Title: The MEGA-REGION’s challenge with immigration (with and without the “il”).
Our Mega-Region is defined as the economic productivity of the area represented by Baja-California, San Diego, Imperial and South Orange County, the US Military and the numerous Tribal Nations. Our Mega-Region is one of the largest in the country when measured by economic output and our region allows us to successfully compete against many nations because we have a diverse set of business elements from Quality Education, Research, Tourism, Technology, Manufacturing and our Defense-based Infrastructure. If we ever figure out a way to put this all together in a concise and laser-like package, we are going to be unstoppable!
Living in San Diego is a joy. Not only are we blessed by God-given natural resources, we also get paid to live here. What a joy. It is our responsibility to keep this region beautiful, safe and vibrant for economic opportunity. San Diego needs to be the best place to start a business and raise your family. Immigration plays an out-sized role in making San Diego such a great place. Take one look at the names of the leaders of our dynamic enterprises and you will notice a number of Smith’s and Jones’. You will also notice a huge number of leaders and managers with names representing all 140 countries competing in the Olympics. This region thrives on immigration because frankly, as the city on the bottom left-hand corner of the United States, our growth has always been dependent on new comers. San Diego is the melting-pot of the West Coast. Our diverse populace is one of our greatest assets because when you have different people with different backgrounds analyzing challenges, the solutions have the potential to be dynamic , leading-edge, and capable of delivering specific results as well as broad-based results. Diverse populations produce creative solutions that are exempt from the rigidity of ethnocentrism. It is no surprise that San Diego is a leading region for innovation and research and why we have serial entrepreneurs that create jobs and opportunity.
If you want to conduct international trade, where else can go that borders one country that is one of the US’s largest trading partners, is in close proximity to South America where some of the most dramatic growth is occurring, has Asia to its left and is therefore positioned to be the future economic Gateway to the East as our country turns to a more Pacific-facing global strategy, and still borders that other foreign country we call Los Angeles County? The Mega-Region we call San Diego has it all. Almost everyone living in San Diego immigrated from someplace else to settle here and they rarely leave. Since we actually have a number of vibrant and successful tribal nations, we can claim a large number of real Californian’s – they were here first.. We have a thriving Pacific Islander community as well. If you check out a map from the 1800’s, it is clear there are folks of Mexican heritage that believe they are natives of the longitude/latitude we call San Diego County as well. I’m sure some folks can trace their roots to Ellis Island, however since Ellis Island has not always existed some people just came here as they got here – without papers or a formal invite – they just arrived one day and called this place home. This is why almost every large consumer brand conducts their test marketing in San Diego over other markets. We have the most diverse community in the country and our region is driven by immigrants from other states as well as other countries. Our region is an immigrant magnet, attracting talent from every socioeconomic strata. We want some immigrants, we don’t want others. but the truth is we’re getting them all anyway and it looks like our economy can’t work without all of them.
The IMMIGRATION CHALLENGE –
My position: If we have rules for immigration and they are broken, the rule breaker should be punished. It is illegal to enter our country without following a series of protocols that we have devised. Personally , I support our protocols and I believe they should be followed by everyone. However, we have laws that deliver very severe penalties for law breaking yet it is odd that our current rules for illegal immigration treat the offense as a misdemeanor, not a felony. It says a lot about our historical perception on illegal immigration. The penalty for the individual tends to be detainment, release until a hearing, and then deportation if the federal entity decides to deport. Just compare the penalties associated with our “war-on-drugs” for context. One of these sets of crimes is clearly at the top of the penalty pyramid while the other is treated like a parking ticket. Why? I believe it is because many people are just not convinced you are going to forever stop people from trying to get to America. Yet, controlling our borders is very responsible and we need to feel satisfied that people immigrating to our country follow our rules.
Our current immigration policies regarding “criminal illegal’s” makes sense to me. The rules are much harsher if the illegal is a criminal. In the case of criminal illegal’s, the system is swift : catch them and get them out of the country. This system makes plenty of sense since no country would welcome illegal’s that are also criminals in the last country they called home. We have enough of a challenge keeping our current citizens from breaking the law; we don’t need more knuckleheads.
