This post represents my general thoughts on the topic of Immigration and is meant to serve as a “work in progress” of what an ideal immigration platform or policy proposal would look like to me. I am by no means an immigration expert and I am certainly open to feedback by those who certifiably are… as well as those who just have other good ideas.
Immigration seems to be the topic of the year so far in 2019. Arguably, it’s been one of the biggest topics since Donald Trump announced his intent to run for the Presidency in 2015, spewing racist and xenophobic propaganda in the process. There’s a lot of misinformation about the topic and a lot of people wringing their hands and expressing concern, but nobody seems to be offering genuine and comprehensive responses to the problems we face. That needs to change.
Our immigration system is genuinely broken. There are reasons to be concerned both for it’s effectiveness in keeping us safe and the moral ramifications of cruel, inhumane policies and practices at the border and beyond. If we want to truly grow as a country, keep our citizens safe, and “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,” as the preamble to the Constitution states, then we must be aggressive in our reforms and rebuild the system from the ground up.
I believe that the goal of any immigration system should be to encourage people to visit our country and patronize our businesses, grow the strength of our country by attracting those who support our democratic values, and protect our country by promptly removing and preventing entry to those who have shown to be a threat – either by their own documented behavior or the behavior and ideologies of those whom they are known to associate. Our current immigration policies fail to deliver on that goal across the board. Immigration can be an expensive, confusing, and time consuming process that envelops a majority of a person’s life. They routinely fail to keep us safe by focusing too often on low risks matters and not paying enough attention to the real threats. Worst of all, enforcement of our broken policies routinely cause collateral damage as the lives of low-risk individuals and families are torn apart for petty and insignificant reasons.
My proposal for how to move forward is comprehensive and boils down to the following key-objectives:
- Abolish ICE and specialized immigration courts
- Citizenship for all DACA recipients
- Completely end family separation policies
- Establish a three tier visa program that is affordable with clearly defined processes and terms and a definitive path to citizenship
- Complete reformation of policies dictating the handling of unaccompanied minors
- Establish common sense, humane policies governing the handling of illegal crossings, visa overstays, and criminal activity by visa holders or other undocumented persons
By taking these bold steps and implementing the necessary changes to institute them we can make our country more secure and increase our strength economically and geopolitically. These changes create a sensible and accessible route to citizenship for the best and brightest minds of future generations in addition to the most dedicated individuals who seek for themselves and their families a better life that our own ancestors sought when they arrived. By using humanistic policies and creating a welcoming society for immigrants we can build investment in our principles and ideals and use it as confirmation and leverage of our ideals across the world.
The United States has long been regarded as a premier world power, but in recent times we have fallen into disregard due to our xenophobic and racist attitudes that are reinforced and perpetuated through a broken immigration system. In pursuing the approach described here, we correct our trajectory and return once again to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for people all around the world.
Common Sense Immigration
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) is a specialized federal law enforcement agency that was created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks during the massive government restructuring which also created the Department of Homeland Security. While, conceptually, there was reasoning behind creating a specialized agency to handle immigrant related matters uniformly across the country, they have evolved to be an unethical agency and common enemy of the public.
The reality is, there is no need for a specialized force that enforces immigration law. The duties currently designated for ICE can be thoroughly carried out more appropriately through local courts and law enforcement. Rather than devoting enormous amounts of money to a specialized agency which, in a strive to justify their existence, consistently overreaches and abuses their authority and duty we can route the funds into supporting local law enforcement agencies and courts across the country.
Further, abuses by agents of ICE over the past decade MUST be investigated. In the course of abolishing ICE, all cases previously handled by ICE should be collected and reviewed by legal counsel. All abuses, misconduct, or overreaches of authority should be brought to account.
Citizenship for Dreamers
The Dreamers, more formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, are outstanding individuals who arrived in this country at various young ages and who have been in this country for some time. They live and work among us today but are in a constant state of limbo. Under this proposal for immigration reform, all DACA individuals should be granted immediate citizenship given their status as already thoroughly vetted, high performing individuals with a long established history in the country.
Ending Family Separation
The practice of family separation at the border is an affront to the values and morals of this country and must be ended immediately. The only conditions in which members of a family which arrive together shall be separated is for initial evaluation only to ensure any woman or child arriving with an adult male is not being trafficked or in an abusive/risk situation. Once an adult male has been cleared as a non-threat to an arriving woman and/or minor, they shall be immediately reconnected and be detained as a family unit in a designated facility equipped to support families.
