What's So Comprehensive About It:
One of the key buzz phrases in the federal illegal immigration debate is "comprehensive immigration reform." Some legislators say they support it, while others describe it as code for amnesty. What gives?
Two Approaches to Immigration:
Comprehensive immigration reform represents a combination of, or compromise between, two approaches to illegal immigration: the law enforcement approach and the human rights approach.
The Law Enforcement Approach:
According to the law enforcement approach, illegal immigration demonstrates that our immigration system is broken because people are able to bypass the process and live here anyway. The law enforcement approach attempts to solve this problem by securing the border and enforcing existing immigration policy on undocumented immigrants who already live here.
The Human Rights Approach:
According to the human rights approach, current laws governing immigration are cruel and impractical. The human rights approach emphasizes the question of what happens to the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already here, some of whom are adults who have been here since childhood. The human rights approach attempts to address their needs by creating a path to legal immigration for undocumented immigrants already resident in this country.
Neither Approach Works in Isolation:
A pure law enforcement approach to immigration would be inhumane and impossible to put into effect. But a pure human rights approach to immigration would allow anyone from poorer nations to immigrate to the wealthier United States to achieve a higher standard of living, which would create long-term economic problems on both a domestic and international level.
A Comprehensive Solution:
Comprehensive immigration reform favors giving a citizenship path to the 12 million undocumented immigrants already here while simultaneously putting policies into effect to discourage future undocumented immigration. These policies often include increased border security and employer sanctions for the hiring of undocumented immigrants.
The Amnesty Claim:
Those who describe comprehensive immigration reform as "amnesty" tend to have a strict law enforcement approach to immigration, and are generally out of sympathy with the objectives of the human rights approach.