I understand that undocumented workers have technically broken the law. But I also know that the reason undocumented workers came here are the same reasons my ancestors left their homes in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland to come to the United States. They came so that they and their families could have a better life. That is hard for me to find fault with.
My focus with immigration reform is to not put a temporary Band-Aid on it but to permanently fix it. My proposed solution has three parts; all three parts are integral and necessary to the solution. The first part deals with undocumented workers who are presently in the U.S. and the second and third parts deal with the future.
Part 1, Dealing with undocumented workers who are here now
If an undocumented worker has committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors since coming to the U.S., that person should be deported. However, if the undocumented worker has worked hard, paid taxes and stayed out of trouble then I would allow that person to come out of the shadows, pay a modest fine, and be given a path to citizenship.
Part 2, Dealing with undocumented workers in the future
As far as stopping undocumented workers in the U.S. in the future it is really quite simple; most undocumented workers are here for one reason: JOBS. If there were no jobs, they would not come. But, as long as an undocumented worker can find a much better paying job in this country than (s)he can find in his/her own country neither a wall nor mass deportations will stop them (for the record I am adamantly opposed to a wall). If we really want to stop undocumented workers in the future we need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers, because jobs are the magnet drawing undocumented workers to the United States. The tool to stop future undocumented immigration already exists and it is called E-Verify. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that confirms whether or not a person is authorized to work in the United States.
The problem is that right now E-Verify is largely voluntary. If E-Verify were mandated for every new hire, with substantial financial penalties for employers who do not comply, the word would soon get out that there was no work for undocumented workers in the U.S. so there would be no economic incentive for undocumented workers to cross the border.
Part 3, Dealing with Undocumented Workers in the future
In addition to a mandatory E-Verify, we need a system to accommodate the need in this country for legal seasonal workers while at the same time treating those seasonal workers fairly and humanely. To me, the answer is to fix the current H-2A program which allows agricultural employers to hire foreign guest workers on temporary work visas to fill seasonal jobs. The H-2A program is a step in the right direction but it has some fundamental flaws that need to be fixed.
The H-2A program must:
- Be expanded to cover other non-agricultural jobs where there are not enough U.S. workers to meet the needs;
- Encourage hiring U.S. workers first;
- Not drive down the wages and/or working conditions of U.S. workers; and
- Require employers to pay Social Security and unemployment taxes on both U.S. workers’ wages and guest workers’ wages.