What issues must Congress address in an immigration reform bill?

Michelle D. Bernard, president & CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum, said:

Last week, the Independent Women’s Forum and the Supreme Court Institute of the Georgetown University Law Center co-hosted a discussion about Arizona’s new immigration law, it’s constitutionality, and the impact it may have on the nation. (http://iwf.org/events/show/65.html). 

Based upon comments attributed to one of our panelists, Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks, USA, at the conclusion of each panel discussion, we asked our panelists whether the passage of Arizona’s new immigration law is the Obama Administration’s and Congress’s Birmingham?  In asking this question, our intent was to remind our panelists and the audience that Bull Connor’s Birmingham was a tipping point that forced the federal government to do something about protecting the civil rights of millions of Americans.   Thus, while not a perfect analogy, in drawing upon Bull Connor’s bigotry, we wanted to know whether our panelists believed that  Arizona’s new immigration law would force our nation’s policy makers to finally come up with a solution to our nation’s immigration problem. (C-SPAN)

The consensus among our speakers was that there is a real need for immigration reform on many levels, but that coming to an agreement as to what to do and how to do it will not be easy.  Yet, this is not an excuse for  the Administration or Congress not to act. 

The President and Congress must come together to pass a border security bill that will reassure Americans “including those in border states like Arizona” that the federal government is in control of the border and is willing and able to enforce all laws that meet constitutional muster.  As long as the federal government fails to enforce existing federal immigration laws and pass a border security bill, other states will take matters into their own hands and pass similar laws to what we see in Arizona. 

While the Arizona law is presumed constitutional, there could be problems in its application by law enforcement officials, subjecting many innocent people to racial profiling.  While people who will never have to fear being asked to prove their citizenship may never understand the fear of racial profiling, it is as real and legitimate a concern as the many problems that the legal residents of Arizona, especially those living close to the border, are dealing with.  Our federal government has wholly failed to enforce our federal immigration laws and the result has been catastrophic. 

Finally, policy makers should look for a free market solution to illegal immigration and border security issues like the “Red Card” solution proposed by Helen Krieble and many Hispanic entrepreneurs. (http://redcardsolution.com.)  The Red Card solution is  a border control and non-immigrant work program that doesn’t call for amnesty and doesn’t require citizenship.  The proposed program would allow non-immigrant workers to enter the United States in one of two ways: (1) as non-immigrant workers; or (2) as immigrants applying for citizenship.  This solution “introduces private management of a non-immigrant worker program, powerful incentive for [illegals] already in the U.S. to go outside our borders, apply for legal admission, and eliminate the open border problem.”  A solution like this, coupled with true border security and enforcement of existing federal immigration laws may well eliminate the numbers of illegals entering the country as well as the very real possibility of racial profiling in the application of laws like Arizona’s. 

All of the above could give Americans the confidence that our government actually works. The real question is whether policy makers have the courage to act now rather than waiting until after the 2010 mid-term elections.