A coalition of former U.S. immigration and homeland security officials is calling for comprehensive immigration reform, similar to that proposed by the Bush administration and some members of the U.S. Senate. The group says those who portray immigration reform as choice between stronger border security and liberalized employment programs are wrong. They say real reform integrates both approaches.
The Coalition For Immigration Security told reporters Wednesday that it applauds the increased enforcement that has been implemented on U.S. borders and other points of entry since the September 11 attacks. It says more can and should be done to beef up patrols and employ new technology to help monitor the borders.
But former Homeland Security border official Stewart Verdery says the coalition also supports temporary worker programs. He says border security can not be successful without a realistic approach to the millions of workers already in the U.S. illegally.
"The coalition strongly believes that you can never enforce your way out of this problem, that you have to figure out a way to relieve the pressure on the border by channeling the flow of migrants who do not present a security risk into a worker program and, also, to find a mechanism to bring the estimated 12 million or so individuals here, already illegally out of the shadows...," he said.
The coalition says there also has to be a robust employment verification system to go along with any workers' program. Former homeland security general counsel Joe Whitley says the group would also like to keep the problem from getting worse and would like to see a crack down on the employers who hire illegal aliens.
"I understand the challenges of people from border states, other places, who see what is literally sometimes seen as a flood of immigrants coming into the United States. We have to have an effective way to deal with the magnet for those people coming here and that is a comprehensive plan for employer enforcement," he said.
Coalition member Brian Goebel, a former Senior Policy Advisor with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency - says one of the best ways to keep criminals and potential terrorists from crossing the U.S. border would be to create a verifiable guest workers program.
"It will remove people who are, quite frankly, who are not a threat to the United States, economic migrants who are obscuring the narcotics traffickers and others, the other criminals crossing our Southwest border and preventing the border patrol from apprehending them at a level of effectiveness that that we would like to see," he said.
In a separate development, the U.S. General Accounting Office Wednesday told the Senate Finance Committee its investigation revealed agents had little problem entering the United States using fraudulent identification at nine different border crossings. Legislation designed to make documentation more uniform - and thus, more difficult to fake - is due to take effect in 2008.