A RANGE OF OPTIONS
The United States of America will reform its
immigration laws and practices,
perhaps beginning in 2013 or 2014.
Almost everyone agrees that our present system is broken and needs
We all acknowledge the problems,
but we have a range of
Here we will attempt to outline both the problems and the solutions
A. IMMIGRATION PRISONS
B. ORDINARY PRISONS
FOR COMMON CRIMINALS
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THE MILLIONS OF FOREIGN NATIONALS
SETTLED IN THE UNITED STATES WITHOUT
B. REPLACE GREEN CARDS WITH ELECTRONIC WORK
C. SELECTIVE AND GRADUAL REPATRIATION
D. EARNED CITIZENSHIP
3. FAMILY SEPARATIONS CREATED BY U.S. IMMIGRATION LAWS AND
A. EXPAND FAMILY VISAS
B. END CHAIN-IMMIGRATION
C. FAMILY RE-UNIFICATION IN OTHER LANDS
D. END BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP
4. THE CONTINUING FLOW OF UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS INTO THE USA
A. BETTER BORDER CONTROLS
B. INCREASING AUTHORIZED
C. NATIONAL IDENTITY FILE
5. THE UNDERGROUND SUB-CULTURE OF UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS
A. REGISTRATION OF ALL FOREIGN NATIONALS LIVING IN THE USA
B. NATIONAL IDENTITY BUREAU
A RANGE OF OPTIONS
by James Leonard Park
1. DETENTION FACILITIES
We use a wide range of prisons and jails to keep
unauthorized persons in custody
while we decide what should happen to them next.
Sometimes deplorable conditions have been discovered,
especially in private prisons contracted to house foreign nationals.
Not all citizens of other countries need to be kept
Some have such good roots in their communities that they would not
But a few would rather uproot themselves
and move to a completely different location in the USA if given the
Those who are a flight risk
will need to be detained.
Thus, if we fear that apprehended foreign nationals
would move away and disappear,
we need secure facilities to contain them while their cases are
investigated and decided.
New immigration laws will make the disposition of
unauthorized persons easier and quicker.
But without waiting for new laws to be enacted,
the Department of Homeland Security has issued new guidelines
for deciding which foreign nationals to deport
and which to grant temporary permission to continue living in the
And while such changes in procedure are more fully implemented,
we will have large numbers of foreign nationals in some sort of
Because most foreign nationals who are 'out of
have committed no other crimes besides violating the laws of
they should not be kept with
Special facilities should be created by the Federal government
which will be used exclusively for keeping foreign nationals (including
until their cases can be decided.
Such immigration prisons will include all of the
necessary staff members
for investigating the history of each
individual or family.
Immigration judges will hold
court within these secure facilities.
And the fact that the judges will see the living conditions of the
will be further insurance that such detention facilities are humane as
well as secure.
The basic alternative to immigration prisons is
immediate 'voluntary' return
to the countries where the detainees are citizens.
This has been the basic policy of the border patrol.
But it has not worked very effectively, since the people trying to
cross the U.S. border
without permission will probably try again, perhaps at another time and
When unauthorized persons kept in immigration prisons
know that they have no hope of ever being given permission to live in
in careful cooperation with their countries of citizenship,
they should be given
assistance for re-establishing themselves in their homelands.
FOR COMMON CRIMINALS
Yes, some foreign
nationals do violate criminal laws.
At least when such violations of law are more significant than breaking
these citizens of other countries should be handed
by the ordinary criminal justice systems where they were apprehended.
In this case, only the individuals arrested will go to jail, not their
Or the non-criminal parts of the families can be detained in the
Where justified, ordinary prisons with large numbers
of foreign nationals
could create programs addressing the specific problems of these
Prison reform should include useful and meaningful
work-experiences for all prisoners.
If they are required to learn a useful trade or occupation,
there is a better possibility that they will be law-abiding citizens
wherever they live after they are released from prison.
We might be concerned about family separations
because of criminal prosecution,
but this also happens with all U.S. citizens when some family members
Only the suspected criminals go to jail.
