While a good majority ― around 60% of Americans ― are willing to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, subject to some sort of provision to deal with their unlawful status, some Americans ― those who support President Trump in particular ― want them removed, pure and simple. Which way is the right way to handle the problem?
When considering this question, it is important to distinguish between criminals and those immigrants who simply entered this country unlawfully or have overstayed their period of authorized stay. To be more specific, of the 11 million unlawful immigrants in the United States, about one million have committed some sort of criminal offense. Of those, 300,000 have committed felonies.
There is virtually no sympathy for immigrant felons, and even criminal aliens with lessor offenses are not viewed with great sympathy. Assuming we exclude those immigrants from this discussion, that leaves 10 million unlawful immigrants. Should they be deported, or is there some other way to deal with the problem?
What Should Be Done?
There are many voices who support deporting illegal immigrants. Among the most prominent arguments is that they pose a security threat and that they bring crime, gangs and drugs to America. Opponents describe queue jumping, identity theft, the stealing of jobs from American workers and the economic burden due to the welfare, health care and educational costs of the immigrants’ children.
While there is truth in these complaints, not everything is quite as black and white as these opponents would argue. As I have pointed out elsewhere, a full 60% of the unlawful immigrant population in the United States has resided in this country for over 10 years. That’s a long time.
I have argued previously that some accommodation of unlawful immigrants is needed. However, since those who are not prepared to allow unlawful immigrants to stay in the United States are strident and outspoken, something has to be devised to satisfy these objectors while still making some arrangement possible for the unlawful immigrants to redeem themselves. My proposal is the flagpole route.
The Flagpole Route
In the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was still a superpower, Canada faced a problem similar to the one of unlawful immigrants in the United States. In the Canadian case, many normal, decent people were arriving from the former Soviet Union unlawfully. To deal with them, Canada devised the flagpole route: send the unlawful immigrants out of the country and then enable them to re-enter as lawful permanent residents.
Soviet immigrants in the Toronto area, for example, were sent down to Buffalo for processing and then returned to Canada with immigrant visas in hand. They traveled out “around the flagpole at the border” and then back in, so to speak.
My proposal would be to do the same with unlawful immigrants in the United States by sending them down to Mexico, for example ― to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez ― for processing and return. In other words, illegal immigrants would be required to leave the United States, and for doing so, they would be enabled to return to the United States with lawful status, subject to certain requirements.
What Should The Requirements Be?
The requirements should begin with the registration of each of the unlawful immigrants, immediately followed by the confirming of their identity through foreign passports, birth certificates or ID cards. After their identity is confirmed, they should obtain an F.B.I. police clearance, as well as a police clearance from their country of origin. Further, the applicants should be checked for any previous immigration problems, such as previous deportations.
These police and immigration clearances would determine whether the applicant could be eligible for relief from deportation. From police clearance to immigration clearance, the most important element would be to ensure the applicant was not among the unauthorized immigrants who have committed crimes in the United States or abroad and was not a security risk to the country.
The next step would be to undergo a medical exam and receive a medical clearance to ensure that the applicant did not have any contagious diseases. Thereafter, applicants would go through an interview with relevant authorities to determine the duration of their residence in the United States, their family ties, their source of employment and their main source of income. This interview would entail a determination that the applicant’s income taxes had been paid as nearly as possible and that they would be prepared to serve 500 hours of community service if granted permission to stay in the United States; if they agreed, they would be provided advance parole to return as legal residents. This parole would be similar in nature to the kind currently granted to the spouses of U.S. citizens who must leave the U.S. to re-enter legally.
Processing of the unlawfully present immigrant population will undoubtedly need prioritization. For processing prioritization, I would suggest this order:
- Single males under 40 years of age because this is the group that poses the most danger to the security of the United States and therefore should be registered as soon as possible. The remaining immigrants can be processed based on humanitarian considerations.
- Widows and widowers and orphaned children.
- Disabled people.
- Family members of current United States citizens (along the lines of DACA and DAPA).
- Hardship cases (loss of relative, extreme medical issue, and the like.)
This order is similar to what former deputy assistant secretary of immigration policy Mary Giovagnoli has outlined previously.
In short, this policy would relieve the pressures that a failing immigration system currently exerts on everyone who is frustrated by illegal immigration while creating a way to fairly deal with unlawfully present immigrants. What is especially important is that the means proposed would result in some 10 million volunteers each doing 500 hours of community service work. Can you imagine how much such an army of volunteers could improve our lives in America by working in our nursing homes with the elderly and our hospitals with the sick, cleaning the streets and highways and building homes with Habitat for Humanity? Such a program could transform America forever.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.