As an immigration mecca from its beginnings that remains reliant on immigrant workers, California is directly impacted by the nation's broken immigration policy.
Fortunately, Barack Obama promised during the election campaign to take up reform as president. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to tackle immigration this year, after health care and energy.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the San Jose Democrat who chairs the House immigration subcommittee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be among the key players for California. They know that a root cause of the mess is that legal channels of immigration are few and inadequate to U.S. needs.
It is extremely difficult for the foreign-born to join family members or to turn a legal temporary job into residency. Waits are routinely seven years and as long as 22 years.
As Lofgren has pointed out, the backlog problem in California is "quite severe" and "runs the gamut from family members separated from each other to Nobel Prize winners."
Employment-based visas don't begin to fill the demand for workers – especially those in less-skilled jobs such as farming or food processing. As a result, many families and employers take matters into their own hands, evading the law due to a lack of legal options.
A reform package should include three basic elements:
• Border security. Unfortunately, as the Migration Policy Institute notes, tough enforcement is hampered so long as there are inadequate pathways for legal immigration. Fix that and then we can focus resources on threats such as criminal gangs, drugs and illegal gun trafficking.
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