10 Steps to a Legal Nation
America must be a nation of laws.
Everyone in the United States should be here legally.
America also is a land of immigrants, and our lives, economy, and history have been enriched by immigration.
There has to be a robust and attractive program of legal immigration. There are major positive economic and social benefits to streamlining and simplifying our convoluted, broken visa process.
At the core of being American is a thorough understanding of American exceptionalism. We are a nation not defined by place or ethnic heritage, but by the collective understanding that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It is precisely these rights, freedoms and opportunities that have drawn ambitious, risk-seeking immigrants to our shores for four centuries.
It is essential that every native-born American and every immigrant learn about this exceptional heritage and our exceptional history.
1. No "comprehensive" plan can work. President Bush could not pass one during six years with a Republican Congress. President Obama could not pass one with a Democratic Congress. Immigration reform can be outlined as a complete proposal but has to be passed in a series of steps, with each one understood and passed on its own merits.
2. Under no circumstance can a path to citizenship be created which would allow those who have broken the law to receive precedence over those who patiently waited to become residents and citizens via the legal process. Those who adhered to our immigration law cannot be usurped by those who violated it.
3. We must reconcile the goal of legality with the reality that there are millions of immigrants currently here outside the law, some with a long set of family and community ties, and some with no ties. A system has to be established that establishes legality but no citizenship for those with deep ties, repatriates those with no family or community ties in a dignified way, and quickly sends home those who have committed criminal and other destructive acts.
1. Control the border.
The United States must control its border. It is a national security imperative.
Every nation has the right to control its border. Historically, every country that has been determined to control their border has been able to do so.
Controlling the border is a matter of resources and will.
As Americans, we can accomplish unimaginable feats when we have the resources and the will. The United States won World War II in 3 years and 8 months. In the 44 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States mobilized its resources to defeat Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan.
Unfortunately, we haven't brought any sense of urgency to controlling our border -- even as a drug-fueled civil war now rages in Mexico.
In October 1986, Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary that he was signing the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform bill because it was "high time we regained control of our borders & this bill will do this."
Today, a quarter century later, we still have not achieved President Reagan's goal and expectation.
This bill will waive every obstacle to controlling the border and would shift resources to achieve virtually 100% control by January 1, 2014. If necessary, we would move one-half of the 23,000 Washington-area Department of Homeland Security bureaucrats to the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona borders.
A border control strategy must be responsive to the unique threats that exist at different parts of the frontier. This strategy must include round-the-clock drone flights to monitor activity, multi-layer, strategic fencing in urban areas, and vastly improved communication between state and federal authorities.
2. Create a 21st Century Visa Program
Our current visa program is inadequate, inefficient, and outdated. Americans and newcomers deserve a system that works.
Americans will benefit from a fairer, more secure, more efficient system, which will ensure that foreign visitors, students, workers and job-creators alike provide as many positive benefits as possible to our economy and society.
Future visitors and future legal residents will be drawn to the most efficient visa system in the world, whether one wants to come to the United States to travel, to study, or to work. -- and especially to bring talent and capital to create American jobs.
A huge element of this reform will be to dedicate the necessary resources to eliminate inefficiencies for all visa processing at our consular facilities.
A Brazilian tourist who wants to visit Disney World and spend thousands to support American jobs should not have to wait four months to get an interview for a tourist visa.
* A foreign entrepreneur who wants to establish legal residency and immediately create American jobs should not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees first.
* A brilliant graduate of an American engineering program should not have to go all the way home to initiate the process of applying for a high-skilled work visa.
* An American farmer in California should have efficient, legal means to hire temporary, legal labor to support the American economy.
Another key part of this reform will be standardizing the technology of identifying documents. Every single visa issued by the United States government, at home and abroad, should include a biometric, tamper-proof card.
3. "In-source" the best brains in the world
From the time of the first settlers, America has always attracted the most entrepreneurial and innovative individuals from all corners of the globe. Drawn to our freedoms and mobile society, many of the world's most talented individuals have left for America, and proved to be key pillars in American accomplishments ranging from the Manhattan Project to the rise of Silicon Valley.
