Framework for Immigration Policy
Becoming an American:
Immigration and Immigrant Policy
Legal Permanent Admissions
Limited Duration Admissions
The Commission believes LDA
policy should rest on the following principles
definitions and objectives of the five limited duration visa classifications
Admission should be contingent on an attestation that
risk factors that should be considered in determining whether regular audit
requirements must apply include
the Commission recommends
Curbing Unlawful Migration
In our previous reports, the
Commission defined a credible immigration policy "by a simple yardstick:
people who should get in do get in, people who should not get in are kept out;
and people who are judged deportable are required to leave." By these
measures, we have made substantial, but incomplete, progress. What follows are
the Commission's recommendations for comprehensive reform to achieve more fully
a credible framework for immigration policy.
Legal Permanent Admissions
The Commission reiterates its support for a
properly-regulated system for admitting lawful permanent residents.3
Research and analyses conducted
since the issuance of the Commission's report on legal immigration support our
view that a properly-regulated system of legal permanent admissions serves the
national interest. The Commission urges reforms in our legal immigration system
to enhance the benefits accruing from the entry of newcomers while guarding
against harms, particularly to the most vulnerable of U.S. residents —those who
are themselves unskilled and living in poverty.
More specifically, the Commission reiterates its support
- A significant redefinition of priorities and reallocation of existing
admission numbers to fulfill more effectively the objectives of our
immigration policy. The current
framework for legal immigration —family, skills, and humanitarian admissions— makes
sense. However, the statutory and regulatory priorities and procedures for
admissions do not adequately support the stated intentions of legal
immigration—to reunify families, to provide employers an opportunity to
recruit foreign workers to meet labor needs, and to respond to humanitarian
crises around the world. During the two years since our report on legal
immigration, the problems in the legal admission system have not been solved.
Indeed, some of them have worsened.
Current immigration levels should be sustained for the next several years
while the U.S. revamps its legal immigration system and shifts the
priorities for admission away from the extended family and toward the
nuclear family and away from the unskilled and toward the higher-skilled
immigrant. Thereafter, modest reductions in levels of immigration —to
about 550,000 per year, comparable to those of the 1980s— will result from
the changed priority system. The Commission continues to believe that legal
admission numbers should be authorized by Congress for a specified time
(e.g., three to five years) to ensure regular, periodic review and, if
needed, change by Congress. This review should consider the adequacy of
admission numbers for accomplishing priorities.
- Family-based admissions that give priority to nuclear family members —spouses
and minor children of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens, and spouses
and minor children of lawful permanent residents— and include a backlog
clearance program to permit the most expeditious entry of the spouses and
minor children of LPRs. The Commission recommends allocation of
550,000 family-based admission numbers each year until the large backlog of
spouses and minor children is cleared. Numbers going to lower priority
categories (e.g., adult children, siblings, and diversity immigrants),
should be transferred to the nuclear family categories. Thereafter Congress
should set sufficient admission numbers to permit all spouses and minor
children to enter expeditiously.
Since the Commission first reported its findings on legal admission,
the problems associated with family-based admissions have grown. In 1995,
the wait between application and admission of the spouses and minor
children of LPRs was approximately three years. It is now more than four
and one-half years and still growing. Moreover, various statutory changes
made in 1996 make it all the more important that Congress take specific
action to clear the backlog quickly to regularize the status of the
spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents in the United
States. In an effort to deter illegal migration, Congress expanded the
bases and number of grounds upon which persons may be denied legal status
because of a previous illegal entry or overstay of a visa. An unknown, but
believed to be large, number of spouses and minor children of LPRs
awaiting legal status are unlawfully present in the United States. While
the Commission does not condone their illegal presence, we are cognizant
of the great difficulties posed by the long waiting period for a family
second preference visa.
- Skill-based admissions policies that enhance opportunities for the entry
of highly-skilled immigrants, particularly those with advanced degrees,
and eliminate the category for admission of unskilled workers. The
Commission continues to recommend that immigrants be chosen on the basis of
the skills they contribute to the U.S. economy. Only if there is a
compelling national interest —such as nuclear family reunification or
humanitarian admissions— should immigrants be admitted without regard to
the economic contributions they can make.
