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Senate begins consideration of comprehensive immigration reform

May 07, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On Thursday, April 30, the Senate Immigration Subcommittee held its first hearing to consider how to fix the immigration system.  The topic, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?”  Witnesses presented compelling testimony from a range of perspectives—faith, business, labor, law enforcement, and civil rights. 


The first panel consisted of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; J. Thomas Manger, Police Chief for Montgomery County, Maryland (also speaking on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs);  Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, and a member of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Jeff Moseley, President and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership in Houston, Texas.


Greenspan noted that in this economic crisis, immigration has slowed, but that he hoped that Congress will reform the immigration system by the time this crisis fades.  He talked about the role undocumented immigrants have played in the U.S. labor force, accounting for 1 in 6 new workers from 2000 to 2007.  He also devoted much of his time speaking of the need for high-skilled immigrants to our economy.


Chief Manger told the Senators that one compelling reason for comprehensive immigration reform is that “t is tremendously challenging to deliver police service to a community of people who are afraid to have any contact with the police.”  He went on to list a host of problems arising from our broken immigration system that police agencies must deal with.


Dr. Hunter gave one of the most eloquent testimonies I have heard concerning the hardship caused by the broken immigration system. He told the Senators that, “[t]he need for comprehensive immigration reform is to create a path that will help people do the right thing.”


Mr. Mosely talked about the hardship imposed on business due to the broken immigration system.  He noted that the legal channels for both low-skilled and high-skilled immigrant workers are insufficient for the needs of our economy, and the fact that there are 12 million undocumented persons here is testament to that fact.  Even with unemployment up at the moment, the idea that removing the undocumented would make jobs available for American workers assumes “…that an unemployed worker in New York's financial sector would be willing to relocate to do agricultural work in California or construction work in Houston….”


A second panel consisted of Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, representing the labor view; Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presenting the civil rights perspective; and Doris Meissner, formerly Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and now Senior Fellow with the Migration Policy Institute. The one witness testifying against sensible reform was Kris Kobach of the University of Missouri Law School and formerly with the Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft.


All of the testimony, and a recording of the Webcast, is available here:
http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=3793

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