“Comprehensive” Immigration Reform Is Sure to Be Problematic

The Heritage Foundation’s Jessica Zuckerman has produced a report explaining the inadequacies in the set of immigration reform principles set forth by the “Gang of Eight,” Senators Charles Schumer (D–NY), John McCain (R–AZ), Dick Durbin (D–IL), Lindsey Graham (R–SC), Robert Menendez (D–NJ), Marco Rubio (R–FL), Michael Bennet (D–CO), and Jeff Flake (R–AZ).

According to Zuckerman, the principles they have laid out will prove insufficient – just as any comprehensive bill drafted in secret by a self-selected committee would fail – to “provide lasting and beneficial fixes that strengthen the U.S. economy, security, and civil society.”

Zuckerman is not simply a naysayer; rather, she recalls the failed “comprehensive” bill of 2007. These principles, like that bill, are confusing, complicated, and contentious.  Similarly, the 1986 comprehensive  reform deal did not look much different from the principles currently being proposed.

This must change. 

Lawmakers need to take a true problem-solving approach in which every challenge regarding immigration is given the appropriate amount of attention.

Specifically, Congress should:

  • Reform the legal immigration system… These should include reforms at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the streamlining of current visa programs, and enhanced avenues for the entry of skilled workers, particularly those educated in the U.S. For those who stay, we must have a deliberate and self-confident policy of immigrant assimilation.

  • Make immigration more responsive to the needs of the economy. Such efforts should include a targeted temporary worker program tied to market and workforce demands that would supply a rotating, temporary workforce…

  • Reinvigorate interior enforcement measures. Measures and programs such as Social Security No Match, random workplace inspections, checks of I-9 forms, and E-Verify help to discourage the use of illegal labor and send the message that the country takes enforcement of immigration laws seriously.

  • Enhance border security efforts. Through the use of technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles and cameras/sensors, the Border Patrol can enhance monitoring and detection along the border in order to better protect U.S. sovereignty and halt illegal border crossings…

  • Reject the comprehensive claim. No matter what the name or the stipulations, there is no such thing as a “fair” approach to comprehensive legalization. At its core, it implies ignoring countless violations of the rule of law, as well as rewarding and incentivizing those who have come here illegally.…

  • Recognize state and local authorities as responsible partners. Through programs like 287(g), which allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws, state and local authorities can enhance enforcement efforts and work with the federal government to play a significant role in immigration policy.

  • Establish fair, compassionate, and practical solutions for unlawfully present populations. The circumstances of populations that remain unlawfully present in the U.S. are varied. Congress should examine these groups and propose responsible solutions. It should not, however, repeat the mistakes of the past.

This is an issue of increasing importance with implications for the respect for the rule of law in this country, as well as for our economy and civil society.  Thus, while lawmakers may think it will look good politically to pass a “comprehensive” reform bill, such a bill cannot adequately address the myriad issues related to immigration.


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