Becoming an American: 
Immigration & Immigrant Policy 

September 1997 


1997 

report to congress 

The Commissioners and staff 
dedicate this final report 
of the bipartisan 
Commission on Immigration Reform 
to the memory of 
Barbara Jordan 
Chair, U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform 
December 14, 1993January 17, 1996 
"We are a nation of immigrants, dedicated to the rule of law. 
That is our historyand it is our challenge to ourselves. 
. . .It is literally a matter of who we are as a nation 
and who we become as a people. E Pluribus Unum. 
Out of many, one. One people. The American people." 
(Barbara Jordan, August 1995) 
u.s. commission on immigration reform 

1997 

report to congress 

 
September 30, 1997 

The Honorable Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives 

The Honorable Richard Gephardt, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives 

The Honorable Trent Lott, Majority Leader of the Senate 

The Honorable Tom Daschle, Minority Leader of the Senate 

On behalf of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, it is my pleasure to submit our Final Report, Becoming an American: Immigration and Immigrant Policy

As mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990 [Public Law 101-649], this bipartisan Commission has examined and made recommendations regarding the implementation and impact of U.S. immigration policy. In fulfilling our mission, the Commission has held more than forty public hearings, consultations, site visits and expert discussions throughout the United States and in certain key foreign countries. 

This report underscores the need for credible, coherent immigrant and immigration policy. Admission to this nation is only the first step of a process by which an immigrant becomes an American. Through the process of Americanization, immigrants become part of our communities and our communities learn from and adapt to their presence. We set out recommendations for immigrant policies that enhance this process through orientation services for immigrants and their new communities, English and civics education, and a credible, efficient naturalization process. 

We also recommend immigration reforms. Since the Commission issued its 1994 report on illegal migration, significant progress has been made in improving border management, increasing criminal alien removals, reforming the asylum process, responding to mass migration emergencies, and pilot testing new worksite verification procedures. Illegal migration remains a problem, however, necessitating continued deterrence and removal efforts. In addition, we reiterate our call for legal immigration reform and make new recommendations regarding limited duration admissions. 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 


1997 

report to congress 

In addition, we urge Congress to reconsider the welfare reform legislation adopted in 1996 that makes legal immigrants ineligible for basic safety net programs. Requiring immigrants to become citizens in order to receive the protections afforded by these programs debases citizenship. Further, making citizenship rather than legal status the determinant of eligibility blurs the distinction between legal immigrants, whom we welcome, and illegal aliens. 

Restoring the credibility of our immigration system cannot happen unless the federal government is structured and managed effectively. While the Executive Branch has taken significant steps to address many of the weaknesses in current operations, the organization of the immigration system undermines reform efforts. Hence, in this report, we recommend a fundamental restructuring and streamlining of responsibilities for immigration. 

Our work benefitted greatly from the effective cooperation we received from the Executive Branch and both Houses of Congress. We also thank the dozens of researchers who have contributed the results of their scholarship and the hundreds of community leaders, government officials, service providers and other experts who participated in our public hearings and consultations. 

I particularly thank my fellow Commissioners. We have struggled with many tough issues, and we have reached consensus on nearly all of our recommendations. Without the dedication, hard work, and good humor of the members of this Commission, we could not have achieved this agreement. The work of the Commission could not have been accomplished without the support of an extraordinary staff led by Susan Martin, Executive Director and Andrew Schoenholtz, Deputy Director, assisted by the members of the Policy Research, the Public Affairs, Editorial, and Administrative Staffs. Each staff member has worked tirelessly to provide the Commission with volumes of valuable information, policy memoranda, and logistical support. The Commission is also indebted to the Executive Branch for lending outstanding career persons to serve on the Commission's staff. 

Sincerely, 

Shirley M. Hufstedler 

Chair 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 
 


1997 

report to congress 

MEMBERS OF 

THE COMMISSION

Shirley Mount Hufstedler, Chair 

former judge u.s. court of appeals, ninth circuit 

former secretary of department of education 

morrison & foerster, llp 

Lawrence H. Fuchs, Vice Chair 

jaffe professor of american civilization and politics 

brandeis university 

Michael S. Teitelbaum, Vice Chair 

alfred p. sloan foundation 

Richard Estrada 

associate editor, editorial page 

dallas morning news 

Harold Ezell 

president and founder 

ezell group 

Robert Charles Hill 

venable baetjer howard & civiletti, llp 

Warren R. Leiden 

berry, appleman & leiden llp 

Nelson Merced 

senior associate 

community training & assistance center 

Bruce A. Morrison 

chairman 

federal housing finance board 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 


