October 4, 2011

The Big Lizards Immigration Reform

Hatched by Dafydd

In the previous post, I mentioned reforming our legal immigration system to change it from its current state of being capricious, arbitrary, vindictive, unpredictable, and unjust to being rational, reasonable, predictable, and just.

As you can probably guess, I've been thinking about this for a very long time -- years, in fact. Here is a fairly specific outline of what I would like to see.



The primary goal of reform is henceforth to select immigrants solely on the basis of two criteria: assimilability (A) and benefit to the United States (B), not by any other criteria (such as race, country of origin, class within the country of origin, having relatives already living legally in the United States, or any other criteria currently used.

Of course, some of these other criteria will indirectly help the applicant or immigrant; for example, if he comes from an English-speaking country or a civilized country that has a reasonably good education system. But such criteria are not directly relevant: Two people who pass a Level-5 English language test get the same benefit, even if one grew up speaking English while the other just learned it from ESL software; two people who achieve the same score on an SAT-type exam receive an equal number of points, even if one graduated from a hoity-toity, private high school in Paris, while the other stayed up late in his log cabin, studying books by candlelight.


Applicants seeking to immigrate to the U.S. accumulate points in these two categories, Assimilability (A) and Benefit (B), by various means (see below). When A + B exceeds a certain threshhold (with each of A and B exceeding a certain minimum), the applicant receives a renewable immigration visa.

Immigrants must earn a base level of points throughout the year to renew their visas. At a particular A + B level (with minimums), immigrants are granted permanent residency. At an even higher level, they are allowed to take the oath of citizenship. (You can toss in some time-in-country requirements, too.)

How to earn positive points

Applicants and immigrants earn positive points by improving themselves in ways that increase their assimilability or their benefit to the nation. For example, by passing periodic and increasingly stringent background checks; becoming more proficient at oral and written English; passing courses on American civics and history; serving honorably in the United States military; serving honorably in the federal, state, or local government; running a successful business; working (legally); academic study; participating in civic affairs, joining service organizations, becoming Boy or Girl Scout leaders; participating in religious activity, so long as the religious institution is not a front for terrorism, criminality, or anti-American activity; actively participating in neighborhood watch programs, neighborhood cleanup programs, and suchlike; accumulating wealth, buying a house, and so forth; getting legally married; having children, especially American citizens (but see below about not being able to care for one's own children); and by having family members living in the same household who accumulate positive points.

Negative points

Applicants and immigrants can also be hit by negative points for doing bad things, from committing petty crimes, to having to go on government assistance (including being unable to properly care for minor children), joining criminal or subversive organizations, dropping out of school, defaulting on debts or accumulating debts without a serious possibility of repayment, being discharged dishonorably or OTH by the military, and so on. (Of course, some negative behavior is serious enough to get them deported right away, with or without the privilege of return.)

Family friendly

Positive points earned by any member of a family residing together accrue to all members of that family; negative points for all adults in the family apply only to that member. Negative points given to minor children apply somewhat but not completely to the adult family members.

If the parents appear to be doing everything they can to resolve the problem, but nothing is working, there probably should be some mechanism for getting help. If the child is deemed truly incorrigible, the family should be allowed to "divorce" the child from the family for purposes of immigration: That is, his negative points will no longer drag the entire family down. (This should be rare and difficult to justify; can't divorce your kid for trivial, understandable, solvable, or temporary problems. But it should not be impossible to justify, given a child who is sufficiently vicious and parents who really have tried everything.)

Transparency and predictability

The law should also set up a public website that fully describes all of these positive and negative point-accumulating activities and accomplishments, as well as the tiers of residency and citizenship. Additionally, if an applicant or immigrant logs in with a password, he can see the current A and B point levels for all members of his family who reside in the same household.

Most important, these reforms make the system completely predictable and transparent: Every wannabe immigrant knows exactly what he must do to gain residency, permanent residency, and citizenship. Once he (or his family) achieves the required number of points, he (it) is promoted to the next tier by hard and fast rule with no subjectivity, except perhaps in the more stringent background checks. But even there, the law should specify that the purpose is not to exclude people on arbitrary or irrelevant criteria but to ensure the person is not a criminal, a terrorist, a subversive, a bum, or other obvious undesirable.

Minimum-wage laws and indentured servitude

All immigrants who have not yet obtained permanent residency, and all persons in the United States on a student visa, should be exempted from all federal and state minimum-wage laws; they can accept a job for as low a salary as they choose.

