I recently interviewed Harry DeMell, an immigration lawyer, and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, about Mitt Romney's "self deportation" plan.
Schupak: Didn't Romney talk about "self-deportation"?
DeMell: Yes. Laws need to be enforced. No one would advocate policies that allow people to ignore any law without consequence. If it's difficult to live here without documentation, there will be greater incentives to get legal or leave.
Schupak: Would an immigration plan lead to a solution for our immigration problems?
DeMell: It took decades for us to get into this mess and it will take many years to get out of it.
Schupak: So Harry, you say that you have a comprehensive immigration plan for Mitt Romney?
DeMell: Yes. A new Romney path to immigration reform should be based on a better understanding of what is good for America. We need to control our boarders, decrease the pool of illegal persons in the United States in a sensible and humane way, create incentives for aliens and their employers to comply with our laws, and make it increasingly difficult to ignore these laws or remain in the United States without documentation.
Schupak: What do you mean what's good for America'?
DeMell: What's good for America is to bring the best and the brightest to the United States, so they can create and innovate here, and so that they can spend their earned income here. We also need to have control our borders.
Schupak: Are these Republican Party principles?
DeMell: Yes. Proposals should keep with Republican Party principles of limited government, creating an environment in which business can thrive and thereby create jobs and of self-sustaining laws. The current simplistic approaches can't work.
Schupak: What simple solutions are you referring to?
DeMell: The two approaches on the table now have to do with either some kind of amnesty, which will encourage another twenty million people to come here in the hope of yet another amnesty down the road, or draconian enforcement.
Schupak: You talk about keeping workers here. Isn't there a skilled worker program now?
DeMell: The current H-1 visa program for specialty workers should be numerically expanded and simplified to encourage high tech companies to process their work in the United States and not have to outsource this work.
Schupak: What about other foreign workers?
DeMell: We need a policy that gives employment preference to natives of the western hemisphere, and does not have to include citizenship. It might be limited to Mexican workers. I'm talking about temporary work visas only. No citizenship, unless they apply and wait like everyone else. It would also be good for our neighbors.
Schupak: Don't these workers want to become American citizens?
DeMell: Most of these workers just want to work, go home for Christmas, and be able to come back again.
Schupak: Isn't there a temporary worker program now?
DeMell: Yes, but it's also very restricted and so difficult to use that it's basically ignored.
Schupak: You said that it is good for our neighbors. Can you explain that?
DeMell: Stable neighbors add to our national security. Our very closest neighbor is Mexico. Just allowing temporary workers to come to the United States to engage in taxpaying employment, while allowing them to regularly visit their families abroad, will allow these workers to build a stronger middle class and stabilize their economies and their governments.
Schupak: Isn't it true that there are as many Mexicans leaving the United States as there are entering now?
DeMell: It seems so. But as soon as the economy picks up, we'll be back in the same place.
Schupak: What about the Dream Act? Didn't the Republicans oppose it?
DeMell: Too long to discuss here. Governor Romney could propose a limited dream act now, with the promise that if the economy improves, that the act will be expanded. After all, Romney is claiming that he will improve the American economy.
Schupak: What about more effective control of the boarders? So far you've been talking about benefits for aliens.
DeMell: This plan would decrease the pool of persons here without permission. It would make it easier to control the rest, because there would be fewer and fewer undocumented aliens here, and those left would stand out and find it harder to function.
Schupak: What about mass deportation?
DeMell: Unlikely. In order to remove twelve million people, we would need a huge increase of enforcement on every level. If Governor Romney is true to the promise not to expand government, we need another way to tackle the problem.
Schupak: So what would Romney do differently here?
DeMell: Enforcement has been steadily increased during the past three administrations. Mitt Romney only has to continue the trend, and his reforms will do more. His program will pressure undocumented aliens to legalize or leave, and be more humane at the same time.
Schupak: How will it be more humane?
DeMell: There are several ways we can provide relief for some in a humane way, while not letting all the horses out of the barn. Judges need to be able to take individual hardship into account. Judges should also have greater power to grant bonds and decide detention matters. Right now, immigration judges have the authority to allow a very small pool of aliens to remain here based on hardship grounds. Prior to 1996, those judges had more discretion. We should return to the pre-1996 law.
Schupak: But in the end, your plan means that some will remain here illegally.
DeMell: Yes. Rome wasn't built in a day. As the problem becomes smaller, it will also become more manageable.
Schupak: The Republicans need the Hispanic vote to win in November. How will this plan help them?
DeMell: The Republicans have to make it clear that under Obama, promises were made and not kept, but under a Romney administration a detailed and fair plan will be proposed and pushed, and should be able to get bi-partisan support because it avoids extremes. It might not be all they want, but it's doable; pie in the sky promises are not.