AILA’s Statement on the Introduction of the Immigration Reform Act of 2004

American Immigration Lawyers Association

January 21, 2004 

Judith Golub 
(202) 216-2403

On the Introduction of the 

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) strongly commends Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) upon introduction of their bill, the Immigration Reform Act of 2004: Strengthening America’s National Security, Economy, and Families. 

We applaud these courageous Senators for taking on the hard issues and introducing in Congress the first bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Such bipartisanship is essential for Congress to address this important issue. The Immigration Reform Act of 2004 recognizes that the status quo is broken and that change is urgently needed to address the concerns of American business and families and enhance our national security. The bill includes many important provisions that will help address the problems that plague our current immigration system. While we have concerns with some of the bill’s provisions, the Immigration Reform Act is a giant step forward toward helping us achieve the goal of creating an immigration system that mirrors our nation’s values, our traditions, and our needs. 

The Immigration Reform Act reflects the fact that immigration is in America’s self interest, and that our current laws do not work. In fact, our current system encourages illegality. We need laws that make sense, make us safer, support our economy, and help families reunify. Reform is long overdue and must, as does the Immigration Reform Act of 2004: 

  • Comprehensively reform our immigration laws: Since many of the problems with the U.S.’s current immigration system are interrelated, reform must be comprehensive to successfully address our nation’s needs. The status quo is unacceptable, especially in a post-September 11 world in which enhanced security is central, and we need to balance our security with the continued flow of people and goods. Our current system is characterized by families being separated for long periods of time and U.S. employers unable to bring in needed workers. People are forced to live an underground existence, hiding from the government for fear of being separated from their families and jobs. The current enforcement system fails to prevent illegal immigration, and precious resources that should be spent on enhancing our security are wasted on stopping hard-working people from filling our labor market needs. Our immigration system needs to be reformed so that legality is the norm, and immigration is legal, safe, orderly, and reflective of the needs of American families, businesses, and national security. 
  • Allow qualified people already living and working in the United States to legalize their status: People who work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the U.S. should be allowed to obtain permanent residence. This reform would stabilize the workforce of U.S. employers, encourage people to come out of the shadows to be scrutinized by our government, and allow immigrants to work and travel legally and be treated equally. 
  • Create a new temporary worker program: A new, “break-the-mold” program would provide visas, family unity, full labor rights, labor mobility and a path to permanent residence and citizenship over time, thereby reconciling the legitimate needs of employers with the legitimate needs of both U.S. and immigrant workers to find good jobs. Such a program would: recognize that current immigration laws do not meet the needs of our economy given projections of worker shortages as our country’s demographics shift; diminish significantly future illegal immigration by providing people with a legal avenue to enter the U.S. and return, as many wish, to their home countries, communities, and families; and help ensure an orderly process at our borders, an essential component of enhanced security. 
  • Help families to reunify: Our immigration system is characterized by long backlogs in family-based immigration. To ensure an orderly future process, our system must reduce bureaucratic obstacles and undue restrictions to permanent legal immigration for close family members. Developing an increased legal migration flow will make immigration more orderly and legal. It is essential to make legal future immigration that otherwise will happen illegally.
  • Enhance the security of our nation: Immigration reform that legalizes hard-working people already here and creates a new worker program will help the U.S. government focus resources on enhancing security, not on detaining hard-working people who are filling vacancies in the U.S. labor market and/or seeking to reunite with their close family members. In addition, an earned adjustment program will encourage people to come out of the shadows and be scrutinized by our government, and a new worker visa program will create a legal flow through which people can enter and leave the U.S. The legality that results from these initiatives will contribute to our national security by helping to focus resources on those who mean to do us harm. 

AILA looks forward to continuing to work with Senators Hagel and Daschle to make our immigration system legal, safe, secure, and orderly. The comprehensive immigration reform Senators Hagel and Daschle are championing is an idea whose time has come. While we working on such reform, AILA urges the swift passage of 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. 04012147.