When an American traveler enters the UK, the passport stamp prominently reads “No recourse to public funds.” The stamp serves the dual purpose of reminding both the traveller and all who open the passport that the government will not financially support that visitor.
This is a common sense solution. Visitors to a country should obviously not receive public funds. Nothing in the great treasure trove of social services should be available to them. Being able to take care of yourself for the duration of your stay is a reasonable requirement for entering a country, in all but the most extreme amnesty cases. The concept of the UK’s stamp is smart and appropriate.
The GOP, now in a position of leadership, has a chance to do something similar to the UK. The move would allow GOP leaders to stick to their smaller government guns while doing an end run around the president.
The GOP should pass a bill extending full legal status to all people who apply for it. Those people will become documented and legal. It would show that the GOP has kindness for the undocumented.
At the same time, the GOP will have the opportunity to deliver a blow to the welfare state. The welfare state is the real issue at the heart of the immigration debate. Few people want to deport the hardworking cleaning lady, the day laborers outside Home Depot, the doctors, techies, or finance industry workers who want a chance to prove themselves in America. The people who want to come to America to be productive members of society are not the problem. The burden of illegal immigration is the strain it puts on the social safety net. That’s the problem.
The policy should come with only one caveat not currently in place. Of their entire time in the United States, federal law will prohibit the newly documented visitors from receiving any free government service from any government entity at any level and will supersede all federal laws written to the contrary. Any service rendered must come with some form a bill attached payable by the user of those services. There will be no more access to socialized health care. There will be no more legal mandate for a hospital to treat any documented visitor without insurance or cash. There will be no more free access to public schools at any level. There will be no more free access to police and fire departments. There will be no more free access to roads. The federal law will state that if services are rendered then all services must be paid for through some fee assessed directly on the newly documented visitor.
The system currently in place creates harmful disincentives for people who want to come to the U.S. to travel, to work, and to start businesses. Those are not the people who should be barred entry to the U.S., especially during an economic slowdown. The presence of such industrious people benefits our economy, while our current immigration system harms it.
Those disincentives would be done away with through simple legislation like this. At the same time out current system creates positive incentives for those interested in not working and living off of the social safety net as cunningly as possible. This too is a drain on our economy. Anyone coming to the U.S. seeking recourse to public funds can find ways to get them under our current system, but those people should be sent away.
While newly documented workers must not be given recourse to any public funds, private charities should certainly be allowed to give anything they want to anyone they want. After all, we live in a free country: any advocate of having greater charitable benefits given to newly documented visitors is welcome to use their own money in that way.
Anyone willing to come to America to live or to work and who expects no free recourse to the social safety net should be welcomed with open arms. A GOP policy like this would draw a line in the sand. It would clarify that the immigration debate is not about immigrants; it is about the immigrants who want to sponge off the system.
The undocumented immigrants interested in being productive members of society would stay and more productive people like them would come. The undocumented immigrants interested in mooching off the welfare state would stop coming, would move to other places, or would learn to fend for themselves.
The more xenophobic element of the GOP would come along with the plan glad to finally see some real leadership from DC that finally dissects the immigration problem for what it is and lifted the strain from the economy.
After that distinct line is drawn by the GOP in the immigration debate, we may learn that there are other issues in immigration to deal with that will take greater precision. This solution will handle 80 percent of the illegal immigration debate and will be a politically tenable solution for 80 percent of Americans while helping the GOP return to its its core values as the party of smaller government.