1. Immigration Reform

A New Model for Comprehensive Communities Evaluation, Safety, Housing, Judicial Practicality and Benefit to Our Country

Immigration Reform - White Paper #1Executive Summary

In the United States, illegal immigration continues to be a controversial issue and heated topic of debate. Every country needs a framework and system by which people can move from one country to another. Solutions to societal issues like immigration require a whole system approach that brings together government agencies, philanthropic organizations and foundations, and corporate entities.

To fully address the complexities of immigration, there is a need for reformed immigration policies and a system to screen and evaluate those seeking asylum and/or United States citizenship. Current policies focus on enforcement and militarization at the Mexican border. However, developing a clearer path to legal immigration that focuses on evaluative methods to citizenship could save lives, enhance border security, and ensure that those gaining citizenship are competent and ready to contribute to the country.

We propose an adaptable, fluid framework that government agencies, city officials, and private and corporate entities can use to develop and implement immigration reform that meets the needs of U.S. citizens as well as immigrants seeking citizenship. The development of “immigrant communities” built near borders and border towns where immigrants can work for citizenship creates an opportunity for safety both for immigrants and American citizens.

Basic human physical and emotional needs lie at the heart of these communities and the overall work-for-citizenship framework. Maintaining human dignity and respect is of utmost importance. The framework enables those seeking citizenship to work for the benefit of the United States. It can give U.S. immigration officials and peer-applying immigrants an opportunity to discern and evaluate the best candidates for citizenship. This process would provide invaluable information to ensure that high-quality, reliable immigrants enter the country.

Financially, this framework creates a definitive way to reduce the billions of dollars spent on patrolling, enforcing, detaining, and deporting illegal immigrants, while immigrants seeking citizenship work on projects specifically designed to benefit the United States. We are submitting the paper to the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. We would welcome any connection to support submitting this paper to President Biden as well.

The Current State of Immigration

Immigration policies in the last four years have focused on enforcement and militarization of the U.S./Mexico border rather than implementing policies that create long-term safety for U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries. American citizens desire safety, security, and new citizens with the motivation and skills to contribute to a healthy society and growing economy.

Immigrants also desire safety, security, and the opportunity to support their families and contribute to a healthy society. Side-by-side, the wants of American citizens and immigrants are not that different. The goals are so similar, yet sometimes the distance between what citizens want and what immigrants want is lost due to a narrow view of universal human needs. Enforcement and militarization of the borders create a sense of fear, turning borders into an imagined war zone rather than a transition zone between countries. 

There has been an all to frequent message that the U.S. needs protection from illegal immigrants, who bring violence, poverty, and drugs with them. It is a message that promotes enforcement and harsh militarization that morphs into paranoia and aggression as stereotyping and mislabeling distort reality, creating a fear reaction that is not supported by real statistics. It stems from both fear, misunderstanding, and insensitivity to those in need in the name of excessive national pride and authoritative control, and on a world stage, international disconnection. In reality, immigrant communities dominantly function off of a requisite need for hard work, efficiency, and a general sense of goodwill toward their host country.

Instead of policies that make U.S. citizens feel like they need protection from the impoverished, we need to work on policies that implement strong boundaries to protect everyone with appropriate limits. This framework sets those boundaries and, after the initial costs, has the potential to offer yearly net gains in dollars and human lives.

A Framework for Change: Build a Stronger Nation and Protect All the Vulnerable

Immigration reform must address the political, human, and practical needs of all involved parties. Policies need to protect American citizens and those seeking citizenship from those who disturb the immigrant community, such as individuals who clearly bring with them prejudice, hostility, or a distorted idea of the intentions to live a life of respectful freedom.

The following framework would make the United States the first country in the world to develop a comprehensive, discerning immigration system with built-in evaluation methods that would ensure entering immigrants can contribute to society and the economy before granting citizenship. It would also be a first to offer on-the-job training designed to benefit the host nation.

This framework protects the vulnerable and creates opportunities for those within the immigrant community while greatly reducing dangers to American citizens. Finally, it creates a clear entitlement (because it offers a clear legal way to earn entry) to create strong, enforceable boundaries that protect the U.S. from those who take advantage of illegal immigration.

