In this Wall Street Journal Editorial Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, who will never be accused of being anything but a rock-solid conservative, describes his proposed immigration compromise. The key element is Pence's plan for dealing with the 12 million illegals who are already here-- always the most contentious aspect of any illegal immigration proposal. I do not think Pence's plan will be adopted, but something close to it might be-- if there is an immigration reform bill at all.
Pence's bill must be understood in context. The purist approach to illegal immigration, from hard-shell conservatives, has been "go home, then come back:" All the illegals now in the USA must go home and return only as any other immigrant would.
I continue to think that this is a pipe-dream and not an serious solution. My guess is that those few serious people (like Ed Meese) who subscribe to "go home, then come back" know that their idea will never be implemented. Instead, they are hoping their hard-line position will influence the debate so that Congress will pass a bill as close to that position as possible. (I am, of course, referring to those who actually want to see a bill passed; there are a substantial number of hard-liners who, instead of a bill, would like to have an issue to run on this fall.)
How Pence Would Solve The Problem
Pence's bill is a creative effort to adopt "go home, then come back," but to avoid a draconian result and posible humanitarian disaster. Here's how he describes it:
[M]y bill does not include a so-called path to citizenship, i.e., an amnesty, for the some 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Instead, it insists that they leave and come back legally if they have a job opportunity in the U.S. They will be allowed to do so under the terms of a guest-worker program that will be implemented by firms in the private sector, not by a new government bureaucracy.So in Pence's ideal world, the 12 million already here would still need to go home, and could return only if there is a job for them here.
Private worker-placement agencies -- "Ellis Island Centers" -- would be licensed by the federal government to match guest workers with jobs that employers cannot fill with American workers. These agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform health screening, fingerprint them, and convey the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed. Once this is done, the guest worker would be provided with a visa issued by the State Department. The whole process will take a matter of one week, or less.
My immigration reform plan does not favor illegal immigrants. Anyone may apply for a guest-worker visa at the new Ellis Island Centers; indeed, the plan may actually work to the advantage of applicants who have never violated our immigration laws, since guest-worker visas will be issued only outside the U.S.
There will initially be no cap on the number of visas that can be issued; for the first three years, the market and the needs of U.S. employers will set the limit on the number of guest workers. This is necessary in order to provide the incentive for illegal aliens in this country to self-deport and come back legally. After three years, however, a reasonable limit on the number of these "W" visas will be determined by the Department of Labor, based on employment statistics, employer needs and other research.
Nevertheless, there will be a limit on the amount of time guest workers can spend in this country. They would be allowed to renew their visas, but only for a period of up to six years. And in order to receive their first renewal, they would be required to study English and pass an English proficiency class.
After six years, a guest worker must decide whether to return home or seek citizenship. But he will do so under the normal rules and regulations of our naturalization laws. There is no path to citizenship in my bill.
It won't work. Can anyone really believe that illegal immigrants who are entrepeneurs, working for themselves, will go home and try to match up with an employer? How does a self-employed ice cream vendor, tailor, home handyman, gardener or housekeeper do that? Many have lived here for years and have children also living here who are American citizens.
Pence's bill is a noble effort and a fine basis for discussion. Maybe something close to it will find its way into the final bill. But it's no solution.