US must make immigration reform a priority

Protesters from all over the country demanded comprehensive immigration reform during the “March for America: Change Takes Courage” event in Washington, D.C., ladst month. More than 200,000 people, including nearly 60 USF students, took part in the three-mile walk meant to encourage lawmakers to take action on the immigration problem.

President Barack Obama made a promise to Americans that he would reform immigration during his first year in office – which didn’t happen. So, his administration needs to step up and deliver these promises if he wants to gain re-election in 2012.

Unlike health care, polls show the immigration issue has high support from people.

Many people – 52 percent – believe the U.S. immigration system is completely or mostly broken, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll released in March. Sixty percent believe that illegal immigrants should be able to earn legal citizenship.

Getting bipartisan support could prove to be challenging for Obama. Republicans are irritated with the passage of the health care reform bill, and Democrat lawmakers have to weigh immigration reform against critical votes in the coming elections.

Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are already working together to serve the public. They are urging Obama and Congress to join them in turning immigration reform into reality.

The comprehensive reform should include effective border control and a solution for the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country.

The key to bipartisan support could be as simple as enhancing social security cards.

New biometric identification cards that have been proposed would include data such as fingerprints or retinal scans for each legal working person in the U.S., according to Time magazine. Employers would be able to quickly determine a potential employee’s identity and eligibility to work.

The biometric ID would also allow for just a single document to be used, making it easier to combat illegal immigration, instead of the 26 documents employees can currently use to show they are authorized to work.

The cost, however, is going to be a problem. According to estimates, employers would have to pay around $800 for the biometric ID machine.

Lynden Melmed, former chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said to Time that issuing the cards on a rolling basis and viewing them as “the next version of the driver’s license” makes the idea of a nationally issued biometric ID more plausible.

Although the cost may seem high, any serious change in policy is going to require money. To get the best reform, the ID cards are a must.

As with health care, Obama needs to place immigration at the top of his agenda and move quickly to give the public what it deserves.

Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.