We are not barbarians. A look at prison reform.

The US has more people in prison per capita than any other nation.  Commercial prison companies like the income but their earnings are our tax dollars and crowded prisons make us look rather barbaric to the rest of the world.  To reduce the prison population, start with a threat assessment.  Who presents the greatest threat to the average person, violent criminals, that’s who.  Here’s my reform plan.

Abolish minimum sentencing requirements for nonviolent offenders and find alternative sentencing options unless the crime is extreme.  Using GPS technology we can allow a nonviolent offender to continue working, get medical attention, and attend scheduled religious services while still effectively keeping that person from having much fun, i.e., still making it a punishment.  Financial restitution to victims is mandatory in all cases.  Obviously alternative sentencing has it’s limits and after three strikes it may mean jail time (but not necessarily life).  Extreme cases like embezzling millions of dollars warrant prison.  So do deliberate lies that send an innocent person to prison (lex talionis – make the penalty year for year).

Up to one-third of inmates are illegal immigrants.  They should face immediate deportation upon completion of their sentences and should not be released to the streets where they can vanish.  We are under no obligation to harbor the world’s criminals.  Why would any administration want to keep the crime rate unnecessarily high unless it serves another agenda?

Establish minimum sentencing for violent crimes and sex offenses.  Those are the people we need to keep off the streets.  No one wants to see a rapist or killer get off with probation, and they shouldn’t.

Finally, we have a high recidivism rate.  Take an honest look at what works and what doesn’t for rehabilitation programs in prison.  Make one better and get rid of the other.  Obviously inmates without a high school education should get a GED as the minimum.  Low level convicts (not rapists or murderers) might be able to earn time off their sentence by completing higher education goals.

What about allowing felons to vote upon completion of their sentence to help them reintegrate into society?  Yes and no.  They should have voting rights restored after a first offense, but repeat felony offenders should lose that right as they’re not trying to integrate into honest society.

Illegal or Undocumented: They make the choice.

Political correctness has dictated that those formerly called “illegal immigrants” should now be called “undocumented workers”.  Actually both terms apply and that the choice is made by the immigrants, not by us.  An undocumented worker is one who entered the country seeking work and has kept a reasonably clean record.  An illegal immigrant is one who is here to commit crime, either alone or as a member of a drug cartel or violent gang.  Even those who entered the country legally become illegal when they commit crimes.  Undocumented workers can have a work visa and possibly a path to citizenship; illegal immigrants have only a path to the border (see #1 of previous discussion).

First deport the criminals (convictions in US or home nation), including felons, violent misdemeanor offenders, drug dealers, sex offenders, multiple DUI offenders, prostitutes, gang members, and other undesirables.  Deport those who have abandoned children in their home country in order to leave.  The US has no obligation to harbor criminals and doing so makes the government an accessory to their crimes.  Whether or not they’re students is irrelevant, only their criminal record counts. When illegals are released from prison they will be turned over to Immigration for deportation, not released to the streets.  The government shall also intensify efforts to rid the country of several large violent illegal immigrant gangs.  Incidentally, not all immigrant gangs are cartel related; some were formed by Hondurans who fled violence in their country only to bring it here.

Pass Kate’s Law. She was murdered by an illegal immigrant felon with a stolen gun. The only word the President saw was “gun” and he made it a gun control issue rather than a border control issue. This felon had been deported multiple times. Kate didn’t choose to die. That choice was made by a negligent Federal government and the self-righteous PC residents of San Francisco who put immigrant felons ahead of US citizens. Sanctuary cities should be outlawed as part of “reform”.

Although I said US citizenship can’t be stolen, it is neither practical nor humanitarian to deport millions of people who just want work.  Let’s drop the PC term “path to citizenship” and discuss amnesty, which it really is.  It must start with a legal working status, with ultimate citizenship depending on integration, self-sufficiency, and a clean record.  It must be done so that those who followed the legal path aren’t made to feel like suckers.  Proposals so far have included a waiting period, paying a fine and estimated back taxes, and learning English.   Let’s add some more specifics.

The requirements listed above will not have loopholes.  To do so insults those who followed the law.  Someone who has been in the US for 10 years or more and hasn’t learned any English probably isn’t interested in citizenship.  How well an immigrant has integrated into this country may affect work visa or citizenship paths.  Integration factors would include buying a house, attending college or trade school, or sending children to college.

Amnesty will not be open-ended.  Those who have were in the country as of the specified date will have a window in which to apply for legal status.  Every effort will be made to get the word out but final responsibility rests with the immigrants to apply within the time limit.  Applicants who pass the background check will have legal status immediately.  Anyone who fails to apply will face  deportation.

The specified date before which undocumented workers must be in the country to qualify for the program should be 5 years before the law takes effect, but not later than December 31, 2011.  It was in 2012 that the President effectively opened the borders in violation of the law.

The waiting period for citizenship of 10 years could be shortened for any immigrant who previously served in the US military as long as they were not dishonorably discharged, in which case they would face deportation.

Never again.  It’s been said before but this time we mean it.  Amnesty will be accompanied by increased border security.  It will also include aggressive prosecution of employers who hire anyone not legally authorized to work in the US.  If we have to fine a few crooked operators out of business to get the message across, then so be it.  They are undermining all the businesses that obey the law.

Immigration is a privilege, not a right.

Immigrants built this country (even when they weren’t welcomed) and they’re still a vital part of it.  Neither closing our borders to all nor opening them to all are sustainable options.  We must manage immigration fairly and securely.  While much of the current discussion of immigration reform focuses on “undocumented workers” I’ll talk about the legal immigration process first.  It’s complicated and probably unnecessarily so.  Let’s rebuild it to be simpler, fairer, and more in line with what you’d find in other developed nations.  I’ll start with four principles:

  1. The US government’s obligation to protect it’s citizens from foreign criminals is absolute.
  2. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – President John F. Kennedy.
  3. E Pluribus Unum. It’s Latin for the “great melting pot”.
  4. US citizenship is a commodity of value that cannot be stolen or won.

Anyone applying for permanent or long term residency must undergo a medical exam to ensure that they won’t present a risk to public health and a background check for criminal or terrorist activity.  Convictions for crimes that are felonies in the US, violent misdemeanors, multiple DUI convictions that show a disregard for life, participation in genocide, and known association with a criminal or terrorist organization are automatically disqualifying (see #1 above).  An individual with a lengthy record of petty crime that suggests that person just wants a criminal career might also be disqualified.

No nation on earth invites people in to be on welfare. Some countries require visitors to have booked their passage out before they’re allowed in.   Immigrants are expected to have some training or skill to be able to obtain employment (see #2 above).  This doesn’t apply to student visas if the students are financially supported from their home nation.

Some countries, including Canada, use a merit-based immigration system.  Applicants are awarded points for education, job skills, professional licenses, speaking the language, etc. and they must meet a threshold to be admitted.  Criminals are kept out.  Canada’s immigration is so strict that visitors (not immigrants) who have a prior DUI conviction cannot drive in the country.  That’s protecting a nation’s citizens.

Applicants for citizenship must pass a civics exam and they must learn English.  Learning English doesn’t mean reading “See Spot run”; it means being able to conduct typical life activities like opening a bank account, visiting a doctor, voting, or reporting an emergency to 911.  A common language unifies a nation (see #3 above).

Those on student visas are expected to be enrolled for the full academic year.  Universities will be required to report any foreign students who fail to register for a regular term.  The US also reserves the right to deny student visas to residents of nations deemed hostile to this country.

The “Diversity Lottery” should be ended.  We shouldn’t be handing out 50K permanent resident visas to random people who may not even be able to support themselves.

Refugee status isn’t supposed to be permanent.  Refugees should return to their home nation as soon as whatever situation they were fleeing (often a civil war) ends.

Now let’s look at how we can make it easiest for immigrants.  The laws are complicated and waiting times long.  Some are loaded with travel restrictions and time limits.  Some keep families separated for no apparent reason.  Every one of them needs to be examined and, if they are arbitrary or outdated rules that provide no real benefit to anyone, eliminated.  Implement a merit-based applicant screening system to create a system that’s both fair and secure.  The only ones who profit from this current legal maze are immigration lawyers.