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INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform was created by Congress to assess U.S. immigration policy and make recommendations regarding its implementation and effects. Mandated in the Immigration Act of 1990 [IMMACT] to submit an interim report in 1994 and a final report in 1997, the Commission has undertaken public hearings, fact-finding missions, and expert consultations to identify the major immigration-related issues facing the United States today.

This process has been a complex one. Distinguishing fact from fiction has been difficult, in some cases because of what has become a highly emotional debate on immigration. We have heard contradictory testimony, shaky statistics, and a great deal of honest confusion regarding the impacts of immigration. Nevertheless, we have tried throughout to engage in what we believe is a systematic, nonpartisan effort to reach conclusions drawn from analysis of the best data available.

Underlying Principles

Certain basic principles underlie the Commission's work. The Commission decries hostility and discrimination against immigrants as antithetical to the traditions and interests of the country. At the same time, we disagree with those who would label efforts to control immigration as being inherently anti-immigrant. Rather, it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.

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Challenges Ahead

The Commission believes that legal immigration has strengthened and can continue to strengthen this country. While we will be reporting at a later date on the impacts of our legal immigration system, and while there may be disagreements among us as to the total number of immigrants that can be absorbed into the United States or the categories that should be given priority for admission, the Commission members agree that immigration presents many opportunities for this nation. Immigrants have contributed to this country in many ways. In most cases they have been actively sought by family members or businesses in the U.S. The tradition of welcoming newcomers has become an important element of how we define ourselves as a nation.

The Commission is also mindful of the problems that emanate from immigration. In particular, we believe that unlawful immigration is unacceptable. Enforcement efforts have not been effective in deterring unlawful immigration. This failure to develop effective strategies to control unlawful immigration has blurred the public's

perception of the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. In addition, some communities fear that they have lost their ability to integrate the large and diverse range of individuals and families who immigrate today. The Commission is particularly concerned about the impact of immigration on the most disadvantaged within our already resident societyinner city youth, recent immigrants who have not yet adjusted to life in the United States, and all persons who are economically vulnerable.

For the Commission, the principal issue at present is how to manage immigration so that it will it continue to be in the national interest.

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• How do we ensure that immigration is based on and supports broad national economic, social, and humanitarian interests, rather than the interests of those who would abuse our laws?

• How do we gain effective control over our borders while still encouraging international trade, investment, and tourism?

• How do we maintain a civic culture based on shared values while accommodating the large and diverse population admitted through immigration policy?

During the decade from 1980 to 1990, three major pieces of legislation were adopted to govern immigration policythe Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 [IRCA], and the Immigration Act of 1990. The Commission supports the broad framework for immigration policy that these laws represent:

• A legal immigration system that strives to serve the national interest in helping families to reunify and employers to obtain skills not available in the U.S. labor force;

• A refugee system that reflects both our humanitarian beliefs and international refugee law; and

• An enforcement system that seeks to deter illegal immigration through employer sanctions and tighter border control.

The Commission has concluded, however, that this framework is insufficient in guaranteeing that the stated policy goals will be met. U.S. policy suffers from a lack of credibility. While the majority of immigrants arrive here through legal means, a sizeable minority of the net additions to the U.S. population comes here illegally or overstays the legal entry period.

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The Commission heard more about unlawful immigration than any other issue during its investigations. The message was clearthe federal government has not sufficiently upheld its responsibility to deter illegal immigration.

As a public policy issue, illegal immigration presents major problems and concerns for society.

• Although illegal aliens, like citizens and lawful residents, generally abide by the law once here, unlawful entry or remaining beyond a permitted period of stay are, nevertheless, violations of the rules established by the U.S. to determine whose entry is in the national interest.

• Illegal aliens sometimes require services and financial assistance and/or take jobs at the expense of citizens and lawful

immigrants.

• Illegal immigration encourages crime: illegal immigrants often become an exploitable underclass and are reluctant to report crimes; unscrupulous employers violate labor standards and undercut competition from those businesses that play by the rules; organized rings of smugglers and counterfeiters profit from the desperate desire of people to enter or remain in the United States at all costs.

• Increasing frustration over the nation's inability to control illegal immigration undermines our first commitment to legal immigration.

The Commission is convinced that unlawful immigration can be controlled consistent with our traditions, civil rights, and civil liberties. As a nation with a long history of immigration and commit

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ment to the rule of law, this country must set limits on who can enter and then must credibly enforce our immigration policy.