The purpose of this reform is to end the dangerous and abhorrent practice of allowing putative "guest workers" -- who have no loyalty to the United States, no intention of staying, and who do not even feel connected to the American community -- into the U.S. to do menial work; and to replace them with immigrants who have at least shown assimilability, benefit to America, and the willingness to go through the rigamarole of becoming Americans. As Mark Steyn, et al, have demonstrated, "guest workers" are an invitation to riot, violence, and creeping conquest by aggressive, anti-American ideologies, such as radical Islamism.

Applicants and immigrants who have not yet obtained permanent residency should legally be allowed to undertake temporary indentured servitude, if necessary, to immigrate to the United States or live here while accumulating points; the terms must be transparent, and the system should probably be regulated and subject to oversight at the federal and state levels. Permanent residents should not be allowed to undertake indentured servitude for immigration purposes, but can still complete their indenture if necessary.


A bit off-topic: I'm a great believer in temporary indentured servitude and would like to see it make a comeback. I think it would work well for both immigrants and American citizens, and for several purposes: for punishment and restitution for committing a crime, for people who default on their debts -- including people who need medical care but have no insurance and no other means to pay, and maybe even for purchasing a first house or condo.

That one is iffy; it depends on how important it is to promote home ownership. But I think it would be a darn sight better way to get more Americans owning homes than forcing lenders to offer people mortgages that they have no reasonable means of ever paying back.

In any event, I tried to phrase it carefully in the last section of the reform so as not to preclude temporary indentured servitude for reasons other than immigration.

And that's my immigration reform, on a nutshell.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 4, 2011, at the time of 2:43 PM


The following hissed in response by: snochasr

Thank you for the specificity, and even though you don't have complete legislative/regulatory language on what "A" or "B" contains, you've fleshed it out pretty well. I still see a few problems.

First is that I don't see how someone from the mountains of Nicaragua gets any points at all, or even knows that he needs "points" to come here. Right now we allow a certain number just by lottery, with no qualifications. I don't think the website will help him, even if it is in Spanish, because the guy never learned to read Spanish, let alone English. He can be told how to pick or plant crops, and he has value in that, so how can we get him in here to do that, full time, while he earns his first two or three points?

Second is, although I assume it, have you made it nearly impossible for an illegal immigrant to live and work here? A national e-Verify law for new hires, with an e-Verify requirement for existing employment following, perhaps phased in over a few years, would solve most of the problem for those tempted to come across illegally just to find work, or who have already done so. This forces them back across the border to come in the "front door" legally.

Third is that I thought current policy of giving preference to family members was a GOOD thing, if confined to spouses and children, but I'm not sure if your "family friendly" thing will work similarly. If you bring your wife and six kids with you, I think your required "A+B" needs to be considerably higher. They ALL should be learning English, and in school or working, for example. And when YOU have enough points, you should be allowed to reunite your family and letting them start to earn points beyond yours.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 11:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: LTCTed

I fear that any set of such regulations, while perhaps preferable to those in place, are subject to executive whim or "gaming". Is it possible for the President's half-uncle and aunt to earn points? Can a family have requirements waived like McDonald's and health care? How many federal bureaucrats are we going to engage to oversee this? :: sigh :: Regards, Ted

The above hissed in response by: LTCTed [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 12:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


First, a response to your comment on the last post...

Anent separation of parents and children, as far as the kids will know, their parents just go on a trip for a few days. In my reform, once the plea bargain has been accepted and the fines paid, documents regularized and so forth, then the exit-reentry is automatic and not subject to arbitrary whims of petty bureaucrats.

So it's not much of a separation; and I'm pretty sure conservative congressmen would demand such an exit-reentry requirement before voting for the reform.

Let's get to the points in your comment on this point:

First is that I don't see how someone from the mountains of Nicaragua gets any points at all, or even knows that he needs "points" to come here.

No system is perfect; moreover, we have no obligation to seek out immigrants.

I think the vast majority of non-child immigrants, at least those we consider desirable, understand that Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, and so forth are separate countries from the United States; that one must cross a border (or several) to get from country X to country Y; and that borders are generally controlled, at least somewhat, and border-patrol agents get a might touchy about people sneaking across.

In fact, I'm pretty sure most ordinary, non-criminal, wannabe immigrants at least make the attempt to enter legally before sneaking in -- unless they have already been convinced beforehand that it's absolutely futile to try to play the game by the rules.

