This is a group project for my Political Science class at MJC. I’m posting it here so that I can have better control of the formatting and such.
Civil Rights Issues: U.S. Immigration Policies and Reform
America’s Immigration History
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U.S. Immigration Policy Through the Years
In the very beginning in the history of the United States, there existed few problems over immigration. There was no contest for resources as the country was new, and the only criteria under which a person could be deported or prohibited legal status was if they were considered “radical” or carried anti-American Sentiment. However, the very first law was considered racist as the Naturalization Act of 1790 only allowed “free white persons” who had been living in the country for two years to apply for citizenship. Then the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 increased the residency time to 14 years and would deport anyone on suspicion of subversion. This targeted mainly the French and infringed upon their rights because the United States declaring war unofficially with France in the Quasi War. This was also a political move as the immigrants were supportive of the Democratic-Republicans, and the party in power at the time were the Federalists. Throughout much of the 1800’s, there was heavy immigration by western and northern Europeans mostly from Britain, Germany, and Ireland. Tensions had always existed between the immigrants and the “native born”, but the United States needed a greater population to settle out the west and make the economy grow. The population for the most part was predominantly white. Besides matters of subversion or politics, there were also issues of race such as the example of the Chinese in the 1800’s.
Chinese immigration flourished in the 1850’s because of the prospect of work (Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroads, etc.). They did their duties as Americans and settled westward and built the nation’s infrastructure. Despite their contribution to the economy, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 May 6 which would prohibit the immigration of the Chinese and restrict the right for the Chinese already in the United States to gain citizenship. The reasons why they were targeted was because they increased the amount of competition for work. The Gold Mines Initially had plenty of “surface gold” and as that decreased, hatred towards the Chinese increased. They were moved to enclaves outside of San Francisco. In the 1870’s as the United States economy was ruined from the Civil War, the Chinese were then discriminated again and used a scapegoat to blame for the economic problems particularly in California. According to John Bigler who was the governor of California at that time, the Chinese were depressing wage levels when the problem really had to do with the Civil War. The Chinese population however consisted of a large male population that didn’t even use the infrastructure of the state. They accepted lower wages, but in the end. It was part economics, and part racial discrimination. By prohibiting further entry, they would be securing more for the whites. Immigration continued for other races, but not Chinese demonstrating an obvious racial component for this. Later during World War 2, this policy towards Chinese immigration would be changed because China was an ally during the war. In addition to this racist act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1917 was added which would prohibit immigration from anybody from Asia.
After World War 1, the United States was put in a really tight spot. The economy had been ravaged by the war and immigrants all over war torn Europe sought immigration to the United States. The United States simply at this time couldn’t accept everybody and thus greater limitations were established. In 1921, President Warren Harding signed the Quota Act which would only allow 3 percent of the immigrant population of each country living in the United States based off the 1910 census to enter the country per year. This would favor the immigration of Western Europeans rather than Southern and Eastern European countries. The other countries were really underrepresented, and thus this makes the law discriminatory, but the United States main focus was just to lower the immigration rate overall. It was a quick solution basically. It was not based entirely on race because after World War 1, there was heavy unemployment in America and this was another big cause in the anti-immigration movement. The National Origins Act in 1924 was then signed by President Calvin Coolidge to narrow the immigration inflow to only 2 percent instead of the original 3 percent and it would use data from 1890 too. Little steps were taken to overcome the discrimination in immigration such as McCarran-Walter Act which lifted the ban on Asian immigration in 1952. Overall, it wasn’t a matter of race necessarily. It simply had to be cut down on all levels to accommodate to the needs of the economy.
The 1960’s was a great time for immigration unlike the rest of the history of the United States. President Johnson would sign the Immigration and Naturalization Act in 1965, which would give equal access to all seeking immigration into the United States. It would favor however mostly skilled workers, those seeking political asylum, and those who had relatives in the United States. The main focus of the law was to bring in people of value into the country and reunite families (good moral reasons), but to give if you weren’t under the criteria of the immigration law, then it would still be difficult to enter the country legally. The effects of this law is that it completely changed the racial demographics of the country. People from Latin America, Asia, and Africa were coming in unprecedented rates. A benefit of this law actually was for the refugees that were coming in from war torn Vietnam. People also living under communist regimes were given a chance to come into the United States. This law would pave the way for more progressive immigration policy.
