15 May 2006
Specific Suggestions to Reform Immigration Law
Specific Suggestions to Reform Immigration Law
Most EU countries require work permits (visas) for non-citizens to take one's existing job contract but not to permit non-citizens to enter without a job contract. Without much hassle, anyone can enter a country as a tourist, under religious vows, etc., but those visas specifically forbid working for a salary. If discovered violating one's visa, the sanctions include deportation, and restrictions on future visa applications. But, I've never seen such vitriol and resentment toward people without the proper visas as I do in my own country. Unlike the current violence within several EU countries based in racial and religious prejudice, America's anti-immigrant biases seem to be evidence of familiar-strange, language capability, job seeker competition, etc.
Each of us, regardless of our status as citizen of the US or not, should examine the assumptions, ideas, and prejudices that contribute to our own opinions on this topic. If we are second generation citizens by birth, our parents, aunts, and uncles had to give up their extended families, homes, language, childhood friends, social expectations, social and civic institutions, and their sense of belonging to leave them behind. Tremendous sacrifices--their reasons must have been so compelling that they made those sacrifices. If one scorns and demeans "illegal" immigrants today, should one think that way about parents or prior family if they had entered the US "illegally?"
Regardless of the political decisions to come, we can choose to treat each man, woman, and child with respect, courtesy, and integrity irrespective of his or her legal status. And one can still be selfish with the full benefits of citizenship, if that's your choice.
These suggestions are simple: to enter the US, any adult can obtain a 90-day visa--subject to evidence of current citizenship, identity, police record, or prior US-legal history and proof of health insurance coverage while in the US. All dependent children or adults can enter with explicit ties to an adult's visa. This is the EU model established for non-EU citizens. My adaptation of that model results from my own international travel over the last 35 years.
Perhaps everyone wanting to enter the US should receive a 90-day visitor visa. If they find a job during those 90 days, they should be able to have their visa changed by the local country administration to a one-year visa allows them to continue working. It would be the immigrant's responsibility to renew this visa annually. These work visas might replace the "Green Card" while motivating the immigrant to maintain gainful employment. Should the visitor not find employment with the initial 90-day visa, he or she would have to leave the US and wait 90 days before obtaining a new 90 day visa. If a person holding an annual visa becomes unemployed for more than 90 days or is unemployed at time of renewing the annual visa, whichever is less time, that person would have to leave the US for at least 90 days before reentering on a new 90-day visa.
Immediate family, adult members of a visitor who finds a job and obtains the annual visa would require their own visas to enter, but could obtain annual visas as long as they are financially dependent on the person with the required job status. Children, including those born in the US during the initial 90-day visa, would have the same legal status as their responsible parent or guardian. Babies born to non-citizens who have the annual visa status, would be entitled to choose US citizenship by reason of place of birth once they attain the age of 13 or older. The child's status would be tied to the responsible parent's or guardian's visa status until the child chooses to be a US citizen when he or she reaches 13 years of age or at whatever date beyond their 13th birthday if he or she is still a dependent. Once the dependent child becomes financially independent, he or she will have to choose 1) to exercise their entitlement to US citizen status or 2) to remain in the US under the same 90-day or annual visa status independent of others held by family or sponsors. If the formerly dependent person were not born in the US (after the parent or guardian has an annual visa), the person would have the choices 1) to establish his or her own annual visa status, 2) begin the legal process of becoming a US citizen or 3) leave the US.
Employers offering jobs to persons with 90-day visas could not distinguish between the visa-based employee and other employees on annual visa status, permanent residency, or US citizens regarding published wages/salaries, benefits and access to union representation, if applicable. As a part of the employment process, the visa-based applicant would be required to obtain a Social Security account and pay all employment-based federal and state taxes under the current IRS rules. Should the visa-based employee lose his or her job, their Social Security taxes and benefits would accrue according to established regulations for future employment, if any, in the US. So, the employers' defined benefit plans or IRA plans vested during employment will follow the entitlements of all employees.
If the 90-day visa holder is employed by the date of visa expiration, then the local county administrator can issue him or her an annual visa upon verification of employment. Any or all dependents of the person converting to an annual visa status will receive annual visas for the same period. The visa holder is responsible for renewing the annual visa, including dependent visas, at the local county administrator's office. If there are any changes to the status of dependents tied to the sponsoring visa, those changes must be reported to the local county administrator's office within 10 days of the occurrence of change.
