National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Diverse Leaders Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

January 19, 2006

Washington DC - Today, leaders from the business community, labor unions, and the Catholic Church are uniting to express their support for comprehensive immigration reform as the legislative agenda on this issue turns to the U.S. Senate.  The following is a statement by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.

This remarkable assembly of leaders should be applauded for standing together for workable, comprehensive reform of our immigration system.  Their unity on this issue is a signal that serious, bipartisan reform can be achieved and should be addressed by the U.S. Senate with haste.

Often identified as a divisive issue, sensible reforms to our immigration laws are actually well within reach.  The key will be for the Senate, starting with the Judiciary Committee, to craft from the various proposals on the table a plan that is both bipartisan enough to pass and comprehensive enough to actually fix what ails the current dysfunctional immigration system.

Any plan that fails to address the 11 million immigrants already living in the U.S. illegally is doomed to fail.  We will not, cannot, and should not deport these 11 million family members and workers.  Nor can we follow the current plan of making life miserable for them in hopes that they may someday deport themselves.  That approach, still favored by some after a decade or more of trying, is already a demonstrable failure.

Most undocumented immigrants have been here for a long time; 70% for more than five years.  Realistically, we have to entice them to come forward, make themselves known to authorities, and then ask our permission to stay.  Therefore, we must create a process by which they can earn their way to the right side of the law.  Simultaneously, we must fix our family and employment visa systems to create legal avenues for immigrants coming to join family members or to participate productively in America's economy in the future.  Such reforms must maintain American's long history of immigrant assimilation and eventual citizenship for those who choose to make the U.S. their permanent home.

The only way to get control of our borders and put immigration on a legal footing is to create a legal regime more closely fitting the realities of the supply and demand for legal immigration.  This will enhance security, elevate the rights of all workers, allow employers to compete on a level playing field, allow for meaningful enforcement, and protect the basic rights of immigrants, whether they come permanently or temporarily. 

Speaking at the press conference were: Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Andy Stern, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Terence M. O'Sullivan, General President, Laborer's International Union of North America (LIUNA); Mark Franken, Executive Director, Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Kelley C. Rice-Schild, Executive Director, Floridean Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Member, Board of Governors, American Health Care Association; and Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, moderator.


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