Research shows that education plays a major role in determining the
impacts of immigration. Immigration of unskilled immigrants comes at a
cost to unskilled U.S. workers, particularly established immigrants for
whom new immigrants are economic substitutes. Further, the difference in
estimated lifetime fiscal effects of immigrants by education is striking:
using the same methodology to estimate net costs and benefits, immigrants
with a high school education or more are found to be net contributors
while those without a high school degree continue to be net costs to
taxpayers throughout their lifetime.4
The Commission also continues to recommend changes in the procedures used
in testing the labor market impact of employment-based admissions. Rather
than use the lengthy, costly, and bureaucratic labor certification system,
the Commission recommends using market forces as a labor market test. To
ensure a level playing field for U.S. workers, employers would attest to
having taken appropriate steps to recruit U.S. workers, paying the
prevailing wage, and complying with other labor standards. Businesses
recruiting foreign workers also would be required to make significant
financial investments in certified private sector initiatives dedicated to
improving the competitiveness of U.S. workers. These payments should be set
at a per worker amount sufficient to ensure there is no financial incentive
to hire a foreign worker over a qualified U.S. worker.
- Refugee admissions based on human rights and humanitarian
considerations, as one of several elements of U.S. leadership in assisting
and protecting the world's persecuted.5
Since its very beginnings, the United States has been a place of refuge. The
Commission believes continued admission of refugees sustains our
humanitarian commitment to provide safety to the persecuted, enables the
U.S. to pursue foreign policy interests in promoting human rights, and
encourages international efforts to resettle persons requiring rescue or
durable solutions. The Commission also urges the federal government to
continue to support international assistance and protection for the majority
of the world's refugees for whom resettlement is neither appropriate nor
The Commission continues to recommend against denying benefits to legal
immigrants solely because they are noncitizens.
The Commission believes that the denial of
safety net programs to immigrants solely because they are noncitizens is not in
the national interest. In our 1994 and 1995 reports, the Commission argued that
Congress should address the most significant uses of public benefit programs —particularly,
elderly immigrants using Supplementary Security Income— by requiring sponsors
to assume full financial responsibility for newly-arriving immigrants who
otherwise would be excluded on public charge grounds. In particular, the
Commission argued that sponsors of parents who would likely become public
charges assume the responsibility for the lifetimes of the immigrants (or until
they became eligible for Social Security on the basis of work quarters). We also
argued that sponsors of spouses and children should assume responsibility for
the duration of the familial relationship or a time-specified period. We
continue to believe that this targeted approach makes greater sense than a
blanket denial of eligibility for public services based solely on a person's
Limited Duration Admissions
Persons come to the United States for limited duration stays for several
principal purposes: representation of a foreign government or other foreign
entities; work; study; and short-term visits for commercial or personal
purposes, such as tourism and family visits. These individuals are statutorily
referred to as "nonimmigrants." In this report, however, we refer to
"limited duration admissions [LDAs]," a term that better captures the
nature of their admission: When the original admission expires, the alien must
either leave the country or meet the criteria for a new LDA or permanent
For the most part LDAs help enhance our scientific, cultural, educational,
and economic strength. However, the admission of LDAs is not without costs and,
as explained below, certain reforms are needed to make the system even more
advantageous for the United States than it now is.
The Commission believes LDA policy should rest on the following principles:
- Clear goals and priorities;
- Systematic and comprehensible organization of LDA categories;
- Timeliness, efficiency, and flexibility in its implementation;
- Compliance with the conditions for entry and exit (and effective
mechanisms to monitor and enforce this compliance);
- Credible and realistic policies governing transition from LDA to permanent
- Protection of U.S. workers from unfair competition and of foreign workers
from exploitation and abuse; and
- Appropriate attention to LDA provisions in trade negotiations to ensure
future immigration reforms are not unknowingly foreclosed.
The Commission recommends a reorganization of the visa categories for limited
duration stays in the United States to make them more coherent and
The Commission recommends that the current proliferation of visa categories be
restructured into five broad groups: official representatives; foreign workers;
students; short-term visitors; and transitional family members. This
reorganization reflects such shared characteristics of different visa categories
as entry for like reasons, similarity in testing for eligibility, and similar
duration of stay in the United States.