In the 1980’s illegal Immigration was at an all time high, particularly from Mexico. President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which would give more funding towards border control, however, it would also give legal status to all illegal immigrants that had been living continuously in the US since 1982. He claimed that those who had already established “roots” in the country should be granted legal status in the country, but that would come at the price of heavier border control. Despite the provisions for tighter border control, illegal immigration continued to grow. Many consider that this was the cause of even more illegal immigration but immigration patterns are bit more complicated than that so it would be hard to attribute the surge to the policy of that one year. Amnesty for sure was a cause of the heightened illegal immigration, but to what extent it was actually responsible is unknown. There most certainly was an effect, and that would lead to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 which would mean that there would be greater border control and greater authority for officials to deport illegal immigrants. The failures of this law however are that legal immigration still continued at regular levels. In order to keep up with the economy, it would be necessary to curtail both legal and illegal immigration. Another things about this law is that it would keep deportees in prison for periods of up to 2 years.
Nowadays, problems of immigration have been addressed by the states themselves. For example, in Arizona, SB 1070 was established in 2010 which would require that enforcement officials check for proof of legal residency of anyone that was suspected of being an illegal immigrant during routine traffic stops and arrests. This would be struck down later by the United States federal court. In 2011, Alabama passed HB 56 which would require that enforcement officials demand proof of legal status, forbid illegals from holding work, receive benefits from the state, or conduct any sort of business with the government of the state. Schools would also be required to record legal status of students and pass information to the state. The Justice department would sue Alabama for this. The US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Georgia struck down the provisions for students having to report legal status, but it left most of the law intact. The Supreme Court later narrowed down the law to only allow law enforcement agencies to check legal status. Besides the actions of the courts, Obama issued an executive order that allowed 800,000 undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status if they had arrived before they were 16 and they were currently under the age of 30. Besides that, there have been humanitarian crises as well… There have been thousands of children from Central America flooding the border of Texas and the government has been having difficulty in deciding the best route for these children.
Analysis: Immigration, Citizenship, and Discrimination Around the World
Map of Immigrants and Emigrants Around the World: http://migrationsmap.net/
The United States has over 40 million non-citizen immigrants living within its borders, eleven million of which are “undocumented”, but not everyone who leaves their native country for a better life aims to settle in America. Countries across the globe have had to decide who to let inside their borders. Also, like the United States, other countries around must contend with racial and ethnic discrimination directed towards immigrants, as well as established citizens.
As immigration reform comes to a head, we take a look at how other countries, those that have been recognized for having some of the most open, or the most restrictive, immigration policies, are dealing with their huddled masses.
Canada has adopted one of the most open immigration policies in the world to combat a shortage of skilled labor that has been affecting the country’s growth economically since the 1970s. As of 2010, the foreign-born population makes up 21.3 percent of the country’s total population.
On April 1, the already immigration-friendly country launched a Start-up Visa Program in an effort to attract highly skilled foreign entrepreneurs. Immigrants with funding from Canadian venture capital firms or investment groups for a start-up business will be eligible for immediate permanent residency. If the new business fails, the entrepreneur will not be subject to deportation.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in Japan, where nationals favor a racially unique and homogeneous society, the foreign population accounted for only 1.7 percent of the total population in 2010. Japan’s strict immigration, or, rather, anti-immigration, policies have drawn heavy criticism.
Like Canada, Japan is facing a rapidly declining population in which the low birthrate can barely match the death rate of the country’s senior citizens. The population now sits at 128 million, but analysts estimate the number will have shrunk by a third in 2060, forcing the country to embrace more open policies.
Following the examples of Canada and the United Kingdom, Japan rolled out a new point-based system last spring to rate immigrants. Immigrants earn points based on their academic background and research or business experience, among other factors. Those who score higher, mainly professionals like professors, doctors, and corporate managers, will be given preferential treatment.
