The President’s recent rededication to rebuilding the infrastructure, economy and education system in America is praiseworthy. In the second half of his first term, however, Obama will also need to address the divisive issue of exactly who gets access to those benefits of American citizenship and how.
Comprehensive immigration reform that includes amnesty is the most practical policy for addressing the current reality with respect to undocumented workers in the United States.
Amnesty would forgive millions who left their homes seeking a better life in America and failed to enter the country legally
While the act of granting amnesty is a last resort, the measure is critical to restoring a strong framework for future immigrants.
When amnesty was granted to millions of workers in the 1980s, the measure was billed as a single chance for immigrants to change their legal status without facing criminal prosecution.
Now that this policy must be pursued a second time, it is even more critical that policymakers avoid creating a moral hazard that would encourage future potential immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally.
If citizens of other countries begin to believe they can break American laws as they immigrate and later be rewarded with legal status, this policy will create problems for future generations as opposed to addressing them.
As the Obama administration has suggested, dismantling other incentives to cross illegally into the United States and increasing control of the borders will ensure that amnesty works as it is intended.
This policy will “catch-up” the reality on the ground to a new equilibrium from which it is possible to minimize illegal entry to America in the future.
Passing immigration reform without amnesty for millions of undocumented aliens imposes an economically and logistically impossible burden on current law enforcement.
It requires that significant resources be applied to breaking up families and deporting residents who labor at the least desirable and lowest-wage jobs.
These resources are best used to secure the borders, not to run jails and investigate families living peacefully inside the U.S.
Only a bill that includes amnesty for undocumented aliens truly acknowledges the difficult reality within American borders and presents a realistic plan for amending the situation so that future immigration reform can indeed be addressed only at the borders and processes that take place there.
When the legislature reconvenes next Monday, political concerns will be abundant, and for many, crafting policy may take second priority until November.
While the election cycle is understandably of great concern, it might make more sense to wait to introduce this issue when lawmakers already lack the constructive mindset to make real changes.
The problem is a painful one to acknowledge, and the solution is far from perfect, but it is an issue that cannot be ignored.
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