WASHINGTON – Immigration reform in the U.S. has been a game of numbers with no winners or end in sight.
That is the conclusion of a report and discussion Monday at the Center for American Progress.
“It's been nine years since President Bush unveiled a framework for immigration,half a decade since the House passed an enforcement only bill and three years to the day since the House put out the last best chance at an immigration bill,” Stewart Verdery Jr.,the report's author said.
He was assistant secretary for border and transportation security policy at the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush administration.
The report outlines the success and failures of the government in regulating immigration in the past five years. CAP is a progressive policy group led by John Podesta,who was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.
The lack of an immigration reform bill has forced state and local governments to enact their own enforcement laws,said Marshall Fitz,CAP's director of immigration policy. Arizona's controversial immigration act is one example.
Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema,D-Phoenix,said reform is needed to keep cities safe. Arizona has a large number of kidnappings,which are mostly drug related.
“We are the kidnapping capital of the nation because of the cartels that are operating in our interior,” Sinema said.
Enforcement on the border has increased in recent years. There were more than 20,000 full-time border patrol agents in 2009,up from 12,300 in 2006. In addition,more than 370 miles of fencing help keep immigrants from entering the U.S.
Stopping the flow of illegal immigration is not enough,according to the CAP report. It says the 12 million illegal immigrants who are already living in the U.S. need a way to become legal residents.
Sinema said people in Arizona support an immigration reform bill that ensures employers will be held accountable,among other things.
“We need to provide a process where people who want to become legal citizens will come forward,pay taxes and learn English,and do a background check,” Sinema said. “If we provide a process like that,those who don't want to follow the law won't come forward,and it will be easier to identify them.”
President Barack Obama met with grassroots leaders Monday to discuss immigration reform and said he hopes to have legislation “at the earliest possible opportunity,” according to a White House report of the meeting,which was closed to press coverage. He told the group he will make a speech on the subject soon.
Congress is unlikely to have time to deal with the issue this year.
However,the Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear an Arizona immigration case in the fall. Business and civil liberties groups oppose a law that imposes sanctions on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.