Monday, December 1, 2008


  “IT’S A GRAY AREA” (2) - by Judge Jim Gray July 22, 2007


  I seldom get angry at illegal immigrants. They are simply doing what our system so strongly encourages them to do, and they almost always come to the United States to seek a better life for themselves and their families — just like our ancestors did. Few people come here to take advantage of us or our welfare system. They come here to work, and they mostly work hard.

  Instead, I reserve my anger for the so-called immigration system. In this I am not alone, because virtually no one stands up for it. The irony is that it would not be at all difficult to install a program that would work, but neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want this to happen. Why not? The reason is money and power. One side mostly wants to take advantage of the cheap labor presented by “undocumented workers,” and the other side wants the votes that soon will come their way from the increased numbers of people that enter our country.

  But in the meantime, many good people are truly suffering and being punished under the status quo. For example, it is quite dangerous and expensive to enter this country illegally, and many workers are exploited by unscrupulous employers once they get here. In addition, we have the unintended consequence that many illegal immigrants would actually go home after several months if only they felt that they could return later without so much danger and expense. So the present system actually keeps them here longer than they would otherwise stay. In addition, of course, our healthcare, educational and criminal justice systems have been deeply overburdened by the large numbers of poor, uneducated and unhealthy people that are here illegally.

  Why do we perpetuate the present failed system? Because the federal government has virtually all of the power, makes all of the rules, and does whatever enforcement that takes place, which is not very much. But the federal government mostly does not have to pay for the costs of illegal immigrants. Most of those costs are paid by the state and local governments, and the school districts.

  What is the resolution? It is fairly straightforward, but it is a three-step process. First, since this failed system will never be changed until the federal government has the incentive to change it, we must require the federal government to pay for the governmental costs of illegal immigrants. Second, we should decide how many people can enter our country to work, and for what period of time they can stay. Then we should create a worker’s program that allows foreign workers to have something like an “Orange Card,” which will allow them to work here legally during a specified period of time. This would be similar to our former “bracero” program, and would be in addition to our present resident alien and naturalization programs. The workers probably could not bring other members of their family with them, would pay reduced taxes on their income, and would receive reduced services for healthcare while they are here. But, since they would be here legally, these workers would be able to obtain driver’s licenses.  

The third important component of this new program would be to utilize strict sanctions for all employers who in any way hire workers who are not documented. Workers who have valid identification could resume a normal life, and travel legally across the borders within the specified framework. Those who do not have proper identification would increasingly have trouble finding work, so soon they would probably go elsewhere.  

Holding people who hire undocumented workers responsible for their illegal acts would be the key, but it can be done. With today’s computer chip technology, we should easily be able to create an identification card that cannot be forged. So there would be no excuse for hiring people who do not have it. And once we have a workable system for identification, we could also exclude permanently from admission to the country those immigrants who persist in violating our laws.  

It is time to do away with our present failed system. Of course, there will still be problems. However these changes will allow us in large measure to regain control of our borders, reduce dangers and injustices for the foreign workers, seriously reduce the burden upon our taxpayers to support such large numbers of people who are here illegally, re-institute and reinforce the rule of law, and begin to return our life to normal. And then only after we have a system in place to control our borders should we address the difficult and emotional problem of who receives “amnesty” and who does not, and how to institute that in relationship to those people who have followed our laws and regulations and have requested to enter our great country through proper channels.

  James P. Gray has been a trial judge in Orange County since 1983, has written books entitled Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, and Wearing the Robe – The Art and Responsibility of Judging, and composed a musical entitled “Americans All.”

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