National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


One Shared Goal: Restoring Control of America’s Broken Immigration System

January 26, 2005

Washington, D.C.Today, as expected, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced controversial measures stripped from the intelligence reform act that passed last year. True to his word, Rep. Sensenbrenner reintroduced measures to gut refugee protections, overthrow environmental laws, and overturn state’s rights, while doing nothing to advance the cause of fixing our broken immigration system in such a way as to gain control of our borders and restore public confidence in the rule of law.  The following is a statement by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based pro-immigrant advocacy organization.

In a year when the Congress will most likely address immigration reform in a comprehensive manner, the first big piece of legislation being introduced is a Band-Aid without adhesive.  It is yet another piece in the patchwork of ineffective laws that fail to address the inability of our immigration system to screen immigrants, protect our country, and provide for the orderly flow of workers and families across our borders. 

The recipe being offered is: 1) To build a fence; 2) To target vulnerable refugees fleeing terrorism and political oppression; 3) To prevent undocumented immigrants from  driving legally or buying insurance. These won’t impact immigrants’ behavior, except to have them drive without insurance or licenses, to cross the border in more dangerous places, or to live underground after fleeing from their oppressors.  It is not a recipe that will satiate the American public’s appetite for solutions that secure our borders, that screen intending immigrants intelligently, and that shrink the haystack of those hiding in shadows.  It’s unfortunate that this is what they came up with to fix our immigration system and that this is what our lawmakers are choosing to address first.

I am sure that many who will vote for Rep. Sensenbrenner’s proposals would vote for a more comprehensive approach to fixing immigration and border security if it were offered.  Everyone shares a frustration with the lack of immigration laws that can be effectively enforced, and that’s why we see this as just the first sideshow to a much more serious debate to come.

Building a fence just won’t cut it.  We need to create a system that channels more of the immigration that is happening and benefiting our economy through legal, vetted, controlled avenues.  We need to create a fair and secure way for those already working and raising families here to do so within the law.  And once we take the illegality out of today’s chaotic system, we will have the resources to make more than just cosmetic and politically easy improvements to our national security.

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