1997 

report to congress 

COMMISSION STAFF

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 

susan martin 

deputy director 

andrew schoenholtz 

director of policy research 

b. lindsay lowell (on detail from dol

POLICY RESEARCH STAFF 

galli aizenman, program analyst 7/96-8/97 

joseph costanzo, program analyst 10/93-7/94 

rosemary curtin, research assistant 6/95-8/95 

brett m. endres, policy analyst 12/92-present 

david r. howell, senior policy analyst 4/94-4/96 

anna law, program analyst 1/95-8/96 

nancy leach, research analyst 11/95-present 

enrico marcelli, research assistant 2/96-5/96 

raquel marquez, research assistant 7/97-8/97 

deborah waller meyers, policy analyst 6/93-present 

brandon mitchell, policy analyst 1/97-present 

kimberly m. o'donnell, policy analyst 5/94-8/97 

lavita strickland, legal counsel 9/94-present 

karen woodrow-lafield, senior research analyst 10/94-2/95 

detailees 

department of education 

harpreet sandhu, senior policy analyst 9/95-11/95 

department of health & human services 

allan gall, senior policy analyst 9/95-8/97 

lani horowitz, policy analyst 10/94-6/95 

david nielsen, policy analyst 8/94-9/94 

linda sanches, policy analyst 1/96-8/96 

department of justice 

executive office for immigration review 

patricia a. dunn, senior policy analyst 12/96-present 

carolyn m. piccotti, senior policy analyst 9/95-12/96 

jeffrey l. romig, senior policy analyst 12/94-8/95 

immigration and naturalization service 

gregg a. beyer, senior policy analyst 1/97-present 

patricia a. cole, senior policy analyst 4/93-6/95 

thedora hernandez, policy analyst 6/94-3/95 

michael d. hoefer, policy analyst 12/93-9/94 

edward skerrett, senior policy analyst 11/95-10/96 

terry tremper, policy analyst 10/94-12/94 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 


1997 

report to congress 

department of labor

gail coleman, senior policy analyst 7/93-9/93 

david a. levy, senior policy analyst 11/94-present 

department of state 

margaret cooperman, policy analyst 4/95-6/95 

james l. halmo, senior policy analyst 8/96-3/97 

susan jacobs, senior policy analyst 9/94-2/95 

laurie johnston, senior policy analyst 8/94-1/95 

harry jones, senior policy analyst 7/93-7/94 

john spiegel, senior policy analyst 3/97-present 

r. susan wood, senior policy analyst 11/95-4/96 

PUBLIC AFFAIRS & EDITORIAL STAFF 

paul donnelly, communications director 7/94-present 

elizabeth d. malks, public affairs officer 12/92-9/94 

minna newman nathanson, publications director 8/94-present 

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF 

mark j. bogdan, administrative officer 12/93-7/97 

anna cobb, administrative officer 12/92-1/94 

l. robin walker, administrative officer 12/93-present 

latanya perry, assistant administrator 9/95-present 

roni amit, staff assistant 10/94-8/95 

ronald k. sommerville, consultant 

the commission extends its gratitude to its interns: susan biles, andrea caserta, joanne clain, emily cope, tara coronado, lisa cotter, elaine gaynes, peter hendricks, suzanne hilderbrand, a. marc johnston, diana judd, michelle kla-williams, edmond lahai, jinhee lee, sarah logan, belinda martinez, pascale michel, nelson mock, mikael nacim, 

negin nazemi, elizabeth offen, aarti patel, marcia pincus, larry rimmer, roger salazar, sarah swanson, gouri sashital, meylysa tseng, 

yvette velasco, guillermo villanueva, and kial young. 


1997 

report to congress 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 


contents 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY -i- 

INTRODUCTION -1- 

mandate and methods -2- 

today's immigrants -2- 

conclusion -24- 

AMERICANIZATION AND INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANTS -25- 

a declaration of principles and values -25- 

americanization -26- 

orientation 30- 

education -36- 

naturalization -46- 

A Credible Framework for Immigration Policy -59- 

legal permanent admissions -59- 

limited duration admissions -76- 

curbing unlawful migration -103- 

achieving immigration policy goals -147- 

introduction -147- 

structural reform -148- 

management reform -183- 

improved data and analysis -194- 

CONCLUSION -203- 

REFERENCES -205- 

commission on immigration reform resources -205- 

public hearings/expert consultations -207- 

testimony presented to the u.s. congress -212- 

APPENDICES -217- 

a: immact: provisions and effects -217- 

b: statement of commissioner warren e. leiden -224- 

u.s. commission on immigration reform 


1997 

report to congress 

u.s. commission on immigration reform