Time for Amnesty

Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Americans don’t really care for reform until things go south. Pun intended.

Illegal immigration has been a big-ticket political item for years. As the Latino population grows, so too will its importance. Unfortunately, recent events have confirmed what I already knew: the Republican Party is woefully out of touch.

The GOP made a name for itself as a bastion of freedom. Evidently, that liberty only applies to Americans. When foreigners enter the picture, you suppress them as much as possible, make it incredibly difficult to gain permanent legal status, exploit their strength until it’s gone, and kick them out. Rinse and repeat, my friends. That’s America.

We live in a country built on the backs of immigrants but treat them like trash, dirty second-class citizens who deserve nothing but endless disdain. We tell them to leave but happily eat the food they pick; we spit on their names but live in the houses they build; and we say they steal our jobs but would never take them back. The irony sickens me.

These incongruities need to stop and immigration reform has to happen; this xenophobic, anti-Latino crap has gone on long enough. The question, then, is not whether to change, but how.

To begin, I agree with most voters: securing the border is a priority. Though building a fence is a terrible idea, I support bulking up Border Patrol and increasing our reliance on technology (i.e. unmanned drones). However, border security is just one piece of a bigger puzzle. We must also address our undocumented worker problem.

My solution is simple: document them. Offer all illegal immigrants — except those who have been convicted of a violent crime — permanent legal status in return for revealing themselves. These persons should not be charged with a crime, they should not have to pay a fine, and they should all be put on a path to citizenship. As for back taxes, it seems conservatives have simplified what would be an incredibly difficult process. Many undocumented workers get paid under the table. What happens when no employment records exist? How can you assign a fair tax burden to someone without knowing how much they earned? Ideally, illegal immigrants would pay their taxes just like everyone else. Unfortunately, auditing millions of people who have never officially reported their income simply isn’t feasible.

You may think I’m being too lenient; I disagree. Undocumented workers often endure terrible conditions, are a boon to our economy, and hold jobs most Americans wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. These people are heroes; they risked their lives to make a better one for their families. That level of sacrifice deserves applause, not punishment.

After securing the border and giving nonviolent illegal immigrants residency, the immigration process will have to be reformed. I don’t know enough to make specific suggestions, but in general, we should make it easier for skilled workers to live here permanently and streamline the citizenship process.

The key to my plan is treating illegal immigrants like human beings (yes, the word ‘alien’ is offensive). The same goes for child refugees: unless they’ve committed a violent crime, we should offer asylum and show them we care. Deportation would be unconscionable.

We’re America, Land of the Free: if we truly care about freedom, we should give the kids a chance. And you know what? The adults deserve one too.