Monday, June 17, 2013

Do We Need A Red Card And A Green Card?

The immigration reform debate is winding down in the Senate and it appears that the "Gang of Eight" bill will pass that chamber.  This will bring the issue before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

I have long been in favor of some form of immigration reform.  There is little question that our current immigration laws have not been effective and are in need of reform.  The United States is a nation of immigrants and it needs a rational, practical, balanced and equitable set of immigration laws for the 21st Century.

The most explosive issue in the immigration debate, especially among conservatives, involves amnesty.  Simply stated, are we going to allow people who violated our laws by entering our country illegally the rights and privileges of legalized status?  What about the millions of people who want to come to our country, obeyed the law and have waited patiently in line for their turn?  For example, in 2012 there were almost 15 million people who applied for the green card diversity lottery for just 50,000 openings hoping to come to the United States from underrepresented countries!  How is it fair and equitable to reward those who broke the law and deny others who play by the rules?  More importantly, what precedent does that establish for the future?

After all, we have already been down this road once before in 1986 when 3 million undocumented immigrants were granted amnesty and provided legal status in this country.  How has that worked out?  Not real well. We now have at least 11 million undocumented immigrants.  It is also estimated that those 11 million have another 4.5 million children that were born in this country.

If we were to enforce the law it is clear that those 11 million should be required to pack up and return to their home countries.  However, the practical reality is that is not going to happen. This is particularly true in light of the parents who have minor children that were born in this country and are legal citizens under the law. The Democrats therefore argue that we should legalize all of these undocumented aliens, since they are here and they are not going anywhere, and get them on the path to citizenship with a green card.

The green card is the term used to signify an individual that has been granted permanent residence in the United States.  The general rule is that someone with a green card can apply for citizenship after five years. In my mind there is no way that this existing legal grant of residency should be granted to anyone who entered this country illegally.

However, we also must recognize the practical reality that the undocumented illegal immigrants are not going home and it is to everyone's benefit that they come out of the shadows and have some status under the law.

My solution is to create what I call the "Red Card".  Of course, this assumes that the border is secure and we don't have to worry about doing this all over again.  Nothing is going to work if we don't prevent future illegal immigration.  We will be an even worse position in another ten years.




The Red Card would be available to anyone who is in the country currently that does not have proper documentation.  Application for the card would have to be made within 90 days of the enactment of the law.  Holders of the Red Card would be granted conditional residency as long as they were gainfully employed and contributing to the economy of the United States.  After all, we should encourage people who want to work and contribute to our society in a positive manner.  The Red Card would permit the individual to stay in the United States as long as they remained employed, paid all taxes and committed no crimes.

It could also be used in the future to grant status for temporary guest workers in situations and job sectors where it was necessary.

If a holder of a Red Card should lose their employment status, they would be given a grace period of 120 days to find other employment.  If they could not find employment in that period they would have to leave the country within the next 60 days.

Holders of Red Cards would be entitled to no government benefits currently or in the future (Social Security and Medicare).

All immigrants would be required to have their green or red card in their possession at all times.  Beginning 90 days after enactment if someone does not have proper documentation they will be deported and will never be entitled to return to the United States.  This may sound harsh but without a strong provision like this you have little hope in insuring compliance with the law and getting everyone to register.

Holders of Red Cards could apply for Green Cards by getting in the back of the line for their respective category under the law.

What does this accomplish?  It provides a method by which we can provide a method for allowing hard working people to stay in this country if they are contributing to the economy and are positive forces in the community.  However, it establishes a clear delineation between people who came to this country legally and those who did so illegally.

It also insures that those here illegally will not benefit from our government programs and have no path to citizenship and no amnesty.  They are free to work to make a living for themselves and their family. They will not be allowed to take advantage of the taxpayer or get an unfair advantage over legal immigrants.

I see this as a common sense compromise to bridge the liberal and conservative divide on the issue. Common sense should also be determining all of the decisions on immigration reform.

Why have an immigration policy at all?  Why do we let anyone in? The only logical reason is to improve your country by importing human talent that will provide a benefit to the nation.  This is the thinking that drove our immigration policy for most of our history.  Immigrants with illness or who could not support themselves and their families were turned away.  Often this was at Ellis Island after they had already faced an arduous journey here by ship. Those who were willing to work and contribute were welcomed. Why should it be any different today?

Why don't we just let everyone in that wants in? What would this ultimately do to employment and pay levels of American citizens? This is why we need to carefully monitor unemployment rates by industry as part of any ongoing immigration policy to insure that immigrants are not taking the jobs of American citizens or are unduly holding down wage costs.

I thought it was interesting to see this recent graph on unemployment prepared by the Congressional Budget Office by group from 1994 to the end of 2012.  Note that for those born in Mexico or Central America (almost 75% of illegal immigrants are from these areas) the unemployment rate was over 8% at the end of 2012.  For native born citizens the unemployment rate was 6.5% and for those born in Asia it is lower still.


Bruce Krasting makes a very astute observation in looking at this data.

Looking at this chart I concluded that the unemployment rate at the end of 2012 for the native born population was very close to 6.5%. Based on what has happened so far in 2013, I would expect that the rate today is less than the YE level.
The 6.5% number is significant because Bernanke has set this level as a line in the sand. If the overall unemployment rate falls to this magic level, then the Fed has promised it will back off on the insanity that is now US monetary policy. Now the question:
"Mr. Bernanke,  are you running monetary policy to achieve a significantly lower rate of unemployment for undocumented workers? If so, please tell us why this is in the best interest of the country."
I would suggest that is the best question I have seen all year.


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