The nation’s immigration system is seriously broken and in need of a comprehensive overhaul. That was the message from a forum on immigration held in Aspen yesterday. Supporters of a comprehensive immigration bill now before the US Senate outlined how they believe the measure will solve many current immigration problems. Aspen Public Radio’s Roger Adams was there and filed this report.
Everything that’s wrong with the current immigration system can be summed up in one short metaphor says Ali Noorani. He is Executive Director of an immigrant advocacy group called the National Immigration Forum. The metaphor, said Noorani, is about two signs that are posted along the US Mexico border.
“One sign says No Trespassing, the other one says Help Wanted.”
Noorani was among the speakers at the Aspen forum to urge support for the massive immigration reform bill now in the Senate. His joke drew laughter but also pointed to the problem facing not only immigrants but also the Senate legislation.
“We have to reconcile the differences,” said Noorani, “between our security needs and our economic needs and this legislation does that.”
In a single bill lawmakers are attempting to provide border security while at the same time trying to provide legal status to nearly 11 million undocumented foreign-born workers. Last week the bill faced more than 300 proposed amendments from liberals and conservatives. At what was billed as Roaring Fork Valley Immigration Forum, there was little disagreement that the window for passage of immigration reform by Congress is short. One after another, speakers from the Obama administration, Colorado law enforcement and business urged support for the immigration reform bill now being debated in the US Senate.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is one of the so-called Gang of Eight Senators who crafted the bill. His Deputy Chief of Staff Sarah Hughes said a rare alignment of liberal and conservative lawmakers believes the immigration system is badly broken.
“The status quo,” said Hughes, “is a hodgepodge of broken outdated measures that have huge unintended consequences, and in some cases intended consequences, that are fundamentally damaging our economy and allowing us not to compete in a 21st century economy.”
Hughes and others touted the need to bring undocumented workers into legal status for the sakes of both law enforcement and the economy. The workers are here filling a demonstrated need she said but as long as they are living in what she called the shadows they essentially live underground and outside the law. Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers agreed.
“I have come to the conclusion,” Suthers said, “that law enforcement would be greatly aided by comprehensive immigration reform. This population of undocumented folks has serious disincentives to report crime.”
Suthers described himself as the badge in the Badges, Bibles and Business critics of the current immigration system. Still he supports the Senate bill. Several questions from the audience took exception to issues in the legislation. In response members of the panel agreed the bill is not perfect but represents they said the best opportunity to repair the current problems. Michael Bennet’s staffer Sara Hughes told the audience that there is much to like and dislike in the bill and that represents it’s bipartisan authorship.