Immigration: Shaping and Reshaping American Politics Essay
On the American political agenda, few issues are more divisive and more complex than immigration. The current policies and practices have no shortage of problems, from the large number of illegal immigrants living in the country to the delays and difficulties that confront many illegal immigrants in the United States. Immigration is an issue of international competitiveness and homeland security, as well as a deeply human issue central to the lives of millions of individuals and families. It involves questions of American identity and citizenship. It plays an important role in shaping the reality and image of America to the rest of the world.
President Barrack Obama, President George Bush and countless others before them have always declared that America’s immigration system is broken and requires a complete overhaul. Currently, there are over 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, with the last decade witnessing an average half a million new entrants arriving annually (Jonathon 23). Two thirds of these unauthorized immigrants arrive through the U.S- Mexico border, with the remaining 30-40 percent acquiring temporary entry visas, but staying on after their visas expire (Jonathon 23). The ongoing economic recession, however, seems to have temporarily staunched the growth of the unauthorized population.
In August this year, just before the elections, the Republican Party adopted a party platform on immigration. This platform would require all employers in the United States to verify the legal status of their workers. It would also deny federal financing to American Universities that allow enrollment at lower in-state tuition rates for immigrants. This prank would also adopt tougher border enforcement and oppose “any form of amnesty” for illegal immigrants. In addition, this Mitt Romney’s platform would endorse “humane procedures” to encourage a policy of self-deportation, or encourage illegal immigrant to return home voluntarily. More recently, just before the 2012 elections, Mr. Romney sought to soften his stance. He said he would consder a “Dream Act” specifically for illegal immigrants in the military.
In contrast, in June this year president Barrack Obama put in place a new policy that would enable immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children to be immune to deportation for two years at a time, and to obtain work permits. Through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, the program began accepting applications from August 15th this year.so far, this is President Obama’s most ambitious immigration initiative. It is a sweeping executive authority exercise after the Congress failed to pass the Dream Act that he supported. However, this was largely as a bid to win back Latino voters (which he did). Latino voters have been soaring on him after his administration deported approximately 1.2 million immigrants (mostly Latinos) in the last three years. However, one month after the commencement of this program, only 72,000 people had applied for the temporary reprieve compared to the 250,000 that the officials anticipated. This can be accredited to the fact that many young immigrants could not muster the 465 dollars application fee required, or they could not gather the necessary documents required.
The big question now is if different leaders from quite different political orientations agree on immigration reform, why is it that so far Congress has not passed such legislation? An incomplete, but conventional answer, why immigration reform is still pending is that the issue of immigration is another casualty of the partisan divide facing Washington. As witnessed by the different opinions shared by President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, democrats and Republicans often than not disagree on immigration. In addition, within the parties themselves, there is a conflict on the issue, which has further complicated the formation of any coalition to support the reform (Walker 201).
Alternatively, another reason could be that the current “liberal epoch” of illegal immigration, in spite of its faults, has been significantly beneficiaal to the US employer that they are unwilling to take the political risk of supporting reform by gambling on the capacity of Congress to improve the situation to their favor. Illegal immigration is the basic means by which the United States economy gains access to low-cost, low-skilled foreign labor (Peri 77). By implicitly permitting illegal employment, the government left the inflow of unauthorized labor to market regulation. This inflow is determined solely by the demand of U.S businesses, enabling the country to raise its productivity in the process (Peri 102).
Public finance largely affects the politics of immigration in the US. For instance, consider the not so recent history of California and Texas. In the mid1990s, the two states each had two fiscally conservative Republican governors, Governor Pete Wilson elected in 1990, and Governor George Bush elected in 1994 respectively. Each was touted as a potential Presidential candidate, and each ran for higher office. In addition, both candidates faced relatively difficult fiscal environments. The State of California faced a severe recession in 1990 and 1991 as a result of the post-Cold War reduction in defense spending. The State of Texas, on the other hand, bore the brunt of the late 1980s and early 190s savings and loan crisis, and swings in oil prices. Both stats were also facing the national surge in immigration, with 37 percent of immigrants choosing to live in one of the two states. Initially, both Bush and Wilson seemed to have similar politics. They both supported the North America Free Trade Agreement and both were bold free traders. However, they both took different approaches on immigration. In California, Wilson backed Proposition 187, a ballot measure that would deny illegal immigrants public services. In Texas, Bush distanced himself from the Proposition 187 and embraced the immigrant population, courting Latino voters and even campaigning in Spanish. Bush won 49 percent of the Latino vote (and 69 percent of the total vote) in his 1998 gubernatorial bid (Varsanyi 296). This was the strongest ever among Hispanics in Texas in a state-wide electoral race by a Republican.