Friday, March 04, 2005
An email to Bill O'Reilly, discussing the flow of immigrants across the southern border:
While I understand your frustration with the border situation, your solution - deploying the National Guard - is politically impossible. It just isn't going to happen.
Why not instead promote an idea that would work, and gives everybody something? Use the carrot and the stick. The US should offer guest worker status in exchange for a background check. The carrot is the right to live and work in the US without having to look over your shoulder. The stick is that, trying to enter the country illegally, or being caught in the country illegally, disqualifies you from getting citizenship or a guest worker card FOREVER.
Such a solution would have to be phased in. First, create the system to quickly do background checks. Convince Mexico and as many other nations as possible to tie us in electronically to their criminal databases. Ideally, we would want to take someone's fingerprints, and immediately get a record of their convictions, both here and abroad. Some countries might hesitate to help, but I think Mexico, the most important country, could be persuaded. After all, they want a freer immigration policy more than anyone.
Second, establish a screening facility at the border. Make it easy and quick for guest workers to come in, get checked, and get cards. Easy and speed are important parts of "the carrot".
Third, start processing every illegal caught trying to enter. Collect their fingerprints and other identifying characteristics, and enter them into the system. Then explain to them that, by trying to enter illegally, they have just forever disqualified themselves from legal entry, and deport them.
Fourth, establish background check facilities around the country for resident illegals to use to get guest worker cards. Provide a grace period - maybe two years - for everyone to get screened. During the grace period, illegals caught in the country get entered into the system and deported, but are not disqualified. However, if they try to re-enter illegally, or if they are caught after the grace period has expired, they are disqualified and either deported or jailed - it probably depends on the numbers of offenders.
The point of the background check is to weed out recognizable security threats. Many things could be screened, but at the very least we should check for:
- known links to terror groups
- convictions for drug trafficking
- convictions for violent crimes
Obviously, this system won't catch a lot of terrorists - they won't submit to the background check, they'll still try to come in illegally. But the bulk of the people, those who "just want to put food on the table" will submit to the screen and stop flooding across the border. This will reduce the scale of the immigration problem to a point that the border control, augmented by technology, can possibly handle.
Just as obviously, this will produce a flood of legal immigration. I'm sure the numbers will be enormous. That's a pity, perhaps, but not all bad, especially in a country where the birth rate is at or below replacement levels. Someone has to pay for the Social Security system, after all. Just kidding. Seriously, security always has a price, and guest workers (lots of them) might just be the price we have to pay.
So there you have it: a carrot and stick system that gives everybody something, and doesn't require a military presence on the border.
Although this is a long letter, I hope you will consider the idea, and if it passes your "spin" filters, give it some exposure. We at least need to stimulate discussion, because we aren't getting anywhere now.