Let's Fund the Departure of Some Illegal Aliens

By David North on January 31, 2011

There are, according to Paul Simon, "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," but, by my count, only three ways for illegal aliens to leave the interior of the United States.

In order to cause more illegal aliens to leave the U.S., which I regard as a good thing, I think there should be a fourth departure plan, a gentle one.

Bear in mind the multitudinous exit strategies of the popular song:

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

My concept is that living illegally in the U.S. can be a fraught relationship, somewhat like the ones that Jack, Stan, and Roy want to end.

At the moment, if you are here illegally – and it is helpful if the reader put him/herself in the position of the illegal – there are just three ways to leave the U.S. unless you are apprehended right at the southern border, where there is a bit more variety. But supposing you are in Seattle, illegally, and are contemplating the alternatives:

  1. You can be deported, involuntarily – at Uncle Sam's expense – with serious, follow-on legal complications for you. This happens only if the government finds you and decides that you are not here legally; this is an option you can fight in court, at your expense.

  2. You can opt for government-recorded voluntary departure – at your expense – with minimal follow-on legal complications for you. This is routinely a forced option, once the government has found you, and is threatening deportation. Some apprehended illegal aliens opt for it. Sometimes it is granted to illegals who do not, in fact, use it, and stay illegally. Or,

  3. You can slip out the back, Jack, leaving the nation in a totally undocumented way, again, at your expense.

The first two alternatives involve the government, as a law-and-order regulator; the third does not involve the government. How about a fourth option, in which the government plays a helpful role to meet a social objective – to reduce the illegal alien population – just as the government currently uses the tax system to meet another social objective, home ownership?

My notion is that a not-insignificant number of people could be nudged out of the nation, particularly during a recession, at minimal government expense. (Bear in mind that deportation currently runs up court costs and often detention facility costs, neither of which would be a factor in the fourth departure scheme.)

Let me offer a little story to support the suggestion. Many years ago a friend of mine was in an unhappy marital situation. He was working and he wanted to leave his (unemployed) spouse; to do so he would have to set up an apartment for himself, leaving his wife in the pair's house. His salary was adequate for their then ongoing expenses, but not enough to cover setting up a separate household. He was deeply unhappy but felt trapped; so he stayed in the marriage for a long time.

Then, along came a couple of ad hoc extra sources of short-term income, over and above the ongoing salary, and he found he could rent an apartment for himself, after all. So he separated and started a new life.

My sense is that there are some illegal aliens in the U.S. who, like my friend, feel trapped. Things may not be going well (medically, romantically, financially, or legally) but they cannot make other arrangements, either in this country, or back home, because of financial constraints. Maybe they would like to go back home, but lack the airfare to do so.

Enter the fourth departure option, which could be called "assisted voluntary departure."

Under this scheme, the alien simply goes to a DHS office, says that he is in the nation illegally and wants to go home. He (or she) agrees to be photographed and fingerprinted, and surrenders (without penalty) all U.S.-issued identification documents, whether genuine, counterfeit, or obtained illicitly. He also agrees not to try to re-enter the U.S. again, in any capacity, for the next three or maybe four years. He is given a photo-bearing Departure Card, that gets him through security at the nearest international airport, and a check for $200 or $300 that can be cashed only by the alien, and only in his nation of origin, not in the U.S. He needs the Departure Card to cash the check.

That card, incidentally, carries big black letters that say "Do Not Employ the Bearer."

His biometrics are then entered in the various security systems so that he would be identified if he sought re-admission to the country during the specified period. After that time, should he be able to obtain a visa, he could return, but there would be no guarantee.

Perhaps the program could be designed to give him, after his return home, small checks every six months, which he would need to obtain, in person, at a U.S. consulate; the objective being to keep him outside the U.S. The checks might be funded by a drawdown on whatever funds he had paid in FICA taxes. These post-arrival checks are not a fundamental part of the Assisted Voluntary Departure program, and might even be used only in an experimental program to see how effective they were in keeping the study group of former illegal aliens back in their home country.

The scheme probably should not be offered to citizens of Canada or Mexico, on the grounds that an illegal return to the U.S. is relatively easy to arrange.

The central notion is that it would lure some illegal aliens to leave the country, the folks who want to get out of their current jam, and want to try something different – but to try it back home. It would be widely publicized in, among others, foreign language radio programs.

Or, as Paul Simon put it:

You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free.