By Jena Baker McNeill, J.D.

Yesterday the Obama Administration held a closed-door immigration conference, bringing together key members of Congress. It has been reported that this meeting focused on finding a way to push for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress this year.

During the 2008 Presidential elections now President Obama made a promise to take up immigration reform within his first year in office. He reiterated this pledge when he spoke to the Hispanic Congressional Caucus shortly after he was elected.

All too often “comprehensive immigration reform” has been another name for amnesty. Amnesty is not the right approach and is not likely to pass muster with the American public — they recognize that giving amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants is much too costly and would encourage more people to break the law. The country learned this lesson in 1986 when 2.7 million people were granted amnesty. The program was wrought with fraud and it did nothing to stem illegal immigration– instead even more people attempted to enter the United States.

A more appropriate agenda would focus on efforts to stop illegal immigration and secure the border, reform the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and open up more legal avenues by which to allow individuals to come into the United States.

Recent reports indicate that this approach works. The Bush Administration ramped up internal enforcement and took steps to secure the border in recent years, and the number of illegals dropped from 12 to 11 million.

The Heritage Foundation delineates a plan for immigration in its backgrounder: “Next Steps for Immigration Reform and Workplace Enforcement.”

Amnesty isn’t part of the plan, and it shouldn’t be for Congress.

Jena Baker McNeill is a homeland security policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.