Immigration Approach by Norm Gottlieb
Immigration is a complex issue. Comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. has not only stalled but appears to be unachievable at this time mainly for political reasons. A better approach might be to break the problem into parts that may have agreeable solutions that are respectful of human rights and economically viable.
The dominant issue regarding immigration is what the government and law enforcement officials are to do with the 11 million of undocumented persons living in the U.S. It is not possible to incarcerate every person who is here illegally, and it is not practicable to deport every undocumented person. In the name of humanity, it is not conscionable to break up families or separate legal children citizens from their parents.
The immigration problem is not only a human rights matter but is also a civil rights issue. Like most Americans who came to this country as immigrants, the currently undocumented are living here, working and raising families but are not able to vote, serve on juries, or have any voice in matters affecting their lives.
The vast majority of the undocumented are honest, law-abiding hard workers who should be given a reasonable, thoughtful, compassionate path to legalization.
Most of the undocumented have been living in the U.S. for many years working mostly in a large, thriving underground economy. Knowingly allowing this underground economy to continue is an economic concern and a breeding ground for corruption. Legalizing the undocumented will prevent exploitation of workers and foster equity and justice. Bringing these workers into the mainstream will increase tax revenues and improve national, state and local economies.
Many of the undocumented (some with false identification) are working for businesses as employees doing needful jobs not sought after by others in the labor market. In order for our economy to function, the U.S. needs a flow of immigrants for farm labor and domestic work.
All of the undocumented have been paying (directly or indirectly) sales taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes and numerous other taxes and fees. Many have been paying into Social Security for which they will receive no benefit. Many are working at jobs complicit with their employers where they avoid workers compensation and income taxes.
Many of the undocumented have been forced to flee countries under life-threatening, corrupt and unjust circumstances. These are human beings, people just trying to survive without fear. They are desperately in need of a helping hand. For-the-most-part, their struggle to get here and work exemplifies the same character as others before them who built this country. Some of the undocumented are people who are economically depressed, trying to improve the well-being of their families. All of the undocumented should be permitted to come out of the shadows, apply for legalization, and if qualified should be granted legal residency, employment opportunities and civil liberties.
A number of the undocumented don’t want to become citizens because they have allegiance to their birth countries and/or family or social ties. Many of the undocumented have been living and working in the U.S, for years; they should be granted legal status, issued special identity cards, and work permits, allowing them to continue working, get drivers licenses, open bank account, travel freely to home and back. If they have skills sought by businesses, the newly documented should be allowed to compete with others in our capitalist system and be compensated fairly.
A precedent was set by President Reagan when he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granting Green Cards to millions of unauthorized immigrants. In 2004, President Bush proposed an earned legalization program for illegal aliens. Since 1986, all presidents have taken some executive action to ameliorate the problem.
SeniorsCAN urge President Obama and Congress to address and act on this dominant part of the overall immigration problem immediately with bi-partisan discussion and input from informed individuals and groups. Other immigration issues such as border control, guest-worker programs, and visitors overstaying their visas should be addressed at future times.