There are an estimated twelve million undocumented immigrants in the United States, with about 170,000 in Nevada, and many of them have no way to earn their residency. This is in part due to the many flaws of our broken immigration system, which does not do enough to change the economic incentives that employers have to hire unauthorized workers and thus attracts economic migrants who are so desperate that a life in the shadows in America is preferable to a normal life in their homelands.

Immigration law is a patchwork of piecemeal measures and changes that have taken place over the last two hundred years. Major reforms took place in 1986 and throughout the Clinton presidency. President Bush tried to reform the system in 2007 but was unsuccessful. Today, President Obama and Democrat leaders in Congress hope to fix this system, pledging comprehensive immigration reform in 2010.

This will be an uphill battle, with normal xenophobia and public anti-immigrant sentiment compounded by concerns about the weak economy. Despite the fact that data show that immigrants do not compete with native workers but rather take jobs no one else wants for pay no one else would accept, the conventional wisdom is that immigrants “take our jobs” and therefore threaten native well-being.

At this time, the push for immigration reform is still in its infancy. The fight over healthcare reform has taken months longer than anyone expected, and there is now focus on economic recovery and financial regulation that are pushing immigration reform to the back burner.

But in December, Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez (D) unveiled the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) bill, which would address many of the faults in the current system. Since then, little has happened.

Several grassroots organizations have been working steadily to build support for immigration reform. One of the leading voices for reform is Reform Immigration For America; we encourage all our visitors to our Web site to take a moment and join their efforts online or through text message.

You can read more of our coverage of comprehensive immigration reform on our Nevada immigration blog.