Pragmatism should have long ago solved the immigration problem, but that wouldn’t make for good politics. Stereotypically the right views illegal immigrants as nefarious people here to steal jobs, while the left views illegal immigrants as victims of circumstance who should be given everything. Obviously, there are “bad” illegal immigrants involved in the drug trade and there are “good” immigrants who come to this country seeking a better life. By dividing people into these culture wars of “good” and “bad” immigrants, politicians never provide a nuanced answer for what to do besides “deport them all” or “open borders”. 

Practically speaking, it is impossible to deport over 11 million illegal immigrants. That would require too much political capital and too much financial capital in a country struggling to get the national debt under control. We also can’t have open borders- that’s a security nightmare. And we can’t just give illegal immigrants citizenship status, that’s a slap in the face to all the people who came to the country legally. So, I propose the following:

First and foremost, secure our border. We have the resources in place to do it, but it’s not a priority. Secure borders are a national security issue and should be addressed immediately. We must secure our borders so that there is no new wave of illegal immigrants coming into the country. We must secure our border to stop the trade of illegal drugs coming over the border. If North Korea can secure its borders, American can secure its borders. No new illegal immigrants should be allowed into our country.

As for the illegal immigrants already in our country, we should provide a defined period of time for all illegal immigrants to come forward and register. If they’ve committed a crime here, they should be deported, no exceptions. If they have no other criminal history, have them provide information on how long they’ve been in the country and their sources of income. Calculate the amount of back taxes they would owe plus an additional fine. Give them temporary residency. If, after five years they’ve paid all their back taxes and have not committed any crimes, they can go before an immigration judge to determine legal status. Those who lie about how long they’ve been here or their income status will be deported. All illegal immigrants who haven’t registered after a set period of time will be deported and any subsequent illegal immigrants will be deported. This can only be accomplished after the border is completely secure.

This solution would increase tax revenue and begin to solve a culturally divisive issue with a common sense solution. This would also contribute to a big-tent Republican party of all races who want to stand up to big government, woke Democrats in Washington. Ronald Reagan actually supported what I am suggesting. I recognize that this solution isn’t fair to everyone but life isn’t always fair and compromise is never pleasing to everyone. This solution actually provides a way forward. Those who say we need to deport every single illegal immigrant aren’t taking into account the massive amount of fiscal capital that would be required and are playing off old stereotypes that are dogging the Republican party. Deporting every single illegal immigrant would require a massive expansion of federal law enforcement and power. This power could easily be turned against law abiding Americans to enforce gun confiscation or other government overreach. Expanding the federal government is the opposite of small government conservatism. We can be the party that provides solutions, secures our borders, expands our electorate, and enforces law and order, all while increasing our tax revenue.

Finally, we need to reform the process of becoming an American citizen. The process takes years and is intentionally painfully bureaucratic. Every American was at one point an immigrant and new, legal immigrants are some of the people who are most eager to chase the American dream. Our great country has the ability to vet immigrants for security purposes while simultaneously expediting the process so that those who want to contribute to our economy and culture can more expeditiously join the great American dream.