Immigration Reform: Amnesthetize the Kids

Policy-makers, legislators, and pundits–not to mention Right-Wing pinheads–have been kvetching about immigration reform for as long as I can remember. It is time to do something constructive, instead of moaning about how bad the problem is.

For decades, we have cultivated a vigorous underground economy employing low-wage undocumented workers and paying them under the table. While we look the other way as unscrupulous employers bait the trap, we screech about how undocumented immigrants are breaking the law. It is highly hypocritical to punish the peons while the meat-packers, restaurants, and department stores that lure them here barely get a tap on the wrist when they are caught. Our immigration “policy” is to police the borders more vigorously and build a fence.

Exclusion does not work for drugs and it does not work for undocumented immigrants, but we keep doing the same things over and over and wondering why we get the same results over and over. It is time to get tough on employers who flout the law and it is time to adopt some reasonable amnesty policies.

Some immigrants knowingly break the law by entering the country illegally. But we have not been consistent. We punish immigrants from some countries, but we have welcomed them from others. For years, anyone from Cuba who washed up on our shore was welcomed because he or she came from an undemocratic hellhole, but anyone from Haiti was sent back to that undemocratic hellhole. Where is the justice in that? Furthermore, entering the country illegally is not the same as killing a party store cashier or whacking a snitch.

Amnesties are problematic for two reasons: They seem to reward criminal behavior and they encourage others to enter the country illegally. However, there is one group of illegal residents whom we could easily amnesthetize without these disadvantages–high school graduates who entered this country at an early age.

There are many illegal residents who were brought here at an early age and have progressed through our schools successfully. Despite having a high school diploma, or even a college degree, they are not permitted to seek employment legally. This is a huge waste of resources.

These residents are not law-breakers and usually have no ties to the countries from which they were brought. Most of them are fluent in both spoken and written American. They would be excellent workers and citizens. Foreign nationals who entered the country at an early age, who have no criminal history, and who have achieved a high school education should be offered at least a work permit, if not citizenship. That would be a fair policy and it would benefit all concerned. Stop punishing the innocent. Give them status in the country they call home. Amnesthetize the kids.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2009 John B. Payne, Attorney

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