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An Incentive based solution to Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration presents a significant dilemma to America.  We are a nation of immigrants and as such it is somewhat hypocritical to prevent others from participating in the success we enjoy.  But we have to balance this with our security concerns.  Even more importantly, we have to create a solution that is fiscally responsible.

The problem with illegal immigration is that it is full of political issues.  First, there are concerns about granting amnesty and the rule of law.  This argument uses the logic that anything less than full prosecution for current illegals would be condoning their actions.  The reality is that it is logistically impossible to prosecute 30 million people for being in the country illegally.  We've never had the manpower or motivation up to this point, so we need to find another solution.

Next are concerns about worker displacement.  This is really an argument against Globalization which is like taking a stand against nightfall. It's going to happen whether you like it or not.  If cheap labor isn't allowed to immigrate into the country, then companies will simply outsource the work to foreign countries.  Thus, we lose not only the worker, but any associated economic benefit from them being in the country.

A moderately popular approach is to build a wall on the southern border.  This is folly.  The southern border is over 2,000 miles long.  At nearly $8 billion, we can’t afford to build such a monstrosity, much less maintain it. This ignores the fact that it just won’t work. “Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man, can be destroyed by him.”, George S. Patton.  Any group of people, sufficiently motivated can breach the wall. 

And motivated they are.  The per capita income is the U.S. is $45,500 per year.   Mexico’s is $12,800 and it is the highest in Latin America.  The only way to combat against this level of reward is to craft a solution that plays to demand rather than enforces an idealist behavioral code.  Immigration will happen whether we like it or not, therefore we need an approach that makes the most of the situation.

The solution should embrace a few simple facts.  First, given the pay disparity between the U.S. and Mexico and other Latin American countries, no border or rule is going to deter illegal immigration. Any quotas, time delays or other impediments to immediate entry will create a market for illegal entry.  The process needs to fair and streamlined, but capable of implementing the minimal safety standards we need for security of the U.S.

Second, the penalty for violation of the rules needs to be domestic jail time.  Simple deportation isn't sufficient. The penalties need to be stiff relative to compliance.  Thus, in order to prevent draconian sentencing, the path to residency needs as smooth as possible. 

A solution that fits with the problem is as follows:

  1. Allow all comers to enter the United States.  No restrictions, assuming they have no criminal record or previous violations.  Cost of entry would be to submit to fingerprinting, retina or DNA scan.  This scan will be used to determine if they have committed previous violations.  They must also give an address that they will be residing.  Failure to update the address within 30 days can result in deportation. Existing illegals must go to one of the immigration centers to begin the process.  There will be a 12 month amnesty during which they can apply.
  2. All new entrants would immediately be given a guest visa that allows them to stay while employed. This visa would have a guest social security number.  All new entrants would be allowed 90 days to find work.  Verification would be made by check for a tax balance posted to the guest SSN.  Exceeding the 90 day limit without work would be a felony subject to 1 year in prison and deportation upon completion of sentence. 
  3. Upon proof of work or income, guest workers would be allowed to receive basic benefits of residency, i.e. Children under 18 can attend schools and are fully covered in health care, etc.  Unemployment can be drawn after one year of work for a maximum of 90 days.  Welfare, social security and other benefits would not be available as a guest, but credit would be given if they become a naturalized citizen. 
  4. Committing a felony would result in the immediate revoking of their guest visa and deportation.  They can apply to reenter the U.S. in 5 years. Application is subject to approval by Homeland Security.
  5. Individuals attempting to enter the U.S. after having their guest worker visa revoked are committing a felony and punishable by FIVE (5) years in prison and deportation after completion or their sentence. 
  6. Individuals caught illegally in the country without a visa are committing a felony and subject to 10 years in prison and deportation after completion of sentence.
  7. Anyone that shows a 90% employment rate for 5 years can apply to become a permanent citizen. 


Law abiding immigrants will jump at the change to be legally in the country.  There is no incentive to enter illegally, unless you’ve had your visa revoked or up to no good.  Thus law enforcement resources can be much smaller.  The number of these cases will be far smaller that the flood of immigrants we have now.  Job satisfaction should be higher since the individuals that they focus on are demonstrably deficient in some way. 

Potential terrorists will have submitted verifiable evidence at the border, if they crossed legally.  They must be locatable or they can be deported.  If they cross illegally, they will not be moles.  It will be harder for them to find employment and assimilate into the economy.  They will be completely underground, which ironically makes them easier to spot.  It’s hard to stay underground and have any access to anything.  Renting to an illegal could be construed as conspiracy to commit a felony.  Since there will be far fewer of these cases, it would be realistic to prosecute them.

Since there is no rational reason for an upstanding individual to enter illegally, the pool of illegals will far less desirable.    Individuals here illegally have been up to no good and would be a poor risk for a potential employer. Thus there will be no incentive to hire them. Employing them could be construed providing material support for a felony. Again, since there will be far fewer of these cases, it would be realistic to prosecute them.

As the there is an incentive to be a taxpayer, cash economies and tax dodging would be far reduced.  Guest workers would strive to be documented in order to receive the benefits of the program such as possible citizenship.  Thus, there should be an increased revenue base from the immigrant population. 

Additionally, since there are incentives to be documented, there will be pressure to properly involve themselves in society, purchasing insurance, etc. This would be a stimulus to the economy as a whole.  With regard to guest workers that send money out the country to their home, this money has been taxed, as opposed to illegal cash funds that do not contribute to the tax base.

The clean criminal record requirement would be an additional incentive to properly assimilate in society.  The punishment for a serious conviction can far outweigh a simple slap on the wrist in relation to the sentence.  Guest workers would be far less temped to engage in criminal enterprise if they have any interest in becoming a citizen or long term resident.


Potential Downsides:

People crossing illegally would have far more to lose.  Their numbers would be much smaller, however, they would be far more likely be dangerous than your typical immigrant.  Additionally, a significant portion could be involved in smuggling and the drug trade, greatly increasing the danger.

Privacy questions would be raised by identity scans at the border.  In order for this to work everyone crossing the border would need to be scanned, with the possible exception of passport holders.   Privacy issues should be balanced by the opportunity to work in the U.S.

Privacy questions would also be raised concerning the reporting requirements of the law.  There would be no provisions for anonymity by guest works.  This right is only enjoyed by U.S. Citizen.  The trade off is the right to enter and work in the country.  This would be similar to the tradeoff in obtaining a security clearance.  You generally sign away your 1st amendment rights for the right to access classified material.

For this work, there will need to be an investment in computing technology to allow agencies to track guest workers.  This needs to be automated to a high degree. There also needs to be random physical address verification processes.  These costs should be easily offset by the increase revenue from guest worker taxpayers.

The proper solution to the immigration problem is one that resolves itself well if the demand associated with the issue is examined.  The illegal immigrant is an individual with a unique ability to take risk. By crafting legislation that understands the drives of the immigrant, rather than implementing the wishes of political groups, we can work toward a solution that is fair,

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