For several years now, U.S. politicians have admitted that their immigration system is broken. How to go about fixing it has been the problem.
The issue has been over-analyzed and it's perfectly clear what needs to be done. The discussion revolves around who and how many are to blame, and who will be the ones to pay. Obviously, it will end up being the immigrants, those on the lowest rung of the ladder, the poor foreigners who speak a different language.
In contrast to the immigration reform in 1996, immigrants in this case will be treated as illegal—not undocumented—and will not be granted amnesty. For some, the punishment will be monetary. The U.S. approach to solving these problems is to simply hit them where it hurts: in the wallet.
But the punishment may go far beyond this. It could pave the way for regularization and close the door on citizenship for immigrants, which in electoral terms makes plenty of sense for Republicans.
How much immigrants will pay will depend on how hard the path is to negotiations. It could be anywhere from one to several thousand dollars to finance the paperwork process and pay any fines. What's important is that the regularization process isn't considered an extra load on the back of its contributors.
But many immigrants who aren't lucky enough to have a clean record will get caught in the filter. Taxes will be considered first, although it could be said that 90 to 95 percent of immigrants do pay taxes as they are automatically deducted from their checks.
Those who were paid "under the table" in cash for long periods of time will encounter problems when they are asked to show what contributions they have made during their stay in the country.
Those who had legal troubles will have to evaluate whether it is really worth it to begin the paperwork process to citizenship or to accept the risks of staying in their current situations. Those involved in domestic violence, street gangs and alcohol problems and other circumstances with the police will also have some trouble.
Essentially, all immigrants have their personal information and legal documentation on file. Many immigrants have known for years just how important it would be to be able to show proof that they've worked and paid taxes. In 1986, it was required to provide at least five years of said proof. If the same criteria continues, those who arrived in the U.S. in 2008 or before would now be able to regularize their statuses.
Immigration to the U.S. saw a decline in recent years so it would be a lower number. The great surge of immigrants reached its peak in 2007.
Immigrants with children, particularly ones born in the U.S., will have a point in their favor. Supporting families is one thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on and traditional family values like Mexico's are looked upon favorably.
But there remains one much more difficult problem to solve: Migration to the United States is fundamentally labor-motivated and while both workers and employers are both involved in the employment of undocumented immigrants, the two have been held to a double standard.
The issue of sanctions on employers has been discussed between Mexico and the United States since the 1940s. In 1954, a judge ruled in favor of the Texas Proviso, which states that it is punishable to work without documents but that employers are not guilty. In 1986, sanctions were imposed on employers but charges were almost always evaded and illegal workers got by using false documents.
Once again, new sanctions are being proposed that include not only monetary punishment but also criminal charges. The only solution to undocumented immigration is to strictly force workers to show proof of their legal work status.
This is not possible due to the Social Security system, the number that is required to work and pay taxes. But there are more than 10 million fake Social Security numbers that collect taxes and at the same time allow the employment of undocumented immigrants. A cycle results from this in which taxes are charged but never claimed.
There are different opinions on the advantages and the efficiency of ways to control immigration. Currently, the E-Verify system is voluntary and has many errors in its corroboration of information. For real efficiency, there must be a unique system for identification that cannot be falsified, which implies starting at zero and going up to 200 million workers. A difficult task no doubt, especially in a population that doesn't have or want a national identification system.
Curiously, the main argument of anti-immigration legislation is based on national security, yet nobody seems worried about having 11 million fake social security numbers for people who don't exist.
Many immigrant organizations are against any efficient control system because it would affect a large number of workers in the short term. But looking ahead, if everyone is unable to work in the United States without documents they will have to open the door and legalize entry.
Working as an illegal these days puts one in an exploitative, insecure and vulnerable situation.