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Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter (Executive Summary)
September 2006

Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter (Executive Summary)

Although United States has long relied on immigration to fuel productivity, maintain a competitive edge, and drive the dynamism that characterizes American society, the nation’s overburdened immigration system—the breakdown of which has manifested in an alarmingly large unauthorized population—is no longer serving America’s needs. Based upon a careful analysis of economic, social, and demographic factors driving today’s large-scale immigration, the culminating report of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future seeks to design a new and simplified immigration regime that averts illegal immigration, and at the same time, harnesses the benefits of immigration for the future. Task Force proposals target reform in three key areas: admissions, enforcement, and integration.

In order to better meet family unification and labor market goals, the redesigned admission system features a new provisional visa program that bridges the transitional gap between existing temporary and permanent streams. The Task Force also calls for the creation of an independent Standing Commission responsible for making regular recommendations to Congress for adjusting immigration levels based on analyses of labor market needs, unemployment patterns, and changing economic and demographic trends.

Greater flexibility in immigrant admissions is balanced with enhanced enforcement mechanisms including mandatory employer verification, secure biometric Social Security cards, infrastructure improvements at ports of entry, and systematic efforts to constrain terrorist mobility. In addition, the Task Force responds to unauthorized flows, which seem to increase despite significant investments at the border, by recommending an annual evaluation of border enforcement effectiveness and investments in cost-effective “smart border” measures.

Finally, the Task Force gives prominence to integration as a critical dimension of the new immigration system. The plan acknowledges the critical economic and social role immigrants will play in America’s future by establishing a National Office of Immigrant Integration charged with leveraging state and local integration efforts, and seeks to address the existing unauthorized population by creating a path to legal status.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Why Is Immigration Important?

The economy and demography of the 21st century

Immigration and the identity of the country

Foreign policy and national security

III. WhatIs Wrong with US Immigration Policy and Practice?

Illegal immigration

Temporary immigration

The legal immigration selection system

Filling a vacuum: state and local roles

IV. An Immigration Policy and System for the 21st Century

The current debate

New assumptions

V. Attracting the Immigrants the United States Wants and Needs

Numbers and categories of immigration

Flexibility in the immigration system: The Standing Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets

VI. Enforcing the Rules

Employer verification

Enforcement at US borders

Immigration enforcement and national security

Protecting workers

Other enforcement

VII. Immigrant Integration

Integration policy challenges

The unauthorized population

VIII. Strengthening Institutional Capacity

Policy processes and interagency coordination

Policy information

Implementing new mandates

IX. The Regional Context ofImmigration

Economic development

Migration management