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The U.S. immigration system is in need of fundamental reform. The public demands it. Our security requires it. Economic reality compels it. Restoration of our moral standing in the world, and particularly in the Americas, is impossible without it.
Unfortunately, a series of piecemeal and mean-spirited initiatives at the local, state, and federal level have sought to fill the vacuum created by the restrictionist defeat of comprehensive immigration reform earlier this year. Although it is easy to understand the desire to quell public clamoring for solutions to our immigration challenges, these futile diversions should not derail us from the task at hand—creating a 21st century immigration system that serves our economic, security, and moral interests.
Creating a modern immigration system is an undoubtedly complex task. It requires achieving the right balance between enforcement, at our borders and at worksites, and establishing mechanisms for bringing the estimated 12 million undocumented in our midst out of the shadows to be full, contributing members of our society, and creating the means for regulating the flow of immigrants into the country. Simplistic recipes for dealing with the challenges are not real solutions even if they appear to resonate in the current environment of fear and insecurity.
Too often the immigration reform debate has become a proxy debate for the economic insecurity felt by too many in our country today. Although creating a modern immigration system would begin to address a part of the economic dislocations affecting Americans today, it would only address a small part. Immigration reform efforts, even comprehensive ones, cannot be expected to solve all the challenges presented by the interaction of the U.S. economy with a globalized economy.
To begin to answer those broader challenges, the Center for American Progress has published Progressive Growth: Transforming America’s Economy through Clean Energy, Innovation, and Opportunity. To understand how comprehensive immigration reform fits into that picture, the Center offers this paper outlining six basic tenets that must inform the core architecture of immigration reform.
To create a robust, modern immigration system worthy of our country we must:
- Accept increased labor mobility
- Incorporate robust enforcement and safeguards
- Protect U.S. workers
- Increase and diversify legal immigration
- Resolve the status of the undocumented
- Foster an inclusive American identity
To maximize the possibility of success, these steps must be taken together. Attempting to do one (or even some) and not others will simply perpetuate the dysfunction that currently grips our immigration system.
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