National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Comprehensive Immigration Reform Hearing Moves The Debate Forward

May 26, 2005

Washington, DCThe Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship held a hearing today on “The Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Serving our National Economy.”  Shortly before the hearing, the Chairman of that subcommittee, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, unveiled the enforcement-only sections of immigration legislation he is developing with Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona.  Coming on the heels of the introduction of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation in both houses, Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, reacted with the following statement.

It is puzzling that Senator Cornyn—on the same day as holding a thoughtful hearing with an array of business, labor, government, and scholarly witnesses who will lay out the recipe for comprehensive immigration reform—would introduce the “enforcement only” outline of a bill that falls far short of a realistic solution for controlling our nation’s immigration system.  Based on review of Sens. Cornyn and Kyl’s outline, they correctly diagnose the need for smart and strong enforcement, but fail to offer a winning solution by relying largely on ineffective and discredited enforcement strategies. 

Successful reform of our immigration system must go beyond the enforcement-only policies we’ve tried over the past several years that have failed to achieve consistent border control because they don’t recognize reality.  Tripling the size of the Border Patrol, quintupling its budget, and adding all manner of technological and military hardware alone has coincided with increased illegal immigration over the past decade.  Proposing more lopsided and incomplete policies is throwing good money after bad. 

Effective immigration reform will transform a deadly, illegal, and chaotic status quo into a safe, legal and orderly system.  To work, it must combine the following elements: 1) legal channels, proper vetting, meaningful protections, and realistic caps for workers and family members entering the country; 2) incentives for undocumented immigrants already here, working, and contributing to our nation to come out of the shadows, register, pay a hefty fine, study English, clear up their taxes, and continue to work hard as a means of eventually earning permanent residency; 3) tough enforcement of more realistic laws at the border and in the workplace; and 4) enabling more immigrants to learn English and prepare for citizenship.

Serious immigration reform must be bipartisan to pass and comprehensive to work.  Partisan outlines of partial proposals do not rise to the challenge.

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