Washington, D.C. – Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Immigration Task Force released a set of initial policy recommendations that it sees as critical to moving the immigration reform debate forward. BPC’s Immigration Task Force is co-chaired by former Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Henry Cisneros, and former Governors Haley Barbour and Ed Rendell and includes thirteen business and labor leaders, key immigration stakeholders and former senior political figures from both parties.
The report, Room for Consensus: A Statement by BPC’s Immigration Task Force, focuses on four topics: controlling the flow of unauthorized immigration, legalization and citizenship, legal immigration, and the economic impacts of reform.
“The historical importance of immigration in our country cannot be diminished,” noted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “As members of Congress are home in their districts meeting with constituents, it is important to recognize the many areas in the immigration reform debate where consensus already exists. The recommendations we are releasing today will help move the immigration reform conversation forward.”
To control the flow of unauthorized immigration, bolster national security and address the problem of individuals overstaying their visas, the task force recommends that a new set of border-security metrics be established and reviewed by an independent commission. This system would provide a much-needed picture of the flow of unauthorized immigration and allow the public to hold accountable those responsible for securing the nation’s borders.
“Preventing unauthorized immigration requires smart investments and that means focusing on more than just the southern border,” said former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, a member of BPC’s task force. “A successful security strategy has to include enforcing laws within the country, including mandatory employment verification. We must also have the ability to measure this success through trusted, verifiable, and independent metrics.”
When addressing legalization and citizenship, the task force proposes that any undocumented individual who pays all penalties, passes a criminal background check, and fully complies with the requirements of a legalization program should have the ability to apply for citizenship. However, with the exception of individuals brought here as children, priority must first be given to immigrants who apply for visas through legal channels before any unauthorized immigrant is allowed to apply for a green card. Congress may also want to consider accelerating the process for individuals who commit to and fulfill a period of continued service in the agricultural sector, and should allow newly legalized immigrants to stay and renew interim status if they prefer, instead of automatically applying for a green card.
“Reforms to our immigration laws must protect U.S. workers and grow our economy,” said former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, member of the task force. “Employment-based immigration levels should fluctuate based on labor needs and our nation’s economic strength. New workers should be directed toward occupations with labor shortages, and employers must be subject to stricter penalties if they choose to continue to exploit and hire unauthorized immigrants. All employers – small and large alike – must play by the rules of the game.”
The task force believes economic immigration is a way to grow the U.S. economy and prevent unauthorized immigration, but it should not take place at the expense of family and immediate-relative immigration. Temporary worker programs need to strike the right balance between being simple enough for employers, especially small businesses, to use and ensuring that employers do not exploit immigrant workers or displace American workers.
“A steady flow of legal immigrants has many benefits: it strengthens the U.S. housing market, increases tax revenues, contributes to the financial stability of our entitlement programs, and supports entrepreneurship, especially for small businesses,” said former Congressman John Shadegg, a member of BPC’s task force. “Allowing small businesses to hire and recruit temporary immigrant workers through simplified procedures will help these businesses secure the workers they need lawfully.”
For more information on the task force and a full list of members, please click here.