Highly-skilled workers from all corners of the globe still eagerly line up for the chance to bring their immense talents to American companies in the United States. Our policies that place inflexible limits on the number of talented individuals who are allowed to work in America are seriously eroding our global competitiveness and must be modified.
Unfortunately, Congress still sets rigid caps on the number of highly-skilled foreigners who may come to work in the United States per year, and it is increasingly onerous for both employers and employees to obtain H1-B high-skilled work visas. This is wrong and economically misguided, and if America wants to continue to be a haven for the most talented people in the world, this program needs to be vastly expanded to meet our economic needs
We have the best universities in the world, but many foreigners who come to study are turned away and sent back home as soon as they get their degree. It is foolish to educate someone well enough for them to start the next job-creating startup, only to force them to leave America and start their business overseas. We want the jobs here and that means we want the job creators here.
This could be done by allowing easier transition from an F (student) visa to an H1-B (high-skill) visa. Currently foreign students who want to work in the United States must leave the country and begin their application process from scratch. We should remove this inefficiency and allow qualified foreign students to transition immediately into the American workforce.
We can even consider a program that grants foreign graduates of our sophisticated math, science, engineering and business programs a work visa with their diploma.
This strategy will maximize the amount of talented individuals who are building the next great American businesses, creating American jobs, and paying taxes in the United States.
4. Allow foreigners who want to spend money, invest and create jobs in America to do so.
There is no shortage of foreign nationals who want to come to America to sightsee, to invest, and to create jobs. It is up to us to implement policies that ensure that our economy is as enriched as possible by these individuals.
If citizens of other nations want to invest and create jobs in America, then we should be making it easier for them to invest, work and potentially gain citizenship through an expanded EB-5 program. The EB-5 program grants permanent residency to overseas investors who create and maintain at least ten American jobs.
The existing EB-5 program, which sets as high as a $1 million minimum investment to be considered for legal residency, is too restrictive and selective. We must expand this program to allow for foreign entrepreneurs who may not have the capital yet, but have the ability to come to the United States and raise enough American capital to form a business.
America is the most visited country in the world, and the tourism industry supported over 7 million jobs in 2010. In fact, tourists from Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom alone spent nearly $50 billion in the United States last year.
However, except for citizens of a handful of countries, prospective tourists must wait days, weeks, and sometimes months, to obtain a tourist visa. Visa interviews must occur in person, which often means a long trip to the nearest U.S. consulate. As other countries streamline their tourist visa programs, billions of potential dollars and thousands of potential American jobs in our tourism industry are lost due to our bureaucracy.
A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) found that the United States share of global travel fell 17 percent in 2000 to 12.4 percent in 2010. The vast new middle classes in countries such as China, India and Brazil are now taking a look at the onerous visa process and opting to travel and spend money elsewhere. According to the State Department, the wait time to receive an interview for a tourist visa in Brasilia is 110 days.
The USTA study found that if better practices, such as more consular staff and a video interview program, are implemented, we could create 1.3 million new American tourism jobs by the end of this decade.
Finally, many affluent foreign nationals would like to have the opportunity to spend their retirement years in the United States. Making it easier for these individuals to obtain legal residency would cost virtually nothing, while providing a steady flow of investment into the American housing and tourism markets.
5. There has to be a legal guest worker program, but its management must be outsourced to a sophisticated manager of anti-fraud systems, such as American Express, Visa, or Mastercard.
We want American businesses that need workers to be able to hire.
Today, the visa program for unskilled workers is cumbersome for employers and workers, and completely inflexible to the labor demands of the American economy. The number of temporary work visas granted stays capped, regardless of how many workers American businesses needs at any point -- this is why, when the demand for additional labor is high, many foreigners come here to work illegally.
The solution to this problem is a well-regulated, robust guest worker program.
There is no possibility that the federal government could run such a program without massive fraud and counterfeiting. On the other hand, American Express's rate of fraud is less than one tenth of one percent.
We can build on the universal system of biometric, tamper-proof visa documents that all visitors must have, and invite a private-sector firm with a proven track record to monitor the guest worker program.
