Published:  June 14, 2013

House to house searches.  Bullhorn calls to assemble and gather for deportation processing.  Mass detention facilities.  As millions of families prepare to be torn apart, you will witness the tears and deafening wails of old and young, grandparents and parents, sons and daughters.  No doubt, these scenes will be unavoidable components of the mass round-up and deportation of 12 million undocumented foreign nationals.  For the folks who refuse to give an inch and forgive immigration law breakers, it’s a path to deportation, not a path to citizenship that is the right and only option.  However, as our elected officials in Washington embark on further debate in the coming month, it is time our nation comes to accept that a path to legalization or citizenship, albeit not a perfect option, is our best and only real option.

As it stands, it seems we have 3 possible options for addressing the issue.  Option 1 is the status quo, essentially a de facto amnesty where our nation mainly looks the other way and ignores the vast majority of immigration law violators living in the U.S.  Indeed we have seen unprecedented levels of immigration enforcement under President Obama – a record 400,000 deportations annually for each of the past 4 years, and surpassing the numbers put up by his modern day Republican and Democrat predecessors – but such measures barely make a dent.

So what about Option 2, souping up our nation’s deportation engine and shipping all of the undocumented back to where they came from?  As a matter of logistics and bureaucracy, can our nation truly make that happen?  Of course it can, assuming a collective hardening of our hearts, a cash infusion in the billions, and a 3000% increase in our corps of Homeland Security agents and prosecutors.  We need only go back to World War II for successful mass round up playbooks.

Then there are the judges and due process.  All but a few of the 12 million will be entitled to a removal hearing under current law, where a Department of Justice administrative judge presides and reviews the charges against the subject foreign national and considers  available defenses.  Thus, we have to figure on a 30 fold expansion of our current roster of immigration judges, and a commensurate budgetary expansion to cover the costs.

Strange as it sounds though, the path to deportation for a decent number of the undocumented may actually turn out to be a path to citizenship.  That is because individuals who have been living here more than a decade, have otherwise obeyed the law, and can demonstrate that their forced exodus would pose extraordinary hardships to a US citizen or resident spouse, child or parent, can be considered for “cancellation of removal” – a defense avenue that leads to issuance of a green card, and not deportation.

So that leaves option 3, a path to legalization.  No matter how you slice it, this option involves rewarding and forgiving the law breaker (albeit, the equivalent of a traffic law under our current system) and absorbing them into our society with the filing of specified documentation and the payment of a fine.  Yes, the vast majority of these applicants are good, decent and hard-working folks, who will no doubt continue to be an unquestionable net-plus for our society: paying taxes, buying houses, investing in our communities and even creating jobs.  Further, the entire program will be paid for by applicant filings fees and fines.

Even still, for certain constituencies in our nation, this does not sit well.  Sure, the “no amnesty” crowd has their decent share of xenophobes, but there are no doubt thoughtful folks out there who just do not like the idea of a nation conveniently disregarding its laws when they become practically or politically unworkable, and forgiving its lawbreakers.  Even so, the “round em’ up” option, in the end, is impractical and inhumane.  And given the status quo and the broken system now in place, a path to citizenship is the option that makes the most sense.

So let’s address the ever-present, ambiguous counterpoint that “we first need to secure the border,” let’s decide what a “secure border” means, then let’s commit to secure it.  Let us avoid letting side show issues serve as platforms for political theatrics, distraction or deal killers.  From there, let’s heed the calls of the legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle, and of our current and past President.  Let’s take the inevitable, sensible next step of absorbing a population of hungry, hard-working, tax payers and pass legislation that realistically addresses this lingering issue and serves the practical needs of our nation’s families and businesses.

PUBLISHED June 14, 2013 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2013, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois