Michael Reagan: Our irrational system
The state of California tossed the conservative media another hunk of red meat last week when its Supreme Court granted an illegal alien a law license.
You probably heard plenty of outrage on your favorite talk-radio show about how the liberal Left Coast judges rewarded a lawbreaking immigrant instead of deporting him or throwing him in jail.
Mindless outrage is probably all you heard.
The details of the case — who the illegal alien was, how he came to America and how long he’s been trying to become a legal citizen — were lost in the anger.
But the more you learn about the case of Sergio Garcia, the more you’ll understand what is the Number One problem with our awful immigration policy.
It isn’t because we have too many liberal judges, too many illegal aliens or too many holes in the U.S.-Mexico border. The main problem is our failed, insanely bureaucratic U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department itself.
Garcia, 36, is just one of its countless victims. More than 20 years ago — when he was a teenager — he came from Mexico to pick almonds in California with his father.
In 1994 his father, who was a permanent legal resident of the United States, applied for a work visa for Garcia. That year his father also applied for U.S. citizenship for him.
While Garcia waited for the lawyers and bureaucrats to process the paperwork, he worked and studied hard. He went to community college, became a paralegal, went to law school and passed the bar exam.
When he applied for a license to practice law in California, the U.S. Department of Justice prevented him from getting it because of a federal law prohibiting anyone in the United States without permission from getting licenses from government agencies that use public money.
California bar officials and the attorney general supported Garcia in the state Supreme Court case, arguing successfully that a new California state law says you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to get a lawyer’s license in California.
I’m not mad at Sergio Garcia. Why should anyone be? He did nothing wrong.
In fact, he did everything right. He played by the rules — the dumb rules. And that’s why he’s still an illegal alien.
Ditto for the poor guy who cuts my hair. He’s still waiting for his citizenship after 17 years. Ditto for countless other immigrants who want to come here, work hard and someday become American citizens.
Talk radio should aim its anger where it belongs. Not at Garcia, not at California’s judges, but at our irrational immigration system and the politicians responsible for devising it and refusing to fix it or blow it up.
A recent study counted 234 government forms related to immigration, issued by seven Cabinet-level agencies. Even highly skilled immigrants — the 65,000 people we want and need the most, and to whom we grant H-1B visas — face 16 forms, nearly 20 hours of paperwork and $2,500 in application costs.
Our immigration system is so broken, so complex, so expensive, so slow, so legalistic, so bureaucratic, and so counter-productive it’s a wonder anyone ever successfully becomes a citizen.
Republicans and conservatives are supposed to be against big government, over-regulation and mindless bureaucracy.
Yet when was the last time you heard a Republican in Washington complain about how the maze of rules and regulations at USCIS makes it virtually impossible for someone to enter the country legally through the front door?
No one wants to get in line for 20 years to get into the United States. No one should have to. The long wait is one reason we’re losing the brightest immigrants to other countries.
California officials, for once, probably did the right thing when they stuck up for Sergio Garcia.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Email comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.