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Real Immigration Reform – A Way Forward
Dear President Biden
Time to Fix Broken Immigration System
One of the many issues that you will have to address now that you got the COVID relief package done is immigration reform. I have been closely following this issue since 1992 when I was confronted with a broken immigration system as a visa officer. I later served seven years as an anti-fraud officer. I realized that much of the fraud occurred because we made the legal way to immigrate almost impossible while the illegal way to immigrate became relatively simple and inexpensive and the penalties very few – and with the right lawyer 90 percent of the fraudulent visa applications would be ultimately approved. It is almost just bad luck for someone to get caught and punished for fraud.
Trump dramatically stepped up the plate on deportation, but Obama was also harsh regarding deportation. The progressive left has not come to grips with reality – the sad reality that Americans don’t want massive unrestrained immigration, but do not understand how broken the system is. The Republicans mantra seal the border first ignores the fact that the immigration system does not work.
Even if you sealed the border you would still have a sizable illegal population exploited by corporations and especially agriculture. And they do not want real immigration reform because then they would have to pay a living wage to their immigrant slave labor.
Or if there is no immigrant labor left wages for Americans would have to be raised to get them to do the work that immigrants do for sub-minimum wages and no benefits.
The solution is obvious – start over with a new law, new procedures.
Legalize the illegal, then make the system easy to enforce. Make the penalties for violations simple – deportation with a five-year ban on re-entry.
Start by acknowledging we need to improve security at the border, but the wall is a waste of time and money that will not solve the problem. We need a comprehensive 21st-century immigration policy that balances the need for continued immigration with the need to ensure that immigrants contribute to our country and enrich our country as they always have and always will. Again, throw the republicans a bone offers to ensure that E Verify is widely used by all employers and punish employers who hire illegals. I would also consider getting rid of the diversity visa program and the sibling immigration category, but grandfather people in that category giving them two years to complete the immigration process with no new applicants being accepted.
A new Simpler System
I would add more employment visas and decreased the number of family reunification visas, eliminate the country limits and the priority lists. Anyone who qualifies should be able to finish the paperwork within one year and must complete the processing with two years of initial application. Those in the queue right now would be grandfathered in.
I would prioritize English speaking skills, and education, All applicants would have to interview in English. All applicants would have to have a high school education or higher.
I would also offer to immigrate visas to all foreigners who graduate from a US university or graduate school. If they want to stay let them stay with their foreign spouse and unmarried children.
There should only two categories of immigrant visas. Employment-based, and family-based. The number of legal visas should be dramatically increased. The family-based visas should be limited to spouses and children under 18 of the principal applicant or spouses and children of US citizens and permanent residents.
As mentioned above, the sibling category should be eliminated. But those in line should be allowed to immigrate and given two years to process the paperwork. No one should have to wait for more than a year to immigrate. I would add an English language requirement. Anyone wishing to immigrate to the US must learn English before their interview. If it is a requirement for the visa people will study ESL before taking their interview and once they get to the US be much better equipped to find productive employment and become productive members of society.
Non-immigrant visas should also be simplified to short-term visitors – tourists and business travel, student visas, including exchange visitors, diplomatic visas, and employment visas. The diversity visa lottery program should be discontinued.
All immigrants and non-immigrants must provide proof of travelers’ health insurance when they apply for a visa or enter the country.
Most of the draconian extreme vetting measures that Trump imposed should be rescinded. We should increase the number of refugees and once again welcome asylum applicants. Finally, I would expand the number of visa waiver countries.
Student visa holders should be allowed to transfer to employment visa status if they graduate and are offered a job.
Improve Border Security Without the Useless Wall
Re the border wall, I would shift resources to virtual patrolling. Much cheaper and more effective. Keep the wall where it is but don’t waste any more money on building it. I would also take up the republican proposal of implementing e- verify. The bottom line is we should make the legal route to immigration much less burdensome, so there will be fewer illegal immigrants. Regarding deportation, I would focus the efforts on criminal alien offenders. Others who are here illegally will find it too difficult to stay without proper status and hopefully be deterred from coming.
I would offer a route to citizenship to the Dreamers. I would offer a one-time amnesty to all illegal immigrants who would have to register with the government, provide proof of employment, and proof of English skills, have no criminal background, and pay back taxes. If they complete these requirements, they would be given green cards and after five years be allowed to apply for citizenship.
I would also eliminate the fiancée visa as it is the most fraud-ridden visa of them all. If you want to marry a foreigner you may do so either in the US or overseas and then adjust your status. You finance could visit you in the U.S as a simple tourist visa applicant, then adjust status. No reason for a separate category. If an American marries a foreign national in the U.S the foreign spouse would be given LPR status immediately absent clear evidence of marriage fraud. If a foreigner has a baby in the U.S, the parent would be given LPR status and allowed to stay. However, no woman who is more than six months pregnant would be allowed to enter the U.S. unless they are eligible for an immigrant visa.
Finally, all immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants would have to provide proof of health insurance before entering the U.S. This should also be a requirement for the E Visa approval for visa waiver countries. The visa Waiver country list should be expanded to include all EU countries, most of Latin America, (except for Central America), and SE Asian countries.
If you enact these measures, you will fix the broken immigration system and match immigration visa levels to employment demands which should be a fundamental goal of such reforms.
New Immigration and Citizenship Cabinet Level Department to Oversee the New Immigration System
Besides immigration and non-immigrant visa procedures and policies, I would set up a new cabinet-level Department of Immigration and Citizen services drawing upon the State Department, DHS CIS, ICE, and the Department of Labor.
They should set up a common immigrant processing software the would manage the entire process.
The new agency would have half of its employees serving as immigrant officers, working around the world. Immigration visa officers would serve two to four years of assignments overseas with up to one year of language training. All immigration officers would be foreign service officers and serve 50 percent of their career overseas. They would serve at least one two-year tour at a US port of entry within their first five years of service, with their first assignment overseas. Most of the immigrant visa processing would be done overseas, so most immigrant processing centers in the U.S. would close, leaving a few centers open to process adjustment of status and citizenship applications. The State Department would no longer be involved in the visa or consular services.
Immigration officers overseas would serve either as immigrant visa officers, non-immigrant visa officers, asylum /refugee officers, citizenship service officers, or anti-fraud officers. Most applicants for asylum or refugee status would be processed overseas.
All applicants for visas both immigrant and non-immigrant visas would be screened for fraud indicators before their interviews with a score of green, yellow or red returned from the screening. Green means no evidence of fraud and meets the qualifications, yellow means there are some questionable areas, which will be flagged, and red means that the case will be held for a full fraud investigation at the post. Minor irregularities would not result in any penalties, the applicants would be either issued a visa or paroled into the US as used to be the custom.
Enacting these reforms would go a long way to meet the need for sustained immigration while at the same time making immigration fairer and more rational.
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