[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] announced Friday that the Obama administration will push for immigration reform [press release] legislation early next year. Speaking at the Center for American Progress (CAP) [advocacy website], DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] announced that the proposed legislation would be a "three-legged stool" that combines effective and fair enforcement, an improved process for legal immigration, and a "firm but fair way" to deal with illegal immigrants who are already in the US. Napolitano stressed that such reform was needed to protect the jobs of American workers during difficult economic times, saying:
Like the Administration’s other priorities, when it comes to immigration, we are addressing a status quo that is simply unacceptable. Everybody recognizes that our current system isn't working and that our immigration laws need to change. America's businesses, workers, and faith-based organizations are calling for reform. Law enforcement and government at every level are asking for reform.
Americans value our identity as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Unfortunately, too many politicians and pundits have treated these values as contradictory. They are not, and we will pursue reforms that emphasize both.
Pointing out that illegal immigration has slowed down since prior attempts at reform efforts in 2007, Napolitano said that results would be "far more attainable this time around."
Last month, DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] announced [JURIST report] a plan for improving immigration detention policies and facilities in response to allegations of poor conditions and abuse. In August, ICE acknowledged that 11 deaths in immigration detention facilities had gone unreported [JURIST report]. The revelation of the additional deaths came in response to an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit seeking documents pertaining to detainee deaths. In response, ICE directed a review of all detainee deaths to make sure there were no other omissions. Also in August, ICE announced plans to implement large-scale changes [JURIST report] to its immigration detention system, including the creation of an Office of Detention Policy and Planning to ensure that detainees have health care access and are free from persecution.