Commentary

A Conservative Amnesty: A Proposal That Will End Illegal Immigration

Richard Kelsey
By Richard Kelsey | December 3, 2014 | 9:25 AM EST

Immigrant families and children's advocates rally in response to President Barack Obama's statement on the crisis of unaccompanied children and families illegally entering the United States, outside the Los Angeles Federal building Monday, July 7, 2014. A top Obama administration official says no one, not even children trying to escape violent countries, can illegally enter the United States without eventually facing deportation proceedings. (AP Photo/ Nick Ut)

Just the word amnesty fires me up.  The thought of rewarding criminal behavior is abhorrent to me.  When light-weight, pro-amnesty politicians hump “comprehensive immigration reform,” they are talking about amnesty.  I have been in the fight against illegal immigration for more than two decades.  I grew up in a small New Jersey town over-run by illegal aliens.  I saw town officials take advice from federal authorities to create better conditions for those who came here illegally.  Over 20 years ago, I coined the term “illegal invaders” in an op-ed.  I have been called a racist too many times to count, all because I think it is wrong to both promote and reward illegal immigration.  No matter what I write on my appreciation and support for vigorous legal immigration, the open boarders’ lobby has always been there to paint me as a right-wing nut or racist.  In the entire sad, sordid history of the political conspiracy between the two major parties to support illegal immigration, I have never once heard – not one time – a proposal that I could support that would address the root causes of illegal immigration and eliminate them permanently.  Today, I give you a proposal that will end illegal immigration.   If you want real reform, that should be the goal.

Immigration reform requires setting out key principles.  Here are mine.  Immigration policy is for the citizens, not for the immigrants.  This is our house, and we decide who gets to visit and who gets to stay.  We make value judgments because we can and because we should.  Any immigration reform that rewards illegal immigration and does not destroy the incentives for more illegal immigration is a dead letter to me and most Americans.  What is the point in fixing this problem only to make it worse and to encourage illegal aliens to enter and stay here again, waiting for the next amnesty?  The game must end here, and to do that we must eliminate the incentives and rewards for coming here illegally.  If you do that, you won’t need a fence.  The only purpose a fence serves is to slow down invaders and to help law enforcement.  A fence will not stop people in poor countries who know that once here they will be given medical care, a free K-12 education, and all of their off-spring will be Americans.  And, if they wait long enough, these fence-jumpers to the American dream will ultimately get some form of amnesty.  See what Reagan, Bush, and Obama have done.  We must have immigration reform principles that start by eliminating perverse incentives and rewarding illegal behavior.  Only after that is done, can we address the problem of those here illegally.

My immigration reform starts with eliminating birth-right citizenship for people whose parents came here illegally.  My immigration reform requires proof of lawful presence here to attend any school, effectively repealing Plyler v. Doe, a Supreme Court case that gives illegal aliens a Constitutional right to a public education.  Those two actions alone would immediately stem the tide of illegal aliens coming to the United States.  The third requirement would be that anyone found in the US illegally after the reform period would be forever banned from obtaining citizenship, the right to work, or even a visa to visit the US.  Finally, my immigration reform would make it illegal, subject to criminal penalties, for any state or locality to offer sanctuary programs or incentives to illegal aliens.  If a violation is found, that state or locality would lose all federal funding for the year of the violation.  Now, you have immigration reforms that give no incentive to illegal aliens to come illegally and no avenue for open borders’ sympathizers to assist them in coming.

Once complete, we can address what to do with the 20 plus million illegal aliens in the United States.  You give me the reforms I posit above, and I will sign off on a path to citizenship for those here who are not felons.  However, every single one of them must register, undergo real background checks, be finger-printed, and pay a fine relative to their time here illegally.  Finally, while all of them may apply for citizenship and should receive proper working papers to be here lawfully, not one of them should receive citizenship before any current pending applicant who is trying to enter this country legally.  That’s an amnesty with which I can live. That will restore our laws, restore our borders, and put an end to this immoral and illegal invasion of our country.  Without the first three reforms, all bills put out by any party are dead to me, and honest Americans should fight them until their party, their leadership, and their proponents are out of office.  This is what real reform looks like.

The President’s illegal executive order is designed to destroy one party while gaining votes for another.  My reform is designed to end illegal immigration, demand accountability for those here, and ultimately resolve the issue with all illegal aliens present.  It’s the right policy for America, irrespective of party.

Richard Kelsey is an Assistant Dean at George Mason Law School.  A former Virginia state court law clerk and commercial litigator, Dean Kelsey was also the CEO of a technology company.  He teaches legal writing and pre-trial practice.  He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, and on radio and TV. His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.


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