5.16.2006

When is Amnesty Not Amnesty?

I spent the length of "The Speech" on the phone last night, and so didn't get a chance to hear it first hand. However, I did get the chance to read it, and have heard the reactions of many voices, from lawmakers, to border patrol agents, to border-living citizens, to regular folk like you and me.

After parsing those thoughts, and the ones that were my immediate reactions to the speech, I have come to some opinions.

There are, by estimate, between 12 and 20 million (maybe more - if we could track them and count them, we could "ask" them to leave) illegals within the borders of the country right now. A "proposal" from the President, or anyone else for that matter, and that's all it is, a proposal, that seeks to address the two-pronged problem of border security AND how to deal with those already here illegally, only waters down the critical points of both issues into a clear broth without much nutritional value in each direction.

A law out of the House will do the same, under this same outline. Therefore, a discussion regarding each item separately:

First: Border Security. Let's face it, you can couch this all day long as an issue with all border crossings into the US, but at the end of the day, the southern border of our country is a shambles and a rotting symbol of the impotence of our government to come to a viable "secure" measure to CLOSE the border in areas where there is not a manned crossing. I am from Canada. I don't know how many times I have been across the border into/out of Canada from here. I would hazard a guess to say that it numbers in the DOZENS of times. I think I have been across almost every border crossing into or out of the states along the Alberta/British Columbia border area - a distance of several hundred miles. This doesn't include the MANY international airports I have flown into, effectively crossing the border through customs at that time as well.

Without fail, every time I cross, I have to provide my proper documentation, which includes my proof of legal residency here.

In that area of the country, the other parts of the border are cordoned off with a fence, even in the most difficult mountainous areas. Crossing through the fence will get you arrested and detained. Why is it then, that we cannot expect this nation's government to enforce that same policy along our southern borders? There are a few lawmakers calling for the erection of a high concrete fence along the southern border. There are others calling for that fence in only the remotest locations, so as to "herd" the traffic to more easily patrolled areas, such as ACTUAL LEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS... and thereby protecting the rights of (legal) property owners who live along those border areas.

How many years and how many salaried bodies does it take to provide the money to get that done? And moreover, how long does it take for us to enact laws with teeth that actually PUNISH those that cross illegally, either by providing false documentation, or simply by running across the desert? I dare say the days of chain-link are through. Leaving it the way it is makes a mockery of the actual border crossings that exist and are staffed with Federal personnel. It's either sealed or it's not. I think it should be. No forthcoming bill with have teeth anywhere close to this sort of action.

Incidentally, it was the Minuteman group who said they were prepared to begin building fence on private land, with landowners' authorization, and with public funding, beginning May 15th, if the Federal Government didn't take some sort of stand by that date - that was yesterday. The Utah Minutemen (speaking for the national organization) are not really pleased with the thoughts put forward by the President. Their next move remains to be seen.

Second: Amnesty/Legalization of current criminals. The president stated that offering citizenship, or legalization to those already here is amnesty, and he doesn't support that. In fact, that is basically what he did, however. He mentioned a plan under which those that are already here illegally would be put into either a guest worker program, or would be put to the "back of the line" in terms of gaining access to legal residency/citizenship. There are several problems with this approach. First of all, there are about 20 million of these people, all of whom don't give a rat's arse about obeying any law, as proven by their very presence here.

How does the President expect to bring them out of the woodwork to get into such a program in a manageable way? He mentioned different categories of people here, based on length of time in the country, proven ability to hold a job, obey the laws, etc. These people would be put at the back of the line for legal residency applications.

How does he propose to allow these people to PROVE where they've been, what they've been doing, and whether they can obey the law? We have no records of these people. False documentation is unfortunately a problem with a large percentage of this group of people. They've already proven themselves as people who don't mind disregarding the laws here. Does he just expect them to willingly show up for this voluntarily? He mentioned that they would also be forced to pay some sort of monetary penalty as part of this program. Umm, aren't these people COMPLAINING that they are the low-wage earners of America already? Does he expect this money will magically appear? This will be a totally unmanageable Fuster-Cluck. Given the typical paradigm we're dealing with here, that money WILL in fact magically appear seemingly out of nowhere. Should it be sourced and seasoned for 60 days in a proper bank account? OOPS! These people SHOULDN'T HAVE a proper bank account, because you need legal and proper documents to be able to open a bank account. (Don't get me started on the financial institutions' total neglect in the area of "proper documentation" in order to open a bank account.)

Then there's the "guest worker" program. It's the one where you come here legally, for a time, work, and then go home. Right. Wait wait, I have an emerging primate, and it's got WINGS!!

