This editorial from the Washington Post sounds sane and reasonable regarding a realistic approach to illegal immigration. In addition to understanding immigration within our own borders, we need a comprehensive approach to improve the economic opportunities for our southern neighbors within their own country. NAFTA is creating very negative consequences in some regions to our south and those adverse effects must be addressed.
CONGRESS’S FAILURE to enact a workable immigration system last year prompted the Bush administration to redouble its previously lethargic efforts at enforcing existing immigration laws. The get-tough campaign — more workplace raids and arrests along the Mexican border, plus a smattering of criminal cases against employers — has two goals. One is to show a doubting public that the feds mean business. The other is to make things so miserable for businesses that corporate lobbyists join in the fight for meaningful immigration reform.
But the basic legal and economic dynamics that created the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system remain largely unchanged. Despite the economic dip, there is still demand for unskilled labor that native-born Americans cannot supply. That demand will perk up when the economy does. The number of visas available for unskilled workers — 66,000 per year — is laughably inadequate. Many thousands of workers continue to enter the country illegally or enter legally and then overstay their visas. A practical approach would acknowledge both the demand for unskilled labor and the fact that 5 percent of the American workforce consists of undocumented workers. It would raise the quota of temporary employment visas, establish a better system for employers to verify the legal status of job applicants and offer undocumented workers a way to register themselves and eventually earn citizenship. Critics will howl about an amnesty, but realists will see it is the way to address the reality of immigration and labor in a globalized marketplace.