In 2012, Australia received a total of nearly 15,800 asylum claims, up 37 percent from the previous year, according to the United Nations. The country’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship states that the Migration Act 1958 requires any non citizen or person who is unlawfully in Australia to be detained. People without a valid visa, including children, are considered unlawful. Migrant children, especially asylum seekers, have been detained in immigration detention centers for months or even years. As of February 2013, there were still 1,062 children in the detention centers, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Denmark’s stance on immigration has often been considered controversial. The largely homogeneous country has reportedly offered immigrants cash incentives to leave if they cannot assimilate into Danish culture. The incentive was driven by the far-right Danish People’s Party, which states on its website that “Denmark is not an immigrant-country and never has been. Thus we will not accept transformation to a multi-ethnic society.”
One of Denmark’s most scrutinized laws on immigration is the 24-year rule, which states that in order for the foreign spouse of a Danish citizen to qualify for citizenship both the Danish spouse and the foreign spouse must be at least 24 years old. According to a report by humanityinaction.org, the rule’s purpose is to limit the number of immigrants, prevent forced marriages, and create a better integration process.
However, the law has prevented families from reuniting, sparking a debate over possible human rights violations. There are special circumstances where the law can be waived, such as if the spouse is a refugee, has underage children with connections to Denmark, or is handicapped or seriously ill.
Sweden is well-known for welcoming Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn nations like Iraq, Syria, and Somalia. But growing unemployment, which sits at 16 percent among foreign residents, and a recent string of violent riots have politicians and citizens questioning its open-door immigration policy.
Some critics point their fingers at costly liberal policies that created an abundance of jobs and attracted a steady flow of immigrant labor from nearby European countries. When job creation slowed, working immigrants stopped entering the country while the flow of unemployed, government-dependent asylum seekers picked up. In 2012, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden jumped nearly 50 percent from the year before, hitting 43,900, the second highest year on record.
Opposition to immigration may still be in the minority, but the need for a more sustainable immigration policy has shot the Sweden Democrats, the far-right anti-immigration political party, up to third place in the polls and may give them political momentum in the 2014 elections.
The United Kingdom saw a dramatic spike of immigrants in the last decade, from 4.6 million in 2001 to nearly 7.5 million in 2011, according to the U.K. Census. With the annual number of people entering the country far exceeding the number of those leaving, immigration has become the public’s most important issue.
Adding to the problem, the U.K. Border Agency discovered last July that hundreds of thousands of migrants with expired visas may still be residing in the country, prompting the prime minister to call for tougher immigration reforms aimed at visa abusers. In late March, Immigration Minister Mark Harper announced that the government was considering a measure that will slap a £1,000 (U.S. $1,532) fee on migrants coming to the U.K. to work or study. The fee will serve as a security bond to be returned only when immigrants return home following the expiration of their visas.
While the United States was founded mostly by immigrants, the process for achieving permanent residency and citizenship has become even more complicated since the early 2000s and the war on terrorism. Unless a person is coming to the U.S. through family or an approved job, it is very difficult to establish permanent residency (sometimes known as receiving a green card). There are special categories for those seeking refugee or asylum status, and a lottery for others who wish to apply.
Those who have had permanent residency status for five years can begin the process of applying for citizenship by filling out the application and taking a test, which includes knowledge of history/government and English. Before becoming a citizen, people must swear an oath to the Constitution.
The United States permits dual citizenship.
In 2012, lawmakers adopted an amendment to the immigration law that allowed foreigners to gain Hungarian investment citizenship if they were willing to buy at least $322,600 worth of special government bonds, according to Reuters. Unlike other European countries, Hungary does not require investors to purchase real estate or be physically present in Hungary for a certain amount of time.
For rich investors, this might be a lucrative deal: Hungary is part of the European Union, and every citizen is allowed to travel to other member states. The profits could also help lower the country’s foreign currency debt, which is worth billions of dollars.
