Bipartisan Panel Calls for 'New Chapter' in U.S. Immigration Policy
Current Impasse Highlights Need for Forward-Looking Policies
WASHINGTON, DC—As Congress and the Administration remain deadlocked on how to combat illegal immigration, a high-level, bipartisan task force today called for fundamental reform of the nation’s immigration laws and system.
The report and recommendations of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, co-chaired by former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-IN), address the dilemmas of illegal immigration but also reconcile the need to meet strong economic and social demands for legal immigration with the imperative to strengthen enforcement and safeguard national security. Other Task Force members include prominent business, labor and immigrant advocacy leaders; policy experts; public officials; and members of Congress who came together to find common ground.
Immigration and America’s Future: A New Chapter moves beyond illegal immigration, a symptom of the failures of the current system. It articulates a vision that promotes U.S. global competitiveness in the context of post-9/11 security imperatives, while grappling with many of the technical details that are frustrating reform efforts. The report argues that the nation’s current laws, dating back to the 1950s, are outdated and unsuited to the economic, social and demographic realities of the 21st century.
Among its recommendations, the Task Force calls on Congress and the President to:
- Redesign and simplify the immigration system by establishing three streams for immigration – temporary, provisional and permanent. The new provisional category provides a way to align immigration with current economic realities by creating visas for immigrants of all skill levels who have an offer of employment to enter the country legally. The number of nonimmigrant visa classifications would be reduced from 24 to 7 to streamline and make the system more transparent.
- Create an independent body in the Executive Branch that would introduce flexibility into the system by making regular recommendations to Congress and the President for adjusting immigration levels. Its recommendations would be based on ongoing analysis of labor market needs and changing economic and demographic trends.
- Provide employers with a verification mechanism that allows them to comply with requirements for hiring only authorized workers, and develop a new, secure Social Security card that enables individuals to readily establish their work eligibility.
- Accelerate implementation of “Smart Border” measures that use equipment, personnel and cutting-edge technology more effectively and strengthen accountability by establishing measures of effectiveness and an annual progress report on meeting them.
- Establish a national office to promote the integration of immigrants and provide a focal point at the federal level for state, local and private sector integration initiatives.
- Provide a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants who can demonstrate steady employment, knowledge of English, payment of taxes, and passage of a background security check, among other requirements.
“The current system has too many loopholes and overly complicated categories,” said Hamilton. “One thing we learned from the 9/11 Commission is that terrorists will study and exploit every vulnerability created by poorly performing systems. By overhauling and simplifying the immigration system according to the recommendations of this Task Force, we would make it less bureaucratic, more rational, and frankly, safer.”
“The government has an important role to play in creating a flexible system that responds to the demands of the new economy. We, as a nation, will be stronger if we create such a system that supports our shared values,” said Abraham. “The international demand for high quality knowledge workers also means our system must adapt if we are going to retain our place in the worldwide economy.”
The Task Force members delivered their findings today to the White House and to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. They applaud Congress for taking action on immigration but believe both the current House and Senate bills are insufficient. “The House bill will not fix the problem because it fails to address the economic forces driving immigration. The Senate bill is preferable because it is more comprehensive and bipartisan, but the bill is overly complex to implement, and fails to correct systemic problems in immigration law and policy,” the report states.
“We need new policies for a new era. Immigration and America’s Future: A New Chapter presents a vision for U.S. immigration policy that updates an obsolete system and gives our government new tools needed to harness the advantages of immigration and enforce the rules required for immigration processes to work well,” said Task Force Director Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at MPI and former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
After the release of their report in Washington, Task Force members will present the report in various cities across the country and work with policymakers at all levels of government as well as other stakeholders to broaden the scope of the national dialogue on immigration reform.
The report’s executive summary states: “Our recommendations integrate economic, security and social concerns. We make proposals that are comprehensive, and governed by rules that are simplified, fair, practical, and enforceable. Above all, we have sought to build for the future upon a firm foundation of America’s values and traditions of successful immigration.”
For a full list of the 16 recommendations, please click here.
To read the statement on the task force jointly issued by Senators John McCain and Edward M. Kennedy and Representatives Jeff Flake and Howard Berman, please click here.
For Task Force members' bios, please click here.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide.
The Manhattan Institute is a think tank that develops and disseminates new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is a nonpartisan institution that commemorates the ideals and concerns of President Woodrow Wilson by uniting the world of ideas to the world of policy.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.