In June, the Senate approved the most far-reaching reforms to U.S. immigration policy in 50 years. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act passed on a vote of 68-32. It now faces a more daunting challenge in the House of Representatives. The 1,000+ page bill includes an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and at home, and a revamped guest worker program for both high- and low-skilled jobs.
But even as policymakers attempt to fix what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system, the proposed legislative solutions overlook one of the system’s most important moving parts — the economic hardship in immigrants’ home countries that drives them to seek work in the United States. Thus, the U.S. development community can play a new and important role in helping to integrate economic development and poverty reduction into U.S. immigration policy.