Establishing a Three Tier Visa Program
Current visa programs are bloated and ineffective. They are expensive to obtain and confusing to manage by the businesses who seek them and the people who hold them. This leads to people who either can’t afford to financially or don’t have the time to wait due to their own safety in their home countries going to desperate measures to cross the border.
The problems with a complex and expensive immigration system can lead to increased illicit human trafficking as individuals pose with good intentions and recruit into sex trafficking, indentured servitude, or drug trafficking innocent individuals in exchange for helping them enter the country. This does more harm than good and could be avoided if the process for entering and staying in the country were easily affordable, timely, and easily navigable.
Thus, I provide the three tier visa system as a means to simplify and streamline the process for gaining entrance and citizenship to the United States according to the person’s needs, background, and talents. The visas provided all have very clear and attainable conditions which protect our existing populations and grow it by providing opportunities to others.
Class T (Travel / Tourism) [Tier 1]
The Class T visa would be offered to individuals who only seek to visit the United States for a limited time, such as for a vacation or for business reasons like attending a trade show or conference. This would be the one most widely available and easily accessible. It would be granted automatically to anyone with a valid passport from an Allied country. This would include all of our NATO allies and other select countries which we have strong, trusting relationships with. Meanwhile, citizens of other friendly nations which are not NATO or other trusted allies could still apply for a Class T visa, but they would be required to do so manually as it is not automatically afforded to them by their passport.
Class T visas would come with stipulations that grant legal presence in the country for up to 30 days from initial entry, but no more than 90 total days in any 18 month period. Someone who violates these conditions would be subject to immediate removal, fines, and revocation of privileges. The specifics of these punitive measures would be left to the judicial system and would consider the circumstances of the violation and the history of the individual.
Individuals who are inside the country on a Class T visa may, during their presence in the United States, apply for a permanent relocation visa (Class A or Class B as described below). If the individual applies for a permanent relocation visa, they must do so within 20 days of their initial entry as the application to a permanent relocation visa while holding a Class T visa will grant an additional 20 days presence while their application is considered.
Class B (Basic Relocation) [Tier 2]
The Class B visa would be available to individuals who seek to permanently relocate to the United States, but who’s skills or career industry are not considered a priority. This would primarily apply to unskilled laborers who wish to relocate, but also any individual wishing to relocate but who’s career or background does not make them highly desirable.
Class B visas would require that individuals establish residency and gainful employment, or enrollment into an accredited university or technical school program within 90 days of their arrival. They would be subject to check-ins every quarter and must provide ongoing proof of their compliance with the terms of their visa. A Class B visa provides legal residency for 5 years as long as the individual continues to comply with its’ terms.
Successfully fulfilling the terms of the Class B visa for the full 5 years would place the individual in “Long Term Resident” status, providing to them today’s equivalent of a “Green Card” and making them eligible to apply for citizenship. During this phase, they are not yet citizens and must complete an additional 3 year phase where they are subject to annual check-ins and must continue to show regular employment, though the employment requirement would not be as stringent as during the initial 5 years.
Class A (Accelerated Relocation) [Tier 3]
Class A visas are for high achieving or highly skilled individuals who seek to permanently relocate to the United States, and who’s background or skills are highly sought. These might be individuals who have graduated top of their class from secondary education or undergraduate institutions in their home country and who seek to relocate to the United States and enroll in a university, or other individuals who are established in specific careers where the United States seeks to recruit talent – such as doctors, nurses, and engineers.
Class A visas would offer a fast-track for citizenship. The terms of the visa would stipulate that the individual must remain gainfully employed in their authorized industry for 3 years, or start and complete an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral program within 5 years. During this time, the individual would be responsible for attending a check-in meeting twice per year for the entire duration of their visa and provide evidence that they have complied with the terms.
Completion of the terms provided by the Class A visa would make the individual immediately eligible for citizenship upon completion. There would be no further waiting or evaluation period. If they complete the terms of the Class A visa they can apply for citizenship immediately, be reviewed by the court, and granted citizenship
Asylum represents a special type of immigration. The granting of Asylum would happen exclusively at the discretion of the Secretary of State or other designated individual. Asylum would primarily be granted to those who are originating from recognized crisis areas and who are either identified by government agents (such as Diplomats, Intelligence Agents, or Military Commanders) operating in those crisis areas OR upon referral through select allies.
Priority for grants of asylum would be known figures or groups suffering from political oppression or violence, or local at-risk populations who have materially assisted the United States in carrying out it’s mission. An example would be local translators and their families who assist our military abroad.
