Immigration reform and illegal immigrants have lost the top spots in the news in the past month or so. There is almost no chance of it being taken care of in Congress this year. Wars in the middle east and 10 year old murder cases are all anyone is talking about now.
That may be good news for business owners who need these workers and for the workers who, for the time being at least, are out of the spotlight. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t still an extremely important problem. There are several different proposals on the board now and none of them are complete solutions.
Building a wall on part of the border with Mexico is too expensive, would destroy the land it goes through and probably would not keep people out anyway. The additional guards on the Arizona border now are keeping some out and are forcing more crossings into California.
Finding and deporting all 12 million people here illegally would be impossible, regardless of what the extremists say. It simply can’t be done.
Even if it could be done, how would businesses that employ these undocumented workers continue producing? Farms now have trouble finding enough workers to harvest the crops; without these undocumented workers available they would go out of business. Builders, factories and food processors would close down if their workers were suddenly removed.
The people who say we should stop all immigration don’t say how we would manage here without more people to replace our aging workers and low birthrate. Our unemployment rate now is less than 5%, most of the people who want to work are working. We don’t have enough young workers to fill all the low income and unskilled jobs that are keeping this ecomony going. Most of our young people want easier jobs and higher pay and aren’t interested in picking vegetables, cutting lawns or cleaning hotel rooms.
One proposal recommends that undocumented people who can prove they have been here more than five years can stay and apply for permanent residency. They can get on the path to citizenship if they follow certain rules and pay some fines, and back taxes if they owe any. Of course, they would have to learn English too.
The same proposal says that illegal immigrants who have been here two to five years should return to their homeland and come back in legally, but how many (or how few) would leave? These immigrants would have to leave family and jobs here and possibly not get back in.
This same bill says those here less than two years just have to leave and not come back. Many of those people would simply go farther underground and be exploited and mistreated more than they are now.
A compromise that has been suggested is to have all illegal immigrants go to certain border locations and apply for a six-year guest worker visa. After the six years are over, they would have to leave or start proceedings for citizenship. This one might work and hopefully by that time, the huge backlog in immigration cases would be taken care of and all these new cases could be worked on.
There were virtually no immigration laws here until 1891 when the Office of Immigration was created. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and processed more than 12 million immigrants before 1953. Certain “undesirables” were barred: convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, paupers, polygamists, the insane, those with contagious diseases, epileptics, Asians, illiterates, and children without parents. Ship captains were supposed to keep a log of immigrants entering other ports, but people who came from different directions usually just walked in.
Most people who showed up at the gates, got in. No one had to have family or a job waiting for them. Everyone who says “our grandparents came in legally, these people can do it too”, don’t realize how easy it was then.
It is time to change the immigration laws, this time making more sensible laws that people can live with. This, along with more border protection will slow the illegal immigration to a manageable number.
If we change immigration regulations so that people can legally come into this country with wait times of only a year instead of 10 or more, most people would do it legally. If the fees were only a few thousand dollars, most would pay that instead of paying smugglers and be cheated or die.
Many citizens are against amnesty and we all wish it had never gotten to this point, but I don’t see how the immigrants who are here illegally can be sent away. They should be allowed to stay and register and go through the criminal checks and approval process. Those who qualify should be put on the path to become permanent residents and citizens. These people will be the business owners, homeowners and voters of tomorrow.
If we make some changes and keep enforcing the “new” rules, we won’t find ourselves in a similar or worse mess 10 or 20 years from now.