Borders are a national matter

It’s time for comprehensive immigration reform.

Earlier this week, President Obama indicated that he is prepared to let immigration reform fall by the wayside this year, saying he merely wanted to get the conversation started. This is a shame.
In the wake of ArizonaâÄôs highly controversial immigration law, the need for a comprehensive approach at the national level is clearer than ever. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently made the decision to bypass energy and climate change legislation in order to prioritize immigration reform in the current Congressional session. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) âÄî who at the moment is the only Republican supporting climate change legislation and has also said he favors immigration reform âÄî significantly withdrew his support from both efforts in protest, insisting that climate ought to be the first priority. Despite Sen. GrahamâÄôs and othersâÄô disapproval, Congressional leaders should plunge forward with immigration reform now, while it has natural momentum. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides Congress the authority to âÄúestablish a uniform rule of naturalization.âÄù While states have traditionally enforced certain criminal penalties, they have limited and contested authority over civil penalties, such as deportation. Simply put, this problem is inherently federal; a state-by-state approach is untenable. Control of the flow of people through our borders is critical for security and is provided for by our national sovereignty. The people of the United States have a right and an obligation to deny entry to those without proper documentation. Better enforcement will no doubt require physical measures along the borders âÄî both Southern and Northern âÄî as well as increased inspection at docks and airports. Our country and our economy can also benefit enormously, however, by making it easier for skilled, educated people from other countries to come here, work, and consider citizenship. Among the potential and promising reforms on the table that would most directly impact this University is a measure that would award a green card, or permanent-resident status, to any foreign student graduating from a U.S. institution of higher learning. Of course, something must also be done for those immigrants who are here already but lack documentation. The nationâÄôs undocumented population currently stands just above 10 million, down from a peak of nearly 12 million at the height of the housing and financial bubble, when American employers were voraciously seeking as many low wage, low skill employees as possible. To stop the influx, employers must be held responsible for verifying the citizenship or work visa of each new hire. Those who flaunt this requirement and hire undocumented immigrants for lower costs or a more exploitable workforce must be held to account with harsh, meaningful penalties. The hard fact is that there would be little incentive to immigrate illegally to the U.S. if there were no jobs available to undocumented workers. For those 10 million who are here now, it is imperative that they be treated with humanity despite their infraction; a reasonable path to citizenship should be offered to those who are willing to earn it. This must not be a free ride, but should instead require paying fines and back taxes, proving English and civic fluency, and waiting in line. Climate legislation is crucially important, but the train of immigration reform is already moving âÄî Congress would be smart to hop on. So long as they hesitate, unjust, disjointed laws like ArizonaâÄôs will fill the void.