March 23, 2007

On March 5th of this year, the Board of Directors of Associated Industries voted to approve the following position statement on a bill dealing with immigration in the U.S. House of Representatives.  After the Board vote, a letter was sent to Florida U.S. Senator Mel Martinez outlining this position.

The current bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is too punitive as a result of their insistence that all illegal immigrants (variously estimated at somewhere between 10-13 million) be deported back to their country of origin.  This does not seem reasonable or constructive and the resulting impact on the economy through jobs and housing displacement could be extraordinarily hurtful.  The U.S. Senate’s version is one that we believe strikes a better balance.

In any event, it is our position that any reasonable and successful immigration policy must have the following key components.

  • Border Security – First and foremost is the issue of national security and as such we must secure our land borders (both north and south), along with all points of entry, including airports and seaports.  In addition, we must have a credible “live” tracking system that allows authorities to know instantly which immigrants are entering and leaving the country.
  • Identification Card – The creation of an Immigration National Identification card is of paramount importance.  The card should have bio-metric data (i.e., fingerprints, retinal, etc.) and/or a chip imbedded so that authorities can track on a “live” basis the comings and goings of these cardholders.
  • Employer Liability – All employers in America must be required to obtain a valid drivers license (or other governmental ID if the immigrant doesn’t drive) and a social security card from any immigrants seeking employment.  Because employers do not have the technology or expertise to divine whether what they are looking at is, in fact, valid or not, if an employer provides copies, they will be “held harmless” from any liability as a result of hiring these folks. Any employer who knowingly hires illegal immigrants or aliens shall be held accountable.
  • No Deportation – The practicality of forcibly removing illegal immigrants and returning them to their country of origin is extremely questionable.  With our military engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and the National Guard now dedicated to border security, it would be next to impossible to undertake this mission.  Beyond that, the economic ramifications to the national economy, and to many states’ economies of deportation of millions of individuals, would be devastating.
  • Fines/Back of the Line – For illegal immigrants who have entered America, they must pay a reasonable fine for their illegal conduct.  Once the fine is paid, then they “must go to the back of the line” if they seek citizenship.  Remember, it may not be the goal of every illegal immigrant to eventually become a U.S. citizen.
  • Guest Worker Program – America and many of our states rely on millions of immigrants to perform jobs that citizens already here will not do.  Also, there are other critical jobs filled by immigrants who have the necessary education and expertise that we need.  Therefore, a guest worker program must be implemented.  Key to this program is the need for the federal government to vet these workers in a timely fashion (within 48 hours).  The current system is inefficient and unworkable.  A new improved system must be initiated because employers cannot hold jobs open for an indeterminate period.  Should the guest worker leave the employment, the employer shall report to the proper authorities this information.  The guest worker could be subject to deportation unless they secure another job. 
  • Reasonable Enforcement of Laws on Deportation- The government should, upon confirmation of which country an illegal alien is from, initiate proceedings to deport undesirables.  If an illegal alien has a job under the “guest worker” program, they will be allowed to stay until their employment is completed.