Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Good Idea Out Of Washington, Shocking But True

Probably very few people in America aren't aware of the huge issue border control and illegal immigration have become in recent months. The ripples continue to spread from this giant stone that has been dropped in the waters of American politics. John Fund, writing at The Wall Street Journal editorial page, looks at how the questions involved will affect the upcoming election, how the illegal immigration issue is conflicting the GOP, as well as how Congress will resolve the impasse between the two pieces of legislation coming out of the House and Senate that take disparate approaches to facing the problems at hand.

All of this is important stuff, and the opinion piece from Fund kept me reading. However, what really got my notice was when Fund explained an idea coming from Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, that I think is quite brilliant. The House has passed an enforcement only bill, focused on securing the border. The Senate passed a bill that deals with securing the border to a degree, but also adds a guest worker proposal that is basically the equivalent of amnesty for the people who have come into the country illegally, but managed to get away with it for long enough to establish lives here. (I don't think a guest worker program is by nature an amnesty, but the way the Senate wrote it there's very little else you can call it.) The House has made it clear they are going to dig in their heels, as is the Senate, which could lead to a no-resolution situation, and both pieces of legislation dying on the vine. The result? No action on the issue of border control, or on what to do about the illegals already here.

Along comes Rep. Pence's idea:

His proposal (which can be found here) would have the U.S. government contract with gold-standard private employment agencies such as Kelly Services to establish offices called Ellis Island Centers in countries that supply the most illegal alien labor today. The centers would provide an incentive for illegals to leave the country and apply for guest-worker visas in the U.S. that would be granted within a week by matching workers with jobs employers can't fill with American workers. They would also make criminal and other background checks. Guest workers would be able to apply for citizenship, but they would have to follow current rules with no favoritism over those now waiting legally in line.

"It would encourage illegal aliens to self-deport and come back legally as guest workers," says Mr. Pence. "They would benefit from no longer living in fear or in the shadows of life and they could return home for visits. And since employers who hired anyone without such a visa would face stiff fines, it would make it increasingly difficult over time for those who weren't legal guest workers to get jobs."

I don't know where this will end up heading, but it's such a good idea, having at its core what is most necessary in this situation: incentive to cooperate for the people who are currently hiding in the shadows of our country. Mass deportations simply aren't practical, and yet there are so many reasonable arguments for not just handing legal status to people who have broken our laws, no matter how strong their incentive to do so, that we simply must have this kind of creative thinking coming out of Washington. Setting these centers up in the countries where most illegal immigrants originate provides an incentive to leave the country voluntarily, since without doing so they can't register for legal jobs, and eventually become eligible for citizenship. One of my favorite things about this idea is that it uses private sector companies to run these remote employment agencies, not a huge government bureaucracy.

I was so taken with this notion, that I actually wrote Rep. Pence's office to say thanks, and he's not even my Congressman. He's not even from my state!! There are politicians on both extremes of the illegal immigration/border debate who are voicing objection, for all of their various reasons, but I was encouraged to see some creative middle ground. Here's where you can contact him if you agree that this kind of thinking should be encouraged.

HT: Instapundit

Update: I got a request in the comments to save my readers some time and tell them how they can get in touch with their own Representatives. Your wish is my command. However, since I don't know where everyone who reads this site lives, I've linked to some general contact sites for the House and Senate, and you can select your Rep. from a list. Okay? Here's a link to the House of Representatives, where you can write your Congressperson. Here's a link to follow to contact your Senators.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to save your readers some research time, tell us where to send an email to our own congressmen telling them we like Pence's idea. It is a great one.