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Immigration Needs an Overhaul, Not a Shift

The Obama administration’s announcement last week that it was making a slight shift on immigration policy, to target employers who hire illegal workers rather than the workers themselves, is a good move but not nearly good enough, The New York Times wrote in a powerful Sunday editorial.

At the end of April, the Department of Homeland Security announced that its policy would be to target employers who hire illegal immigrants, rather than the workers they hire. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement would still be authorized to arrest the undocumented workers it found in the raids, signaling no big shift from the Bush administration’s policy.

That does little to solve the much bigger problem of an irrational and often cruel immigration system by which workplace raids “netted about 6,000 undocumented immigrants, out of 12 million, and 135 employers or supervisors,” The Times wrote. “They destroyed families, tearing parents and grandparents from children, many of them citizens. The fear they caused went viral in immigrant communities, driving workers further into the arms of abusive employers while bringing us no closer to a working immigration system.”

President Obama has promised to start developing a better solution, though his comments so far have been vague and suggest the discussion of even what kind of bill to support will stretch out through next fall. In the meantime, workplace raids targeting employers are likely to lead some companies to refuse to hire immigrants at all, out of fear that the lawful documents they present are fraudulent — which could mean large penalties for the company.

Despite the anti-immigrant sentiment on the right stoked first by the recession and most recently swine flu, The Times editorial board apparently thinks that a sensible and comprehensive immigration reform — which even Alan Greenspan last week testified would benefit the U.S. economy — shouldn’t be sacrificed to hysteria.

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