Llewellyn King: An immigration fix that can be done now

I was once interested in buying a historic mansion in Virginia. It was a classic, but it needed a lot of work. It was being sold by a bank and, for a whole afternoon, my wife and I dreamed of owning it.

It was on the market because the previous owner, who had bought it to restore it, had gone broke. His mistake was that he had tried to do the whole job at once: the wiring, the plumbing, the plastering, the floors. Too much.

Had he done what other restorers would have done in similar situations, gone about restoration piece by piece, he would be the proprietor of a remarkable antebellum home today.

Some big jobs need to be done one thing at a time.

Immigration reform may be such a big job; so big it demands to be done in pieces, fixing what is fixable in the short term while the great issues -- who, from where and how many -- wait for another day and a calmer political climate.

To me, the most fixable is the plight of those who are already here: the 11 million illegal residents, predominantly from Central America.

They are here. They are people who succumbed to the basic human desire to better themselves and provide more for their families. They are illegal but they are not evil. They broke the law to find a better, safer life — the same motivation that brought people from Europe to these shores for five centuries.

Laws are made by people; human need and human aspiration are primal. We, American citizens (except those whose ancestors were transported in slavery), are the product of the same aspiration that has brought most illegal immigrants to live among us: to work hard, to raise families and to live in peace. Statistically, they are slightly more law-abiding than those who would have them gone by deportation. They are a vital new population of artisans -- skilled manual workers.

The Immigrant Tax Inquiry Group (ITIG) and its tireless founder, Mark Jason, a former IRS inspector and Reagan Republican, attracted my attention six years ago because it had a ready answer for those who are illegal but otherwise blameless.

Jason wants illegal immigrants to be given a 10-year, renewable work permit with a special tax provision: There would be a 5 percent tax levied on employers and a 5 percent tax paid by the worker – what Jason calls “five plus five.” The billions of dollars raised by the program would be earmarked for the neighborhoods where the illegals are concentrated to alleviate the burdens they impose on education, health care, policing and other social services.

Notably, his Malibu, Calif.-based group’s program has no amnesty in the usual sense; no path to citizenship, not even an entitlement to lifetime abode.

Jason has poured his personal fortune into a lobbying effort on behalf of the ITIG program, including congressional briefings and information sessions.

To me, the program would solve an immediate problem: It would end the massive deportations — so fundamentally un-American -- which have gone on through four administrations. It would allow families to come out from behind the curtain of fear -- fear in the knowledge that tonight might be their last night of hope, of a united a family and of a livable wage. In the morning (the favored time for arrests), the state could come down on hope and love with the dreaded knock on the door; paradise lost.

The Jason work-permit program is one room in the immigration edifice that could be renovated now, and with benefit rather than cost. The deportations cost in every way: They cost in lives shattered, ICE teams, deportation centers, court hearings, talented labor lost, and finally transportation to places now alien to most of those headed there as deportees – hapless and more or less stateless. There is a fix at hand.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email is

Our 'Banana Republics'

This was a predecessor company of the Boston-based United Fruit Co., which did a lot of business in Central America.

This was a predecessor company of the Boston-based United Fruit Co., which did a lot of business in Central America.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

On the immigration “crisis’’ approaching our southern border, some context: As Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times noted the other day:

“More than 1.4 million foreigners emigrate to the United States each year. If, say, half the caravan { around 5,000 people} reaches the border, and half of those people actually enter the U.S., they would represent less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this year’s immigrants.’’

Despite Trump’s tough-guy approach, unauthorized crossings of our southern border are up slightly this year from last and the number of families crossing together as a unit hit a monthly record last month: more than 16,500 people. That’s how bad things are in much of Central America. (Still, U.S. has about 328 million people.)

The pictures of the desperate marchers are of course dramatic, and being heavily used by the orange man in the Oval Office and his propaganda arm – Fox “News’’.

The Democrats, not being “reality TV’’ experts, are slow on the uptake on the caravan. No, they don’t favor “open borders’’. But mostly because they don’t have the presidency, they lack the opportunity to present a clear position that the public will listen to.

