During the recent senate debate, there was discussion over whether there should be 4, 6, or 8 million new grants of US citizenship. What about folks forced to return home? What about the folks that have had such a bad experience in the US they really don't want American citizenship?
Steve Sailor and I have both suggested buyout options for immigrants. That technique has the possibility of both increasing the number of illegal immigrants that return home after a change in immigration law enforcement—and would soften the blow for those that found they had to make a significant change in their life plans due to erratic US immigration policies.
I don't particularly blame Mexicans of modest means for violating US immigration law after corporate America foisted NAFTA on Mexico. I've consistently said: Corporate America made a mess here and ought to clean up their mess.
What I like about the buyout option: it means that there is no reason for anyone who returns home to do so empty handed—unless they get real stubborn and resist the law after it is clear that this time it is serious.
I'd like to see a buyout option for illegal immigrants that has a sliding scale. Folks that have been in the US the longest, paid taxes and avoided involvement with the legal system would get the most. I'd also make the payment over time-and assure that the recipient only gets the money if they prove they are legally in another country. I'd also give the "early adopters" assurance that if the price is increased at a later date, they'll have not put themselves in a bad position by taking this deal early on. I'm sincerely worried about the guy that has barely arrived and has invested his life savings getting to the US via a coyote.
Under recently proposed legislation, he'd be in a very difficult situation. When America lets scum like the Kennedy and Bush clans occupy positions of wealth and influence, how do we expect some uneducated guy that doesn't speak English to understand he really isn't dealing with legitimate businessmen? He's just assuming this is the way things are done in the USA-and I don't think it is really fair to rapidly change the rules to his disadvantage.
The key factor in a sound immigration policy has to be controlling the behavior of folks with wealth. The influence the US has over how Mexico treats its wealthiest citizens is rather limited. However, I expect the first time we see a corporate CEO or wealthy property owner being placed in prison for systematic violation of immigration law, will be a highly visible media event—much like Paris Hilton's or Martha Stewart's recent experiences.
I worked on an investigation of a very wealthy man (I was a Software Engineer supporting a team of auditors that helped convince the CEO of Riscorp to plead guilty to illegal campaign donations). I came out of that experience with the opinion that the legal system is enormously biased in favor of the wealthy and is not capable of handling pervasive, high level corruption.
We need an immigration policy in which fines aren't just another "cost of doing business". US residency rights are valuable-and we need to recognize that value in the way we treat this issue. Otherwise, we simply feed a predatory elite adept at mining the value of their fellow American's citizenship.
James Fulford pointed out that most Americans wouldn't give up their citizenship rights for a $1 Million. Few folks worldwide have the mix of skills, knowledge and characteristics necessary to obtain that kind of value from US citizenship. I suspect it would be cheaper to give illegal immigrants a financial incentive to "self deport"—and far less costly in terms of international publicity. Who can really complain about poor Mexicans voluntarily returning home with money in their pocket?
There is no reason for the taxpayer to have to bear this cost. The maximum fine under existing immigration law is $25,000 per violation. I think that is far too low compared to the value of citizenship, but with 12 Million illegal immigrants-many of whom have had multiple jobs, that still offers a big pool of money to immediately work with compared to the amount of money on average compared to what most illegal immigrants could ever expect to return home with.
In many cases, the fines will not be collectible. Often, the "employer" is technically a highly leveraged contractor with no real assets. Some smart attorneys might figure out a way to "pierce the corporate veil" and go after the real assets benefiting from this violation of immigration law-but I expect substantially new laws will be necessary. I also expect that we can get even these 'front men' to give valuable information about their overall operations and who they are working with. I also expect that a lot of wealthy people would find it seriously uncomfortable just to be placed on the stand answering questions like: "Did you know that the business in which you invested was employing illegal immigrants?", "Did you know the property you owned was being used to house illegal immigrants?" Al Capone was imprisoned for Income Tax violations—because they couldn't get him on anything else. We can and should identify the wealthy who have profited from illegal immigration-and treat them similarly.
Employer Sanctions are clearly popular in recent polls. We have a real education project in informing the public of what the fine levels must be to be effective. A sensible buyout option could prove to be more popular than the other alternatives currently under consideration. Combined with employer sanctions and border/interior enforcement, a buyout of illegal aliens could actually help move towards the lower overall levels of immigration the American public wants-and treat poor people with the compassion the American public wants.