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Napolitano Leads Western Governors to Comprehensive Immigration Plan

Location: Washington, DC


Unanimous Vote by Western Governors' Association

Governor Janet Napolitano, in her role as the Chair of the Western Governors Association (WGA), has announced a new, bi-partisan policy to address the broken immigration system nationwide. The proposal, sponsored by Governor Napolitano and Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. of Utah, was unanimously approved today by the WGA during its meeting in Washington, D.C.

Together, the governors called on Congress and the Administration to quickly approve and implement comprehensive immigration reform.

The policy package is "based in reality," and will:

• Strengthen security along the southern border
• Create a temporary guest worker program without amnesty, and
• Reimburse local and state governments for the heavy burden they carry because of illegal immigration.

"While illegal immigration is a national issue affecting our entire economy, Western states suffer a disproportionate financial burden on our health care, education, the environment and criminal justice systems," Napolitano said. "The time for micro-steps and limited action is behind us." Governor Huntsman said, "Our states are on the front lines of a tidal wave of illegal immigration.
The debate in Washington has been polarizing and unhealthy, and we are asking the Administration and Congress to adopt this bipartisan framework and recommendations agreed to by the Western Governors' Association."

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

Included in the immigration proposal released today:

Comprehensive Reform: The overarching purpose of reform legislation should be to protect and preserve the safety and interests of the United States and its citizens while recognizing the needs of Western industries to have a stable and legal supply of workers where there are no willing U.S. workers otherwise available.

Oppose Blanket Amnesty: While a complex issue, the governors do not support granting blanket amnesty to all undocumented persons and believe that appropriate sanctions should be part of any solution.

Reduce Delay for Legal Immigration: Congress is urged not to inadvertently create incentives for additional illegal immigration by creating unnecessary hurdles and lengthy delays for those who wish to immigrate legally for work or citizenship.

Border Security and Enforcement Provisions: Comprehensive national immigration reform should provide: full funding at the authorized level of the federal investment in law enforcement personnel and infrastructure along the border as set forth in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004; cutting-edge enforcement technology; better coordination of law
enforcement efforts by federal agencies on both sides of the border; and the construction of Western regional federal correctional facilities to house aliens convicted in state criminal justice systems.

Labor Pool and Visa Issues: Foreign Worker Visa reform is a critical component of national immigration reform and an effective border enforcement strategy. Among the elements of this proposal are: full funding at the authorized level for both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to process all employment-based visas in a timely manner; eliminate current visa backlogs and prevent future backlogs by making up to 90,000 additional employment-based immigrant visas available annually; increase the number of visas needed to meet U.S. industry demands, particularly in the high tech and bio tech industries and seasonal hospitality operations; streamline the processing of visas for seasonal agricultural employees.

Guest Worker Program: A national temporary guest worker program should be established to supplement areas where there are documented shortages of U.S. workers. The new temporary guest worker program should require proper background checks and screening by the federal government. Realistic steps, including measured and appropriate sanctions, should be taken to address the status of millions of undocumented individuals who already reside in this country. A new temporary guest worker visa program should reduce the need for illegal crossings, providing a safe way for workers to enter the country and return home to their families.

Realistic Enforcement: Current federal employer sanctions for knowingly hiring undocumented labor should be enforced. To that end, the federal government must adopt a secure, reliable and fast employment verification system accessible to employers electronically on a 24/7 basis. Detention of Children: Detention facilities along the border must be designed and enforcement personnel must be instructed to alleviate the burden of separation on families detained at the border.

Financing and Reimbursements to States and Localities: The federal government must work closely with the states to provide immediate resources required to offset the enormous costs imposed upon the states as a result of the failure to control illegal entries along international borders. Of particular concern are the costs of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants who are
being housed in state and local correctional facilities.

U.S. Foreign Policy Needs: The federal government should reduce illegal immigration by working with the Mexican and Latin American governments to generate economic growth, improve the standard of living and promote ownership in those countries. The government of Mexico should be urged to reduce illegal immigration by enforcing Mexico's immigration laws, thereby reducing the flow of non-Mexicans traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border with plans to enter the U.S. illegally. Measurable progress on these goals should be considered in Foreign Aid provided to these governments.

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