Of course, they should clearly ask the marchers to go back home, but perhaps with the hope for some of them that the U.S. government, which has been controlled by the Republican Party for the majority of time since 2001, might finally come up with a coherent, pragmatic and fair immigration policy that would let them legally enter the country.

Congress, meanwhile, should block Trump threats to cut off aid to Central America, a cutoff that would only increase the lawlessness and poverty that drives these desperate-people north. And they should remind Americans that we are indirectly the cause of much of the trouble. Consider our insatiable demand for drugs, which in turns spawns corruption and gangs in Central America, and that much of the illegal-alien problem can be blamed on U.S. business’s love of cheap labor. A lot of Republican businessmen have loved having low-paid illegal-alien workers.

Also note that many of Central America’s woes can be traced back to the socio-economic-environmental damage done by their past status as heavily exploited economic colonies of the United States. For years such American companies as the old Boston-based United Fruit Co. basically ran these little nations, protected by the U.S. government.

American companies profited from very stratified social classes, a very large impoverished working class and a plutocracy, composed of the business, political and military elites, with whom U.S. firms and government officials worked closely. The dictatorships pushed, in return for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially of course bananas. Thus, “Banana Republics.’’

In any event, the Democrats (and Republicans) should emphasize that the marchers must go through the ordinary orderly process demanded of asylum seekers at our borders. Given the numbers in the current caravan, this will require additional personnel at the southern border, probably including military.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ought to jointly and repeatedly affirm the above.

Robert Kim Bingham Sr.: Herewith a simple path to legal immigration status for millions

"Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World'' (1886) by  Edward Moran . Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection,  Museum of the City of New York .

"Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World'' (1886) by Edward Moran. Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection, Museum of the City of New York.

As a retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyer, I have often asked myself "What should the federal government do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America?"
The simple answer is to revive a dormant law.
While serving in the general counsel's  offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and ICE for 37 years, I observed many long-time undocumented immigrants facing removal proceedings. They were ineligible for relief from deportation under section 249(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act) because they had entered the United States after Jan. 1, 1972. Otherwise, they would have been eligible to apply for the benefit of lawful permanent residence status under section 249(a).
In fairness to those who have set down deep roots in America, I urge Congress to enact a bill updating 249's outdated entry requirement from Jan. 1, 1972, to Jan. 1, 2005. This would constitute a major, but fair, breakthrough immigration solution that could benefit thousands of persons who have resided here continuously for more than a decade, including many DACA {Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals}  recipients, and who wish to apply for lawful permanent residence.
By changing the eligibility date, long-time foreign-born residents who possess good moral character would have a path to legal status. The section's existing legal bars would still block from legal status "inadmissible criminals, procurers, and other immoral persons, subversives, violators of the narcotic laws or smugglers of aliens."
Every applicant would continue to bear the burden of proof to establish eligibility. Once the USCIS or immigration court granted lawful permanent residence, the applicant would typically wait five years thereafter to apply for naturalization, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.
This update of the section would amount to a simple statutory fix with enormous consequences that could be supported even by Republicans who can appreciate that a party hero, Ronald Reagan, was the last president to update section 249(a), on Nov. 6, 1986.
Experienced immigration practitioners have expressed solid support for this immigration solution.
"It would be the easiest solution, of course," said Rita Provatas, a member of the Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "(Its) beauty is the statute's simplicity."
In its March 14, 2017, editorial, The {New London, Conn.} Day said it "likes the suggestion of Robert Kim Bingham Sr., a veteran attorney with ICE."
These are but a couple of the many voices from various political persuasions that have expressed support for the proposal.
Given that a significant number of the "11 million" group, who have lived here continuously for over a decade could qualify to become lawful permanent residents under section 249(a), if updated accordingly, the time for Congress to move up the entry date to Jan.  1, 2005 is now.
Robert Kim Bingham Sr. , who lives in the New London area, retired after working 37 years as an ICE lawyer. He can be reached at Thank you to Chris Powell, of the (Manchester, Conn., Journal Inquirer, for notifying New England Diary about this essay.


Chris Powell: Conn. deportation cases rife with cynicism; a portrait to take down


Most of Connecticut's recent heartbreaking deportation cases follow a pattern of cynicism on both sides.

