Illegal Immigration - The Red Card Solution

Newt Gingrich made a valid point on immigration in the New Hampshire debate, it is not a simple of choice of outright amnesty or deporting 12 million illegal immigrants, but there are paths not yet traveled that will strengthen the America economy, treat those illegals in the underground economy humanely and restore the rule of law. The late Richard Nadler, my mentor, once noted that in the post 9-11 days, border security is a necessity but in the end, it was about whether we will continue to allow movement of workers as we do movement of goods across borders.

The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation produced a plan called the Red Card Solution. The Red Card Solution combines technology, increased border security and a guest worker program to fill our economy's needs. To understand our present problems, we need to review the past. Over the past century, immigration from Mexico has been a mixture of open acceptances to complete shutdown, depending upon the United States' economic and political situation. During both World War I and II, immigration from Mexico was open due to employment needs during war. The Bracero program was established in the 1950’s; allowing guest workers to come into the United States to fill unmet agricultural needs in the Southwest. During the first years of the Great Depression, nearly 400,000 Mexicans were deported due to a lack of jobs and during economic recessionary times, support for immigration and guest workers programs declined and demand for enforcement of immigration increased. For the past few years, we have resorted back to the enforcement phase of immigration politics.

The demise of the Bracero program eliminated the functional guest worker program that was transparent due to Union pressures in the early 1960’s. The 1986 immigration reforms provided amnesty for those illegals in the United States before 1982, enforced employer sanctions on hiring illegal immigrants and established a residential category for agricultural workers. What it didn’t do was to provide for an expanded worker program, and thus the waves of illegals continued, but many of them were forced into the economic underground; which is where we are today.

The Cato Institute concluded in a summary of immigration policies that under the Bracero program, nearly 80 percent of workers chose to return to Mexico and not become a naturalized citizen. Anecdotal observations showed that most guest workers if given the choice of becoming a citizen or having the ability to go back home when the job was done; would choose the latter.

The debate on immigrants centers on certain myths, the first being that if we set up a guest worker program, the United States would be inundated with massive immigrations and for many conservatives, the fear of adding to the voter total for future Democratic candidates. Many guest workers may choose not to become United States citizens, so the big flood may not occur. Immigration lawyer Charles Foster told me that any proposal presently passed would mean that any immigrants applying for citizenship today would not be eligible for citizenship until the mid-2020’s, so most immigrants wouldn’t be voting until 2024 at the earliest, leaving them out of participating over the next three Presidential election cycles!

Most of the past immigrants ebb and flow with the economy; the more prosperous the economy, the more illegals come into the United States. Most observers have noted when the economy falters, immigration drops. (One friend of mine once quipped; screwing up the economy is one way to put a dent into illegal immigration. The incompetent Obama administration's economic plans have gone a long way in slowing down illegal immigration.)

The Red Card Solution does not deal with the citizenship side of the equation but emphasizes the guest worker program and border security. The goal is to allow companies to recruit workers in Mexico for jobs north of the border on an as needed basis. The Red Card is a card that allows the workers to come into the United States and allows authorities and employers to track workers. It is a less intrusive and less bureaucratic way of enforcing immigration laws than other proposals; which involves more intrusive government interference and cost for many businesses. It is important to note that under the Red Card plan, workers will be matched for specific jobs and unless they have a job, they will not be allowed entrance. This is similar to plans approved in Canada and other countries. This will go a long way to reducing illegal immigration since many of these workers are more interested in working and not United States citizenship.

The Red Card solution streamlines the process while aiding the economy; placing the right worker with the right job. The major objection is that immigrants will compete with native born Americans for jobs, but there are many jobs not presently being filled and the major problem with our job creating machine resides in Washington and not due to increased immigration. (Since the Reagan era, increased immigration has coincided with a three decade historical economic expansion.) Of course, hiring Americans will be advantageous to local businesses since the price of paying a head hunter adds cost to employees.

This does help solve major enforcement policies. By having an open guest worker program, there are fewer incentives for illegals to migrate north illegally since there are legal options to get a job. This allows ICE and other agencies to focus on closing the border to real criminals and allows more efficient use of limited resources. Employers will be forced to hire and pay guest workers what they pay Americans, so there would be no real advantage for companies hiring guest workers. The Red Card solution does not solve the citizenship question. That is a separate question left for another day.


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"The Red Card is a card that allows the workers to come into the United States and allows authorities and employers to track workers." So how does this process allow authorities to keep better track of workers than the current system? Temporary workers enter the US every day with proper documents, and then end up going wherever they want to find jobs with employers who are OK with violating the law. It isn't the documents that are the problem, it's the lack of will on the part of authorities to enforce and control the workers, and the lack of compliance on the part of employers. It doesn't matter what system you use if there is no enforcement to back it up.

It worked during the 1930s and it worked during the Eisenhower admin.

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