International and Domestic Cooperation and Collaboration to Develop Separate Immigrant Communities Near Border Towns

The framework starts with the creation of “immigrant communities” near but separate from border towns. Immigrants will live in these communities in safety with opportunities to work for their citizenship.

Immigration policies and reform will likely function best with cooperation on both sides of the border to support border towns and immigrant communities. Success relies on a partnership between asylum seekers, immigrants, and the city, county, and state governments in which they are sheltered. The two national governments will need to work hand in hand to accomplish a viable system of asylum-seeking that includes health criteria, work capacity, and other determining factors.

The framework will also require that the U.S. government clearly communicate to other countries the maximum immigration number limits for each immigrant community before the infrastructure and construction begin. Setting limits will prevent overwhelming the service, training, and living facilities within each community as well as lay the groundwork for better control over immigration numbers.

Both countries must build and develop immigrant communities that involve key community players, such as administrators, judges, attorneys, teachers, mentors, security officers, construction workers, cooks, and others key to a functioning infrastructure. The immigrant communities need to be as self-sustaining and independent as possible. There will also need to be clear guidelines for immigrants to follow, along with easily identified locations to start the immigration process so that there is access without prejudicial discrimination and general knowledge as to how people can sign up for legal immigration.

The federal government will hold the responsibility of developing a comprehensive screening process for entrance into the immigrant communities. The interview process will focus on admitting only competent individuals and families who can provide prolonged contribution to the nation. The priority is to prevent low performers or those who are not willing to contribute from entering. There will be a certain percentage that do not get into the immigrant communities and others that won’t make it into the country. We are not trying to define that number here or even the criteria for discernment but acknowledge what will happen as finer-tuned guidelines are developed by the U.S. Immigration Department.

Cooperation is key on the domestic side of this immigration framework, too. It will likely take a collaboration between government, corporate, and philanthropic entities to fund the needed construction and infrastructure development. However, collaboration opens the door for a multi-funded endeavor if the government is not able to fully fund the process on its own.

For example, the government would likely donate the land and possibly the full services provided. Foundations may make Project Related Investments (PRI’s) and corporations donate funds to show their customers and clients their commitment to the country and future generations. PRIs would either be paid off by a small profit that comes from the services provided by the immigrants to the neighboring communities or by the government over time. There is also potential to partner with banks using Community Development Loan Funds to lessen the upfront money needed by the government.

Immigration has fallen under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation in 2003. From that time to 2021, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) costs went from $5.9 billion to $17.7 billion, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went from $3.3 billion to $8.3 billion. U.S. Border Patrol agents have gone from 4,139 in 1993 to 23,645 in 2018. The costs and needed personnel continue to grow because there is not a comprehensive legal path to citizenship. Consequently, the timing is ripe for an immigration plan that is financially feasible and beneficial to the United States and provides safety and dignity for those seeking citizenship. 

It will take further research to determine whether the costs will go up or down once the infrastructure is in place. However, when considering the work contribution while they wait for final evaluation, it seems inevitable that it will lead to reduced costs.

Supporting Border Towns and Creating Secure Immigrant Communities

Beyond the international and domestic funding and logistics, this framework’s foundation relies on a work-for-citizenship model that requires immigrants to prove through a multi-level evaluation process that their citizenship would benefit the country. We have already established that the federal government will determine the guidelines and interview process to narrow down the selection criteria. The immigrant communities themselves will be designed to support nearby border towns while protecting American citizens and providing a safe place for immigrants to live and work while earning citizenship.

Access to water will greatly determine the location of immigrant communities, which will also be near or in the vicinity of border towns. The estimated population of each immigrant community will fall between 5,000 to 20,000 people but may vary by water availability. Each potential immigrant community will be designed to accommodate the ability of the surrounding cities and agencies to support and secure them, as well as receive benefit from them. For example, there would not be a large immigration center near a town without the funds, population, or infrastructure to support it.