The same local, state, & federal laws must apply to all people,
no matter what their citizenship status.
2. WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THE
MILLIONS OF FOREIGN NATIONALS
SETTLED IN THE UNITED STATES WITHOUT
One of the most basic problems of immigration reform
asks what should happen to the 12 million foreign nationals
already settled without permission inside the USA.
The fact that we have so many millions who have
successfully avoided immigration controls
shows that the immigration systems now in place have not worked as
Perhaps we should openly acknowledge that half of the blame
for this situation rests with the United States of America.
Not only have foreign nationals taken advantage of the holes in the
but the immigration system itself
continues to enable half a million new immigrants each year
to settle in the USA without
Because the USA is at least partly responsible for
the current demographic facts,
we could consider allowing all (or most) foreign nationals to apply for
This would mean forgiving
and forgetting any and all past violations of
was granted in 1986 to all foreign nationals who applied.
Pathways to citizenship were opened that did not penalize applicants
for the fact that they were already living in the USA.
About 3 million previously-unauthorized persons
became permanent residents.
However, nothing was done
about those who did not qualify.
They formed the base of the renewed population of non-citizens
living in the USA without permission,
which has grown to at least 12 million since then.
If amnesty is considered once again,
it should be coupled with some dramatic changes in immigration laws and
that would at the same time
prevent more foreign nationals
from entering the USA without permission.
This was the basic defect of the 1986 amnesty:
It did little to prevent
future immigration without permission.
Thus, since that amnesty, hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals
have continued to settle the USA every year without permission.
B. REPLACE GREEN CARDS WITH
ELECTRONIC WORK AUTHORIZATION
system for granting the right to work to foreign nationals
is called the "green card".
Even with improved security and
there are still millions of
fake green cards in use.
One easy way the U.S. government could end all green
would be to replace the
whole system with a single, simple electronic record
of every foreign person who has been granted permission to live and
work in the USA.
Unlike the flawed E-Verify Program, this one would
focus on the photo of the
Instead of just checking names and numbers,
this electronic database would first display the picture of the foreign worker
who has been authorized by the federal government to live and work in
Because of the high stakes involved in creating
false green cards,
millions of dollars are spend on each side of the green-card wars:
The U.S. government employs more and more specialists
who are good at telling the difference between
a real green card and
the various kinds of fake
High-tech machines are needed to do microscopic examination of green
to separate the genuine green cards from the counterfeit cards.
False-document criminals improve their skills every
And the government agents are only a few steps behind them.
But as long as a small plastic card (the size of a credit card)
is all that a foreign national needs to get a job in the USA,
then there will always be a market for ever-improved imitation green
This whole industry would collapse if the green
cards now in use
were completely replaced
by a super-secure computer file
for each and every foreign national with permission to live and work in
Potential employers could give up squinting at green
and simply turn on their nearest computer with Internet access,
type in their security codes and any other verification methods needed,
and have a look at the individual File of the person applying for a
Applicants who can prove that they are U.S. citizens
would not be subject to this Work Authorization check.
For all applicants who are not U.S. citizens
claim to have permission to live and work in the USA,
the computer screen would first display a recent picture of the
If the face in the picture is not
the same as the face of the applicant,
there will be no job for this foreign worker.
And the employer should call the local police,
who will take the applicant into custody
and hand him or her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement
As soon as the computer File is complete
for all foreign workers who are authorized to hold jobs in the USA,
then employers will be required
to check all of their current employees
who previously presented green cards or other authorizing documents.
Are these workers actually in the national database?
Whenever unauthorized workers are discovered,
they must be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This will not require
especially when the worker has deep roots in the community.
But an investigative file will be opened for this individual working
A pathway toward some form of authorized residence
For example, the foreign worker might be offered
an opportunity to
with the U.S. government.
With official registration of the worker and his or her family
there would be some form of work permission.
The employee could either continue in the same employment
or look for a new job now possible with official work
But if after some deeper investigation of the facts and possibilities
it is decided that this worker must return to his or her country of
then appropriate plans can be made both by the family and the employer.