Many EU countries have tough immigration laws, but Austria seems to have one of the lengthiest processes to become a citizen. Anyone who is not a citizen of an EU country and staying longer than six months must have a resident permit before entering the country.
People who plan to stay longer than 24 months must also sign an Integration Agreement, a process designed to enhance their German-language skills and ability “to participate in the social, economic and cultural life in Austria.”
Permanent residents must live in the country continuously for a period of 15 to 30 years before being eligible to apply for citizenship. If approved, applicants must renounce any other citizenship.
It takes longer to be granted a Permanent Resident visa in Japan than to become a citizen. People who want to establish permanent residency must have lived in the country for a total of 10 continuous years or more.
Those who want to become a citizen of Japan must have lived in the country for five years, receive permission from the Justice Minister and complete a slew of paperwork (some have complained of unnecessary questions involving their personal lives). The process, according to the Japanese Ministry, can take six to 12 months, although those who have gone through it have reported that it can take years. If approved, applicants must be ready to renounce citizenship in other countries.
Double/dual citizenships has been in much of the debate over the years. Much of the developed countries such as US, UK, Australia, Switzerland have no restrictions on holding dual nationality, whereas countries such as Singapore, Austria, India, Saudi Arabia do not “recognize” or “restrict” dual citizenships, leading to automatic loss of citizenship upon acquiring the other. Some countries such as Austria, Spain may still grant dual citizenships upon certain special conditions under exceptional cases (i.e. celebrities).
The following nations do not allow their citizens to hold Dual Citizenship with another nation:
Other countries such as Pakistan and Spain only allow their citizens to have Dual Citizenship with certain chosen countries.
Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Discrimination against other races have always been around, but it still lingers today. In 21st century race has come to encompass the vast differences on the ground of language, ethnicity, culture, history, religion and societal affiliation. Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others. Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns.
Racial and ethnic discrimination has become a major issue and embarrassment for United States of America within the International community. African Americans, Asian Americans and Latin Americans, as well as some European Americans, are still disregarded by those who think of themselves as native or “real” Americans. In the US, racism is a part of everyday life, from racial profiling and police brutality, the history of slavery, and the rising resentment against immigrants. Affirmative Actions and other policies have been enacted by the government to try to help protect minorities and women from discrimination in education and the workplace.
A short review from the Inter Press Service highlights the rise of Neo-Nazism in 2000 in Europe and suggests that “far from being a fringe activity, racism, violence and neo-nationalism have become normal in some communities. The problems need to tackled much earlier, in schools and with social programmes.”
Japan albeit boast being a racially tolerant country has no effective restrictions on xenophobic actions, and foreign nationals to speak of. Back in the year 2005, a United Nations report expressed deep concerns about racism in the country and that government recognition of the depth of the problem was not satisfactory. The report identified three groups at the bottom of the pyramidal racial hierarchy structure: Japanese American, Brazilian Japanese and the descendants of ‘poor’ third world countries. The refugee acceptance record of japan is highly disappointing as well which shows they are picky about who comes in their country.
Greece has one of the worst records in the European Union for racism against ethnic minorities, according to the BBC. Anti-immigrant sentiment has long been high, especially against ethnic Albanians, who form the largest minority. Until the 1990s, the BBC notes, Greece had been an extremely homogeneous society. With the fall of communism many immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Greece. Albanians especially have been the target of racist sentiment. Some hostage taking by a few Albanians in recent years has not helped the situation.
In the year 2009 there was a surge in number of hate crimes targeting specifically Indians. There were more than a 100 reported assault incidents reported by the Indian students out of which 23 had unmistakable racial undertones.
Obama Immigration Reform 2014 Speech: Announcing Executive Action [FULL] Today on November 20th
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• Laura Ingraham Batters Bill O’Reilly Over Immigration Reform • 11/12/14 •
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Millions of people around the world seek to immigrate to the United States because of its commitment to freedom and equality, along with its seemingly unlimited opportunity, wealth, and power. The U.S. government, in turn, actively encourages highly skilled immigrants to move to the United States and fill needed gaps in the work force. However, the government only issues permanent residency cards to only a few hundred thousand immigrants each year, far fewer than would be necessary to meet demand. These “green cards” essentially put immigrants on a path to citizenship. Within a few years, Legal Permanent Residents become eligible to become full-fledged U.S. citizens.
