The Red Card Solution

Editor’s Note: The following is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College that discusses a recent column by Ann Coulter that criticized Newt Gingrich for advocating Helen Krieble’s “Red Card Solution” for America’s illegal workers problem. The Center’s Lee Wishing spoke with Helen Krieble about the red card. Ms. Krieble will be a speaker at the Center’s April 19 – 20 conference, “The Challenge 2012: The Divided Conservative Mind.”

V&V: Criticizing your “Red Card Solution,” Ann Coulter recently said that immigrant workers holding red cards could “stay, take American jobs, have children, receive welfare benefits, attend public schools—and eventually be granted amnesty.” Would you tell us what the red card program entails and why you think it’s a workable solution to certain problems involving immigrant workers?

Helen Krieble: The “Red Card Solution” begins with separating temporary work status from citizenship—two entirely separate processes. Businesses could post jobs with private employment firms located outside the United States and licensed by the government to issue work permits. Workers would undergo background checks to ensure they are not criminals, and smart-card technology would be used to track them and enforce the terms of their employment while in the United States. The work permit would not offer a path to citizenship or permanent status, and the costs would be entirely funded by user fees, not taxpayers. The vast majority of workers would then cross through gates, rather than sneak over fences, and would be taxpayers while in the United States, not tax drainers.

V&V: Would holders of red cards “eventually be granted amnesty,” as Coulter suggests? And would they receive welfare benefits or be able to attend public schools?

Krieble: The Red Card Solution does not support amnesty, no matter how many years someone has been breaking the law. It does not propose a path to permanent residency or citizenship. Only government can grant citizenship, a very serious life-changing decision by an immigrant who understands America’s history, culture, ideals, language, and government. Anyone in the world can apply for U.S. citizenship, but status as a guest worker should not confer any special place in line. Guest workers should not be eligible for welfare or other public benefits, nor should their children be automatic citizens. If they want such rights, there is a naturalization process for citizenship applicants, but that should have nothing whatsoever to do with temporary guest workers. That separation is one of the hallmarks of the Red Card Solution. Further, illegals already in the United States would have to leave the country and apply for the Red Card, prove employment, undergo the background check, and enter the country legally. There would be no amnesty for those in the country illegally.

V&V: Some critics of the red card are concerned that children born to red card holders while working in the United States would become “birthright citizens” as provided by the U.S. Constitution. How do you respond to this charge?

Krieble: We believe that is a misunderstanding of the intent of the 14th Amendment. It grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction. Congress has the right and responsibility to determine who that includes, and has done so on many occasions. It was never intended to include children born to diplomats, foreign nationals, visitors, or others whose primary loyalty is to another government. Allowing people to come to the United States specifically to have children here—and thereby obtain special treatment in the immigration process—is contrary to the intent of our Constitution, and it should not be allowed. It is certainly not part of the Red Card Solution.

V&V: Why and how did you come up with the idea for the red card? And do you think red card workers would be taking “American jobs,” as Ann Coulter states?

Krieble: My own experience in hiring workers gave me a clear understanding of how badly “broken” our current visa system is. It sets artificial quotas on the number of workers allowed—quotas which have no basis in economic reality—and it leaves administration to a bureaucracy that simply cannot handle day-to-day business decisions quickly enough to respond to business needs. The beauty of privatizing the hiring process is that private firms charge fees for their services. Businesses do not pay head-hunters to find workers if they are available locally, so there would be an automatic, market-based advantage to American workers—an advantage the current illegal system actually negates by creating a class of lower-paid and readily available workers.

V&V: Do most “temporary” workers simply become permanent illegals and then bring their families to the United States?

Krieble: This is common under the current system, which, by making legal work status so difficult, turns many people who intended to be temporary workers into permanent immigrants. The Red Card Solution would change that by making it easier for people to come and go to visit their families while working in the United States, allowing them to build a better life back home. Workers with families earning minimum wage in the United States are impoverished, where those same wages can make them well-off in many countries. Their strong incentive is to earn money and then return home, if our system would allow it.

