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Dear Editor:
I have many questions for Gary Endelman with respect to his proposal for a points system to replace the current family-based immigration system. I think he raises some very valid points - particularly the travesty of separating nuclear families of lawful permanent residents. I agree that we can stem the tide of illegal immigration only by enacting some concomitant reforms in legal immigration that support our humanitarian, economic and security agendas. We cannot continue to have this absurd situation where the illegal beneficiaries of 245(i) are allowed to work and apply for permanent residence, and yet during the several-year-long process are not permitted to obtain social security cards, or driver's licenses. While acknowledging the need for their labor, we are in essence relegating them to invisibility, or worse yet, criminalizing them. This clearly cannot go on, as it endangers society as a whole. Despite the obvious need for reform, the "earned legalization" system outlined by Mr. Endelman seems to be designed to address primarily skilled labor shortages (English proficiency, skills that the economy needs, ties to the US), when, in fact, many of our present day labor shortages, as evidenced by 245(i), as well as our undocumented work force, are in the unskilled area - cooks, busboys, janitors, factory workers, fast food workers, landscapers, horse groomers etc. How is a points system going to address such realities? Of course, there are those who say that these shortages only exist because certain employers/industries are unwilling to offer adequate wages, benefits or working conditions to US workers. Highly skilled nurses have the same complaint about the perceived shortage of nurses. How will these concerns be handled? What bureaucratic body will be charged with the task of determining which skills are indeed in short supply? Can this debate truly be devoid of such polemics, as Mr. Endelman suggests?

These relatively unskilled 245(i) workers do not need, nor do they generally have English proficiency. They often have no ties to the US except the ones that are established after years of residing here illegally. Under the plan, must would-be immigrants earn points while abroad, or do they have to be physically present and "undocumented" in the US already, as Senator Brownback implies? In the latter event, it begs the question of how they would get here in the first place - if not EWI or by fraud. Hence, natives of contiguous territory would be favored over those who live in S. America, Africa or Asia in non visa waiver countries. How is this going to balance the immigration books? IRCA's failure to provide a permanent solution to illegal immigration is not due to a lack of core criteria. As someone who processed hundreds of IRCA applications in California in the late 1980's, I can honestly say that most amnesty applicants were hard-working, law-abiding and tax-paying, even before IRCA passed. And, I believe, if memory serves, that evidence of employment and tax returns were among the required supporting documentation. If not actually required, in practice, tax returns and social security earnings statements were one of the most objective means of establishing the required period of unlawful residence. In fact, many amnesty applicants paid taxes under false SS numbers, which only deprived them, not the US government, of social security benefits. Those who did not file tax returns did so mostly out of fear of listing a false social security number, not out of a lack of civic responsibility. And, again, the only ones who lost out were the aliens themselves, as taxes were withheld from their paychecks; they simply never got the refund owed to them. IRCA applicants did contribute to their communities and local economies, and they yearned for American citizenship - but they had to get permanent residence first, and to do that they had to be present in the US unlawfully since before January 1, 1982. I therefore fail to see how Senator Brownback's "earned 'regularization' for undocumented people" is any different from IRCA.

If instead, people must earn points from abroad in order to gain entry into the US legally from the get go, we still have to contend with the institutionalized bias against people of modest means and limited education in many US consulates around the world, not to mention the virtually unbridled discretion consular officers enjoy. Even those who meet the eventual criteria may face great obstacles in obtaining visas. This in turn will ensure that corruption and fraud remain unchecked, and only those with "connections" or the ability to purchase the proper documents will get visas, as is the case in large part today. Furthermore, I wonder what effect this new system would have on 214(b) - the hoops that would-be tourists have to jump through to visit the US If we are no longer going to guarantee that married children or siblings of USC's can immigrate to the US are we going to make it any easier for them to visit? These and many other details need to be worked out, as we separate historical fact from wishful mythologizing, before I can buy into "earned legalization".

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