(This blog is focused on objective strategic analysis, not personal or political opinion. For that, I refer you to my other blog, http://ThinkingFriend2U.blogspot.com . So the following questions are designed to advance a rational security discussion, not support or detract from a particular position on the immigration debate.)
A number of solutions have been proposed for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” Here are several questions with strategic and security implications that I would like to see answered before our representatives hurry to pass a bill, in order to see what is in it.
1) To whom do the immigration reforms apply? Who will be allowed to stay because they are already in the country illegally? Just Hispanics? Just Mexicans? Or everyone here illegally? Russians? Chinese? Iranians? Stateless people ejected from their countries as radicals, criminals or terrorists?
2) What sort of security checks will be conducted on applicants? Obviously, no one granted citizenship under these new laws will have an automatic security clearance – but they will be eligible for US passports, travel under more liberal rules, access to US-only programs, etc. And their subsequent children will be American citizens, no matter where they are born. Do we really want to grant citizenship to members of the Russian Mafia, Chinese intelligence service, or Central American drug cartels, and their family members? If not, who will conduct security checks, and how will they handle 12 million people at once? Must the investigator of a Russian applicant speak Russian? Conduct an investigation in Russia? (This is one reason we take visa applications at embassies overseas, by the way -- to make it easier to conduct such background checks.)
3) What would disqualify an applicant for citizenship on security grounds? Membership in a radical mosque overseas? A brother who makes car bombs? A cousin involved in the drug trade? The commission of a crime back home? This is not a question to be taken lightly. Foreign organizations are already known to target American citizens for participation in terrorist and criminal schemes, since this complicates the task of law enforcement. Would not infiltrating agents onto the path to citizenship be even more desirable?
4) How long would a person have to be in the US illegally to apply for citizenship? The central argument for reform is that if a person has been working and acting like a responsible citizens, he or she should be able to stay as a citizen. How long a stay would be required to demonstrate responsibility? A month? A year? A decade? And how would they prove their stay? Many of the people we are talking about live their lives in the shadows. No driver’s license. No electrical bill. No income tax receipt. Will employers rush to verify that this person has been working for them illegally for years? How will we know ground truth? (And by the way, what do we do with people who are here illegally but have not been here long enough to qualify? Deport them? Let them stay until they do qualify?)
5) Would that qualification have to be continuous time in the US, or is it cumulative time for those who come and go? For example, what about agricultural workers here illegally four months at a time for fifteen years in a row. Does that count as five years residency? How is it established – by statement of the worker? (The Department of State already accepts statements in Spanish from midwives verifying live birth in the US, as adequate proof to issue a US passport.) Before you dismiss this question as nitpicking, consider that it really matters to students and children.
6) Concerning students who desire a special waiver because they came here as a child, would they have to arrive before some particular age . . . and stay? The argument is that it is unfair to send home a child who has known only the US and may speak only English. But certainly that does not apply to those who first arrive here (illegally) as teen agers. They know their home culture and language – frequently well enough to demand they be taught in that language. And how about those who traveled across the border many times, becoming comfortable with two languages and two cultures. Do they still go the front of the line?
7) Generally people applying for citizenship must show some sort of self sufficiency – they can’t just take an oath, then go directly to the unemployment and welfare rolls. Will this be true for those on the new path to citizenship, despite the fact that illegal immigrants “coming out” will likely lose their jobs? (This is an unfortunate reality. Immigrants “take jobs Americans don’t want” because they have no choice other than artificially low (in fact illegally low) wages. And they don’t qualify for the benefits that allow picky Americans to stay home. But as soon as immigrants become citizens, they no longer offer the advantage of cheap labor to unscrupulous employers – especially if the border remains open (which is what President Obama has suggested with his plan) and new waves of cheap illegal labor can be expected. Also, as the new citizens become eligible for the same benefits as Americans who pass up unpleasant jobs for government assistance, we should expect immigrants to do the same. )
8) Obamacare was advertised as cost neutral while providing coverage to 30 million more Americans. As Comprehensive Immigration Reform adds 12+ million citizens, it will add 12+ million claimants to the system. Has anyone calculated this cost? (The national debt, remember, is a major security issue.)
9) What about people who satisfied the criteria for the path to citizenship in the past, but were deported under the old rules – do they get to come back? If not, is that fair?
10) When they become citizens, will the applicants be forgiven for other crimes they have committed? This question refers not so much to violent criminal behavior (which does not apply to most immigrants), as to identify theft, use of another’s social security number or driver’s license, etc. Many current citizens have been the victims of such behavior. Should they simply forget about justice?
And here is a Bonus Question: Do any other countries allow for a “path to citizenship” like that proposed for the US? Does Mexico, Russia, China, Iran, India, or any other nation in the world provide a path to citizenship based on the fact that a person enters the country illegally or overstays a visa? If not, why not? And if so, what has been their experience?
Every American wants a fair and honest solution to our immigration dilemma. Proponents of the new approach to Comprehensive Immigration Reform are calling for an honest dialogue. That’s a good idea. These security questions would seem a good place to start.