Make immigration reform a top priority
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Aug. 29, 2009 at 3:29 a.m.
President Barack Obama must force immigration reform to the front-burner of U.S. politics.
The divisive problem intertwines with health care and unemployment, two areas the president vows to improve now.
We urge the new administration to the following:
Get tough on employers and enact a fraud-proof worker identification system.
Help to fix Mexico's economy.
Create a guest-worker program that matches the ups and downs of U.S. job demand.
We understand complex problems often require complex solutions. Lawmakers, though, can today take reasonable, common sense strides to address the broken immigration system without neglecting other pressing needs.
While this is a national issue, we in the Crossroads live in the middle of the Fatal Funnel. As national lawmakers remain hot and cold on immigration reform based on political expediency, the issue remains at the top of our list all the time. Crossroads residents live this problem.
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act made it illegal for U.S. employers to hire undocumented immigrants. Yet, the law and federal authorities lacked the teeth needed to enforce just that. The country is home to more than twice the number of undocumented immigrants - 12 million today - that were here before the last reform.
Authorities must punish employers who hire illegal workers.
To sort through who can work and who cannot, federal agencies must also require fraud-proof ID cards of everyone who seeks a U.S. job.
After the 1986 law passed, ID fraud boomed as an underground industry - so much so that it threatens the legal immigration system, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The federal government cannot task employers as identity experts, which it did 25 years ago. Instead, federally crafted biometric ID cards - those that include DNA, retina scans or other sophisticated technologies - should become the new benchmark for legal status verification.
Of course, if Mexico's economy thrived, its workers would have far fewer reasons to sneak across the U.S. border. No border wall will ever stem the tide of work-hungry men and women who yearn for a better life.
The United States can begin to help Mexico's economy by further opening free trade, a proven route to economic development. The economies of both countries remain interdependent, and each stands to gain from increased trade.
Clearly, Mexico authorities must first ensure that its trucks meet U.S. standards. Doing so would spur labor south of the border.
Mexico creates about a half-million jobs a year. Twice that many young people, though, enter the workforce during the same period, and each only earns on average $4.50 a day.
Mexico's economy won't change overnight. Neither will the U.S. demand for low-skilled workers.
Obama must create a guest-worker program that matches Mexican workers with real-time U.S. labor demands. A guest-worker program would help the U.S. economy grow and alleviate the strain on Mexico's welfare purse.
Matching legal, foreign workers to U.S. employers ensures increased tax contributions, and the humane option for immigrants to safely return home and to family.
The U.S. immigration system remains so broken that no three solutions will fully patch the glaring holes. Lawmakers must act now, though, and reverse a 25-year lull in meaningful immigration reform.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.