Cities of hope

By Tom Quiner

Hope is like manna for the soul. It allows us to dream big dreams, to believe they can come true.

Hope energizes our lives and communities.

In this election cycle, we need candidates who can restore the American Dream, the belief that we can become the best version of ourselves and leave the world a better place than we found it.

How do we create cities of hope? It seems as if there are a number of key ingredients:

1. Low crime rates.

2. Good, safe schools.

3. A business-friendly environment.

4. Low property tax rates.

We need to ask what causes high crime rates? Certainly one of the key factors is fatherless homes. But bad immigration policy hurts, too. America did something wrong when it essentially looked the other way in the seventies and the eighties and let illegal immigrants flood into our country. We did it because we wanted their cheap labor.

Many conservatives want to deport illegal immigrants. On one level, that is understandable. They broke the law. But on another level, we exploited them, too. We let them come because we didn’t have to pay them the minimum wage. We didn’t have to pay them extravagant union benefits. As the years turned into decades, many of these workers became established, but not fully integrated, in our communities. How could they become fully integrated? They could be sent home. They were subject to exploitation by predators who knew they couldn’t turn to the local police for protection without fear of deportation.

As a result, communities throughout our country have large pockets of people living in a state of hopelessness. What a lousy way to run a city, a state, a country.

So what do we do? I think Newt Gingrich has this issue right. It is impractical, unaffordable, and even impossible to try round up every undocumented worker in this country and ship them home. Some politicians call for a “comprehensive” immigration reform. But that is unlikely to happen. President Bush couldn’t get it done with a Republican Congress. President Obama couldn’t get it done with a Democratic Congress. And the American people don’t trust Congress with comprehensive reform anyway.

Congress needs to do one thing at a time. That starts with securing our borders.

Mr. Gingrich has outlined a formula for dealing with undocumented workers that I believe is humane and good for America. It would create a path to an earned legal guest worker status, but not citizenship. Here is how Mr. Gingrich describes the process:

“Applicants must first pass a criminal background check, and then the local committees will assess applications based on family and community ties, and ability to support oneself via employment without the assistance of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs.

The government will rigorously enforce a requirement that all individuals seeking this path to legality must be able to prove that they can independently pay for private health insurance. If an individual cannot prove this, they will lose the ability to stay in the United States.  Furthermore, proficiency in English within a certain number of years, similar to the requirement for naturalization, will be required for anyone who seeks continued legal status in the United States.

Once an applicant has been granted the right to obtain legal status, he or she will have to pay a penalty of at least $5,000.  Moving forward, those who receive this status will have to prove on a regular basis that they can support themselves without entitlement programs and pay for health insurance or else risk the ability to stay in the United States.”

Gingrich says we must end the “catch and release” practice where criminals are returned to society. He calls for the efficient and expeditious deportation of these criminals and gang members.

Gingrich emphasizes the need for English as the official language for America and the teaching of American Exceptionalism to prospective new citizens.

In my small business, my wife and I have had the opportunity to work with Hispanic small business owners throughout the country. Our experience with these men and women is consistent: they are humble, hard working, warm, and courteous to a fault. I’d like to have more clients like them.

Mr. Gingrich’s rivals characterize his immigration approach as amnesty. I’ve read his entire plan. It is not accurate to call it amnesty, because he is not advocating citizenship. He is allowing the best of the undocumented workers with roots in our country to redress their past crime, and move forward as productive members of society.

He wants to keep the best of the best.

I believe this is one step in building cities of hope.