Within the communities, immigrants would have access to training, health services, and education to help with the integration process when or if they are granted citizenship. But these communities will be more than training centers for future citizens. They will be a safe place for people to live, develop, and grow while going through the immigration process. Each community would include at minimum:

  • Meal centers with cafeterias and centralized kitchens to maximize efficiency and provide work opportunities (If they were in close enough proximity, a central kitchen could potentially serve more than one immigrant community, improving cost and production efficiency.)
  • Movie theaters and entertainment centers to watch movies in English and Spanish
  • Gaming and play centers for children
  • Community outdoor spaces
  • Community centers
  • Immediate work opportunities very likely including work in regenerative agriculture and solar energy

Community centers would also provide a central hub from which residents would have access to work and language training and some of the assigned work opportunities. Work projects may also take residents to other areas like the community kitchen, gardens/agriculture, or other training and work locations within the community.

Training and work are key elements of the work-for-citizenship model. U.S. officials can see who shows motivation, innovation, and special skills, during training and work as a bi-partisan way to screen immigrants. Training and work opportunities can also be tailored to meet the needs of the surrounding U.S. communities and those around the nation. Essentially the immigrant communities could train workers for industries in need of skilled labor.

These work and training opportunities would be part of the evaluation process as directed by the U.S. Immigration Department and Congress. Evaluations by direct supervisors, administrators, mentors, and fellow immigrants would become part of the discernment process when determining who gets citizenship and who does not.  However, judges would make the final decision in a locally built courthouse, keeping the process financially and logistically streamlined.

Adults will not be the only ones with access to education. Onsite schools will provide education, including language training, for school-age children and adults. Daycare pods for babies and toddlers younger than school age will provide child care while parents work. Parents may take turns providing care for the youngest children so that everyone gets access to and opportunities for language and work training and work opportunities.

These immigrant communities would be designed to put immigrants within easy access to services that are crucial to their potential citizenship. Each community would either have a well-located courthouse or access to a courthouse in an adjacent community so that residents do not have to leave the community while working through the judicial system. Close access prevents a lack of transportation from interfering with court dates or processing legal forms. This arrangement would also provide access to legal representation that specializes in immigration. Financially, a local judicial system reduces costs and lets immigrants go through evaluation locally to ensure efficiency and safety.

Finally, the immigrant communities would each have medical and emergency management services, with emergency alerts for immediate responses to medical emergencies or violence. Community health centers would include security officers and mental and physical health services. That would also include ambulatory services as needed for those incidents outside of the capabilities of the onsite facilities and staff. Local access to medical care keeps costs low by preventing the use of emergency room and ambulatory services for minor injuries or illnesses.

Balancing the Costs with a Beneficial, Targeted Work-for-Citizenship Model to Support the Country While Granting Rights to Gain Citizenship

The first question when discussing new policies and programs is almost always about expense. This framework creates a way to cut costs and create a safer path to citizenship that benefits the country and those seeking citizenship. To minimize the costs of the physical aspects of housing, the focus needs to be on building structures using energy-efficient materials, opting for the lowest cost with quality, pre-built options. Cost-effective sheltering would include toilet, shower, bed, and comfortable seating, focusing on maximizing dignity while minimizing cost.

While the cost-effectiveness of each unit is important, these homes should also provide the privacy and dignity that allows the occupants to feel a sense of contentment, safety, and privacy. Tiny homes, travel trailers, and mobile homes are the current, most readily available solution, with costs falling between $25,000 to $30,000 per unit. Purchasing and constructing them on a large scale may reduce the already affordable costs, creating affordable housing at scale to jump start the community. The costs would also include the expenses of connecting to water, electricity (or solar), and plumbing. The cost of connecting to utilities varies by location, but once the system is in place, the average price falls to around $1,500 if the central utilities are located near the community. 

In any of these mobile units, families and individuals can live in privacy, with access to a shower, bed, and small living space. Which option (mobile home, travel trailer, or tiny home) is the most cost effective may vary by location, just as land, labor, and material prices vary by location. The goal is to use the most cost-effective option for each community. 

