IS CIR BACKWARDS?
by Harry DeMell
Who do we want to come to the United States? The public will want to know. Any reform will have to deal with this question and answer it. CIR doesn't answer the question.
Reform can mean 'to amend or improve by change or form'. Certainly the state of the American immigration system can use some of this. The problem is that some change is for the better and some not. Anyone watching the system can testify that the changes over the last twenty years have not improved the system.
Before we can propose changes, the basic questions we must ask is what is good for America and who we want to include in the American experience. Until we do that we will be unable to present a package of changes that will improve the system. We must also ask, what is the least invasive way to do this?
Comprehensive immigration reform fails to address these issues. It is an attempt to grant benefits to aliens in the United States without regard to the basic questions. Who do we want? We might decide that the economic reality requires more employment based immigrants. We might decide that allowing more temporary workers solves some of the economic part of the equation. We might want to unite families in greater numbers. We might also include others for humanitarian reasons. No one seems to be addressing the issue of who is good for America. CIR is certainly not the least invasive way to do the job. Granting benefits to almost everyone is the most inclusive way to deal with this issue but not necessarily the best. The message is that quality doesn't matter, the economy doesn't matter and obeying the law doesn't matter. Is this what our elected officials want to tell their voters?
In this era of economic distress it is difficult to allow millions of undocumented workers to compete with Americans in a dwindling labor market. We need another path.
Any package of reforms needs to spell out why those aliens we grant benefits to are good for the American economy. Certain skilled labor meets those criteria. A possible H-5 western hemisphere guest worker program with no path to permanent residence might make some sense. A guest worker program would increase the tax base of younger workers able to support entitlements to an aging American population. This can be done without an amnesty. It is less invasive and will assist us in getting control over the American economy and immigrant selection process. These guest workers can get in line and apply like anyone else. Uniting families makes sense on a humanitarian level. We might grant temporary visas for family members waiting on long quota lists. Easing our nonimmigrant visa system makes some sense in furthering international trade and travel in this shrinking world. It might also allow younger immigrants to come to the United States to care for more elderly family.
A blanket amnesty, whatever it is called, makes no sense. No one in congress is truly pushing for this. While some pay lip service to the idea of CIR for political gain. There is no real backing in either party or the White House. If we truly want to reform the system we must make proposals that have a chance of success.
CIR gets it backwards. In order to improve the system we need to prepare a package of changes to be presented by some credible organization or congress person who can articulate why each provision is good for America.
With mid-term elections looming, congress is too busy campaigning to give this matter any credible attention. After the election I suspect that there will be gridlock in Washington and any legislative proposals will need to be justified in a bipartisan way. This is a good thing. That justification will require an explanation to the American people why new legislation will benefit America.
If we are really to reform the system we need a package of reforms different from CIR. That package must be billed as pro-American not pro-immigrant.
Harry DeMell is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of visa, immigration and nationality law since 1977. He is a member of AILA and has been a member of the AILA's annual planning committee, participated in their lobbying efforts, and is a mentor to other members.
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