Congress is focusing once again on the long-neglected problem of fixing our country's failed immigration laws. Hearings have been held on the issues, several bills have been introduced, and President Bush has reiterated his support for real and comprehensive immigration reform.
National security is most effectively enhanced by improving the mechanisms for identifying real terrorists, not by implementing harsher immigration laws or treating all foreigners as potential threats. Policies and practices that fail to properly distinguish between real terrorists and legitimate foreign travelers, guest workers, and harmless immigrants are ineffective, waste limited resources, damage the U.S. economy, and foster a false sense of security. We will not be truly secure unless and until we know who is already here and who is trying to come here.
Continuing to do nothing but enforce our current laws will lead to more dysfunction and less practical enforcement. The key to reform is dealing intelligently and realistically with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now living and working in the United States. Many of these people are the relatives of U.S. citizens and legal residents or workers holding jobs that Americans do not want.
People already here who are no threat to our security -- but who work hard, pay taxes, and are learning English -- should be allowed to earn permanent residence. That's not amnesty. These people are not the problem, but rather a symptom of a broken immigration system. Including them in reform would tell our government who is here.
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