Saturday, June 30, 2007

Immigration Compromise

We are told that immigration reform is dead for this term. I'm not sure it had a chance. In the current environment a compromise bill means both sides get an equal number of provisions they like. Often they are provisions that one side loves and the other side detests. Politicians vote for the bill if their joy outweighs their disgust.

A path to citizenship, amnesty, was just too big an obstacle to overcome. For many people, the offsetting compromise, a promise to strengthen the borders and enforcement, was not enough to mitigate the disgust of seeing law breakers profit from their misdeeds.

Maybe we can make progress if we don't try to create a bill that tries to do everything at once. Pull out pieces that move us forward and a majority of legislators can agree on. A compromise means people on both sides can accept it.

We have millions of people in the U.S. who realistically cannot be sent back to their home countries and do need some sort of legal status. What if we give those who qualify legal status (permanent resident status?), but do not promise them a path to citizenship? They can stay here as long as they don't break any laws.

Along with this we pass a law that makes it a felony to be in this country illegally. Anyone convicted would be biometrically identified, deported and would lose future rights to enter the country legally. Further convictions would bring ever longer jail time, then deportation.

This would give the 12-20 million undocumented people in this country a way to legally remain in the U.S. with some strong penalties. Without citizenship it would be harder to bring relatives to this country. These people can't vote. Other penalties could be imposed, if required, like a fine or a requirement to learn English.

It would also remove some of the incentive to cross the border illegally because if you are caught, you have no hope of ever becoming a legal resident of the United States and face possible incarceration. And it will be harder to find a job because the workers who qualified for legal status will have a green card to show employers.

If this compromise is still too much like amnesty, give them a six year temporary status (the number of years would be chosen to try to keep the issue out of a presidential race). In six years Congress would have to decide what to do next. Maybe the solution will be clearer or at least less emotional at that point. If not, Congress can do what it is best at and kick the can down the road again.

I'm sure people who know more about immigration can devise even better compromises, but for an issue that has caused so much political turmoil there is no need to give up. This compromise failed, but that doesn't mean we can't create a better one.

No comments: