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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rating the President's Illegal Immigration Plan

In Monday evening's speech on immigration reform, President Bush was right on target with many of his statements and ideas. Much of what he said seemed to echo some of the ideas that I proposed in my plan for dealing with illegal immigration nearly a month ago. There were, however, a couple of places in the President’s speech where I believe he did not go far enough, and there are a couple of ideas in my plan that I think would have improved the President’s plan. Unfortunately, he forgot to consult me before finalizing his plan.

The President began by addressing the issue of boarder security. Two components of his boarder security plan are nearly identical to mine: 1) increasing the number of trained boarder patrol agents (from 12,000 to 18,000 by the end of 2008), and 2) utilizing technology (motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles) to help secure the boarder.

The President also talked about constructing “high-tech fences in urban corridors.” I, too, believe that a security fence is needed; however, I believe the President's plan falls short of what is needed in this area. My plan calls for a fence along the entire U.S. – Mexican boarder.

President Bush addressed what needs to be done with those who are caught crossing the boarder illegally, saying, “We must ensure that every illegal immigrant we catch crossing our southern border is returned home.” He went on to elaborate.

We've have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more. We've have expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time. And we are making it clear to foreign governments that they must accept back their citizens who violate our immigration laws. As a result of these actions, we've have ended "catch and release" for illegal immigrants from some countries. ... When people know that they'll be caught and sent home if they enter our country illegally, they will be less likely to try to sneak in.”

While I agree that those caught illegally crossing the boarder need to be sent home, once again, the President's plan does not go far enough. In my plan any person caught illegally entering the United States would not only be returned home, he would also be permanently barred from legal residence in the United States. If people who want to someday legally live in the United States know that getting caught attempting to illegally enter will cause them to be banned for life from any chance of gaining legal status, they will be less likely to try to sneak in.

The President’s plan involves the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guardsmen along the U.S. - Mexican boarder. Although this was not a part of my plan, I am in favor of using the National Guard. However, I was disappointed to hear the President say that guard units “will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities.” If we’re going to deploy guardsmen along the boarder, which I support, let’s authorize them to do the job properly.

On the subject of what to do with the 12 million illegal aliens already in the United States, the President said that it is “neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border.” Although this will not make me popular with many of my fellow conservatives, I think the President is correct on this point. In my previous post on this subject, I said this:

I don't believe it's practical to attempt to deport 12 million people, nor do I believe that deportation of all illegal aliens is the right answer. As a nation, we have been content for years to look the other way as people have entered our country illegally, and we must, therefore, accept at least some responsibility for the situation we’re in. We now have people who have lived illegally in the United States for 15 or 20 years. Some of these people have children who were born in this country and who are, therefore, U.S. citizens. I don't believe we should now say to these people that they have to leave the country.

This does not mean granting amnesty, and it certainly does not mean allowing illegals to jump ahead of those already legally in line for citizenship.

The President's plan would offer those illegal aliens who have established roots in this country a way to work toward citizenship. According to the President, they would be required "... to pay their taxes, ... to learn English ... and to work in a job for a number of years." The President also said that "approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."

In my plan, I went into more detail about how this process would work than what the President did in his speech. I won't go into all the details again here, but if done correctly, those who are already here could be given the opportunity to become legal residents, and eventually citizens, without gaining any advantage over those who waited to enter the country legally. If the details of what the President is proposing are similar to what my plan entails, then I think he is on the right track.

One part of my plan that was not a part of the President's speech is that in my plan, the first step toward legalization would be to require every illegal alien who wishes to remain in the United States to register within 90 days to become a “registered illegal alien.” Any illegal alien not registered within 90 days, if caught, would be deported and permanently barred from legal residence in the United States. Employers who employ or continue to employ an illegal alien after the 90-day registration period would have to require the illegal alien to possess a "Registered Illegal Alien" card. Severe penalties would be imposed against any employer who employed or continued to employ an unregistered illegal alien. Illegal aliens who register could then begin the process of working toward naturalization.

Registration would provide a way for the U.S. government to identify illegal aliens currently living in the United States. The combination of permanently barring from residence in the United States any illegal alien who does not register, requiring registration for employment, and providing the opportunity to work toward naturalization for those who do register would be a strong incentive for illegal aliens to comply with registration.

Overall, the President's plan is a good one. It's not perfect by any means, but if anything is certain, it is that we will never have a perfect solution to the illegal immigration problem.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll reserve my comments till the final bill comes out but yours was a great proposal.

11:11 PM  

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