Various House committees will hold hearings this week to address immigration and border security. The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources will focus on expanding the border fence; The House Science Committee will discuss the technological aspects of border security; and the House Education and Workforce Committee will address the impact of immigration policy on the American workforce.

In a recent survey of polls, the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation found that the American public favors a tough, but not punitive, approach to immigration enforcement, combined with fairly generous views on immigration reform to deal with the undocumented immigrants who already reside in the United States, including a path to earned citizenship. Polls also show that 68 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigration is a serious problem; it is the third most cited problem facing the country after the war in Iraq and the economy.

With more than 7.5 million undocumented immigrants currently employed in the United States, the impact of undocumented immigrants on the economy has become central to the issue. In a recent report, the Center for American Progress found that if undocumented workers were removed from the labor force, there would be a shortfall of nearly 2.5 million low-skilled workers. This would cause a major shock to the economy, and the industries that employ large numbers of undocumented workers would potentially face large shortages of workers. Overall, there are enough out-of-work natives to replace undocumented workers, but there is a severe mismatch between the skills of undocumented workers and the natives who would potentially replace them.

A memo by one of the nation’s leading economists also notes that although there is significant debate as to the overall effects of immigration on the economy, it is essential that comprehensive immigration reform provide all workers with the labor protections that are essential for a vibrant economy.

As House committees discusses immigration reform this week, it must ensure that its approach protects American security, allows for economic growth, protects the wages of workers, honors Americans’ value of hard work, and respects the nation’s legacy as a country of dynamic immigrants. It should also take solace that the American people embrace an approach that, unlike the tack taken by the House of Representatives so far, is both tough and fair.

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