The appeal that the United States holds for many immigrants, combined with its restrictive immigration policy, has led many people to enter the country illegally. Many of these illegal, or undocumented, immigrants end up living in the country for a long time. Experts estimate that half of the United States’ illegal immigrant population has been in the country for a decade or longer. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, by far the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants originally hails from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Philippines.
Entering the United States illegally is risky; unauthorized immigrants must either use falsified documents to deceive an immigration official, come ashore by boat without being detected, or sneak across the nation’s land borders with Mexico or Canada. The penalty for illegal immigration, which is classified as a federal misdemeanor, is strict as well. The U.S. government can deport illegal immigrants and ban them from re-entering the country for 10 years. Nevertheless, people from other countries continue to take these risks on a daily basis.
For years, debate has raged in the United States over how to handle the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. While many opponents of illegal immigration argue that these immigrants should be deported, or face such unfriendly conditions that they choose to leave willingly, or “self-deport”. Others argue that undocumented immigrants in many ways help fuel the U.S. economy, toiling for low wages in jobs, such as physically arduous farm work, that most Americans refuse to do.
In 2007, Congress almost passed a bill, supported by President George W. Bush (R, 2001–09), most Democrats, and many moderate Republicans, that would have given illegal immigrants a multi-year path to citizenship, similar to the one available to legal green-card holders. Conservative opposition to that idea, however, resulted in the bill’s defeat.
After Barack Obama became president in 2009, he also promoted broad immigration reform, including a law called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known by its acronym, the DREAM Act. Backed by many Democrats, the DREAM Act would have allowed children who had been brought to the United States illegally to earn citizenship if they attended college or served in the U.S. military. Republicans in Congress, however, blocked the bill. In the absence of new legislation, President Obama resorted to executive action to alter the United States’ immigration policy. In June 2012, he announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Embodying similar goals to those of the DREAM Act, the DACA program allows illegal immigrants under the age of 31 who entered the United States before the age of 16, and who meet other criteria, to apply for work permits and legal status. Since President Obama announced the plan, about 600,000 immigrants have applied to the program.
In early 2013, President Barack Obama vowed to make immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a top priority of his second term. Many experts believed that the chances of passing immigration reform under President Obama were substantially higher than they were under President Bush. In June 2013, the Senate passed a measure, providing for both a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and increased border security, along with other features. Although the measure received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, Republicans in the House of Representatives opposed it, calling instead for the separate consideration of each portion of the bill. The House never voted on the measure, and it did not become law. Many conservative Republicans argue that the proposed “path to citizenship” simply amounts to amnesty, a pardon from the government for committing the crime of entering the country illegally.
On November 20, 2014, after Republicans scored several victories in the mid-term elections and secured a majority in the House and the Senate, President Obama announced that he would implement a series of measures that would temporarily protect an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. He would expand the DACA and create another deferred action program to temporarily shield an estimated 4 million parents of legal residents from deportation. Obama also announced plans to encourage the legal migration of skilled workers to the United States, allow spouses of green card holders to apply for legal status without first leaving the United States, and prioritize the deportation of both illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes and recently arrived illegal immigrants over otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants. Obama framed the executive actions as a push for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better,” he said, “or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
Much of the controversy surrounding President Obama’s immigration executive action stems not only from the policy changes themselves, but also from his method of implementing them by invoking executive authority. Although presidents have long used executive authority on a broad range of issues, including exemptions in the enforcement of immigration law, Obama’s action will likely apply to a far greater number of immigrants than have previous uses of executive authority.
Arguments in Support of Pathways to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants
Supporters of a path to citizenship maintain that the United States has a moral responsibility to allow hard-working immigrants, both legal and illegal, to become citizens. Undocumented immigrants, they point out, pay taxes, spur economic growth, and thus deserve the full benefits of citizenship. They also contribute to government programs such as Social Security, advocates note, yet are not allowed to receive benefits from such programs. The U.S. government has already cracked down on border security and immigration law enforcement, supporters note, and now Congress must attempt broader reform.