Receiving Asylum would be the equivalent of receiving a Class B visa and would be subject to the same conditions once granted. However, the application/selection process is different, as is the evaluation process for eligibility. Asylum seekers would be subject to more scrutiny during research on their background and identity in order to establish eligibility. Asylum is the only status available to citizens or individuals who originate from enemy or otherwise high-threat countries and regions where the identity, motives, and background of the applicants is not reliably and readily attainable.
Applying for Visas
The application process for Visas should be simplified and the cost burden reduced to those who seek them. As it currently stands, applying for a visa can be a tedious and costly process, particularly if you’re doing so for reasons of permanent relocation.
As mentioned above, the Class T visa would be the easiest and most accessible. For individuals coming from our NATO allies or other select countries which we have a close relationship a Class T visa is automatically provided through the presentation of a valid passport at their port of entry. Assuming they have not previously been found in violation of the terms of their Class T visa, they would be granted entry immediately. If, however, they have previous violations of their term which have resulted in their suspension of privileges they would be turned away immediately at the border and denied entry.
For individuals originating in friendly nations that aren’t a NATO ally or other select allies, applying for a Class T visa would be done through the closest United States embassy or consulate or similar designated authority for their region. The application must be submitted 30 days in advance and include a verified travel agenda (plane tickets, hotel reservations) and any necessary documents to prove their identity. Once this information has been cleared, they will be provided a paper visa which must be provided with their passport at their port of entry.
Meanwhile, for any individual seeking to relocate to the United States permanently, they would need to apply for their visa at least 30 days in advance through their country’s United States embassy or consulate or other designated authority. Class A visas would be the most restrictive and require additional documentation to support the merits claimed in their application. This might include letters from various authoritative or academic bodies and institutions as to their achievements or may include government documentation of their career of work and referral letters from their superiors in their careers. Applying for a Class A visa would also count as an application for a Class B visa, which may be granted in lieu of a Class A.
For most individuals, applications for a Class B visa would be approved assuming the individual’s identity can be reasonably verified and a simple background investigation does not reveal any concerning associations or significant criminal history.
Individuals originating from hostile or otherwise high-risk nations are not eligible for any visa classes. They may, however, seek Asylum as previously detailed.
Families are important to American culture. All Class A and Class B visas shall include authorization for the legal presence of one recognized spouse and up to 5 minors with valid legal guardianship. All dependents of a visa holder are subject to the same terms as the visa holder, and any violations of the terms which result in a revocation of a visa will apply to all dependents.
Recognized spouses must be individuals who can be legally identified as a spouse in their originating country and must be an individual who’s identity and background can be reasonably established. In the event that the person’s home country does not or cannot provide legal verification of spousal relationship, the individual is encouraged to have their spouse apply for their own visa instead of crossing as dependents.
When considering minors, the accompanying minors must be legally verifiable as being under legal guardianship (such as through a government recognized adoption) or be verifiable as a blood relative of the child. If the minor and adult do not have a parental relationship, it must be established why the minor is not with their parent.
Employment & Education
While the Class T visa does not grant any employment eligibility, Class A and B visas do. Specifically, the terms of those visas require maintaining gainful employment OR enrolling in and completing an accredited academic program. Current processes make sponsoring immigrants expensive and complicated. Paying for an H1B is something many companies won’t broach due to the cost and complications of it.
Under the tiered immigration program, employers would simply be required to provide basic documentation that validates the ongoing employment of an immigrant and notify the government immediately if they voluntarily leave or are let go. This information would be akin to basic tax filings that companies already do which declare the income and employment status of the individual.
A similar filing would be applied to universities that would be required every semester to disclose their academic performance and ongoing enrollment status. In the event that the individual fails to remain enrolled in a sufficient number of classes, voluntarily terminates their enrollment, or is otherwise removed from the school the university should notify the government.
In order to protect and prioritize the citizen workforce, a tax penalty could be levied against companies who disproportionately employ certain classes of visa holding persons. For example, employing a class A visa holder may not impose any penalty, but having a workforce exceeding 30% of Class B visa holders in a non-labor role or 60% of a labor role incurs a penalty. A formula could be worked out which counterweights this with unemployment rates. Higher unemployment lowers the thresholds and/or increases the penalty amount while lower unemployment increases thresholds and lowers penalties.
Reforming Handling Childhood Arrivals
The history of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border has been handled a myriad of ways. One of those ways is the existing DACA (or Dreamers) which were mentioned above. In general, DACA has proven to be an effective way of handling youth who arrive without an adult at the border and little to no documentation authorizing their entry.
In pursuit of a similar policy, any individual who arrives at the border under the age of 18 and with no designated adult guardian shall be initially detained in a special facility for youth detainees. The facility shall accommodate holding groups of single males, single females, and co-ed families. All children under the age of 10 will be kept together regardless of sex.
