I couldn't help but be affected today by this article from journalist Andres Oppenheimer on "immigration reform". This is a very divisive topic in the USA that few seem to have an objective handle on.
Having been through more immigration "labyrinths" than the average guy, I can personally speak to the ridiculous bureaucracies of most modern day governments...not just the USA. Between Latin America and the USA, I swear that immigration bureaucracies are the most corrupt and ineffective of all government offices.
For me, the top three wasteful bureaucracies in the USA are immigration, drug enforcement, and "Department of Defense"...not necessarily in that order. If I were attempting to balance the US budget...which seems to an increasingly politically correct priority in government at least at this hour...I would probably find creative ways to cut budgets of all three divisions of these failing bureaucracies...in HALF.
Costs for incarceration of illegal immigrants is running around $6.7 Billion annually. 27% of all prisoners in Federal custody are criminal illegal aliens and the majority (63%) of those are Mexican citizens. In the midst of this you have a large bureaucratic budget that is not working. The cost of that dysfunction to our society in the USA alone is many times more than the incarceration budget. For me this continues to underline the ineptitude of governments to run any kind of business, let alone immigration.
Here are some high level solutions/ideas that come to mind that I would initiate if I were "King"...
I would take all the paper and in-person processes of immigration and redirect as much as possible "online". No paper and no paper money transactions. The first barrier to immigration would be you have to have internet access and a verifiable online identity to gain entry into the USA along with a digital money way to pay the fees. I estimate this alone would save 50-60% of the processing costs at immigration. It would eliminate unnecessary, expensive jobs in the system and right away force applicants to have enough money, education and traceability to be able to communicate with immigration through computers. Obviously the USA doesn't want the poor and illiterate any longer anyways. To gain entry to the USA you would need a debit card, mobile money or some form of identity attached to your funds..proving you have enough to sustain yourself for a period of time.
I would grant a one time amnesty to all current illegals in the USA who do not have criminal records. Once again, this process would not be "in person", but online verification only. There would be one final in-person interview to match up the required documentation with the identity of the person...not the 3+ in-person touches and standing in lines demanded by the current approach. These people would be granted a national ID card, different than citizenship, that would allow them to work and compete with their ideas in the USA system. This approach would put all of these undocumented workers immediately into the "system" from which the government taxes and pays for all of society's services. It would be illegal to grant work to anyone that does not have a passport or national ID card. The national ID card would not guarantee participation in the Social Security system. These workers would not pay into social security, nor gain any benefits from said system
Any illegals who have a criminal record would be immediately exported...OR...if their crimes are serious enough they would be put into labor camps...not prison cells. These labor camps would include education opportunities and teaching skills and trades that these people could use for acquiring jobs when/if they reenter society. Meantime, they would "work off" their cost of incarceration by performing labor. This could be anything from basic computer work, to cleaning the streets and parks of America...or making license plates like they USED to. No more "free bed and breakfast" in the USA penitentiary system. This whole thing could become a social support center of productivity and learning. Most criminals are never "rehabilitated" and return to society with a record and no jobs. No wonder they often become hardcore criminals and repeat offenders of society.
While the USA constitution covers basic rights of ALL mankind...there are many "rights" that are or SHOULD BE reserved for "citizens only". Foreigners should not have the same access to public education or social services as residents and citizens. Any "foreigner" caught with a gun or convicted of a felony should be immediately expelled from the USA without delay. The elimination of "due process" costs in our current system alone would more than cover the cost of deportation.
Immigration is a very complicated subject for me. I have many friends and acquaintances who have been forced to live "illegally" somewhere/sometime by the combination of their personal situations and/or the ridiculous barriers of immigration bureaucracies. In most cases, it is the process of immigration itself that is the cause for "illegal" pursuits. As I have written previously about Mexico immigration process...it is silly that we make applicants of Mexico come to border towns in order to process their applications and pay their fees...knowing we are going to refuse over 80% of the applicants. After they have spent their dismal life savings trying to come to "America", it is no wonder these hordes make a "swim for it" when denied access at a point so close to the "promised land". That is a core point for my idea of taking the process "online".
I also continue to believe that what makes America great is the diversity and "melting pot" of nationalities that call themselves Americans. While it is a given there are too many Hispanic criminal elements in America, there are also way too many white criminals. We must not discriminate based on race. Most Latinos are industrious, hardworking family members. Many of them were in "America" before the Europeans...don't forget that important fact.
Here are some eye-opening links with summaries should anyone want more statistics on the immigration problem:
During the year of 2005 there were MILLIONS of illegal aliens that crossed our southern border along with as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U. S from the Southern border. www.house.gov/sites/.../tx10.../pdf/Investigaions-Border-Report.pdf
If you believe Lou Dobbs: ...the estimates by the most authoritative and recent study put the suppressed wages at $200 billion a year, as a result of immigration, both legal and illegal. We know that...the estimated costs run about $50 billion for services... we provide $7 billion in Social Security taxes every year, as if that is some sort of reasonable offset. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.html
Way back in 2003, state governments spent an estimated $11 billion to $22 billion to provide welfare to immigrants. Those programs included Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Child Care and Development Fund, reduced meal programs in school and public housing. (Steven A. Camarota, "Back Where We Started: An Examination of Trends in Immigrant Welfare Use Since Welfare Reform," Center for Immigration Studies, March 2003) Immigration and Welfare
The total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.' http://www.nationalpolicyinstitute.org/publications/?b=deportation
In closing, I agree with Mr Oppenheimer's opinion related to the cost of enforcing current immigration policies...
My opinion: If President Barack Obama and Congress are seriously considering drastic cuts in public spending — including funds for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies — they should definitely cut waste in immigration enforcement spending.
At the very least, they should have a serious discussion on whether it makes sense to spend $4.5 billion in deporting people who have not committed serious crimes and do jobs that Americans don’t want to do, while slashing funds for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies whose job is to put serious criminals behind bars
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/18/2074648_us-should-cut-waste-in-immigration.html#storylink=addthis#ixzz1EWi1giHb