Ruben Navarrette Jr., a CNN contributor offers a reasonable response for fixing our immigration system.

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) — In a recent commentary, I spelled out what bothers many Hispanics about the immigration debate. In response, many readers demanded to know — for all my criticisms — how I would go about fixing our broken immigration system. I thought they’d never ask.

First, let’s keep it real. Congress doesn’t have the appetite to reform the immigration system — no matter which party is running the show. It’s always the same story. After all the huffing and puffing, any workable solution needs to have two components: employer sanctions with teeth and a tamper-proof identification card for all U.S. workers to tell employers who is eligible to work. Republicans won’t allow the first; Democrats won’t allow the second. Game over.

But, if it were so inclined, here’s what Congress should do:

1) By way of enforcement — stiffen penalties against employers with a “three strikes” law (first offense, a warning; second, $10,000 fine; third, 10 days in jail); revise the 1996 Immigration Reform and Control Act by removing the word “knowingly,” as in employers only face punishment if they knowingly hire an illegal immigrant; create an identification card; instead of adding more border patrol agents (the agency can’t meet hiring goals as it is), give the agents already on the line better tools, including tunnel detection equipment; extend the deployment of the National Guard on the border, now set to expire on July 15; continue workplace raids but, for heaven’s sake, arrest an employer every once in a while; and speed up deportations.

2) By way of legalizing the undocumented — make it contingent on meeting enforcement goals, or “triggers”; establish a cutoff so that only those who can prove that they’ve been in the country for five years or more are eligible to apply for legal status and deport more recent arrivals; require applicants to learn English, pay a $5,000 fine, undergo criminal background checks, return to their home country to be processed, and take their place in the back of the line behind all those who are trying to enter the country legally; and, for those who are eventually given legal status, institute a lifetime ban on receiving welfare, Medicaid or food stamps but allow them to collect what they’ve contributed to Social Security.

3) By way of reforming the system for those who immigrate legally — increase the allotment of green cards and work visas, including H1B visas for highly skilled workers; triple the number of legal immigrants currently admitted from 1 million to 3 million, or 1 percent of the total U.S. population; abandon the current system of using family reunification as the main criteria for admitting new immigrants but don’t adopt the silly and offensive idea of a point system that rewards education and skills; instead, let the market drive the process by making labor demands the major criteria so (how’s this for radical?) we always have jobs for those who come here instead of admitting engineers and doctors if what we really need are teachers and nurses.

This isn’t brain surgery. But some of this will take courage and common sense. The bad news is, those can be scarce commodities in Washington.

105 Thoughts to “Commentary: How to fix our broken immigration system”

  1. Michael

    Define “abuse” mackie. What law has been unfairly passed today that is “abusive”
    to you based on your ethnic group, gender, religion or race. What law is not being applied fairly to you and all others, that is not a fair and equitable law blind to racem gender, religion or ethnic group. You’d be hard pressed to find one, because these “laws” would be instantly challenged in court and “won” by the thousands of minority group legal watchdogs. The only laws you think are “unfair” today are the ones that don’t allow you to leverage racial, gender, religious or ethnic group, numerical balancing priviliges and advantages because your “numbers” are smaller than the majority, and thus EVIL to people like you who think like that. You won’t rest and feel the law is impartial until your “numbers” are higher than the majority you hate so much, and you will not feel so threatened and under-privileged just because you have lower numbers of people who are richer, or advantaged in some way than some other ethnic, gender, religious or racial group. The simply reality that perpetuates this ignorance is that the real reason you have lower numbers in any category of measurement you chose to claim dis-advantage, your minority numbers are lower, because your “numbers are lower, not because the law is not being applied as an “equal” standard.

    Give me a situation of legal unfairness, I can argue against and I guarantee you in the course of that argument I will prove to you, you think you deserve some “numerical” advantage just because your numbers are lower than some other group, and you deserve more than I do as an individual based on your race, gender, religion or ethnic group. I’ll apply the “fairness” of the law and “standard” of law against your feeble race based, numerical balancing arguments and win that debate every time, because you cannot find a law that is “unfair” to you as an “individual” today. That is the test the supreme court will use to. If you find such a law I will personally help you take it to the supreme court, because that same law can be used to discrimminate “against” me.

  2. Michael

    Mackie thinks he was arrested or put in the back of a squad car because of his “race”. In reality he was arrested because some officer suspected him of breaking a law. People can never just look at the “numbers” of people arrested based simply on the “number” of individual people who come under suspicion based on some standard or numbers that actually break the law. If those people happen to be a member of a particular race and someone put “numbers” on it , then Mackie, thinks he’s being discrimminated against because members of other races aren’t being arrested in the same “numbers”. He just can’t imagine why some other “individuals” might “choose” not to break the law, and just might happen to have a different “number” if someone puts a group “number” on it. The issue he can’t see is, “individuals” simply commit “suspected” acts that arouse “reasonable suspicion” of a police officer. If he was convicted, then the judge determined he really did break the law. Remember arrest is not conviction, it is simply a “reasonable suspicion” of wrong doing by the individual arrested. I hear racial profiling all the time, and it always turns out in almost EVERY case (an rarely otherwise) when put into a court of law to test its validity, simply a mis-application of “numerical” perceptions of certain racial, gender, religious and ethnic groups and not a case of the “unfairness” or inequity in the standared of the law. Police officers by law are required to use standards of “law” in making those decisions.

  3. Dignidad

    Mackie, setting requirements for immigrants does not interfere with anyone’s free speech rights. They’re not being required to give up their language, just add a new one. Aren’t you the one that advocates learning English and Spanish? If someone wants to immigrant legally, add the English. Saying “practicing a government mandated culutural monopoly upon them” is just plain dishonest. It misleads an ignorant population and feeds the victim mentality.
    As for raids, they are sad and painful, but I support them. How many millions are here illegally? We do need to make sure that they are done properly and humanely. How else is the message going to get out that coming illegally is completely unacceptable? The Hispanic community has spent years spreading the opposite message, encouraging people to disrespect this nation and come illegally.

  4. Dignidad,

    They come for jobs, nothing else. It’s great. we should welcome them. We’re lucky to have them. Your precious and idiotic immigration law is the problem. Without that, you got nothing.

    If you really believe the police do not discriminate based on race, you’ve never had it happen to you. Just wait for a while. As we become more multiracial, it will happen to you. The you’ll say something like ‘How could this happen in America?’ Hahaha

  5. Dignidad

    Mackie, coming for jobs doesn’t exclude them from any requirements. If you don’t like our immigration law, work towards changing what you don’t like. If you think that without immigration law there’s nothing, then you have a screwed up sense of what America is. We are not a country of convenience for those who just want a better job.

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