2019 Commentary 1 – Immigration
The essay that I wrote which led to the organization of FIF in 2008 was called “Simple Solutions to Complex Problems”. It was intended to focus attention on international issues that are indeed complex, but usually could be “managed” but not “solved”. Immigration is such a situation. It is an ongoing worldwide phenomenon which benefits both the individuals migrating and also their destination country. Uncontrolled immigration can create huge problems such as the Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe.
For the destination countries, the first step in managing a situation is to define the objectives that the governments wish to achieve. This is the problem…there is generally not a consensus on the objectives. Governments first should answer these questions:
Most countries welcome adults that can make a positive contribution through their labor and skills. Silicon Valley seeks high tech specialists, large cities need construction workers and farms need field workers. Children will have a longer period of dependency until they can begin to fulfill these roles. Hopefully, these expenditures will be an investment in a new generation of productive citizens.
2. Who do we wish to exclude?
Obviously, no country welcomes terrorists, drug dealers, rapists and other “bad guys”. The destination country also may wish to exclude entire groups such as Muslims who have a different culture and may not assimilate but form ghettos which become essentially outposts of their native lands. Recent immigrants in many European countries have created such undesirable centers.
3. How to separate the “Wheat from the Chaff”?
The first step is to establish the identity of every individual living in the host country. Knowing who is living in your country is a basic tenet of national sovereignty. Although some citizens may consider this is an invasion of their privacy, without accurate identity many problems, including voting, become unmanageable.
There are several actions that could be taken in response to these questions, as follows:
Issue National Identity Cards?
Almost all US citizens have either a Social Security card, driver’s license or a passport. India has recently adopted an identity system called Aadhaar which, as described in the Economist, is a 12 digit number tied to a person’s name, gender, address, date of birth and the biometric information of ten fingerprints and two iris scans…Aadhaar has achieved nearly complete coverage of India’s 1.3 billion residents. The US should adopt a smiliar system immediately.
Much of the ongoing political debate is what to do about the 12 million illegal estimated to live in the US. About 80% of these entered with legal visas but overstayed the term allowed and then disappeared into the country. The first step to address this problem is to require all visa applicants to get a new US national identity card along with their visas. This would be done at US Consular offices overseas. Guest workers could get ID cards from their employers.
Those individuals who entered the US illegally and have no criminal record to register should be offered immunity from deportation and have a defined path to citizenship when they registered for a national identity card. This is not “amnesty”, but common sense. The US essentially allowed them let them come into the country either by swimming across the Rio Grande or overstaying their visas. This was our fault by not enforcing our laws!
Finding most illegal citizens should be relatively easy. If they do not have a national identity card, they should not receive any government services, i.e. medical, driving, welfare, etc. The only alternative for holdouts would be to some “Sanctuary City” where they would probably be given a job in city government.
Finally, “The Wall”
I strongly believe that as a sovereign nation the US should have control over who can enter the country. This implies that border areas that are not legal entry points should have a barrier with signs denoting the border with drones to detect violators. The structure and locations of these barriers, including concrete walls, should be determined by experts in ICE who have the responsibility to bar illegal entry. It is not be necessary to construct a new Great Wall of China to accomplish this legitimate objective.
Byron K. Varme