Prospects for Immigration Reform Getting Brighter
By REUBEN S. SEGURITAN
President Barack Obama breathed new life into the much needed comprehensive immigration reforms last week by reiterating his intention to tackle the issue as a priority this year.
After several failed attempts to pass legislations to reform the outdated immigration policies and fix the flawed immigration bureaucracy, this renewed commitment by President Obama stands a bigger chance of coming into fruition with the united support of several influential interest groups, particularly the labor unions.
This week, the two most powerful labor federations, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win, agreed for the first time to join forces in pushing for the legalization of undocumented aliens and their families. Other advocacy groups have also come out openly for reforms.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has expressed continued support for a guest worker program. A coalition of advocacy groups has committed $18 million to campaign around the country and rallies are expected in several cities in the coming weeks.
There is ample support for comprehensive reform in the current Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have long championed immigration reforms.
Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois has been touring the country since December to generate enthusiasm on the issue. Of course, as in the past, there are opponents of immigration reforms, particularly in the face of major unemployment and recession in the U.S.
However, studies and data released by economic and labor experts as provided by the Immigration Policy Center showed that contrary to the fear of its probable dire effects, legalizing undocumented workers already in the U.S. would actually redound to the benefit of all American workers and help revitalize the U.S. economy.
First of all, legalization of undocumented immigrant workers will increase wages of all U.S. workers by “bringing people out of the shadows” and preventing employers from exploiting the illegal workers by paying them lower than prevailing wages, thus, depressing the wage rate for all U.S. workers. It would allow workers to be treated fairly and provide a level playing field for all U.S. workers to compete for jobs in the labor market.
Also, integrating undocumented immigrants into the U.S. legal system will motivate them to invest in themselves and in their communities, and this will bring in more revenues into the economy.
The Obama proposal will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. It will keep families together, meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill, and will enforce border security.
Mr. Obama’s thrust is to frame a “policy reform that controls immigration and make it an orderly system” according to Cecilia Munoz, a deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.
The studies showed that the new policy reform would actually reduce the high bureaucratic cost of “enforcement-only” approach to immigration and would pay for itself by increasing the wages, the buying power and the tax contributions of all working people.
Addressing this difficult issue will not mean that other priority issues will take a backseat such as healthcare, education, security and the economy. It is part of a comprehensive approach to “support the country’s economic recovery and allow honest, hardworking people to become lawful, contributing members of our society”, according to Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center in Washington D.C.