Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Immigration Reform for Today and Tomorrow

The United States plays an important role in the world by providing a relatively neutral place where people from diverse backgrounds can explore news ways to resolve old conflicts and take advantage of new forms of mutually beneficial cooperation. This is enabled by strong support for human rights, equal citizenship, and opportunities to pursue one’s own definition of a satisfying way of being.

The United States is home to the largest immigrant population in the world [1]. Despite the ongoing debate regarding illegal immigration from Mexico, the United States is demonstrably Pro-Mexican immigration. It allows more legal immigrants from the nation of Mexico than from any other nation [2]. However, illegal immigration has left many liberals confused about the proper response to the arrival of millions of residence that are not participating in the democratic process, the legal justice system, or labor regulations.

Even if granting amnesty and a realistic pathway to citizenship is the answer for the current group of illegals, how should we address illegal immigration in the future? Existing laws already punish employers for employing illegals and the boarder fence is offensive and ineffective [3–4].

Perhaps the solution is to make punishments extra harsh for employers that are caught EXPLOITING illegal immigrants, not just employing them. If an employer is caught employing illegal immigrants with illegal pay, or illegal working conditions, they should be aggressively punished. If an employer is caught employing an illegal immigrant while providing them with legal wages and legal working conditions, then the employer should be given a probationary period — during which they must prove that there is an actual labor shortage. If they can do so, then the workers should be granted work visas and a reasonable pathway to citizenship. If they can not prove a labor shortage then at least the illegal workers would have been given a probationary period during which they could prepare to return to their nation of origin.

This rule should lead to employers following labor regulations and providing fair compensation — even when working with illegal immigrants. Consequently, the domestic labor market should be more likely to adjust to labor shortages by increasing compensation and benefits — instead of incentivizing employers to compete based on willingness to exploit desperate workers. The main incentive an employer should have to hire illegal immigrants is to fill positions during an ACTUAL LABOR SHORTAGE — where adjusting compensation has proven ineffective. If an actual labor shortage occurs, then the United States would be properly motivated to increase the number of legal workers that it accepts for work visas, permanent residence, and naturalization. Those immigrants that have already indicated that they are capable, and willing, to work in an industry that is experiencing a labor shortage would naturally be preferred. This approach may lead to an immigration system that is more responsive to economic fluctuations and that resists exploitation.

Another part of the solution could be for Mexican-American US citizens to work with the Nation of Mexico to create US style communities along the highways going into the US. These towns could work as staging places for those wishing to eventually immigrate and as a place for people to return to when their work visas have expired or when they are deported for other reasons. This could present a good opportunity for US-Mexican business people to create businesses that have a presence on both sides of the border. There could also be multi-lingual educational opportunities and a distinct style of shared US-Mexican culture. The US and Mexico may have to work together to police the towns to guard them against drug cartels, but the US should not infringe on Mexican autonomy.

A related question is ‘how should we feel about assimilation’? In the past assimilation has been associated with liberal movements that seek to unify people under a single political ideology — independent of ethnicity, religion or nation of origin. However, when liberals encounter non-whites, we tend to feel guilty about asking them to assimilate in ways that erode their distinct ethnic heritage. The compromise that I propose is this:

Citizens must assimilate to the point that they are able to participate in the U.S. Democratic process and the U.S. Legal Justice System. All other assimilation should be optional.

[1] http://goo.gl/DN4nN4
[2] http://goo.gl/8ZSRi0
[3] http://goo.gl/PSp4u7
[4] http://goo.gl/MBvJ32

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