Broken immigration system must be fixed

As former chairs of our respective political parties, we typically haven’t always agreed. So some people might be surprised that we hold similar views in support of comprehensive immigration reform.We’re just following in the footsteps of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, both of whom viewed immigration in the context of American exceptionalism – the idea that America is different from other nations, and that immigration is part of what has made our nation great.More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands, Reagan said. Our own personal experiences, and those of our immigrant relatives, have given us a personal appreciation for the uniquely positive impact immigration has had on our country and on New Hampshire. The rich history of Manchester, for example, is deeply intertwined with French Canadian, Irish and Greek immigrants.Immigration can be an emotional issue, especially for those whose families are directly impacted by the failures of this broken system, and for those who feel anxiety about changes in our culture. Tinkering with just one or two aspects of immigration law – fixing problems at the borders or making it easier for highly educated, highly skilled entrepreneurs to start businesses here, raiding plants, or even granting a form of amnesty – won’t make people any more satisfied than they are today without also addressing stickier problems. This is why comprehensive reform is needed. The immigration system must promote fairness, be more transparent and have the resources to meet its responsibilities. It must control the flow of entry and provide for secure borders. Promoting “family values” and unification means creating a system for immigrant families to go through, not around. Those in the country illegally must be made to get right by the law. It simply is not practical to deport 12 million people.The only workable solution is a system that brings individuals out of the shadows, making sure they pay their taxes and fines, are registered and fingerprinted, and entered into a national database. Immigration reform must be practical and robust so that fairness and integrity are maintained across the system.As our economy begins to recover, we need to be certain that the United States has a skilled workforce capable of meeting the needs of the 21st century, including talent trained at home, and abroad.Comprehensive reform would create millions of new taxpayers by requiring undocumented immigrants to register, go through background checks, pay taxes, and study English on their way to becoming full U.S. citizens. It would enhance our national security by focusing our enforcement and security measures on the most dangerous threats to our communities. It would accelerate our economic recovery and be more humane to those just looking for a chance for a better life.President Barack Obama, like George W. Bush before him, has called for immigration reform. U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg supports comprehensive immigration reform, and we applaud his leadership on this issue. The other members of our congressional delegation have recognized the system needs to be fixed. This is an issue upon which both political parties can agree. To say that we must put off reform until the “security issues” are fixed is a prescription for never proceeding with comprehensive reform because security will never be “fixed” to everyone’s satisfaction. Both should be done together.We are concerned that election season rhetoric and fears may derail immigration reform again, and this is unacceptable. America is still a beacon of hope across the globe. Our broken immigration system, however, has dimmed that light. The time to fix the system, and restore that light, is now.
George Bruno, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, practices immigration law in Manchester. Fergus Cullen of Dover is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and the son of naturalized Americans. They can be reached at and

Categories: Opinion