Lastly, since someone looked the other way since Reagan left office, millions of people have decided to set up their lives in our country without following our protocols. Many are here with families, lives and are part of the fabric of this country. Personally, i know they are here illegally and they need to leave but seriously, does anyone see that happening? We should not live our adult lives believing in Santa Claus or Kaiser Sosa (I loved that movie). We need to be adults, problem solvers and realists. I think the reality is we are stuck with the current illegal immigrant population. The best we can do is bring them out in the open and develop a path for them to either live in the country under a new program that allows them to work but catch-up by paying fines and fees associated with their non-compliance while they get back in line for a chance at citizenship. We then need to redesign our processes for screening prospective citizens to make sure the process attracts the skilled workers we want and places those that can not improve our economy on a lower priority list. I did not say the solution would be fair or easy but they broke the laws – knowingly or unknowingly and i would like to find a solution that does not destroy everyone’s lives in the process.
Of course if you can rub the lantern and your Genie can grant your wish that every illegal vanishes from our borders over-night, I will take that plan as well , however it sounds a little ‘Easter-Bunny-ish’ if you know what I mean. either way, the plan for dealing with the past 25 years of confusion immigration policy may not be capable of solving every problem so let’s tackle the challenges we can and move to some type of conclusion.
So we have legal immigration and illegal immigration and the contradiction is this: for the last century we seem to need both. I do not say this to in any way support illegal immigration. I say this to accept the fact that in spite of saying we do not want illegal immigration, we sure seem to have an awful lot of it going on. It’s not just brown folks pouring over the border that represent all of the illegal immigration taking place in the US. It’s people coming in planes, trains and automobiles for all over the world that represent our current illegal population. You can’t pick them out of a line-up because they look like the entire United Nations. How can you profile a person that looks just like you – especially if the you I am talking about is someone that looks like they can be from one of 140 countries or one of our 50 states?
No, we need to back ourselves up and ask these questions: Why do they come? How do we stop the groups we do not want while encouraging the groups we do want?
Why do they come? Because we live in the greatest country on the world and any sentient being with a pulse would love to live in America if they could. Surely if you were on the other side of the proverbial fence, you would be crawling through the same tunnel, climbing over the same wall, or overstaying your Visa just like some others have been doing for the last century. We are the land of opportunity. They come for the opportunity.
How do we stop the groups we do not want? Eliminate the opportunity.
First we secure the border with massive physical presence and lots of ammo. Anyone with a set of binoculars can come to San Diego and see the tremendous investment in border security taking place in this region. We have walls, seismic detection for tunnel building, drones, infra-red, 1,000’s of border agents, new heavily monitored border crossings, dogs, trucks, ATV’s, the Coast Guard’s interdiction teams … and much more. We have spent billions. We have locked the border down. Yes, anyone willing to risk his or her life to get into this country can find a way to get in but believe me, over the past 8 years, we are really going to make them work for it. And in all seriousness, some folks have lost their lives and I am sure that has a chilling effect on future “crosser-bies”. Even placing illegal’s in prison may net be the deterrent we may think it is especially if they are fleeing a level of persecution or destitution that makes our prisons seem like a good place to spend a few years. Yet if our goal is to lock the border down and arrest the bad guys at the border, we have a good handle on that task. On to Phase 2.
Phase 2. If an employer knowingly hires an illegal, start hauling employers to jail. Seize their properties. Put them out of business. This is harsh but if you believe illegal immigration is destroying America and you have built the walls and fences to stem the flow, why wouldn’t you be willing to choke off the opportunity/demand? As is have said before, we are a country of demand. Employers should have full access to the National Database (E-Verify) that matches individual to social security numbers. E-Verify is a service that my firm has access to and we use. If you are still stupid enough to knowingly hire an illegal, you’re going to get hit with a felony indictment + civil penalties. No business will take that risk and illegal immigration will disappear. Entrepreneurs create the supply to satisfy the demand and that in turn creates even more demand. Jobs are a huge driver for legal and illegal immigrants. Jobs represent the opportunity. Cut off the jobs and you dry up legal and illegal immigration.
It is that simple. Solved. Let’s grab a beer.
