At heart, the problem with immigration is not the border. The problem is that Congress does not offer enough green cards to good people who qualify.

Currently, the waiting period for an immigrant from Mexico is eight years. That's just too long. The waiting period drives even good people to the smugglers to get here illegally, because they know jobs are waiting for them here.

Smart immigration policy would make the green card a commodity. It would increase the number of green cards to cover existing illegal aliens who can pass a criminal background check, but it would also increase the fees associated with becoming legal, and shorten the waiting times.

Central Americans in the U.S. work some of the most demeaning jobs. Our citizenry often won't do these jobs except at wages too high for their industries to remain sustainable, as we see in certain labor-intensive sectors of agriculture and service industries. We need these workers, but we also need to keep out the criminals, especially the deadly Central American and Mexican gangs that have infiltrated California.

The answer is to increase the number of green cards to cover the existing backlog, raise the application fee, and reduce the wait time to 18 months. This would not only clean up the backlog, it would also put criminals and coyotes who thrive on human smuggling out of business. The government could charge rates substantially higher than the roughly $5,000 that smugglers currently charge – after all, legitimate residency is worth a lot more money than a border crossing that results in a life in the shadows.

Eager applicants could even use an installment plan to finance the cost. At 7 percent interest over seven years, and at a new price of, say, $10,000 per green card, the first million applicants would, over that period, contribute about $20 billion to the U.S. Treasury. The 1.8 million DACA applicants could contribute a similar large sum as well even if their fee is half that.

This would also nearly put smugglers out of business and reduce illicit border crossings to a mere trickle. The frontier would be much easier to patrol, and criminals would have a harder time mixing in among otherwise law-abiding illegal crossers. Meanwhile, a million illegal immigrants who already work and pay taxes, who lack legitimate Social Security numbers and will therefore will never reap the benefits of the payroll taxes they pay, can finally step forward and formally join the life of our nation, publicly and without fear.

Andrew D. Conner, PSM, is a Professional Surveyor and Mapper with 30 years of experience in Land Title, Eminent Domain, and Private Sector Construction Surveying in Miami, Florida, USA, and recently returned from working overseas in Panama.

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