Survey: Counties want clear immigration policy
Clear immigration laws and enforcement policies need to replace the piecemeal approach the federal government currently takes toward U.S. immigration reform, say members of the Washington-based National Association of Counties (NACo). According to a recent survey of NACo members on immigration, border enforcement, providing a path to citizenship, creating a temporary worker program and funding for local governments for health care and education programs were other priorities for county leaders.
In the survey report, released Jan. 13, 63 percent of responding counties cited the elimination of the piecemeal approach to immigration as the most pressing issue to resolve to improve immigration policy. Another 63 percent cited the need for clear federal laws and enforcement policies as the most pressing issue, and 45 percent cited improving community relations and perceptions as the most pressing issue. "NACo believes that immigration regulation is a fundamental federal responsibility and strongly supports the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform," said NACo President and Sonoma County, Calif., Supervisor Valerie Brown. "Counties stand ready to restore the partnership with the federal government to address one of the most pressing and challenging issues we face in America."
The survey also found that many counties are providing special programs targeted toward new immigrants, such as adult English as a second language programs, community relations programs, technical assistance programs for new businesses and citizen preparation programs. At the same time, 70 percent of respondents reported an increase in their jail population in recent years in connection with increased immigration, and 53 percent reported an increase in crime by immigrants. Also, 77 percent reported an increased use of public health services and programs, 70 percent reported an increase in school enrollments, and 64 percent reported an additional demand for school social services as a result of increased immigration.
NACo is urging Congress and the administration to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year. The reform should include border security and enforcement; federal funding for counties to help provide health care and education services; a sensible guest worker program, and a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, according to NACo.
Download the full NACo immigration survey.