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Getting Tough on Exploitation

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Obama administration would seek legal status for 12 million undocumented immigrants in early 2010. Hard-right tea party organizers reportedly switched gears immediately to denounce the move. Congressman Lamar Smith found it “ironic” that Napolitano framed the push for comprehensive immigration reform as a way to improve the economy. But Napolitano is absolutely right: reforming the nation’s immigration laws to bring millions of people already participating in our economy out of the shadows would boost tax revenue, lift the economy and protect working Americans from the unfair labor market competition they now face. The biggest problem is that Congress may be dangerously slow to act: even the much-needed extension of unemployment benefits took the Senate months to approve.

While legislators drag their feet, the Obama administration can act quickly on its own to stop the erosion of middle-class jobs. Directing his agencies to enforce the nation’s existing labor and employment laws more vigorously, while halting the enforcement of broken, economically harmful immigration laws is one powerful way to do it. […]

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