Once it becomes known that the Electronic Work
will completely replace green cards,
then thousands (even millions) of citizens of other countries
living and working in the USA without permission
will voluntarily make plans to return to their home countries,
where they do have a right
to reside and to work.
Those who believe they have a good chance to become
will be strongly motivated to begin preparing themselves for
Electronic Work Authorization might also be the most
effective single tool
for discouraging future
unauthorized immigration into the United States.
Citizens of other countries who dream of living and working in the USA
will discover that they cannot get permission to work.
If they cannot work in the
USA, most will simply
All U.S. jobs will be reserved for U.S. citizens and
registered foreign nationals.
Instead of entering the United States without
they will go to the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home countries
and apply for the most appropriate visa to be admitted to the USA.
This Electronic Work Authorization
should create individual Files in such a way
that they can easily be integrated into a National Identity
if and when such a national facebook is created.
The National Identity Bureau would have an individual computer File
for every man, woman, & child living in the USA
a citizen or not, whether authorized to work or not.
Another cyber-sermon addresses the attraction of working in America:
"If They Cannot Work, They Will Not Come:
And Many Will Return to their Homelands":
Because it is the fault of ineffective immigration
that millions of foreign nationals are presently living in the United
States without permission,
all citizens of other countries settled in the USA
should have the same
opportunities for becoming U.S. citizens as anyone
else on Earth.
And the fact that they have violated U.S.
should not be held against them.
The United States could decide to overlook violations of immigration
when reviewing the applications of foreign nationals
to become authorized residents of the U.S. and later American citizens.
Earning citizenship should not be easy or automatic.
must be applied:
How long has the applicant lived in the United
Does the applicant have other relatives also living
in the USA?
Perhaps one condition of citizenship might be the disclosure of all
Does the applicant have legitimate employment?
How long has the applicant held his or her current job?
And what previous jobs were held, both in the homeland and in the USA?
Has the applicant served in any branch of the U.S.
How long has the applicant been paying all required
local, state, & federal taxes?
If back taxes are due, how will these be paid?
What level of education has been achieved by the
Where was this education pursued?
Are there good records of all formal education?
Does the applicant have any special academic achievements
that might enhance his or her chances of becoming a U.S. citizen?
Has the applicant been convicted of any crimes,
either in the homeland, another country, or in the USA?
This criminal record should separate immigration offenses
from all other forms of crime.
We know that immigration laws have been violated
by the mere fact that a foreign national is living in the USA without
and applying for a pathway to citizenship.
The applicant might also have false identity documents.
In addition, serious
crimes should be separated from trivial
such as parking violations.
The new immigration laws could specify just how much each kind of crime
Perhaps only convictions that led to time behind bars should
against the applicant.
And the fact that criminal-convictions will count
for the citizenship decision
might have the effect of making new immigrants even more law-abiding
than U.S. citizens.
Applicants to become U.S. citizens will know that all crimes will be
And applicants with no
criminal convictions will have a better chance.
The prescribed pathways to citizenship described in
new immigration laws
will probably include periods of temporary-resident status,
and probationary periods before citizenship is granted.
And care should be taken to prevent even the
that foreign nationals already
residing in the USA
have any advantage over foreign nationals who have stayed in their homelands
while they applied to emigrate to the USA and possibly later to become
But requiring applicants to return to their homelands
does not seem to be reasonable.
If returning to the country of citizenship were required,
most foreign nationals would probably prefer to remain hidden from the
Applicants will be encouraged to come forward,
and then proceed down their chosen pathway to citizenship
Earning U.S. citizenship could be like applying for
All may apply, but
only some will be
But unlike college admissions, applying for permission to reside in the
does not have to be completed within a certain time-frame.
The applicant can continue
to improve his or her record
before, during, & after applying for the right to live in the USA.