A large majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Barack Obama on Immigration and a Path to Citizenship
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Arguments in Opposition to Pathways to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants
Opponents of a path to citizenship argue that immigrants should not be awarded amnesty after breaking American laws. The cost of allowing undocumented immigrants to become full-fledged citizens would likely be in the trillions of dollars because amnesty recipients will receive more in government benefits than they will pay in taxes. Comprehensive immigration reform should focus on strengthening border security. Some argue that while the United States should encourage immigration, allowing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants would encourage even more foreigners to enter the country illegally.
Candidate Marco Rubio in 2010: ‘Path to Citizenship’ is ‘Code for Amnesty’
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Arguments in Support of President Obama’s Executive Action in Immigration Reform
Supporters of President Obama’s executive action on immigration argue that such bold action was necessary to transform the nation’s immigration and deportation policies, which, they contend, treat immigrants cruelly and callously. President Obama’s deferred action program is humane to immigrants and beneficial to the United States as a whole. “The President’s executive action will not only keep families together, it will enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nevada) stated in November 2014. “It will strengthen our economy by creating new jobs and allowing these families to fully contribute to the only country they call home.”
Some legal scholars argue that the executive branch of the government has the power to act on the issue. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 provides the president substantial leeway to set immigration policy. “Immigration law is an area in which, for good or ill, Congress has given the executive wide latitude,” Jonathan Adler, a legal scholar who has criticized President Obama’s actions on other issues, wrote in the Washington Post in August 2014. “In evaluating claims of executive overreach it is important to consider the relevant statutes, as whether the President is exceeding his bounds largely depends on the nature and scope of the power Congress delegated in the first place.”
Supporters argue that Obama’s moves on immigration are constitutional, pointing out that deciding how to enforce the law is one of the president’s primary responsibilities. “Obama’s actions were well within the scope of executive authority under the Constitution,” Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, wrote for Reason. “In a world where authorities can prosecute only a small fraction of lawbreakers, all presidents inevitably make policy choices about which violations of federal law to prosecute and which to ignore…. And if any lawbreakers deserve to benefit from prosecutorial discretion, immigrants fleeing Third World poverty and oppression have a particularly strong case.”
Advocates of Obama’s executive actions contend that Republicans have wholly failed to offer any competing vision of what productive immigration reform would look like. “[F]ury isn’t a policy,” Vox editor Ezra Klein wrote in November 2014. “[T]he Republican policy on immigration needs to be something more than opposing Obama’s immigration policies. It needs to be something more than vague noises about border security.”
Claims that Obama’s actions ruin congressional prospects for bipartisan immigration reform, supporters argue, are false and disingenuous. “The President has faced unified and unrelenting opposition from Republicans in Congress since the first day of his presidency [in 2009],” Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the nonpartisan think tank the Brookings Institution, charged in November 2014. “Now that the President has decided to use his well-documented constitutional and statutory authority to ease temporarily one of the most difficult and painful problems facing the country, Republicans are shocked, yes shocked that he would ‘poison the well’ and destroy any chance of bipartisan comity in the new Congress.”
Supporters emphasize that the moves the Obama administration has taken are temporary, stopgap measures, not blanket amnesty. “[D]eferred action does not confer an immigration visa on the recipient and is subject to termination at any time,” Raquel Aldana, a professor at Pacific McGeorge School of Law, argued in the New York Times in November 2014. “President Obama can certainly not guarantee it beyond his own presidency.”
Arguments in Opposition to President Obama’s Executive Action in Immigration Reform
Opponents of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration argue that the new policies are fundamentally flawed. Providing amnesty to undocumented immigrants, they contend, will only encourage more foreigners to enter the United States illegally. Protections provided by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, critics charge, created chaos by encouraging parents throughout Central America to send their children north in 2014. “When it comes to the crisis on the border, President Obama has no one to blame but himself,” Representative Lamar Smith (R, Texas) stated in June 2014. “He is the one who promised amnesty to illegal immigrant minors already in the U.S. As a result, tens of thousands of illegal immigrant minors are now flooding across the border. Why are they coming? Because of the promise of legalization and amnesty that President Obama advocates.”
