The United States Senate prepared a bill in the year 2007 meant to address the problem of illegal immigrants and those that were not documented (Kenny 92). The bill aimed at tightening border security and later opening a path for immigrants to acquire citizenship. Since then, immigration policy and legislation in the United States of America has risen, and many debates have been witnessed. Immigration is such a sensitive issue in the politics of the United States of America requiring proper legislation procedures to be formulated. History shows that most people living in America are descendants of immigrants or slaves who migrated to the country in the course of last 400 years. This excludes the Native Americans who are considered as original people who lived in the U.S.
In former times, the government of U.S. allowed the immigrants to settle in an expanded territory. This was later changed by the outbreak of civil wars that required from each state to enact immigration laws. Most of the early initial immigration laws were introduced to control the composition of the general United States population. Several policies and laws of immigration to U.S. were passed by the Congress. Consequently, the concerns about border security increased, and immigration laws were further shifted to address the issue. This paper explores deeply the American legislation and policies of immigration. In particular, the introduction of reforms in immigration department by President Obama takes the center of the discussion with focus on the new bill yet to be presented to the Congress.
Policy and Legislation of U.S. Immigration
The White House currently has plans of implementing new immigration policies while considering the need to reinforce the existing immigration laws as proposed by the Republicans. The three major proposals circulating in the U.S. Congress now are based on border security, possible path for an immigrant to become a legal U.S. citizen, and special status of agricultural workers. President Obama together with Democrats and some Republicans in the Congress is currently working on an immigration bill incorporating all the three issues. The matter has caused debates among the Republicans and Democrats extending to the whole nation. The need to reinforce the existing laws and enact new ones was the main subject in these debates. As a result, the legislators formed a committee to review and suggest proper immigration laws.
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Possible Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Workers Residing in the U.S.
The government of the USA is reviewing the possibility to enact a new immigration law seeking to allow illegitimate immigrants currently staying in the country to become legitimate citizens. The bill gives a clear timeline of 8 years for an immigrant to become a United States citizen. The estimated eleven million immigrants are expected to receive visa for permanent citizenship after much security scrutiny (Kenney 92). Each immigrant will be subjected to security check for any criminal record executed in the U.S. or in any other country, including their mother country. They will also be required to submit their biometric information. Those who have criminal record are denied the opportunity to be permanent citizens. If the immigrants have criminal records in another country, then they will not be eligible either to enter the country or become citizens.
Kenney explains that the bill further provides an open citizenship for the immigrants facing deportation. They will be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they gain knowledge of English and the history of government of the United States. This will make them eligible immigrants to be allowed a visa for U.S. citizenship (90).
Several legislators expressed their opinion concerning the matter. Many of such legislators support the bill to allow immigrants acquire citizenship within 8 years. Bipartisan senators agree with the bill’s plan for immigration legislation. President Obama invoked not to introduce the bill as his own, but as a joint legislation for all in the Congress. Obama indicated that the Congress has to act within the time limit to which he will insist on the bill as his own. Among the supporters of the comprehensive immigration bill is the White House spokesman Clark Stevens.
The proper path of immigration bill for immigrant’s citizenship obtains the overwhelming support from certain interest groups and personalities. However, some opposition is evident. For example, a Republican senator of Florida Marco Rubio who was involved in drafting legislation of immigration has discredited the law. Senator Marco argues that the bill failed to address the failures of the past legislation and instead repeated them. He further indicates that the Republicans were not consulted in enacting the law. The input of the Republicans was not included according to Marco. Rubio disagrees with the proposal for future path of immigrant’s citizenship as a plan that will break the legal immigration systems in the future years. Contrary to the stand of Senator Marco, Senator Noorani expresses satisfaction with the proposal for citizenship of immigrants. He explains that there was less attention directed to address future immigration thenceforth, and thus it was the time to address such discrepancies.
Another major point of disagreement among the legislators and the President concerns the issues whether to strengthen and enforce current immigration laws or enact new ones. The senators argue that the government should enforce the immigration laws in place before embarking on the path to citizenship for immigrants (Kenney 91). They also argue that the borders should be strengthened before enacting the citizenship bill.
In addition, there were several interest groups involved in the heated debate. The U.S. Latino activists invoked to support the plan of President Obama, namely to open a path for immigrants’ citizenship. This position is in contrast with their initial complaints that President Obama failed to implement the promise given to the immigrants during his first term of presidency. However, they accepted the plan to allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens according to the eight-year plan. Such acceptance resulted in the optimistic attitude of the Latino activists to the implementation of the corresponding plan.
