Washington, D.C. July 22, 2019 — The immigration debate in America today is nearly as broken as the country’s immigration system itself. Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report that provides a framework to fix both. For many years, conversations about immigration have been predicated on a false choice that says America can either honor its identity as a nation of immigrants or live up to its ideals as a nation of laws by enforcing the current broken immigration system.
In report, “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System,” author Tom Jawetz argues that by accepting these false terms for the debate, supporters of sensible and humane immigration policy have ceded powerful rhetorical ground to conservative immigration restrictionists, allowing them to masquerade as the sole defenders of America as a nation of laws.
In reality, America is, and has always been, both a nation of immigrants and of laws. In this report, Jawetz sets out a framework for restoring the rule of law in our immigration system by ending the cruel and lawless attacks of the Trump administration and by building a fair, humane, and well-functioning immigration system.
While the report is not intended to be a deep dive into specific policy solutions, but rather a framework for how to think about and understand the need to reform the U.S. immigration system, Jawetz offers the following guiding principles for policy reform:
- Build a generous and well-functioning legal immigration system that can be responsive to the nation’s changing needs. This would include realistic and independent evidence-based avenues for immigration that allow families to stay together and businesses to get the workers they need, while enhancing all workers’ rights to fair and increasing wages, safe working conditions, and the opportunity to thrive together.
- Establish a humane asylum and refugee system that honors the nation’s historic commitment to be a place of refuge as well as ensures that those in need of humanitarian protection receive fair and efficient adjudication of their claims without sacrificing due process.
- Commit to proportionality, accountability, and due process in immigration enforcement. This would, for instance, do away with the current one-size-fits-all approach, in which banishment from the country is the only sanction on the table and instead allow for a range of potential penalties to fit the offense and the individual.
- Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and other individuals long residing in the country. This would allow people to come forward, register with the government, pass a background check, and be put on a path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship.
“We can’t allow immigration restrictionists to control the terms of the debate, and people who understand the value that immigrants and immigration play in our society must aggressively reject the false choice that says America can be either a nation of immigrants or a nation of laws,” Jawetz said. “From day one, the Trump administration has undermined the rule of law in our immigration system by constantly breaking the law and through countless acts of official and senseless cruelty. It is time for progressives to reframe the debate and commit to restoring the rule of law by building a fair, humane, and workable immigration system.”