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La Nacion, Argentina

Immigration Reform in the US

By Editorial

This would be the first regulatory reform in the delicate field of immigration since 1986, when then-President Ronald Reagan gave legal status to some 3 million people who were in the U.S. illegally.

Translated By James Johnson

10 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard


Argentina - La Nacion - Original Article (Spanish)

Barack Obama’s initiative to legalize 11 million immigrants in his country will be a big step forward.

In a recent speech in Las Vegas, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed that he has made immigration reform a top political priority.

It just so happens that there are 11 million illegal immigrants who are buoyed by the hope of legalizing their status and consigning their day-to-day uncertainty to the past. Even putting that to one side, it remains an issue with great political significance, given that a good portion of this enormous contingent of illegal immigrants are Latinos, and the Latino vote was what clinched Obama’s re-election. The president, then, cannot afford to ignore such a minority. It also explains why Republicans are desperate not to get left out of any decision-making process. It is hardly surprising, then, that four Democratic and many Republican senators are promoting a bi-partisan solution to the delicate matter and actively working on its construction and implementation.

Thus far, at least, the common goal is to give legal status to this huge group, but only in exchange for significant improvements in border security—especially between the U.S. and neighboring Mexico—and the simultaneous establishment of a new system of temporary and specialist visas for those highly qualified in hi-tech fields. In addition to this there would be a tracking system, allowing authorities to adequately monitor the status of visa-holders and guarantee that they are meeting the terms of their respective visas.

This would be the first regulatory reform in the delicate field of immigration since 1986, when then-President Ronald Reagan gave legal status to some three million people who were in the U.S. illegally.

Since that reform, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars trying to enforce immigration laws, with rather poor results. Despite 700 km of fences, unpiloted airplane patrols, thousands of sensors to detect human movements near the frontier and 21,000 immigration officials charged with surveying U.S. borders, 340,000 people managed to slip through the net and enter the U.S. undetected in 2011. Strictly speaking, illegal immigration only fell as a consequence of the 2007-08 recession, as the opportunities to find work with few questions asked, dried up.

For the moment, the U.S. has a system of “green cards,” awarded to legalize their owners’ presence on U.S. soil. They are given to 366,000 families per year, with a cap meaning that no single country can account for more than 7 percent of the total number of holders. This is supplemented by the 25,620 visas that employers can apply for every year. This replaced the previous system of quotas, which was highly discriminatory, in that it favored immigration from Northern Europe and excluded people from Asia. Given that the world has changed radically, nobody is suggesting a return to this sort of set-up. But the way forward will be far from easy. Trade unions, for example, have always been enemies of moves to legalize immigrants, and conservatives consider that the proposal is, in some way, an unacceptable reward for those who were consciously living outside of the law.

Nonetheless, the political decision appears to have been made, and it is only a matter of time before a way to resolve the issue is decided on. There will surely be arguments and butting of heads along the way, but it is to be hoped that this reform will resolve the situation of millions of people who have, until now, been living in a permanent state of angst. They are those who gambled on building a new life in a country that still maintains its allure as a real cultural melting pot and a land of opportunity for all.



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