Improvements in border security, opponents of Obama’s action maintain, must come before any other immigration reforms. “Americans…are understandably unwilling to address the fact that we have over 12 million human beings in America in violation of our immigration laws,” Senator Marco Rubio wrote in a letter to President Obama in August 2014, “until we first do something to ensure that our immigration laws will not continue to be ignored.”
Opponents have attacked the president for promoting policies that enable unauthorized immigrants to work legally at a time when many Americans are unemployed and facing difficulty finding a job. “The President is providing an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants with social security numbers, photo IDs and work permits,” Senator Jeff Sessions argued in a November 2014 statement, “allowing them to take jobs directly from struggling Americans during a time of record immigration, low wages, and high joblessness.”
The president’s actions, critics further contend, are unconstitutional. “This amnesty plan was rejected by the American people’s Congress,” Sessions stated. “By refusing to carry out the laws of the United States in order to make his own, the President is endangering our entire Constitutional order.”
The president’s handling of immigration policy, opponents argue, far surpasses previous executive actions on the issue. “[B]oth Reagan’s and Bush’s moves [in the late 1980s and early 1990s] were cleanup measures for the implementation of the once-in-history amnesty that was passed by Congress,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy organization, argued in the National Review in 2014. “Obama’s threatened move, on the other hand, is directly contrary to Congress’s decision not to pass amnesty. In effect, Bush was saying ‘Congress has acted and I’m doing my best to implement its directives,’ while Obama is saying ‘Congress has not done my bidding, so I’m going to implement my own directives.’”
Critics argue that Obama’s use of executive action clears the way for future presidents to abuse the powers of their office. “Presidents could simply decide not to enforce entire sections of the Clean Air Act, tax code or labor laws, or exempt entire categories of people, defined unilaterally by the president, on the assertion that those laws are ‘unfair’ and there aren’t enough resources to go around,” Florida International University law professor Elizabeth Price Foley wrote in the New York Times in November 2014. “At some point, the discretion not to prosecute a law becomes a failure to faithfully execute it.”
Protecting Civil Liberties in Federal Immigration Reform Legislation
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “Immigration reform must create a welcoming roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans living in and contributing to the U.S. Fundamental fairness as guaranteed by the Constitution requires that these individuals be brought within the legal embrace of U.S. citizenship.”
Immigration reform must:
- Not create a national ID system or include measures that harm fundamental privacy rights of all workers. Error-prone identification systems endanger the rights and livelihood of everyone in U.S. workplaces and in civic life.
- Protect the rights of workers vulnerable to abuse, including temporary workers (or guestworkers) and unauthorized workers.
- End state and local intrusions into immigration policy and enforcement, as well as ban racial profiling at all levels of government.
- Address systemic due process problems with immigration detention and deportation.
- Transform border enforcement, which has grown wastefully and abusively without regard to genuine public safety needs.
- Address immigration enforcement’s contribution to America’s mass incarceration problem.
- Include the ability of committed and loving couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.
Immigration Reform Interview – ACLU Lawyer shares her views
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Illegal Immigration Documentary: Citizens*: Reasons for Discrimination?
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Our Individual Thoughts on Immigration Discrimination and Reform
“There has been many discrimination cases based on immigration or citizenship status especially in the workplace.Individuals are not being treated equally, even when looking for jobs. Even though America is known as the nation of immigrants,newcomers may still face a number of challenges when integrating in a variety of areas of everyday. New waves of immigrants sometimes face opposition from established employers or co-workers who are averse to change. In order to ensure equality in the workplace, Congress has granted protections to workers with valid authorization to work as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).I believe that discrimination has gotten a little better throughout the years but I do not think the INA is preventing it from happening because some people are being discriminated during hiring process.
