This proposal contains excerpts from a larger piece on immigration, ' Thoughts of a Conservative Immigrant, A Better Way to Reform Immigration for the 21st Century'
Only time will tell if Congressional Democrats will compromise with President Trump on border security and reforming asylum laws. However,our immigration system will need a long term solution to not only address DACA but also immigrants under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The TPS program was designed to help foreign nationals who would face unsafe conditions if they returned home such as national disasters, armed conflicts or other extraordinary conditions. Long before the government shutdown 6 months ago there has been a conversation to change the way we admit legal immigrants by transitioning to a more merit based system. Currently about 60% of green cards are allocated to family based immigration and that is why some members of Congress would like a more merit-based system to award green cards. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress would be wise to address these topics before the 2020 elections because despite any deal for border security and opening, Democrats are eager to again use immigration as a political tool in next elections.
For an immigration system to work in the best interest of America, it needs to not only instill law, order and security, it must also facilitate the prospect that immigrants will display the ability to prosper to not only benefit themselves but also the country. Largely missing from the conversation about immigration is that the attributes of the American Idea and American dream has made it the recipient, and most desired destination of some of the most ambitious people from other countries of the world who are most likely to prosper. When I went to college in Jamaica in the 90s it was said at the time that about 3% of the population went to college there. A large number of those eventually moved to America and have done extraordinarily well. Many other countries have had a similar experience where their most educated and ambitious left for America. Many Republicans have been unwise to recognize and embrace the millions of immigrants who resonate with conservative principles such as economic freedom, limited government and other sentiments espoused in the founding documents. There is a missed opportunity by the GOP to simultaneously advocate for strong border security, rule of law and also how legal immigration is good for America.
A long-term legislative solution that would address many aspects of immigration and groups of immigrants would be to have a probationary ‘ability to prosper visa ’ or (ATP) visa as an earned adjusted path to a green card. It could address current participants of DACA who have already met the security and identification requirements of that programs current two-year permit and also immigrants under (TPS). It would also work with a more merit based immigration system to not only screen people who already have skills but also those with entrepreneurial skills who may need a chance to prove themselves, or as a probationary path for those came on a student visa or H1B visa and want to apply for green card. Many American success stories and brands today are originated with immigrants who came with nothing but displayed the ability to prosper. An ATP visa could also be used be incorporated with family based immigration because family support very often aids an ambitious immigrant to prosper.
An ATP visa would be based on a points or credits system which would be used to determine the levels a person have reached during this path to adjusted status. Based on certain criteria, the points system should be measured by a scale that determines one’s ‘ability to prosper’ (ATP) and with restrictions on receiving certain government assistance while exhibiting good conduct and ambition.
An ATP visa could require about 100 points/credits on the ATP scale to get an adjusted status visa that puts the person at the back of the line of people who were already going though the legal immigration process of getting a green card. Many aspects that were required to meet the criteria to qualify for DACA would automatically contribute to points. Those recipients would be given a limited time to conform and qualify for an ATPV. It would also encourage consistency to maintain those standards.
Certain attributes could be used to award points on the ATP scale with some carrying more points than others. Some attributes that indicate a higher risk of being unable to prosper could lead to negative points. Having certain advanced degrees or qualifications, doing well in school, having graduated college, serving in the military, having developed a technical or vocational skill and/or the ability to speak English would also give points. Having paid taxes, contributed to social security and paying into Medicare as an adult would also give points, if not there would penalties to pay back taxes or contributions at a higher rate. Having finished college while being current on student loans would also add points.
For example, since many DACA participants have actually started and are running successful businesses while paying taxes, this should award high number of points on the ATP scale. President Trump has entertained the idea of allowing vocational skills to be counted as part of his merit based approach to immigration. If immigrants have or have developed these skills, that should also count towards points on an ATP scale. If they have hired tax paying employees, that should lead to more bonus points. If a person has been dependent on assistance such welfare or have racked up medical bills or student loans without taking efforts to repay them, even though that person is actively working or physically able, would lead to negative points which may vary depending on the situation and extent. The aim of awarding negative points is to deter unproductive or irresponsible behavior and to also address concerns of those apprehensive about immigration reform and the fear that many immigrants may be allowed to get a ‘free ride’. It would also help to address the concerns that this immigration reform may have a negative impact on the economy over the long run.
Optional activities could also be used to earn extra bonus points, such as exhibiting further actions to assimilate and understand American culture and civics. For example, being active as a volunteer firefighter or volunteering in other community services and/or charities. Documented visits to points of interests that teach or display key points in American History and civics that have shaped the country could also earn points. When I did my citizenship test I noticed that where a lot of questions that started with ‘when,' ‘how many,' ‘who’ and ‘what are’. However, very few asked ‘why’ certain things happened to shape the American Idea as we know it. More so, almost none asked ‘why’ certain founding principles are still relevant to the liberties many still seek or enjoy today. Thus, there were very few thought provoking questions asked to help an immigrant realize the true underlying reasons ‘why America’ is in fact the success it has become, and in turn made it the place where he/she wanted to be.