For as long as immigration has been a hot topic in politics, there has been one common conclusion that all people in the political spectrum agree on: The US immigration system does not work and needs to be overhauled. This article explores the requirements for immigration reform and highlights why it is crucial for the United States as a nation.
The Legal Path to Comprehensive Change – Overhauling the Entire System
Comprehensive immigration reform means an end to piecemeal regulations or applications of the law implemented through unilateral executive action, which has been the only way the law has been applied over the last two decades and is always temporary. To flesh out why this does not work, I would point out first that no comprehensive change in the actual law has not happened in DECADES. So, the last few standing Presidents have used executive power tools known as executive orders or executive memoranda, to implement a change in the way the laws are applied, like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under President Obama, or the myriad travel bans under President Trump. An executive order changes the way a specific law or program, like the highly controversial political asylum process, is implemented, but then there are court challenges and then orders to nullify the orders are given by judges, and then the implementation of those immigration laws or procedures goes into a grey area, and this leads to a further breaking down of the system, lack of clarity and transparency and legal “grey areas”, which should not exist, i.e. complete chaos.
The only answer to this fractured system is a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a clear asylum process and a viable path to legalization for undocumented immigrants living in the United States. This would require establishing clear eligibility criteria, background checks, and a process for earning legal status. Such measures would not only address the reality of millions of undocumented immigrants but also bring them out of the shadows, promoting integration, and allowing them to contribute fully to society, not to mention bolstering the federal government’s financial resources in the form of income taxes, which can then be used to strengthen the immigration system’s enforcement.
Making the Legal Immigration System Efficient and Up to Speed
Reforming the legal immigration system is necessary to meet the country’s evolving needs and crucial to this is streamlining visa processes, reducing backlogs, and addressing inefficiencies. Enhancing the system’s capacity to attract and retain talent, particularly in STEM fields and other critical sectors, can bolster the country’s economic growth and innovation.
Border Security and Enforcement:
A comprehensive reform package should also address border security and enforcement measures. This includes investing in technology, infrastructure, and personnel to enhance border control capabilities. An effective border security strategy should strike a balance between safeguarding national security interests and facilitating legitimate travel and trade. Secured borders are necessary to control the flow of ALL foreign nationals, to make sure they all have a chance to legally present their cases, to deny those who do not qualify and minimize illegal immigration. In order to do this the immigration system must catch up with its caseloads as well, to avoid future backlogs once the current ones are resolved.
Protecting Vulnerable Populations:
Immigration reform should prioritize the protection of vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers, refugees, and unaccompanied minors. It should establish fair and efficient processes for assessing asylum claims, provide necessary resources for timely adjudication, and ensure humane treatment of individuals at all stages of the immigration system. Additionally, protecting children and families by promoting alternatives to detention and addressing family reunification is paramount. The law should be consistent and fairly applied, as it was meant to be, and is protected under the Equal Protection Clause.
Addressing Root Causes and Promoting Regional Cooperation:
Comprehensive immigration reform should recognize the importance of addressing the root causes of migration. By investing in economic development, governance, and security initiatives in countries of origin, the United States can help create conditions that discourage individuals from undertaking dangerous journeys. Collaborating with neighboring countries and international partners in the region can foster comprehensive regional solutions to manage migratory flows effectively. I believe this could be the most complicated of all necessary goals that need to be achieved, because it involves the cooperation of other governments, to also collaborate and allow their neighbors going through natural disasters, civil war, drug epidemics and gang violence to find refuge next door, as opposed as to making it impossible to NOT end up at the US border. Of course, the root cause of the majority of these situations is the drug trade and epidemic, which the US has many problems handling even within its own borders.
Comprehensive immigration reform is necessary for several reasons:
a) Economic Benefits: A fair and efficient immigration system that attracts and retains skilled workers can fuel economic growth, innovation, and job creation.
b) Social Cohesion: Providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants promotes social cohesion, integration, and the recognition of human dignity.
c) Humanitarian Reasons: Reforming the asylum system and protecting vulnerable populations upholds the United States’ commitment to humanitarian values and international obligations, keeping the spirit of the Statue of Liberty alive as it always should be, making the US the country the great nation it is: Being the place where the best and brightest, as well those going through almost insurmountable odds, the chance to flourish and contribute.
d) National Security: Enhancing border security measures and modernizing the legal immigration system strengthens national security by ensuring effective immigration controls and facilitating the identification of potential threats.
e) Rule of Law: Implementing immigration reforms that minimize and eventually eliminate unauthorized immigration upholds the rule of law and bolsters public trust in the immigration system.
Comprehensive immigration reform is an essential step towards achieving a fair, functional, and just immigration system in the United States. By addressing key areas such as legalization, modernization of the legal immigration system, border security, protection of vulnerable populations, addressing root causes, and promoting bipartisan collaboration, the country can move closer to a system that aligns with its values, economic needs, and national security interests.
Through an inclusive and constructive dialogue involving policymakers, stakeholders, and the public, the United States can work towards a comprehensive reform package that reflects its commitment to justice, compassion, and the principles upon which the nation was built.