Report by the Council on Foreign Relations Highlights the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Kathryn M. Doan, Esq.

A new report by an independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations asserts that "the continued failure to devise a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America's economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security."  Rather than seeing immigration as one of this country's success stories, the report states that we are in the midst of an immigration crisis that not only undermines our prosperity and hurts our standing abroad, but also causes untold hardship to the individuals who must navigate what has become, in many ways, an impossibly complex system.

The Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration, which issued the 127 page report, was chaired by Jeb Bush and Thomas F. McLarty, III.  The 19 members of the task force  represented a broad cross-section of the community and included academics, business leaders, policy experts, civil and human rights advocates, members of the immigration bar, and individuals from the religious and labor sectors.  The report makes clear that reforming our dysfunctional immigration system is not going to be easy and that we may never get it exactly right, but that doing nothing is simply not a viable option.

The report begins with an analysis of the important role immigration has played in making the U.S. the world's strongest and most dynamic economy.  It describes how a generous immigration policy that encourages foreign students and other visitors can ultimately make us more secure as a nation.  The report then provides discussion of how the current immigration system fails to serve our national interests by making legal immigration for business, education, family reunification and other purposes unnecessarily difficult and complex.  In addition to recommending policy changes that would encourage legal immigration, the report also deals with the challenge of what to do with the almost 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.  Finding the notion of breaking up families and deporting people who have been here for many years to be "morally unacceptable" the task force supports an earned legalization program that is accompanied by "more realistic immigration and temporary worker quotas and by stringent enforcement."

While not every immigration advocate and supporter of comprehensive immigration reform will necessarily agree with all of the report's conclusions and policy recommendations, this document is a must-read for anyone who wants to fully appreciate the complex issues that members of Congress will need to wrestle with in their efforts to craft legislation that will make the immigration system more responsive to the country's needs, as well as create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people now forced to live in the shadows.   Click here for a copy of the report.


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