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The Immigration System: the DMV on Steroids
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Do you want to reduce illegal immigration? Start by fixing the godawful process for legal immigration.
About the only point of agreement on immigration in this country is that newcomers who play by the rules — fill out their forms, pay their fees and wait their turn — are welcome. But that great American dogma is being sorely tested by the inability of the federal government’s feeble citizenship agency to deal with a flood of applications that arose this summer.

The agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, is telling legal immigrants that applications for citizenship and for residence visas filed after June 1 will take about 16 to 18 months to process. [...]

It’s telling that we need to explain that this backlog is distinct from the other backlogs that plague the citizenship agency. This is not the visa overload that causes people in some countries, like the Philippines and Mexico, to wait decades to enter legally. Those backlogs are caused by visa quotas that no one has seen fit to adjust. Nor are they the chronic delays in conducting criminal background checks that have kept thousands of immigrants in limbo for months, even years.
One reason there's so much illegal immigration is that we make it so damned difficult to immigrate legally. We're practically begging migrants to avoid our immigration system.

We could do a great deal to reduce illegal immigration simply by raising the quotas, lowering the paperwork barriers and processing people quickly. That - not a silly wall that will slow down migrants by a grand total of three minutes - is where immigration reform should begin.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Blow open the existing quotas?

How is this different than Amnesty or Guest Worker? It’s making the problem go away by redefining the law to make what is happening technically legal.

And, maybe our quotas are just fine the way they are.

And this assumes that the illegal aliens don’t mind being off the grid. Being legal might not bring the job opportunities for unskilled labor that being illegal does. Nor would it appeal any better to employers. This would just allow dumping into the skilled labor markets leaving the unskilled labor/immigration marginally affected.

The only plus is if diversity in quotas is maintained and illegal immigration was actively prevented and not just assumed to be fixed by this proposal. Then the issue of more immigrants than we can integrate is less when it is diverse. But that’s not enough. And I suspect that stipulation is not in the proposal.

I’m just shaking my head here. This feels like a balloon. Bad idea if it is.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Blow open the existing quotas? How is this different than Amnesty or Guest Worker? It’s making the problem go away by redefining the law to make what is happening technically legal.
Well, no...it wouldn’t make what was happening "technically legal" any more than legal immigrants now are "technically legal".

It "redefines the law" in exactly the same as raising speed limits from 55 to 65 "redefines the law". You don’t call that "amnesty" for speeders, though.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It "redefines the law" in exactly the same as raising speed limits from 55 to 65 "redefines the law". You don’t call that "amnesty" for speeders, though.
Help me with this analogy... I don’t see it. Speed limit laws have consequences for everyone. Immigration laws, as they stand right now, only have consequences for those who choose to obey them.

You want to fix illegal immigration? Start in the following order -

1. Tax or stop monies flowing out of the country, specifically to Mexico and Central/South America
2. Heavily fine any company employing illegals
3. Re-write the existing immigration laws to make it simpler for qualified people to enter this country the LEGAL way
4. At some point, start punishing those who choose to break the laws of this country by entering illegally

Simple.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
3. Re-write the existing immigration laws to make it simpler for qualified people to enter this country the LEGAL way
Why do you think it would be a problem to start by making our immigration process less of an absolute hell for the people who want, or are trying, to immigrate legally? We are failing the people we allow to immigrate.

If the process to get a driver’s license took years and we wanted to do something about people driving without a license, it would make a lot of sense to start by making the DMV a hell of a lot easier to navigate than to start by trying (and failing) to get unlicensed drivers off the road.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Let’s review:

1. Amnesty: Those people who broke the law are given an amnesty and become citizens.

2. Guest workers: Foreigners enter the USA to work on 2 year contracts and then go home. Supposedly.

3. Increase the quotas for legal immigrants: Allows larger flows of immigrants who will enter legally and become American citizens.

Its seems very obvious to me that these three concepts are very different. By the way, 1 & 2 gets you low cost labor, while 3 can get you doctors, engineers, etc. Very different beasts, I’d say.

