Illegal Options

Over the last several months, and leading up to the recent elections, there was a lot of talk about immigrants, usually those here illegally. Much of the talk has revolved around how to grant these folks some sort of legal status. Many of the illegal immigrants perform work that legal workers don’t want to do (for many reasons, ranging from low pay to undesirability). (These illegal immigrants are often called “guest workers”, because “illegal immigrants” sounds like they should be thrown in jail.)

There seem to be two polar opposites on this topic: kicking these immigrants out of the country, post haste, and granting them “auto-citizenship”, usually in the form of some type of amnesty. When you hear the pundits talk about this, they don’t generally offer any middle-ground. But, of course there’s middle ground:

  1. You could make them legal workers without making them citizens. If the employer is willing to sponsor an employee, charge a fee, fill out some paperwork, do some kind of background check, and give the worker a visa. This would be similar in concept to the H-1B visas we already have in place today.
  2. Put them on a path to citizenship. If they’re here, and they’re working, and they’ve established roots, and they haven’t been in (too much) trouble, let them get in line to become a citizen. Ensure they go through some process to document them, and them make them provisionally able to hold a job. They shouldn’t get special treatment ahead of those who came here legally, but they should get credit for the time they were in the country.

These aren’t meant to be solutions to the problem of illegal immigrants; they’re only meant to demonstrate that there are options worth investigating. The reality is these illegal immigrants are, in most cases, productive members of society, raising their children (many of whom were born in the United States, and are thus legal citizens), and trying to live a good life.

Many of them don’t know any other country as “home”, so deporting them—often breaking up families—is merely punitive. Every illegal immigrant is someone’s mother, son or cousin. And I don’t want my cousin to be kicked out of the country simply for trying to make a better life for herself.

This country is founded by immigrants. You’d think we’d be a bit more understanding.