V&V: Who would run the red card system and how long would it take to get it up and running if it were to be embraced by Congress and by a future U.S. president?

Krieble: Private firms match specific workers to specific jobs every day all over the world, and they are experts at it. Employment firms already exist everywhere, so implementation would be as fast as there is a market for workers, and as fast as background checks can ensure safety (such checks take only a few minutes for most gun shops). Once there is an available pool of legal workers, strong enforcement against businesses who continue to hire illegally would dry up the market for illegal workers, and the borders would become more secure very quickly without the tens of thousands of workers trying to sneak through.

V&V: Where can an interested person find more detailed information on exactly how the plan would work?

Krieble: For a short summary, a white paper, and a 15-minute documentary, please go to

V&V: Thank you Helen Krieble; we look forward to seeing you in April.

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  • janetdjm

    I live in Arizona, and am very familiar with the plight of immigrants from Mexico. I do like the red card concept to facilitate those who do want to work here temporarily. Most of the people I’ve met want to become citizens.
    I believe the problem IS because the work visa is separate from the citizenship. Work visas are 6-7 years, but it takes 11 years or more to gain citizenship! I

    If they work here, they pay taxes, live here and buy goods which supports the local economy. Their children should be allowed to go to school and college. If all their troubles are based on the geographic location of their birth, then if their children are born here, they should be citizens. They do not come here for welfare. Welfare benefits would not be enough reason to put up with all the hostility!

    Put yourself in their shoes. As hard as you’ve tried, there is no work to provide for your family. You scrape together money to apply for a work visa, and citizenship. You have a job and you work hard. Your children go to school. You make friends in your neighborhood, become active at your Church. Your family so appreciates each other and what you have. Seven years later you wake up, and you’re illegal. You have nothing to go back to, no where to go. You know there is a lottery for citizenship every year and you hope and pray yours will come through. What would you do?

    If you look at the history of sb1070, where it was crafted and tested in Virginia, how those behind the bill believe in white supremacy. At rallies organized to protest sb1070, there are those individuals who show up with confederate flags (klu klux klan). It is about race. My neighbor, a retired elementary school principal who went to the post office just after doing yard work was approached by a police officer who asked for identification. He had done nothing wrong, he just looked illegal. He was a Hispanic man in grubby clothes. Racial profiling does happen! At least Arizona made history by calling for a recall vote of our Senate President who kept pushing anti-immigrant legislation. He was voted out!

    I think it has to do with more than just racial hostility. (People here illegally from Canada are never an issue). I believe the problem is because Hispanics are known to be mostly Catholic. In educating myself on immigration, I was surprised on how hostile we have been in our history to immigrants, and to Catholics!

    For me, it was just 2 generations ago that my family immigrated from Ireland. I heard stories of how my grandfather worked very hard, trained others, but was never promoted because he was Catholic. They even would make him work shifts on Sunday to make him miss Mass. I too was told when looking for a job in Utah, that they didn’t want to hire a Catholic!

    To whom much is given, much is expected. Who are we to say that this belongs to US, God did not provide enough, and we won’t share? Its wrong to hunt them like a sport, break up families via sweeps and deportations hoping they’ll all leave. Why can’t we renew work visa’s until their citizenship comes through?

  • iagarcia2004

    This sounds like workable program on the surface. But I do not think that it will get the current undocumented aliens to apply for the Red Card. Here is the issue….currently if you have spent more than 1 year in the United States out of status (without a valid visa) then once the alien leaves the United States they trigger a 10 year bar. That bar can be waived by an American Citizen Spouse or Parent that can prove Undue and Unusual Harship to the American Cizitzen Spouse or Parent of the Alien. Many of the undocumented aliens do not have this….currently children are not qualifying relatives for the waiver… why would they want to go back to their home countries to apply for a Red Card? They will be banned for 10 years. If they would want this to work they would need to lift this ban or make it not applicable to those applying for the Red Card.