During detention, which shall be strictly limited to no more than 30 days, all efforts shall be made to identify a safe and legal guardian both inside and outside the country by which to return the child to. Legal guardians shall be considered, in order of priority, any blood relative parent, adult sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. If the most suitable guardian is outside the country, the minor shall be deported immediately and returned to that guardian after being returned to authorities of their origin country. If the most suitable guardian is inside the United States, local authorities shall transport the child to that individual
In the event that no suitable guardian is able to be located, the minor shall be placed in the United States foster care system and assigned a special case worker. They will be required to obtain a primary and secondary education and must have a GED or high school diploma by the time they turn 19. At 19 years old, if they do not have a diploma or GED they will be subject to immediate removal. Otherwise, they will immediately be granted a Class B visa and must subsequently carry out the terms of the Class B visa or be removed to return to their original country.
Policy Enforcement & Violations
Illegal Crossings / Illegal Entry
By implementing a more straightforward and accessible system for legal entry, the desire is that individuals are encouraged to cross at official port of entries. However, for any number of reasons individuals may choose not to do so.
Crossing illegally should be considered a misdemeanor as it already is. It is not inherently a threat to our national security, but for certain individuals it could be. Crossing illegally in the commission or conspiracy of criminal activity, on the other hand, is a threat to our national security and should be treated as a felony.
If an individual crosses illegally and is not found to be doing so in the commission of another crime, they should be apprehended, held and interviewed for 72 hours at a legal port of entry or other designated holding area. From there, they can either be released back into their country or origin OR apply for Asylum or a Class B visa. If they apply, their detention may be extended while their application is considered.
If an individual crosses illegally and is in the commission of another crime or engaging in conspiracy to commit another crime, the individual should be apprehended and held until charged and sentenced by a criminal court for their accompanying crime. The result shall be either immediate removal or long term incarceration under the terms of their sentencing.
Undocumented Aliens & Visa Overstaying
Any individual which is encountered within the United States who lacks or is unable to produce evidence of their legal authorized presence shall be determined to have committed a misdemeanor illegal crossing. This shall apply regardless of whether they overstayed a visa or entered the country outside a legal port of entry without a visa.
Individuals established to be in this condition shall be fined no more than $250 and shall be immediately evaluated for eligibility for a Class B visa. If eligible, they shall have the option of applying for a Class B visa and complying with the terms of that visa OR they may choose to be immediately removed under the terms of the Class T visa.
If the individual chooses to apply for a Class B visa, they will be immediately granted a provisional visa which has the same terms and conditions as a Class B visa but is subject to revocation if the application is denied due to an inability to confidently establish identity and background of the individual. If revoked, the individual and any undocumented dependents shall be removed within 72 hours.
Arriving Without Documentation
If an individual arrives at a legal United States Port of Entry and lacks sufficient documentation for access, they shall be provided two options: (a) be denied entry and return immediately to their country of origin, or (b) apply for a visa or asylum. Choosing option B allows them to also choose to enter voluntary detention. This is a sort of protective custody / quarantine where individuals who believe they are at risk if they return may be transferred to a secure facility inside the United States while they are interviewed and await a ruling on their application for Asylum or their visa.
Individuals in voluntary detention may choose to be released back into their country of origin at any time, and individuals who apply for their visa at the border are not required to remain in detention while their request is processed. They must, however, provide a reliable means to locate them or return daily to check their status.
The immigration system should have zero tolerance for foreign individuals who enter the United States under the terms of ANY grant and who commit crimes.
Conviction of any felony action by an individual who’s presence in the United States is granted by either their asylum or visa status shall have their status revoked immediately upon conviction, regardless of sentencing. While an individual sentenced to time in prison would still be held and complete that time, upon their release they would be immediately removed from the country. Further, they shall be banned from entry for a period of at least 5 years. The duration of their ban may be increased up to permanently at the discretion of the court with consideration to the nature of their crime and the risks posed by a repeated offense.
Meanwhile, misdemeanors should be handled under a point system wherein the conviction of 5 non-traffic misdemeanor charges results in the violation of the terms of any visa or asylum status and prompts the eligibility for immediate removal of the individual. Unlike felony charges, any individual removed due to “pointing out” shall be denied entry for a period of at least 2 years but no more than 10 years according to the frequency and severity of their offenses. Traffic-related misdemeanors such as parking tickets, speeding tickets, failure to yield or lane usage tickets shall not apply to their points and should not result in removal. However, charges such as petty theft, trespassing, and civil misconduct do apply.