The definitions and objectives of the five limited duration visa
classifications would be:6
- Official representatives
diplomats, representatives of or to international organizations,
representatives of NATO or NATO forces, and their accompanying family members.
The objective of this category is to permit the United States to admit
temporarily individuals who represent their governments or international
- Short-term visitors come to the United States for commercial or
personal purposes. In 1995 alone, millions of inbound visitors from other
countries spent $76 billion on travel to and in the United States (on U.S.
flag carriers, lodging, food, gifts, and entertainment).
- Foreign workers are those who are coming to perform necessary services
for prescribed periods of time, at the expiration of which they must either
return to their home countries or, if an employer or family member petitions
successfully, adjust to permanent residence. This category would serve the
labor needs demonstrated by U.S. businesses, with appropriate provisions to
protect U.S. workers from unfair competition.
- Students are persons who are in the United States for the purpose of
acquiring either academic or practical knowledge of a subject matter. This
category has four major goals: to provide foreign nationals with opportunities
to obtain knowledge they can take back to their home countries; to give U.S.
schools access to a global pool of talented students; to permit the sharing of
U.S. values and institutions with individuals from other countries; and to
enhance the education of U.S. students by exposing them to foreign students
and their cultures.
- Transitional family members include fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens.
These individuals differ from other LDAs because they are processed for
immigrant status, although they do not receive such status until they marry in
the U.S. and adjust. The Commission believes another category of transitional
family members should be added: spouses of U.S. citizens whose weddings occur
overseas but who subsequently come to the U.S. to reside.
The Commission recommends that the current visa waiver pilot program for
short-term business and tourist visits be made permanent upon the implementation
of an entry-exit control system capable of measuring overstay rates.
A permanent visa waiver system requires appropriate provisions to expand the
number of participating countries and clear and timely means for removing those
countries that fail to meet the high standards reserved for this privilege.
Congress should extend the pilot three years while the control system is
Each year, more foreign workers enter the United States as LDAs for temporary
work than enter as skill-based immigrants. In FY 1996, the Department of State
issued almost 278,000 limited duration worker visas, including those for spouses
and children. By contrast, only 118,000 immigrant visa issuances and domestic
adjustments of status in worker categories were recorded in FY 1996, far less
than the legislated limit of 140,000.
The Commission recommends that the limited duration admission classification
for foreign workers include three principal categories: those who, for
significant and specific policy reasons, should be exempt by law from labor
market protection standards; those whose admission is governed by treaty
obligations; and those whose admission must adhere to specified labor market
this recommendation, LDA worker categories are organized around the same
principles that guide permanent worker categories.
Accordingly, the Commission proposes different subcategories with labor market
protection standards commensurate with the risks to U.S. workers we believe are
posed by the foreign workers.
- Those exempt by law from labor market protection standards because
their admission will generate substantial economic growth and/or significantly
enhance U.S. intellectual and cultural strength and pose little potential for
undermining the employment prospects and remuneration of U.S. workers. These
Individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education,
business, or athletics, demonstrated through sustained national or
international acclaim and recognized for extraordinary achievements in their
field of expertise.
Managers and executives of international businesses. The global
competitiveness of U.S. businesses is enhanced by the capacity of
multinational corporations to move their senior staff around the world as
Professors, researchers and scholars whose salary or other
compensation is paid by their home government, home institution, or the U.S.
government in a special program for foreign professors, researchers, and
Religious workers, including ministers of religion and professionals
and other workers employed by religious nonprofit organizations in the U.S.
to perform religious vocations and religious occupations.
Members of the foreign media admitted under reciprocal agreements.
The U.S. benefits from the presence of members of the foreign media who help
people in their countries understand events in the United States. Just as we
would not want our media to be overly regulated by labor policies of foreign
governments, the United States extends the same courtesy to foreign
journalists working in the U.S.
- Foreign workers whose admission is subject to treaty obligations.
