Michael Reynolds/EPA/Newscom

In his second inaugural address, President Obama stated that America will not reach its potential without immigration reform.

Although his reference was grandly vague, the President is expected to soon begin blazing the trail toward legislation that comprehensively overhauls the American immigration system. Congress has tried this before—with little to show for it except more division and multiplying challenges.

The problems in our immigration policy cannot be effectively solved in a comprehensive piece of legislation, because comprehensive is really just a code word for what will be a confusing, complicated, convoluted, and contentious bill that will create as many problems as it purports to solve.

Heritage’s Matt Spalding, Jessica Zuckerman, and James Carafano explain that “just as the many aspects and elements of immigration are not all the same and immigrants in this country are not a monolithic block, there is not one comprehensive policy that will deal with all matters all at once.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should give up and wring our hands. Instead of advancing a mammoth (and probably doomed) immigration reform bill, leaders on the Hill should devise focused strategies that target the varied problems that plague our immigration system.

For one, Congress should work on fixing the arcane legal immigration system and enhancing visa programs so that illegal immigration is less tempting and those who wish to come here legally actually can.

We need to find a more effective way to clamp down on illegal hiring by American employers but also create a temporary worker program that would provide a legal channel for labor based on the needs of the economy. As The Heritage Foundation’s Kim Holmes points out in The Washington Times, “America needs immigrants; the issue is not how to stop immigration, but rather how to make it legal and responsive to the needs of Americans.”

Lastly, America’s border security continues to face an onslaught of varied threats and should be strengthened with the surveillance technology at our disposal. A secure border should also be strong on both sides, necessitating close and cordial cooperation with Mexican authorities.

As President Obama seeks to tackle immigration reform in his second term, he should realize that it will not be accomplished without what Holmes describes as a “pragmatic, problem-solving approach.”

immigration reform