Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Defined
Part 4: Simple Solutions

Harry DeMell

As I write this it seems that the president and congress are discussing an immigration ‘reform’ bill consisting of several hundred pages. Why do we need this? If someone needs a new pair of shoes do they buy a complete wardrobe to go with it? [1] Has congress or the president even considered the unintended consequences or additional resources necessary in their immigration proposals?

The question we must ask is how much needs to be done by congress to qualify as ‘comprehensive’ reform? My answer would be: as little as needs to be done. I would also look to the Hippocratic oath, taken by physicians, “do no harm”.

With this in mind I have a few ideas about what congress might do that will correct some of our problems in a humane way, without creating an additional body of law, without decades of litigation and without expanding our bureaucracy. These ideas are not politically **** but make sense.

We first need to define our goals. If our goal is to make every illegal alien a U.S. citizen we should say so, dismantle our immigration system and open the barn doors. If our goal it to be humane and assist those with the deepest roots in the United States to remain legally and also to open up visas to those who will most assist our economy I can help in a few pages instead of a few hundred.

1. REGISTRY: INA 249 allows most aliens in the United States prior to 1972 to obtain legal permanent residence. That date was moved from 1948 to 1972 during the 1986 amnesty. It had originally been 1924. We could economically change that date from 1972 to 2000 and immediately create relief for those in the United States for the longest period of time without making major changes in the law.

The beauty of registry is that there is a body of case law and regulations in place. Nothing but a change of the date needs to be done and the existing infrastructure can take over. No new agencies and no new resources.

It is true that the number of people that can take advantage of this might be small but this just takes care of those here the longest. These are the people with the greatest roots on our society and those least likely to be removed from the United States.

How any people qualify depends upon the date chosen. We might pick 2001 or 2002. A later date might not make sense. While I don’t expect the numbers to be great because of prior programs such as INA 245I there should be little controversy in changing the law here. DACA parents would to a large part be covered.

2. CANCELATION OF REMOVAL: We need a mechanism to decide who deserves relief from deportation. In 1996, ‘suspension of deportation’ was eliminated and changed to ‘cancellation of removal’. The main difference between the two types of relief is the requirement that an alien have physical presence in the U.S. for 7 years for suspension and 10 years for cancellation. ‘Extreme hardship’ under suspension became ‘exceptional and extremely unusual’ hardship to certain family in the U.S. under cancellation. These 1996 changes in the law made it impossible for Immigration Courts to grant relief to most aliens with significant hardship in the United States. The result is that we have possibly several hundred thousand aliens who would have qualified for relief under the prior law but who are living in the shadows. It’s time to change it back and allow the immigration judges to decide who qualifies.

The Immigration Court system is in place and we have qualified, experienced and educated judges through out the United States. These judges are the best people to make decisions concerning hardship and worthiness to join America. Any other system will require training thousands of officers and support staff from scratch or severely strain the existing system. Congress may want to make these decisions but why have judges if we do not want them to judge?

This change might also allow the parents of DACA beneficiaries to apply for this relief and might require that they show financial support for their children for a period of several years before making such application. We might insert a clause requiring this.

3. INCREASED VISA NUMBERS: This speaks for itself. Increase the quota numbers for family and employment based applicants. Allow more people to come in only in those categories in which congress has already decided that we should allow immigration. Since congress has already decided that aliens in these categories are desirable, there is no need to re-think these categories.

Long visa waiting lists can become so long as to be cruel. No one should have to wait 12 years or more for an immigrant visa. This is one area where we might decide to grant temporary visas to people who have to wait but that’s a subject for another article.

4. PRACTICAL TRAINING: The only area I would change is to allow those students on practical training, after graduation, to extend their practical training for an additional two years to give then the chance to stay if they have an employer, are being sponsored for legal permanent residence under the existing criteria and are able to pay taxes. Three years should be enough for them to begin the process. Is any more needed here?

5.EMPLOYER SANCTIONS: These laws are already on the books but are not enforced. There needs to be no further legislation in this area. What we need is the will to enforce what is on the books. This administration, and the four before it, have been unwilling or unable to do it.

We need congressional hearings to ask the Secretary of Homeland Security why the laws, already on the books since 1986, are not enough and why the existing laws are not fully enforced. We need the Department of Homeland Security to investigate employers who are hiring without properly documenting permission to work and we need a non-bias press willing to ask if congressional interference has prevented the DHS from moving forward.

The president needs to be asked why we need additional laws when the ones on the books are being ignored by the government and employers alike. It might be wise to call prior DHS Secretaries before congress to explain why the department dropped the ball and did little or nothing during their tenure. We need to do this before we further complicate an already overburdened legal system with more laws and regulations.

The administration has the tools to act. They just don’t.

If we want to make a change here we should amend the tax laws to disallow deductions for employees who are not properly documented. One paragraph of law should do the trick.

6. SECURING THE BORDERS: We have been spending billions of dollars in stimulus for local projects to reward communities and the contributors of congressmen and senators in ways that if looked at closely would enrage the public at large. Congress could at once declare all grants suspended and use those funds to hire additional border guards and equipment. Some military bases should be relocated to border areas where the military could respond quickly to assist the DHS.

This does not require major legislation. If congress refuses to do this we need to ask who they represent.

If our laws are to have meaning they have to be objective and enforceable. If we want open borders why don’t we just say so? We have decided we want to restrict and control who enters the United States and in what manner. Lets use the tools at hand better, before we go out and buy new tools that will cost more than their worth….but isn’t that what the government always does?

If these things are done then additional legislation is unnecessary. Any ‘comprehensive’ reform would be only for political purposes. Integrity requires that congress do less, not more. Is there any integrity left in Washington?

I need to quote a great philosopher, Mary Poppins: “Enough is plenty”. I would add that any more than enough is political showmanship without merit or substance.

[1] Please exclude Upper Eastside Manhattanites.

About The Author Harry DeMell is an Attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Visa, Immigration and Nationality Law since 1977.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.