How to fix Immigration in America

As always in these pages, I’ll start with the conclusion, so those of you who already know the rationale don’t have to read much further…

Solving any problem requires understanding the root cause.  In the case of illegal immigration, the root cause is the attraction that America has to immigrants to make a better life for themselves and their families.

They come here to work, not to vacation, not to enjoy the weather, not to go to college.  To work.

And, of course, to some degree to take advantage of the public benefits Americans enjoy (schools, particularly.)

But mostly to work and to build a better future for themselves and their kids.

Stopping illegal immigration is, therefore simple – cut off the ability to work and restrict access to public benefits.

HOW to do that is INCREDIBLY simple – and cheap – and doesn’t involve spending billions on a useless wall.  But the solution would not allow your Congressman to funnel tax dollars into special interests, and would hurt the profit margins of the companies that contribute greatly to their campaigns (or hire them when they leave government) so THAT is what drives policy, not “what makes sense to fix the problem”.

Quick summary of the “Free or Cheap Way to End Illegal Immigration”?

We already have laws that – in theory – prevent illegals from being hired.  In practice, however, those laws were written in ways that can only be interpreted as leaving deliberate loopholes allowing companies who survive on cheap labor to have plausible deniability in hiring.

If you’ve ever done any hiring, you know how it works.  You make a copy of the employee’s ID and social security card, you then put it in a file.  You’re done.

Of course in CA there is no requirement to prove legal residence in the country to get an ID, so that’s easy.

Social security cards can be printed on any printer.

And if you – the employer – feel the docs are a bit fishy and question them?  Discrimination!!!!

Does anyone on the receiving end actually check?  No, of COURSE not.

And even the Social Security Administration ignores it if a SSN you send turns out to belong to someone dead for decades (or you just hired a 94 year old to be a maid…)

So… the problem is that the current system allows no firm way for an employer to know whether the person is giving them valid documents, and there’s no closed loop that gives feedback when they’re not.

The solution is obvious and simple – make the state ID into a tamper-proof document that establishes legal residence in the US.

At that point, when the hiring manager accepts that ID, the only possible way they could NOT know whether someone is a legal resident would be if the ID had been forged – and forging current-model state ID’s, complete with colors and holographic embeds – is pretty gosh-darned hard.  Not impossible, but much, much harder than printing a social security card.

And even then, when that ID is reported to the state – as is already required by existing law, for state disability as well as worker’s compensation purposes – if the ID does not verify on their end (say the ID number doesn’t match the name), they kick it back to you with a requirement that you DO something.

Not “fyi”, but “your employee must make an appointment with the DMV to get this corrected within a month or they will no longer be eligible to work, and if you continue to employ them past that point you will be held criminally liable.”

How does the state verify this?  Easy – the state itself should easily be able to tap into federal records to validate the legal residency status of that person.

Let the state and the feds use their own time to work that out – as an employer, all I want to know is that I can accept an ID with legal residency indicated and be good to go.

Then we take a small fraction of the people who used to be border patrol, and use them to do random audits of businesses.  And do some very public perp-walking of CEO’s and HR managers who are found to have knowingly hired illegals.

Then we stop providing any public assistance programs to anyone who does not have an ID showing legal residence….

Too simple?  Too cheap?  Too effective?

Take your pick, all are reasons for Congress not to do it.

Or, perhaps the real reason?  That it would cut off the source of “nearly slave labor” to businesses?


And here’s the full discussion for you….

Why do immigrants come to America illegally?

Sneaking into America – particularly on the southern border – is not a trivial thing.  Regardless of whether the entire border is fenced or not, whether it’s double or triple fenced, whether we have 100 border agents or 10,000, the fact is that our border with Mexico is difficult terrain.

Crossing the desert – often on foot – is something that was difficult for even the hardiest of explorers in our past, having “ordinary people” do it is extremely dangerous.  Not to mention the dangers caused by the process itself – the drug gangs, the smugglers who don’t really care if you arrive alive as long as you pay their fee, etc.

No one does that lightly – or on a lark.

Illegals don’t make this crossing because they want to drop in on relatives or want to do some sightseeing.  They do it for one single reason – opportunities in America look brighter than they do in their own country.  Bright enough to risk their lives getting in.

Bottom line is that we have jobs and they don’t.  And American jobs – as low paid as they may be in our view – are considered relatively well paid by their standards.

The fact that illegals come here for the economic benefits is not only intuitively obvious, but proven through various studies as well.  The most well known – by the Pew Research Center – indicates that the number of illegal immigrants in the US dropped during the Great Recession, from a high of 12.2M in 2007 to a low of 11.3M in 2009 – the worst year of the recession.

Certainly there are other reasons – relatives living here, healthcare needs they feel would be better addressed here, opportunities for their children that don’t exist in the mother country, maybe even just plain adventure – but the economic draw of America is indisputably the number one draw.

Is it bad to have illegal immigrants?

Immigrants are – in my experience – among the hardest working people I’ve known.

I’ve spent most of my life as an employer, have probably hired and then supervised hundreds, and can tell  you that hands down you can reliably count on immigrants to – in general – be the hardest working class of employees you can have.

Americans have had it relatively easy for quite some time.  The current generation has grown up in an era where one really does not have to work to survive.  Granted, the standard of living one has when not working is very low, but there is little or no danger of dying for lack of food, shelter, healthcare, or many of the things most Americans tend to take for granted.