This includes treaty traders, treaty investors, and other workers entering
under specific treaties between the U.S. and the foreign nation of which the
alien is a citizen or national. Under the provisions of NAFTA, for example,
Canadian professionals are not subject to numerical limits or labor market
testing; Mexican professionals continue to be subject to labor market tests,
but will be exempt from numerical limits in 2003.
- Foreign workers subject by law to labor market protection standards.
These are principally:
Professionals and other workers who are sought by employers because of
their highly-specialized skills or knowledge and/or extensive experience.
Included in this category are employees of international businesses who have
specialized knowledge but are not managers or executives.
Trainees admitted to the United States for practical, on-the-job
training in a variety of occupations. Trainees work in U.S. institutions as
an integral part of their training program.
Artists, musicians, entertainers, athletes, fashion models, and
participants in international cultural groups that share the history,
culture, and traditions of their country.
Lesser-skilled and unskilled workers coming for seasonal or other
short-term employment. Such worker programs warrant strict review, as
described below. The Commission remains opposed to implementation of a
large-scale program for temporary admission of lesser-skilled and unskilled
Employers requesting the admission of temporary workers with
highly-specialized skills or extensive experience should meet specific
The Commission recommends that the labor market tests used in admitting
temporary workers in this category be commensurate with the skill level and
experience of the worker.
Admission should be contingent on an attestation that:
The employer will pay the greater of actual or prevailing wage and fringe
benefits paid to other employees with similar experience and
qualifications for the specific employment in question. Actual wage rates
should be defined in a simple and straightforward manner.
The employer has posted notice of the hire, informed coworkers at the
principal place of business at which the LDA worker is employed, and
provided a copy of the attestation to the LDA worker.
The employer has paid a reasonable user fee that will be dedicated to
facilitating the processing of applications and the costs of auditing
compliance with all requirements.
There is no strike or lockout in the course of a labor dispute
involving the occupational classification at the place of employment.
The employer has not dismissed, except for cause, or otherwise displaced
workers in the specific job for which the alien worker is hired during
the previous six months. Further, the employer will not displace or lay off,
except for cause, U.S. workers in the specific job during the ninety-day
period following the filing of an application or the ninety-day periods
preceding or following the filing of any visa petition supported by the
The employer will provide working conditions for such temporary
workers that are comparable to those provided to similarly situated U.S.
- Certain at-risk employers of skilled workers (described below) should
be required to attest to having taken significant steps —for example,
recruitment or training— to employ U.S. workers in the jobs for which they
are recruiting foreign workers. We do not recommend, however, that current
labor certification processes be used to document significant efforts to
recruit. These procedures are costly, time consuming, and ultimately
ineffective in protecting highly-skilled U.S. workers.
- Employers requesting the admission of lesser-skilled workers should be
required to meet a stricter labor market protection test. Such employers
should continue to be required to demonstrate that they have sought, but were
unable to find, sufficient American workers prepared to work under favorable
wages, benefits, and working conditions. They also should be required to
specify the plans they are taking to recruit and retain U.S. workers, as well
as their plans to reduce dependence on foreign labor through hiring of U.S.
workers or other means. Employers should continue to be required to pay the
highest of prevailing, minimum, or adverse wage rates, provide return
transportation, and offer decent housing, health care, and other benefits
appropriate for seasonal employees.
The Commission recommends that categories of employers who are at special
risk of violating labor market protection standards
—regardless of the
education, skill, or experience level of its employees— be required to obtain
regular, independently-conducted audits of their compliance with the
attestations made about labor market protection standards, with the results of
such audit being submitted for Department of Labor review.
Certain businesses, as described below, pose greater risk than others of
displacing U.S. workers and/or exploiting foreign workers.
The risk factors that should be considered in determining whether regular audit
requirements must apply include:
- The employer's extensive use of temporary foreign workers. Extensive
use can be defined by the percentage of the employer's workforce that is
comprised of LDA workers. It also can be measured by the duration and
frequency of the employer's use of temporary foreign workers.
- The employer's history of employing temporary foreign workers. Those
employers with a history of serious violations of regular labor market
protection standards or of specific labor standards related to the employment
of LDA workers should be considered as at risk for future violations.
