Legalization - Should It Return?
by Kevin Dixler
The Legalization Program attempted to deal with the balance between realistic law enforcement and human rights. People will remain in the U.S., anyway. They take their chances, because jobs are more plentiful. Employers will continue to hire foreigners, due to the fact that there is high demand for employees in a low worker supply area. In the end tougher laws look good on the books, but diserve an nation bent on equality and freedom.
Employers are not required to be forensic document specialists, so many mistakes are made. A new compromise is needed to strike a balance between mandatory compliance with I-9 documents It will cost billions to monitor submissions, ferret out, and deal with all of those who work with fake documentation in our economy. Therefore, most unlawful foreigners live a life of fear and are repeatedly victimized by unscrupulous employers and a few neighbors or ex-friends. The stress generated from such an existence is ignored by most Americans and some of those who lawfully went through the immigration process (the ones whose files were not lost or questioned!).
So the ultimate question is, "what do we do with the millions of foreigners living in our cities and suburbs?" What do we do with the millions of foreigner and U.S. Born children of foreigners living in our school? The current answer is, "Alienate them." Make them feel as uncomfortable and inhospitable as possible. Make them hurt so bad that they want to go home. In a free society, this is an unrealistic plan that backfires. It backfires in that when we do so, we only hurt ourselves. We create more hurdles and further regulate our society into an unfree society; call it a socialistic society; a regulated country that contains so many mean spirited laws that really end up hurting Americans, themselves. Our office must tell thousands of Americans each year that they cannot help their loved ones. This is how we currently live. Is this freedom? Freedom to leave, not to live.
We have Americans who cannot get their foreign spouses a green card, because 18 years ago, the foreigner's mother smuggled her child across the border. The foreign husband or wife cannot return to her home country, because to depart would bar her from returning for ten years at a minimum. Such rules make the life portrayed in Le Miserable reality in the U.S. of the 2000s. So people live that life and the average 'Jean' at ICE just looks in vain with the freezing look of disdain and frustration. A change is needed; law enforcement knows it.
In the end, we need to accept that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants yearning to be free. Immigration helps prevent the inertia in a stagnant economy. Immigration, legal or illegal, is what keeps the engines of commerce moving. In the past, there were more options to those who were mistreated in menial jobs. Now, we have a system of laws that stifles those who are powerless. We must accept that we have a system that creates injustice and we must struggle to find a solution. The solution will require compromise, but it seems that those against immigration are ignoring history and in doing so are affecting the stability and respect by our whole population for this nation of laws.
Legalization never allowed those with three or more misdemeanors the opportunity to immigrate unless there was negligence on the part of the INS. Those with more serious crimes did not qualify, as well. There were a variety of bars to immigration under the legalization program. Certainly, a more realistic program can be adopted that deals with the realities of a population in constant transition. In fact, I review files from unsuccessful legalization decisions.
Legalization did not allow J-1s who overstayed to immigrate unless a J-1 waiver was granted or an officer made a mistake. I can go on and on, but the code and regulations are still available for those with interest in actually reading the words. I have sometimes had to correct reputable colleagues, who should know better, that it was a "legalization" program not an "amnesty." It was ONLY an amnesty in that it allowed those who might qualify the chance to present their paperwork without the risk that they would be placed in deportation proceedings.
The amnesty portion was important, because many feared the Government. Often, many had less evidence than needed to meet the legalization guidelines. Those who simply did not qualify for legalization were turned away, but it made it easier to document the millions of people who had remained for many many years. The amnesty portion also helped those who were possibly victimized by non-attorneys and perhaps a few attorneys. Frivolous applications were filed by those who insisted that anyone could qualify, even those who were not here before 1982. The fraudulent posters for an "amnesty" by hucksters was legendary in the eighties.
Now, after nearly twenty years, some form of legalization is long overdue. Strengthened border patrols and ports of entry are long overdue. Employer compliance is a political sham for those employees who see no reason to truthfully comply or caught up in the web of fake greencards and IDs. There must be a mandate to fund, but to pass realistic immigration programs that give our American Population the chance to truly live free in the land of the equality. Otherwise, even Americans will live in a highly socialized society without the dream that our forefathers meant for us.
Any legalization program depends upon rules and regulations to guide it. This program had many and some adjudicators simply did not figure it out. This meant that the Government provided an unfunded mandate. Any future program requires a committment and system of orderly training and documentation. Otherwise, critics have every right to call it a flop and complain about its organization.
Nevertheless, any legalization program will have a few oversights; fixating on one or two mistakes to the exclusion of all of the success stories seems to defeat an appreciation of the limitations place on the rule of law in any nation, even the U.S.A. Laws require people with committment to enforce them. Our nation cannot support a nation of couch potatoes, so it needs those with vision to guide it into the twenty-first century. This includes everyone in our population, even those who were victimized by our ferver against foreigners, who simply want a job and some freedom.
Kevin Dixler has practiced immigration and visa law for over twelve years. He has conducted online chats for ILW.COM in the past. He joined the American Immigration Lawyers Association in 1993 and served on its National Admissions and Removal Committee in 2000. He has participated as a panelist at 2002 National AILA Conference, among other presentations on behalf of the immigration bar. Kevin Dixler can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.