Proposal: Compromise on the Border and Immigration
I propose and petition to the United States Government that we can fix the problem of a porous southern border by building a barrier using the labor of those who are already within the United States without a visa.
This proposal combines a desire by some for a strong barrier on the U.S. border with Mexico and the desire of others for an amicable resolution for migrants already present in the U.S. who seek citizenship. While many different styles of border fencing and walls already exist on the Mexican border, it has repeatedly been proven to be insufficient to prevent border crossings.
The influx of Mexican and “other than Mexican” nationals into the U.S. has had numerous ramifications for this country and for the individuals involved. A lot of crime has resulted from this influx, including the trafficking of illegal drugs and goods and the smuggling of people for hire.
Furthermore, once a person arrives in the U.S. without legitimate paperwork, the person may encounter great difficulty acquiring work. Immigration laws purposefully make it illegal to hire foreign nationals who don’t possess a work visa and other documentation. A system of undocumented, cash-based employment has helped undocumented workers survive in the U.S.
This underground network of human smuggling, working under-the-table, and the fear of deportation has led to many versions of exploitation. It is apparent that long-term abuse of immigration laws has led to some very difficult, if not impossible, circumstances for those who have crossed the border. The following plan is designed to assist those who are stuck between living in the shadows and fulfilling their dream to become a U.S. citizen.
This plan, is, by design, a compromise. There are myriad proposals to fix the issue of rampant border crossings in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. These southern states and their citizens have voiced their concerns for decades.
Dissent with the federal government has grown, even with an increase of patrolling and an increase in technological improvements. The proliferation in undocumented migrants has had religious, political, social, and economic effects. It has also affected taxation, school overcrowding, housing, medical care, law enforcement, the U.S. census, and the redistricting of border states. Language barriers are becoming entrenched in some cases.
All of these problems need improvement, and while this proposal is designed to alleviate many of them, no plan can develop a utopian community, nor can any plan turn back the clock and change the decisions and events that led us to this crisis.
The best compromise to these issues is to permit undocumented aliens a path to becoming a U.S. citizen while simultaneously building a barrier to further illegal immigration. I suggest that there be a direct cooperation between the government and undocumented aliens, with both parties agreeing to reluctantly agree to the other sides’ demands.
This is how my proposal will work, at least in theory. Suppose for a moment that the government offered migrants free room and board to help build a barrier on the southern border. Anyone who wished to volunteer for the program could spend a specific amount of time and then be rewarded by the government with a legal status. After the fulfillment of this set time of volunteering, and with proper amounts of effort, diligence, and labor, each migrant would be able to obtain a work visa. I would propose a volunteering time of approximately 8 weeks at 40 hours per week, completed within a 4 year window of time. That is just 360 hours of service to the nation that is now their home.
After a period of some months of volunteering, the migrant would be granted the ability to apply for an immigrant visa and Green Card. Once a person becomes eligible for the resident alien Green Card, the volunteering would be completed and the now legal immigrant would be allowed to pursue endeavors elsewhere in the country. I would propose that the migrant be eligible for a Green Card after about 11 months of volunteering at 30 hours per week, for a total of 9,500 hours of labor. I propose that this be restricted to a 10-year time period.
On the government’s end of the bargain, I would propose that a system of work camps be created to accommodate 600,000 to 1.5 million workers. These camps would need to be fully staffed with medical care, food service, and construction crews. Religious groups, humanitarian organizations, and news media access will be permitted. Migrant workers would be able to provide the bulk of the labor for caretaking, fence building, food service, and maintenance of the grounds. The complete funding of the construction materials for border barriers would need to be provided for. Skilled contractors, military construction experts, and government employees will need accommodations and funding. Daycare and child safety personnel will need to be provided. Two or three shifts of 8 hours per day will need to be planned, and time clocks and security systems will need to be installed.
