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Xinhua, China

Why Did the United States
Relax Immigration Policy?

By Zhenglong Wu

Translated By Stefanie Zhou

4 February 2013

\Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

China - Xinhua - Original Article (Chinese)

On Jan. 28, senators from both parties of Congress reached an agreement regarding the principle for the framework of immigration policy reform. One day later, Obama gave a speech on U.S. immigration policy reform in a gathering of middle school students dominated by Hispanics in Las Vegas. He depicted the principles, priorities and practices of the reform as a road map, claimed that the old immigration system was outdated, and proposed that the whole nation should act now to campaign for the immigration reform that is currently being promoted.

The United States currently has 11 million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. In addition to strengthening border security and taking severe measures against the employment of illegal immigrants, the immigration policy reform is mainly for transforming the identity of these people from illegal to legal. During the 2008 election, Obama had promised to fully implement immigration policy reform after his election. The reform was proposed last year in Congress, but was not adopted due to obstruction from the Republicans. Then why is Obama taking drastic measures now to promote immigration policy reform and what changes have occurred in American political and economic ecology?

Obama won 72 percent of the Hispanic vote in last year’s general election. The proportion of Hispanics in electoral votes in key swing states has increased significantly. These two things made most Republicans recognize that the lack of attention to Hispanics’ demands is one of the important reasons they lost in last year’s election. For the Republicans to win more votes in the future, they must pay attention to and address the demands of Hispanics, including the issue of immigration policy reform. Therefore, some “titans” among the Republicans have changed their remarks to declare support for Obama to promote immigration policy reform in succession.

In addition, the U.S. economy is exhibiting a strange phenomenon. On the one hand, the U.S. unemployment rate remains high; many people are unable to find work. On the other hand, the United States is lacking skilled workers in high-tech, manufacturing, medical services and other professions, as well as blue-collared workers that perform “manual work” in vegetable and fruit harvesting, restaurant and hotel services, and more. To change this situation, the simplest solution is to reform the immigration policy to "regularize" illegal immigrants to meet the needs of the labor market for high-end and low-end trades so as to promote the recovery of the U.S. economy.

Of course, it is more important for the United States to accelerate the introduction of foreign talent via immigration policy reform in order to enhance its competitiveness. Countless outstanding scientists, inventors, artists, educators and entrepreneurs in the United States are immigrants. Their contributions to the prosperity and power of the United States are seen by all. In the road map for the reform, Obama spares those with science and engineering talents, giving them higher priority in the distribution of green cards.

In his second term, Obama pledged to do three things: reform immigration policy, stimulate economic growth, and adopt the bill for strict gun control. Immigration reform came first place. Whether from time, space or popularity, new opportunities for comprehensive immigration reform have come. However, although some Republicans from the House of Representatives have already changed their position to support immigration reform, there is still strong opposition, with claims that “there is still a lot to discuss,” and this will undoubtedly make the Senate plan face difficulty at the checkpoints at the House of Representatives. The game play between the two parties in the House of Representatives will ultimately decide how far the reform of U.S. immigration policy can go.

(Vice President of the National Committee of the Pacific Economic Cooperation, Zhenglong Wu)



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