AILA’s Statement on the Bush Administration’s Immigration Reform Proposal

American Immigration Lawyers Association

January 7, 2004

Contact: Judith Golub
(202) 216-2403

Right Issue - But Is It the Right Solution?

President Bush today unveiled his Administration's immigration reform proposal. He was eloquent in his recognition that immigration is in America's self-interest, and that "one of the primary reasons America became a great power in the 20th century is because we welcomed the talent and the character and the patriotism of immigrant families." The President correctly recognizes that our current immigration system makes more difficult the urgent task of securing the homeland. Importantly, President Bush also succinctly identifies a problem that needs immediate attention when he said that "As a nation that values immigration and depends on immigration, we should have immigration laws that work and make us proud. Yet today we do not."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) agrees with the President that our current immigration laws do not make sense, do not make us safer, do not support our economy, and do not reflect our tradition as a nation of immigrants. Does the Administration's proposal adequately address these concerns that the President so eloquently raises? The jury is still out. The Administration's response is limited to an uncapped worker program in which immigrants can participate as long as they are working. Undocumented people as well as workers residing outside of the U.S. can apply for the program. American employers must make reasonable efforts to find U.S. workers. Under this proposal, temporary workers in the program will be allowed to travel back and forth between their countries of origin and the U.S., and the annual number of green cards leading to citizenship will be increased. The proposal also includes incentives for people to return to their home countries.

While these and other general provisions of the plan are known, much is still unclear and could spell the difference between a proposal that works and one that is more for show. For instance, it is unclear if the proposal would create meaningful access to permanent legal status for newcomers or if the proposal adequately addresses other major concerns such as the long backlogs in legal immigration. AILA has long maintained that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address the current situation. Such a comprehensive solution has three main components: permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants already here, a new worker visa program for future migrants, and family backlog reduction so that close family members are not separated for decades from close family members.

Immigration reform is too important to not get it right. While the jury is still out on whether the President's proposal offers the right solution, we welcome the Administration's focus on the issue. We also call on the Administration to demonstrate their commitment to good immigration reform by their immediate, active, and vocal support for pending legislation that already has bipartisan Congressional support: the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security (AgJobs) Act (S. 1645/H.R. 3142) and the DREAM /Student Adjustment Act (S. 1545/H.R.1684). Both these bipartisan measures would implement needed reforms.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the DHS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.


American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04010811.