Illegal immigration is one of the most pressing issues that America is facing today. It is our foreign policy, it is our domestic policy. Yet, since President Bush's amnesty bill failed in 2007, no legitimate attempts at immigration reform have been attempted. The blame should fall directly onto the shoulders of Barack Obama. Rather than pushing through a solution to this problem, newly-elected democrats in 2008 spent, spent, spent, tried to stop global warming, put the clamps on corporations and passed their healthcare monster. But Obama made a decision not to prioritize the cause of the Latino people in this nation who are here illegally, anticipating a solution and hoping for someone to fight for them and give them a path to citizenship. Now that he is powerless to do anything about it and with elections on the horizon, it seems that Obama may be ready to talk about immigration.
But Republicans should beat him to the punch January 2013 after winning everything and not be afraid to be that path to citizenship for these people. This is easier said than done. The republican base opposes immigration reform without being insured that this will never happen again. Alternatively, democrats will never allow republicans to reform immigration on their own as they are afraid of losing this new base of voters forever.
Democrats have not rushed to reform immigration because they are waiting us out. Most illegal immigrants that have come to America have children. Many of those children were born in America and are now American citizens. Like it or not, those kids are here legally and just as much a citizen as you or I. The other thing about those citizens is that they are future voters. As soon as these kids turn 18 they will be legal voters. This wasn't so scary in 2007 when President Bush tried to reform the system. Now we are almost five years down the road and five years closer to the birthday's of illegal immigrant's legal sons or daughters. In 2012, Republicans have one last chance to get out in front of the immigration conundrum. If they wait longer, they may be out of luck. If Republicans win in 2012 but don't look to help these people they will have insured them as democratic voters for years if not a generation. If republicans then hand power back over to democrats in 2016 or 2020 it will then be their game to play. But republicans can fix the problem now, please the base, create a new base and actually lead on an important issue while democrats bury their head in the sand.
First, lets admit that these people here are here to stay. We can't put them on trucks and send them south. They are here and their kids are voting. America is a land of immigrants and that should be reflected in our domestic policy and legal immigration is about the only option we have.
Republicans should seek to play this game for keeps. With a republican president and a republican Congress, they can do it. Any measure to stop future illegals from entering the country will ensure that America never has to do so again.
Here is how:
1.) Secure the borders.
First and this must be unequivocal, we have to secure the border with a fence stretching the entire length of the U.S. It has to be done. Republicans won't even discuss this issue without border security and with good reason. A nation-state cannot be secure as long as people are sneaking in and weakening the system or worst. The fence. The fence. The fence. That is the key to getting republicans to talk while immigration reform in and of itself is what should make democrats want to come to the table to talk.
2.) Welfare reform.
America's history has been one of seeking out hard working immigrants and allowing the best, brightest and the hardest working immigrants to become Americans. America is not a charity. We are seeking to improve our economy, create jobs, and move our nation forward into this century. Unfortunately, the current conundrum doesn't allow us to pick and choose who we want and therefore we accept 12 million people most of who are living in poverty and uneducated. We must combat that and keep our economy strong. Obviously our system cannot bare 12 million new people using our welfare programs. An immigration bill should include some sort of welfare reform to make sure we aren't just bankrupting ourselves and the system.
Currently, America houses an underclass of people that have been relying on government assistance for generations. They feel better off on the system than off of it and many of them are so comfortable that they have forgotten how to take the chances necessary to succeed. There has to be a provision in the bill that pushes families that can work to work. We have to clamp down on this before we bankrupt our own system.
Additionally, this bill shouldn't provide any special ways for applicants to earn money for an education that is not available to the general public. Make them earn it. No special favors. They broke the law but we are willing to forgive that.
3.) A path to citizenship.
Citizenship should not be amnesty or an immediate citizenship free of charge as a reward for breaking the law. Likewise, it cannot be a partial citizenship or status or one that takes an eternity to achieve. That wouldn't be right. It needs to be something that puts all applicants on the proper path to citizenship quickly and efficiently.
4.) Enforcement mechanisms.
If an illegal has a way to become a citizen yet chooses to remain working in the black labor market, not paying taxes having no legal accountability, we have to come down hard on these people. There as to be punishments for breaking the law. We have to deport law-breakers after this and we have to be serious about it.
5.) The path to citizenship must be cheap, free or service-oriented.
Most illegal aliens do not have the money to pay attorney's fees, filing fees, etc. It has to be affordable for all people. Providing service to the military has been thrown around by many democrats. Service to this country is a great way to make illegals earn their citizenship through service to their country. This is a great idea. It provides a pay-off for a job well done. It will help these people learn the English language. It will build their loyalty and appreciation.
These are the cornerstones to a republican immigration reform bill that a few democrats should be able to vote for. Republicans have to lead on this because democrats will not and 2013 is the perfect opportunity to do the right thing and be rewarded politically for doing so.