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PRINCIPLES

A legal system that works. A central goal of immigration reform is bringing America's annual legal intake of foreign workers more realistically into line with the country's labor needs. The downturn did nothing to change the fundamental demographic and educational trends that make foreign workers an essential ingredient of American prosperity. Employers in many sectors – hospitality, food processing, construction, cleaning and maintenance, among others – need immigrants to keep their businesses open and contributing to the economy. And as the economy improves, that need will only grow – global talent and less-skilled manpower alike will play an essential role in the nation’s future competitiveness.

 

Smarter, better enforcement. New, more realistic quotas must be accompanied by more effective enforcement on the border and in the workplace. More realistic quotas will facilitate enhanced enforcement. But the U.S. must commit to regaining control of who enters the country.

 

Worksite verification. Employers need tools to verify that the workers they hire are who they say they are and are in the country legally. The system must be timely, accurate and efficient, and it must not make employers liable for errors in government databases. As part of an overhaul package that includes more realistic immigration quotas, an electronic employment verification system will be a boon to employers seeking to abide by immigration law.

 

A remedy for past mistakes. Any overhaul must include a practical answer for the 11 million immigrants living and working in the U.S. illegally. Amnesty is unacceptable, but so is mass deportation. National interest – national security and the rule of law – requires that the nation find a way to deal realistically with this underground population.

 

Protecting U.S. workers. U.S. workers should not be displaced by foreign workers. All workers should enjoy the same labor protections. Legal foreign workers who settle permanently in the U.S. should be encouraged and assisted in assimilating – learning English and becoming citizens.

 

Washington and the states. Immigration policy is a federal responsibility. States and local jurisdictions have a role to play, maintaining order at the local level. But national security, national economic needs and a long tradition of national jurisdiction over citizenship require that immigration and citizenship be handled at the federal level. Ultimately, only the federal government can fix what’s wrong with the immigration system.