Suddenly, we want to blame the undocumented for all sorts of problems and scapegoat them with measures to criminalize or starve them away, as if the mess we're all complicit in is somehow only their fault? Lawyers call that unjust enrichment.
Those who call an earned path to citizenship "amnesty" are wrong. Amnesty would be declaring that all illegals were hereby deemed citizens. No one is proposing that. And no one is opposed to securing our borders to know exactly who's crossing them. But doing it right means fixing the entry process so that the workers our economy demands can enter efficiently, come out of the shadows and reunite safely with family - ultimately making it easier to apprehend those few criminals and terrorists who might wish to slip in.
An earned pathway to citizenship, combined with a guest-worker program, effective border security, internal enforcement and a fixed visa system (comprehensive reform) meets the realities of our economic and security needs.
And it wouldn't "reward illegal behavior." The earned pathway is like a plea bargain. A person who has committed the misdemeanor of entering the country illegally would, in effect, plead to the civil offense of overstaying his visa by acknowledging his guilt and paying a fine, and back taxes, proof of having worked, a criminal background check, an English proficiency test and other requirements.
It is an equitable and practical solution to a complex problem for which we all share responsibility - while still holding accountable those who have committed the indiscretion of entering or being in the country illegally. Opposition to comprehensive immigration reform on the grounds that "illegal is illegal" is an intellectually lazy argument arising out of knee-jerk nativism. We have a history of welcoming newcomers in this manner - despite our reputation as a "nation of immigrants." But if we don't want to cripple our economy, and if we're to be truly fair, immigration reform must be comprehensive. Anything less would be cutting off our big economic nose just to spite our hypocritical law-and-order face.
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