After the initial investment in the community, the work-for-citizenship model paves the way to annual gains. Residents in the immigrant communities would be required to work (with provisions being made for childcare) for the betterment of the immigrant community, surrounding community, and the nation as a whole. Rather than receiving financial payment in dollars, their reward comes in the form of free room and board with minimalistic, dignified safe housing, medical care, and healthy food with the potential to gain citizenship.

The following numbers are rough estimates, and a government body would need to make an in-depth financial analysis, but if we assume that in a community of 10,000 people, there are 8,000 working adults (2,000 children) who would work 40 hours per week providing at least $6 worth of work per hour (the actual value of the work would be much higher, but we are making a low estimate), they would supply $1,920,000 of labor per week and $7,680,000 per month.

The following table estimates some of the predicted yearly costs to run an immigrant community. It is not all-inclusive and would require multiple sources of research and different real-world estimates but provides a glimpse into the costs and how those costs can be balanced with the work provided by the community residents.

Yearly Employment Costs Per Immigrant Community


Yearly Salary*

# Per 10,000


Cooks and Food Service Workers








Sanitation Workers




Immigration Officers




Judges and Hearing Officers




Security Personnel




Maintenance Workers




Construction Workers




Immigration Attorneys








Physicians Assistants








Administrative Staff








*Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yearly supervisory costs come in at approximately $30,938,350, yet the residents of the community have the potential to produce $92,160,000 in work annually, creating an annual net gain of approximately $64 million. In time, the communities would pay for themselves with the potential to positively contribute to the country as a whole.

However, if the community residents work in industries that can support the community and reduce supervisory costs, the potential for a self-sustaining community grows even higher. A focus on industries like regenerative agriculture and solar energy, where there is a growing demand in the United States and potential for supporting the immigrant communities can help balance the initial community costs.

Gabe Brown, owner of Brown’s Ranch, instructor at Soil Health Academy, and pioneer in the regenerative agriculture community, is already prepared to coordinate and supervise the development of regenerative agriculture for these communities. (Learn more about Gabe Brown by listening to the interview on the TMC podcast.) He has developed and trained in the regenerative agriculture industry for years. Using practices that build and sustain the soil, efficiently use water, and produce food, the immigrant communities can sustain their community and the surrounding cities while developing skills for use after obtaining citizenship.

Regenerative agriculture, like solar energy, is an industry needed for the future of our country and beyond, giving immigrants access to skilled agricultural jobs. People could work in areas where they already have skills or learn new skills in needed local industries.

Many of the occupations needed to run the communities can be supplemented by work provided by immigrant residents as well, further reducing the net costs of running the communities. There is potential to partnership with non-profit organizations like GRID Alternatives, based out of Oakland, California, to provide solar industry training. The learned skills can be used to install solar panels and fields for 100 percent clean power in the immigrant community and potentially supply power to surrounding communities as well.

Food service non-profits like EveryTable that prepare healthy, nutritious meals for low-income communities and the homeless that would welcome the meal preparation help provided by immigrant workers. The use of immigrant labor could further reduce their costs to the point that EveryTable would only pay for the food’s transportation, extending the number of people they would be able to serve.

Opportunities for composting, regenerative agriculture, and optimum water use practices offer sustainable food sources for the immigrant community and the surrounding border towns. There could even be work opportunities based on the skills the immigrants bring with them. For example, a group could make crafts or other goods to be sold at local supermarkets with profits contributing to the financial maintenance of the community.

All of these work opportunities would also create leadership opportunities for the residents. Once individuals have been trained and work for a certain period of time, they would be eligible to supervise or act as foreman over other residents, saving costs on administration and supervision and proving their skills when it comes time for evaluation. They would also develop managerial skills for use after they become citizens.

Any and all work projects will benefit the immigrant community, surrounding communities, and/or the United States as a whole. There is potential for each community to become self-sustaining and a benefit to the U.S.

However, the financial benefits go beyond the labor provided by immigrants, extending into how the communities function within the immigration process. They would change the dynamic of immigration, producing safer immigration and, consequently, reducing the billions of dollars spent on illegal immigration.

