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By Ric Llewellyn
Immigration reform? Let's hold off on the question of what to do about the millions of people living here who entered the country illegally.
First, what's wrong with the system we have now?
It certainly is a grueling journey searching for information in the Immigration and Nationality Act or the Immigration Reform and Control Act. You can try to plow through the United States Code on immigration and nationality if you have the stamina. And then there is the official interpretation of the laws in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is just as long and circuitous.
Regardless of how inaccessible it seems to regular people, we have a comprehensive rule for immigration in place. And though it is thick and unwieldy it contains straightforward answers for contemporary issues.
Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 207 lays out a simple process for admitting "special agricultural workers" to the U.S. legally as temporary or permanent residents.
8 CFR 214 covers temporary admission of non-immigrants for various occupational endeavors.
These are two specific contemporary concerns that could be addressed in a simple manner. Just a little editing (amending) would change the existing code from a 1980s context to 2013 context. And it's a solution that was once accepted by both political sides in this debate.
Although IRCA is known by some as Reagan's amnesty, it deserves to be reviewed as a framework for updating processes for people who want to come here or, more importantly, stay here.
It's the law right now. Rededicating to its implementation and enforcement seems much better than creating a whole new scheme and a whole new process for an even bigger bureaucracy to execute inefficiently.
Rearranging the immigration law to cover people AFTER they have immigrated -- illegally -- seems like the wrong approach. It is reactive, not forward-looking.
Simply re-establish enforcement, resolve the problems with processing applications and review limits on immigration to make sure they are reasonable for today.
So what about the millions who are already here?
Everyone has an idea about what to do. I wonder what the undocumented immigrants want. Shouldn't that question somehow enter into the conversation? After all, aren't they the people we are concerned about?
Immigration activists are carrying on like all undocumented immigrants WANT to be American citizens.
Perhaps the individual's answer to that question should be the trigger for more or less rigor in immigration procedures. Today activists only clamor for one path -- the path to citizenship.
We need a temporary worker path, a temporary resident path and a permanent resident path as well. Not everyone wants to be a citizen.
Perhaps the path to legal status should be less complex for those least committed to staying in the U.S. permanently (legal non-immigrant). But for those committed to citizenship the path should be rigorous and comprehensive.
While we can't ask everyone individually, we can offer every person the opportunity to choose her or his path.
I am suspicious of a small group proposing a solitary and terrifyingly dichotomous choice: become a citizen or live in the shadows.
I wonder: What is the focus of their energy and what is their endgame? And if they would stand against individuals choosing their own paths I would only be more skeptical of their sincerity.
So forget the militant special interests and let's find a practical solution that works within our current system.
Heaven knows how slowly the government processes the paperwork it has burdened itself with. That could be the first place to modernize. But it should be required that everyone who entered the country illegally file the appropriate applications and forms for the path they want to take.
Employers connected with the immigrant communities should take the lead in promoting compliance with the filing requirements. Concerned community members who understand that not all foreigners WANT to be citizens should be recruited to promote compliance.
But undocumented immigrants will have to act promptly or be subject to our renewed commitment to enforcement.
Without that dedication to enforcement our children will face the same problem. Robert Price recently wrote about "border security." The term conjures many visions as he pointed out.
But it seems like the concept of border security boils down to our commitment to enforcing immigration law at every step along the path leading into the country.
No matter what we do in the area of immigration and naturalization, if we don't commit to enforcement without bias the problem we face today will not be resolved.
I hope Rep. Kevin McCarthy takes a stand for a solution that will work now and into the future regardless of the political winds. I can only hope.
-- Ric Llewellyn is a community columnist whose work appears in The Californian's Local section every third Saturday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail.com. These are Llewellyn's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.