Immigration reform: The five most important issues
Clearly, any compromise on immigration will turn on demands to tighten border security to prevent further illegal migration.
The problem is defining what a secure border looks like. There are about 18,500 U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the U.S.-Mexico border. That number is far higher than at any time in the last decade. Also, barriers have been constructed along nearly 700 miles of that border.
Some lawmakers, such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would like to see more high tech resources, including drones, used to patrol the border. Others insist that a commission be established to set standards for enhanced border security. (John Moore / Getty Images)
This is likely to be one of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers. At least half of the nation’s farmworkers are in the United States illegally, according to surveys and other data. Any proposal will need to bridge the divide between growers and labor groups.
Growers say they have difficulty finding U.S. workers willing to do the job, and want a guest worker program that allows them to hire seasonal labor. Union leaders and advocates caution that guest worker programs must provide better labor protections to guard against abuse and exploitation. (David Goldman / Associated Press)
Any bill must provide a path for the undocumented immigrants already in the country. That path, however, can’t be so tortuous or severe that it defeats the goal of bringing into legal status those immigrants who qualify and pay a penalty. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
Any blueprint for reform must also include a provision that deals with requirements on employers to ensure that new workers are in the country legally. But deciding how to accomplish that will be difficult. Some have suggested that all employers participate in the federal E-Verify program. Others have suggested harsher penalties on employers who break the rules. (Los Angeles Times)
Immigration reform must also include a review of the rules for allocating visas to high-skilled workers. Employers repeatedly complain that they are creating more high-skill jobs but can’t find workers to fill those posts. At the same time, U.S. workers worry that visas could be used to replace them or depress wages. But the reality is that as baby boomers retire, new workers will be needed. Surely, we need to better educate future generations of Americans, as well as continue to attract the best and the brightest. (Matt York / Associated Press)