Immigration has been a touchstone of the U.S. political debate for decades, as policymakers must weigh competing economics, security, and humanitarian concerns. Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on immigration reform for years, effectively moving some major policy decisions into the executive and judicial branches. Our current president was elected on pledges to take extraordinary actions to abolish illegal immigration and prevent terrorism, including controversial plans to build out the border wall with Mexico, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and temporarily ban Muslims entry into America. In office, he has scaled back his plans in some areas but pushed ahead with full force, drawing legal challenges and public protest.
Immigrants comprise about 14 percent of the U.S. population and more then 45 million out of a total of about 325 million people according to current data. The undocumented population is about eleven million and has leveled off since the 2008 economic crisis, which led some to return to their home countries and discouraged others from coming to the United States. Central American asylum seekers, many of whom are minors who have fled violence in their home countries, make up a growing share of those who cross the border.
States vary widely in how they treat unauthorized immigrants. Federal government is generally responsible for enforcing immigration laws, but in many delegate some immigration-control duties to state and local law enforcement. Immigration enforcement have labeled state and local jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal authorities. The “zero-tolerance” policy implemented this spring resulted in thousands of family separations at the border. Over two thousand families have been separated at the boarder this year and the numbers keep getting growing larger every day.
Our government needs a system that works for a modern economy with all its economic demands and demographic changes. This includes addressing the green card backlogs in our employment-based immigration system and creating effective temporary worker programs for workers of all skill levels. Addressing these issues will not only allow employers to innovate and create jobs, but effective temporary worker programs for the less-skilled occupations that are essential to preventing unauthorized migration in the future. Congress must put in place a worker employment verification system that works for business and all other industries to avoid unauthorized employment. And finally, there has to be a process that sets strict eligibility for allowing individuals who are not authorized to be in the U.S. and opportunity to learn legal status.