But, inevitably, some applicants for residence will
not be accepted.
meaningful repatriation should be created for them
and for all of their affected family members.
cyber-sermon specifically about steps toward becoming citizens:
"Earning American Citizenship: Be Above Average":
AND GRADUAL REPATRIATION
New immigration laws might specify
just which foreign nationals must eventually return to their homelands.
Those who are not given permanent-resident
status or a
pathway to citizenship
should be helped to make an orderly move back to their homelands.
For example, foreign nationals who must return to
might be given a year (or even more) to wind up their affairs in the USA
and to establish new homes and businesses where they are citizens.
More details about just how such repatriations might
be achieved are found here:
"Comprehensive Repatriation of Citizens of other Countries and their
3. FAMILY SEPARATIONS CREATED
U.S. IMMIGRATION LAWS AND PRACTICES
We all have heard terrible stories of family torn
apart by immigration rulings.
America holds itself forth as a family-friendly nation,
but when it comes to some actual families,
the laws and practices pull
families apart rather than keep them
One of the most serious problems under current law
is the long waits
sometimes required for family members to be admitted.
This is often because of arbitrary limits set
on the number of family visas to be issued for a certain country.
Immigration reform will re-define just who counts as
And the principal immigrant will be allowed to include one spouse
and all dependent children who are alive at the time the visa is
Some whole families will have to wait for a later
but nuclear families will not be separated by the visa requirements.
What is the point of admitting an authorized immigrant
without including his or her immediate family?
Sometimes the problems are created by families
who are expecting too many
people to be admitted to the USA
because they have family members already living in the United States.
Once "immediate family" has been redefined by new immigration laws,
then some former patterns of endless chains of immigrants
who claim family connections will come to an end.
Then each adult individual (or couple) will have to
All applicants can list family members already living in the USA,
but having relatives with permission to reside in the USA
or relatives who are U.S. citizens
should not automatically guarantee
If the United States becomes more selective about
then family connections will not matter as much as other factors
that would make each adult applicant an ideal new American.
If one of the parents of minor children is granted permanent resident
then all of the minor children also automatically quality for admission
to the USA.
And the other spouse will also automatically be included in the visa.
But probably brothers and sisters, parents and
will no longer qualify
simply on the basis of family connections.
RE-UNIFICATION IN OTHER LANDS
When a nuclear family has some U.S. citizens and
citizens of other countries,
we should not assume that the best choice is for all of them to live in
Sometimes it makes more sense for them all to live in the homeland of
even if some of the children are U.S. citizens
Mothers should never be separated from their minor
children by immigration law.
And sometimes this will mean that children will go to the homeland of
After they are old enough to live on their own,
they can move back to the USA
because they will already be registered U.S. citizens.
When it is known in advance just how long a certain
will have to wait for immigration into the USA,
they can decide which children should come with them.
If the wait will be 10 years or more,
then their children might have to apply in their own names
rather than as dependent children.
One peculiarity of U.S. law,
does not apply to U.S. citizens living in other countries),
is that any baby born on U.S. soil is automatically a U.S. citizen.
This promotes family-break up because it creates families
in which some members are U.S. citizens and others are not.
It would be more natural for the children born to foreign nationals
to become citizens of the same country where their parents are
Then, either the whole family would be given a pathway to citizenship
in the USA
or they would all be repatriated to their homeland together.
This proposal is also given a full exploration here:
"Born in the USA: The Easy Way to Become a U.S. Citizen":
4. THE CONTINUING FLOW OF UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS INTO THE USA
actual numbers are hard to discover,
but the acknowledged result is that we have 12 million foreign
living in the USA without permission.
This proves that the flow of unauthorized persons has continued.
Each year the border patrol turns back hundreds of
thousands of attempted immigrants.
But perhaps a like number get past all fences and border check-points.
And many of the unauthorized persons were once given permission to
But they over-stayed their visas and consequently later became
If 500,000 new foreign nationals are added to the
population each year,
this amounts to an astonishing 10,000 new persons per week.
