Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and law‐abiding U.S. employers are in unfair competition with unscrupulous employers who increase profits by hiring cheap and vulnerable labor. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on enforcing these broken laws.
While some characterize our immigration crisis as solely an issue of the 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in this country, our problems extend beyond the number of undocumented people to a broader range of issues.
The public debate over immigration reform, which all too often devolves into emotional rhetoric, could use a healthy dose of economic realism. As Congress and the White House fulfill their recent pledges to craft immigration-reform legislation in the months ahead, they must ask themselves a fundamental question: can we afford any longer to pursue a deportation-only policy that ignores economic reality?
The current immigration system is outdated and broken. Americans are justifiably frustrated and angry. The U.S. needs a fair, practical solution that addresses the underlying causes of undocumented immigration and creates a new, national legal immigration system for the 21st century.
America’s immigration laws are some of the most complex and archaic provisions that can be found in the U.S. statutes. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) rivals the tax code in the level of detail, confusion, and absurd consequences produced by years of layering on provisions without systematically reviewing their results. Since the 1960s, Congress has periodically overhauled the INA, but has tended to focus on one hot-button issue at a time, resulting in a patchwork of outdated laws that fail to reflect the realities of 21st century America. The necessity of comprehensive immigration reform stems from years of neglect and failure to respond to incompatible interactions between different parts of the system, resulting in breakdowns that have crippled our ability to regulate immigration adequately, protect our borders, reunite families, and foster economic opportunity.
Critics of H.R. 5882, a bill that would would allow visas that have gone unused due to bureaucratic delays to be "recaptured" and issued to family- or employment-based legal immigrants, claim it will needlesly create new visas. The fact is that "recapturing" lost visas would not authorize any new green cards; it would allow the government to issue green cards that Congress has already authorized.
While the U.S. government has poured billions upon billions of dollars into immigration enforcement, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has increased dramatically. Rather than reducing undocumented immigration, this enforcement-without-reform strategy has diverted the resources and attention of federal authorities to the pursuit of undocumented immigrants who are drawn here by the labor needs of our own economy.
The “SAVE Act” was introduced in November 2007 by Reps. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA). A companion bill (S. 2368) has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The “SAVE Act” is an immigration enforcement-only package that would dramatically expand the error-ridden Basic Pilot electronic employment verification system and make a number of harsh and unnecessary changes to current law . The Basic Pilot system is currently used by only 30,000 employers, but would expand to cover over 6 million employers in just four years – roughly a 20,000 percent increase. Beyond that, the bill seeks to increase the Border Patrol and spend more resources on the southern border, codify recently withdrawn DHS regulations related to the Social Security Administration “no match” letters, expand local police responsibilities to include immigration enforcement, and a number of other enforcement measures. Absent from the bill are any provisions that would address the more than 12 million people in the US without status.