Obama Administration Outlines 21st Century Immigration Law Reform Plan
On May 1, 2011, The White House released its plan, “Building a 21st Century Immigration System.” The document outlines immigration law reform aimed at meeting the country’s economic and national security needs while perpetuating America’s history as a nation of immigrants.
Since being elected, President Obama has advanced immigration enforcement with:
- Resources to better secure U.S. borders such as more patrol agents and new technologies for surveillance
- Increased cooperation with Canada and Mexico by making travel across borders more efficient
- Steps to improve worksite enforcement with technology-based programs
While these efforts have improved enforcement, President Obama’s 21st Century Plan takes immigration reform beyond enforcement and outlines a commitment to correcting current system problems. The main points of the plan include:
- Responsibility by the federal government to secure borders
- Strengthening our economic competitiveness with a legal immigration system that addresses U.S. values and diverse needs
- Accountability for businesses that break laws and undermine American workers and/or exploit undocumented workers
- Responsibility from people living illegally in the U.S.
To secure U.S. borders, the plan supports continued investment in technology along borders, cracking down on passport and visa fraud with harsher criminal penalties, and by modifying processes so illegal individuals can be quickly removed if willing to voluntarily leave. It also calls for strong partnerships with Canada and Mexico to secure both sides of the borders, reduce illegal activity, and eliminate incentives for people to cross the border illegally.
To strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness and create a legal immigration system that meets our diverse needs, the plan strengthens the H-1B visa program to fill high-skill positions. It also encourages foreign students to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy over time, particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Legislation, like the DREAM Act, promotes college enrollment and military participation by young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and a Start-Up Visa offers foreign entrepreneurs with financing from U.S. investors the opportunity to come to the U.S. to start their businesses.
As taxpayers, legal immigrants help address national fiscal challenges. Employee income taxes paid by immigrant workers, as well as taxes paid by employers, help reduce the budget deficit and provide more money for social programs like Social Security and Medicare. Long-term gains create increases in GDP.
The plan holds businesses that break the law accountable for undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers. Effective worksite enforcement through an electronic employer verification system eliminates manual document review and results in quick action against businesses that hire illegal labor. It requires businesses to use the system to ensure that only individuals legally authorized to work are hired for jobs in the U.S. The plan also provides more stringent penalties for violations.
Electronic verification, accompanied by a legalization program that allows unauthorized workers to obtain legal documentation following a background check, helps create more legal opportunities for immigrant workers. The plan also revises and expands anti-discrimination provisions and provides better anti-retaliation protections for workers.
Today, there are an estimated 10.8 million people living in the U.S. illegally. The majority of these individuals work hard, save money, and stay out of trouble. President Obama’s 21st Century Immigration System outlines a plan that addresses U.S. economic and security needs and describes reform that demands responsibility and accountability from the government, businesses, and immigrants themselves.
To read the president’s plan in its entirety, please visit: www.whitehouse.gov/immigration_blueprint.pdf.