But to keep this number in perspective,
this is about the same as the number of foreign nationals
given permission to enter the
USA each week.
is now about the same level as unauthorized
And if unauthorized
immigration is ended,
immigration can be doubled to 20,000 new immigrants
Each year the U.S. government provides more money
the U.S. Border Patrol.
Better methods are created for detecting people attempting to cross our
borders without permission.
We have new electronic devices for discovering unauthorized immigrants.
But a smarter approach would also target organized
gangs of people-smugglers.
When their specific methods become known,
then effective counter-measures can be created.
And when more smugglers are in prison (in any country),
then the number of unauthorized immigrants will decrease.
In deep cooperation with other countries,
we should be able to discover the major channels for smuggling
immigrants into the USA.
When these criminal enterprises are discovered and shut down,
we should see a measurable impact
on the number of unauthorized foreign nationals living in the USA.
INCREASING AUTHORIZED IMMIGRATION
As the USA puts into place all methods of preventing
we can also dramatically increase the number of permitted immigrants.
This will shift the focus of foreign nationals
away from paying thousands of dollars to smugglers
who offer access to the USA by unauthorized means
toward making themselves more acceptable for permitted emigration to
the United States.
When authorized immigration replaces unauthorized,
millions of more people will want to use the official channels for
coming to the USA.
We could offer all foreign countries this incentive:
If and when it has been shown that unauthorized immigration has
authorized immigration from those same countries
can be increased by a like
This is the over-all perspective, world-wide:
About 1 million people have already been screened and granted
permission to emigrate to the USA.
But they are forced to wait,
sometimes for years, because the quotas
for their countries are quickly filled.
When unauthorized immigration diminishes (or even disappears almost
then the waiting process for authorized
immigration will become more
Can we imagine a world where only authorized
immigration takes place?
Probably the most dramatic change the USA could
would be a National Identity Bureau,
which would have a picture of each and every man, woman, & child
living in the USA.
Even the announcement of the beginning of such a
National Identify File for each of us
would cause some people who know they are present in the USA without
to make plans to return to their countries of citizenship.
It might take 10 years to register everyone present
in the USA,
but even the first steps in the process would make dramatic changes in
The problems and objections to a national database
are easy to name,
but each of these difficulties can be solved in reasonable ways.
The impact on people thinking of coming to the USA
would likely be immediate:
Since they would know that they would eventually be discovered,
it would be better for them to apply for authorized emigration
than to attempt to enter the
USA without permission.
The details of this
proposed National Identity
Bureau are here:
"National Identity File: Our National Facebook"
5. THE UNDERGROUND SUB-CULTURE OF
Because there are about 12 million citizens of other
living in the USA without permission,
these people form an informal sub-culture of people who know
that they could be deported at any time.
Being present in the United States without permission
has several implications for these foreign nationals
and for the culture of the United States.
Foreign nationals are often exploited by employers:
They can be paid less than the minimum wage—off
They can be given little or no protection from hazards on the job.
They can be fired at will, with no recourse.
Foreign nationals fear making contact with any local
fear to send their children to public schools.
drive without any training or licenses.
Some do not call the police when they are victims of crime or witnesses
Some do not ask for medical attention except in extreme situations.
Some are not eligible for most programs of public income-support.
no Social Security benefits.
The American culture itself suffers in a few ways:
Foreign nationals compete for jobs that would normally be filled U.S.
Because these citizens of other countries
know that they have already violated the immigration law,
they are less worried about following other local, state, or federal
They know they can be deported even if they commit no further crimes.
So what do they have to lose?
Foreign nationals are more easily drawn into
smuggling other foreign nationals into the USA,
trafficking illegal drugs and smuggling money back to their homelands.
What should be done about this population of foreign
nationals living in the shadows?
OF ALL FOREIGN NATIONALS LIVING IN THE USA
Immigration reform could include the registration of
all citizens of other countries
living in the United States of America.
Foreign nationals who are here on visas for work, education, or tourism
are already registered with the State Department.
They have visas or green cards that include their pictures.
But there are about 12 million others who are not
If immigration reform removes the
threat of immediate deportation,
and if there are other incentives added such as pathways to citizenship
for all who voluntarily register themselves and their families,
then millions of these people living in the shadows
will come into the light.
