Path to legal status
Serious immigration reform has to include a way for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become legal residents. Critics decry this as amnesty for lawbreakers, but there is no practical way around it. Authorities can't find and deport 12 million people. The Kennedy-McCain bill divided illegal immigrants into three groups based on how long they've been here, with different rules for each. Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, incoming chair of the House immigration, border security and claims subcommittee, thinks that approach is too complicated.
``We do have to pass something a brain-dead bureaucracy can work with,'' she said. A better strategy would be to sort immigrants based on how much they contribute to the economy and society: length of employment, payment of taxes, special skills and family ties to legal residents. Communities would benefit from offering legal residency to those with the strongest ties and the most to offer.
People who entered the country illegally should face penalties. But deportation -- especially breaking up families -- isn't good for them or for society. Fines would be more effective. To reward those who did follow the rules, that money could be used to clear the backlog of applications from legal immigrants who clearly qualify for permanent residency or citizenship.
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