Making the Case: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For the past four years NDN has been a national leader in the effort to tackle a very 21st century problem – the need to fix our badly broken immigration system.

The current system is a moral and political disgrace, another critical national challenge unmet in the disappointing era of Bush.

Amazingly, five percent of our workforce – one of 20 workers in the US – is currently undocumented, working outside the protection of American law. They are capable of being exploited by unscrupulous employers, cannot join a union and may not even make the minimum wage. Their staggering numbers have left a “trap door” under the national minimum wage, unacceptably adding to the downward pressure on wages for working people in a time of great economic challenge.

Additionally, there is no effective way for responsible employers to check the immigration status of their workers. The border is too porous. The legal immigration system is too expensive, too time consuming, wildly inefficient and should do a better job at bringing in high skilled, high value added workers. But perhaps worst of all, the judicial system for immigrants operates outside any reasonable set of checks and balances – immigration agents do not need warrants, can detain suspected undocumented immigrants indefinitely, often roundup legal immigrants or even American citizens in their raids, and all too often separate undocumented parents from their American children.

Finally, one of the great opportunities of this new age of Obama is that it may usher in a new era of race relations, allowing us to be, perhaps more than any time in our history, truly “all in this together.” The vicious racial scapegoating of hard-working immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, by many national leaders in recent years has no place in this new era.  Creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already here - a policy supported by overwhelming majority of Americans - will go a long way toward ending the growing anti-Hispanic sentiment on display all too often today. 

I am deeply proud of our leadership on this issue over the past four years. NDN has conducted dozens of events, performed hundreds of briefings public and private, been quoted in hundreds of news stories and worked very closely with our allies – advocacy groups, elected officials and now the White House - to help create the conditions where major reform becomes possible. Just two weeks ago, in fact, my essay, Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year, was the lead post on the front page of the Huffington Post for an entire day, bringing our arguments to hundreds of thousands across the country.

The Investment Opportunity - I believe, for the reasons stated in my Huffington Post essay, that the President and Congress will end up tackling the issue this year. Your support of NDN, today, will ensure that we will have the strongest team on the field and adequate resources to continue playing a leadership role in what may become one of the most important achievements of the early Obama era. If we don’t pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this year, it could be years before we have another shot. And millions will continue to suffer. Families will continue to be split up. Virulent racism will continue unchallenged. A powerful tool to help stabilize the border region will go unused. Conducting a clean Census in 2010 will become much much harder. Relations with our neighbor Mexico, our third largest trading partner, will continue to be strained over the treatment of their émigrés here. The trap door under the minimum wage will remain, helping pull down wages for struggling Americans. And the Democrats will have once again failed to keep their promise that they would act once in power.

There is perhaps no issue in America today that I have greater personal passion about than this one. Fixing our broken immigration system is a tremendous moral and economic challenge. I believe the conditions will be right this fall for us to make a significant push to get this done. Your support of NDN will today will go a long way to making it possible for us to say that we have indeed met this challenge, and have fixed our badly broken immigration system this year.

Thank you,