Today, the Wall Street Journal offers advice to Senator McCain; he should continue his moderate stance on immigration and dealing with illegal immigrants, because most of America agrees with him, and the talk radio/blogosphere right never will.
I am not so sure that most of America does agree with the McCain-Kennedy proposal of last year. The problem most Americans face is that they have been offered two extreme proposals. The Right wants to offer only a sand-them-all-back-where-they-came-from bill. The Left, and oddly, President W., all want to talk about some form of amnesty-and yes, that's what it is-and a "path to citizenship."
I do not think that either of these extremes meet with the approval of most Americans. Over year ago I contacted my congressman and senators and offered my modest proposal for immigration reform. David Obey, to his credit, had his computer answer with a thoughtful letter. My senators did not answer me all.
So here, today, are some rationales, and then my modest proposal.
1. I have become convinced that we cannot and should not attempt to deport 12 million illegal immigrants. I have to take off my shoes to count the number of stories I have read recently about children who are being separated from their parents because their parents are illegal and they are citizens. Each of these stories ought to serve as a cautionary tale to possible illegal immigrants. They do not. They serve simply as examples of how a legalistic mindset is prepared to inflict incredible suffering on families. The fact that this willingness to inflict comes largely from those who spend a great deal of time talking about family values ought to trouble all of us on the Right.
I also believe that there could be significant economic consequences to removing 12 million unskilled laborers from the market. The evidence for this is not overwhelming, but given that the economy is widely believed to be somewhat shaky, I do not think it is a risk we should take.
While most Americans could be affected by an economic downturn, I truly believe that more would be deeply troubled by the separation-of-families stories which will only grow in number as deportation/ enforcement is attempted. I believe this soft spot in the heart speaks well of Americans.
2. If you have a problem with mice, there are three possible solutions: attempt to seal your house completely, put down lots of traps and buy a cat, or seal up those things that the mice are attracted to, like food. Because not all mice are after food, you will probably need to do all three. But most effective of them will be the third option: remove what attracts the mice and make it unavailable to them.
In terms of illegal immigration, you do this by drying up the supply of jobs illegal immigrants come here to take.
3. All that being said, I do not believe that most Americans want our government to be vindictive toward illegals, but they do not want to exactly reward bad behavior either.
4. If, by this point, you have been offended by my use of the term illegal aliens, and you wish that I would use a more politically correct term like undocumented workers, my advice to you is to get real. You will not be taken seriously as long as you try to offer euphemisms to soften the blow of someone's bad behavior.
My Modest Proposal
1. Pick a date certain. I do not care what it is. Call it S-Day (S for Stay). Anyone who can prove that they were here on S-Day, who have not broken any other laws, gets to stay. Period. Those individuals will be given 90 days to apply for and receive a permanent S Visa.
2. Since I do not believe that most Americans want to reward bad behavior, and in my opinion, United States citizenship is about the ultimate reward this world can offer, those individuals who receive S Visas will now, and for evermore be, resident aliens. There are two exceptions to this. Any individual wanting to apply for citizenship may do so by returning to their native country and working through the process legally. The second way in which my proposal would permit a person to gain citizenship would be that they enlist in the United States Armed Forces and serve, honorably, for seven years.
Fines and such are silly window-dressing, and I do not believe that most Americans are interested in them.
3. If we are going to remove the thing which attracts illegal aliens, we are going to have to shut down the job market which employs illegal aliens. The only effective way that I know to do this is to jail those who employ them.
Make the penalty very simple and very stiff. Hiring a person for a job without ensuring to the very best of your ability that they are either a citizen, have a green card, or have an S Visa, will result in a six-month mandatory jail sentence per offense.
Lock up a couple of Hollywood housewives with Guatemalan pool boys, or a couple of plant managers for IBP, and the job market for illegals will disappear. When there are no jobs, illegal border crossings will dwindle to a trickle.
This particular piece ought to serve as some comfort to the Left. It is their claim that they wish to punish the business people who exploit illegal aliens. This lets them do that. It is also their claim that they want to raise the standard of living of the lowest paid workers in America. Given study after study that makes it clear that an influx of illegal workers drives down pay for those who are here legally or naturally, it is logically impossible to support higher wages and illegal immigration. The effect is only to support the latter and the former suffers.
That is it; my modest proposal. I truly believe this proposal offers something for everyone, but no one gets everything. Business does not have to try to figure out how to work without 12 million of its current employees. Those already present get to stay, so our compassion gene is sated. Those who seek a larger military force-including me-now have a ready-made pool of volunteers, perhaps enough to fill out another division. Those who want enforcement get enforcement from here on out. And even those who get to stay, do not receive the ultimate benefit.
Will anyone adopt something so sensible? Well... it would take the cooperation of both parties in Congress and a president who wants to lead, and a business community that is willing to be moral and practical.
So I do not hold out much hope for my modest proposal.