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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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My friend John Lamb is an in house corporate lawyer by day and an immigration reform activist in his spare time. Maybe the fact that he's outside the immigration law world gives him some room for thinking outside the box since he's often coming up with creative approaches to changing immigration law. A few months back I wrote about his idea for a "Friends Visa." The idea was largely incorporated in to a bill proposed in Utah recently.

Now John has another idea. He would create a program that would allow every person who voluntarily self-deports and stays out of the US for a given period of time to designate one person in the US who could then legalize. According to John:

The result: for every deportation, there is a normalization.  Perhaps I've found the mathematically perfect compromise for the two crowds whose perfect worlds are either all-deportation or all-normalization.

A little crazy, sure. But maybe its time to start reaching out for more unconventional "out of the box" solutions that can draw supporters from both sides of the immigration debate.


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  1. Another Voice's Avatar
    Sounds interesting.... but given the fact the Immigration officials and Immigration law is subject entirely to their many immigrants would be willing to put their whole way of life on the line to chance a denied entry? I just do not see the big deal about the "touchback". If in any other law in the US the punishment has to fit the crime and immigration is a misdemeanor there are many other ways to pay your debt to society for breaking the immigration laws, that does not force people to put their whole way of life and family on the line. But when people concede the touch back as the only way to " make things right" then you are basically saying that the deport them all crowd is right and nothing short of that would make things right for these immigrants.
  2. Frank W.'s Avatar
    A group of independent Constitutional and Immigration lawyers should simply review the upcoming Executive Order that will grant some sort of legal protection to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States based on certain prerequisites and requirements prior to its enactment, in order to discard inconsistencies that may possibly contradict the extraordinary powers vested on the Executive Branch during war times. National Security concerns, the ongoing economic upheaval and Congress' inability to pass an immigration reform (an irrelevant institution at this point) support this course of action.
  3. F's Avatar
    "I just do not see the big deal about the "touchback". "

    I thought touchback provisions are non starters for the CHC. If CHC now says touchbacks are okay , then the racists will call that "Amnesty" .. They have found a easy way of demonizing anything that hepls immigrants .
  4. Jkl's Avatar
    With all the respect, when are we gonna see a legal immigration fixes?visa recapture?Schedule A? Raising caps for green cards?Establishing separate visas for nurses? By the way, Mr. Greg Siskind,, Great job,Your blog is always very informative and supportive to the whole immigrant community. Thank You.
  5. gg's Avatar

    after meeting desperate housewife and company last week , obama is scheduled to discuss immigration reform with congressional hispanic caucus thursday.
  6. US Visa Extension's Avatar
    The federal agency said that the Secure Mail Initiative (SMI) has been implemented and it will utilize US Postal Service (USPS) Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. This change will ensure that immigration documents are not only delivered in a secure fashion but also that they arrive in a timely manner, according to the USCIS.
  7. Jack's Avatar
    "stays out of the US for a given period of time"

    How long? Touchback is an *admitted* sham (I can grab that quote)--a symbolic measure which few seem to care about.

    Is the legalization for the sponsored beneficiary revoked if it is discovered that the self-deportee comes back early? For the pro-enforcement side to even consider such an idea, the period of time would have to be forever and to give a little incentive not to come back, the sponsored person would lose his legalization (thus it would have to be revocable). Interesting idea but it makes your head hurt just thinking how this could possibly be workable. That is often the case which is why I prefer just letting x in, with total freedom, not making them work for x, live in, e.g., Detroit, and then holding everyone else accountable to the law with no apologies.

    Simplicity is better--enforce the law. That said, it makes things (much) simpler still to deter as many people as possible from breaking the law to begin with. A system based primarily on deportation rather than prevention is built to fail. Combine that with measures designed to make it easier to be illegally present makes its functioning even more problematic.

    It would be nice to have everybody on board to maximize accountability to immigration law but it's hard to envision that ever happening in a world where well-funded special interests are outraged that immigration law is enforced at all. They just don't want a limit and if stuck with a limit will do everything they can so that limit is not enforced. It's in their interests to keep the system deportation-based because that means the alien is already here and the main battle is won. The deportation process can then be delayed and demagogued to the hilt and the "final" order is not always enforced. If BP, ICE, and court is the emphasis (rather than multi-layered verification) that's a huge win. Of course, they don't want anyone to be deported but know that if by slim chance someone actually is, they can come back and may not be back in court for decades, if ever. Thus, 1 legalization for 1 deportation = bad bargain for pro-enforcement/anti-amnesty people.

    A variation on your buddy's meet in the middle idea is fixed number amnesty--first to apply, first served or if there are more applications than slots, a points system. All would have to pass the same old background check (expected to be cursory and unworkable by pro-enforcement, a potential sticking point). The pro-enforcement would presumably insist on superior prevention measures already in place combined with an offset/lowering of future immigration and/or a reforming of family immigration.

    The problem with half measures is it's still a big amnesty to tick off pro-enforcement and a big deportation to tick off anti-enforcement so it would probably have to pass with both side's activists holding their noses. Pro-enforcement mistrust would be high in terms of that big of a deportation actually taking place. They'd have to buy that attrition through enforcement would be allowed under the new verification system. Thus, they would want to work backwards--no amnesty until x have been self-deported with a belief that the new system will prevent their return. Amnesty first and a promise ain't gonna cut it with activists given that the failure of '86 is so well known.
  8. I 539 Forms's Avatar
    We need to have a better resolution to Visa matters.
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