April 15, 2006

Get an A? Welcome to America!

Recent immigration protests have underscored a truth about America. Despite what Europeans (and others) may think about the United States, people still want in. And we let them in. The OECD estimates about 4 million immigrants per year, of which the highest proportion are Mexican.

The first question that we are tempted to ask is why we don't simply raise the number of legal immigrants to America, or stop quotas altogether. There are a few key reasons:

1. It is an issue too politically divisive. Like abortion, politicians are happy to support the status quo rather than alienate one half or the other of their constituency.
2. We simply don't know how many people want to come to America. Eliminating quotas may open the floodgates, and we don't know how many immigrants any economy can support.
3. Eliminating illegal immigration would also eliminate the primary benefit of immigrants. Right now illegal immigrants are not entitled to a minimum wage or any sort of employee benefits, and our economy benefits from their illegal, cheap labor.

Immigration reform has become a hot topic, but both sides have been fueled by emotion and rhetoric more than by practical solutions. Immigrants need to recognize the necessity, especially post 9/11, of protecting our borders. They need to recognize that the reason that America is worth coming to is because we take good care of our economy.

I am happy to present, only partially tongue-in-cheek, the solution:

When a medical school wants to decide whether someone can become a doctor, they must meet certain qualifications, receive certain marks and certain test scores. It is time that we start grading our immigrants.

I suggest that we set up a very liberal guest worker program. We let millions of people into America every year, and then weed them out into who gets to stay. Immigrants would have no voting rights, no minimum wage, and no right to welfare. But, they would have the right to be here, live here, and work here. We would have a testing period of 5 years or so, after which we would decide who could apply for citizenship and who could not.

A Students: Immigrants who remain employed throughout their time in the United States, who pay their taxes, learn English, eat their vegetables, etc. These immigrants would automatically be eligible for citizenship, on a fast-track.

B Students: Immigrants with an almost perfect record. They may have been unemployed for short periods of time, but have been actively seeking employment. These immigrants are next in line.

C Students: Immigrants who are only working sporadically, don't learn any English, etc.

F Students: Immigrants who commit crimes, choose not to work for extended periods of time, etc. We should deport them as soon as possible.

By being very generous in giving immigrants a chance to prove themselves, we have the right to be more strict with those who try to bend the rules, including illegal immigrants. By allowing people to enter legally we could keep much better track of them, and we could be much more aggressive in securing the borders, and prosecuting those who enter illegally.

In this way we would maintain the benefits of immigration: cheap labor, integration of new cultures, and the reinforcement of America as a country willing to take in "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free". This plan also replies to the objections of the anti-immigrationists. By ensuring that only the economically stable are allowed to stay there is no need to worry about the economic disaster predicted by some. It also allows us to patrol the borders more effectively, and discover potential terrorists much easier.

Admit it, it's a good idea.

Comments? Post them or e-mail me at jdfoote1@gmail.com

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