The management of flows of people to and at the U.S. southern border, whether for family, economic or humanitarian reasons, is an “interconnected” system that must be resolved by all departments and agencies involved in the immigration process, concludes a report submitted to Congress by Gregory Chen, senior director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
U.S. Immigration System Needs a Comprehensive Solution
Any modifications to the Immigration Act (INA), whether to increase border controls, tighten asylum requirements, or increase enforcement systems for legal immigration, “require an efficient and orderly system that ensures fairness and also enforces compliance with the law,” Chen added.
“The system must be able to match and even anticipate the future social and economic needs of businesses and states that want and need immigrants,” he said.
Importance of a consensus between Republicans and Democrats
The AILA director’s remarks came during an appearance last week before the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration subcommittee as part of the spending budget debate in Congress, where Republicans are insisting on addressing the impact of illegal immigration on social services.
On the consensus between Republicans and Democrats on the issue depends not only the approval of the 2024 spending bill, but also avoiding a potential government ‘shutdown’ and allocating emergency funds requested by the White House for Ukraine and Israel.
Challenges and problems of the current immigration system
The problems in the U.S. immigration system are evident. In the past two years, about 2 million foreign nationals have arrived whose asylum cases have been added to the Immigration Court’s waiting list (EOIR), which already accumulates more than 3 million pending cases.
In addition, the lack of federal support makes it difficult for localities to plan for and welcome immigrants.
Among the most pressing problems are delays in immigration processing, limitations in the asylum system, and delays in immigration courts, which affect access to public benefits and employment authorization.
Proposals to modernize the immigration system
The report presented by AILA proposes a series of solutions to modernize the U.S. immigration system and ensure fairer and more efficient processes.
One of the proposals is to adequately fund federal immigration agencies to expedite case processing and ensure legal protection for those who qualify for legal relief.
In addition, it is suggested to improve coordination and information sharing among the departments and agencies involved in the immigration process.
Another solution proposed is to streamline the process of granting employment authorizations for eligible immigrants, which would alleviate pressure in states that have experienced a significant increase in immigrant arrivals.
Immigration benefits for the United States
AILA insists that immigration provides enormous benefits to the United States. Although newcomers may need short-term services, evidence shows that they contribute significantly to the country’s economy and society.
Moreover, the failure to modernize the immigration system has negative consequences for both families and businesses. American families suffer prolonged separations as they wait months or even decades for family visas to become available.
On the other hand, businesses are experiencing a historic shortage of workers due to the drop in net immigration.
The current state of the U.S. immigration system requires a comprehensive and urgent solution. To ensure orderly and fair processes, it is necessary for Congress to pass legislation that modernizes the system and establishes appropriate legal pathways to meet the needs of the country.
A consensus between Republicans and Democrats to address the challenges and problems of the immigration system is critical. Coordination and adequate investment in federal immigration agencies are key elements to achieving significant improvement in processing cases and protecting the rights of immigrants.
In short, it is imperative that the United States have an efficient and orderly immigration system that ensures fairness, protects the rights of immigrants, and capitalizes on the benefits that immigration brings to society and the U.S. economy.