A few days ago, when this series started, I listed several areas where we will all benefit when there is immigration reform which would legalize the millions of people living here illegally; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education and national security. The first column was about our economy, the second one was about the military and Social Security, the next one was about language and education. This last one will discuss national security and touch on some others.
If immigration reform is enacted, and undocumented people here now are offered legal status, they would have to register within a certain period of time. Each one would have to fill out an application, be finger printed and have a background check before being allowed to go on to the next step. This will probably include paying all back taxes and also paying a fine. Only then would they be given an identity card and documents saying they are allowed to live and work here. People who do not pass these tests would be deported.
We will all be safer when this happens. People who are afraid that terrorists are in our midst in the guise of illegal immigrants could rest easier knowing everyone had been identified and checked. And more drug smugglers would be caught when border guards don’t have to chase poor men, women and children trying to come in to work and live.
If Americans want to live in a secure country, we have to be able to regulate people coming in and know who is living here or visiting and have a way to keep track of them.
Changing the laws to make immigration easier and faster would eventually stop most people from trying to get in illegally, but it would take a while for all the poor people in Mexico and other Latin American countries to realize how the new laws would affect them. They would have to be convinced that when the people here now are given legal status and the new ones coming in would not find work, that it would be futile for them to try to come in. If all these additional workers can work legally, no one will have any reason to hire people without the correct documents.
All these new legal residents would have to get a driver license and, of course, insurance. More people with legal driver licenses means more people had to read the manual and pass the written, eye and road tests. This would immediately make the roads safer for you and me. And when more people have mandatory car insurance we are all better protected. Besides making the roads safer, they would each have a picture ID which helps each state keep track of all of its people.
Many people complain about the cost of illegal immigrants. All the studies I have seen have shown that the costs of hospital care and schools are more than offset by the revenue gained by the workers and the companies they work for. The big problem is that since these additional people aren’t included in the census, the tax money is not always distributed where it is needed.
If there were immigration reform and the undocumented people were given legal status, there would have to be an updated census. The new census figures would show which communities deserved a larger share of the revenue dollars for the schools, hospitals and other services they provide. The money should be sent where it is needed, but that won’t happen if we can’t document where it is needed.
One of the reasons people come or stay here illegally is that they all know that it takes many years to immigrate legally. Hundreds of thousands of people trying to immigrate legally are stuck in a back log in the Immigration Department. Many have been waiting for up to 10 years to be approved.
Part of a new reform package would be hiring more staff in the Immigration Department to process all these people caught in the backlog to get on their way to green cards and citizenship. When the new laws are enacted, these people will be processed first and the new people will get in line behind them.
If there were a way we could help the Mexican economy, it would help us and them. Poverty and lack of work in Mexico have driven their people to come here. Many of their villages have almost no working age men left in them and many of their young women have left too. But if we don’t do anything to help Mexico, we must at least help our own country by enacting comprehensive immigration reform here.
Everyone agrees that people should not be in this country illegally. Everyone agrees that the people here illegally have broken our laws just by being here. Everyone agrees that we have to document the people coming into and leaving our country. Most people admit that we are all responsible in some way: whether we hire the workers; buy what they produce; vote for the people who passed the laws that allowed it to get this far or if we didn’t vote at all. And since we are responsible for the problem, we should be responsible and try to fix it.
A big part of immigration reform would have to be protecting our borders better. Additional border guards are now at work and fences are being built in a few places, but this is not the complete answer. We have to have a way that makes it more fair for people to immigrate legally and give legal status to the law abiding people here now. They have worked hard and helped our economy and deserve to be treated with dignity.
When they become legal residents, they must be encouraged to learn English, learn and obey our laws and assimilate into life here, without giving up all of their own culture.
Our ancestors all came here to become Americans, each group adding some more flavor to the mixture. This mixture is what makes it so interesting and it is always changing and improving. New immigrants will assuredly keep up this tradition.
There were no immigration laws here until the 1890s when waves of Irish immigrants forced the government to write some. These laws have been constantly rewritten since then. It is time to do it again, this time making more sensible laws that people can live with.
There are so many reasons why we need immigration reform and why we all should be happy when we get it. Even the people who insist we don’t need any more people here and should deport millions of people here now. Everyone will benefit when we get a comprehensive immigration reform package passed.