Monday, July 31, 2006

Immigration, Guest Workers, and National Unity

I'm returning back to the immigration debate. Obviously, a successful immigration policy has to include more than a fence on the Southern border. However, before one can deal with the people already here one has to greatly reduce the flow of illegal immigrants across the border. Otherwise, if amnesty were to be offered then that would only encourage more immigrants to come.

In addition to building a fence of some sort I think we should create a national database of everyone who is in America legally, immigrants, visitors, and citizens. This would include biometric information, i.e. fingerprints and retina scans, to verify people's identity. Everyone in the country legally would benefit. That's because their status could be easily confirmed by looking up their name or ID number and doing a biometric scan, thus preventing people from being wrongly thought illegal immigrants. It could make aviation safer if when you fly your status is checked, allowing for people on the no-fly list, and only people on the no-fly list to be identified, whereas now people sharing the same name as people on the list have been stopped in the past. Furthermore, it could potentially be used to reduce identity thief, a growing problem. This database would help prevent people from staying after their visa has expired. In the 9/11 attacks most of the terrorists flew after their visa had expired, and this would have prevented those attacks.

It has been said that America depends upon immigrants to do the jobs Americans won't do. I think this is a worthy argument. At the same time of reducing the tide of illegal immigrants I think we should increase the amount of legal ones. I am for a guest worker program. I came across Senator John McCain on TV last night and I think he had a good idea. After an employer has advertised a job for I believe 60 days and no American takes it he can then hire a guest worker who gets a temporary tamper-proof visa (that could go along with my national database) to come in and work. Guest workers would already have a job secured before coming in, they wouldn't come in and then try to find a job. The advertising ensures that only jobs Americans won't work will be taken by immigrants. If you had too have a tamper-proof visa to be hired then this would discourage people from crossing illegally. But couldn't an employer still hire an illegal without a visa? Well he could, but if he's caught he would be prosecuted.

I had listened to a program on NPR's Talk of the Nation a couple of weeks ago, and it talked about guest worker programs in other countries. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5555403) Apparently, no country, even though countries have intended to do so, have been successful in implementing a guest worker program without a path to permanent residency and citizenship. Guest workers come intending to go back, but many end up settling down and having families, etc. It is very unlikely that America could manage to have a guest worker program without some path to citizenship. I think we should have some path to citizenship available.

Governments have a certain responsibility to create unity among its people, enough so the state doesn't fall apart. I cannot think of one multilingual country that hasn't had problems because of different people speaking different languages. If I were to go live in another country, and certainly if I were to become a citizen there, I would learn their language. Likewise, I expect people coming to the United States to learn English. If were going to permit two national languages, why stop there, why not add to English and Spanish French, German, Italian, Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, Arabic, Latin, Greek, and every other dialect on the face of the Earth to the languages officially and commonly spoken in America. If were going to allow more then English then how can we decide which ones we will permit, we would have no choice to permit any other language in. It's just not practical to have everyone speaking different languages in the same location. (Remember the Tower of Babel?) Immigration is a national security issue, and not just because terrorists can sneak across the border. France had riots last fall due to immigration issues. The immigrants were not integrated into society. We don't want to make the same mistake. Integration definitely won't occur without at least speaking to the same tongue, not that that guarantees integration. Reading, writing, and speaking English should be a requirement to become a US citizen.

So what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country? I think after increasing border security sufficiently, developing a national database to be able to tell who indeed is here legally, and developing a policy for future legal immigration, we should create a path for legal residency then citizenship. It's just impractical to round everyone up and deport them. Some of them have been here for many years and have children and grandchildren who are US citizens. Again, I liked what McCain said, that an illegal immigrant would pay a $2,000 fine, work steadily for 6 years, and then could get a green card and it would be another 5 years before they could become a US citizen. He called it earned citizenship. I would add learning English as a requirement.

Some have said immigrants should not have the same rights as citizens. I would disagree with that. I think that legal immigrants, whom we have allowed to come into the United States, deserve some of the same rights. I think that everyone here legally deserves a fair trial, with a lawyer, etc. Innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone, you can't deport someone because they've been charged with a crime, only if they're convicted of a crime. Everyone in the US is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. So without immigration no one would be in the US. Those of us who were born as US citizens did nothing to deserve that citizen, that fortune, that blessing. We were lucky, but in no way were we deserving of it and all the rights and privileges and benefits it entails over those who happened not to be born to US citizens or in the United States. One just as easily could have been born in a third-world country with a totalitarian government. Exodus 22:21 says "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt." For this debate natural born US citizens could read it as, Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for your ancestors were aliens and you could have been born one. Leviticus 19:33-34 says "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Just because someone is an alien doesn't mean they are any less human. They were born with the same natural rights that the Declaration of Independence talks about, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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