Too often we Americans are seduced into only thinking about winning. Thumbs up, thumbs down; our political system of winner takes all; our obsession with the acquisition of material objects; the inane ubiquity of sport, and of course, our ever enduring and continuing legacy of being a country that obliterates other countries in war after bloody, senseless war, has continued to dupe us into thinking that winning is everything.
So now we turn to this debate on immigration, a debate that would seemingly want our vote for a winner. To vote for the person/group who is the most persuasive, the one who makes the best argument. And just like our crippled judicial system, to decide in a process that delivers a verdict completely unconcerned with the truth, ethics or the best solution or compromise. Remember the O.J. decision, that was not an aberration, ask a lawyer. Johnny Cochran, Robert Shapiro and company shredded the prosecution- happens all the time. In short, do we want a debate merely enslaved to the notion of one side beating the other?
C’mon people, we’re better than this. We’re educated. Not poly-sci majors or think-tankers or ambulance chasers. We can raise our sights on something a bit more ennobling, more enriching, like real answers to a real problem as opposed to electing some aristocratic jackass in a popularity contest who runs the country on his gut feelings.
Let’s face it; the immigration problem in the U.S. is an immense, incredibly complex dilemma that will not be solved without a commitment to a process of prolonged engagement. An engagement with the nuances of types of entry, types of workers and most undoubtedly a partnership with Mexico. Obviously not a task for quick-fix politicians and narrow-minded interest groups, and/or people afraid of the black-brown-yellow-skin scourge transforming lily-white Podunk, USA into a home for bodegas, tacquerias and little ethnic-villes.
To Wit: the solution to America’s immigration problem is thus: First, the problem/argument about quantity is a specious one. Remember population is never stagnant, so the mechanisms a government chooses to guide or demand (by lawful means) population control is out of the purview of this proposal. And don’t let the other side talk about a population explosion- that is another issue. Instead, I will refocus our attention to the quality of immigrants that the U.S. chooses to accept and naturalize. This “Second Order issue of Immigration” has long-been ignored for the failed expediency of First Order Immigration policies such as the naïve building of walls, the mindless fortifying of border controls/agents and the issuing of changing quotas from various countries once friend now foe and vice-versa.
Second Order immigration deals with the immigrant (undocumented or otherwise) once he/she is in this country. The immigrant’s “post entry conduct” is what makes the immigrant either an attractive candidate for citizenship or not, irrespective of whether he/she’s a homosexual Mexican, a female Arab, a family member of an American citizen or a college educated terrorist-to-be. Once he/she is in the country is when we have the best opportunity to insure we are getting the type of immigrant we desire. Because make no mistake about it, we cannot, will not and will never control our borders enough to keep undesirables out of this country, no matter how much money we throw at the problem, no matter how many well-meaning, white Anglo men tell you we should.
So this argument for rolling amnesty (wet-foot, dry-foot) for all immigrants in perpetuity (contingent upon desirable immigrant “post entry conduct”) makes the best sense out of a perplexing dilemma. It gives the host country the most control over who immigrates and for what purposes. For ultimately numbers will fluctuate, but our collective desire to have a certain type of immigrant willing to invest in this country is what we are seeking. Oh, need I mention just who developed this focus on Second Order Immigration- well be assured it was not anyone from Mitt Romney’s or Newt Gingrich’s favorite watering hole, and not anyone associated with big media, or big pharmacies, or the big mac for that matter- uh-huh, two academics, Adam B. Cox and Eric A. Posner, professors of Law at the University of Chicago Law School wrote this up in The Stanford Law Review this year. Something to consider perhaps, when you’re deciding on this, later on.
So let’s look closely at the premises of this proposal:
Premise 1: We need immigration. Even nativists know that closing our borders ala China or Japan leads to homogeneity and stagnation both economically and socially. And for this argument we will classify all immigrants as one, not separating them into aliens, anchor babies, illegals and other such distasteful epithets. The truth about the quality of the vast majority of the people coming to this nation is that they want to succeed here, they want to contribute and ultimately their offspring becomes assimilated and Americanized.
