On any given day in the Home Depot parking lot in the San Fernando Valley, from 100 to 200 day laborers — almost all undocumented — show up hoping for work. Much of the talk Friday was of the new Senate immigration plan — particularly its proposal to let illegal immigrants step forward and start down the path to legalization and, eventually, US citizenship.
"This is unquestionably an opportunity to come out of the shadows and into the sunlight," says Jefe Rodriguez, a middle-age contractor who says he makes about $200 in a good week. "However, $5,000" — the price tag to apply for permanent residency — "is way too much money, mucho dinero. We don't have that kind of money."
Now, the basic problem is that the value of citizenship is far more than the fines that are being considered or currently implemented.
In this case, we have someone complaining about being asked to pay $5000 for something that has a market value of $100,000 and a theoretical value closer to $300,000.
I think we ought to substantially raise the price for all types of visas and residency rights, enforce the existing penalties against employers—and substantially increase those penalties for future violations. The revenues obtained could be used to help those affected go back home with less distress than they might otherwise experience.
I suspect that even fairly minor incentives could facilitate movement of millions of folks back to Mexico.