That is, illegal entry for economic reasons is disguised by a claim for refugee status and asylum. There is a failure to appear at an immigration hearing, lest the refugee claim be scrutinized and disproved, a failure later represented as an accident or someone else's fault when it gets in the way of an appeal. There is issuance of a deportation order followed by multiple delays of enforcement over the course of many years as the executive branch of government declines to enforce the law, thereby allowing unskilled foreign labor to drive the national wage base down for the benefit of capital.

Meanwhile illegal immigrants build families in this country, with spouses and children to be used as hostages against enforcement.

Then there is the new national administration's refusal to delay deportation again, the setting of a deportation deadline, and an emergency appeal to an immigration court or the regular federal courts, making a claim of new evidence. At last there is still another stay of the deportation order, or else the illegal immigrant's relocation to a church purporting to provide "sanctuary."

This pattern demonstrates that the entire immigration system has been a racket in which the immigrants have been confident that the U.S. government was unlikely to enforce immigration law against them, and the government, through administrations of both political parties, prior to the current administration, indeed has declined to enforce the law as often as it has enforced it.

Since the government is as culpable as the illegal immigrants here, little good is likely to come from destroying families by deporting a father or mother who would leave citizen children here. But the country won't ever regain immigration law and control of its borders until deportation for illegal entry is swift and sure.

CLEAN UP THE CAUCUS ROOM: Before Connecticut commits itself to the cultural revolution that is toppling Confederate statues in the South, masking or breaking politically incorrect engravings and windows at Yale, and prompting New York City to contemplate renaming Columbus Circle for Hillary Clinton or Sacco and Vanzetti, Democrats in the state Senate might consider a more modest reform.

The walls of the Senate's Democratic caucus room at the state Capitol display portraits of past Democratic lieutenant governors, who presided over the Senate. Among those depicted is T. Frank Hayes, who was simultaneously lieutenant governor and mayor of Waterbury in the 1930s and who, in the latter position, looted the city, was convicted and sent to prison for it, and helped cause the defeat for re-election of his former ticket mate, Gov. Wilbur L. Cross, at once the most erudite and homespun governor the state ever had.

So if the walls of the Democratic Senate caucus room are to be places of honor, why is Hayes's portrait still hanging there?

Surely the Democrats could find a portrait of another prominent Democrat who did not disgrace himself and the state. A painting or poster of the Charter Oak is always appropriate to fill extra space in any official gallery in Connecticut. Hayes's portrait could be removed for storage at the archives at the State Library across the street from the Capitol.

Yes, Hayes didn't wage war against the United States, nor did he own slaves. Connecticut can be glad that, unlike some other states, it has few connections to such profound offenses. But Hayes's offense is bad enough and it shouldn't require a cultural revolution to take him down and replace him with someone or something better.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


Josh Fitzhugh: Let's pour some cooling reason, please, on the Trump immigration-order hysteria


 I have discovered over a lifetime of living that in a general discussion of a heated topic it is best to let the firebrands speak first and when the emotion has died down, try to raise some sensible facts in a calm voice. That frequently helps resolve the discussion.

 I think that we are at this same place in the uproar/hysteria/chaos over President Trump’s immigration orders of recent days.

 So let’s reiterate some facts.

One. President Trump won the election. He did not receive a majority of the votes cast but he did receive what I will call an “electoral majority,” i.e., a majority of the votes in enough states to become president under our Constitution.  (In my opinion some of the recent protests are less about his post-election policies and more about his victory at the polls.)

Two. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Trump has moved to restrict immigration, at least temporarily. Controlling our borders was the centerpiece of his campaign. More particularly he said he wanted to tighten the “vetting process” for people entering the country legally from some countries, and to stop the influx of people into the country illegally. The vetting process is already quite rigorous, though made more difficult when refugees come from countries in chaos, like Syria.

Three. Legal immigration to this country (i.e., immigration with the permission of the United States) is at the highest level in 23 years. According to the Pew Research Center, we admitted 85,000 immigrants last fiscal year. Nearly half were Muslims. The Obama administration was on schedule to admit 110,000 people this fiscal year.

