A step in the right direction, but not far enough

Friday, July 07, 2006

OpinionJournal - Extra

I heard a quick interview with Republican Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana on NPR this morning, and it sounded like he had some good things to say about immigration. He’s proposing 6 year guest worker visas - at the end to the six years, the worker can apply for citizenship. One would assume that, after working here six years, it should not be terribly difficult to obtain citizenship, and indeed it is good for the country if these workers gain citizenship. Pence wants to revisit automatic citizenship for the children of guest workers born in the US, which I think is a good idea.

But his ideas are not all good. For example, he advocates contracting out processing of these workers on entry. I’m not opposed to government contracting (Disclaimer - I am a government contractor, though the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect opinions of anyone else unless otherwise noted), it can be much more efficient. But I am opposed to unreasonable expectations:

Private worker-placement agencies–“Ellis Island Centers”–would be licensed by the federal government to match guest workers with jobs that employers cannot fill with American workers. These agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform health screening, fingerprint them, and convey the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed. Once this is done, the guest worker would be provided with a visa issued by the State Department. The whole process will take a matter of one week, or less.

One week? Come on, Mike. It takes eight weeks to renew a passport for a natural born American citizen, doesn’t it?

I also have a problem with his plan that your first renewal of your guest worker visa requires that you pass an English proficiency test. Why is that? So that the workers can integrate themselves into the community? I think that’s a pretty weak argument. Language is not forced like that. It’s a much more natural process. As workers come here, they’ll pick up English as needed. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt if we Americans made a little effort to learn some Spanish. Communication is not something that needs to be legislated. Give human beings some credit - Americans don’t mostly all speak English because there’s a law saying we have to. We do it because we have a need and a desire to communicate, and that’s the way we do that here. Guest workers will adapt, too, and do what they need to do to communicate.

On the whole, though, I think Pence’s plan is getting close to a compromise that I think most people can live with. He needs to take out the part about building walls around the country. We have enough things that give us a false sense of security, and having useless walls would be another. Does he think that, because they don’t speak English, those who would come here illegally can’t find their way over, around, or through a wall?

Still, he’s heading in the right direction. Now all we need is someone else to step in and lead him the rest of the way.

Posted in: Politics