Sharma Crawford

Piecemeal Immigration Reform is a Bad Idea

During a Fox News online telecast, Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte stated that legislation must be passed to tackle the issues regarding millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., the workforce’s demand for more high- and low-skilled labor and more.

Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who leads the House’s key committee of jurisdiction for immigration legislation, also hinted that this legislation could be passed though numerous bills rather than a sweeping immigration system overhaul. Though a step-by-step approach would have sufficed as little as 10 to 20 years ago, the need for Immigration reform has snowballed to crisis level.  Wide spread, comprehensive immigration legislation is desperately needed at this point, not baby steps that legislators believe are better than nothing.

Unless you’ve walked in the shoes of those dealing with current immigration laws, you have no idea just how difficult they are. In fact, Goodlatte, one who is steering immigration legislation, hasn’t practiced immigration law since 1992 when he was elected to Congress.

Prior to 1991, immigration litigation didn’t have the necessity it has now. Undocumented immigrants weren’t placed under the scrutiny that they are today. Immigration law wasn’t so much a battle as it was a process. But the fabric of an immigration law practice changed in 2001 on 9/11. The country went from rolling out the welcome mat to “get out and don’t come back.”

Immigration lawyers had a fight on their hands as immigration was equated to terrorism. Immigration attorneys are still litigating immigration laws from 1996. Unless they want to spend another 15 years arguing piecemeal immigration bills, the only answer is comprehensive reform.

Immigration attorneys aren’t the only ones who agree that something is not better than nothing when it comes to immigration reform. Captains of industry like Microsoft and Google have been pushing Congress for comprehensive reform measures. U.S. population growth stands at net zero. Couple that with an aging workforce and companies in all industries are facing severe workforce shortages for high and low skilled workers. And while Democrats and Republicans battle it out, millions of immigrants’ lives and families hang in the balance.

Goodlatte commended the House and Senate’s bipartisan groups working on immigration reform for their attempts to come to an agreement on comprehensive legislation. But can it really be done? Republicans didn’t come to the immigration reform table even under President Bush.

Passing long overdue and now critically urgent immigration reform shouldn’t come at the price of quality. The fact of the matter remains that pieces don’t make sense taken out of context from the whole and only creates confusion. Legislators must look at the long term and make policies that work in the real world, and that world is much different than it was in 1991 and 2001. Immigration reform must be comprehensive and address today’s needs, not a series of bills that still leaves laws in the courtrooms from 10 or 20 years ago.

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