Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Part 2
Open Letter To Senator Charles Schumer

Harry DeMell

Dear Senator Schumer;

There are a few things about any new comprehensive immigration bill that we need to discuss. I'm sure that you do not want a repeat of Simpson-Mazzoli: the bill in 1986 that legalized some 2 millions undocumented aliens and ignored those legally in the United States, since there are now an estimated 12 million undocumented aliens in the United States. That bill promised a comprehensive program to fix our system and did much the opposite. You were part of that compromise that seemed to make sense at the time. It obviously did not work.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. You are rational and intelligent and I know you will not make the same mistake twice.

The first question that I'm sure you're asking is "What is good for America?"

This is no easy question to answer but I have some thoughts.

It is good if America can compete for the best and the brightest to man our workforce. It would be bad if the legalization of 12 million led to an influx of another 20 million and the loss of control over our borders. We all learned that lesson form the 1986 law.

It would be good if there were additional immigrant visa numbers for workers and for family members of those legally here, but bad if those illegally here could jump the line. We don't want to give the impression that our laws are meaningless.

We don't want to legalize millions of people to compete for jobs still scarce for American workers. We have to take care of our own first. Any mass legalization would especially impact the African-American community where unemployment is unusually high, and our young, who are graduating into a difficult employment environment. We do want to make it easier for those who would invest, innovate and thereby create jobs for more Americans.

It would be good if congress put the interests of America first and put election posturing aside. Election posturing might serve the interests of the individual members of the house and senate but would not serve the interests of the American people, who those representatives and senators were elected to serve. Since you have a 'safe' seat you can be influential here.

It would be good for America to have a more liberal non-immigrant visa system that would allow more business-people, investors, traders and students to come to the United States and do business. I would argue that this would be best done administratively in that the 'devil is in the details' and the details are in the regulations. A more forgiving foreign service might also be useful. If congress includes this issue in some legislation I would recommend considering extending the H and L time limits and granting more H-1 visas. People coming to America and doing business here is good for us.

A work visa program similar to the old 'Bracero' program would allow farm workers and possibly many others to work here and go from employer to employer under a simplified procedure. The visas could only be renewed overseas with proof of employment and taxes paid.

The farm-worker program included in the 1986 bill granted legal residence and ultimately citizenship to applicants and turned out to have a fraud rate of easily over 90 per cent. It would be insane to do this again. A special western hemisphere H-2 farm-worker visa would make so much more sense. Workers could work legally, pay taxes and visit their families for vacation and Christmas. They could change employers without prior authority. Isn't that what they really want and need? Are they really asking for citizenship or is that just what Washington thinks is 'politically correct'?

You would have to oppose the unions on this one. You would also have to oppose other special interests such as ethnic organizations when you propose this over an amnesty. It will take courage and you have displayed it in the past. Display it again. In the end much of what these organizations really want is a chance for their constituents to work legally and have a shot at becoming American. Those illegally here could apply just like anyone else and obtain there visas abroad just like anyone else but with out the restriction of any ten year bar.

It would be good for America to have a rational and selectively forgiving deportation and removal system and bad to remove the authority of the immigration judges to judge. Granting additional authority to the Immigration Courts would further the interests of the separation of powers that our founding fathers tried to write into the constitution and allow the flexibility that any legal system needs.

Our deportation and removal system could do with a bit of help. Giving immigration judges the authority to allow more people to remain in the United States because of hardship grounds would help. Bring back the 7 years and hardship requirements that existed before the 1996 changes, at least for those who have any legal family dependent upon them and have paid taxes on time for the past three years or were students or were in the military. This might give those DACA applicants the window they need to enter without opening the barn doors.

Some legislation changing the definition of 'aggravated felony' is in order to countermand many cases decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals that seem to bend over backwards to deny relief to those the law would better leave to the immigration judge's judgment on a case by case basis.

These changes might shorten the long delays in Immigration Court and allow judges to more quickly deal with the large number of bogus asylum claims before them.

It would be good to allow those who obey our laws and wait overseas for their turns to be considered first when granting quota immigrant visas. Putting a quota time penalty on those waiting here without documentation would be an incentive to not disobey our laws and reward those who respect those same laws. Respecting our laws is good for America.

I propose ideas that avoid the extremes of an amnesty and draconian enforcement. These ideas are more complicated than a simple amnesty disguised as something else. They are more complicated than increased border enforcement alone, which is a valid goal but never 100 per cent attainable.

My favorite line in a movie is in 'Scent Of A Woman', when Al Pacino says: "I always knew what the right thing to do was but I never did it because it was to **** hard." You've done the right thing in the past and you can do it again. Yes it's hard but: so what?

Harry DeMell
January 2013

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.