At the Republican presidential debate last week (you remember; the one moderated by that bearded guy named “Blitz”), Newt Gingrich stirred up some controversy in his discussion on immigration.
From my perspective as someone who spent a weekend as an illegal alien in 1980, this segment of the debate was of particular interest. I don’t have the editorial space to go into it here, but if you buy the Shiraz (preferably pre-2007 and corked rather than screw cap), I will recount my perilous adventure into the African nation of Swaziland without the permission of the Kingdom.
Speaker Gingrich’s passing comment on the Red Card program caught my attention, “I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with control of the border as the Governor (Rick Perry) said. I believe, ultimately, that ... once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes a guest worker program, you need something like a World War II selective service ward that frankly reviews the people who are here. If you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you have three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out. The Krieble Foundation has a very good Red Card program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a pass to citizenship. And so there is a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality and you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone.”
The Krieble Foundation is named for Professor Vernon K. Krieble "to further democratic capitalism and to preserve and promote a society of free, educated, healthy and creative individuals." Professor Krieble’s daughter, Helen Krieble, is the President of the foundation. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Krieble on several occasions and know her to be a thoughtful and benevolent defender of America’s founding principles.
At a speech to the Heritage Foundation in 2005, Helen Krieble related her personal story of dealing with the onerous bureaucracy of hiring temporary immigrants, “It is so hard to come in legally, it is almost unimaginable. And certainly I have a lot of experience with it because I do use guest workers in my business. And it is a nightmare.” After standing in line at the consulate, outdoors in the sun for eight hours, Ms. Krieble was returned to the end of the line for having folded the application paperwork incorrectly.
Helen Krieble hires about ten guest workers each year to accomplish the messier tasks of her equestrian sports business. And, she does so within the rules. Of course, many American employers and millions of immigrants do not have the patience for the politically charged Ministry of Malarkey that substitutes for an immigration policy.
We all know the realities; stolen Social Security Numbers, unfair competition, cash payments that avoid taxation, abuse of social services and an imposition on our culture. So as a compliant employer and president of a conservative think tank, Ms. Krieble brings a credible perspective that has garnered the appreciation of the “smartest presidential candidate.”
The Red Card Program first considers that guest workers are wholly different from immigrants, that they would have no preference for citizenship and their children born in the United States would not be citizens. Guest workers would be required to hold a “Red Card” that specifically describe the location, employer and job for which the card is issued, along with the duration and personal information about the worker, including biometric data.
Some highlights from the Red Card Program are quoted here:
- The meat of this proposal is that private employment agencies (staffing companies) would be licensed and authorized to set up “Non-Citizen Worker” offices in Mexico and other countries. They would be licensed by the federal Office of Visa Services and empowered to issue “Red Cards” to applicants in their local offices. Prior to issuing the cards, the agencies would be required to run an instant background check on the applicant. These checks, much like those used for firearms sales in the U.S., would be accomplished by contact with the U.S. government and the government of the native country. Cards should not be issued to workers from countries that cannot or will not cooperate in this important respect. The goal is to ensure the cards are not issued to applicants with criminal records or those who have violated the terms of previously issued permits or visas.
- Employers would simply post jobs with the private employment agencies specifying location, duration, wages and other required information – just as they often do within the U.S. today. There are dozens of employment firms, staffing companies, human resource companies and others who specialize in this field, and make their living putting employers and employees together. This would not change the current requirement that employers demonstrate attempts to hire local citizens before seeking non-citizen workers. Since employment firms charge fees for their services, the incentives will always favor local American workers – why pay a fee if you can find the workers you need locally?
- Employers would be able to check the identity and legal status of applicants with a simple swipe of the “smart card,” just as they swipe credit cards for payment. The same card could also be swiped and checked by border agents, law enforcement personnel, and others with a need to identify the holder. It would remain illegal to hire any worker not in the country legally.
- Part of the goal of this proposal is to eliminate the undocumented cash system used by so many employers and workers today. That means employers will have to pay taxes, and follow all the laws that would otherwise relate to hiring local employees. That includes social security, workers compensation, minimum wage, and all other labor laws that apply to American workers. For many employers this would mean a slightly more complicated system, and perhaps slightly higher wages. But most would have a strong incentive to comply: a steady and dependable supply of needed workers, coupled with certain and severe penalties for hiring illegal workers.
- Workers would be required to stay on the job for which the Red Card was issued, and employers would be required to report any worker who left.
- Finally, workers already in the U.S. illegally would be required to leave the country, apply for and legally obtain the Red Card, after which they could return if they had employment. They would have a powerful incentive to do so if the other elements of this plan were implemented – because once legal, they would have the same rights as any worker: minimum wage, health insurance and other benefits, decent working conditions, and the protections of the legal system.
- As soon as there is a legal system for employers and employees, the borders of the United States must be controlled.
The Krieble Foundation contends that once there is a gate, the only folks illegally jumping the fence will be drug traffickers and terrorists. Today, migrant workers, drug traffickers and terrorists all jump the fence together.
The Red Card Program is available online at:
So here is how I see it: We conservatives need to engineer workable solutions to social challenges before liberals beat us to the punch with unsustainable and oppressive programs like Obamacare. This Red Card program, if instituted wholly, would be an enormous improvement over the current fiasco.