Asylum is the only legal grounds for being admitted into the U.S. for those caught crossing our international borders. Yet tens thousands of hopeful immigrants arrive on our doorstep every day, while almost none qualify for asylum. The reason for so many attempts is that those arriving have no serious consequence to illegal entry.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that about 50,000 just last May alone were detained at the border. Possibly another 50,000 made their way in undetected. Plus, tens of thousands more arrived at our airports each month and will stay after their travel visas expire.
We can debate whether it is proper policy to separate children from their parents upon illegal entry into this country. But the real issue here is how to reconfigure a fair and humane process to determine valid requests for asylum, entry, and eventually residency.
Switching administration immigration policies every few weeks may heighten the debate about immigration but does nothing to create a stable, logical and fair process to attract those we want and reject those who are not yet qualify to join us.
This means implementing policies that put the coyotes, human smugglers, and migration caravan leaders out of business. This means setting up federal immigration services in other countries to process immigration there, not at the border.
I suggest a grand shift in our immigration approach by establishing “a four-ways in” policy. Legal entry could be won by 1) merit, 2) asylum, 3) lottery for the qualified, and 4) by family association.
Access into the country legally would be so easy and illegal attempts so futile that one of our most persistent national crises could be finally be resolved.
By merit — for those already here: Register as a temporary resident, receive a work permit, and demonstrate skills and conduct. Demonstration of skills and conduct can include to be proficient in English, possess at least a high school education or the equivalent, pay taxes for six years while in country, abstain from government social welfare and aid programs, submit a DNA sample, not commit a felony, to win permanent residency.
By merit — for those wishing to immigrate: Register as a temporary resident, receive a work permit for two three-year periods, possess a master’s degree, doctorate, or a professional license in demand (like an RN), demonstrate skills and conduct, to win permanent residency.
Especially to address our shortages in the medical professions, the Philippines have medical established training schools that offer U.S. credentials so that those with ambition can earn their way here. It is time we encourage countries like Mexico, China and in Central America to create these Philippines-style training schools that can bring the best and the brightest in without a fight.
By asylum: The problem is that asylum is evaluated after an illegal crossing, which encourages illegal crossings instead of prior to crossing. No more asylum processing at the border.
Rather than pay the coyotes, potential immigrants would pay the U.S. government at dozens of application centers we need to establish throughout the world. These centers would be staffed with judges who could hear cases and take evidence off-site for legal entry consideration. No more 180 days of ICE detention that taxpayers fund.
Lottery for the qualified: Allow those who visit the U.S. on a traveler’s visa twice or more and who return home within the time allotted be permitted to submit to a lottery for a three-year temporary residency that could be renewed for three more years. Register as a temporary resident with a work permit and demonstrate skills and conduct to win permanent residency.
We should also start tracking those who fail to depart the U.S. on time and disqualify them for legal entry or the lottery. Did you know we do not document visitors when they leave the U.S. and are we are unaware of those who overstay their visa?
By family association: Marriage to a citizen overseas that is recognized as legitimate or to a temporary resident who lives here, or for siblings, parents, or children of a citizen, given the person with the opportunity will demonstrate skills and conduct, could also lead to permanent residency.
Remember, it still takes five years as a permanent resident to be qualified to apply for citizenship. What I propose gives us about 12 years to know someone’s character before a final decision would be made about citizenship, makes illegal crossing very unattractive, and rewards those with personal commitment to live among us.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm and is the CFO of a private security firm, COO of at an acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.