October 27, 2016
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Immigration: Focus Should Be on Comprehensive Reform

Administration Announces E-Verify Expansion, No-Match Rescission, While Senate Plays Politics


WashingtonDC - Today the White House and Department of Homeland Security announced an expansion of the E-Verify system, a seriously flawed experimental electronic worker verification data-base, to all federal contractors. At the same time, the Obama Administration also announced it would rescind the Social Security no-match program (rules relating to employers and their employees that are found to have mismatches between Social Security names and numbers).  Meanwhile, the Senate adopted amendments to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would extend the use of E-Verify and extend the border wall.  Finally, the Council on Foreign Relations today added their substantial voice to the chorus of leaders calling for comprehensive immigration reform, releasing a sensible, bipartisan panel report.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization inWashington.


Immigration reform took two steps forward and two steps back today, but these are just curtain raisers for the serious immigration reform debate to come.


Obama Administration Announcements

We applaud the Obama Administration for walking away from the ineffective SSA no-match program. That program did little except to cause huge disruptions in workplaces, creating more problems we do not want for employers and citizens, especially while the economy is recovering. 


At the same time, we are disappointed that the Administration plans to expand the E-Verify program.  A huge expansion of this program is sure to put more American citizens out of work.  The database is so flawed and correcting data so difficult, it will no doubt hurt the economy while doing next to nothing to prevent the employment of immigrants here illegally.


The Administration's time would be better spent working with Congress to fix our immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform.  The President needs to back up his encouraging first step last month on moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform and keep the pressure on Congress to act.


Senate Amendment Votes

Looking 'tough on immigrants' for the cameras will probably do more damage to the economy when we want our Senators to be doing all they can to help the economy.  Only comprehensive reform of our immigration system will actually work to reduce illegal immigration and get immigrants here illegally into the system and only in that context should Congress consider how to improve and ramp-up flawed programs like E-Verify. 


A border 'fence to nowhere' is not a serious response to an immigration system two decades out of date and in need of top-to-bottom reform.  It is a sideshow to the legitimate immigration reform debate and a fifth century approach to a 21st century immigration and border security reality.  According to DHS, the fence costs approximately $3 million per mile.  More hastily constructed, destructive, and expensive barriers is not the solution we need.


The votes are there for immigration reform when it is crafted and debated and these preliminary skirmishes probably don't mean much except that some Senators still confuse looking tough with fixing the problem.  With the debate on comprehensive immigration reform sure to start in a matter of months, the Senate should resist the temptation to pass piece-meal, look-tough measures likely to backfire.


Council on Foreign Relations Report

More and more voices in prominent positions in both political parties are calling for comprehensive immigration reform, yet the Obama Administration and Congress are fighting rear-guard, symbolic actions.  The Council on Foreign Relations adds its substantial weight to the local elected officials, police chiefs, business groups, and labor unions that have all been telling our political leaders that we must address the many deficiencies in our current approach to immigration, and that immigration reform is long overdue.


Immigration reform will stimulate the economy, get 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants into the system, allow honest employers who play by the rules to compete and win, and reestablish legal immigration channels that are efficient and responsive to the needs of the economy.  The question is not if we should fix our immigration system comprehensively, but when Congress will roll up its sleeves and get to work.


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