Four. Congress has given the president enormous discretion to determine who should be admitted to this country. In fact this is the very same discretion that  President Obama cited as authority for not deporting the children of immigrants who came here illegally.  The courts historically have been extremely reluctant to second-guess the president’s authority, although they have said that Congress could by law restrict it.

Five.  Although Trump in the campaign talked of banning Muslim immigrants, the executive order he signed does not do that. It temporarily restricts immigration from seven, mostly Muslim countries that were already on an Obama watch list, and permanently bans immigration from Syria, another mostly Muslim country.  Many mostly Muslim countries continue to send immigrants to America. To say, as the New York  Times has repeatedly said in editorials, that the order “bans Muslims” is a flagrant misrepresentation that only incites religious intolerance.

Six.  The Trump White House is still getting organized. Many officials have not been confirmed by the Congress and others have not been appointed. The executive order involving immigrants contained some mistakes (extending the ban to those with green cards, for example; not making exceptions for Iraqis who have materially assisted our troops is another) that reflect the inexperience of a new American administration. Time should cure this problem.

 Seven. Those seeking entrance into the United States have no constitutional rights. They are not American citizens nor residents of this country. While it may be “un-American” to bar a foreigner based on their belief in a religion that is not contrary to our Constitution, it is not in violation of that Constitution nor, I believe, a violation of any of our laws.

Eight. While the president’s actions have certainly sent a big “unwelcome” sign over our borders, and have probably disrupted the plans of thousands if not tens of thousands of people across the globe, relatively few people were directly detained or sent home by the order, under a few hundred, I believe. Courts are sorting out some individual cases, as they should.  Ironically, although Trump vowed to pursue “America First” in his inaugural, his family business is very international.

Nine. Many Americans believe that continuing the Obama immigration policies will increase terrorist attacks in our country. Some of our recent mass shootings were conducted by Muslim Americans who had been radicalized overseas. It is unclear whether restricting immigration will reduce the threat of domestic terrorism, and many diplomats overseas think that restricting immigration may in fact increase terrorism. A recent poll showed that 49 percent of Americans support Trump’s executive order.

Ten. The immigration situation across the globe is a mess, and is likely to get worse.  Fighting and political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa have put millions of people on the move to try and save their families. Europe is at the breaking point in its efforts to accommodate refugees. Climate change and population growth are likely to make this trend worse over the coming century. The world needs to find a better way to handle the rising tide of refugees by addressing the problem at its source.

Now I’m sure that others could cite other facts that might lead to other conclusions, but for me these facts lead to this: The president is entitled to some time to carry out the promises of his winning campaign; that a pause in immigration policy is supported by at least half of all Americans; that the effectiveness of the Trump policies in reducing the threat of domestic terrorism is hard to determine; that the courts will protect the interests of those wrongly affected by American policies; and that Congress may if it wishes restrict the discretion of the President in this area.

One final thought, which is opinion, not fact.  It is pretty clear to me that the world will not advance if countries pull back inside their borders. Young people in particular want an international world. At the same time, many Americans are nervous about this internationalism and the economic and social consequences that come with it, and their candidate won the White House. In the long run of American history this appears to be a time when the people want a reset of our foreign engagement before continuing the march toward a single, multicultural nation and world.

John (‘’Josh’’) H. Fitzhugh is a Vermont farmer, retired insurance executive, lawyer and former journalist. He served as chief counsel to two Vermont  governors – Richard Snelling, a Republican, and Howard Dean, a Democrat.

Chris Powell: An immigration policy that might save America

Such a policy of generous, strict, controlled, careful, and patriotic immigration would safeguard the country and its culture, be generous to its illegal aliens, and advance the country's ideals as the universal nation.

Robert Whitcomb: Immigration, a bridge, 'royalists' and Rockefeller

President Obama is making a big mistake in seeking to protect millions of illegal aliens from prosecution by executive order.

While presidents have considerable legal discretion in individual deportation cases, giving amnesty to whole classes of people who broke the law in entering the U.S. stretches to the breaking point proper presidential powers. And remember that Congress has already debated — but not passed — legislative ideas similar to what the president would do, which also undermines his case.

