Immigration reform is back in the news. We want secure borders to limit those who can enter the country. We have created this fantasy that the kids who were brought into the country are not at fault, so should be given a path to citizenship, but the parents who worked to feed and send the kids to school are criminals.
This to me is where the disconnect occurs, especially from a rational point of view. After all, aren't the criminals those who take what they don't earn. Aren't the criminals those who go the welfare line simply because it is simpler than working. Furthermore, from the free market prospective, are we to tout people who are willing to work so that our business flourish, while creating incentives for those who are reluctant to find work rather being a burden on the taxpayer? Yet the rhetoric now seems to be that those who are unemployed are victims, even though a vast number of unemployed care so little about work that they did not even bother to complete high school.
That is why our immigration policy needs to based not only on birthright, but also on work and contribution to society. This is already enshrined in programs like the H1B visa, but we can be much more agressive, and much more fair, to those that have a desire to work, and make the US a better place.
So what is the solution. Simple. Reward those that work, punish those that won't.
An immigrant who is working, paying taxes, and obeying the law should be allowed to contribute without harassment. If the business community says that this is most efficient way to attain labor, believe them. Why burden business with excessive regulation on labor. A rapid path to citizenship for a person who works and pay taxes would be only fair. I know some are saying that this will only lead to labour abuse and low wages, but wait and see.
On the other hand, a citizen that is not working and paying taxes is not contributing to society, so why not take the right of citizenship away? Why not say that a person who has paid no federal tax for say, 6 of the last 8 quarters, and is between say 25 and 65, that person loses citizenship. Not deported, just loses the rights of citizenship. For instance if such a person commits a crime they would be tried as a allien, not a citizen. If such a person does decide to be a contributing member of society, say by paying taxes continuously for 20 quarters, then there would be a fair and equitable pay to citizenship.
From a progressive point of view, the main concern with this is likely to be the low wages and worker abuse that often occurs when undocumented immigrants are employed. However, those low wages and abuses are a result of the government criminalizing those who want to work and the firms that want to offer them work. Without this government interference the all workers will be free to compete, and all workers would be free to pursue actions against employers who violate existing laws. Under the current situation where work is criminalized, workers fear reporting employers. If bad working conditions, instead of work, were criminalized, then all workers benefit.
A second objection might be that employees might be afraid to report abusive employers because if they do, and lose their job, they might also lose citizenship. This objection is unfounded. All that the law, as I state it, would require is that a citizen be working and paying taxes. A citizen could collect can, pay taxes on the revenue, and continue to be a citizen. The employer as so many see it is a myth that may become increasingly unnecessary in a country where health care is universal and work is always legal and encouraged.
So this my modest proposal. We reward people who work, and provide negative incentives for those who do not. There are always details to work out, and critics will nitpick to make this sensible idea seem radical. At the end of the day those who are happy to work to make the country better will embrace the idea, and those that just want to live in an aristocracy that gives them a life based on birthright will reject it.