The immigration budget and enforcement has fallen under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation in 2003. From that time to 2021, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) costs went from $5.9 million to $17.7 million, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went from $3.3 million to $8.3 million. The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has gone from 4,139 in 1993 to 23,645 in 2018. Without a comprehensive path to citizenship, the costs and needed personnel will only continue to grow because enforcement and militarization cannot solve the overwhelming need for a legal path to citizenship.

While there are upfront costs for these immigrant communities once the infrastructure is in place, the annual costs will almost inevitably lead to an annual net gain. In 2019, ICE shifted budget dollars from various locations to increase detention funds, increasing their detention numbers from 40,520 beds to 55,000 beds. The work-for-citizenship model would similarly require the shifting of already existing funds to the immigrant communities. Once shifted, the number of ICE and CBP personnel and officers would decline. Some of these jobs would shift to supervisory, security, and other positions within the immigrant communities.

Cost reductions would continue to come from a variety of angles, including but not limited to:

  • A reduced need for ICE and CPB officers and personnel
  • A reduced need for police
  • Fewer medical costs due to less use of emergency services
  • Greatly reduce public safety issues for both the immigrants and the general public
  • Reduced alienation of immigrants by providing a system through which they can follow a step-by-step method to gain entrance and citizenship
  • Less need for ICE officers and operations
  • Fewer violence-related costs like police officers, first responders, and medical costs
  • Fewer immigration-related instances that require jail time or detention
  • Reduced trial-related expenses
  • Quality control gains by using a system that discerns entry and useful services

A portion of the money spent on border security and interior enforcement could then be used to cover the community’s supervisory and infrastructure costs. But this framework is about more than saving money. It has the potential to save human lives. The U.S. Border Patrol reports that an average of one person dies each day at the Southwest border. Men, women, and children die in an effort to find a better, safer life.

With this type of probationary system in place, the need for illegal border crossings goes down. Drownings, truck crossings, death by exposure, and other dangerous forms of entry will take fewer lives.

Developing a Multi-Faceted Evaluation Process

This work-for-citizenship model will rely on an established evaluation process to determine the best, most suitable people for citizenship. Congress will continue to decide on immigration numbers for a given year as well as the federal guidelines for citizenship. There would need to be a negotiation process to determine the end parameters, with the ultimate goal of letting in those who work and contribute while rejecting those who perform poorly. Once those parameters are in place, a multi-faceted evaluation system within the immigrant community would contribute to the final determination of each resident.

Supervisors, U.S. officials, and peers within the community will all participate in the evaluation process. U.S. authorities and work supervisors look for employable skills, reliability, and productivity. Peer evaluations of fellow immigrants would revolve around character, capacity, self-discipline, and work habits. Ultimately, the evaluation system would help determine who would make the best contribution to the United States.

The evaluation process would also act as layered protection for American citizens. By the time an immigrant was granted citizenship, they would have gone through several evaluations from supervisors and peers, giving U.S. officials making the final decision greater discernment. An evaluative process gives insight into who people are and what they can bring and contribute to society. The evaluation process will adapt and change as officials understand what kind of characteristics predict future success to make sure those gaining citizenship can contribute to the United States and be safe.

Safety and Security

The current narrative surrounding immigration revolves around maintaining safety and security for the average American citizen. The American Immigration Council estimates the annual cost of CBP and ICE to reach $26 billion in 2021, yet most citizens do not feel safer, and immigrants still find themselves in unhealthy, dangerous circumstances crossing borders or languishing in detention centers. This proposed framework concentrates on the need for security for U.S. citizens while also considering the need for safety and security within the immigrant community.

For the safety of the surrounding towns, each immigrant community would have clearly marked “town boundaries” with electronic surveillance systems to secure that boundary. Residents would not be allowed to leave the community. Any and all transportation would be provided by designated staff or even legal immigrants who can communicate and empathize while, at the same time, adding another layer of protection over movements in and out of the community. Illegal, antisocial, violent behavior, or other rule violations (as determined by the appropriate members of Immigration Enforcement and Congress) would be grounds for removal from the community, with the offender being sent back to their home country.

