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Prensa Libre, Guatemala

One Step Forward, But Not a FirmĀ One


What happens at the highest levels of the U.S. political system will be followed with keen interest by thousands of Guatemalan families, whose incomes depend on, in part or entirely, the currency earned in farms and cities in the United States.

Translated By Brian Perez

30 January 2013

Edited by Natalie Clager


Guatemala - Prensa Libre - Original Article (Spanish)

The U.S. President Barack Obama took a big step yesterday by announcing a plan toward the regulation of the legal status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The step is based on a premise suggesting there are conditions to solve this problem now, the effects of which would be felt in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, as much as in other countries.

The president is confident about the situation in the triumph of the initial agreement reached between Democrats and Republicans. He assures that, in the absence of a solution from Congress, he will advance his own project. Clearly, the issue has gained great political importance with both major American parties. Democrats need to fulfill campaign promises, and Republicans need to escape their current image of being an anti-immigrant group, an image gained in consequence of the electoral struggle that caused an overwhelming negative response toward Republicans among Hispanic voters.

The difference from previous efforts and this current attempt, as discussed by President Obama, lies precisely in its bipartisanship. There is still a long way to go, obviously, and he is right when he predicts long and emotional discussions on the matter. The issue of legalization is the most notorious in a series of issues. There is the added discussion regarding the security of the southern border and the hiring of undocumented persons.

There is a fundamental issue that must take center stage in the discussion at hand: this situation is about human beings with families, feelings and intrinsic human rights. These rights are now being violated because of their limbo type situation. This situation includes having to deal with discriminative wages because they "look illegal." They are obliged to obey laws, but not to expect privileges. These conditions are acceptable because the U.S. has a long-standing tradition of equality before the law, something it should recover fully.

For Guatemala, the legalization of immigrants holds supposed positive economic effects, along with benefits in other areas. One of the most painful truths is that much of the country's economy is based on foreign exchanges, which are obtained from the sacrifice of those who are forced to opt for a voluntary exile. These people literally risk their lives, to the point where they can lose their lives on the road or even at the hands of U.S. authorities, as happened recently.

What happens at the highest levels of the U.S. political system will be followed with keen interest by thousands of Guatemalan families, whose incomes depend on, in part or entirely, the currency earned in farms and cities in the United States. President Obama, it is fair to say, has paved the way by taking the first step and has additionally shown confidence on the issue. It now remains to be seen if the senators and congressmen from both parties will risk losing the political benefits, direct or indirect, from these people.



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