Comprehensive Reform Urgently Needed, Enforcement-Only Not a Viable Option

Friday, August 03, 2007

George Paul Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC - Congress adjourns for its August recess this weekend, having once again failed the American people by missing an opportunity to reform our dysfunctional immigration system. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is deeply dismayed - albeit not surprised - that arch-conservatives in Congress continue to play political football with an issue of great national importance and have killed any hope of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) during this legislative session. Senate lawmakers were confronted with a choice last month: pander to an increasingly ugly nativist movement, or swallow hard and try to solve a national crisis. Sadly, a majority chose the former and the consequences of that decision will haunt American communities, businesses, and families for at least the next two years.

However, blocking the way to a tough, fair, and practical solution was not enough for these hard-liners. They are now pushing to exacerbate the problem by offering a parade of harsh, anti-immigrant amendments on nearly every piece of moving legislation. This thoroughly discredited "enforcement only" approach will neither secure our nation's borders nor serve our nation's businesses or families. Broken immigration laws cannot be justly enforced and borders cannot be secured by might alone. Immigrant communities and their employers are literally under siege. They cannot apply for legal status because no paths to legal status are available to them under our broken laws. Employers cannot find "legal" workers because no employment visas exist for such workers.

In the Senate, even some prior CIR supporters - in a stunning about face - have joined with immigration restrictionists to sponsor a regressive, anti-due process, enforcement proposal that would criminalize 12 million hard-working men and women in one fell swoop. Senator Kyl (R-AZ) and former reform advocates Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC), have turned their backs on pursuit of a bipartisan solution and have joined Senator Sessions (R-AL) in pandering to hard-line immigration restrictionists. The bill they have introduced today is a repudiation of comprehensive and workable reform. It is also a repudiation of all the immigrants who continue to come in pursuit of the American Dream, to work hard, to secure a future for themselves, their families, and the country.

Meanwhile, States and localities around the country, justifiably frustrated with Congress's failure, have quixotically embarked on their own efforts to address the issue of undocumented immigration. But even those efforts that are well-intentioned (and many of them are not) cannot solve what is plainly a national policy problem, as a Federal Judge ruled definitively in striking down a local ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania last week.

AILA renews its call on leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties to come back to the table, to negotiate in good faith a comprehensive set of reforms that will secure our nation's future by:

(1) Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and creating a clear path to lawful residence for those who come forward, pay fines, and demonstrate their commitment to become Americans by earning their status through working and learning English.

(2) Providing our nation with a new worker program that includes labor protections, job portability, and a realistic path to permanent residence.

(3) Eliminating the existing unconscionable backlogs in family immigration, preserving meaningful family immigration with reasonable quotas, and recalibrating our employment-based immigrant visa quotas to accommodate the needs of our dynamic and growing economy.

(4) Assuring due process and civil liberties protections that guarantee immigrants their day in court, judicial review, and a meaningful opportunity to seek waivers and discretionary relief.

(5) Enacting smart border and worksite enforcement mechanisms that protect our national security interests, while respecting civil rights.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

For more information call George Tzamaras at 202-216-2410 or Brooke Hewson at 202-216-2435

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 07080364.