Immigration is a very important and emotional issue and there are very few positions, if any, that will make everyone happy and serve all the competing interests. I’ve written extensively on this topic at my website: A Hollywood Republican. If you go there, you will see detailed explanations of all the points I am going to make. The main article is Immigration Reform – No Citizenship
For the record at this time, however, I want to state exactly what I think and feel on this issue. It will also be easier seeing it here in a concise format than having to work through a long article.
First, let’s be clear: illegal immigrants have broken the law. You cannot begin any discussion of immigration without acknowledging this simple fact. If you refuse to acknowledge it, you cannot take a position that makes any sense or will be accepted by a majority of the country.
Having acknowledging that, however, you also have to realize the personal stories behind this activity. The United States of America has always been a country that welcomes immigrants and, in fact, has thrived on the contributions of immigrants. My wife is an immigrant. My grandparents were immigrants who came through Ellis Island. Almost all of my friends have immigrant backgrounds within two or three generations, or have immigrant spouses. Having open arms to those who seek to enjoy the freedoms and rewards of living in this great country is what America is all about. Indeed, very few people trace their ancestry in the US back more than 150 years.
Keeping all this in mind, people who have crossed the border illegally or who have overstayed their visas simply cannot get the same benefits as those people who have gone through the long and tedious process to come here legally. It is not fair to those who have not broken the law that those who have get the same benefits and treatment.
Thus, what I propose is that illegal immigrants in this country have two options:
- Return to their country and go through the process legally of coming to the United States. If you do this, you will be treated just like every applicant for a green card and will get all the benefits of becoming a legal immigrant; or,
- Stay in the United States and apply for “permanent green card” status. They will have most of the benefits of a US Citizen, except they can never be one. Accordingly, they will not be able to vote. They will also have to pay some sort of penalty for the period they were here illegally. How that penalty is applied (through taxes, a flat fee or some other measure) can be determined later.
For immigrants who choose the second option, they will no longer have to face the fear of criminal liability and deportation. Their children, if they were born here, will continue to live in America with their parents as US citizens. If the parents do not choose this option, and the children were too young to make a decision on their own, that could be dealt with through DREAM legislation.
This solution takes into account all sides of the issue. As I said, it will not make everyone happy, but it does provide a relatively simple answer to a difficult question.