Here’s an example of how the current immigration system is a mess: a friend of mine, a US citizen, married his girlfriend who is a Thai citizen with a green card. She has been legally in the US for years and works for the state as an accountant. Despite this, they have to hire an immigration lawyer and spend thousands of dollars for her paperwork.

In any case, Jon, while I agree with you, I think you should discuss the issue of reform of the system and increase in the quotas separately rather than have people conflate them.

meagain:

Why should we tax money being sent to Mexico? It helps people in Mexico and eventually that money comes back to the USA anyways in one form or another.





 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Jon,

Its also a good idea to somewhat subsidize garbage collection because if the incentive becomes high enough, people will resort to illegal dumping.

Its also the same reasoning behind simplified tax systems - if you make them easier to do, more people will actually pay their taxes.

I understand people want to use the enforcement stick, and that’s important, but so is the incentive carrot.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Why do you think it would be a problem to start by making our immigration process less of an absolute hell for the people who want, or are trying, to immigrate legally? We are failing the people we allow to immigrate.
Because people remember the past, when enforcement was promised as part of a "comprehensive" immigration package and then was never delivered.

Then people see arguments like your post, in which the one type of enforcement mentioned is your dismissive reference to a "silly wall," and your response to comments, which have focused solely on increasingly strained analogies and utterly ignored any of the suggestions that enforcement needs to accompany loosened standards.

It’s not hard to then come to the conclusion that your expressed desire to "start" with loosened standards is just the same old song-and-dance with shiny new production values.


 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
I thought at first that I didn’t read the post correctly, so I reread it
That post is INSANE
 
Written By: Rick
URL: http://
I stopped watching your video link as soon as the narrtor(Pen Teller?) started the same old s**t about anyone who opposes massive illegal immigration being a racist and bigot. What that had to do with a wall slowing down people for three minutes I don’t know. Perhaps you can explain it to us. Terry has a point, this seems to be the same old BS.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Fortunately, Fred Thompson has better sense.
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
Jon, your premise seems to be that if we make it easier for people to come to this country legally, then fewer people will come illegally. Is this correct?

I doubt this is a provable premise. Even we assume that it’s true, I doubt very much it’s a one-for-one trade. The best case result would be that the same number of people will come to the country, both legally and illegally. We’d still have our resources strained, so I don’t see much of a benefit to this. Anything less than the optimal case would be a net increase in aggregate immigration.

The worst case would be that the same number of illegals would come to the country, because with more people immigrating legally, the folks who help run illegals across the border would have unfilled capacity. I don’t have anything but conjecture to offer, but my gut tells me they won’t let the capacity go unused. We could apply economic theory to this and state that the decrease in quantity demanded would force the coyotes to lower the price for their services, which would then increase the quantity demanded back to its original point.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
Steverino,

Most illegals come in via legal channels and then overstay their visas. Its faster that way than applying for one of the more complicated visas. If they could get a normal immigrant visa, then they probably wouldn’t overstay the original tourist visa, no? And they aren’t using any coyotes when they fly in on a tourist visa.

I’m all for a wall, but I think reforming the INS system would be an excellent way to signal everyone that while we are against illegal immigration and will enforce the laws, we are not against legal immigration.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
"Most illegals come in via legal channels and then overstay their visas."

And we know that because they all check in as they cross the border.

" Its faster that way than applying for one of the more complicated visas."

It is even faster without any documents.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
When you make something legal, that was previously illegal, by definition you’re going to be lowering the crime rate. Of course, lowering the crime rate, particularly as regards illegal immigration, is a great campaign point. However, it does nothing, in terms of actually solving the problem.

Like it or not , those quotas, and that immigration system, were set up for a reason. Simply bypassing it is not a solution.

Steverino’s point is on point, here, also... Regardless of what ’easier process’ you set up, and regardless of what parts of the process you tear down, the bottom line is these people are rather like Water... Water will follow gravity, and will take the easiest and shortest path to get to where the gravity leads it. The lightest restriction, the slightest demand on the part of the government, and the gig is up, these people are still going to be headed over the fence at the lowest point.

Either way, changing the law to make it easier to immigrate, is not the answer.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Harun,

I’m all for expanding legal immigration, and I think reforming the INS is a good idea. I just don’t think Jon’s premise holds.

