DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is tentatively scheduled to testify before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee about DHS immigration enforcement policies on May 6, 2009. Given Secretary Napolitano’s novel interpretations of federal law, the Heritage Foundation will be posting a series of questions (and suggested answers) for the Secretary.

Labor unions have recently come out in favor of an amnesty for illegal immigrations while continuing to adamantly oppose the expansion of legal worker programs. Will the Obama Administration take on its powerful union supporters by not supporting an amnesty and enhancing legal worker programs and reforming visa policies?

With the increased efforts to secure the border and enforce the laws against illegal immigration through aggressive interior enforcement activities, the United States has properly increased the transactional costs for illegal immigrants, employers who hire them and smugglers who transport them. Another critical aspect is to lesson the demand in the United States for cheap, illegal labor.

The best way to accomplish this task is to increase and expand the number of legal worker programs at both the low and high end of the employment ladder. As employers seek to avoid worksite enforcement raids, they will turn to legal worker programs that can meet their business needs. As employers fill their jobs with legal workers, the demand for illegal workers will decrease. The Obama Administration plans to continue these aggressive interior enforcement activities and efforts to secure our border.

One of the biggest impediments to increasing and expand the number of legal workers programs are the labor unions who will fight to maintain the inflated wages and benefits of their members. The United States needs to provide legal avenues to meet the needs of employers and immigrants and are a better option than illegal immigration. The appropriate approach for Congress and the Administration, as part of a responsible overall program to restructure American immigration and border security policies, is to begin to reform existing visa policies in a manner that appropriately addresses concerns regarding security, sovereignty, citizenship, and economic growth.

For more Heritage research on visa policies, see James Sherk and Diem Nguyen’s Backgrounder, Next Steps for Immigration and Border Security Reform: Restructuring the Work Visa.