Sincethe early 1990’s, the immigrant population in America has doubledto over 40 million. The population could be higher factoring inillegal immigrants with the number estimated to be over 11 million.Majority of these immigrants both legal and illegal are mainly fromAfrica, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Uncontrolledimmigration has been blamed on loss of jobs, higher crime rates andhousing problems in the US. While these immigrants play a unique rolein the economy, the executive and the legislature have found itnecessary to control the inflow of these immigrants for variousreasons. A number of laws and immigration policies have been enactedto create order in this issue. How these laws are perceived byimmigrants and the general American population has varied and hasbeen a major topic for debate.
reforms started a long time ago. About 30 years ago, Congress passeda bill that was signed by President Reagan signed into law as the Reform and Control Act of 1986 (Schwab 2013). The lawpromised to control the entry of immigrants into the country. Thelaw specifically sought tighter boarder controls and at the same timeregister around three million illegal immigrants. The act in partoutlawed employers from knowing employing illegal immigrants and alsoallowed seasonal immigrants to work in the agricultural sector. Sincethis no other comprehensive has addressed this complex issue well(Camayd-Freixas, 2013).
Thehistory of the US as a country lies in immigration. This fact alonemakes handling of the immigration issue a very sensitive one giventhat except for indigenous Americans, the rest of the white Americatraces back to immigrant populations. However, this has not deterredthe legislature from discussing ways and methods of strategicallylimiting immigration to the US. Interestingly, a new proposed actapproach seeks to encourage immigration of highly skilled and trainedworkforce but lock out unskilled immigrants. The proposed bill,Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2013 sponsored by JasonChaffetz, seeks to amend the and Nationality Act whichplaces limits on number of immigrants from a given country(Todd,Murray and Dann, 2014). The proposal sought to remove numericalper-country limitations on employment based immigrants. Thisaccording to the sponsor would boost the American economy and giveemployers access to more skilled employees (Camayd-Freixas 2013)
Previousattempts to reform immigration were the Development, Relief, andEducation for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The bill, which was firstintroduced to the Senate by Senator Dick Durbin on 1stAugust 2009, sought to provide conditional permanent residence statusto certain immigrants who had entered the US as minors but graduatedfrom the American education system at the minimum high school afterresiding in the US for a minimum of five years prior to 2001 (Vargas,2014). Another condition was good moral conduct. This bill, though ithas never passed into law, has been modified on various occasions andsubmitted for debates the senate congress but t has failed to pass.Several states such as California have however, enacted modifiedversion of the Dream Act. In 2012, in a push to reform immigration,the Obama administration adapted the Deferred Action for ChildhoodArrivals (DACA) program which borrowed heavily from the DREAM Act.The Program allowed young illegals to be exempt from deportation butreceive preferential treatment almost similar to US citizens. In thestate of California, the program saw these young illegals receivesocial benefits and even subsidised tuition fees (Schwab, 2013).
Theexecutive arm of government has actively played its role on inhandling immigration. President Obama is on record promisingAmericans immigration reforms that would see all illegal immigrantssent back to their countries (Smith, 2014). The department ofHomeland security in charge securing the country’s borders has beenvery active in ensuring that immigrants are deterred from enteringthe US. A debate on the need to send back unaccompanied childrenarriving at US borders has for several months dominated publicdebates with some arguing the move as inhumane while others view thisas a step in the right direction. The government justified suchactions on the need to protect US interests and security in light ofterrorism (Kelly 2014). Although the government has sought to supportthese actions through the constitution, the Congress and the House ofRepresentatives have not been wholly supportive as they have rejectedthese bills.
Theassisted voluntary return program or administrative voluntarydeparture addresses the issue of immigration. The program launched bythe federal government through the Customs and Border Protection(CBP) allows non citizen an opportunity to voluntarily leave the USafter acknowledging their illegal status rather than go through theformal deportation process. In this procedure, the immigrants meettheir travel expenses back to their home countries and also losetheir right to contest removal. The program has however, faced somechallenges with some deported illegals claiming they were trickedinto signing into the program or even forced to do so (Vargas, 2014).
Atthe moment federal and state governments are keen on enacting lostlasting immigration policies that serve the interests of Americancitizens. Some of the policies drafted have been termed harsh andothers too lenient. Nonetheless, the events of September 11 and the2008 economic recession have served to remind people that there agreater need to protect American borders to protect the country’seconomy and secure its soil against terrorists. With such thoughts onmind, the debate on immigration reform continues with a desire topreserve the rights immigrants and secure the country.
Camayd-Freixas,Erik. US Reform and Its Global Impact: Lessons from the
PostvilleRaid. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2013. Print.
Kelly,Erin. Congressreacts to Obama`s decision on immigration reform.10thOct 2014. Web.
Schwab,William.Right to DREAM: Reform and America’s Future.Arkansas:
ArkansasUniversity Press. 2013. Print.
Smith,Cameron. Obama`sDREAM Act by executive action results in an immigration nightmare:
opinion.10thOct 2014. Web. July 13, 2014. http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/07/obamas_dream_act_by_executive.html
Todd,Chuck, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann. Why Reform Died in Congress.10th
Oct2014. Web. Oct 8th2014. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/why-immigration-reform-died-congress-n145276
Vargas,Cesar. reform is alive, but not in Congress.10thOct 2014. Web. July 2014.