Once a visa expires, because of time limitation or employment status, the person must leave the US within 10 days, along with all dependents tied to the sponsoring, expired visa. Reentry rules are the same as anyone seeking a 90-day visa.
Jurisdiction for exceptions to the requirement to leave the US will follow an administrative process beginning at the county level for extensions of less than 30 days, a federal administrative, district level judge for all appeals and for obtaining an extension of the annual visa status due to physical or mental incapacity, illness recovery period, criminal or civil court proceeding (at the request of the prosecutor or at the judge's discretion), etc.
While in the US via 90-day or annual visa, the non-citizen and dependents will have access to all public services available to citizens except for the right to vote.
My Ideas about Immigration Reform
Musings on today and tomorrow
The current "debate" about immigration, immigrants and reform in my view is a chimera to distract the country from the Valerie Plame, Iraq War debacles, scandals, no-bid contracts, National Debt and lack of fiscal discipline and accountability, and taxation issues in which this Administration has committed felonies, deceptions and arrogant ineptitude. Our foreign policy has been trashed by a suit-wearing, cognitively impaired third-rate rich kid who did not know what was going on outside of Texas, overseas and who the players were. Then there are the major foci of the public's concerns: education and healthcare.
Bush has tried every way he and his co-conspirators could to dismantle public education via No Child Left Behind and to rescind defined retirement benefits in bail-outs of bankrupt, poorly managed corporations. The health care expectations of millions of unemployed adults and their dependent children and parents no longer remains a problem for the Bush/Cheney junta; by failing to fund healthcare programs, by ignoring those without private insurance, by manipulating the Constitution-endowed bankruptcy rights, by encouraging "faith-based" non-governmental providers and by adding Part D, the prescription drug price support program, to Medicare's major medical safety net of Parts A and B. Many Medicaid beneficiaries, the poorest of the poor, are now subject to larger co-pay amounts, involuntary assignment to a Medicare HMO provider and exclusion from care other than emergency care.
I think that the Bush II legacy will be considered Luddite and regressive because they are making our fiscal, social and psychic sense of well-being radically lower for a new norm of satisfaction in the future. I'm not sanguine about America's cultural resilience to the attacks of classicism and greed. Those middle aged persons of the near future, having gone to college during the 1980's with the myriad of technological changes, freedom from fears of the Draft, Reagan's enthusiastic support for Milton Friedman's economic theories rooted in monetary policy, and the simultaneous regimes overseas of conservative, commercially-based governments, are showing how strongly they adhere to a libertarian philosophy and commercial ethics. The economic growth of the 1990's brought these independent spirits higher salaries, job mobility, two-income requirements of family lifestyles and the globalization of commerce accompanied by the emasculation of trade unions have proven to this libertarian-minded generation that money is the only reliable basis of personal well-being and for sustaining their lifestyles beyond their working years. As Donald Kennedy remarked, during his tenure as president of Stanford University (1979-1993), "Money is the marijuana of the Eighties."
New companies founded during this time discovered that tech industry job seekers were most influenced by salary and not by pensions or seniority-based employment security. So, I wonder if those of us in their parents' generation will find sympathetic, sustaining public programs decimated during the Bush/Cheney years.
Getting Back to the Blog
The ongoing dominance of the American political scene by the Bush/Cheney junta contributed to my sense of estrangement from government institutions, primarily federal. More and more, life in the Bay Area seems tantamount to the liberal societies of the Weimar Republic 1922-1933. Starting with local jurisdictions and municipalities, the Nazis gradually became predominant among appointed officials and administrators. By 1931, Hitler was Chancellor with an aged von Hindenburg as President. In America, Bush II's appointments, in addition to their demonstrated personal and political loyalty to GWB, have been adherents to an Evangelical Christian religious fundamentalism. Within the first years of his appointment as President, the massive federal bureaucracy learned that Evangelical Christianity was good to espouse, so policy makers including Cabinet members issued rules and regulations, established or ended programs, hired new staff. The 2002 Congressional election resulted in a distinct faction of elected representatives and senators who were Evangelical Christians or held complementary views of right and wrong. Within less than four years, both the Executive and Legislative branches of government were in the control of extremist conservatives who had no qualms about defining and implementing national programs consistent with the dictates of fundamental, evangelical Christianity. A conservative dominated Supreme Court offered no significant checks on the accrual of power by the Executive over the Legislative branch.