Mike Kueber's Blog

January 27, 2013

Comprehensive immigration reform in the offing

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According to the NY Times, a bipartisan group of six to nine U.S. senators (including Rubio and McCain) this Friday will propose comprehensive immigration reform.  Although the proposal will address what Senator Lindsey Graham calls the magnet for illegal immigration – i.e., porous border security, lax employer enforcement, and an inadequate system for temporary workers – the crux of the proposal will be what to do with the 12 million illegal immigrants in America.  As Senator Graham says, “How do you deal with the 12 million in a firm, fair way, realizing you can’t put them all in jail and they’re not all going to self-deport?”

I have previously suggested that a path to citizenship should be provided to those illegal immigrants who have been here so long that they have put down roots.  This result would be justified as analogous to the legal concept of adverse possession, which enables a person to claim ownership of real property if the original owner fails to kick the squatter off his property for an extended period of years.  It is not a stretch to say that America is partially culpable for allowing longstanding illegal immigrants to put down roots in this country and that it would be unfair after many years now to kick them out.   

Unfortunately, the Times article provides no hint of an answer to Graham’s question, although there is some talk of “having those who entered illegally go to the back of the line behind immigrants already waiting to enter the country legally, paying fines and back-taxes, and learning English.”  It does not, however, appear that the senators are going to distinguish between illegal immigrants based on their number of years here.  Rather, I suspect there will be no reason for any self-deportation and the only risk of government deportation will be to felons.  And citizenship, as opposed to legal residency, might be reserved for DREAMERs.

Add illegal immigration to the list of failed Republican positions.

November 30, 2011

Gingrich tries to turn his stance on illegal immigration from a liability into an asset

Newt Gingrich recently caught a lot of flak for his defense of illegal immigrants who have been productive, law-abiding citizens in American for 25 years.  To many Republicans, Newt’s defense sounds like amnesty, and that can be a death knell for a Republican politician.  Not surprisingly, however, liberals have come to Newt’s defense.

There are news reports that, because Newt currently needs support from Republicans more so than from liberals, he is walking back from his “humane” position on illegal immigration, but I suggest that a close review of his new “Ten Steps to a Legal Nation” on his website reveals that he is sticking with his guns.  The ten steps are as follows:

  1. Control the border (big surprise – not)
  2. Upgrade the visa program (of course)
  3. Attract the brains from other countries (no brainer)
  4. Privatize the legal guest-worker program from e-verify to Visa/MC/AmExp (creative)
  5. Authorize residency to foreigners who can create jobs (sure)
  6. Create a path to earned legality for the 8-12 million illegal immigrants (the 800-pound gorilla here)
  7. Deport criminals quickly (does anyone disagree?)
  8. Teach American history and America exceptionalism (bit of demagoguing here)
  9. English must be the official language (bit of demagoguing here)
  10. DREAM Act should create citizenship for military volunteers (surprisingly trimmed back)

Although Gingrich has significantly trimmed the benefits of the federal DREAM Act (e.g., college attendance will not suffice and military volunteers will not be able to rely on chain immigration to get their relatives into the country), the big 800-pound gorilla amongst Gingrich’s solutions is #6 – i.e., the path to earned legality.

Obviously, the distinction between earned legality and earned citizenship is slight.  With Newt’s earned legality, the illegal immigrants will get to remain in the country while those who have patiently followed legal channels in most foreign countries will continue to wait, and wait, and wait (like in Casablanca in WWII).

Gingrich’s plan does contain a creative mechanism for deciding which of the 8-12 million illegal immigrants will be awarded a path to legality.  He suggests that the Department of Justice create thousands of local boards (like a draft board) that would review the application of each illegal immigrant based on “family and community ties, and ability to support oneself via employment without the assistance of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs.  The government will rigorously enforce a requirement that all individuals seeking this path to legality must be able to prove that they can independently pay for private health insurance. If an individual cannot prove this, they will lose the ability to stay in the United States.  Furthermore, proficiency in English within a certain number of years, similar to the requirement for naturalization, will be required for anyone who seeks continued legal status in the United States.”

Approval under Gingrich’s review process concludes with the immigrant being required to pay a penalty of at least $5,000.  Those not approved will be deported.

I like Gingrich’s plan.  Although I disagree with the way he trimmed back the DREAM Act from college students, he has given many more people an opportunity to become legal.

Gingrich suggests that his proposals don’t need to be adopted together as comprehensive immigration reform, but rather can be evaluated and decided on their own merits.  I disagree.  We can’t be imposing any new anti-work measures like e-verify until we have developed some process to protect those who may eventually be awared legal status.

Let’s hope that Gingrich’s excellent ideas force Romney to raise the level of his game.

June 27, 2011

An open letter to Mayor Castro re: illegal immigration

Dear Mr. Mayor:

At this year’s annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas, I had the pleasure of attending a “Civil Conversation about Immigration Reform.”  Most of the panelists provided relevant information, but failed to explore possible solutions to the intractable problem of twelve million illegal immigrants.  By contrast, you failed to provide much relevant information, but suggested a new mindset that might help us resolve the problem.  I agree that a new mindset would be helpful, but there are problems with your suggestion and I think there is a better alternative.

Your suggestion was that a path to citizenship should not be associated with amnesty, but rather it should be considered as analogous to deferred adjudication.  Application of this analogy would enable government to assess some penalties and require certain conduct, and upon the satisfaction of those terms, individuals would become legally documented.

The problem with this analogy is that individuals typically aren’t allowed to pocket their gains under deferred adjudication.  Instead they are required to cough up any gains through restitution.  By allowing illegal immigrants to earn legal status, you are allowing them to “profit from their illegal acts.”  (I’m sure you have heard that sound bite coming from opponents to amnesty.)

My suggested alternative is to apply the legal concept of adverse possession (squatter’s rights) – i.e., title to real property can be obtained without compensation by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s rights for a specified period.  Based on this analogy, America can be found to have waived its right to deport an undocumented immigrant who has lived in America and set down roots for a specified period (e.g., five to ten years).  This analogy not only enables illegal immigrants to benefit from their acts, but also limits the benefit to those
immigrants who have been productive residents in America for a significant period of time.

As you probably know, providing a path to citizenship for long-term illegal residents was a cornerstone to George W. Bush’s proposal.  Thus, this is a position for bipartisan compromise if the timing is right and the presentation is done right.

Good luck.


Mike Kueber