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Le Monde, France

Immigration: The Good American Example

By Editorial

Translated By Grace Norman

29 January 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

A week after his left-wing inaugural address, Barack Obama is due to deliver a speech on Tuesday Jan. 29 reviving a promise never achieved during his first presidential term: to reform laws on immigration. His aim? To allow the organization of undocumented immigrants, of which the number is estimated at some 11 million.

But this is not new: The novelty lies in the spectacular U-turn of the Republicans on a question that, among other things, cost the victory of their candidate in November 2012 by alienating him from the Latino vote. To charm those on the extreme right in his party, Mitt Romney refused to envisage an amnesty and promised to make life impossible for those in the U.S. illegally.

Four Republican senators, including the former presidential candidate John McCain, along with four of their Democratic colleagues, just signed a project of global reform to form a pathway to the organization of illegal immigrants, if not to their naturalization. This project would be conditioned on the complete security of the borders, by putting in place systematic inspection of those entering and exiting the country and even those being hired from abroad. For students who are children of undocumented immigrants, agricultural workers and the well educated, the inspection procedure would be faster.

The give-and-take – securing the borders vs. regularization – is in all likelihood unrealistic. Just like the idea of making 3000 kilometers of desert-like borders impenetrable. In his own project, Barack Obama should not retain this conditionality. And it is all but certain that the president will easily succeed in getting such a bill passed in the House of Representatives: dominated by the most radical Republicans, the idea of mass regularization of illegal immigrants is often considered a specter there.

It remains that the new position of the Republican senators deserves to be commended. In substance, this new position represents a practical turning point, which is true to the moderate opinion of the majority of Americans on this subject that is so strongly linked to their identity. On the political plane, it constitutes a challenge to the tea party movement. After the accepted compromise in December concerning the debt ceiling, this is a new indication of the reorientation of the Republican Party.

France is not the U.S., even if the Hexagon has for a long time played a comparable role in Europe as a place of refuge and hope for migrants. However, this realistic turning point of the Republicans should encourage the most powerful politicians in France to rethink their position. "I think everyone here agrees that it is not beneficial for our country to have these people here hidden in the shadows," declared Republican Senator McCain. "We, the American people, have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn (...) and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great."

Similar discourse has had little luck being understood in France, where the economic crisis and unemployment has reinforced hostility toward immigrants. This then obscures the fact that a real immigration policy should not just be considered as a political and social burden, but as a requirement for the future and an asset for the dynamism of a country.



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