- The employer's status as a job contracting or employment agency providing
temporary foreign labor to other employers. Risk of labor violations
increases as responsibility is divided between a primary and secondary
To ensure adequate protection of labor market standards, such employers
should be required to submit an independent audit of their compliance with all
statements attested to in their application. The independent audits should be
done by recognized accounting firms that have the demonstrated capacity to
determine, for example, that wages and fringe benefits were provided as promised
in the attestation and conformed to the actual or prevailing wages and fringe
benefits provided to similarly situated U.S. workers.
The Commission recommends enhanced monitoring of and enforcement against
fraudulent applications and postadmission violations of labor market protection
To function effectively,
both the exempt and nonexempt temporary worker programs must provide expeditious
access to needed labor. The Commission's recommendations build on the current
system of employer attestations that receive expeditious preapproval review but
are subject to postapproval enforcement actions against violators.
More specifically, the Commission recommends:
- Allocating increased staff and resources to the agencies responsible for
adjudicating applications for admission and monitoring and taking
appropriate enforcement action against fraudulent applications and
violations of labor market protection standards. Increased costs
required for more efficient adjudication of applications can be covered by
applicant fees. However, additional costs incurred for more effective
investigations of compliance with labor market standards will require
- Barring the use of LDA workers by any employer who has been found to have
committed willful and serious labor standards violations with respect to the
employment of LDA workers. Further, upon the recommendation of any federal,
state, or local tax agency, barring the use of LDA workers by any employer
who has been found to have committed willful and serious payroll tax
violations with respect to LDA workers. The law currently provides for
such debarment for failure to meet labor condition attestation provisions or
misrepresentation of material facts on the application. Implementation of this
recommendation would enable penalties to be assessed for serious labor
standards violations that are not also violations of the attestations.
- Developing an enforcement strategy to reduce evasion of the LDA labor
market protection standards through contractors. U.S. businesses' growth
in contracting-out functions has raised questions of employment relationships
and ultimate liability for employment-related violations, including those
related to temporary foreign workers. A uniform policy for dealing with these
situations is desirable for the enforcement agencies involved, as well as for
employers, contractors, and workers.
Curbing Unlawful Migration
In its first interim report to Congress , the Commission recommended a
comprehensive strategy to curb unlawful migration into the United States through
prevention and removal.7
Despite the additional resources, new policies, and often innovative strategies
adopted during the past few years, illegal migration continues to be a problem.
The Commission continues to believe that unlawful immigration can be curtailed
consistent with our traditions, civil rights, and civil liberties. As a nation
committed to the rule of law, our immigration policies must conform to the
highest standards of integrity and efficiency in the enforcement of the law. We
must also respect due process.
The Commission reiterates its 1994 recommendations supporting a comprehensive
strategy to deter illegal migration.
More specifically, the Commission continues to support implementation of the
following deterrence strategies:
- An effective border management policy that accomplishes the twin goals of
preventing illegal entries and facilitating legal ones. New resources
for additional Border Patrol officers, inspectors, and operational support,
combined with such new strategies as operations "Hold the Line,"
"Gatekeeper," and "Safeguard," have improved significantly
the management of the border where they are deployed. The very success of
these new efforts demonstrates that to gain full control, the same level of
resources and prevention strategies must be deployed at all points on the
border where significant violations of U.S. immigration law are likely to
- Reducing the employment magnet is the linchpin of a comprehensive strategy
to deter unlawful migration. Economic opportunity and the prospect of
employment remain the most important draw for illegal migration to this
country. Strategies to deter unlawful entries and visa overstays require both
a reliable process for verifying authorization to work and an enforcement
capacity to ensure that employers adhere to all immigration-related labor
standards. The Commission supports implementation of pilot programs to test
what we believe is the most promising option for verifying work authorization:
a computerized registry based on the social security number.
