by Howard Stephenson

Congress is currently dealing with problem of illegal immigration. Or at least those running for re-election are forced to discuss the issue because the American public is confused and concerned. I would like to present in this column my proposal for ending illegal immigration by utilizing the free enterprise system in the enforcement of worker visas.

This is a work in progress, I welcome your feedback and suggestions.
Newt Gingrich last week announced support for the component of my proposal which calls for a mandatory savings account which will only be available when the immigrant worker returns home.

Illegal Immigration: The Problem and a Private Sector Solution

The reasons we have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country are
twofold: First, Latin American economies don’t provide the kind of pay workers can get in the United States primarily because of their countries’ failure to achieve rule of law. Capital – which would increase pay and productivity of workers – does not flow to these countries because there are countries in the world in which capital would be safer.

Second, and most important, the United States government has conflicting immigration laws and economic policies. Congress and the Executive Branch have put the economic policies calling for cheap labor ahead of the enforcement of immigration laws. They have ensured that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to look the other way while our porous borders allow the free flow of illegals into the United States.

The presence of 11 million illegal immigrants is not by accident. They have not forced themselves upon our country without our permission. The United States government has allowed and in some ways encouraged their entry into our country.

A nation which cannot control its borders cannot prevent terrorism

While the U.S. economy receives the benefits of cheap labor through lower agricultural and construction prices and less expensive restaurant meals and hotel stays, the trafficking of illegal workers poses serious threats to national security. If we cannot control workers crossing the border, how can we ensure that some who cross the border are not terrorists?

Congress simply must enforce worker visa requirements to ensure that any immigrant workers who are in this country are here legally. To do anything less is to violate our own rule of law and place our national security at risk.

Congress should use the private sector to enforce worker visas

It is unreasonable to expect the INS to monitor and control 11 million migrant workers and ensure they are legal without the assistance of the free enterprise system. The INS budget simply could not be large enough to do the job without an undue burden on the U.S. Taxpayer. The costs of this monitoring and enforcement should be borne by the immigrant workers and their employers rather than being shifted to the American taxpayer.

This monitoring can be accomplished by requiring each worker to post a bond prior to receiving a visa. The bond would require a cash deposit.
Instead of paying cash to the “coyote” who currently assists workers in getting across the border illegally, this money would be used to purchase the bond which would also require withholding a percentage of wages in a trust account held by a third party trust. This trust account would belong to the worker if he complied with the terms of his visa and would be given to him when he returned to his country. It would effectively become “golden handcuffs” which would be a tremendous incentive for good behavior. However, if he violated the terms of his visa or engaged in criminal activity while in the United States, his trust account would be forfeited and if it was not sufficient to pay the total face value of the bond, the remainder would be taken from the pooled trust of other workers, ensuring that all visa holders are interested in their coworkers compliance with the law and the terms of their visa.

Congress should set a date certain when employers will be prosecuted for hiring illegal workers.

Strict enforcement requires that employers have birth certificate and social security authentication available to ensure that foreign workers are not producing false documents. Sufficient time should be allowed for employers to ensure that their workers have bonded visas with a time certain set – say, January 1, 2007 – after which employers will be prosecuted for hiring illegal workers. This enforcement with employers will help to dry up the incentive for illegal entry into this country.
Instead of illegal workers coming across the border in the dark of night, legal workers should come across the border on buses with worker visas in their hands for jobs already determined.

This solution engages the natural incentive of a cash award (an employee receiving the money in his trust account) when the worker complies with the terms of the visa.

It’s time Congress begins enforcing the laws of our country instead of looking the other way.