When I wrote "E" is for English the last thing on my mind was conceiving a comprehensive immigration plan. The book is about English literacy and assimulation. As it unfolded, however, it became clear that literacy, immigration reform and assimulation are all part of the same discussion.
Newt Gingrich is correct in saying that "America is a melting pot, not a salad bowl." What comes as a surprise to many is that the vast majority of these "would be, new Americans" don't want a "salad bowl."
The fast track plan for assimulation as outlined in "E" is for English would have far more support than opposition from immigration applicants. The opponents come from various special interests. They see the proposed "American English Unification Amendment"("E" Amendment)as the destroyer of an established standard.
Opposition to reform has it's roots left and right of center. From the left, quiet balkanization of America through the argument of "diversity" holds the aura of compassion. In reality, it encourages complacency and mediocrity.
From the right, the argument of "the law is the law and there will be no deviation from it," sounds good in a political speech. But such rigidity ultimately "shoots conservatatives in the proverbial foot."
In essence, the far left's stance is "unconditional amnesty." It can be described as "we must bring people from the shadows and provide a path for citizenship for those illegally in the country, regardless of circumstance." The goal: "An increasing reservoir of new Democrat voters and constituents."
The far right's stance of "unconditional deportation," can be summed up as, "if you didn't go through the proper channels, no matter what your story may be, you're a law breaker." The goal: "upholding a principle while preserving perceived American jobs and security."
At odds are two perceptions, one practical, the other ideological. The fallacy of both is the lack of room for compromise. Both sides would argue this point. But, in the end, it would be difficult to find a middle ground. Any "bridge" would almost certainly make neither side happy. Such is always the case with true compromise.
My proposed plan strikingly unveils a middle ground. It starts with illegal aliens currently in the country. The legislation would supercede presumed 14th amendment inclusion. However, anyone capable passing a 10th grade English profiency test, would be given a "path to citizenship."
Illegal aliens parented 300,000 children in America last year. Under the "E" Amendment, they would no longer be granted automatic citizenship. But they could gain it if they passed the proficiency exam. They would be required to complete the necessary requirements and do so without federal assistance. The "path" would include but not be limited to public service ranging from the armed forces to the Peace Corp, to a specified term of service in a non-profit organization such as the Boys Clubs or Salvation Army. They would not have access to entitlements such as Pell Grants, Food Stamps or Medicaid. Determinations such as work study and out-of-state tuition waivers would be left up to the states.
Some conservatives will say, "this sounds a lot like the "DREAM act." In many ways it does. What's different is the federal government is not providing financial assistance. Participants are essentially on probation. If they do not complete their service obligation, the promise of citizenship would be revoked.While liberals might embrace that part of the plan, it's probable that, unlike conservatives, they would take issue with a change in 14th amendment interpretation.
The left would argue that the constitution explicitly stated "persons" and not "citizens." Their point is valid. Yet, historians remind us that the intention was to grant citizenship to the freed slaves. The fact that Native Americans were not likewise granted automatic citizenship at this time lends credence to their argument.
In short, neither the far right or the far left will be happy with the "E" Amendments position. The far right will see the English profiency test as a "low bar" for amnesty. Their counterparts will consider it "selective" amnesty, showing clear preference for some applicants over others.
There will be those who say that it is discriminatory. They will point out accurately that the 50,000 Irishmen illegally in New York could all likely pass the exam. But it would be impossible for a six-month old baby living in East Los Angeles to do the same. They will predict that any future student would be able to stay by merely allowing their visa to expire and asking to take the proficiency exam. Good argument, right?
Actually, only those who completed a PHD would be given an automatic green card. Those students who overstayed their visa would be required to apply in same manner as everyone else. True, if their English is advanced, they would receive priority points. But only those in the country at the time of amendment inception would be offered the "path to citizenship with service" option. In short, the "door would be cracked, but only for a brief period," likely two years maximum.
With the discrimination question, we must remember America comes first. We want immigrants who can assimulate the fastest so that they may become part of the work force. True, the "E" Amendment favors English speakers. It likewise favors applicants from N.A.T.O. countries. The goal is to make the nation smarter, stronger and more secure. Better educated immigrants already fluent in the language from more trustworthy countries is the way to do it!
We must not be a "magnet" for illegal aliens. However, the definition of "magnet" translates to making it easy for people to illegally live here. The current system creates incentive to sneak across our borders to have babies. When such a practice is no longer the ticket for citizenship it will cease. When federal subsidies are no longer available to illegal aliens, the United States becomes a less attractive rendezvous. When a birth certificate is required for a drivers license and the test is only available in English, mere survival in the US comes in focus. The end result will be "self deportation."
The right might like some of these ideas. But some will have difficulty with the proficiency test concept. "Progressives" might appreciate the "path with service" initiative. But they would scorn the disdain for diversity.
Anyone having a relative in the country with questionable status would embrace the plan. It would indicate that the country was going to favor those who were already in the process of assimulation and/or were expected to be the easiest to assimulate.
The idea of weighing preference toward younger applicants might catch some flack from citizens attempting to immigrate their parents to America. But it would insure a younger population for the future. It would also add younger, better educated, workers to the nation's labor pool. This would equate to badly needed help in paying into the Social Security System. How much is undetermined.
Placing a preference on demand professions such as nursing and engineering reflects both "attention to an aging populations' retirement needs" and "future emphasis on expansion and innovation." Points given to applicants having a skill or trade signal that America has "her eye on industrial expansion."
The "E" amendment is the cement of a sound present and future immigration policy. In taking this path of "case-by-case" assessment, we find that elusive "bridge for the moderates."
This is why the plan was endorsed by the American Foundation for Immigration Control. As Director John Vinson phrased, The plan introduced in "E" is for English is "thought provoking, patriotic and simple common sense."
Could this plan be adopted by a 2012 Presidential candidate?
One thing is for certain: Immigration Reform is something that cannot wait! It has proven to be a political "hot potato" in times past. Still, a plan that answered all of the questions in a fair, constructive, proactive manner would be welcomed. If it managed to address even a small part of another concern, Social Security Reform, it could become a decisive element in the election.