Proposed Immigration Reform Legislation

Arizonans are clearly frustrated about immigration – a growing cause of frustration in the past several years, no matter where you are on this spectrum, is our leaders’ inability to solve real problems!  After a failed attempt at reform in 2006, the focus turned to “enforcing the border”, but as we have seen, economics have more to do with slowing immigration than the number of troops or the miles of fence we have at the border.  Since Arizona has passed SB1070, immigration reform is back on the agenda again in Washington.  Yet many of us may be unsure about what is meant by the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform”.

Let’s take a look at the Key Principles of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, as set forth by most religious denominations:

  1. Pathway to Permanent Residence / Citizenship
    • Create a pathway to permanent residency for 12 million immigrants currently living in the shadows to allow America to count and integrate those residents who abide by our laws and are willing to pay taxes, learn English, and make a contribution to this society.
  2. Temporary Worker Program
    • Create a legal avenue for temporary workers to provide American business with workers when there is demand that the American supply of workers can’t meet.
  3. Provision for Family Reunification
    • Process the backlog of applicants waiting for unification with legal resident family members to ensure fairness to those waiting in line.
  4. Enforcement of Immigration Laws
    • Address legitimate border security issues and employer compliance.
  5. Protection for Immigrant Workers
    • Protect the wages and working conditions of guest workers to raise the floor for all workers in America by ensuring that businesses compete on a level playing field.

In June 2009, the President reaffirmed his support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform during a meeting with 20 key congressional members.  Arizona was very well represented in that meeting with Senators McCain, Kyl, Representative Giffords (Representative Franks could not attend), and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.  But the prolonged healthcare debate sidelined immigration reform.

While federal legislation stalled, the Arizona Legislature passed SB1070, ostensibly to deal with border security.  But the effects of this law would not be at the border: it would affect our communities.  Polls indicate frustration with illegal immigration, yet at the same time, equally clear support for a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants currently contributing to American society.  (ABC/Washington Post Poll) Most Americans seem to agree that the system is broken and needs reform.  The fate of an immigration reform bill will depend upon the support it receives from people like us.  We need to let our congressional leaders know how important this legislation will be.