Here is the problem. What happens if you actually need the immigration to sustain your economic vitality? I mean, I think the statement : “… we need illegal’s because they do jobs Americans won’t do”, is an absolute crock. I bagged groceries, delivered newspapers, washed dishes as a means to earn money so I could have the things that I wanted. I never got paid much but I worked hard. Our Mega-Region needs immigrants to reach our diverse goals of being an economic juggernaut. Americans will work but the truth is they will not work for free. I believe at my core that there are folks out there using the line “jobs Americans will not do” as a red-herring because what they really mean is “jobs Americans will not do for the low wages”. US workers believe we have evolved a a nation and do not treat our workers like they are in the third-world. We are better than that and we all demand more than that. This si what makes us great – we don’t settle and we demand respect for our sweat. But this bravado can’t apply to the illegal worker. Having a worker that fears they will be arrested and deported provides a level of certainty that that worker will simply NEVER complain or advocate for higher wages. I will accept the argument that the price of grapes will explode if kids from La Jolla High School or American adults are hired to pick grapes and are paid a wage that they are willing to work for. We as consumers will clearly be hit with the bill. But, hiring an illegal is supposed to be against the law so there is no option but to hire the legal person, correct? Why does it still happen? Because, as heard in the Movie, Cool Hand Luke: “we have a failure to communicate”. The penalty for hiring illegal’s is still not stiff enough to drive the proper behavior.
I am convinced that if those creating the opportunity and demand for illegal’s – which includes the companies as well as the regular citizen that hires the undocumented daycare worker, handyman, maid or gardener (yes we can see you too) – realizes the party is coming to and end and they are being fitted for an 8×8 jail cell; they will become part of the solution in a hurry!
My point is this: if hiring a illegal was painful enough, this argument would be moot because there would only be the one choice – hire the American and pay them a fair wage for their work.
Let me now be fair. What if you need immigrants? Well we have so many contradictions in our immigration policies. If you are Cuban and you can get across 90 miles of open ocean, you get a green card and you win the prize. What? Fleeing Castro is a free ticket to the US workforce but coming from Mexico is not? How about this: Central/Imperial Valley farmers say they need access to a reliable and hardworking workforce – which they claim they cannot get from us lazy ‘mericans (not my words). Let’s take them at their word and then ask aloud: Why is there not a migrant worker immigration policy in place right now? You can come, sign-in, work and leave when the season is over with the agreement that you can return and repeat the process over-and over again as long as you abide by the stated rules. Seems logical but a working program still does not exist. As we said demand is for the workers yet the only supply is groups of illegal’s. This makes no sense. Lastly, highly skilled workers from other countries are being pursued but the maximum legal immigration allotment is exhausted in just one month each year. Sounds like we need a larger allotment , doesn’t it? So why do we keep inflicting these stupid wounds with silly policies? This is exactly why people come to the US anyway they can – our current policies do not make sense and they have not made since for a long time.
Solution: Harden our Borders
Status: Largely done or in active process. We are close to saying DONE.
Solution: Increase penalties for knowingly hiring illegal’s
Status: Enforcement is spotty and employers are still operating unafraid of prosecution. Needs work but we can get there in 90 days if we want to.
Solution: Adjust our H1B Visa, Standard Skilled Worker Visa, and Create a Migrant Worker Visa Program that satisfies the current workforce demands of our country
Status: Still being argued and debated but NO action. Can be implemented in 180 days if we want to.
Solution: Build coalitions of small but economically/socially diverse groups with one mission: Pass a Comprehensive Immigration Plan that adjusts out H1B Visas, Skilled Worker Visa, and builds a new Migrant Worker Program while making the E-0Verify system free to all employers or citizens that want to hire. March on Congress to press them to pass the bill.
We spend too much time fighting about this. We all want what is best for the country. Even though immigration seems to be on the back-burner right now, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we have inflicted these wounds on ourselves and we have the power to fix the problem. This is not a partisan issue, or a racial issue … this is an American issue. We-the-people need to lead this because the politicians have had this challenge for the last 25 years and seem unable to put it to rest. They need our help. Instead of criticizing them any further for their past actions, let’s write the bill ourselves and force them to make the commitment to the bill before they can have our vote. Believe me, they are going to spend $2 billion trying to get your vote. This issue can easily be something you can demand from them.
This is how the big-boys and girls play. Let’s get to work.