Immigration needs more work

The new immigration system plan combines welcome reforms and foolish concessions.

In the U.S. Senate, the effort to compromise with modern-day Know-Nothings who shout “amnesty” as if it were a vulgarity has brought the immigration overhaul to an unlikely, and to us, unwelcome form.

The legislation will include some common-sense reforms, like increasing border security and doubling the number of Border Patrol agents to 28,000. After security conditions are met, the plan would give most of the estimated 12 million undocumented workers who have already set down roots in the country legal status and a path toward eventual citizenship. The requirements are not easy, including a $5,000 fine and a trip that the head of a household must make back to his or her country of origin. However, compared to the illegal shadows that immigrants must live in today, the prize of citizenship seems worth the effort.

Other elements in the plan, though, are shortsighted and, to be plain, contrary to the spirit of our country. First, it will place a premium on the skills and education people have, rather than on the family ties that have traditionally guided the immigration process. If people are allowed to immigrate, we want them to be able to have their families here and to fully invest their lives in their new country. Immigrants should feel like they are part of where they live – but if their husband, wife or children are denied entry, it’s hard to see how these people could consider themselves Americans, as opposed to people only working in America.

The “guest worker” plan is where we draw our biggest concerns on this legislation. Under the current plan, 200,000 people would be granted temporary visas to work in the country for two years, then return home for one before they could re-enter the country. After three stints of working, all they would have are the meager wages paid during their stay – no roots and no hope of a better future in the country where they labored. This would effectively create a permanent underclass of people doing the jobs least desirable to Americans. They deserve the same chance other generations of immigrants had when they came to this country: hope for a better future for themselves and their families. If we want their labor, we owe them at least that much in return.