I was very disappointed to hear that a proposed compromise immigration bill had broken down in the Senate.
The bill proposed that undocumented workers who were here for over five years (and could prove it by showing utility bills, paychecks or other paperwork) would be put on a path to citizenship which would take 11 years, those here longer than two but less than five years would have to check in at a border crossing but would be allowed to stay and become citizens in no less than thirteen years, and those here less than two years would be required to leave. Additionally, the bill would impose sanctions on employers, without which there is no chance at all of stopping illegal immigration-- as long as there is a supply of jobs, people will come.
The compromise bill makes sense, because it recognizes the reality of the fact that there are anywhere from ten to twenty million undocumented workers already in this country, and passing meaningless laws saying that being here illegally is now a felony won't achieve anything at all about it-- I mean, what would we do then? Put them in prison? Then who do we let out of our already overcrowded prison? And we have no clue who they all are or where they are. We might catch them in ones and twos and tens and dozens, but that won't make a dent in the overall supply. Only a bill which provides some sort of incentive for them to identify themselves will do a thing about the fact that we generally don't know who they are.
And as I've blogged on before, our failure to do anything about undocumented aliens except call them undocumented and deport them when we catch them, has contributed to the fact that they have not assimilated culturally as past generations of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere have done. Doing things like learning English or opening a small business actually increases the possibility that they will be identified as illegal aliens, so they don't do these things, and not assimilating culturally, become as likely to identify with the Mexican flag as the American flag.
As to the earned path to citizenship, the eleven to thirteen year time frame does two things. The first is that it counteracts the problem described in the last paragraph, being a long enough time to allow people who have no longer anything to fear, to become more American. It also is designed to muffle the impact on partisan politics. Over the course of eleven or thirteen years, both major parties will have time to explain themselves to these communities if they want to, and in any case almost all of the lawmakers who pass any law today, will be either dead, retired or very secure in their districts by 11 or 13 years from now.
It is too bad that the Senate decided that they would rather demogogue the issue by pushing for tough sounding laws that in fact do very little, like making illegal immigration a felony.