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March 31, 2006

Some Specifics (Imagine!) on Immigration
Posted by Michael Signer

In the hot debate about immigration we are desperately in need of cool-headed solutions -- now comes a terrific "Truman Democrat Paper" by my friend Betsy Cooper, who is another Principal of the Truman National Security Project.  The paper, titled "Reforming Immigration:  A Strong Security, Pro-Immigrant Policy for Democrats," outlines a third way on immigration for progressives, that navigates between the quickly-hardening shoals of conservative and liberal sentiment on this volatilre issue.

Betsy's proposal combines both get-tough and be-smart elements in the first truly integrated approach I've seen.  The four pillars of the proposal are:

1)  Secure the border and interior

Betsy proposes a number of measures, including the creation of a "secondary inspection system" at consulates, the creation of a single, working terrorist watch list, and the addition of 10,000 new border guards, and making the US-VISIT electronic tracking program operate when immigrants leave the country -- not just when they enter (as is done now).

2)  Create a temporary worker program

A program needs to be established in part so we have better information on who's here and what they're  doing.  Her most innovative proposal is that we should have a "pay-to-play" system, where immigrants would be charged a fee of $3,000 - $5,000 to participate (an amount roughly equal to that charged by the "coyotes" who illegally put immigrants across the border).  These funds would be earmarked for the extra social services at the state and federal level illegal immigrants require. 

3)  Providing a path to legality

The reasons for allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens are both self-interested (there are thousands of highly-skilled workers whose benefits to the economy we may lose) and humanitarian.  Betsy also proposes that we adjust the cap for Latin America. Under current law, no country may send more than 7% of the total immigrant population for the year, which, as she points out, means the cap for Mexico is the same as that for Burkina Faso.

4)  Integration

Perhaps most importan and difficult is how to integrate immigrants once they're here. Betsy proposed a formal U.S. plan that, most provocatively, would require immigrants to learn English, as well as civics and history, in order to be fully-folder into American society.  Betsy would require these elements as part of the guest worker program, thereby further formalizing and strengthening a tough-love approach.

I'm sure a lot of progressives will have issues with parts of the plan -- but the point is we have to fully engage (for both political and substantive reasons) on this difficult issue, offering specific solutions rather than general rhetoric.  The Truman plan does just that, at once improving the debate and offering evidence of the important role this young organization is playing in the security sphere.


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If I was to move to another country, I would want to know the language, history, and culture of that country in order to both fit in and be successful in business.

I think the idea of the fee is not bad as long as it could be payed over time.

Some good idea here.

Highly skilled wanna be immigrants are being mistreated here. Canada, UK, Australia makes it easier for anyone with education and skills to migrate start their own business but its the other way round here.

I don't think having a guestworker program is a progressive idea. It is just another way for business interests to reduce the prevailing wage in our country. Besides, a guest worker is a second-class citizen, an UnAmerican idea.

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I think charging undocumented workers $3,000 - $5,000 is far too much. The fact is, if they were paid livable wages they'd be able to afford most (if not all) the social services they use. And even though us U.S. citizens benefit from the cheap labor they provide, we still end up paying (through our taxes) for the social services they need (not to mention all the added border control expenses). The biggest winners right now are the businesses who profit from their labor.
What we need is to fundamentally change our relationship with Mexico, recoginizing the fact that our economies are mutually dependent when it comes to resources and labor. Money spent on border security would be better spent on developing Mexico's economy.

Question: why is a guest worker program needed when there are H1 and H2 visas for skilled and unskilled workers, that also provide a path to citizenship if one is moderately clever (e.g. get employer sponsorship, permanent visa, and eventually citizenship).

From where I am standing (Colombia) I do not think the Immigration Bill before Congress goes far enough. Not included is the following important measure;

Illegal immigrants, with possessions of money or properties, not justified by labor money, made during their years of illegal residency in the country, should be subjected to an investigation before being legalized. Florida is full of them.

Many had been involved in illicit activities in their own country, forcing them to escaped to the United States to avoid death at the hands of their business partners they've possibly exploited during a business deal.

This happens quite often in Latin America.

The law prohibits the entrance of more than $10.000 (Dollars) into the country at any given trip.

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It is just another way for business interests to reduce the prevailing wage in our country. Besides, a guest worker is a second-class citizen, an UnAmerican idea.

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