Wednesday, July 8, 2009
CFR Calls For US Immigration Reform
A border wall isn't enough
A Council on Foreign Relations task force report released today concludes that the U.S. immigration system is broken and risks serious damage to the nation's national interests.
The bipartisan task force was headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and ex-White House Chief of Staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty who served under Democratic Pres. Bill Clinton.
"The continued failure to devise and implement a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America’s economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security," the report concludes.
"The stakes are too high to fail," says the report. "If the United States continues to mishandle its immigration policy, it will damage one of the vital underpinnings of American prosperity and security, and could condemn the country to a long, slow decline in its status in the world." For this reason, the report urges: "The United States needs a fundamental overhaul of its immigration laws."
Current U.S. immigration policy is based on the belief that the United States has reaped tremendous benefits from opening its doors to immigrants, as well as to students, skilled employees and others who may only live in the country for shorter periods of time. But the report warns that “the continued inability of the United States to develop and enforce a workable system of immigration laws threatens to undermine these achievements."
The report urges Congress and the Obama administration to move ahead with immigration reform legislation that achieves three critical goals:
* Reforms the legal immigration system so that it operates more efficiently, responds more accurately to labor market needs, and enhances U.S. competitiveness
* Restores the integrity of immigration laws through an enforcement regime that strongly discourages employers and employees from operating outside that legal system, secures America’s borders, and levies significant penalties against those who violate the rules
* Offers a fair, humane, and orderly way to allow many of the roughly 12 million migrants currently living illegally in the United States to earn the right to remain legally
According to the report, the high level of illegal immigration in the country "diminishes respect for the law, creates potential security risks, weakens labor rights, strains U.S. relations with its Mexican neighbor, and unfairly burdens public education and social services in many states."
While it calls for tougher enforcement of the law, the report warns that this won't work unless better channels are established for those who want to enter the country legally.
These, of course, are not new concepts. Many candidates for office have made similar suggestions. But that's just what they've been - suggestions. Rhetoric without action is totally meaningless.
The question is, do the elected officials of the United States have the political will to do what's necessary. Or will they continue to just give this important issue lip service and take little or no action to correct the problem?
The heartening thing about the CFR report is that it is bipartisan - as well it should be - potentially clearing the way for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to address the issue of illegal immigration.
Although Congress has recently acknowledged passing bills that were never read by its members, every congressman and woman should read the CFR report. Let's at least use it as a catalyst to stop talking about the problem and actually taking action!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_garland/2438497375/