The infrastructure to quickly build a southern border will need to be designed and made safe for workers, contractors, and the staff. Transportation, water, and protective gear will need to be rapidly acquired and made available. Operating in the many remote and inhospitable areas of the southern border will be difficult during hot times of the year, meaning that the camps will need to shut down during the summer months except for maintenance. Logistically, this will be a difficult and cumbersome project, so it is going to need pilot camps first in areas where the local environment is easier to tame.
Administration and costs
With such a list of difficulties, it is no wonder that the U.S. has not been able to completely build a barrier for the entire southern border. But with the proper oversight and planning, building 100% of a border barrier is surmountable. I therefore propose that a high-ranking administrator be appointed within the Department of Homeland Security to oversee this project.
This new agency would be the Border Barrier Administration. It would be separate from, but work alongside, the Customs and Border Protection and the Citizenship and Immigration Services. Liaisons with the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DOT, Commerce, and Agriculture will be needed. Land within 500 feet of the border will need to be leased and maintained during the operation.
The BBA would only last as long as it takes to build a 100% barrier, after which the temporary camps and infrastructure would be demolished or removed and donated to charitable or government organizations. Some reusable items could be put to military, educational, medical, or humanitarian needs. I would estimate that roughly 7 to 12 years would comprise the bulk of the border barrier work, with an additional 2 to 4 years for the initial ramp up to full operation and the subsequent removal operation.
Funding the BBA and the building of the border barrier would need to be based on realistic projections. The proposal assumes that as the barrier gets built, fewer employees of the Customs and Border Patrol will be needed on the southern border. In anticipation of this cost savings, it is suggested that as the project achieves 25 percent completion, that a hiring freeze and attrition in CBP personnel be tied to the budget for BBA.
Besides some budgetary cost savings related to a smaller influx of migrants on the southern border, it is assumed that the cost of the barrier will be substantial, and that its funding will come from the taxpayers and budget of the United States. Construction costs of such a long border barrier won’t be appreciably helped by volunteer labor. There would still be a $10 to $20 billion charge for barrier materials and another $5 for infrastructure, transportation, and oversight.
Thankfully, this is a rather small expenditure as far as the federal budget goes. If we were to compare that to the Federal Highway Administration’s yearly budget, we’d quickly see that a 15-year project on the southern border may cost roughly what it costs in 1 year for maintaining our highways. From this perspective, the money involved in building a full border barrier, a few billion dollars per year, becomes clear. The barrier’s direct costs would be inconsequential in the short term. However, the benefit of having a physical barrier over a lifetime of its usefulness will become clear as our country enhances the security of our border with Mexico.
Idealistic platitudes aside, the cost of the border wall will be underestimated by virtually every pundit and political analyst in the country. There is simply no one with the experience to estimate such a large, complicated project. I believe that all of the estimates of time and money are understated. By having an immense number of interested volunteers, and an ample budget, the barrier can be built and the communities around the border can be improved. Because what if hundreds of thousands of migrants choose to take up this offer and there’s not enough work to do on the actual barrier?
I propose that the excess labor, if it exists, be used for voluntary cleanup and restoration of parks, streams, and public lands of the counties surrounding the border. I also propose that excess money be allotted to the program to ensure its success by asking for at least $60 billion over 15 years and to ensure that oversight be tasked with returning yearly surpluses back to the general budget. This can be done by including unobligated amounts of money for the budget of the BBA, offering discretion in the utilization of the funds.
And finally, I anticipate that the BBA project will be a major compromise that builds a barrier to international migration and directly benefits those who have previously breached it. It’s a model of both comprehensive border reform and immigration reform, rolled into one relatively inexpensive solution. The intent is for anyone over the age of 14, able to punch a time card and volunteer, should be able to become a legal citizen of the U.S. It is a way to settle some political disputes head-on with compromise and with a great ending. Parties on both sides of the debate can get what they’ve promised constituents for years, and the American people can finally feel protected that a 100% physical barrier exists.