The one part of the speech I support in principle is the unique identifier card. For many years, the usual Social
Security Card has been an easily rendered document. Although it's printed on the same cotton paper as our money, it's the most easily counterfeited document out there. On the other hand, my "Permanent Resident Alien" card has no less than 8 unique identifiers that make it impossible, or at least BRUTALLY expensive, to copy in a format that would actually pass muster.

Additionally, that card has parts that have embedded information, like the m
agnetic strip in the back of your credit card - except this one isn't magnetic. This area contains all sorts of information about me, my address, SSN, Country of origin, the results of my medical tests that were required for entry into the US, the consulate where I applied, etc. A MYRIAD of information. This card, while not underestimating the criminal mind, would not be reproduced easily.

Which brings me around to the other point. There was only cursory mention of an aspect here that I believe is critical to the success of any program of reform in this area: That of gaining a viable and usable person-verification program to be MANDATORY for all employers' use. If there was a way to make it mandatory for an employer to provide a security authorization code to the government, proving that they logged in to the authorization database and got a positive response, along with the other forms that have to be completed to begin paying an employee, there would be a much greater possibility that we would nip a big part of this whole problem in the bud.

Let's face it - if a company CAN'T remain in business without having to pay employees 1.75 per hour, they shouldn't be in business. And if these jobs were not out there, there would be less temptation to get across the border to take.

The bottom line for me: If this problem is not addressed in a tough and meaningful way very soon, there will always be an illegal third class of people here who will never be allowed to move above the limits of this day-laborer classification. I don't care what Vicente Fox says, I don't care what the pansy congress and house say, it HAS to be done. I'm all for all that crap written on the plaque at Ellis Island. Just do it legally. I did. It's hard, long and expensive - which makes it more sweet when it gets done.

6 comments:

Reach Upward said...

ID cards will only work well if *all* residents of the U.S. have them. If citizens are not required to have the cards, but only need to produce a Social Security card or birth certificate to prospective employers, it will be quite easy for aliens to continue to use forged documentation by claiming citizenship. However, there is a strong privacy streak in our country that opposes a national ID card, making it very difficult to pass legislation requiring it. I know that some businesses would support a national ID card, while others (particularly ones that currently underpay workers) will fight it.

I'm with you on the banking issue. It kind of burns my toast when I drive by a Zion's Bank and see "Su Banco" emblazoned on the side. Geez, do they also advertise a money laundering service on foreign language radio stations?

Like I've said before, we seem to have no problem making immigration tough for Canadians. But somehow, I doubt that simply having a more secure border is the reason we don't have millions of Canadians here illegally working in low-level jobs. There are much broader social issues at play.

On paying back taxes to get in line for citizenship, let's realize that this is an empty threat. How many of these people have any kind of financial records that would be needed for filing back taxes? Most of them could easily claim to have earned insufficient amounts to be required to file a return at all. This proposal is pretty much a feel-good measure.

The President seems to be trying for a well-rounded approach. Years ago my parents got a scanner-fax-printer device when it was a new technology. It did lots of things, but it did all of them poorly. Now you can get devices like this that are quality products. I worry that the President's comprehensive immigration proposal is more like that old device than like the later ones -- it will do lots of things, but it will do none of them well.

That One Guy said...

My point exactly - you hit the nail on the head on each one of your points.

This was empty speech from a President who has no credibility to speak to the issues.

Disappointing impotence, as all impotence is. (I *hear* anyway)

:)

That One Guy said...

And further - the SSN card IS a national ID card - it just needs to be re-thought for the 21st century.

Hell, how bout the 20th century, even.

I wonder if there are recent polls regarding this item, say in the last 6 months... I would think acceptance would be higher now, if it was couched as a "new" ssn card, with newer features.

my $0.02

Reach Upward said...

The thing that the privacy-at-all-costs folks oppose is a card that carries the same kind of information that your resident alien card has. They worry about Big Brother intruding on their private lives. I'm not saying that the government shouldn't be regarded with healthy suspicion, but I guess some people don't realize that Big Brother already has all of that information anyway.

You make a good point asking what people think about the ID card issue currently. I would also like to see recent data on this. Maybe we've turned the corner on it.

That One Guy said...

I think that for those who already carry a valid SSN card, it should simply be repalced by a more secure document - it doesn't HAVE to carry all that information for EVERYONE, only those for whom it is pertinent - like me - I'm required by law to have that card on my person at all times, but the regular "citizen card" could certainly have much LESS info embedded in it, making it a more palatable solution to those "civil-liberty" folks.

Additionally, people need to realize that a LACK of measures to secure identities will eventually BEGET a lack of freedoms for them in the future.

Reach Upward said...

I think even most conspiracy nuts could buy this idea. We ought to all have these cards tomorrow. But I suspect that the sheer size of this project would mean that it would require several years to get it done. But like the other measures that will take time (i.e. securing the border), we ought to get started on it right now. The sooner the better.