Anyone who has been keeping close tabs on the immigration debate in Washington over the last five years can attest to the fact that it has all of the ingredients for the perfect political storm. For starters, U.S. immigration laws are so arcane that only a handful of legislators truly understand them. As a result, many policy makers search for simple, sound-bite driven solutions to problems that are far too complex for quick fixes. The complexity of the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that the immigration issue is not easily defined by party labels. Supporters and opponents of various immigration proposals come from both parties and span the political spectrum. This makes it difficult for party leaders to determine where, when, and how to discuss the issue. Finally, and perhaps most destructively, the topic of immigration evokes intense emotions that are easily stirred by politicians and pundits who play to the fears and insecurities of the electorate rather than deal with the issue honestly and pragmatically. It is the emotional nature of the debate that really has whipped the political winds into a fury over the last five years.
Benjamin Johnson, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, discusses the futility of an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform and the need for a more comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem of undocumented immigration. In this new "Perspective," he argues that immigration cannot be treated simply as a law-enforcement issue. Rather, the United States must begin managing immigration as a national resource.
The most striking thing about today’s immigration debate is how many times America has been here before—and how many times it has made the same mistakes. With respect to David Letterman, here is a list of the biggest errors that U.S. policymakers have made in designing immigration policy. As Congress wrestles to find the right mix of immigration enforcement and immigration reform, it should keep in mind what it has done wrong in the past so that it has a chance to get it right this time.
If the current political stalemate over immigration reform is any indication, many U.S. policymakers have yet to heed the lessons of recent history when it comes to formulating a realistic strategy to control undocumented immigration. In 1986, lawmakers passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in an attempt to reign in undocumented immigration through heightened worksite and border enforcement, combined with legalization of most undocumented immigrants already in the country. Read more...
The immigration debate once again is dominated by narrow thinking and the search for simplistic solutions to complex problems. Most lawmakers and the press have come to equate “immigration reform” with the question of whether or not enhanced immigration enforcement should be coupled with a new guest worker program that is more responsive than current immigration policies to the labor needs of the U.S. economy. All but lost in this debate have been the calls by prominent immigration reform advocates to improve and expand pathways for permanent immigration as well.
Given the extent to which undocumented immigrants already living in the United States are part of U.S.-based families, comprehensive immigration reform must include more than just a new temporary worker program.
President Bush’s proposal to address the problem of undocumented immigration by creating more opportunities for legal immigration and providing a legal status to those already here is a useful starting point in reforming a broken immigration system that costs hundreds of lives and billions of dollars every year.
Notre Dame professor Jorge Bustamante concludes that both the U.S. and Mexican economies benefit by “regularizing” undocumented immigrants. Current immigration restrictions disrupt labor flows and lives along U.S.-Mexican border.
A new report published by the Cato Institute examines the impact of Mexican immigration on the U.S., and explains why fixing the dysfunctional immigration system makes sense to the economic recovery and national security of America.