Today, the right of foreign citizens to immigrate to the United States is a thorny issue.
A record 1,046,539 persons gained U.S. citizenship in 2008. Immigration is viewed in this country as positive and negative, in turn; it is tied to issues that are economic, social and political.
A story in The New York Times earlier this year detailed some of the tensions that surround the immigration debate. “From the time of the nation's founding, immigration has been crucial to the United States' growth and also a periodic source of conflict. At the turn of the 21st century, the country has experienced another great wave of immigration, the largest since the 1920s. However, for the first time illegal immigrants outnumbered legal immigrants coming in to the country -- by 2008 an estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants were living here - and immigration had once again become one of the most contentious issues on the political agenda.” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/i/immigration_and_refugees/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
In January of 2007, an article in Forbes stated, “Illegal immigration into the United States has sparked heated debate in Congress, roiled the two main political parties and prompted hundreds of thousands of immigrant supporters to take to the streets recently in peaceful demonstrations nationwide.” http://www.forbes.com/2007/01/02/immigration-minimum-wage-ent-hr-cx_kw_0102whartonimmigration.html
In May, The Washington Post reported that, “Although President Obama has spent much of his time in office moving away from the policies of his predecessor, on immigration enforcement, he has embraced several Bush administration initiatives, and the changes he has promised to make are couched in nuance.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/19/AR2009051903404.html
There are myriad issues tied to immigration. The Obama Administration had indicated it would focus on employers who hire illegal immigrants, human traffickers, and the way immigration violators are presently handled. “Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal government’s contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation — some possibly in centers built and run by the government.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/us/politics/06detain.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
However, as reported in The Economist in August, President Obama said at a summit with the presidents of Mexico and Canada, “that his administration will not pursue immigration reform until 2010 at the earliest…. During the campaign Mr. Obama said immigration would be a priority, and in April the administration said it would raise the issue this year.” http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14222329 Secretary Napolitano said later that week that, “she shared the interest in reform; though, for the present, her agency’s job was to enforce existing law more intelligently.”
The U.S. Congress, however, has decided to not wait to begin addressing issues related to immigration law. The ”Widows Death Penalty” change discussed in http://www.examiner.com/x-10548-Hartford-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2009m11d26-Immigration-rules-part-one-a-Thankgsgiving-story is a change that garnered a large majority in Congress (the provision was tacked-on to the “must-pass” appropriations bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded. The House of Representatives had passed the large piece of legislation by a vote of 307-114, and the Senate by 79-19.)
However, not all of the attempts at changing current immigration policy in Congress have been met with such a strong response among the majority of Members. For example, amendments were attached to the legislation that extended additional funding for the Iraq war. The Senate Appropriations Committee had voted to add several provisions dealing with immigration, including one related to amnesty for “guest workers” – which had been defeated in 2007. Ultimately, these amendments failed to gain passage by the full bodies of Congress.
There are strong feelings on both sides about the various issues related to immigration, for example, those as noted on the website BalancedPolitics.org. http://www.balancedpolitics.org/immigration.htm The points of the debate include labor issues; access to support programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare; state security; population crowding; the health of our country from diseases being carried across the borders; cultural expansion; supporting the ideals of freedom and democracy – the list goes on and on.
The New York Times story observed, “In his second term of office, President George W. Bush championed comprehensive immigration reform, but a bipartisan bill was defeated in 2007 after an upswell from voters opposed to legal status for illegal immigrants.” Now President Obama’s administration is getting poised to attempt changes to immigration law.
Immigration is not going away. Nor is the debate going to go away: about which, and how many, foreigners we should allow to join the ranks of our citizenry.