To me, there is something especially savage and cruel about deportations. It reminds of what I saw in colonial Africa, or in South Africa, or touring the Auschwitz concentration camp. Armed men and women coming by surprise to rip apart a family, to condemn people to a future they had braved so much to escape, evokes all the horrors of history. The rough brutality of one person taking charge of another appalls, twists the gut and stops heart.
Even if sanctioned by law, the unfettered power of the state and its officers moving against an individual is profoundly ugly. The fact that those seized have broken the law doesn’t seem, in most cases, to justify ending the order and hope of their modest lives.
Yet I don’t believe any nation should allow conquest by immigration that is a threat to one’s culture, one’s language and one’s own sense of place. I believe that there should be legal immigration, screened immigration. Our natural rate of population replenishment is inadequate.
Against the backdrop of vast shifting populations around the globe, the United States has only a modest problem. The illegal immigrant inflow, particularly across the southern border, has dwindled. So the issue is the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants who are here, have put down roots and are often raising American children.
Their fate is bitterly divisive: on one side, liberals and groups that speak for immigrants wanting amnesty and citizenship and on the other, conservatives demanding that our immigration laws are immutable, and the illegals must be arrested and deported.
Mark Jason, a retired IRS inspector from Malibu, Calif., looked at the problem from a taxman’s point of view through the Immigrant Tax Inquiry Group, which he founded in 2008.
Jason was concerned with the negative effect illegal immigrants were having on local communities, straining budgets and overwhelming social services. This kind of pressure has led many local entities to act against these people, denying them services, from driving licenses to schooling.
Jason knew from his research that many illegal immigrants, who came here to get a better, safer life, want eventually to return to their homelands. Trouble is they are immobilized in the United States, particularly if they have family here. If they visit their homelands, they can’t get back into the United States.
Jason believes a creative tax could defuse the illegal immigrant argument and stabilize life for what have become people of the shadows.
His plan, his third way, will:
—Grant all illegal immigrants who want to work a permit, called a REALcard (short for respect, equality, accountability and legality) that is valid for 10 years and renewable.
—Impose special taxes — 5 percent on the wages of the workers and 5 percent on the same wages to be paid by the employer — which would go to the hurting local communities.
Jason calculates that his tax will raise $210 billion over 10 years and that this money should be earmarked for communities hosting large numbers of immigrants.
For a decade, Jason has been imploring immigration groups, think tanks and Congress to consider his plan. Next week, he will be holding an information session on Capitol Hill to investigate various perspectives on immigration. His plan is to have a discussion on immigration focused on sound public policy, placing the interests of U.S. taxpayers first and treating all the stakeholders with respect.
I’ve known Jason for five years and have been astounded by the tenacity of this gentle Reagan Republican and his desire to do the right thing for those caught up in the immigration gyre, to relieve the acute artisan labor shortage, and to help counties and cities with their added illegal immigrant burdens — the new money going to education, health care, policing, jails and social services.
Legalize the illegal immigrants and some will go home early. Data show that about half will return eventually to their homelands.
To my mind, Jason’s self-funded Immigrant Tax Inquiry Group is offering a solid alternative to the bleak immigrant policy debate — and to the swinging door of the detention center. Illegal entry into the United States in law, so venerated by the deportation enthusiasts, is only a misdemeanor.
Families physically torn apart, deportation and ruin, is a severe penalty for a misdemeanor. Does it fit the crime when there is another way?
On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS.