As we know Republicans are about to regain control of the House of Representatives. According to reports a top priority is beefing up enforcement on illegal immigration and increasing the number of deportations.
The just completed lame duck session of Congress failed to enact the "Dream Act" that would have given children of illegal immigrant's legal status, particularly those who were brought here under the age of 16 and are now under 30. The act passed in the still Democratic House but was thwarted in the Senate, never reaching the floor for a vote. It stands little chance of passing in the new Congress.
In coming Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King, (R., N.Y.) and Lamar Smith, (R. TX) the new Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee have both indicated their top priority is getting tough on illegal immigrants who they say are taking jobs away from those here legally. There is no evidence to substantiate such a claim but it apparently resonates with their xenophobic constituency.
Let's take a glimpse of the issue illegal immigration. According to the government there are 11 million undocumented aliens in the country, though some estimates range as high as 20 million.
The problem has existed since the 1960's when the influx of Latinos from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras entered the country many illegally. Jobs were plentiful in the manual labor service industries', employers in the industries (construction, landscaping, food service, hospitals, janitorial and maid services, fruits and vegetables et.al) needed low skilled, low wage workers. Yet the domestic pool of people willing to take such jobs (with low pay and few benefits) was diminishing. So with border security lax illegal aliens from poor Central American countries began pouring in and filled the void. In so many ways it was typical American capitalisms' solution of supply and demand.
However, with the demographics of an expanding Latino presence hard to ignore and with the events of 9/11 and the fear of terrorism, lax border security became a paramount concern (even though the anxiety of Islamic fundamentalist extremists being within our midst and illegal immigrants are unrelated). It seems with irrational fear (of terrorists and terrorism) illegal aliens become convenient scapegoats and all "foreigners" i.e. non white, become suspect.
But returning to the issue of illegal immigration what is a major complication is though many may be here illegally, many (most) of their children were born, raised, and went to school here. America is all they know. It is their home. And being born here they are automatically citizens.
Congress meanwhile has acquiesced and failed to come to grips with enacting any real immigration reform. Republicans en masse have resisted any reform that includes legalization of undocumented aliens. Most Democrats support their legalization but have been lax on border security and the profiling of Latinos generally (who they see as a part of their constituency). With such diametrically opposed attitudes of the problem reform has languished and nothing has been done. Any middle ground gets lost between the two extremes.
This may not be the time to offer recommendations to rectify our illegal immigration problem (with Republicans in the ascendency) but nonetheless here are some suggestions:
To begin with there needs to be a multi pronged approach to the problem of illegal immigration. Extreme harshness (deport them all) or legalize them all (without penalties and no questions asked) are not solutions. They are simply roadblocks.
Republicans must realize it is logistically impossible to round up 11 million people and deport them. What about the children of illegals born here? As citizens they can not be deported. Do you break up families, deporting the parents and make the children wards of the state? It would be a new form of slavery with a return to the separation of families. This seems lost on Republicans who remain adamantly opposed to any avenues of citizenship for illegal aliens.
But a path to citizenship must be a priori to any solution. Have illegals pay a fine as a penalty, but provide them the opportunity to attain complete legal status.
On the enforcement end of the problem Democrats must realize there needs to be beefed up border security. The border can not be an open sieve so increase the number of border patrol agents and increase surveillance.
The other part of enforcement involves employers hiring illegal aliens. To assist employers, national registration cards would need to be issued to all non citizen aliens (including those here illegally who would need to be enrolled in a citizenship program and thus eligible for legitimate employment) so employers could easily check a computerized national registry before hiring new workers.
At present there is no way employers can verify and confirm the legal status of all their employees.
Of course many employers intentionally ignore the law against hiring illegal aliens knowing as they do the chances of their being held accountable are slim at best. With current enforcement minimal new laws mandating considerable penalties against employers would be mandatory for those who flout the law.