The Economic Crisis may hurt Obama’s efforts on immigration reform

According to the SF Chronicle with unemployment rising, foreign workers are less welcome, say immigration restrictionists, who have vowed to oppose offering legal status to the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

Until a comprehensive bill is introduced in Congress, Obama’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, will play a key role in refocusing the way the government handles immigration.

Problems in the legal immigration system have festered for years. The agency granting permanent legal residence (the green card is the token) and citizenship has long been plagued by epic backlogs and dysfunctional computer networks. Major policy debates over appropriate levels of immigration and whether to prioritize family ties or economic contributions – and high- or low-skilled workers – remain unresolved after “comprehensive” immigration bills died in Congress in 2006 and 2007.

Obama supports allowing illegal immigrants to earn legal status, continuing tough border enforcement and establishing an electronic worker eligibility verification system. He has been largely silent, though, on whether to admit temporary foreign workers. Obama’s advisers and congressional leaders are instead talking about a bill that would include a strong, mandatory verification system to ensure employers are hiring legal workers, combined with a measure to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and require them to register and pay taxes.

Those that are tough on immigration, proposing even greater scrutiny of employers hiring illegal workers, hope that tougher law will make the illegals leave. That will never happen. Instead we must find a system to legalize those that are already here. We must also create a system to encourage the best and the brightest form other countries to come to the US and help our economy prosper. Tis can only happen with more H1B and other visas numbers increase.

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