With all of the debate in our country about immigration reform, I am providing a practical summary of the reasons why we need new legislation to help solve this problem. Many solutions have been suggested, like building a wall, but these are inherently useless if the approach to solving this problem is not more comprehensive.
Many aspects need to be considered when thinking about reforming our system, but I am going to approach this topic from my experience as mayor of Denver and from my tenure as the President and CEO of the Metro Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Reason No. 1 – In order to drive economic growth and job creation, we need an immigration system that will meet the needs of employers and will allow them to better utilize the unique talents of people here and abroad.
Reason No. 2 – We need to expedite the green card process by which we give legal residence to people who have skills our country needs. Currently, of the approximately one million new lawful permanent residents each year, only about 59,000 were issued green cards based on their skills. Expediting these green cards will give U.S. companies the ability to compete for the talented workers they need.
Reason No. 3 – Our country needs a myriad of workers to deal with temporary needs. Our existing temporary worker programs are very limited, especially the H-1B for high-skilled workers and the H-2B for seasonal or temporary workers. Furthermore, no temporary worker program exists for non-seasonal lesser-skilled jobs even though many employers cannot find American workers to perform these jobs. Last but not least, H-2A program for agriculture workers is very difficult to use. This last point is particularly important when you stop to realize that mostly immigrant workers pick the fruits and vegetables we eat.
Reason No. 4 – In order to curb illegal crossing of our borders for jobs, employers must agree to verify the legal status of their workers. Although many states and cities have established their own employment verification schemes, there is not a consistent national method of worker verification. This causes many problems for employers doing business in more than one state/locality and for small businesses that do not have the resources to monitor varying requirements.
Reason No. 5 – We have all heard estimates of the over 11 million undocumented immigrants that are said to be residing in the U.S. We need to find a way to make them legal, for deportation nor self-deportation of these people is neither realistic or humane. Ignoring this issue will not make it go away.
Reason No. 6 – Legalizing the undocumented immigrants will help our economy in various ways. First of all, they will become consumers of large items, like cars and homes, for they will now be able to get credit. Secondly, their wages will be better regulated and taxed accordingly. Other benefits will be that they can purchase health insurance. They can travel and have legal drivers licenses.
Argument No. 7 – We need to have a way to control our nation’s entry points. This has certainly become a bigger issue because of the rise of global terrorism. Many argue for the need border security, but the US is actually most vulnerable at its ports of entry, including ship ports, airports, and land ports. The large majority of packages shipped to the United States get in with little or no inspection. Building a great wall on the southern border does nothing to solve that problem.
These are practical reasons why we should move ahead on reforming our immigration system. However, we cannot rely solely on reforming our immigration system to stop terrorist from coming into our country. People who wish to do evil will find a way to do it by outwitting systems. Clearly our country needs to invest in more sophisticated cyber systems to weed out the bad players before they can do harm. We also need to do something to defuse hatred towards the United States, but this is a foreign policy discussion that I will address at another time.
Other things have been said that are just plain wrong or have been fabricated to support a particular point of view. One of these views is that people are pushing for immigration reform as a solution to world poverty. I don’t know of any credible person on this issue who has ever argued that point. Our immigration system cannot not be looked upon to solve world poverty. The number of poor people around the world is massive and, even with the best of intentions, the United States could not hope to take them all in. Dealing with helping underdeveloped countries is a worldwide responsibility and solutions to this problem need to come from many different sources.
The US Immigration system needs to become an orderly way for people to enter our country and create a life for themselves while helping our country grow. The sooner we get to work on practical solutions, the better off our country will be.