First, every nation has the right to decide who gets to move in, or not. And the opinions of outsiders are not especially relevant. Period. So this is very much a debate we are allowed to have. But this also is a debate about what we should do, not just what we can do.
I say it matters a lot that America has claimed to be a beacon of hope and opportunity, and because of that, we should be generous and welcoming toward immigrants -- including the ones here illegally. Yet thanks to a legacy of racism, years of political gridlock, and a vast under-the-surface interest in exploiting cheap labor, we have held the door half-closed for a generation of otherwise legitimate immigrants who have invested their lives in this nation.
So we need -- urgently -- a clear and simple way for the decent people already here to apply for citizenship and get it. Sadly, Obama's recent moves won't get us there. They may even make things worse by creating false hope. But at least he is attempting to strive toward something reasonable and fair -- unlike his political opponents. If ever there was an issue crying out for a compromise settlement, this is it.
IMHO, aside from a faster, better citizenship application process for people who have put down roots, we need a crystal clear system for migrant/temporary workers who are NOT on a path to citizenship. There are some logical reasons for accommodating this type of work, but it has to be made clear that migrant workers are in fact temporary. A variety of reasonable rules need to be applied to migrant labor. They should be treated fairly while they are here. And they should agree that they are supposed to go back home. They should not bring families here, etc.
If a person seriously wants to stay in America -- and millions do -- they should go through the citizenship process. I'm very much OK with being much, much more open to allowing that to happen. For example, whatever the current "quota" on legal immigration from Mexico may be, I think the number should be much larger so as to reflect the reality of the economic relationship.
Once a system of citizen applicants/migrant workers approaches actual fairness, I would have no problem "securing" our borders and enforcing deportation for future "cheaters," such as those who overstay migrant work visas, refuse to apply for citizenship, or fail to meet the reasonable standards set for obtaining citizenship. But for now, we should be deporting only those "illegals" who have proved themselves to be unwelcome, non-citizens through violent crime, felony-level frauds and other serious crimes. Leave the rest in a benevolent limbo while this gets hashed out.
I want this resolved because I want to see a sharp reduction in the human trafficking and other exploitations that are all too easy to inflict upon illegal immigrants. All-cash wages way under minimum wage, unpaid overtime, no benefits, unsafe workplaces, unsafe housing, and a variety of other rip-offs and crimes that illegal immigrants are too afraid to report to police.
I firmly believe we have the know-how to "process" millions of illegal immigrants into legal immigrants in a matter of months. I further believe that the "papers" involved can be made very difficult to forge and very easy for employers, police, schools, government agencies and others to confirm as needed. And with reliable papers, it becomes much simpler to punish the employers who continue to hire people who don't have papers. That will go a long way toward preventing a flood of new immigrants seeking to ride the coattails of amnesty.
I also believe none of these changes will hurt the economy. Our economy already has adjusted to having many millions of illegal immigrants among us, paying rent, buying stuff, paying sales taxes and sometimes even all the other taxes. Immigration rates will keep doing what they've always done -- they will track with the rise and fall of job opportunites, and with the unpredictable occurrences of wars and natural disasters that turn established families into migrants. Bringing this process above-board simply allows it to be accurately measured, fairly taxed and reasonably regulated and managed.
Is that really so hard? Sadly, it probably is.