Supporters of “comprehensive” immigration reform often purport the zero sum argument that there must be permanent legalization or the forced deportation of all 12 million illegal immigrants. However, a new pilot program by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is testing another option.
The pilot of Operation Scheduled Departure allows non-criminal fugitive illegal immigrants, in other words those illegal immigrants who have received deportation orders but have not complied and have no criminal records, to turn themselves in at ICE offices in Charlotte, Chicago, Santa Ana, Phoenix and San Diego. These illegal immigrants would thereby be allowed to self-deport within the 90 day time frame, avoiding detention and being able to make their own plans to return home. They additionally benefit because participation in the program puts them on better standing with the government in case they ever wish to return legally.
I recently published a WebMemo in support of Operation Scheduled Departure and creating better alternatives to illegal immigration. I argue that “the better solution is to rely on law enforcement and market forces to end America’s addiction to undocumented labor and to create legitimate opportunities for immigrants to continue their contributions to keeping America safe, free, and prosperous.” The pilot program offers a good example to Congress on one means by which to seek enforcement of immigration law and move towards a system in which there are economic and other such incentives for immigrants to enter the country legally.