AILA's Statement on House Democratic Principles to Fix Broken Immigration Laws

American Immigration Lawyers Association

January 28, 2004

Contact: Jeanne Butterfield
(202) 216-2401

on the introduction of

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Immigration Task Force Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Immigration, for today introducing a comprehensive set of principles to guide immigration reform.

We applaud the House Democratic leaders for recognizing 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 House Democratic principles embrace a set of necessary reforms that, if enacted into law, would be a giant step forward to help us achieve the goal of creating an immigration system that reflects our nation's values, our traditions, and our needs.

We urge all of those concerned about, and committed to, comprehensive immigration reform to come together, roll up their sleeves, and do the work that is needed to craft legislation and to build the bi-partisan support that will be required for any legislation to be enacted in 2004.

The House Democratic principles announced today reflect the understanding that meaningful reform of our immigration laws can only be achieved by addressing a variety of interrelated issues. Reforms that target one problem in the system while ignoring others will have but a fleeting impact and ultimately will perpetuate the chronic dysfunction that currently characterizes our system. AILA believes that the principles set forth today address all of the major components needed for an enduring reform of our failing system--family reunification, earned legalization, student adjustment, border safety and protection, a new temporary worker program, civil liberties, and fairness for immigrants.

  • 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 the House Democratic leaders to make our immigration system legal, safe, secure, and orderly. The comprehensive immigration reform the House Democratic principles embrace is an idea whose time has come. The Senate bill introduced by Senators Hagel and Dashle, S. 2010, is the first actual legislative measure that includes the fundamental architecture necessary for comprehensive reform. We also urge support for legislation, which we expect to be introduced in the near future, that will restore several due process and civil liberties protections to our immigration laws. While we working on these necessary reforms, 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. 04012912.