For guest workers, the new tamper-proof, biometric cards will replace the e-verify system, which has some promising elements, but is too error-prone. Employers will be able to swipe prospective employees biometric cards, and immediately be able to confirm that these workers are in the country legally.
Once a legal guest worker system has been built with real-time, 24/7 verification, there will be no excuse for employers hiring people illegally. At that point the economic penalty on illegal employers should go up substantially.
The new guest worker program should be designed using the proven principles oand it should be easy, convenient, inexpensive and practical for both workers and employers.
6. Create a path to earned legality for some of the millions of people who are here outside the law.
There are currently anywhere from 8 to 12 million people living in the United States who entered illegally.
These people range from day laborers who arrived recently, to grandparents who have been paying taxes, supporting their families and obeying the law for decades.
We need a system that enforces the rule of law, ensures that those who broke the law pay a stiff penalty, but also acknowledges that it is neither optimal nor feasible nor humane to deport every single illegal immigrant.
We need a path to legality, but not citizenship, for some of these individuals who have deep ties to America, including family, church and community ties. We also need a path to swift but dignified repatriation for those who are transient and have no roots in America.
We need a process that can distinguish at the human level.
Congress must charge the Department of Justice to establish a "citizens' review" process for those here outside the law. It would establish committees to process these cases in individual communities and determine who will continue on this path to legality, and who will be sent home. Congress must define understandable, clear, objective legal standards that will be applied equally during this process. While this process is ongoing, those here outside the law will be granted Temporary Legal Status for a certain, limited period of time until all have had the opportunity to apply and appear in front of committees.
Applicants must first pass a criminal background check, and then the local committees will assess applications based on family and community ties, and ability to support oneself via employment without the assistance of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs.
The government will rigorously enforce a requirement that all individuals seeking this path to legality must be able to prove that they can independently pay for private health insurance. If an individual cannot prove this, they will lose the ability to stay in the United States.
Furthermore, proficiency in English within a certain number of years, similar to the requirement for naturalization, will be required for anyone who seeks continued legal status in the United States.
Once an applicant has been granted the right to obtain legal status, he or she will have to pay a penalty of at least $5,000.
Moving forward, those who receive this status will have to prove on a regular basis that they can support themselves without entitlement programs and pay for health insurance or else risk the ability to stay in the United States.
7. Deportation of criminals and gang members should be efficient and fast.
We must end the practice of "catch and release," under which dangerous criminals here illegally are caught by law enforcement, but then quickly returned to society.
When someone is here illegally and is dangerous, there should be expedited procedures to remove them from the United States as rapidly as possible.
The current system is so cumbersome and time-consuming that many arrested non-citizens are released back into society and simply break their word and disappear. This is wrong and dangerous.
8. Ensure that every new citizen and every young American learn American history and the key principles of American Exceptionalism.
America is a learned civilization built on ideas, and the relentless efforts to eliminate American history and American Exceptionalism from our schools has weakened the very fabric and vitality of our civilization.
A key step in our future strength as a country must be to reinstate the importance of America in our citizenship process and our education process.
9. English must be the official language of government.
Teaching everyone English creates a common commercial and political culture.
We want people to come to America to become Americans.
For over 250 years there has been an emphasis on learning English as part of that process.
10. Young non-citizens who came to the United States outside the law should have the same right to join the military and earn citizenship.
Individuals who came to the United States as minors with their parents did not willingly break any laws. These individuals should have the opportunity to obtain legal residency/citizenship by serving their adopted country in the military.
Only the children will be considered for legal residency, and, unlike the so-called DREAM Act, there will not be an option to petition for legal status and citizenship for their parents who entered illegally as adults.
11. Once the new guest worker program is established and the "path to legality" system for those here illegally is in place, anyone breaking the law to get into the United States should face very severe penalties. Anyone facilitating illegal entry should face even more severe penalties. If these rules are enforced, the era of illegal immigration will be over.
If we embrace these ten steps, America will have created a truly efficient and fair system that embraces the rule of law, while acknowledging and celebrating the valuable economic, cultural and social contributions that both existing and future visitors and immigrants have to offer our country.