Immigrants march for more rights in Northern California’s largest city, San Jose in 2006.
America needs immigrants, and immigrants need America. There may be fences or walls along our borders, but immigrants will get in somehow.
The process of immigrants getting into America may result in the most competitive people coming to the country, but there can and should be ways to make it more humane, and reflect the virtues of American generosity and hospitality.
I am addressing primarily the needs of poor immigrants, who are preyed on in their home countries, along the way to America, and after they reach America. The bulk of U.S. immigration is from Mexico and Central America. There are about 12 million illegal immigrants in America.
Honest immigrants soon find that they cannot reach America by standing in line at a U.S. Embassy. They find that less honest people are crossing the border on foot, helped by agents or coyotes, who charge a small fortune for their services. Criminals thrive in the lands just south of the border. The market for their services can be crushed overnight by making visas available through consulates and embassies at least 100 miles away from the US border.
I propose that a simple 9-month visa be made available to perhaps one million Mexicans annually, by applying in person without a representative, and filling a form in Spanish. The applicants will have to be screened for criminal records, and a biometric profile will be established. Those with criminal pasts will be automatically excluded from legal immigration.
For a first-time non-immigrant visitor, a nine-month visit will be a chance to see America, get a job, and prove oneself. If an immigrant overstays this visit, he/she will be denied or delayed a repeat visit, so it will be in his/her interest to follow the law and leave ahead of the deadline. Immigrants often leave loved ones behind, and the process of going to America and not being able to return for a long time can be hard on the roots and relationships that keep a person mentally and emotionally healthy. By a short training program, the non-immigrant visitor should be taught the importance of obeying U.S. immigration law.
An immigrant will be allowed to apply for a second visa after a minimum 3-month stay outside the US. On the second application, the immigrant would need to fill a form in English without help from an attorney or representative. The second visa would be for 21 months. Preference would be given to those who have a letter of hire from a prospective U.S. employer, putting a value on the quality of the person, and the kind of service rendered to the employer during the first 9 month visit.
After the second visa stay of 21 months and a three-month visit home, visitors will be allowed to apply for a third non-immigrant visitor visa for up to 36 months, and apply for permanent residence, based on job history and demand for certain skills, proficiency in English, and absence of a criminal record.
These steps will reduce the number of attorneys and agents that often profit criminally on the prospective immigrants. They will cause immigrants to desire to learn English. They will enable immigrants to establish themselves in America, while maintaining and nourishing their ties to their families and relatives. They will decrease the pressure to cross the border illegally, and drive down criminal activities in the border communities, where drug smuggling intersects with illegal immigration.
A selective system of admitting large numbers of immigrants, permitting them to work, encouraging the use of English, and allowing them to return home for family visits will reduce the reward of entering illegally, and being beholden to coyotes or other criminal groups. While the initial intake rate of one million a year will cause a stampede, it will lead to an orderly process within a few years, and currently illegal immigrants will be tempted to leave and enter legally if they know that there is a reliable and honest system in place. In time, it will drain the U.S. of illegal visitors, who will see a clearer path to immigration for themselves and their families.
There are many who stand in judgment over the illegals in America. The legal process for immigration has been broken for years. It was broken when I applied for a visa in 1979 and was denied entry. It was broken when I paid for ads in newspapers to prove that no Americans were able to do the job for which I was being hired. It is still broken with hundreds of immigration lawyers profiting from plying a trade that was never needed at Ellis Island. It is so broken that I am unable to bring my staff from overseas plants to America for training, causing us to send Americans overseas to do the training.
Let us move from condemning the immigrants to smoothing their way into America with better policies. Increased legal immigration will help pay for Social Security and grow our economy. Immigrants have to buy everything that they did not bring on their backs, from toothbrushes to cars and houses. A bigger economy makes opportunities for many, native and immigrant alike.
Marian B. Noronha
10 Dec 2011
Fixing a broken immigration system
Posted on December 12, 2011