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My Turn: A way to tame ‘elephant’ of immigration

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it was going to focus its limited resources on deporting felons and those who had previously been deported and re-entered illegally. Thatís fine as far as it goes, but it continues to ignore the real problem, the immigration elephant in the room; 8 to 10 million undocumented immigrants. Economically, politically and practically we canít just ěthrow them all outî as some would propose. The cost alone would run into the billions. Taking roughly 3 percent of the population out of the economy would be calamitous. These people fill the jobs most Americans shun: mowing lawns, working in construction, farm work and so forth. Compounding the issue is the ease with which athletes, actors, models, musicians and others can get in, taking jobs which Americans DO want. Put bluntly, itís a mess. What can we do about it? Hereís an ěout of the boxî suggestion:
Let them all come in, and give them one year temporary work visas. Actors, landscapers, models, roofers, athletes and farm workers, let íem all come in on an equal basis.
Thatís right, let them come in, and let the ones already here stay. Obviously there have to be some exceptions, for example convicted felons, drug dealers, gun smugglers and tax cheats. Add those previously convicted of illegal entry and you have most of the people we really donít want in our country. Let the rest come in, work and pay taxes. Thatís right, pay taxes, both payroll and income.
Let the work permits be for a year with the requirement that the workers return to their country of origin for at least two weeks within the year. When they leave they provide a copy of their tax returns or proof they have had taxes withheld. During that two- week period, Immigration and Customs enforcement can run a quick check to verify the lack of a criminal record and the payment of taxes. Failing either test would result in a letter denying re-entry. Those meeting these requirements would get a new one-year temporary work permit on their return. This would apply equally to football players, landscapers, musicians, house cleaners, students and children.
People caught without a work permit would either be deported or provided with a trip to the nearest federal prison, before being deported. Re-entry after being deported would result in ěGo Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go!î
What are the benefits and drawbacks to this plan? First of all, 8 to 10 million people would start paying taxes, at least for Social Security. Secondly, the Border Patrol and ICE could focus their efforts on catching the dangerous ones, not poor people caught wandering in the deserts of the Southwest. Then thereís the minimum wage, which many donít get paid now. That alone would boost the economy. With free entry, immigrants would be able to bring the money they currently pay smugglers (ěcoyotesî) with them, further boosting the economy. As a side benefit, the Border Patrol would no longer have to deal with finding dead women and children in the desert. These are but a few of the advantages.
Opponents will cry ěAmnesty!î as they do now. But consider: The vast majority of immigrants here illegally enjoy amnesty now, in a practical sense. Moreover, we all enjoy various forms of amnesty. On the interstates almost everyone speeds and there is little or no law enforcement. Overloaded courts often let the few unlucky ones off with court fees. Look at drinking and driving. When was the last time you saw police outside restaurants and bars doing alcohol testing? Never? Either speeding or drunken driving kill more people than illegal immigrants, and both enjoy plenty of amnesty. Another argument is that illegal immigrants commit crimes. So do legal immigrants and Americans. The answer is to permanently deport those convicted of crimes and make re-entry really expensive. (Think five years in prison.)
There would be lots of details to work out, particularly for the first year, but these are all solvable. In return, we would gain productive people, and possibly some new permanent residents, citizens and even a few in our military. Personally I value the guy who mows my lawn higher than some kid who can throw a baseball 100 miles an hour. How about you?
Have a ëMy Turní idea?
ěMy Turnî columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@ salisburypost.com with ěMy Turnî in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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