Yes, Congress has long irresponsibly avoided fixing the immigration mess. No wonder the president is frustrated. Republicans, for their part, are torn between the campaign cash of businesses that love cheap illegal-immigrant labor, much of it at or below minimum wage, and nativist Republicans who feel culturally and economically swamped by the alien hordes. Cheap immigrant labor has helped undermine American wages, by some accounts as much as 8 percent.

Many illegal aliens are doing jobs that used to be considered entry jobs entirely for Americans, especially young Americans — a foot in the door of the economy. Some of these were summer jobs that helped pay a lot of college tuition.

Still, there’s no immediate new crisis in immigration. The numbers of those coming across the Mexican border have been declining lately.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not a very bad problem. But the situation doesn’t justify acting in legally dubious, delegitimizing ways that will tend to give a green light to more people to come here illegally, with economic and national-security implications.

If the president and the new Republican-led Congress cannot agree on immigration reform, then they should put off its resolution until, if necessary, one party controls Congress and the White House. Until then, here’s a simple proposal: More firmly enforce the laws on the books. To be fair, note that the Obama administration has deported record numbers of illegals.

ANOTHER THOUGHT on the mid-term elections: The Democrats’ biggest mistake was, out of fear of offending its big-money backers, it took no strong stand against those whom Franklin Roosevelt called “economic royalists” in pushing for a better deal for the middle class.

This is what happened back when Democrats failed to fight for extending Medicare to everyone, rather than coming up with the labyrinthine (and GOP-inspired!) Affordable Care Act. The Democrats need a clear message. In the last election, the perception was that the Democrats really didn’t stand for anything. The high-voting Republicans clearly stood for something: To block Barack Obama at every turn. The president may be standing for something in his immigration plans, but he’s doing it in the wrong way.

AS A RESIDENT of Brooklyn in the ’70s, when New York City was falling apart, I enjoyed the recent Associated Press article about that borough (“Once mocked, Brooklyn emerges as global symbol”).

It has become a symbol of innovation, renewal, gentrification, locavore restaurants and tech startups, with many young Silicon Valleyish types. (One of my daughters recently left Brooklyn for Los Angeles complaining that she was tired of living in a place “where everyone is 25.”)

Somewhat similar transformations have occurred in other old urban areas, including parts of Providence. And even Detroit may be at the very start of a revival.

When I worked in Lower Manhattan and lived in Brooklyn my co-workers acted as if I were commuting to Outer Mongolia. Now it’s where Wall Street types want to be. Never give up on a city!

IF THERE’S one thing that Republicans and Democrats ought to agree on, it’s the nation’s physical infrastructure, especially transportation. And yet key parts of it are falling apart.

Consider the 100-year-old Portal Bridge, part of the underfunded but very heavily traveled Northeast Corridor of Amtrak and local commuter trains. New Jersey Transit, which runs the Garden State’s commuter trains, says that problems on the old bridge caused more than 200 delays from the start of 2013-through July 2014! And that’s far from the only bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor. The aging system (which also needs more tracks) is also a particular mess around Baltimore, as those awaiting northbound trains in New York’s squalid, claustrophobia-inducing Penn Station can especially confirm.

Now there’s a belated plan to replace the Portal Bridge. But with much of American commerce flowing on the Northeast Corridor, the whole stretch must be rebuilt in the next decades. Even with all its flaws (especially when compared with European service), Northeast Corridor train service is a huge wealth creator. If fixed, it can be a much bigger one.

READ Richard Norton Smith’s “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller,’’ about the charismatic, dyslexic master builder, arts patron and would-be president, who was decisive about many things but not about how to run for president. Rockefeller once said: "I'm not bright. I'm imaginative.'' But he was very bright sometimes, and usually very imaginative -- sometimes too much so.

For years, he represented the  GOP's "Eastern Establishment,'' but his party moved south and west on him. By 1964, when asked by backers to call in the “Eastern Establishment,”   he replied: “You’re looking at it, buddy. I’m all that’s left.”

Robert Whitcomb oversees New England Diary.