Premise 2: We need to control the type of immigrant that we allow to become a citizen. Even bleeding heart liberals agree that allowing immigrants into this country solely on the reason that they have an American citizen family member here is a poor control. We need to clearly distinguish between people immigrating here- with specific worker visas and graduating citizenship status that defines rights, responsibilities and honors individual choices. This is at the heart of the difference between the system we have and the system we propose. Specifically an ex-post screening system rather than an ex-ante screening system that only really works on Islands like Great Britain and Japan.
Premise 3: A clear, specific and fair guest worker program will benefit both employer and employees, conferring rights to the immigrant to prohibit exploitation and by providing access for companies to hard-working, honest immigrants to do the jobs no native in this country wants to do. This does not automatically bestow citizenship on immigrants; instead it honors the complexity of living in a globalized, mobile economy- much more like the progressive European Union than the outmoded 20th century U.S. model.
Premise 4: We want to encourage investment by the immigrant in the country of choice by providing incentives to become naturalized as well as providing for responsibilities/requirements. Immigrants wishing to become citizens must learn to speak, read and write in English. Immigrants must post a bond that will be forfeited if they choose to return to their country of origin or are deported. Immigrants will be subject to deportation if they lose employment status, accrue a criminal record or otherwise become a burden on the system. A specific timetable of 5-7 years will be used to implement these measures.
Premise 5: All punitive measures used to control the flow of immigration into the U.S., and to control the citizenship of certain kinds of people with particular skin-colors have FAILED. Starting with the Naturalization Acts of 1790. We must reframe that with 11 million unauthorized immigrants residing in this country, amnesty is not a reward- it must be earned with specific qualifications enacted. Deportation is NOT PUNITIVE. Criminalizing illegal entry into this country is punitive.
Premise 6: We have an incomplete, incomprehensible, unenforceable immigration policy right now. All proposed remedies thus far have come from Interest Groups or parties who have a particular interest (monetarily or politically) that makes their support biased. F.A.I.R. is unequivocally nativist, backed by conservatives, staffed by white males, - this acronym is typically Orwellian. The Bush plan for dealing woth immigration was predictably pro-business and didn’t put in enough safeguards for guest workers, or incentives for employers not to exploit the labor force. The amnesty bill once proposed by congress (supported by then Senator Obama) still called for 400 miles of wall-building as well as 200 miles of vehicle barriers, measures that capitulate to the fears of other nativists. The only logical, well-conceived, impartial plan has been created by academics that are seeking answers- not looking to self-promote themselves into political office or into a financial windfall.
Premise 7: An emphasis on Second Order Immigration let’s the U.S. monitor prospective immigrants and their actions and movements. People seeking citizenship are given a particular path to follow, and are afforded protections against exploitation, fair treatment under the law and due process in our judicial system. No longer will people who desire to just work in the U.S. to make money to return to their homelands have to work illegally. They will be conferred a different work visa that allows them certain protections, yet lets the authorities know who they are. No more shadow economy, only the people who enter this country and are undocumented will be suspect and criminalized- something that is easy to ferret out if EVERYONE is known to the government. Security issue- bye, bye!
In closing, I turn to the eloquence of David Korten, a one-time corporate raider who decided to turn his attention from making money to helping to create an “earth- community,”
From the beginning of the United States the prevailing ethic was not to accommodate but to dominate. Indians were called "merciless savages" in the Declaration of Independence. They would be wiped out in great numbers and their culture destroyed. Nature was seen as wild and warranted conquest. Patterns of overconsumption and environmental degradation continue today. The U.S. has a huge war-making capacity which is linked to its rapacious appetite for resources inconveniently located in other countries. With less than 5% of world's population, the U.S. uses about 30% of the planet's resources. That equation is a prescription for conflict and disaster. Will we turn from empire to earth community and secure a sane and stable future or will we destroy our host like a cancer metastasizing?
The choice is ours Plutocracy- continuing to exploit the poorest among us for the caprices of the wealthiest- or creating a partnership with the world, our earth and honoring the only thing that really matters in this existence- the quality of our relationships. These are American values of justice, peace and cooperation not hegemony, empire and nativism.