Lest I fall into the trap of thinking that big political problems have simple solutions, I’ll say this carefully.

We’ve created a brouhaha in Arizona by opting to enforce federal immigration laws at the state level. It’s estimated that non-effective enforcement of those laws by the U.S. Government, including a penetrable border with Mexico, have allowed around 11 million people to enter and live in the United States illegally. Once here, many of them benefit from medical care, public education, public housing, welfare, police, and social services provided by the cities, counties and states in which they choose to reside.

Bearing in mind my misgivings about simple solutions, it seems to me that a few key decisions could straighten out the biggest parts of the problem, both to prevent more illegal entry to the United States and to solve any issues caused by having undocumented residents. We also must ensure that our solution cannot be misconstrued as racism, which is a common obstacle to solving the problem, and is simply not a factor in my own little problem-solving exercise.

So, here is my simple-but-cautious four-stage solution:

1) Lock down the border. It’s an essential first step. If you can’t jump the line at Starbucks, you can’t jump the line at America. If we’re going to have a nation, it must have a border, and if we’re going to have a border, it must be protected. As Clarence B. Jones says in the Huffington Post, “We have the most sophisticated surveillance and monitoring technology in history, the most formidable military in the world, yet we are unable to stop the daily intrusion of illegal immigrants from Mexico into the United States? This is a failure of policy, not one of capability.”

2) Give the 11 million illegal residents of the United States a 6-month exemption from apprehension and deportation, during which time they must file paperwork establishing residency with the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Social Security Administration and the payment of taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. They will be made legal residents in exchange for being part of the system.

3) After the 6-month exemption period, those who have not joined the legal system will be subject to apprehension and deportation by both federal law enforcement agencies and states like Arizona who have enacted laws enforcing the federal ones.

4) Cut the bureaucracy. When I did it, I had reams of paperwork, affidavits from sponsors in the U.S., a trip to the U.S. Embassy in London including an overnight stay, a trip to a physician’s office, vaccinations, a chest x-ray that had to be carried into the country by hand, and the best part of a thousand dollars. The typical waiting list for a green card is about 3 years. This only encourages people to do it illegally. If I was thirsty and the line at Starbucks was 3 years long, I might jump the line too. Make the immigration process easier.

This four-stage process might be a potential solution, might it not? Can anyone tell me why it wouldn’t be satisfactory, both to reasonable people who believe in civil rights and kindness, and to reasonable people who believe in immigration laws and national security?