If we enact this reform or something like it, then over time, immigration "samizdat" will spread the word that, in the new system, applicants have an excellent chance of earning their way into the United States by a rational and predictable process.

It will no longer be random, subject to bureaucratic indifference and mendacity (at least nowhere near as much as today); and applicants won't be rejected on the basis of national "quotas." Instead, there will be a real path to residency and citizenship.

Your illiterate Nicaraguan farmer might not even know that the United States exists, or that it's anything other than the Kingdom of Faraway. But if he does know about us, and if he has the gumption to travel all the way here from Central America, I'm sure he can understand if officials explain to him that he must accomplish certain goals and improve himself before we're going to let him in.

I don't want him entering the U.S. until he has at least learnt to read and write and some English, for two reasons:

  • Coming here without even speaking the rudiments of the language leaves him at the mercy of other from his country or region defrauding him, enslaving him (a serious problem among immigrants even today), or otherwise robbing him blind. Particularly if he is illiterate even in his native tongue.
  • If arriving here is his holy grail, then if we let him in with essentially zero points, what is the incentive for him ever to learn to read and write, learn English, and start getting an education? But if instead we make the connection clear from the start -- "up or out" -- then there's a better chance he continues to improve himself even after earning his way to initial, temporary, renewable residency.

Remember that the ultimate goal is to select immigrants on the basis of assimilability and benefit to America: Immigrants aren't doing us a favor by gracing us with their exalted presence; we're doing them a favor by allowing them to live in the freest nation on the planet.

I have no problem with e-Verify or any other similar system. I was not trying to write congressional legislation, and I certainly wasn't trying to consider every jot and tittle of enabling regulations <G>. Let Congress earn its pay, for a change!

Finally, I want husbands to bring their (one) wife and X number of children with them, so long as they can demonstrate the ability to support them -- and obey all U.S. laws, including the law requiring their kids be schooled, during which they will necessarily learn English, as well as simply pick it up from other kids (children are like sponges).

We're not overpopulated; we're still underpopulated everywhere but in the hard urban cores. Excluding immigration, I believe our population would be dropping; we're not as bad off as Europe, but it's still scary.

We need real immigrants, immigrants who want to be American and assimilate, to keep our culture vibrant with new blood and to increase our national population: Immigrants are about the only group in the country whose fertility rate is above the 2.1 children per female that is bare generational replacement.

And those parents must take some responsibility for the bad actions of their children, because children are presumed to be more malleable and reformable than adults.


You are of course correct that any reform can be tomato-juiced by officials intent upon correupting the system; but that means every system, including any replacement system for an earlier system, and notwithstanding any provisions in any law that say "don't corrupt this law."

We can't achieve anything if we assume that anything we set up will necessarily be twisted into a pretzel; we must assume laws are more or less enforced as enacted, else governance simply collapses.

What alternative do we have -- pass another law ordering the government to obey the first law? What if the same gangster government doesn't obey that one, either?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 1:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: snochasr

Ah. I see. Your premise is that all of these preliminaries will be handled before the exit-re-entry phase is started? I will grant that solves the problem of separation (assuming somebody can watch the kids for that two-day symbolic journey), but I see one large and one medium-sized problem. The large problem is that we don't know where these folks are (supposedly) and don't have the resources (supposedly) to pass all of them through this a-b-c-d checklist. The second is the question of what would happen if some glitch in the parents' a-b-c-d required they be deported without return? Surely that would not be uncommon. I'm still of the opinion that we should first, before anything else, "seal the border" by mandating e-Verify on new hires. No job opportunity= no new illegal economic migrants. Then we phase in the e-Verify for everybody, and waves of illegals self-deport with their families (it is working in some states already). The only remaining piece is to have the front door open for their re-entry, and quickly allowing in those whose "A+B" includes having worked here previously, contacts in a community, etc.

My only concern with the "Nicaraguan peasant" is that at various times we have considered "compassion" as a qualification for entry, to allow simple economic opportunism to allow "anybody" to find work here. You explain it away nicely, replacing blind compassion with a system that is sensible, consistent and fair. I consider the exit/re-entry requirement no less compassionate and equally fair to all sides. The trick is not to "catch" current illegals, but to induce them to do the right thing by making the legal process easier to follow than it is to break the law. So who is introducing this bill to Congress?

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 8:17 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


So who is introducing this bill to Congress?

Well, that's where the whole reform scheme falls apart, of course.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2011 10:30 PM

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