Restricting eligibility of illegal aliens for publicly-funded services or
assistance, except those made available on an emergency basis or for similar
compelling reasons to protect public health and safety or to conform to
constitutional requirements. Although
public benefit programs do not appear to be a major magnet for illegal migrants,
it is important that U.S. benefit eligibility policies send the same message as
immigration policy: Illegal aliens should not be here and, therefore, should not
receive assistance, except in unusual circumstances. The Commission recommended
drawing a line between illegal aliens and lawfully resident legal immigrants
with regard to benefits eligibility, in part to reinforce this message. We
continue to believe that this demarcation between legal and illegal aliens makes
sense. The Commission urges the Congress to reconsider the changes in welfare
policy enacted in 1996 that blur the distinctions between legal and illegal
aliens by treating them similarly for the purposes of many public benefit
Strategies for addressing the causes of unlawful migration in source
countries. An effective strategy to curb unauthorized movements includes
cooperative efforts with source countries to address the push factors that cause
people to seek new lives in the United States. The Commission continues to urge
the United States government to give priority in its foreign policy and
international economic policy to long-term reduction in the causes of
Mechanisms to respond in a timely, effective, and humane manner to migration
emergencies. A credible immigration policy requires the ability to respond
effectively and humanely to migration emergencies in which large numbers of
people seek entry into the United States. These emergencies generally include bona
fide refugees, other individuals with need for protection, and persons
seeking a better economic life in the U.S. Failure to act appropriately and in a
timely manner to determine who should be admitted and who should be returned can
have profound humanitarian consequences. Further, an uncontrolled emergency can
overwhelm resources and create serious problems that far outlast the emergency.9
A credible immigration system requires the effective and timely removal of
aliens who can be determined through constitutionally-sound procedures to have
no right to remain in the United States. If unlawful aliens believe that they
can remain indefinitely once they are within our national borders, there will be
increased incentives to try to enter or remain illegally.
Our current removal system does not work. Hundreds of thousands of aliens
with final removal orders remain in the U.S. The system's ineffectiveness
results from a fragmented, uncoordinated approach, rather than flawed legal
procedures. The Executive Branch does not have the capacity, resources, or
strategy to detain aliens likely to abscond, to monitor the whereabouts of
released aliens, or to remove them.
The Commission urges immediate reforms to improve management of the removal
system and ensure that aliens with final orders of deportation, exclusion, or
removal are indeed removed from the United States.
Establishing a more effective removal system requires changes in the
management of the removal process. More specifically, the Commission recommends:
- Establishing priorities and numerical targets for the removal of criminal
and noncriminal aliens. The Commission encourages headquarters,
regional, and local immigration enforcement officials to set these priorities
and numerical goals.
- Local oversight and accountability for the development and implementation
of plans to coordinate apprehensions, detention, hearings, removal, and the
prevention of reentry. With guidance on priorities, local managers in
charge of the removal system would be responsible for allocation of resources
to ensure that aliens in the prioritized categories are placed in the system
and ultimately removed. Local managers also would be responsible and
accountable for identifying effective deterrents that reduce the likelihood
that removed aliens would attempt to reenter the U.S.
- Continued attention to improved means for identifying and removing
criminal aliens with a final order of deportation. The Commission
reiterates the importance of removing criminal aliens as a top priority. Our
recommendation regarding the importance of removing noncriminal aliens with
final orders is not intended to shift the attention of the removal system away
from this priority.
Rather, both criminal and noncriminal aliens must be removed to protect public
safety (in the case of criminals) and to send a deterrent message (to all
who have no permission to be here).
- Legal rights and representation. The Executive Branch should be
authorized to develop, provide, and fund programs and services that educate
aliens about their legal rights and immigration proceedings. Such programs
also should encourage and facilitate legal representation where to do so would
be beneficial to the system and the administration of justice. Particular
attention should be focused on aliens in detention where release or removal
can be expedited through such representation. Under this approach, the alien
would not have a right to appointed counsel, but the government could fund
services to address some of the barriers to representation.
- Prosecutorial discretion to determine whether to proceed with cases.
Guidelines on the use of prosecutorial discretion should be developed, local
Trial Attorneys trained, support staff provided, and discretion exercised with
the goal of establishing a more efficient and rational hearing system. Trial
attorneys should focus their efforts on trying cases that are likely to result
in the removal of the alien upon completion of the proceedings.
