Post#: 182-18 – Words: 2316 – Audio: N/A
There’s no question that, like our complex federal tax code, our immigration policy is notoriously complex.. far more than it needs to be.
Obviously, as Americans, we all have a role in that responsibility as public support (or lack thereof) shifts over decades as certain normally obscure yet routine situations or events break out from the bureaucracy and end up on the evening news to raise our concerns. Forget trying to blame any one party, any one administration. It all boils down to what the public deems important, because when the public moves in any great numbers so does government.. and that means all three levels of government. The current administration, because of it’s single-minded persistence and logistical and legal incompetence, has blundered the immigration issue to the forefront so this could be just the opportunity to fix it.
As I see it we have two parts of this issue to tackle. One is to fix the current child-separation logistical nightmare as a result of the administration’s “no tolerance” nonsense. The second is far more complicated; create nearly from scratch a new immigration policy, and a refugee policy. On the surface any new immigration policy should accomplish three important things…
- Control Immigration – Any nation should monitor and control immigration through its borders for many very important reasons. It’s a form of population control to assure a stable population for the present and the future to assure social and economic status quos are maintained, and any number of other real demographic reasons.
- Assure National Security And Enforce Criminal and Smuggling (which includes drug and human trafficking… and espionage) … and attempts at illegal entry for the purpose of criminal activity.
- Recognize that our immigration policy is a window into who and what America is; it should be reflective of us as a nation. While doing all the above, any policy should also be illustrative of the image of America as it fits in the world of a free democracy, a country that holds personal freedoms above all else, a country that uses the rule of law to assure that anyone who enters our borders and is accepted, that they can achieve to the limit of their perseverance and abilities; that regardless of the reason that made a person cross our border, legally or not, that they will have personal rights assured by law to allow them to make their case for participating in our process and/or defending themselves if charged with a crime. It’s not about welcoming with open arms… but lending a hand to get them to the first step in applying for entry. All human beings should be treated with respect and it’s that respect that should dictate our care, compassion, and understanding in why people are knocking on our door (or going around it). Punishing people at the gate, or for going around the gate is NOT the priority, but rather should be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
- No process or policy will be perfect. People, situations, attempts at illegal entry might be successful from time to time. The whole idea is to control and regulate the bulk of the immigrant traffic, legal and illegal, as much as possible. Expect a few to manage to get through. Learn from it.
Our system should not be built around turning away people, but rather determining what people should be let inside.
Tolerance is a cornerstone of American democracy. Zero tolerance is not an expression of human rights. Separating children from their parents to satisfy some public fear of someone gaining illegal entry is an abomination of all things American.
What To Do Regarding the Central and South American Refugee Problem –
The first thing is to recognize the influx of people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and beyond as being refugee problems and not immigration problems. Why? The mass exodus of people leaving a country or region is not necessarily because they want to but rather it’s a matter of survival… physical, economic, whatever. They would prefer not to be knocking on our door. That being set, the process should not be only about “refugee camps” where people sit around waiting for political climates to change. My perception?
- They are coming to our border seeking asylum for any number of reasons… generally it’s plain survival. We need to be a refuge for them at the start. It doesn’t mean housing them forever or providing months and years of public benefits. Americans are traditionally a compassionate people, we hold to human rights, and if you are tired and poor and fleeing your country for fear of torture and/or death, we can certainly tend to their immediate needs. It doesn’t have to be totally about using tax dollars, but certainly a coordination with various charities can be effective… until such time as their individual cases can be determined.
- Use the State Department (or, get it staffed to be useful again). I would think, with the cooperation with Mexico, we could establish a regional consulate in some city or town as Mexico’s southern border. Prepare a local area where incoming refugees can apply for asylum at such a consulate since it is considered U.S. sovereignty, and a kind of refugee camp with appropriate housing and facilities one might expect in coming to America. The goal is to hold the mass of folks there rather than allowing them to make the dangerous trek across 1000 miles of Mexico to get bunched up at the U.S. border. By negotiating with the Mexican government (which should be very easy and welcomed by Mexico) we can get the appropriate land area under a separate treaty to be U.S territory so that the entire camp falls under U.S. law and administration.
- In addition, and this is more of a long term effort… using all appropriate agencies and State to apply pressure on the governments in question to straighten up.. or else. We should provide law enforcement (not military) assistance and aid in an attempt to quell criminal rebel or gang activity. The idea would be to politically stabilize those Central American states. No question that might be long term, or maybe even impossible over time. But that is the origin of our refugee problem and it behooves Americans to try and clean up our own geographic hemisphere. This is another of those areas we should have been addressing long ago because what happens in Central and South America will affect us at some point.
Returning to the days before Zero Tolerance…
According to government statistics, at the time when the current administration took over, the general rate of illegal and normal immigration along the Mexican border was at a decade low. While this did not mean that the policy and the process had been working ok for years, it sounds like the reduced movement of people toward the border had also reduced the profile of the need for reform. The new administration set a campaign priority of building a wall and setting up zero tolerance procedures, reflecting a greater protectionist government and NOT an immediate need to address some contrived threat to our economy.