It would cut down on the number of illegal immigrants who overstay their visas, but that’s it. If what you say is true, then reforming legal immigration wouldn’t cut down one bit of the border jumpers.

 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
How can you people be against making immigration easier? I don’t get it. Seems that any solution to stop illegal immigration should include this.
narrtor(Pen Teller?) started the same old s**t about anyone who opposes massive illegal immigration being a racist and bigot.
you really should have watched the show then. It was pretty even handed given that they are on the pro-immigration side. They had lots of minutemen on the program and talked about them pretty favorably.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
I’m not sure how many apt comparisons we need, but here’s another. If I have a widget that I sell in a corner store that’s worth $100 to people, but charge $99 for it, there’s gonna be a lot of people stealing it compared to the people buying it. But if I lower the price to $50 or less, then there will be less people stealing it and more people willing to buy it.

Don’t you think a lot of the illegal immigrants in the US would rather be here legally? It’s not exactly a dream life living in the shadows, making below minimum wage, having little to no rights.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
having little to no rights.
What rights do we deny them?

The right to vote - okay
right to bear arms (which even citizens have a hard time getting in some places)
- what other ones?

seriously, what other rights are they denied?
Real rights, not privileges.

Free speech?
Due process?
Freedom to practice their religion?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
seriously, what other rights are they denied?

How about the right to be protected from criminal acts directed against them?

Next question?

Jon, of course you’re right - and the roots-level disinterest and opposition to your point, proves the point of many democrats- it’s not just illegal immigration that Republican activists are opposed to. They want less immigrants, period. They focus on illegals because it’s politically easier to focus on than legals, but the goal = less immigrants.

If illegal immigration was wiped out, but the American lower and middle classes were still dealing with flat wages, crappy service-sector jobs, and rampant inflation, legal immigration would be the next target. Anti-immigration is the only conceivable Republican answer to the economic pressures of globalization/factor-equalization.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
How about the right to be protected from criminal acts directed against them?

Next question?
You need to read Supreme Court decisions. The police are not obligated to protect any individual from a criminal act. No one has the right to be protected from anything.
it’s not just illegal immigration that Republican activists are opposed to. They want less immigrants, period.
By the same logic, those who support the legality of abortion are opposed to babies being born. Sure, they focus on unwanted babies, but the net result is that there will be fewer births, and that makes them happy.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
How can you people be against making immigration easier?
Tell me something; Why do you think immigration laws were set up in the first place? What purpose do they serve?
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
How about the right to be protected from criminal acts directed against them?
No, they have that ’right’(non-right). All they have to do is call the cops. In cities like San Francisco, the police won’t ask their citizenship status.

I’ve called the police twice for car breakins in the last 2 months, at no time did the person answering the phone, or the officers who came out, ask me to provide ID or proof of citizenship.

Next answer, and try a little harder this time.

And by the way, they have exactly the same ability to call the police for criminal acts directed against them as any OTHER person. The fact that they are illegally here doesn’t mean their police protection is diminished, like any other criminal, they just risk being taken in themselves.
They still have the right, they just don’t dare to excercise it, but THEY are the only ones denying themselves police protection.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
but the American lower and middle classes were still dealing with flat wages, crappy service-sector jobs, and rampant inflation, legal immigration would be the next target. Anti-immigration is the only conceivable Republican answer to the economic pressures of globalization/factor-equalization.
Right, because it’s America’s obligation to the world to take in people from other nations even when our own people are having a hard time making it (according to your scenario).

Huh?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
"Don’t you think a lot of the illegal immigrants in the US would rather be here legally?"

I am sure they would, but I am also sure that they will be here legal or not. Unless we allow unrestricted immigration, they will come here illegally.

" making below minimum wage,"

Another myth. And of course this raises the question, if people can afford to live on less than the minimum wage and still send money back to their countries of origin, why do we need to raise it?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Jon,
I completely agree with your post. I propose sending a team of process consultants and web programmers and get the whole dang immigration process "web-enabled" with a nifty step-by-step workflow process that can be easily tracked, reported and followed.
 
Written By: Jane
URL: http://

 
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