Credibility in Implementation

The Commission considered the question of credibility in public policy before developing specific recommendations to control unlawful immigration. A credible policy requires:

• A clear articulation of goals and objectives;

• A realistic and achievable strategy to meet those goals; and

• Effective, consistent implementation and enforcement of policies to meet the goals.

The credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in are kept out; and people already here who should not be are required to leave.

The Commission recognizes that a credible approach to curbing illegal immigration must be comprehensive. The problem of illegal immigration will not be solved easily. There is no panacea. Nor is the cure cheap. If the nation is serious about controlling illegal immigration, it must commit substantially more resources than are currently allocated to implement the measures required. The U.S. must also earmark existing resources for those strategies most likely to prevent unlawful immigration before it occurs.

Curbing unlawful immigration requires:

• Better border management;

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• A more effective method of deterring the employment of unauthorized workers; and

• A consistent public benefits eligibility policy.

No single approach is sufficient on its own. Border management alone will not deter unlawful immigration. A substantial proportion of illegal aliens, many of whom enter through airports or land ports of entry, have overstayed their visas. Better worksite enforcement alone will not accomplish the objective either. Although employment opportunities appear to be the biggest draw for illegal aliens, significant numbers come to join family members already in the United States.

A credible and coherent benefits policy is needed because, regardless of their motives for coming, significant numbers of unauthorized aliens make use of publicly funded services, including health, education, welfare and criminal justice. The costs of these services are generally borne by states and localities, many of which have demanded federal assistance to mitigate these impacts. As an interim step until more effective controls over unlawful immigration are in place, the Commission supports the concept of such impact aid to states and localities. However, this impact aid should be made contingent upon appropriate forms of cooperation by state and local governments in the enforcement of U.S. immigration law, on accurate data on the costs incurred by states and localities,

and on mechanisms to prevent states from becoming dependent on these funds.

Credibility requires both that policies address routine problems and retain sufficient flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies. Otherwise, emergencies will overwhelm resources and create massive problems that far outlast the emergency. (In the wake of recent Haitian and Cuban migration crises, the Commission plans

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a special report examining the lessons learned and detailing specific recommendations regarding future immigration emergencies.)

Further, credibility means that unauthorized migrants who do gain entry face an effective procedure for their apprehension and removal from the country. (The Commission plans a further special report detailing specific recommendations regarding removals.)

A credible policy sets priorities regarding the categories of unauthorized aliens that require urgent attention. The Commission believes that the timely identification and deportation of aliens who have committed aggravated felonies must be the top priority for immigration enforcement as these aliens pose the greatest threat to

citizen safety.

Reliable data is a necessary ingredient to credible policy and to its implementation. The Commission sometimes found itself unable to recommend policies because we did not have the data needed to make informed judgments about various options. We were presented with estimates based on faulty assumptions and equally faulty information. Although some progress has been made during the past few years to develop new methods for estimating unauthorized immigration to this country, educated guesses are still guesses. The Commission therefore supports new data-gathering efforts in a number of areas, including the size and flow of illegal immigration, emigration from the United States, the costs and benefits associated with immigration, and the experiences of legal and unauthorized immigrants after entry.

Also, much as we support an enhanced enforcement effort by the United States, the Commission also believes that unilateral action alone will not sufficiently curb unauthorized immigration. Effective deterrence of unlawful immigration must include attacking the root causes of these movements. This will require cooperation with other

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countries. While the U.S. clearly retains the sovereign right to protect our borders, immigration is by definition an international phenomenon and international as well as domestic actions are needed to address it.

Immediate and

Long-Term Agenda

The Commission has set itself an immediate and a long-term agenda. The immediate agenda is to recommend credible policies that will be more effective in preventing and deterring unlawful immigration. Part one of this report to Congress outlines the Commission's specific recommendations in this area. The recommendations we offer should permit the goals of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 to be realized more fully.

In the long term, immigration policies for the 1990s and beyond should anticipate the challenges of the twenty-first century

challenges that will be influenced substantially by such factors as the restructuring of our own economy, the establishment of such new trade relationships as the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], and changing geopolitical relations. No less importantly, immigration policy must weigh carefully social concerns, demographic trends, and the impact of added population on the country's environment. Such issues will be covered in the Commission's future reports assessing the impact of the Immigration Act of 1990. Part two of the present report provides a progress report on IMMACT's implementation to date.

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