did you know, over 90,000 illegals are arrested every year from continents other than South America?
- Immigrants seeking citizenship must apply to the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) within five years of completion of the border project. After a five year period, no new applications will be allowed.
- Each immigrant seeking citizenship will submit an extensive INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) application. Including proof of citizenship from originating country. After initial processing, each applicant will be interviewed by a INS official to determine eligibility for a probationary review period.
- Each applicant will be required to pay a fee for processing. This fee will lower the overall expense of processing 10+ million immigrants.
- An applicant granted probationary status will receive authorization to work and will be required to pay all federal, state and local taxes.
- During the probationary period of ten years, the applicant will be required to learn to speak English, pass a general course on American history including Constitutional rights, and maintain good civic behavior free of criminal intent.
- At the conclusion of the probation, a final judgement will be made by INS to grant citizenship to the immigrant. If approved, they will have one year of access to federal programs. After a final one year review free of abuse of federal programs, the INS will deem citizenship to the individual.
- Set a cap on immigration flow. Set a strict limit on the number of probationary and citizenship approvals each year. This will allow INS time to manage work flow of immigrants without being completely overwhelmed. Also, this will ease impact of entitlement cost to federal, state, and local government.
- E-Verify system overhaul. A former, guest/immigrant worker program rebirth now called W-Visa. Immigrants solely seeking employment will be required to provide additional bio-metric identification including fingerprint, photo, etc. Each will have a criminal background check performed. American employers must perform E-Verify on each immigrant worker. INS will approve each W-Visa prior to any immigrant working in the United States.
So, that's the plan. Strong borders first, expedite legal immigrants, strict review of applicants, and ten years of probationary review with appropriate checks assuring an individual is proven worthy of citizenship.
Now, if only Congress could take action on immigration with a heavy dose of common sense.