- Strategic use of detention and release decisions. Detention space,
always in limited supply, is in greater demand as the government has focused
more on the removal of criminal aliens and as Congress mandates more
categories to be detained. Detention needs to be used more strategically if
removals are to be accomplished. Alternatives to detention should be developed
so that detention space is used efficiently and effectively. The Commission
fully supports the three-year pilot program, created with and implemented by
the Vera Institute, to help define effective alternatives to detention for
- Improved detention conditions and monitoring. Detention cannot be used
effectively unless the conditions of detention are humane and detainees are
free from physical abuse and harassment by guards. We have no doubt that
appropriate criteria for all facilities can be promulgated, based on sound
governmental judgment and consultation with concerned nongovernmental
organizations. But most importantly, a system to monitor facilities on a
regular basis must be developed. Inspections must occur more than once
Further, the Commission recommends that the Department of Justice
consider placing administrative responsibility for operating detention
centers with the Bureau of Prisons or U.S. Marshals Service. An immigration
enforcement agency should not be shouldered with such a significant
responsibility that is not part of its fundamental mission or expertise.
- Improved data systems. Current data systems are unable to link an
apprehension to its final disposition (e.g., removal, adjustment of status).
This significantly limits the use of apprehension and removal data for
analytical purposes. The Commission urges development of data systems that
link apprehensions and removals and provide statistics on individuals.
- The redesigned removal system should be managed initially by a
Last-In-First-Out [LIFO] strategy to demonstrate the credibility of the
system. Once a coherent system is organized and appropriate resources
are assigned to removing deportable aliens—not simply to put aliens through
proceedings —removals should proceed in a Last-In-First-Out mode. In this
way, the government can send a credible deterrent message to failed asylum
seekers, visa overstayers, users of counterfeit documents, and unauthorized
workers, that their presence in the United States will not be tolerated. Such
a well-organized system can establish control over the current caseload and
quickly prioritize the backlog for enforcement purposes. The deterrent effect
of LIFO has been shown in the asylum system where new procedures were adopted
in a LIFO mode.
The Commission urges Congress to clarify that the Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [IIRIRA] and the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 [AEDPA] do not apply retroactively to cases
pending when the new policies and procedures went into effect.
As a matter of policy, the Commission believes that retroactive application
of new immigration laws undermines the effectiveness and credibility of the
immigration system. Applying newly-enacted laws or rules in an immigration
proceeding that has already commenced results in inefficiency in the
administration of the immigration laws. It also can raise troubling issues of
fairness. Finally, it invites confusion, adds uncertainty, and fosters a lack of
trust and confidence in the rule of law.
3 For a full explanation of the Commission’s recommendations see
Legal Immigration: Setting Priorities, 1995. See Appendix for summary of
Commissioner Leiden’s dissenting statement.
4 National Research Council. 1997. The New Americans: Economic,
Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration. Washington, DC: National Academy
5 For a full explanation of the Commission’s refugee-related
recommendations, see U.S. Refugee Policy: Taking Leadership, 1997.
6 The current system includes the J visa for cultural exchange, which
is used for a variety of purposes, ranging from short-term visits to study and
work. The workers include scholars and researchers, camp counselors, au pairs,
and various others. Some work activities under the J visa demonstrate a clear
cultural or education exchange; other work activities appear only tangentially
related to the program’s original purposes. Protection of U.S. workers by
labor market tests and standards should apply to the latter group in the same
manner as similarly situated temporary workers in other LDA categories. The
Department of State should assess how better to fulfill the purpose of the
Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 [Fulbright-Hays Act]. Such
an analysis is particularly timely in light of the merger now being implemented
between the Department of State and the United States Information Agency, which
is responsible for administering the J visa.
7 For a full explanation of the Commission’s recommendations see:
U.S. Immigration Policy: Restoring Credibility, 1994.
8 The Concurring Statement of Commissioners Leiden and Merced can be
found in the Commission’s 1994 report.
9 For a fuller discussion of the Commission’s recommendation on
mass migration emergencies, see U.S. Refugee Policy: Taking Leadership, 1997.
United States Commission on Immigration Reform
Report to Congress, 1997. Appointment of President Bill Clinton.