A Nation of Immigrants and a Nation of Laws
America’s Voice was created in 2008 to harness the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. It grew out of the pro-immigrant reform movement that built a broad bipartisan coalition over the last several years around a legislative package that would reduce illegal immigration, legalize the status of workers already in the U.S., reunite families, allow needed workers to enter legally rather than illegally, and restore the rule of law. In fact, in June of 2006, a comprehensive immigration reform bill was approved by a 62-36 margin in the U.S. Senate, only to be derailed by House Republicans determined to use illegal immigration as a political wedge issue-unsuccessfully, as it turned out-in the 2006 mid-term elections.
Comprehensive reform has the support of Main Street America. In poll after poll a strong majority of Americans support a comprehensive overhaul that includes legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In addition, a growing chorus of state and local elected officials, business owners, labor unions, faith-based organizations, and civil rights groups support comprehensive reform. Nevertheless, rabid opponents have exploited fear of the “other” to mobilize a small but vocal group to block progress on this important issue facing America. Standing in the way, they offer no practical “solutions” of their own. They do call for the deportation of 12 million immigrants and their families, and a massive border wall along our southern border, at the cost of billions of dollars and with no likelihood of success.
What comprehensive reformers understand-and our opposition does not-is that America can be both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws; indeed, we have to be both. Our country is at its best when it takes in new people with new ideas and encourages them to become new Americans. This combination of welcoming and integrating has helped to re-energize our nation throughout our history.
The challenge now is that our immigration system is out of date and out of step with labor market realities and the desire of immigrants to live with loved ones in the United States. Our failure to update our immigration system has left us with a growing population of undocumented workers, and no strategy to integrate them into America. We have thrown enormous taxpayer resources at “securing” the border, and have no real results to show for it. American citizens and legal permanent residents face years of separation from loved ones because our immigration channels are so broken. And millions of workers operate in the shadow economy, afraid to report exploitation by employers because doing so could lead to their deportation. It is time to get our nation’s immigration policy back on track.
Our prescription for reform is to deal with the byproducts of our broken immigration system-the 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country-while simultaneously updating our immigration laws to prevent a future build-up of undocumented immigrants. Our reform agenda combines the following:
- Smart and professional border enforcement;
- A crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers to exploit them;
- A controlled increase in legal visas for the future flow of needed workers and close family members;
- An earned citizenship program that requires those here illegally to get on the right side of the law by passing background checks, studying English, paying taxes, and getting to the back of the citizenship line; and
- Efforts to reduce migration pressures in sending countries over time.
Once implemented, a workable reform law would dramatically reduce current and future unauthorized immigration, restore the benefits of legal immigration, secure the border, and level the playing field for law-abiding employers and all workers in the United States. It would replace a chaotic black market with a properly regulated legal immigration system and a significant reduction in illegal immigration.
Imagine the difference when those thinking of coming to the United States illegally know that it is difficult to cross the border; if you make it past the border, it is almost impossible to get a job if you do not have proper papers; the only jobs for illegal workers with no papers are with the bad employers who are being cracked down on consistently by federal authorities; there is now a line to get into to apply for visas for full-time work with full labor rights; and if you wait your turn, you can enter the U.S. on an airplane, with papers, and with labor rights, rather than risk your life crossing the desert only to face constant fear and routine exploitation. Add to this the fact that those already here are able to get on the right side of the law and on a path to citizenship, and you have the beginning of system that transforms the illegality of the archaic status quo into a regulatory regime that effectively controls immigration flows, protects both American and immigrant workers, ensures full tax compliance by workers and employers alike, and restores the rule of law both to our borders and our workplaces.
These are the goals of America’s Voice, and the goals of American voices who are demanding real reform. It is time for these voices to be heard.