A Responsible Path to Legal Residency
The most effective and economical way to solve our nation’s growing undocumented immigrant problem is to institute a nationwide photo/biometric identification system for every person living in the United States.
Beyond any security wall physical or otherwise that we could put in place around American borders, the Immigration Reform Program would serve multiple purposes:
- effectively shut US borders to illegal immigration
- end the use of undocumented workers
- end circumvention of proper contribution to payroll tax, Medicare, Social Security, and Workers Compensation pools
- rescue our schools, hospitals and medical services overburdened by inaccurate census data from undocumented residents uncounted in financial planning projections
Currently, the I-9 employment form verifies new hires for a bona fide employer but does nothing to address the millions of laborers who, because they are not legal residents, are tyrannized by a fear of exposure and deportation which forces them to accept underpaid wages, workplace violations and health abuses. Because they are undocumented and paid ‘under the table’ they have no medical recourse if they are hurt or maimed on the job as they are not included in any Workers Compensation program.
Those who hire undocumented laborers perform a litany of disservices to our country. Most obvious is that legal residents are being passed over for job opportunities. Additionally, the employer is not contributing to the local and federal tax bases because undocumented hires never materialize on the company books. Lastly, this continuing practice encourages even more illegal border crossings.
There are currently an estimated 11 million undocumented aliens living here – equivalent to the entire population of the state of Michigan — who necessarily under report taxes, who have no recourse if their employers mistreat them, who cannot get medical care if they’re hurt on the job. 11 million working for wages far below the Federal minimum, many forced to live in poverty.
A national identification card would require that all workers present their card at the time of employment. This card would verify employee status indicating by color, code, or some other method if the prospective employee is currently a citizen, legal resident or a registered immigrant enrolled in obtaining full US residency. A resident-in-process status would not negate employment but would require that along with standard federal, state and local payroll deductions the prospective employer would channel 5% to 15% (based on pay rate) of that employee’s pre-tax wages into a special fund called the Immigrant Residency Fund or IRF specifically set up to defray costs for the employee’s immigration process. (At this time, for example, the combined expense for permanent US residency, citizenship, and work authorization is approximately $2,000). There would be an additional fee of $700 collected per person that would be apportioned 80/20 between the local community residence and its state to help repay educational and medical programs that have historically carried the financial burden of providing services for these “invisible” residents.
Registered immigrants would be legally eligible to apply for driver’s licenses, insurance coverage, and higher education. They would not be eligible however, to receive welfare or unemployment benefits until after their immigrant residency process was completed. Uninsured medical services, if needed before residency completion, would also be paid from their Immigrant Residency Fund, up to, but not beyond, the fund’s exhaustion.
The IRP identification information would be held in a national database and status would be verifiable by online or telephone request. Thus, the process also provides a deterrent for employers trying to circumvent proper wage and taxation payments. Employers would be required to obtain employment verification prior to the employee’s start date: employers who ignore the verification process or who hire undocumented aliens would be fined $10,000 for the 1st occurrence, $20,000 for the 2nd, $30,000 for the 3rd, and so on.
This process would apply to any employer including, for example, homeowners who hire contract workers for construction or home maintenance jobs. Because homeowners often hire companies providing full work crews rather than hiring individual “jobbers” the company would be required to provide, and the homeowner would be obligated to maintain, proper copies of the IRP cards for all workers on the project. In any event, homeowners may not take a tax deduction for work done on their home if they do not provide a corresponding ID verification for any and all workers. Once again, a progressive $10,000 fine would be applied per occurrence. Once collected, fine payments would be shared equally between the local community and its state.
Undocumented immigrants who fail to register by the date specified once the program is in place and then fail to obtain the proper photo/biometric identification card would face immediate lifelong deportation without future opportunity to return to the US.
Once the framework for the individual IRFs is established the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) would take charge of allocating the funds toward the necessary background checks, application fees and interviews. Applicants would continue to pay into the fund until such time as the application process is completed, legal residency approved, and all expenses for these services have been covered.
While in the process, immigrants found guilty of violent crimes would forfeit their IRF monies, face incarceration, deportation, or both. Any attempt to commit fraud against the registration system would also result in immediate deportation and application of the corresponding fines. Current legal US residents or citizens who attempt to defraud the system would face criminal charges, fines, and incarceration.
Once registered, our nation’s undocumented population can come out from under the shadows and contribute openly to our society. As a nation, America can continue to represent to the world that we welcome and value all those who wish to legally adopt America as their home.
Q: How will this keep undocumented immigrants from coming into the country?
A: It won’t, but requiring proper resident status in order to work in the US will remove the incentive to consider coming illegally so that far fewer will want to risk permanent deportation if caught.
Q: Why should I have to have a photo ID so undocumented aliens can become legal residents?
