Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Which We Throw Another Immigration Proposal Onto The Pile

Immigration is and always has been a thorny subject in this country. I've long figured that there are 20,000 different ways to handle immigration, and listening to any debate on the topic, you will find every single one of them to be wrong.

One of the big problems behind that is that immigration, by its very nature, does not deal with people coming from anything even remotely resembling equivalent backgrounds. Billionaires immigrate. Penniless political refugees immigrate. Some people are essentially stateless. Some people don't really have a concept of geopolitical borders. No one way of handling things works for everyone.

The result, at least for the United States, is that there is what can be a decade-long process sorting out who is who-- in this particular story, the wait is actually 17 years- and for many of your more desperate cases, they simply cannot afford to wait that long. They're too poor. They're fleeing political instability. There's someone back home looking for their head. Something that makes them unable to go the over-the-counter route to citizenship because the wait makes them far too likely to die trying.

With no guarantee that they'll actually get accepted.

And then there's the matter of children who had no choice in the matter whatsoever because their parents were the ones making the decision, and simply dragged them over the border.

The real tragedy comes every time one of these children dragged over the border by their parents decides to make the most of it, turns out to be a prodigy that does something like pull a 4.0 GPA and snares a scholarship to the Ivy League, and just generally proves themselves to be a much better citizen than some of our actual citizens, and just then someone finds out they're an illegal immigrant and immediately the calls come to deport them just like everyone else. What was the child to do, fend off their parents with a stick so they could go the legal route? Go back home by themselves, sans parents, to God knows what? Say 'Mommy, I don't wanna go', assuming they were even old enough to speak at the time?

I won't speak for the situation of the proverbial parents here. The proposal I'm about to float would cover the proverbial child prodigy.

Well, maybe the parents too. It depends on how they've got on since they crossed.

The proposal is to introduce a group of what I call 'fasttrackers'. Their job would be to identify those people who are showing themselves to be not only worthy American citizens, but exemplary ones at that, and in fact so worthy that the United States could use them right this very second. A fasttracker, once they have identified such a person, would be able to permit their find to bypass the rest- or all- of the immigration process and, with a small bit of substitute paperwork (because there does have to be SOMETHING), singlehandedly bestow citizenship themselves. One stroke of the pen from them and all the red tape is gone.

Essentially, the fasttracker would be able to tell the immigration people, "It's cool. They're with me." That substitute paperwork would suffice until the rest of the now-citizen's documents can be obtained.

These would be people in the State Department- one under the employ of every foreign embassy and consulate the United States has, as well as, within the United States, one per state, as well as one for DC and each of the territories. By my count, that's 213 foreign fasttrackers, plus 55 domestic (50 states, DC, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam), for a grand total of 268 worldwide. (I didn't count the diplomats in the international organizations.) That's about the right number. You want enough to make sure the whole planet is adequately covered, but not so many that you just have this constant stream of people coming in. It needs to be a special thing, handed out rarely in the grand scheme of things. Attainable, but rare.

So you're aware, the current spread of embassies as shown on the Wikipedia page gives these countries more than one fasttracker:

23- Mexico
9- Brazil
8- Canada
7- China, France, Italy
6- Germany, Japan
5- India
4- Australia, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom
3- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Iraq, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey
2- Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Vietnam

They'd be based in the embassies, anyway. If they chose, they could get out of the office and do some milling about, or they could be homebodies and wait for people to come to them. It's their call how they want to go about looking... and, in fact, what qualifies as 'exemplary'. They can use whatever criteria they see fit, and admit as many or as few people as they like.

And in the event of the proverbial child prodigy 'too bad they're illegal' story, it wouldn't necessarily fall to the local fasttracker. If the person's in Texas, the Texas fasttracker wouldn't have to step in. It could be the one from Vermont, or Sweden, or Fiji, if they happened to get there first. Not every country has diplomatic recognition, and not every country we're on friendly terms with has an embassy, so you need to be fairly laissez-faire when figuring out who's fasttracking who. Whoever gets there first.

They don't want to go crazy, though. No walking up to a refugee camp and giving every single person within citizenship, though one might get soft-hearted enough to want to do so at some point. As far as job security goes, that is a death wish. Among that substitute paperwork is enough documentation to track the new citizen and tie them to the fasttracker. The citizen doesn't have to worry about it. The fasttracker does. They would be held responsible for the actions of each and every person they bring into the country.

If they are truly admitting the exemplary, the people we'd be proud to have as Americans, there's nothing to worry about. But remember this is supposed to be used only for the cream of the immigration crop. If one of the fasttracked citizens turns out later to be a drug dealer or racks up six DUI's or something else to make it clear the fasttracker chose poorly, there will be hell for the fasttracker to pay. It won't take very many wrong decisions for the fasttracker to be fired and for someone else to take his place. Which means a fasttracker would have to do their own due diligence when determining who to let in.

In short, they could bring in whoever they want whenever they want, but they damn well better be right.

It would only clear out a tiny amount of the immigration backlog. You'd still have a whole bunch of drugs and violence on the border with Mexico, you'd still have millions of people to deal with, you'd still have people waiting a decade-plus on the over-the-counter route. But a little- a very stellar little- is better than nothing.

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