Former Secretary of Homeland Security Speaks Out on Immigration Reform

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, now a private consultant, was in Raleigh this week talking immigration reform at the North Carolina Farm Bureau. Chertoff spent a few minutes clarifying the need for immigration reform:

“Its not working as well as it should for border security and for keeping illegal immigrants out. But at the same time its not giving us an avenue to bring in those who we need to do work. So we need to expand the legalization and close those features that allow for illegality.”

One of the arguments against amnesty or creating any kind of pathway for legal entry into the US to work is that foreigners are taking jobs away from unemployed Americans. Chertoff says this simply is not the case:

“Although we have a high unemployment rate, the jobs we are talking about are currently being performed by many who are here illegally. These are jobs Americans don’t want to take. They are back breaking jobs. They did a study at the American Enterprise Institute and found that in those jobs there are tremendous gaps in the people that are willing to come and work. And the jobs that the people coming from overseas do, are jobs Americans wont do.”

Chertoff also explains the myth that illegals will come into the US just to get on the welfare rolls:

“The plans that people are talking about would require people to come and be here in order to work not simply to come and enjoy the social services. People are envisioning importing individuals to be on the welfare roll. But the reason Americans don’t want to do this, even if in fact the choice is being on welfare because it is an unpleasant labor. It also tends to be geographically located in places where the unemployment is not that high and there is a high concentration of people who come from overseas. When you look at the demographics, the work performed by those coming from outside the country, doesn’t compete with work Americans want to do, but compliments it.”

And it should come as no surprise, most illegals in the country actually came here legally explains Chertoff:

“There is a way to make this work together to promote the larger goal of security, but also create the avenues for people who want to work here. Recognize that a lot of the pressure on the border isn’t coming from people coming across the Southwest its people who come illegally and never leave.”

Chertoff says the solution to filling labor needs with foreign, legal workers is two-fold:

“You have to have a verifiable employment checking system that allows employers to see if workers are legally in the country. Also you have to create a legal channel for people who want to do this work to come in, register, get identified, track them. So you create a legal channel and at the same time you make it difficult for employers who want to hire those who come in illegally.”

And, in Chertoff’s opinion, the current system can be used as a spring board for a new system:

“Right now we don’t have a program that allows people to come in lawfully to do this work. So unless congress authorizes this program, its not something the administration can do on its own.”

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.


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