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Resolution on U.S. Immigration Reform and National and Economic Security

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02020801 (posted Feb. 8, 2002)"

Resolution on U.S. Immigration Reform and
National and Economic Security
AILA Board of Governors
January 18, 2002
Ixtapa, Mexico

Resolution: In recognition of the need to balance enhanced security measures with both our history and tradition as a nation of immigrants, and the need to ensure our continued economic viability in a global economy, AILA adopts the following principles that should be reflected in future legislation and laws:

1. The United States must continue to support immigration and welcome family- and employment-based immigrants and nonimmigrants, and refugees and asylees. Immigration is in our national interest. Both family and employment-based immigration should continue at current or enhanced levels that reflect the need to reunite families, fulfill the needs of American business, and maintain America's economic security (which contributes to our nation's well-being and national security). The U.S. also must continue to offer at enhanced levels safe haven to refugees and asylees to meet our moral and international obligations. These initiatives underscore that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, and that immigration remains central to who we are and helps to explain our success as a people and a country.

2. Immigration is one factor that can contribute to our national security by helping to enhance our intelligence capacity both within and outside of the U.S. Our best protection derives from developing layers of protection that keep targeted people from entering the U.S. Such measures are more effective and easier to implement than are measures that focus on persons after they enter the U.S. In all cases, it is important to keep out people who seek to do us harm, not those seeking to come to the U.S. for reasons that people always have come here, including reuniting with family, working, or escaping persecution. These immigration-related measures to enhance our security both within and outside of the U.S. must meet our due process and civil liberties concerns and standards.

3. An immigration system that works is essential to our national and economic security. Such a system needs to be effective, efficient, fair and adequately resourced so as to enhance security, facilitate the flow of people and commerce at U.S. borders, and deal appropriately and in a timely manner with pending petitions and applications. National security is enhanced when our immigration laws work to facilitate the movement of people and goods as well as the adjudication process.

Proponents: AILA Executive Committee

Background: The September 11 terrorist attacks have led to calls to reform our immigration system. Restrictionists have attempted to use the attacks to strengthen their agenda of reducing, if not ending, immigration. More responsible voices recognize that immigration reform can contribute to our national security and have highlighted needed changes in U.S. immigration policy, including allocating more funding to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Department of State (DOS). The focus on enhancing our security while also maintaining our tradition as a nation of immigrants and supporting our commerce is central to legislation that the House recently passed (H.R. 3525) and the Senate is expected to pass (S. 1749). The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act includes many needed reforms that will deter terrorism by developing layers of protection both outside of and within the U.S. and will lay the groundwork for future immigration initiatives.

Discussion: Immigration's major contribution to enhanced security is the adoption of new deterrence measures that enhance intelligence information through the creation of layers of protection. These measures must meet our due process and civil liberties concerns and standards.

Needed reforms, many of which are included in the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, include increased funding for the DOS and INS, increased access to lookout lists, reforms at our consulates, the use of new technologies, direct government funding of these technologies, more pre-inspections abroad, mandated in-flight transmittal of passenger lists, the creation of a North American Perimeter Safety Zone, and a workable entry-exit control system. These measures will help us to increase the layers of protection that stand between us and any potential adversaries from abroad, while allowing for the continued flow of family- and business-based immigration and refugees and asylees.

Whatever measures Congress enacts and the President signs will pose challenges to our country, the Congress, the Administration and the federal agencies.

1. Legislation enacted in this area will include very ambitious provisions and deadlines. Congress and the Administration need to support staffing and funding levels that enable federal agencies to implement any provisions that are passed and signed into law. Moreover, such funding needs to come from direct federal appropriations because our enhanced security capacity is a national priority best supported through general revenue. User fees cannot be the sole or main source of funding. Finally, Congress needs to be alert to the possible negative consequences of these ambitious deadlines on cross-border commerce and travel, and be willing to modify deadlines if needed so that, as we enhance our security, we do not damage our economy. Our economic security contributes to our national security.

2. The federal agencies, especially the INS and DOS, have an important role to play in enhancing our nation's security. Any legislation that is enacted needs to give the agencies the tools necessary to do their job. For their part, the agencies need to be up to the task of implementing major reforms that address our security needs at the same time they recognize the continued importance of immigration to our nation. The cross-border flow of people, commerce and goods must continue.

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