They will come under the protections of U.S. laws
designed to prevent their exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
They will have most of the same rights as all legal residents of the
Working with ethnic sub-cultures,
millions of people with the same ethnic identity
will be encouraged to register with the U.S. government.
If they have jobs, they are supposedly already
They present green cards when they seek employment.
And if these are real green
cards, issued by the U.S. government,
the Department of Homeland Security also has a copy of each card,
which includes name and picture among other things.
But many millions of people in the underground
have fake green cards,
which also have their pictures,
but which are not included in the database of the DHS.
Various methods could be employed to identify the
fake green cards
and to issue real green cards to these foreign nationals.
As long as they knew they would not be immediately deported,
millions might come forward to identify themselves
and to set themselves straight with all levels of government.
Social-service agencies (both public and private)
already serving immigrant communities
could become very important in helping foreign nationals to register
As registration expands, some percentage of
the unauthorized population
will decide that there is no hope for them to become authorized
And they will make orderly plans to return to the countries where they
See full discussion of replacing green cards with electronic files
See further discussion of creating a registry of all
citizens of other countries living in the USA:
Register all Foreign Nationals:
Carrots and Sticks:
Registration without Deportation:
Bringing Millions of Foreign Nationals out of the Shadows:
The same positive benefits would result from a
that resulted in recording the picture, name, & address
of every man, woman, & child living in the United States of
This National Identity Bureau would include one computer File
for each person, whether that person is a U.S. citizen or not.
This would not
create a national identity card,
since it has been abundantly proven that false cards can easily be
Rather, the public data about each of us
would be kept in a super-secure computer system.
And whenever an employer or police officer needed to check someone's
the nearest computer would provide a picture and other basic data.
Facebook.com provides an easy-to-understand model
new national database.
Without any government funding and without any compulsion,
Facebook already registers more than 900,000,000 people world-wide.
This number of people is three times the total population of the USA.
The National Identity Bureau would be more official
and more secure,
but the computer-technology used by Facebook proves that it can be
This National Identity Bureau would not be directed
exclusively toward the underground sub-culture of
citizens of other countries present in the USA without permission.
But this 4% of the U.S. population would finally be brought out of the
This proposal receives a full explanation here:
NATIONAL IDENTITY FILE:
Our National Facebook
James Park is himself an immigrant to the United
He was a child when his whole family was admitted to the USA.
So there was no way to know ahead of time what he might contribute.
But each family member has proven to be good for America.
And, yes, he is also
found on Facebook: James Leonard Park.
Much more about him will be found on his
which now has more than 1,000 'rooms'.
Some of these rooms contain other essays about
I am an
Problems and Solutions:
Keeping the UU Debate Constructive .
A Range of Options .
New Pathways to Citizenship .
Carrots and Sticks .
Bringing Millions of Foreign Nationals out of the Shadows
Foreign Nationals in the USA:
How Many Will Stay?
Born in the USA:
The Easy Way to Become a U.S. Citizen
Repatriation of Citizens of other Countries and their Families
A Policy Manual for Immigration Reform
This is a 50-page discussion of specific reforms
that the American Immigration Lawyers Association would like to see.
from The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Produced for the Migration Policy Institute,
this 8-page summary and analysis explains what worked and what did not work
in granting amnesty to 3 million foreign nationals beginning in 1986.
and Implementing an Immigration Legalization Program:
Registration as the First Step
This 34-page policy brief from MPI explores how to register
12 million unauthorized foreign nationals now settled in the USA.
on the Solutions:
Key Principles of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
A 21-page policy paper produced by the Immigration Policy Center
exploring common-sense solutions to the well-known problems.
December 28, 2010; Revised 12-29-2010;
1-4-2011; 1-6-2011; 1-8-2011;
1-9-2011; 1-14-2011; 1-18-2011;
6-1-2011; 10-19-2011; 10-21-2011; 5-26-2012; 9-18-2012