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Why Nobody Wants Immigration Reform

by Harry DeMell

There were reports in the news recently that President Obama told Senator Kyl that the government would not step up border enforcement until there was an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform. Senator Kyl reported that the White House was afraid that if they enforced the law, as is their duty, they would have given up a bargaining point in the debate on reform.

This begs the question: Shouldn't we fix what we can now with the hope of doing more later?

It seems that all the major players would answer that question in the negative. Each player has a separate agenda and is holding the immigrant community hostage to further their ends.

The major players are the political parties, the President, The American Immigration Lawyers Association, Hispanic and religious advocacy groups and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Each one has put their own political interests ahead of the American public and the immigrant community.

Both major parties are split on the area of immigration reform. Both want the restrictionists and the immigrant community to believe that they are on their side. Pro business republicans want an increasingly international labor force while restricionist Republicans want greater enforcement. Ethnic democrat party supporters call for amnesty in the name of comprehensive immigration reform while pro union democrats fear that their members might be displaced by immigrant workers. Those pro union democrats have been very effective in complicating the labor certification and non immigrant visa process that would otherwise assist in the legal nonimmigrant and immigrant process.

The last major presidential candidate who supported an amnesty lost the Hispanic vote and the election. Don't think this is unnoticed by persons running for reelection this year.

These hard positions have made immigration reform impossible unless an extreme position is taken. Rather than a give and take to fix part of the problem now, each side has made illegal immigration its rallying cry. Neither side is willing to acknowledge that much of the problem can be fixed now without giving away their position completely. Neither side has declared that the goal of any new legislation should be to further what legal immigration makes sense for America.

Neither side has come to the realization that we should first discuss what legal immigration and nonimmigrant visas are in the interests of the United States first and then discuss how to tackle the part that is excluded from that discussion.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and many Hispanic and religious advocacy groups do not want reform unless it includes an amnesty. This is unlikely during a recession. They are preventing relief for possibly millions of persons, who might be assisted by some moderate reform package. Their position will leave possibly millions of people in the shadows when they could tackle part of the problem now. The fear is that if they concede some reforms now it will take their thunder away for an amnesty later. There is some sense to that fear but the result is that the people that they claim to want to help, just suffer.

The administration is also playing with the law to prevent meaningful action in this area. By not enforcing the law they hope to create a situation where there is a cry for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), a code word for amnesty. By not enforcing the employer sanction provisions they create a situation where undocumented employees work and ethnic communities and employers are not threatened. By creating an ever larger problem there may be some hope that CIR will become the only solution. This in not in America's interest.

Secretary Napolitano has the tools to crack down on employers who hire undocumented aliens. The government refuses to allocate the proper resources for political reasons. The administration is holding out for CIR and no congress person wants these laws enforced in their district.

Letting things get worse is not a good policy and might lead to a place very different than anyone wishes to go.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) would seek to severely restrict immigration. They do not want any meaningful reform because it would make it harder to create restrictionist legislation. They should support some moderate legislation if they are true to their word about wanting the government to regain control of the border. Only when we define who we want and reduce the size of the undocumented population will we be able to bring the problem down to a manageable size.

One common idea behind all the players is that any legislation has to be all or nothing. This writer believes that they are wrong.

We need an advocate to propose fixing what we can agree on now. The problem was not created over night and it cannot be fixed that way. We need to break the problem into manageable pieces and tackle them a few at a time.

Just like we cannot make the budget deficit go away immediately without printing money and creating a worse situation we cannot fix the undocumented problem without draconian measures in one direction or another.

We live in a fast food nation. People want fast simple solutions so the extreme positions seem easy to understand and support. Rational educated professionals in the area of immigration, visa and nationality policy need to take a professional approach. We need to stop playing sound bites to a hysterical public.

Copyright 2010, by Harry DeMell

About The Author

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.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.