Byko: A five-point plan to solve illegal immigration

022317_tillerson_1200
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, is welcomed by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, right, and Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon, North America director with Mexico's foreign ministry, as he arrives at the airport in Mexico City, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. President Donald Trump has sent Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to Mexico on a fence-mending mission made all the more challenging by the actual fence he wants to build on the southern border.

I’ve been reporting on, and criticizing, illegal immigration for more than a decade, and things are worse now -- for everyone -- than when I started.

Why it is worse can be expressed in two phrases:

“Donald Trump” and “illegal ‘entitlement.’”

The president is a blunderbuss, but he represents Americans who are up to here with undocumented people claiming rights that don’t exist.

The “enforce the damn law” guidelines from Homeland Security this week shocked those here illegally and their enablers. This might be a good time for them to sue for peace.

It’s also a good time for the media to stop muddying the water by pretending “immigration” and “illegal immigration” are interchangeable. They are no more synonymous than “pharmacist” and “drug dealer.” One’s legal, one’s not.

When it’s reported that President Trump’s crackdown threatens “immigrant communities,” that’s fear-mongering. Legal immigrants have nothing to fear.

As the Pew Research Center reported this week, 75 percent of Philly’s immigrants did the right thing and came here legally.  

If those here illegally are fearful, that’s self-inflicted. When you choose to break the law, you don’t get to play the victim. 

Over the years, I have interviewed some of the undocumented, and I sympathize with them on a human level, but I don’t condone their law-breaking.  Not one of them has ever expressed remorse. 

I asked them three questions.

1. Did you come here voluntarily? The answer is yes, except in the cases of minors brought here by a parent. They shouldn’t be punished, and that’s why I support DACA -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects them from deportation. That remains in effect under the new guidelines.  

2.  Did you know you were coming here illegally? Yes, that’s why they sneaked in or overstayed a visa.

3. Did you know there might be consequences if you were caught? Yes, that’s why they “live in the shadows.” Illegal immigrants and their supporters have to stop pretending they did nothing wrong and stop demanding  immunity from laws they knowingly violated. No one has a “right” to be here without permission.

Then where do we go?

We do not offer amnesty, because we did that in 1986 when we had three million of the undocumented. Now we have 12 million. If we do the same thing again, we will get the same result. 

In 2015, Pew Research reported that 70 percent of Americans want the good people to remain here, but they oppose a free pass. They want mercy and justice.

I have a five-point plan that offers both, gives each side a “win”:

1. Seal our southern border with a barrier that can be a physical wall where necessary, but can include fencing, Border Patrol agents, cameras, motion detectors, drones, Komodo dragons if necessary.

2. Since jobs are a magnet, lock up employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Send CEOs to jail for a year and those jobs will dry up like peas in a rotisserie.  

3. Implement a statute of limitations for those here at least five years who have a clean record. That’s almost 90 percent of those here illegally.  In many states, after a certain number of years you can’t be prosecuted for crimes such as arson, counterfeiting, fraud, even some sexual offenses. I’d add illegal entry to the list.

4. Allow people protected by statute to come forward, be documented, and become legal residents. They pay whatever fines, taxes, and penalties owed. They submit to fingerprinting and biometrics to establish their identity.

5. Bar those who become legal residents from applying for citizenship, as punishment for breaking our laws.  Minor children they brought to this country with them would be eligible for citizenship, and children born here, of course, are citizens.   

This is not  amnesty. It has penalties, but keeps families together while disrupting the avenues for illegal immigration.

Just and merciful.