The public and growing numbers of legislators recognize that the nation's immigration system is creating a social crisis, tearing families apart, and undermining the economy ("No limits on immigration, or enforced limits?" April 1).
Commentator Jan C. Ting claims the 1986 legalization effort didn't solve the problem of unauthorized immigration. But that reform didn't take into account the need for increased legal pathways for workers and families. It was followed by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which cut off the possibility for employers to sponsor workers or for families to sponsor loved ones in the country, resulting in 11 million undocumented immigrants.
There is a sensible way to deal with the failed immigration system by creating a flexible system where the number of visas issued each year varies depending on the economic situation, offering adequate protection for American workers. Our support for family unification and refugees should be continued and strengthened; such families are economic engines for growth.
A legalization program would add $1.5 trillion to the economy over 10 years. By contrast, enforcement-only policies would cost $2.6 trillion. So the choice is clear: Spend billions to deport millions of immigrants and destroy families, or harness the contributions of immigrants by creating a system that brings people out of the shadows, keeps families together, and continues to build our region and country.