That’s far beyond the grasp of this Congress, which has its hands full just trying to keep a speaker in place. To be fair, even in past years with stronger leaders in charge, immigration reform has always been out of reach. Both sides would rather have the problem to campaign on than a solution that seems so simple to me. More on that later.
Vasquez has proposed five bills, which all seek to address the symptoms of the crisis. The most important is the Strengthening Our Workforce Act.
It would allow undocumented immigrants working in critical professions such as law enforcement, healthcare, education, energy production, emergency response and other specified career fields to apply for a two-year temporary provisional status, allowing them to live and work here legally.
“Undocumented immigrant workers play a critical role in New Mexico’s economy, including in the oil and gas industry, and they should be credited for their outsized contributions,” Vasquez said.
The Farm Workforce Support Act would call for a study of the program that gives temporary working status to agricultural workers, and its impact on the workforce.
The other three bills all deal with public safety.
The Smart Border Protection Act would provide an additional $570 for new hires in the Homeland Security Department, new screening technology and infrastructure improvements at the ports of entry. The Humane Accountability Act would hold detention centers responsible for abuses that happen in their facilities
The one bill I’m not a big fan of would impose mandatory sentencing for human trafficking crimes. While I understand the need to stop that horrible activity, federal crime bills calling for mandatory sentences bring back scarry memories from the Bush/Clinton days. They take discretion away from judges and feed our mass incarceration industry.
Despite my reservations, all of these seem like bills that could gain bipartisan support in a Congress that was interested in solving problems. Sadly, we don’t have one of those.
Now, for my simple three-step solution to our immigration crisis:
First, develop clear guidelines as to who does and who does not qualify for asylum, along with a system for adjusting those guidelines as needed to address changing conditions around the world.
Then, broadcast that message throughout the world, along with a clear warning that the new law will be enforced.
And finally, enforce the law. That will mean immigration courts on the border, along with federal aviation facilities to immediately return those who don’t qualify. Undocumented immigrants who are already here get to stay. Those waiting at the gate who don’t qualify can’t get in.
I realize my plan only addresses asylum. Reform of the entire immigration system would take more steps than I have room for.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com.
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