Today's Potomac News has an article citing a press conference held by Faisal Gill yesterday highlighting his proposal to raise the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants (51st District candidate Gill pushes for tougher immigration laws). (I use the print edition headline, the online title is stupid).
All serious discussion of the illegal immigrant issue needs to include steps to reduce the demand for illegal immigrant labor. Potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson has made this idea a cornerstone of his discussion of the illegal immigration issue, noting that if people can't get jobs, we won't need to deport them, they'll leave because there will be no point in staying.
Tom over at Citizen Tom has a post about this, titled Gill proposes serious immigration reform, citing both the newspaper article and an e-mail Gill sent out to supporters with greater detail.
This is not a comprehensive immigration bill, and that's a good thing in my mind. We need to take a lot of small steps -- comprehensive has become synonymous with amnesty and with politicians playing games with the issue to sell themselves to various special interest groups.
There are a few things that have widespread support right now. One is punishing those who hire illegal immigrants, as Gill's proposal does. Two is securing the border to control the flow of people into our country -- that has widespread support, there's already a law on the books, and it's both an illegal immigrant control measure, AND a homeland security issue.
Three also has wide support: checking the legal status of criminals. Prince William has taken steps to do that and more, and many other jurisdictions are following. We may not be able to round up and deport 12-20 million illegals, but if we've already "rounded them up" into our jails, the hard part's done, and we should finish the job and deport them.
Once we have made serious strides in these areas, we can come back to the bigger picture. Polls show that Americans are conflicted on the issue. Ask the questions the right way, and a large majority want to go easy on illegals already living and working in our country. But point out they are here illegally, and a majority wants to punish them.
A lot of that is because people don't trust our government to really enforce the laws -- after all, we aren't really doing it now. Some is because in the abstract, we are a law-abiding people, but when it comes down to dealing with real individuals, we have a compassionate streak that is a positive defining characteristic that makes America great.
I support a proposal similar to Senator James Webb, to provide a legal way for some currently illegal immigrants to remain in the country while going to the back of the line for consideration of legal status. This is not a popular position in the conservative community, but that's OK -- I've got time to sell the merits as we wait for government to implement the three items above that have broad support.