There are no more countries

MAINE VOICES: George D. Hepner III, Friday, January 23, 2004

There are no more countries

Copyright 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

President Bush is calling for some form of guest worker program, allowing foreign nationals to work in the United States for an initial period of three years, even those workers now here illegally.

At first blush, this program seems to recognize the new reality of Mexamerica, that part of Mexico and the United States that functions economically as one country. The question is, however, whether the Bush program is the correct way to deal with this new reality.

I say no. Tinkering with a statute as complex as the U.S. immigration law is always asking for trouble. The incredibly convoluted deportation system will have to be rethought and rewritten if the Bush proposal is made into law.

The demand on government resources also would be immense. The great majority of the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States will be seeking benefits under this quasi-amnesty and will all eventually seek permanent residence (a “green card”). Imagine 8 million people seeking permanent residence in one year.

Regardless of one’s position on this new program, there already is a crying need for reform in the processing of applications. It can take months to obtain a simple work permit, and applicants for a permanent labor certification often have to wait four years or more. Those who appeal application denials usually give up after years of waiting. This new program cannot be implemented without massive new funding.

These lengthy delays are increasingly causing the world’s technical and scientific elite, including the world’s most talented computer programmers, engineers and scientists, to go elsewhere. Recently I learned that in the United Kingdom, a work permit is usually issued within 24 hours.

The solution is fairly simple, once one accepts the new reality.

There are no more countries. Not like there were even 30 years ago. Yes, there are still borders, different legal systems, different flags and different languages, but look at what is happening:

A large Russian company recently acquired a U.S. steel mill. The acquisition attracted scant media attention.

Here in Portland, I am person- ally familiar with British, French, German, Swiss, Dutch, Italian, Canadian, Norwegian, Danish, Indian, Irish, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese nationals, both investors and entrepreneurs, buying existing businesses and establishing new ones.

There are now only a handful of currencies that really matter in the international business world – the U.S. dollar, the euro and the yen.

The number of persons worldwide with two or more passports (dual nationals) is exploding.

The solution? Open all the borders from Hudson Bay to Mexico’s southern border. Embrace the concept of being a citizen of North America. Along with the open borders program, create a new NAFTA permitting a citizen of any of the three signatory countries to live and work in any of the three signatory countries, effectively creating a North American Economic Union.

In 20 years the open borders area would extend to the Panama/Colombia border, and later, even farther south. This is not as radical as it sounds. France and Germany, once bitter rivals, now have an open border, as does the rest of the European Union.

Opening our border would not cause a huge influx from Mexico, as some might fear. Most Mexicans are not dying to work in the United States. Most Mexicans like their country and want to stay. Yes, some Mexicans would head north, but if they could not find work, they would probably go home.

Let’s recognize where North America and the world are headed. We need to open our borders and create a true North American economic zone.

– Special to the Press Herald


George D. Hepner, III of Gorham is the Co-Chair of the International Practice Group at Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson. He regularly represents clients in virtually all areas of immigration law, including family, investor, business, student, deportation, exclusion and asylum-related immigration matters. A certified translator, he regularly conducts business in French, German, Spanish and Italian.

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