Senate Democrats with significant input from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have introduced a broad framework towards immigration reform which in my opinion is a decent step in the right direction but misses its mark by miles that would eliminate the problem in its entirety.
Ezra Klein, the Washington Post columnist who earned high marks for his explanation of complex health and financial reform legislation, I'm afraid needs more schooling on immigration.
He says the Democratic framework is a simple compromise. The hardliners get increased border security. The reformers get a path to amnesty. The latter does not kick in until eight separate security benchmarks are met. At that point a bipartisan commission will recommend reform that Congress must enact.
The security measures are summarized by Greg Siskind and his pdf can be downloaded here.
Klein interviewed Graham who told him:
"In this environment," Graham said, "what you'd have is bipartisan rejection of immigration. You'd get 75 or 80 votes for the McCain-Kyl [border security] amendment. Then, when you tried to put the pathway to citizenship on the table without a long process of planning and thinking and building support, you'd probably get 60 people voting against it."
Klein does know his politics. The controversy swilling around Arizona's illegal immigrant laws is forcing Washington to take action even though Congress is reluctant. The Republicans, he argues, are defensive because their opposition probably would lose the Latino vote for generations to come.
If Republicans can't formulate a humane position on immigration for 2010, they're likely to poll abysmally with Hispanics come Election Day. And that may offer the necessary spur for them to attempt to solve this issue -- and repair that relationship -- before the 2012 election.
Washington has this misconception that all of the illegal immigrants living and working in the United States -- an estimated 12 million or so -- want amnesty or a path towards citizenship. Wouldn't a better approach be separating those that wish to stay from those who want to return once they have earned enough money to support their families in Mexico or the other countries in Central America and throughout the world.
Those who want to stay and are cleared of criminal records would be identified and set on a long process of paying a fine, back taxes, learn English and wait their turn. It could take 10 years.
Those who don't would be issued work visas for two-year intervals.
Either way, the relatively cheap labor force would be left in tact and Americans can still buy their tomatoes at fair market prices as they have for years.
For any reform to work, national I.D. cards would be required of all U.S. workers just as Social Security cards are required now.
But the most effective way of cutting off the influx of illegal immigrants is sanctioning employers who hire them, including homeowners who hire day laborers. If Arizona can pass Draconian laws, the U.S. can be equally tough by fining first offenders $1,000 for each illegal worker hired and mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders.
The Reagan administration tried a less Draconian approach in 1986 but failed to have the will to enforce it.
While the politicians spend billions on border security, certainly some of those dollars should be directed at Homeland Security's Immigration and Naturalization section to speed up the visa application process. If migrants pay $3,000 to coyotes (human smugglers) certainly it would be cheaper for them to spend a portion of that to cover the costs for a legal application to gain entry.
Of course, my proposals would not stand a chance in hell passing muster in Congress. It's too simple even though it attacks the problem directly.
Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer