A Unique Illegal Immigrant Idea 

Summary, Because Even My Wife Says I’m Boring Sometimes

While the country fusses about a wall and racism and cages and ICE and all the other hot-button immigration topics, very few people are coming up with an actual plan to do something about the twelve million undocument immigrants that are already here.  And it must be accepted that those people are breaking the law.  There is no racism involved in that acceptance.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t give them a chance to stay while earning their citizenship and paying for the right to do so without fear of deportation.

And how exactly do we do that?  Right now in the United States, an immigrant can be sponsored by their spouse or their employer, but I contend that it would be pretty easy to add one more sponsor:  their children.  Why not use our public schools – and the millions of undocumented immigrants that are essentially stealing a free education – to help our immigrant population work towards naturalization.  And in doing so, when those young people graduate high school, why can’t they also graduate with their citizenship?  

This plan is NOT free to them – nor should it be – and all parties working towards naturalization must stay in good legal standing while pursuing citizenship, and it will ONLY apply to those who are already here, but it’s something that the rest of America hasn’t come up with yet:  an actual plan.

And by the way, running for the North Carolina General Assembly most likely gives me no ability to have ANY affect on what happens with illegal immigration, but I find my idea on this to be really good.  Why would I hide it from someone who DOES have a direct affect on immigration and might stumble upon my idea and love it?  It also proves how effective I am at thinking outside the box.  And we need that right now.

Full Document Below is an 8-10 Minute Read

Illegal immigration is one of the most polarizing political topics in our country right now.  And while we have Americans on both sides of the aisle with some very strong opinions on the subject, the only real plans seem to not really be plans at all.  Lots of people want to build a wall, a bunch more say we need to “clean up our social programs,” some people say we just deport all of them, and there are undoubtedly those that would rather just amnesty all illegal immigrants and let them immediately become citizens.

But honestly, these ideas are NOT plans.  A plan involves more than one sentence. It requires an actual PLAN.  So hear me out. I have a very achievable bipartisan plan. It involves our education system.  And I think North Carolina would be an excellent place to pilot this program. Why? Because it’s my idea.  Why else? Because we have a lot of illegal immigrants. And why else? Because our public school system is still pretty strong.  This would be a feather in the cap to make sure it stayed that way.  

But why schools?  Let’s start from the standpoint of a typical undocumented immigrant family.

Many people do not realize that if a person comes here illegally, whether for asylum reasons or work reasons or family reasons or whatever, and if that person is deported, they are typically not able to apply for reentry for five, ten, or even twenty years.  Twenty YEARS. That’s extreme but there have been deportees who have been given the label of “inadmissable” for twenty years, even without committing a crime on US soil (lawyers.com, 2019.) 

What’s more, the reentry application NOR the assigned number of years can take place in this country. They both have to take place in their country of residency or origin, which means they have to go back to the place they were fleeing, wait five, ten, or twenty years, and then apply to come to the United States through legal avenues such as work VISA, sponsorship, or permanent residency status.   

So these people who literally came here to escape the daily fear of death or oppressive wages or even slavery have to go back to their country and wait until they can apply the “legal” way.  And once they do that, they then have to come here and wait five MORE years to become eligible for citizenship.  In other words, if they made a mistake by sneaking into this country, whether through ignorance or fear or a blatant disregard for our laws, they must wait between ten and twenty-five years from the date they were deported to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.  This is the reason that many undocumented immigrants simply say, “Screw it, I’ll stay illegal.” But while I completely understand why they would choose that route, that attitude is not good for any stakeholder involved.

So what if we took away this “fear of announcing themselves as illegal,” and we gave them an opportunity to attain citizenship, but rather than sending them back, and in addition to the current options of family or employer sponsorship, we tied their citizenship to their child(ren)’s education?  If they have children attending our free public schools, why don’t we take the opportunity to say, “Your child is the reason you can apply for a green card, and we will NOT send you back home as long as your child performs well in school and NONE of you - child OR those family members using that educational sponsorship for naturalization purposes - get in legal trouble, and at the end of their public schooling, you will ALL become citizens.  But you have to do some work along the way. And it’s not free. But it’s not expensive either.”

How it Might Work:

There are more than 340,000 undocumented immigrants living in North Carolina.  It is impossible to determine the percentage of that number that is in our public school system, but nationally, the number of undocumented immigrants under the age of 18 is 10%.  So let’s use that number for our calculations because those below five years old will eventually be in our public schools. Since the state of North Carolina spends an average of $9,500 per student to attend public school, this means that undocumented immigrants cost the state of North Carolina $323,000,000 per year to receive their “free” education.

But what if undocumented immigrants were charged a small fee to attend our schools, and what if that fee had multiple purposes?  What if that fee guaranteed citizenship to both the student and any family members (who also must pay the fee) by the time he or she graduated high school?  In other words, as long as the fee has been paid and the family members have completed all that is required through the naturalization process, the student graduates with both a high school diploma AND their citizenship.  But not only do they attain citizenship, their family members who completed naturalization requirements do, too.

One very important caveat to this plan before I continue.  This plan is ONLY good for undocumented immigrants who are currently here.  I think we would have to open it up to deportees who have their entire family in the United States, but otherwise, no new immigrants could utilize this plan.  If we make the plan appealing to those already here in order to get our number of undocumented immigrants down, we would potentially have people sneaking in later to take advantage of the program.  We can come up with a different program for them that would undoubtedly be more strict and may or may not contain a wall.

The number I have attached to this fee is arbitrary in nature because there really is no way of knowing what is fair, accurate, too much, or not enough because every undocumented immigrant has different family dynamics, different employment, different complexities to the naturalization process, different yearly punishment for the time they are inadmissable back into our borders, or the students have different numbers of years in our public schools based on the time they arrived.  But there has to be a number that forces them to become invested in their citizenship goals but not so expensive that it discourages lower income immigrants from utilizing the program, because if it was too expensive, we would be left with the same problem we have now.

So what is the number I have in mind?  Before we go there, remember this. In 2016, the last year I could find data, the average deportation cost our taxpayers (through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement) $10,854 for the entire process (Camarota, 2017.)  Over ten thousand dollars per person deported. So keep that number in mind.

I believe parents, students, and any other family members using this program should pay $500 per year, per person.  It doesn’t sound like a lot yet, I know.  Yet is the keyword.  Stay with me.  The student, who essentially becomes the sponsor for his or her family to live here legally and work towards naturalization, is paying $500 per year for their education, but for them, their education takes the place of any citizenship tests their family will have to take.  Each parent or family member that elects to be sponsored by the student will also pay $500 per year, per person to the total. Because it would be impossible to try to determine the actual costs per family because of the individual complexities of each family, the number is $500 per year, per person, no matter what.  

That means that if a student is here from kindergarten until high school graduation, they would ultimately spend $6,500 for both a high school diploma and citizenship.  But with this program, it doesn’t matter if a student is here for one year or thirteen years. If they graduate from high school in the United States, they pay $6,500 to become citizens because it will be assumed that with a high school diploma, they have proven enough knowledge of both the United States and the English language that they have earned their citizenship.  And quite simply, those parents or family members that are here for one year (or part of a year) and ride their coattails to citizenship for only $500 is not fair to anybody involved, especially the taxpayers of the United States.  

So for a quick summation before I cover more details, it doesn’t matter who they are, where they came from, or how long they’ve been here.  If they are a current illegal immigrant and would like to use the sponsorship of their school age child, it will cost $6,500 total per person, with the minimum paid per year of $500 per person, plus the ability to pass all currently required citizenship and naturalization tests.

Based on numbers that are really just a shot in the dark, if we got 80% of all undocumented immigrants in North Carolina to join this program (and have a duplicate program for people who have no children in schools,) we would take in $1.768 BILLION dollars over the next 13-15 years.  That’s an average revenue of between $117,866,666 and $136,000,000 per year.  That means we would be saving as much as 40% of the money we currently spend on public education for undocumented immigrants, and we get rid of one chronic problem in slightly more than a decade with little burden on anyone.

And if we simply deported all 340,000 undocumented immigrants residing in North Carolina?  That would cost $3,690,360,000.   My way is cheaper by about a billion dollars.  And if you want to send that money to a wall that will have questionable success?  I really don’t give a darn.  We probably waste a billion dollars a week in this country on poor government decisions anyway.  And nobody can deny that a wall would, in fact, at least slow down the flow of illegal immigrants.

Is This Fair to the Undocumented Immigrants?

Absolutely!!  It’s a no-brainer for those who have an “in a perfect world” feeling about United States citizenship.

For parents or other family members using the student’s sponsorship, there would undoubtedly have to still be some English and citizenship classes included in the program because the parent is not in school and is unable to use that forum to learn the information they would need to pass the citizenship test, but those happen locally in an environment with which they’re already familiar: their child’s school.  But those classes are only for the ones NOT in school.  Presumably, the undocumented immigrant in our public schools will not need further instruction on naturalization.

For instance, the child is learning English throughout their education.  The parents are not. However, for this program, since it’s a one-shot deal, if they can pass a fluency test, then they have tested out of the English language requirement of their citizenship.  If they cannot pass it, they must take an English language class offered at specific regional schools for a nominal fee.   

The naturalization process for an individual (as currently constituted) can range from $900 to more than $10,000, and it normally requires at least five years of residency before it is awarded (Bray, 2019,) so just for the purposes of an example, let’s say a set of parents and one child wanted to become citizens while the child was in school.  And let’s say they came to the US when the child was in fourth grade. One child and two parents equals $1,500 per year, and they get no discount on the $6,500 per person total because he arrived in fourth grade. Citizenship is $6,500 no matter how long they are in the country. In this example with the student arriving in fourth grade, that means they have nine years to pay the $19,500, which equates to $2,166 per year or $180 per month.  I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for three people to gain their citizenship. And if the parents fulfill all of their requirements before the child graduates, they are more than free to go ahead and accept their citizenship.

But the best part, to me, is that a child brought here after birth - a child that might have lived scared his whole life after graduating because he didn’t have the skill level to understand the process to citizenship - not only gets to walk across that stage at graduation with a diploma, they get to walk across as a citizen of the United States.

Even better, throughout the years that they are in school and both the student and his or her parent(s) are working towards their goal of naturalization (and staying out of trouble,) they will be legal residents with no fear of deportation.

What if They Can’t Pay or Parents Refuse the Program?

North Carolina has per pupil spending of over $9,500 per year.  If a student is in school his entire K-12 career, the taxpayers in North Carolina will spend $123,500 on their “free” education.  This program will essentially cost $500 per year per family member. Take the deal or risk deportation. It’s an incredible deal.

And to further clarify, the fee is not prorated if a student only spends two years or six years in our school system.  The program will also have certain guidelines as outlined through the Department of Homeland Security, so whether a student and his parent has one year or thirteen years to complete it, the requirements or costs do not change.  If an undocumented immigrant wants to graduate from a North Carolina high school and attain citizenship with it, it will cost them $6,500, whether they attended our schools since kindergarten or eleventh grade. The same number applies to each parent.

But remember this:  If you are an undocumented immigrant who has been in our public schools since kindergarten, by the time you graduate, you have essentially stolen a $123,500 education.  The argument that you may have a parent that pays taxes in their paycheck is of no consequence. We pay a LOT of our health insurance costs towards people who never pay for theirs.  This program is very similar to that in this regard.

And if you can’t or don’t pay the fee, you not only risk deportation (unless a payment plan is in place,) but you also will not receive your diploma.  Likewise, if a student’s undocumented parents don’t sign on to the program and are not here legally by some other means, they will also be faced with deportation.

Why is This a Good Idea?

There are tons of reasons.  

1)  Students get both diplomas AND citizenship.  

2)  We force adult undocumented immigrants to begin the process of naturalization when thus far in our history, those people simply stay illegal for most of their lives because they either fear deportation or they just don’t know what to do to gain citizenship.  

3)  Each year that 100,000 undocumented immigrants pays their $500 fee, taxpayers save $5 million, though it would have to be determined how much of this fee is shared with Homeland Security or ICE.  If 100,000 parents sign on, that’s another $5 million.

4)  More documented workers means more oversight of businesses that typically employ undocumented workers as part of their business strategy; this will, in turn, help the earning power of those people losing jobs to undocumented workers.  

5)  In the next 5-10 years, we could be nearing a time where we have very few undocumented immigrants, and the ones who still are should be working towards citizenship.

6)  Students are more motivated to graduate and stay out of trouble (and parents will be encouraged to do the same,) since deportation can happen depending on the severity of any indiscretions.  This, in turn, should have a positive effect on drug trafficking and use, people abusing social programs, and our prison population.

7)  I see no reason why we could not open this up to undocumented immigrants who have no children in our schools.  If it is a grandparent or cousin or family friend of a student, they may feel more comfortable attempting the naturalization process with those who they know.  And if they have no family or friends linked to the public school system, we simply find an incentive to bring them into the program.

8)  Schools are a safe place for many people, even non-citizens.  Some have been in shelters that have been housed at schools during hurricanes, some have watched their children grow and develop in them.  They will feel comfortable with a school environment to work towards their naturalization, and many more are likely to sign up for this program because of that comfort.

9)  It could potentially save a BILLION dollars versus full deportation of all illegal immigrants.

In Conclusion

From a political standpoint, who can argue this?  It gives undocumented immigrants a way to stay here and live here without fear of deportation.  It puts pressure on all those people who have politically seen themselves called everything from social program moochers to job thieves to rapists and murderers and gang members to stop doing those things and behave or be sent packing.  It also puts pressure on them to prove a lot of people right about them; that we absolutely are a better nation because they are here.  They should have no problem doing this to prove them right and become valued citizens, correct?

It also puts money back in our Treasury that is essentially being stolen by students illegally receiving a free public education. It’s not a tremendous amount of money on an annual basis, but that money is staying here rather than being wired back to whatever country they came from.  It makes our undocumented population smaller and easier to manage and easier to find if they are using our social programs illegally.  

And if we have to build a wall, then build the wall.  I could care less about it and I refuse to call a wall racist, not when those who are ignoring our borders are likewise abusing the freedoms and ignoring the laws that drew them here.  But when we finally get immigration right, we give EVERY person that knocks on our door a chance to stay. They may not all accept our proposal and our rules (or our costs,) but those people are absolutely no different than me.  They deserve a chance at freedom and happiness, just like me. This idea helps pave a little smoother road toward that future.

 

Sources:

Camarota, S. (2017). Deportation vs. the Cost of Letting Illegal Immigrants Stay. [online] CIS.org. Available at: https://cis.org/Report/Deportation-vs-Cost-Letting-Illegal-Immigrants-Stay [Accessed 11 Aug. 2019].

Profiles, A., Services, I., Immigration, T., Employment, P., Immigration, F., Processing, C., Law, C., Links, H., Us, C., Profiles, A., Services, I., Immigration, T., Employment, P., Immigration, F., Processing, C., Law, C., Links, H., Us, C. and Kazmi, H. (2019). 6 Facts About Deportation You Need to Know. [online] Kazmi & Sakata Immigration Lawyers. Available at: https://www.ksvisalaw.com/facts-about-deportation/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2019].

lawyers.com. (2019). Deportation and Removal Process in US Immigration Court. [online] Available at: https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/immigration/deportation/deportation-and-removal-process.html/ [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019].]

Bray, I. (2019). Cost of Citizenship is Less Than You Think - CitizenPath. [online] CitizenPath. Available at: https://citizenpath.com/cost-of-citizenship/ [Accessed 10 Aug. 2019].