My Own Opinion on the status of undocumented persons living in the U.S. at large?
I am for the Dream Act and DACA. These are persons contributing to the economy (paying taxes, spending money, etc.) and are not one bit involved in welfare or using public monies for subsistence. Generally speaking I am of the mindset that when legal or even undocumented illegal aliens of the past entered the country that the first generation… parents… indeed tried to find employment and indeed tended to work under-the-radar in cash-only employment situations. But their second generation children have fared much better, becoming educated and pursuing higher level occupations. I DO NOT one bit see any evidence, nor agree, with the idea that these people are taking jobs away from Americans (if anything, these folks do jobs Americans will not do).
I see no documented evidence of any huge weight being realized in our welfare policies by this group of people; I do not agree with the current administration’s view that the southern border with Mexico is a wild, open, frontier allowing for the wanton entry of people engaged in criminal activity of any kind. I agree it happens… but I also think the need for a huge physical wall is an unnecessary federal expense… and that by using half that budget the border can enhance staff and tools and technology to watch the border with greater efficiency; walls have never proven to work in the history of man beyond the decade in which they were constructed. Barriers like that will not impede human movement in the long run.
- Increase border security without a wall.
- Undocumented and illegal aliens already in the country should be given opportunity to get citizenship quickly. As Americans we should accept the poor regulatory process of decades upon decades of the lax enforcement (or lack thereof) of immigration laws, and support those already here and contributing to the economy.
- Introduce a reformed, comparatively stringent and reflecting America’s human compassion, immigration policy.
- We have the technology. We can make all this better than it was. There is NO excuse that at this time that we are unable to implicitly track people we permit to allow inside.
An addition to any immigration policy would be recognizing the need for MANDATORY periodic adjustments in the future to meet changing political, demographic, and human needs. I would recommend a mandatory review of the entire immigration policy every three years relating to the census. In other words, by law the census is conducted every ten years… a review of the immigration policy should occur the 3rd year following completion and tabulation of the census. This effort recognizes the need of census data to fulfill any adjustments to the immigration policy, and allows for review for changing political climate.
There’s a current movement of some lawmakers suggesting that the government eliminate the ICE agency. A little history. The former INS (Immigration & Nationalization Service) was in play until 2003 when re-organization of duties was split to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), as a result of creating Homeland Security.
- (Note: Being in business for myself and understanding the business need for a setting a public positive image and advertising, at the time (2003) I was rather “perturbed” in the use of the acronym “ICE” to represent our border enforcement. By itself it represents an agency that could be perceived as a cold, unfeeling, uncaring, brute force. I didn’t think it a good term at all. I guess we finally got there.)
I have two issues with eliminating ICE or any other agency anywhere in the government. The first, Just making a suggestion like that without ANY thought to where that responsibility will go or the overall ramifications, in a fit of pure emotionalism, is absurd and counter-productive to the country’s welfare. The second, it is possible that given the very sad images of ICE agents separating screaming kids from their parents on the evening news has indeed set the PERCEPTION of a sad image for the agency whose actions at the border are reflecting the apparent will of our country.
My personal thought is that ICE staff at all levels are performing their jobs perfectly as professionals and like any organization or governmental agency a few bad eggs will always pop up. But many times a law enforcement agency with high visibility, especially when assigned and directed by federal policy that can shift with the tide of public mood and consternation, or shift with the political mood, can get an image problem.. many times not of their own making. This could be where we are at with the current ICE agency. This recent business with separating children from their parents at the border just places a bad image of those very professional ICE agents as “tactical gear fascist-looking goons ripping children from their parents”, when in fact they are just doing their jobs as directed by the current administration. Again I make the point, an immigration policy is absolutely necessary for any nation… but it also is a window to the philosophy of that nation in regards to human rights. It’s a bit of public relations to be sure. If ICE as an agency has taken on a somewhat alternative imposing image of America then I agree that some consideration be given to re-organizing the agency.. change the name, reform the goals, shift the personnel, whatever… to present a more positive image of the U.S. at our borders. Obviously we are not “selling” America to immigrants banging on our gates… this is not “Disneyland”. But the world is watching and America needs to set an example.
If ICE needs to go then make damn sure there’s an alternative… and a good reason to close it down.
Reforming our immigration laws is not going to be easy simply because of the political divisiveness alone currently in the country. Baring the idea of a wall, this will also be an expensive policy, albeit not like the defense budget. But for a population of our size and the size of our geography, we need to expect this will be expensive. Reforming immigration policy should also include the need to eliminate and/or re-define certain agencies. There’s some immediate changes necessary to stabilize border control policy and satisfy the current political climate.. but a total reform, even if everyone agrees it’s necessary (which they don’t) will likely take years… sadly.
My other sites… if you’re interested…