A: Many modern countries utilize a similar type of identification system. Our current Social Security cards are easily counterfeited, facilitating identity theft. This single photo/biometric ID addresses many problems simultaneously.
Q: Will this replace the social security card?
A: Not necessarily, but this photo/biometric card adds an additional layer of protection against identity theft. Also, it would be accepted to meet the identity requirements needed to obtain a social security number.
Q: How much would this card cost and who would have to have one?
A: The card would be issued by the local USPS office, in charge of collecting and submitting data to INS and DHS for processing into the national database. There would be no initial applicant charge, since the commencement of this process would save millions in currently uncollected tax revenues. The federal government would reimburse the USPS office a nominal amount to cover their costs for this service.
Q: Why not just issue everyone a passport?
A: Passports must be issued from the country of citizenship, are too large to carry around in a wallet, and are highly susceptible to damage.
Q: What would prevent somebody from printing fraudulent ID cards?
A: The current ‘green card’ that is issued to legal immigrants is very difficult to counterfeit. As a photo/biometric, this identification card would be far more difficult to counterfeit.
Q: Can immigrants in process of getting legal status come and go as they please in and out of the US?
A: No – once they’ve begun the process, they’ll have to stay in the United States. As they would not yet be legal residents, crossing US borders in either direction would be illegal. Thus, if they do leave, they forfeit all progress and funds paid into the residency process to date.
Q: Many immigrants will be making just minimum wage. You expect them to contribute a portion of their money PLUS pay taxes? Doesn’t seem realistic.
A: Since no one is protecting their rights currently many make far below minimum wage already. This program is a path to legal US residence or citizenship, and status under the IRP would ensure they receive at least the federal minimum wage. Yes, there is the additional pre-tax deduction required toward their IRF account, but even with that they would earn more than the often paltry $3.00 and $4.00 per hour wages they currently can earn as undocumented workers. In general the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices.
Q: How long will somebody have to get their wages garnished to be legal?
A: That depends on how much they earn. The more they earn, the faster their IRP funding needs will be fulfilled. And as with current tax deductions (as shown on the W4 form) they can elect to have an additional amount over the minimum required deducted should they wish to speed up meeting this obligation.
Q: I have all the money to cover my IRP expenses now – can I prepay?
A: Yes – You can prepay for yourself or any member of your family when you register.
Q: I have children that were born here after I entered illegally. Will they be required to pay the same amount for their IRP process?
A: Not if the birth took place more than one year after the mother’s entry into the U.S. Otherwise, yes.
Q: How will I be able to prove when I entered United States?
A: Expired visas, residential bill receipts with full name and address (rent receipts, electric bills, etc). The final determination for acceptable forms will be decided by the INS and DHS.
Q: When would US residents be required to obtain this ID?
A: All adults and school aged children would be required to obtain the identification card. Children first entering preschool or kindergarten will be required to present their ID cards just the same as they must verify vaccination before enrollment. Photo/biometric data would be updated at age 16, 25, 45 and 65.
Q: Will I need to carry this new ID with me at all times?
A: Absolutely not – only when you present yourself for employment, for school admission and for medical services. You will not – for example – be asked for it during routine traffic stops. However, you may be asked to verify you have registered and have a valid ID as part of a trial or court appearance.
Q: This idea will promote discrimination because homeowners will not want to bother with this process and risk any fine.
A: Without this photo/biometric identification, undocumented workers are compounding their illegal entry status by adding illegal employment. Homeowners who hire undocumented workers often guarantee the worker will be paid less than the legal Federal wage, and the uncollected taxes from these ‘off the books’ employees actually harm the homeowner’s community. The ID simultaneously eliminates these issues and puts undocumented aliens on a legal path to permanent residence. Most people will be delighted to know that you and they are following the law.
Q: In principal this sounds like a good idea, but I’m concerned it takes us into a kind of “Big Brother” police state — how is it not?
A: There is no perfect solution to this pandemic problem . There are millions currently here in the US illegally. Millions who live under the radar, denied fair wages and protections under our laws. Millions who could be legally contributing to our society who are not.
On the other hand, there are millions of employers who currently rip off the system by hiring cheap labor, and cheating all the tax, Medicare, Social Security, and Workers Compensation pools by not properly reporting employees and wages.
Widen the focus to include that none of these undocumented residents are counted in any census and therefore are not represented in any community, state and federal budget planning and you see how large a problem this is.
The only fair way to rein in the losses caused by all sides of this issue is to establish a national identification program confirming the legal status of all US citizens and residents. This will guarantee rights and freedoms to all, rights and freedoms current undocumented immigrants do not enjoy.
In summary, the benefits the Immigration Reform Program will provide to all US citizens and residents far outweigh any inconveniences, or perceived intrusions, involved.