Younger people in particular often grow up more sheltered than in the past – not only with no innate understanding of how food gets on their tables or clothes on their backs, but from a culture that no longer even expects them to handle some of the more trivial work they were expected to do only a generation ago – deliver papers, mow the lawn, wash the dishes, etc.

This produces a workforce that certainly has stars among it – people who understand what it takes to succeed and have the right traits to do it – but also seems to produce a disproportionately large number of employees who feel it an inconvenience to do what employers often expect.

Show up on time.  Complete tasks.  Do what the boss asks.  Do a good job.  Etc, etc.

Again, not all of them – I don’t want this to be a diatribe against “kids these days”, there are certainly great ones out there, but it seems the lack of expectations at a young age has produced a mindset that having something expected of them is more of an imposition than “the way things are in the real world.”

What if we simply shut down the ability of anyone in the country to get a job, and perhaps added to that a restriction on government benefits to “citizens only” as well?

Certainly we would not let anyone starve or die – we’d still have to provide basic food assistance, space at shelters, and emergency medical services – but there would be no way to get a job (at least a legitimate one), and no other government services available.

Does anyone seriously think that illegals would continue to come to this country – particularly when it’s as difficult and dangerous as it is – if the only prospects here were a bed at a shelter and a bowl of soup?  I doubt it, because that’s not what they come here for now.

How does this benefit employers?

Are you kidding?  Can you imagine how great it is to be an employer who can tell an employee “do whatever I tell you to do, whenever I tell you to, for whatever I feel like paying you, or I’m going to separate you from your family and send you back to Mexico….!”

Wow, what power!

In past history, having that kind of power was called “serfdom” or “peonage.”  Not quite “slavery” since they’re paid and they CAN leave if they want to, but close to it.

If you’re not in favor of fixing our immigration system, are you REALLY in favor of having a class of people working as “nearly slaves”, beholden to their employer to do anything they want them to do, no matter what?

Really?  You’re really THAT evil of a person?

Who would do the jobs illegals do now?

This is a common “straw man” among the “pro-illegal-immigrant” crowd.

My god, WHO would pick lettuce?  WHO would flip burgers?  WHO would clean hotel rooms!?

As if there’s ANY job in existence that will ever remain “not done” if the pay is high enough.

I’ve done pretty well in my life, but I started my working career cleaning the stadium that the Minnesota Twins used to play in (the Metropolitan Stadium, now the home of the Mega Mall…)

I lied about my age in 1975, told them I was 14 (which apparently was the minimum age those days), and then spent a couple summers either standing in the hot sun or sometimes the freezing rain with a broom in my hand, for many hours, for minimum wage – which, at the time, was $1.69/hour.

I volunteered to clean the bathrooms – because it paid a quarter an hour more.  For an eight hour shift, that made me an extra $2.  Can you imagine anything more disgusting than a stadium bathroom after a game?


But I did it because there were no other good options for work and the work was available.

Maybe now we’d need to pay a little more.  Maybe we’d need to pay garlic pickers a few more dollars above minimum wage to get “low skilled” legal workers.  But I guarantee you that if you rachet up the pay scale, EVENTUALLY you’ll hit a point where people will say “gee, that sounds better than nothing” and sign on.

This article below, from February 2017, talks about how this business owner had to hike his pay rate from $11 to $13/hour to keep his farm staffed with pickers.

Let’s do some math.

How many heads of garlic do you think can be picked in an hour? A few hundred, perhaps?  Let’s call it two hundred.

I grow garlic in my garden, and I think picking three heads a minute would be really, really slow, but we’ll stick with that.

Divide those 200 heads an hour by the $2/hour increase it took in the attached article, and you’ve got the increase in cost per head of garlic.  One cent per head.

Would YOU pay a penny more for a head of garlic to employ more Americans?

To not only give them jobs but get them off the public assistance rolls?

To get low-skilled people started in working their way up the employment ladder?

Now, doesn’t it sound REALLY stupid not to do this?

But we need immigrants, they’re a vital part of what makes America great!

Yes, we do, and if you read that sentence and thought “this guy is really crazy anti-immigrant!” then you’re falling for the same thing most of the left-leaning mainstream media would have you fall for, the idea that being “anti-illegal immigration” means we’re “anti-immigration”, period.

Nothing could be farther from true.

Personally? I would open up the floodgates to allow anyone who wants to come to the US legally to work to come here.

NO quotas.

All they have to do is prove they have a job lined up or sufficient resources to survive for a year.

And report in to an immigration office once a year to get their work visa renewed, prepared at that time to prove they’re still employed or still have resources and are not on public assistance.

And then after they do that for a certain amount of time (five or ten years?) they can apply to become citizens.

I’m totally fine with that, you should be too.

Let’s solve the problem end-to-end.

  • Provide employers with an easily-verifiable way to determine employment eligibility. My choice would be an indication on existing state ID, but a tamper-proof social security card would be equally good, just more expensive and bureaucratic.
  • Enforce existing law regarding employment of legal residents. Expand workplace audits, throw someone in jail for violating the law.
  • Restrict public assistance programs to legal residents only.
  • Open up work visas to anyone who wants one and can prove they have a job or resources.
  • Verify the status of everyone on work visas annually, deport them if they no longer qualify.

And we’re done!

No walls needed, almost zero cost – at least significantly cheaper than the existing massive border enforcement that we THINK is needed….

Effective, cheap, easy to implement.

Will never work for government, will it?