Friday, March 21, 2008

So... Suppose I Broke Into Your House...

One of my friends in the retired military community forwarded me an email from some wanna be conservative that put forth the notion that the Mexican/Latin American illegal immigration problem was roughly equivalent to somebody breaking into my house, doing all the chores I don't like to do, and then claiming residential and family privileges - which is patent nonsense, so I responded with -

"Aren’t we forgetting that this country’s entire history is wave after wave of legal, and illegal, immigration (aka breaking into someone else’s house – if we are to stick with this analogy), the first of which was white European people breaking into the Native American house and then occupying every room of it over a period of 200 years, while killing off 90% of the original occupants in the process ? At every step of the way, one of the most significant driving forces has been cheap immigrant labor. Was slavery “legal immigration”? Was the virtual slavery of imported chinese labor on the western railroads and mines and along the west coast “legal immigration”? Was the profound exploitation of the Irish immigrants, many of whom were “illegals”, legal?

I agree with the notion that what’s going on right now isn’t right, but it’s profoundly disturbing to hear thinking people adopt “sound bite” positions that reflect little or no rational thought regarding our country, it’s needs, and their own personal origins. It’s simply not that simple. So here’s what I think -

1. Huge barriers on the border are manifestly and demonstrably unworkable. The thought that they are, or can be made to be, is sheer folly on a gargantuan scale. Beyond that, pursuing that solution reflects poorly on any true fiscal conservative because it’s a huge waste of taxpayer money. What we CAN, and should do, is stop trying to declare everything we don’t like, but has some basis in reality, illegal (so that we can engage in “enforcement” - which is an endless drain on resources that cannot be sustained), and make the process functionally legal (emphasis on FUNCTIONAL) so that it can be managed properly.

As an example, I am working on a Defense Department system for tracking defense contractors who are working in the battlespace with our troops. This was needed because of huge amounts of fraud, waste, and abuse that could not be effectively eliminated or managed because of the fact that we had no effective mechanism for tracking contractor activity and thus no way to refute bogus charges. Going forward we have not made defense contracting illegal but are instead developing a system for allowing them the full range of the required workspace but they will be identifiable, trackable, and the benefits to which they are entitled by their contract will be identifiable via their registered identification documents.

We need a legal and functional guest worker program that includes issuance of something roughly equivalent to a government CAC card that a guest laborer must have on them at all times. This would establish their legitimate right to work for any employer or a specific employer, with quick validation by computer, and stop putting the onus on the small business owner that just needs the labor offered. It would also, equally quickly, provide anyone who needs to know what benefits they are, or are not, entitled to while here, as well as their legitimacy in being here (based on things like is their employer paying taxes for them or are they paying taxes), and allow for tracking their movement and location within the country.

2. We need to reform the whole notion of National Defense. The Army should get real about their reserve needs and stop using the National Guard as the backup for their ridiculously undermanned and dysfunctional approach to Army Reserves. Staff the Army Reserve up to be the fully functional, properly trained, military component that is the Army’s (fancy that!) reserve force. Convert anyone who joined the National Guard but has Army oriented goals and desires to the Army Reserve. Everyone else, that never had the notion that they were joining the Army - with massively reduced benefits - by joining the National Guard, stays National Guard. Convert everyone in the Border Patrol to National Guard and make the National Guard a true homeland defense force, that is run militarily, and that protects our borders under the broader banner of defending the home territory of the United States – a job for which the US Army is patently unprepared – and manages the entry and exit of alien guest workers. Create a National Guard Reserve that is, you guessed it, the reserve force for the National Guard. These guys would be the ones who handle state level functions such emergency preparedness and disaster response, while being trained militarily to back up the active National Guard.

3. We need an intelligent policy for the illegal workers who are in our country NOW and who HAVE BEEN contributing to the country’s well being and sustainability by paying taxes (and potentially other functions) which MANY ARE DOING! We need to recognize that THEY HAVE CONTRIBUTED and provide a legal and disciplined path to citizenship for them. If they can prove their contributions to the system, they should have the benefits of that system but should assisted in their effort to do it right in a timely and functional fashion – a process that takes days and weeks NOT months and years. For those who have NOT been provably contributing they can shift over to the guest worker program and apply through a reformed immigration process that takes weeks and months, not years, to get the job done, and come in legally - or go home.

4. We need immigration reform – with a top priority focus on the effectiveness and timeliness of the process. The reformed process should provide for the guest worker program with varying durations based on skill set and occupation. The basic document of proof of right to work and benefits allowed would a federally controlled ID card process (see notes above). The H-1 status and various other unclear “guest worker provisions' that we already have that are not well managed, do not connect up with each other, and are not very effective would be rolled into an expanded, contiguous, and progressive function of immigration management, up to and including the process of applying for and being granted citizenship. An overhauled and reformed Immigration and Naturalization Service would be responsible for this. As Bill Gates stated the other day, we need to stop giving some of the best minds on the planet exemplary educations and then make it nearly impossible for those minds to get work in our country, thus loosing the potential creativity and opportunity that they offer and realistically sending it elsewhere. We also need to stop making criminals out of non-criminal people who are looking for legitimate opportunities (just like we would if we were faced with dire circumstances) and give them a legitimate and functional path to that work (see Item 1 above). If there is a recognizable social issue regarding something, making it illegal will only drive it underground. It will not stop it. Take a good look at the Prohibition period in this country.

5. For those who are here illegally, and are found to have a criminal background in their own country, immediate deportation to the country of origin and turn over to that country’s authorities.

6. For those who are here illegally, and who break our laws in the locality they are in, immediate deportation to the country of origin and turn over to that country’s authorities.

7. For anyone else here illegally, that doesn’t want to shift to the guest worker program, immediate deportation back to their country of origin.

Obviously there are a number of working details for the card system I propose or any of the other process reforms that I am promoting here that I am not providing the technical details for, and equally obviously, to a thinking man, this is NOT a problem the solution for which can be summed up in a sound bite. I have thought this through, I do have the details nailed down in what I believe are very workable and effective ways, and I will engage that discussion with anyone who’s honestly interested and doesn’t just want to hear their own self-destructive rhetoric on the wind.

Entirely too much of what is being said in the name of conservatism is actually just the insecure, jingoistic, parochial, and self-righteous thinking of a few being echoed on a national stage by many who want to be seen as part of SOME movement when the sources of conservative leadership in our country seem to have, at best, lost their vision or, at worst, sold out real conservatism.

That’s my two cents. 1/6.7 billionth of the world’s position on the subject. You heard it here first.

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