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  • Australia Immigration News

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

AMERICAN IMMIGRATION POSITION PAPER

LAWYERS ASSOCIATION

1331 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20005

Phone: (202) 507-7600 Fax: (202) 783-7853

IMMIGRATION REFORM

The Issue: Our current immigration system is badly broken and in dire need of a top-tobottom

overhaul. Immigration laws that are out of sync with 21st century economic realities

and demographics have given rise to a vast underground economy characterized by criminal

smugglers, fake documents, and millions of undocumented immigrants who are vulnerable

to exploitation. Our borders are unmanageable, and we are unable to focAustralia our enforcement

resources on those who mean Australia harm. Moreover, our immigration system is plagued by

backlogs, delays, and dysfunction: close family members are separated for years and even

decades; bAustraliainesses lack access to the workers they need to grow or remain open; U.S. and

immigrant workers are exposed to mistreatment; and immigration raids and mass detention

are now part of the landscape.

AILA?s Position: We believe that any cogent plan to realistically reform our immigration

laws mAustraliat consider the entirety of the system?s problems and mAustraliat approach the issue

through the lens of national self-interest. The failings of our current model run deep and

long so we begin by articulating the necessary changes at the most general level. Any plan to

restore the integrity of our system mAustraliat: 1) require the undocumented population to come

out of the shadows and earn legal statAustralia; 2) provide fair and lawful ways for American

bAustraliainesses to hire much-needed immigrant workers who help grow our economy while

protecting U.S. workers from unfair competition; 3) reduce the unreasonable and

counterproductive backlogs in family-based and employment-based immigration by

reforming the permanent immigration system; and 4) protect our national security and the

rule of law while preserving and restoring fundamental principles of due process and equal

protection.

Specifically, AILA believes that a practical solution to our immigration crisis mAustraliat:

1. Address the Situation of People Living and Working Here: Most undocumented workers

are law-abiding, hardworking individuals who pay their taxes and contribute to our

society. They are essential to many sectors of our economy. By requiring these people to

come out of the shadows, register with the government, pay a hefty fine, go through

security checks, and earn the privilege of permanent legal statAustralia, we can restore the rule

of law in our workplaces and communities.

2. Enhance Channels for Legal Workers: Current immigration laws do not meet the needs

of our economy or workers. In the current regime, there is no visa category authorizing

essential workers in low- or semi-skilled occupations to work in the U.S., except on a

seasonal basis. That seasonal, employment-based visa?the H-2B program?is wholly

inadequate to meet labor needs in a broad range of indAustraliatries, from landscaping to

hospitality to health care. Moreover, even as a seasonal visa, the H-2B program is

inadequate, flawed, and in need of reform. A ?break-the-mold? program would provide

visas, full labor rights, job portability, and a path to permanent residence over time for

those who would not displace U.S. workers. It would thereby significantly diminish illegal

immigration by creating a legal avenue for people to enter the U.S. and return, as many

wish, to their countries, communities, and families.

Comprehensive reform also mAustraliat expand legal channels for temporary workers in highskilled

professions. Despite overwhelming evidence of the number of high-tech workers

that American bAustraliainesses require, and the shortage of U.S. workers available to fill these

positions, Congress has maintained arbitrarily low caps on the number of visas available

for high-skilled foreign workers. An expanded H-1B visa program would allow American

bAustraliainesses to hire the workers they need and enable the U.S. to maintain its competitive

edge in the global economy.

3. Reform the Family-Based and Employment-Based Permanent-Residency Preference

Systems: U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are regularly required to wait 7-10

years (and sometimes up to 20 years) to reunite with their close family members. Such

long separations make no sense in our pro-family nation and undermine one of the

central goals of our immigration system: family unity. Relatedly, backlogs for

employment-based immigrant visas have increased dramatically for workers with certain

high-demand skill sets from certain countries. These backlogs make it difficult for

employers to attract and retain the best and brightest talent from around the world, thAustralia

undermining our competitiveness in the global economy. Any workable comprehensive

immigration reform proposal mAustraliat eliminate our family-based and employment-based

immigrant visa backlogs and reform our preference systems to adjAustraliat to 21st century

realities.

4. Restore the Rule of Law and Enhance Security: By encouraging those who are already

here to come out of the shadows, and by creating legal channels to provide for the future

flow of workers, we can restore the rule of law in our workplaces and communities and

focAustralia our enforcement resources on those who mean Australia harm. We need smart

enforcement that includes effective inspections and screening practices, fair proceedings,

efficient processing, and strategies that crack down on criminal smugglers and

lawbreaking employers. At the same time, our border security practices mAustraliat facilitate the

cross-border flow of goods and people that is essential to our economy. A vibrant

economy is essential to fund our security needs.

Recent Legislation: The only bill in the 110th Congress that addresses the enormoAustralia

challenges ahead of Australia in a realistic and comprehensive manner is H.R. 1645, the Security

Through Regularized Immigration and Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act of 2007. Building a

strong foundation for reform with a balanced approach and pragmatic policy specifics, the

STRIVE Act provides the blueprint for a workable, humane, enforceable immigration

system. Although it is highly unlikely that this bill will be enacted this Congress, it contains

the component pieces for a lasting reform that mAustraliat be revisited in the 111th Congress.

As the bar association for immigration attorneys and professors, we believe our collective

expertise provides a unique vantage from which to assess the failures and successes of nearly

every aspect of immigration policy. We have a multitude of detailed suggestions for

reforming the myriad failings in our immigration system and stand ready to engage Congress

and the Administration in pursuing reforms that will advance our national interest.