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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Immigration Reform

After failing to pass its own reform bill in 2007, Bush & Co. launched a policy of high-visibility workplace raids, mass deportation and rigorous employment verification designed to show that they were tough on illegal immigration.

President-elect Barack Obama denounced the raids during the campaign, but canceling George W. Bush's policies could open the new administration to charges that it's "soft" on enforcement - especially at a time of high unemployment among American workers.

Immediate decisions for Obama and Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano are whether to maintain decrees that all federal contractors use the otherwise-voluntary "e-verify" system to check the immigration status of their workers and push private employers to fire workers subject to "no match" letters from the Social Security system.

Immigration rights advocates, unions and employer groups complain that the databases used for e-verify and no match are faulty and that, between them, up to 5 million illegal workers - and some legal ones - could be forced out of their jobs.

Already, the recession has caused large-scale dislocations, business closings and housing foreclosures in Hispanic communities, giving some immigrants-rights advocates hope that economic arguments - if not only humanitarian ones - will convince the Obama administration to cancel Bush's policies.

The best solution - as even Bush officials acknowledge - is to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would control the U.S. borders; allow in a regular flow of immigrant workers, especially for agricultural jobs; and identify and legalize the status of otherwise law-abiding illegal residents and give them a chance to become citizens.

Bush acknowledged in an interview published Tuesday that, in retrospect, he erred in not pushing for immigration reform after his re-election and in trying for Social Security reform instead.

His Social Security initiative failed and, by the time Congress got around to considering immigration reform, anti-immigrant groups and right-wing radio talk-show hosts had whipped the Republican base - and GOP Members of Congress - into a frenzy of opposition to "amnesty" and insecure borders, killing that initiative, too.

Bush's Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said in a speech in December that he and Bush were disappointed at the failure.

"But given that Congress has not passed it, the most important thing we can do is enforce the law the way it has been written, and therefore we've arrested record numbers of illegal aliens ... and we've deported almost 350,000 in the past year. That is a record."

Read it all here.

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