Can Immigration Be Fixed? — A Ten Point Plan

After listening to Trump’s speech on immigration on Monday night and the Democrats’ response to it, I got to wondering what a humane and effective immigration policy might be. Many people seem to think immigration can’t be fixed. I believe it can.

Here are my thoughts, in the form of a convenient, ten point program:

1. The United States currently caps refugees from Central America at 1,500 annually. Increase this number substantially to more accurately reflect the number of refugees seeking admission at the border each year. This number may be adjusted periodically. (Note: Since Reagan, this number is determined by the President, not Congress or any agency involved in immigration.)

2. With regard to economic immigrants (people looking to move to America to work because their home countries are poor), increase the number of immigrants accepted annually to align with jobs available to new immigrants. Work with employers who typically hire undocumented workers to hire legal immigrants for those jobs and pay them a fair minimum wage.

3. Change the focus of immigration courts and judges from “deny as many as possible” to “admit as many as possible of those who have legitimate claims.”

4. End “extreme vetting” unless there is probably cause with the goal of reducing processing and wait time for people who likely pose no risk.

5. Establish immigration centers across the country (wherever there are federal facilities, perhaps) with the goal of mainstreaming new arrivals quickly and helping to get them set up with housing, services, and jobs.

6. Reduce friction with local people (i.e., Americans) by distributing immigrants as much as possible around the country, thus reducing impact on any one area.

7. Require immigrants to enroll in English language and citizenship classes as soon as they are settled.

8. Work with countries in troubled regions in good faith to stabilize areas producing the most refugees (economic or otherwise). This may include changing U.S. policy in the region and actual cash and in-kind investment.

9. Begin amnesty hearings for the roughly 12.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country with the goal of approving as many as possible. Immigrants gaining amnesty must enroll in citizenship classes or apply for citizenship immediately.

10. Abolish ICE.  Their name (and reported actions) make them sound like a bunch of storm troopers. Create a new enforcement agency with a less horrible name and change its mission and practices to reflect goals of new immigration laws and policies. To protect American workers from unfair competition, immigration enforcement should focus on employers who hire illegal immigrants in contradiction of the law, rather than on illegal immigrants themselves.

Will any of this happen? I doubt it, but I think it would be a very good idea if America would at least acknowledge that our broken immigration system is fixable. The only reason it seems impossible to remedy is because just thinking about it causes most people’s heads to explode. Yes, it’s complicated, but if we were willing to take into account the best interests of American citizens and new immigrants alike, we could enact a system that is truly fair to all.

Comments | 4

  • A twist of WPA

    ” Begin amnesty hearings for the roughly 12.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country with the goal of approving as many as possible. Immigrants gaining amnesty must enroll in citizenship classes or apply for citizenship immediately.”

    This would make a great jobs program. Jobs for Americans helping others to become Americans. WPA with a twist!

    When I think of immigration, I first think of my own family and how none of them were native to the Americas. I’m thankful that somehow they managed to decide to travel, made the journey, endured their orientations period, and got established. Even though we’ve been here hundreds of years, I’m still an immigrant. (So are you, most likely…)

    Gottfried Grotke was escaping Prussia. My understanding is that they were leaving for religious reasons, and when they got to the docks, there were two choices – one boat to Australia and one to NY. They chose NY.

    After arriving in NY, Gottfried and family tried out the fairly new Erie Canal to make their way across the state toward Buffalo.

    To the best of my knowledge, there were no detention centers. I doubt the President at the time was making a political issue out of hordes of Prussians coming to commit crimes. I’m not sure if they came through Ellis Island, but processing was probably minimal.

    What crimes did we commit upon entry? Pretty sure Gottfried had more church troubles (he was excommunicated twice) and founded a church southeast of Buffalo. Family went on to open stores, sell groceries, and such. Basically, they became regular middle class Americans, paid their taxes and such.

    Immigration is a tough issue. It reminds me of Israel and Palestine – really strong feelings seem to prevent meaningful advancement toward common goals. Immigration is handy for politicians – there’s fear, and sympathy, and lots of room for theatrics and making things up. It plays well, agitates the base, and probably results in some good fundraising.

  • Good Thinking

    Whether any of it happens or not, your good ideas bring a hopeful message; thanks for the uplift.

  • Americans left behind

    It was pointed out to me by a reader that immigration negatively affects American workers at the bottom of the economic ladder, specifically African Americans, Latino-Americans, and young people. The jobs at stake include fast food, construction, landscaping, and the like, and in large metro areas where immigrants tend to congregate, they tend to get a disproportionate share of these jobs. I agree that this isn’t fair.

    Although I can’t claim to fix everything with my immigration plan (and no, I’m not running in 2020), I did change item 10 to reflect this concern because it’s also one of my own concerns. In my edit, I’m recommending that ICE (under its new name) use their powers to go after employers who hire illegal immigrants. Employers should not be allowed to flout the law and then use their employees’ undocumented status as an excuse to pay rock bottom wages with equally low labor standards.

    The goal of this plan is “fair for all,” not “favor immigrants over American workers.”

  • Immigration City

    What would happen if we decided to set up cites on the borders where immigrants could come, stay, work, and study to become citizens?

    If I were crossing the border, I’d head for one of these sanctioned places that makes it possible. I’d be happy to live there temporarily while I learned the language and rules, and I’d be happy to work there – cooking, cleaning, doing repairs, sitting at a desk, whatever… I’d be fine with paying taxes while this goes on in return for a system I could see a path through and into the US proper.

    Those already in the US who like to help in this regard can get jobs there helping out, training and processing people.

    I guess I’m going on the assumption that the majority that want to come resort to more drastic means to get here right now, and having a modern day Ellis Island City might be the answer. A smooth, reliable, safe, controlled way – even if there are real hurdles such as learning English – might be preferable to everyone who wants to come here and not be “illegal”.

    This is a tough one, I think, because those who can make needed changes to the system are currently invested, for whatever reasons (cheap labor, a political football,) in NOT doing much about it.

    Perhaps the problem is that everyone has different goals, but uses one big umbrella term – immigration – to talk about something much wider. Lise wrote previously about the best way to stop unwanted immigration is for the US to stop making a mess of other countries. Studies show most of our immigrants come from places we interfere with. But when we talk about the “immigration” problem, rarely is the conversation about stopping wars and CIA covert actions.

    We also like to blame the immigrants for coming, rather than the people that are hiring them under the table.

    I tend to think open borders are the real answer, but I doubt I’ll ever convince many of that idea (unless you lived near the Canadian border prior to about 2001, in which case you recall the fun of saying “let’s go to Canada for the afternoon” and no one needed passports or retinal scans or enhanced ID’s. Just answer a couple of questions and off we’d go!”)

    A final aside – I saw a John Wayne movie recently that took place along the Mexican border. It was perhaps meant to be the mid-1800’s, and all that marked the border was a little wooden sign on a stake. People from both sides were just walking past it as if it were the corner of High and Main. I don’t even recall seeing a guard stationed there. Wayne went back and forth to work with Mexican authorities to catch a criminal from the US. Everyone got along, and the bad guys got caught. : )

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