January 24, 2013
By Jessica Zuckerman
In his second and last Inaugural address, President Obama laid out a vision for the next four years, including a commitment to seeking immigration reform.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country,” he said.
On this point he was exactly right. Our nation’s immigration system is broken and it is in dire need of reform. No longer should those who seek to come to the U.S. to work and contribute to our economy face unfathomable wait times. No longer should those in this country illegally be stuck in the shadows forever.
Nor should immigrants educated in this country be sent home to work for our competitors. Finding ways to address these challenges is essential to continuing to fulfill the promise that the United States has always offered as a nation of immigrants. The way we go about it, however, says everything about whether or not we will succeed. On this point, unfortunately, President Obama is unlikely to get it anywhere near as right.
Indeed, in Obama’s next major address, the State of the Union, he’s expected to call for “comprehensive” immigration legislation. This is the very same approach we have tried time and time again to no avail. Indeed, the last attempt, back in 2007, did not make it through Congress. Since then, similar proposals have failed to garner support on either side of the aisle.
Beyond the lack of political will, comprehensive immigration legislation is likely to make the very problems it sets out to solve worse. Often loaded with payoffs for special interests and introducing measures that have contradicting aims, bills that seek to solve everything often see few winners, at least when it comes to the people they’re intended to help.
In fact, the last time we passed comprehensive legislation was in 1986. Since then the illegal population in the U.S. has quadrupled.
What is needed instead is a problem-solving approach to immigration reform. An approach which doesn’t try and sweep everything up into a supposedly grand solution, but instead addresses each of our nation’s immigration challenges in its own track.
Which makes sense, really. After all, illegal immigrants in this country are not a monolithic block. Nor are the immigration challenges faced by American employers and those seeking to come to the U.S. legally all one in the same. There is, therefore, no one comprehensive policy that will deal with all of these matters at once.
An approach that addresses each of the many issues separately promises more meaningful reform. This means fostering real debate and solutions to reforming our legal immigration system, so that those who wish to come here can do so fairly and efficiently. It means ensuring our immigration system is more responsive to the needs of our economy. It means enforcing laws that are on the books. It means enhancing border-security measures and recognizing that state and local authorities can serve as responsible partners in each of these efforts.
To steal one from President Obama’s page on Monday, as Martin Luther King once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Rather than continuing to play politics with immigration reform, our nation’s leaders need to take the responsible way forward.
First appeared in The Daily Caller.
Policy Analyst, Western Hemisphere
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2015, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973