Serious discussion about Citizenship and Illegal residency must be narrowed down into at least four sub-areas of discussion to arrive at a humane solution.
Disparaging the motivations of people who raise questions about immigrant status will not accomplish anything. There are various motivations at work and not a single one. The fact that the immigration laws have not been previously adhered to, or selectively enforced, does not mean that such a sorry state-of-affairs should be allowed to continue indefinitely.
All Countries and all Peoples have laws and regulations about who may, or may not, reside in their territories. This has always been the case, since time immortal. Tribes and Clans had territories and recognized boundaries that they defended. The ancient societies of Egypt, Timbuktu, Kush, Greece, China, and Native America, etc, all have had similar rules that they sought to enforce.
Arguments about how everyone in the USA is an ‘illegal immigrant’ because the Native Americans were here first, are totally absurd, since we would be forced to recognize: 1) that the Native Americans were several different nations – each with their own laws about residency – and not one singular, unified nation; 2) there cannot be a ‘turning-back-the-clock’ to fix the death and destruction that was visited upon them in North, South and Central America; 3) that under this argument, most Latin Americans would be ‘illegal’ even in the countries from which they seek to gain entry to the USA since the Native American populations of those Latin American countries were similarly destroyed and the current populations, by and large, have no claim to those Latin American lands either. In other words – under this argument, Mexicans would be illegal in Mexico.
Traveling this path in an argument is a sign of silliness and desperation. One would be forced to empty-out the entire Americas, sending everyone who is not Native American, back to Europe, Africa and Asia – perhaps leaving behind only those who could demonstrate a genetic mixed-connection to Native tribes.
Let us deal with today and recognize that one cannot reside in Mexico, Canada, anywhere in Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America without permission of the governing authorities and the peoples who inhabit those countries. Therefore, why do some people think that illegally residing in the USA should be a ‘right’ without consequences?
What are the four sub-areas of consideration regarding the Immigration debate?
1) Children born in the USA from Illegal Immigrants and those brought into the USA as children by their parents, who entered illegally – yet they know no other country other than the USA.
2) Immigrant workers who perform a useful function in American society, doing the work like immigrants before them, (and slaves before either of them) which is back-breaking and often monotonous, that average Americans do not want to perform.
3) Immigrant workers who have jobs that should go to citizens, but are instead occupied by non-citizen, illegal immigrants. This is often aided and abetted by employers who chose to hire illegal immigrants because those illegal immigrants are not able to fight for citizen rights and are therefore compliant and easily abused.
4) immigrants who are allowed entry because of a promise to employ citizens. They need to be closely observed to assure that they’re fulfilling this obligation.
There are those who would argue that Americans should work-for-less-money in order to be more competitive with foreigners in the USA or abroad, however this is a fallacious argument. Following this logic, one would have to engage in a constantly downward competition wherein each person claims to be willing to work for less money than the person next to them. How then, would an American compete against a person who makes only $200 per year?
The Dream Act was originally proposed to address the first sub-area: the children born in the USA or brought into the USA by illegal immigrants. If they have no criminal backgrounds, and have been dutiful adherents of the laws of the USA, then they should be allowed to apply for citizenship. Such citizenship cannot be granted automatically, since they would need to be investigated and made to comply with some requirements (various ones are proposed) to make-up for their unintentional, yet deliberate violation of immigration laws. They would not be able to petition for Parents or other relatives, first until they’re ‘recognized’ adults, and then perhaps for a specific period of time. This proposed remedy is to fix something over which the youngsters exercised no control and could therefore be seen as innocent victims. It is a compassionate and humane solution.
Immigrant workers who work at hard and unpopular occupations should be allowed continuous and regular entry into the country to perform those jobs, until someone can demonstrate that Americans wish to perform those jobs – which is unlikely. Such entry would not necessarily be a ‘right’ to citizenship, and might require a special-category, or expansion of existing categories for temporary workers, between the current statuses of citizen and permanent-resident, because they would not be permanent but periodic. For the sake of the ‘soul’ of the country, they should not be abused and mistreated but recognized as performing a useful and respected task.
Those illegal immigrants who work in ‘higher level’ – not the hard and unpopular – occupations, should not be allowed to work. The unaddressed aspect of this is that approximately 50-percent of illegal immigration is composed of people who enter the USA legally, and then simply overstay their visas. This group, no matter how poor they may be relative to Americans, nevertheless has the money and wherewithal to board an airplane (or other transport) and legally enter via an official port-of-entry. Some of these people are lured here under false pretentions or with assurances that they can become ‘lost’ in the mass of citizens and remain undetected. Large numbers of illegal Europeans and Asians fall into this category, as do smaller numbers of African and Caribbean peoples.
One can make an argument that immigrants should be encouraged to fulfill those ‘higher-level’ occupations for which there are a shortage of trained Americans – usually thought of as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) positions for which few Americans pursue studies. If this strategy is to be pursued then it should be undertaken in tandem with efforts to get legal citizens to pursue the STEM subjects, making the importation of immigrants a temporary stop-gap measure.
Technological improvements have made it ever easier to track and verify Immigrants, if one wanted to. The institution of an E-Verify system, if properly administrated, makes a great contribution to this effort. Such a system needs to be regularly safe-guarded and reviewed for accuracy to avoid problems. When and if such problems occur this will undoubtedly be used to argue against its existence, but that would be a case of the proverbial ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ – rather than fixing it.
As for those already in the USA, a limited round-up would seem to be inevitable. This would not be popular and cause many alarming headlines, but, not everyone would want to be ‘registered’, because they would not fit the ‘safe’ categories mentioned above – thus requiring their deportation.
It would be wonderful if people didn’t need to come to the USA to seek low-level employment, but this would be true only if their own country provided opportunities for self-sustaining work. Yet it cannot be the responsibility of the USA to fix other people’s countries, even if there are efforts to help. Such tasks would be too broad for any one country to undertake and the solutions would take many years, perhaps decades, or centuries, to have effect.