As the constitutional and civil rights consequences of Arizona's punitive new immigration law become more apparent, proponents and opponents of the law seem to share only one area of agreement: America's immigration laws are broken and must be repaired. The proposed solutions however, are as different as night and day.
Supporters of the law champion federal and state enforcement-only solutions premised on the belief that we must secure the borders before taking any other action to reform the system. Opponents of the law know that a border-first strategy is short-sighted, has failed in the past, and cannot provide a solution to the larger immigration problem. As these two forces mobilize for yet another immigration debate, the stakes grow ever higher and the need for accurate information increases.
Although it may be politically popular to call for additional border and interior enforcement, the real solutions and the facts call for a comprehensive approach. In order to truly solve the problem we must address the root causes of illegal immigration:
- inadequate legal means for working and immigrating to the United States,
- a deportation-driven strategy that focuses on numbers rather than genuine threats to national security, and
- failure to enact a consistent, balanced federal plan for regulating immigration.
Pouring billions of dollars more into border enforcement alone or venting frustration through questionable state laws will not solve the problem.
Turning off the jobs magnet, expanding effective worker verification programs, providing a legal and regulated flow of workers, and getting millions of workers right with the law - paying taxes and contributing to our nation's recovery - is a recipe for reform. Throwing billions at enforcement-only has been the modus operandi in Washington for nearly two decades, and the results have been an increasingly dysfunctional system.