Linda Chavez

The number of secondary schools in Jalisco doubled in the last decade -- as they have in other Mexican states, as well, including in Chiapas, one of the poorest areas in the country. The number of Mexicans who have at least a bachelor's degree has doubled in the last decade and now is over 800,000.

American immigration has always been driven by a push-pull phenomenon. Bad economic prospects pushed people to leave their native lands, and the lure of plentiful, well-paying jobs here have pulled them to the United States. But the process has reversed. Fewer Mexicans feel pushed from their own country thanks to improved economic conditions there, while the weakened U.S. economy has eliminated the pull of American jobs.

Perhaps this turn of events will prompt politicians to tone down the illegal immigration hysteria and enact a sane, market-based immigration policy. America still needs immigrants -- they are a major reason for our economic vitality. But they should come legally, if we'd let them.

We need to expand the number of legal immigrants to the United States and do it in a way that benefits our economy. We need both highly skilled workers and those with lower skills but a strong work ethic to take jobs where we have labor shortages today.

We have too few engineers, doctors and scientists -- and many of those we're training in our universities are foreign-born with no prospect of being allowed to stay here after they graduate. But we also have too few workers in some lower-skilled occupations. Even with unemployment at 9.2 percent, Americans aren't lining up to take jobs picking lettuce or working in poultry processing plants.

Now that the illegal immigration problem is receding, it's time to get on with legal immigration reform.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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