On May 6th, the Albuquerque Journal published an op-ed from the chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, Javier Gonzales, concerning Arizona’s controversial immigration stance. Mr. Gonzales states that “we’ve all heard” about this law, agrees that we need to implement comprehensive immigration reform and ends his article with admitting that “immigration reform is a conversation we need to have in New Mexico.”
So at the risk of getting stoned to death for having an opinion, let’s get the conversation started. One thing that stood out to me about the chairman’s opinion was that he did not propose any ideas on how to solve this problem.
Leadership 101: A leader doesn’t merely complain. He or she provides solutions to problems that are substantive, specific, realistic and attainable. Politicians attempt to drive the debate with wedge rhetoric based on partial truths and providing vague “catch phrase solutions.”
Mr. Gonzales’ solution is “comprehensive immigration reform,” so what does this entail Mr. Chairman?
We all agree that illegal immigration in our country is a problem and, contrary to democratic opinion, we all agree, including Republicans, that racial profiling is not part of the solution. The bottom line with the final Arizona bill is that it specifically prohibits racial profiling and only occurs during an illegal infraction.
I do agree with the chairman on one point: The language “reasonable suspicion” does not sit well with most folks, and I am not here to defend the final Arizona bill. I would advocate for something that is more specific for us regular folks to understand in order to remove all doubt or grey area of the law.
My ideas for reform
Here are some of my ideas for “comprehensive immigration reform.” I would note that these are ideas, not concrete, cumulative final solutions. I do this in my limited spare time, so I am sure those in office and our political candidates can surely come up with something better in their full-time pursuit of public leadership.
Let’s begin with things most of us can agree upon. There are approximately 12-14 million illegal immigrants in our country today and they are a financial burden on all aspects of our society. The majority of Americans – including Republicans – do not want to tear apart families in a forced deportation process, and no one wants to reward illegal behavior. This is the problem we face today and there are no easy solutions.
But I see an opportunity for us to develop smart, outside-the-box policies that can help reform two major problems that confront us in the 21st century – illegal immigration and our mounting budget shortfalls.
First we must recognize our realistic limitations on physically securing the southern border by admitting that a big ole’ fence combined with smarter technology and more manpower isn’t the end all solution. I do agree these tools will help, but securing the border needs to become a more collaborative approach with the federal government taking the lead and partnering with local city, county and state agencies.
This is an idea that the Arizona bill has stumbled upon and I would call this a “layered border security approach.” The idea behind illegal immigration seems focused on crossing the border and, once across, an illegal immigrant is home free. We need to eliminate this thought process by utilizing all of our public safety resources in a never-ending, layered approach to border security.
Currently we have border checkpoints posted throughout our country. Officers there ask everyone if they are U.S. citizens. Is it unreasonable to eliminate the “reasonable suspicion” clause and make it standard operating procedure to ask everyone for driver’s license, insurance and whether they are U.S. citizens during every illegal infraction at all levels of government?
Surely opinions will vary, but a realistic policy will admit the federal government cannot attain “comprehensive illegal immigration reform” without the assistance of local governments.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
As a novice economist, I believe the most efficient and effective solution is to develop an instant work verification system that will enable employers to easily verify citizenship status of prospective applicants. If we are able to produce a system that can reliably assist employers in this verification process, then we can begin to discuss employer penalties for hiring illegal immigrants.
The bottom line is to cut off employment to illegal immigrants by minimizing the hoops an employer must jump through in order to stem the main motivation of an illegal immigrants’ desire to come to the United States.
If there are no jobs available to illegal immigrants, there will be fewer illegal immigrants willing to come to the United States, and we can begin concentrating most of our resources on those who continue to cross our borders for illegal purposes.
Pathway to citizenship
Providing a pathway to citizenship for the 12-14 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States is probably the most complicated portion of “comprehensive immigration reform.” This policy needs to be balanced with empathy and toughness in order to respect an individual’s human civil rights and the respect of law that governs our country. So here are my ideas on this issue:
• Provide a set timeline for every illegal immigrant to voluntary come out of hiding and register in a new “guest workers permit program.”
• Establish a minimum timeline and certain criteria that need to be accomplished before a newly registered illegal immigrant can be eligible for citizenship. I suggest at minimum 10-20 years.
• Pass a background investigation that is paid for by the new guest worker.
• An illegal immigrant can be eligible for employment in the United States after enrolling in the “guest workers program” and providing some form of proof to the hiring employer.
• All federal taxes collected through the new guest workers program will be earmarked to offset the increased funding of securing the border and paying down the national debt.
• No guest worker will be eligible for any tax credit or tax refund for a set period of time – again I recommend at least 10-20 years. This means if a new guest worker pays $1,000 in taxes, he or she doesn’t receive any refund whatsoever. Absolutely nothing, nada…. zip, zilch, zero refund, no pay due, do not pass go or collect $200.
• No guest worker will be eligible for any tax credits or tax refund at the state level as well. Again, these funds should be earmarked to fund the additional burdens placed upon education, health care and public safety.
• No guest worker will be eligible for any tax breaks or credits.
• Any committed illegal infraction, outside of a routine traffic ticket, will be a breach of contract and the path to citizenship will be eliminated.
• Guest workers will not be eligible to vote, and any attempt at voter fraud will violate the pathway to citizenship and the possibility of deportation will commence.
• Require guest workers to learn English, with no additional government funding.
• If an illegal immigrant comes into contact with the law through our new “layers of border security approach,” he or she must provide proof of enrollment in the new guest workers program.
• After honoring and providing proof of all set criteria, an illegal immigrant can apply for but is not guaranteed citizenship. The burden of proof will be on the guest worker to provide all qualifying documentation.
Not the end-all solution
Of course these ideas are not the end-all solution, but hopefully one or two will be helpful to those in a decision-making position.
Again I believe most Americans do not want to implement a forced deportation process, and most Americans do not want to reward illegal behavior through an easy path to citizenship. I also believe most illegal immigrants will be anxious to “pull their own weight” and to self-sacrifice if given the opportunity to earn their citizenship.
The increase in tax revenues can help to alleviate our mounting debt and offset the financial burden of illegal immigration at all levels of government.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
Luévano, a newly registered Republican, is a life-long New Mexico resident and an Artesia native who currently lives in Tucson, Arizona. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2001 with a bachelor’s in political science and economics and from the University of Kansas in 2008 with a master’s in public administration. You can reach Luévano at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.