For the framework to succeed, there have to be real consequences for illegal immigration, both for the illegal immigrants and for the American citizens who employ them. Clear consequences for American citizens who hire illegal immigrants, such as severe fines, arrest, or jail time that hinders their ability to make a profit, must be strictly enacted and enforced. Enforcement carries more weight when there is an attractive, legal alternative.

To a large extent, the United States has turned its back by not enforcing illegal immigration for decades. The most egregious negligence on the part of the U.S. government was that it had not created a viable path toward legal citizenship. This, of course, encouraged illegal entry. Borders have been left open, and by not prosecuting employers who hire illegal immigrants, we have passively condoned their behavior, turning a blind eye to reap the gains of cheap labor. In some ways, this was a natural response because there is a need for a significant workforce in agriculture and menial, physically demanding jobs.

Once we implement a viable, legal way to entrance and citizenship, it gives us the natural, ethical right with clear justification and rationale to enforce the law and prosecute both employers and illegal immigrants because they have then chosen to bypass the provided legal opportunities.

Part of establishing this framework would include the need for a law or laws with provisions for illegal immigrants already in the country. It will be up to Congress and other government bodies to determine the best course of action. However, an option to apply for legal status or “upgrade” their citizenship could be a possibility if they meet certain work and legal criteria, such as not having broken the law. A proven record of abiding by the law and consistent hard work could put them on a course to citizenship that requires a work period to benefit the country or other means to prove or establish their self-sufficiency.

Laws that acknowledge the variety of legal complications, histories, and needs of those already in the country and those seeking citizenship honors and acknowledges that, as a country, we will maintain a policy of enforced legal entry.

Conclusion: A Framework that Benefits and Protects the Country and Nurtures Those Seeking Citizenship

This framework would potentially satisfy the needs of the citizens of the United States and provide a better and safer way for immigrants to gain citizenship. It uses healthy principles of developing safe, clear boundaries while developing an immigration policy the United States can be proud of. It allows us to take responsibility for our own lack of prior enforcement while offering a realistic way for legal entry yet maintain fairness to those law-abiding, past “illegal immigrants.” From a psychological standpoint, unreliable boundaries create the sources of fight and flight, power struggles, and unhealthy relationships we see surrounding immigration. Clear boundaries, as proposed with this framework and model, set the groundwork for peace, cooperation, and trust.

The current system creates alienation, crime, hardship, fear, and even death. The suggested framework brings immigrants participating in the program pride and allows US citizens to trust a discerning system. The potential efficiency and goodwill of an immigrant community working for citizenship would very possibly become a model for the world.

America will establish itself as the leader and model for the rest of the world to innovate their programs to coordinate immigration with their own unique concerns.

Use for the ending. Finally, a cost-effective model and could be a leader and develop a model to help the entire world.

Robert Strock is a teacher, psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation, and inquiry. He promotes national and international conversations on healing, having been a featured speaker at the UN, contributed to global documentaries, and runs a thriving private practice for business, non-profit, entertainment industry, and government leaders, as well as caregivers in a variety of fields.

Robert is an innovator in the field of psychology and is sought after for presentations, trainings, and consultation in corporate settings, non-profits, and with media audiences providing emotional and leadership guidance in times of global strife and uncertainty.


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Brown’s Ranch – Welcome. http://brownsranch.us/

EveryTable – Mission. https://www.everytable.com/mission/

Government Accountability Office. (1995). ILLEGAL ALIENS: National Net Cost Estimates Vary Widely. https://www.gao.gov/assets/hehs-95-133.pdf

GRID Alternatives – What We Do. https://gridalternatives.org/what-we-do

Massey, DS, et al. (2016). Why Border Enforcement Backfired. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5049707/

Salant, TJ, et al. (2008). Undocumented immigrants in U.S. — Mexico border counties: The costs of law enforcement and criminal justice services. The University of Arizona. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/223285.pdf

Soil Health Academy – Gabe Brown. https://soilhealthacademy.org/team/gabe-brown/

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – https://www.bls.gov/

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