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What Must Immigration Reform Do?

Immigration is a difficult issue—there’s no getting around that. How do we encourage and improve lawful immigration, while deterring unlawful immigration?

David Addington, head of Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, takes on this question just as the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” nears a deal on a new bill. He writes:

The U.S. should reform its immigration system through a careful, step-by-step process that welcomes lawful immigrants, encourages their full participation in American life, and expands opportunity. The process also must prevent unlawful immigration, encourage respect for law, secure America’s borders, and preserve America’s sovereignty.

Heritage has described this step-by-step process for a problem-solving approach to immigration issues, such as reform of the lawful immigration system, visa reforms, lawful temporary worker arrangements, and strong border and interior enforcement.

Broad federal declarations usually don’t work, and a one-size-fits-all immigration policy is not the way to go.

It’s also important to remember why people come to America. They are drawn by the promise of freedom and the chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.

The best thing we can do for all immigrants—past and future—is to make sure that America remains a place where people want to come. America must be a place where citizens are protected and laws are enforced. Respect for the law is what makes individual freedom possible; the Constitution safeguards our freedoms.

Immigration policy that extends amnesty to unlawful immigrants goes against that respect for the law that makes America stand out in the world. As new congressional plans emerge, Addington warns that people who knowingly entered or remain in the U.S. unlawfully should not receive amnesty:

Amnesty comes in many forms, but in all its variations, it discourages respect for the law, treats law-breaking aliens better than law-following aliens, and encourages future unlawful immigration into the United States.

America needs—and wants—immigrants to enrich the nation. At the same time, we have to protect the nation’s borders and its sovereignty. Workable immigration reform will balance these necessities without compromising the American values that attract immigrants in the first place.


Encouraging Lawful Immigration and Discouraging Unlawful Immigration

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

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