Immigration reform needs streamlining

Freedom Communications

Congress’ latest effort to reform our nation’s immigration laws has begun.

Unfortunately, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 offers little in the way of real reform.

The proposal, given the unwieldy name to create the ASAP acronym, is touted and condemned as a new means to enable undocumented immigrants to become legal residents. Under this latest “amnesty” program, those immigrants can legalize their status if they register their presence with the federal government, pay a $500 fine, pass background checks and show English proficiency, among other things.

It also creates new restrictions and demands for employers who hire immigrants, and stiffens penalties for hiring workers who don’t have legal residency documents.

“This is about ending illegal immigration,” U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, said during a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the bill.

It does no such thing. No legislation can do that. The high level of immigration to this country will continue as long as political freedom and economic opportunities in this country exceeds those factors in other countries. Illegal immigration will continue as long as the process for living here legally remains lengthy, cumbersome and difficult.

This bill does not address those issues. If anything it only adds to the red tape needed to come here legally, and to the bureaucracy needed to process it. Those are some of the main causes of illegal immigration, not answers to it.

Some have noted the bill would create a new employment-based visa system to help businesses find and hire workers legally. That’s a good thing, although work visas already exist. The problem is the outdated and woefully inadequate quotas that limit those visas.

Penalties for hiring undocumented workers also already exist. The problem won’t be fixed by changing the penalties, but by properly enforcing the laws, whatever they are. If the laws aren’t enforced, it matters little what those penalties are.

Adding new hoops for employers, workers and families to jump through only makes the process tougher. And, our lawmakers should be told, they also increase the amount of work that must be done by the bureaucracy, which already has proven it can’t handle the work it now has.

Real reform would be to streamline the process, making it less difficult for employers and workers to link up; less imposing for immigrants to enter this country legally; and faster for government workers to process. One of the primary reasons so many people — who otherwise respect the law — bypass the legal immigration process is the process is too difficult and lengthy, and acceptance or rejection often seems arbitrary, instead of being based on the applicant’s merits.

We welcome lawmakers’ efforts to readdress the problem that directly affects millions of immigrants, and the millions more Americans whose lives they affect every day.

Helping millions of undocumented Americans attain legal residency is a positive step. What’s really needed, however, is real reform that eliminates the factors that make illegal residency so prevalent.