Immigration discrimination should be stopped especially in the workplace because immigrants are looking for opportunities in life to help their families back in their home country and those opportunities should not be taken away from them. The U.S is a place with many opportunities compared to other countries who have certain restrictions on freedoms. Immigrants have brought the country new ideas and perspectives. Even though most illegal immigrants come here to the U.S.for opportunities to work I believe they should be deported or go through the process of becoming a legal immigrant because job opportunities are being taken away from people. Also, legal immigrants have worked hard to get where they are.
My parents first came here as immigrants and have worked hard to get where they are at now.Even until today they are helping not only me, but my family back in the Philippines. I believe immigrants should not take advantage of our system here, but use the opportunities to help the country become a better place and to help their families.”
“I have mixed feelings when it comes to immigration to the United States.
On one hand, resources and opportunities are not unlimited. If we don’t control the influx of people into this country, we will find the “pie” of opportunity and entrepreneurship shrinking instead of growing. Any criteria that we impose to limit immigration, however, will be discriminatory (by definition). Is it really better to discriminate according to skills and financial support than by race or ethnicity? At some level, any immigration restrictions will be unfair. We need to make sure that the current citizens and legal residents of the United States have access to wealth of opportunities available before opening up to large numbers of newcomers.
On the other hand, U.S. citizens aren’t necessarily pursuing all of the opportunities and entrepreneurial options available to us now. We say things like, “Mexicans do jobs that Americans won’t do”. Well, those jobs need to be done, if we are unwilling to step up and fill those roles, we can’t blame an immigrant for capitalizing on that opportunity. Also, immigrants bring with them new economic opportunities and create new markets and new demands that can be filled by Americans that are willing to try. The constant exchange and mixing of different cultures, perspectives, and ideas are part of what makes America great.
In my point of view, we don’t really have an immigration problem (illegal or otherwise). We have an economic problem. Inflation and failed economic policies have contributed to concentrating the bulk of the nation’s resources into the hands of a very few. This has created barriers to entering the marketplace for many Americans as well as burdens that make success and profitability for individuals and small businesses much more difficult to achieve. If the government and businesses could work together to, once again, level the playing field so that more Americans can compete, the economy will explode and we will be begging immigrants to come and fill these new jobs. In the meantime, I’m not sure that there is a fix within immigration policy that can solve these problems.”
“The question of immigration reform is very personal to me because I have family members and friends here in the United States that don’t have “legal status.” They don’t exactly live in constant fear of being deported because they don’t do anything stupid like deal drugs or commit any sort of crime. They simply go to their job and work, as most illegal immigrants do. They are hard workers and I don’t think that they are in any way a burden on the economy of the country. They don’t deserve to be deported at all, but I’m not sure if the government has the means to provide them with the benefits of citizenship. I don’t know about the economics in awarding citizenship to a group of people, but if the government has the means to do so, then they should be given it. My father in particular has said that those who work should have citizenship and priority in this country, not lazy people. He says that when it comes to Mexican illegal immigrants, come from nothing yet they still manage to strive in this country and at the same time make the economy grow making it completely sensible to at least not be deported. I believe that if the country has the means to provide legal status to hard working American illegal immigrants, then they should do so. That would make sense, but there are still assertions that the country can’t just be giving out citizenship to everybody as that could be costly and that we should be caring more the people that are already citizens in this country. There are many choices to choose from. We can’t give rights to one group and then take them away from another. It’s simply a question of who deserves what? And then what the effect of that could be? The effects of giving legal status to illegal immigrants could provide a strain on the social welfare of the country, but we have seen that immigrants are the ones usually taking the jobs that most Americans don’t want to do. It is all too confusing, but I wouldn’t want to have illegals here that are hardworking to be deported at least. That is one thing that I am completely sure.”
Links for More Information
- Council on Foreign Relations – The Immigration Debate
- Asian-Pacific Economics Blog – Immigration Reform Pros and Cons
- American Immigration Council – Overhauling Immigration Law: A Brief History and Basic Principles of Reform
- The University of Dayton – A History of Immigration Law Regarding People of Color