As was discussed in this column on March 20, the immigration system in our country is not hard to repair, but the problem is that neither many Republicans nor Democrats actually want to do so. Why is that? Because many powerful Republicans want the continuing source of cheap labor, and many powerful Democrats want people to continue to come here illegally with the expectation that eventually they will vote for Democrats.
Of course this dysfunctional system has caused such frustration that states like Utah and Arizona have been forced to take measures into their own hands — and who can really blame them? Thus it is the purpose of this letter to motivate you, as the member of Congress in this area, to help to install a workable system. I know this is an emotionally sensitive and complex area, to say the least, and that there are political risks for even discussing it, so I am going to assist you by proposing a program which can serve as a model.
The first thing to do, as set forth more fully in the prior column, is to establish a fool-proof identification card for guest workers — call it an "Orange Card" — and then prosecute any employer who hires or continues to employ anyone who does not have proper identification showing they are here legally. This, along with disqualifying people who are here illegally from receiving such things as welfare payments, should go a long way effectively to closing our borders.
Why? Because most people come to this country to work, and if they cannot find or maintain employment, they will probably go elsewhere.
But secondly, and fully as critically, we must at the same time publish guidelines about a fair and equitable course of action that will be followed for people already in our country illegally. With some justification, many people see even a discussion of this issue as a direct attack upon them personally.
Why? Because this is not just a "close to home" issue, it actually is home!
Of course drawing up fair and effective guidelines is not easily done, but here is my attempt.
First, the burden should be on the federal government to show why people who can prove they have been in this country illegally but continuously for 15 or more years should not be offered citizenship. In this regard, their employment history, criminal record, if any, and general citizenship, etc., should all be considered.
Second, the burden should be on the federal government to show why all people who have been in this country illegally but continuously for 10 to 15 years should not be given a green card, or resident alien status, using the same criteria.
And finally those people who have been here illegally for less than five years should be deported, but given the opportunity to apply for an "Orange" or Green card.
A further requirement would be that all people who are here illegally must register with the federal government within the next six months, and anyone who does not so register will both be deported and permanently barred from becoming a citizen.
A final part of this program would be for Congress to interpret the clause of the 14th Amendment stating that one must be "subject to the jurisdiction" of our country, such that at least one parent of a child must be a citizen before that child can become a citizen simply by virtue of birth. But if a child is born to a parent who is here legally, that child shall automatically become a citizen if that parent becomes a citizen within five years after that birth.
Fundamentally the decision of who comes to our country, and how long they stay, should be made by our country. It should not be made by others who are either violating our laws, or, through some coincidence, happen to give birth to a child while within our borders. Of course, sometimes it is not a coincidence, as witnessed by a recent news story about numbers of pregnant Chinese women who came illegally into our country expressly so that their babies could become citizens. Allowing this situation to continue is simply crazy.
The supposed system that is in effect today is inflicting needless hardship and even danger upon hundreds of thousands of good people, and it should have been fixed decades ago. Of course, as stated above, the new program must both be fairly and equitably conceived and administered, such that people be willing to trust the government and come forward to register and apply for the benefits of citizenship or resident alien status.
But at the same time, the law must state that we will never again have a similar program unless passed by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote. That way, everyone will realize that this opportunity will probably never be repeated.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach), this issue is important enough for us to say to you, gently but firmly, that if you don't show strong leadership and help us resolve this longstanding problem, we will fine and elect someone else who will.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.judgejimgray.com. Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.