Issues of border security resulted in the enactment of many immigration laws in the United States. Such considerations are also the subjects of concern in the United States of America. In the current situation, there is a heated debate between the Democrats and Republicans regarding the best way of improving or enforcing the current immigration laws aiming at strengthening of border security (Huntington 7). Border security is believed to be one sensitive issue that can cause a pause in the ongoing immigration reforms (Bush, McLarty, and Edward Alden 99). A group of senators who are considered to be bipartisan proposed comprehensive reforms of immigrants’ laws termed as “trigger mechanism”. In their proposal, the path to becoming a citizen of the U.S. will be highly dependent on the secure U.S. borders. This will be, however, implemented along with the tougher border security to regulate illegal immigration (Huntington 3). The move has not been welcomed by President Obama and other Liberal leaders. However, it is clear that the President and his team are championing this matter and are obligated to ensure border security is increased as said by Jay Carney, the White House Secretary.
There has been a disagreement between the Senate and White House over immigration reforms, but the differences of trigger remain the largest. The differences may eliminate the whole issue of immigration reforms, as more attention is centered on border security. Deeper review of both ideas of the two sides clearly shows one common goal, namely that there is need for the government to increase border security.
Some senators support the idea of increased border security first, before opening a path to citizenship. They claim that borders of the United States are not secure. The Senators were not invoked to prove such claims. Senator O’Rebourke claims that no one stated clear standards for increasing border security. He adds that increasing military on the border will result in more cases of death and a waste of money of the federal government that could be spent for other purposes. He argues further that increased military on the border will have serious implications on the economy, as it will reduce the flow of trade contacts.
The bipartisan senators together with other Republican senators support the idea that the border control must be prioritized. The current laws should be enforced before further opening up to a clear path of citizenship. This was supported by other law makers, as a drawback to the bill concerning American borders was not a crime hiding zone. For example, they argue that there has never been any reported case of terrorist attack on the Mexican border. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano supports the idea of deportation and disagreed with the border security precondition expressed by the other Senators. He argues that this is an excuse for not accepting the new immigration reforms, and that the borders have never been stronger.
Bush, McLarty, and Edward Alden report that the number of agents who help in border patrol has increased overwhelmingly in the past two decades. This was coupled with higher spending by the federal government in enforcing the current immigration laws. An argument is posed that several billions were spent on border security in contrast with the cost of establishing a fence, as a number of politicians are advocating for. For example, building of a border fence in Texas will cost the federal government $30 billion. This forced to champion the clear reforms within the immigration sector to support the bid and save a lot of U.S. government spending (99).
President Obama topped his agenda of the year 2013 by immigration reforms expecting to have a new law addressing the problem within 6 months of his second term. This was met with mixed reactions, since some supported the move while others were against it. Senator Jeff Sessions, for example, indicated that the government will implement better work for enforcing the move to a more effective lawful system of immigration. He further added that this will be of much support and benefit to American people who need a broad approach to the problem of immigration.
Special Status for Temporary Agricultural Workers
The industrial employers of the U.S. argue that they need to take into service foreign personnel to help them to execute low-skilled jobs. On the other hand, some employers argue that these available positions can be fulfilled by the U.S. citizens. The current law allows foreign workers, commonly referred to guest workers, to be welcomed in the country to undertake the temporary jobs under two provisional working visas (Bush, McLarty, and Edward Alden 97). These include the H-2A visa, especially for guest workers in the field of agriculture, and H-2B in other fields. These programs will provide better labor services and protection to the workers in regard to having legitimate workers. However, debates have risen over the special status for temporary agricultural workers particularly on the mode of stay and legitimacy.
Guest worker plans for the unskillful employees, especially in the line of agriculture, is of heated debates. Critics have risen over the current H-2A program for the special temporary agricultural workers that awards temporary visas for recurring agricultural work. They say that such an undertaking is too costly for the farmers and also rigid to them. In addition, the critics further add that H-2A program for guest agricultural workers is satisfactorily unsuccessful to restrain illegal immigration. Therefore, this led to the development of a new proposal to review the H-2A program. An idea of bill that rises to modify and expand the H-2A program was thus expressed by the government. This bill popularly refers to “The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security (Ag JOBS) Act.”
The bill seeks allowing undocumented agricultural workers to apply for green cards under specified conditions. The bill was introduced in the year 2003 but later faltered in the Congress. Since then, several developments have been made towards improving the welfare of agricultural workers and issuing for them temporary visas that expire after a certain period.
The Senate Judiciary Committee made a move to address immigration reforms including improving the status of farm workers. They review the reforms of the immigration system, which are to give an opportunity to 11 million immigrants to become U.S. citizens including the agricultural workers (Bowden 2).
President of the farm workers union Bruce Goldstein welcomes the move. He further cites that a bout of 2 million agricultural workers who are responsible for cultivating and harvesting the food do not have authorized immigration status (Massey 3). The president of the unions adds that the working conditions of the farmers are hazardous, and they are paid low wages despite that they supply food to each “table” in America. It is evident that absence of migration status for farm workers caused them to fear to claim against employment malpractices and seek proper working conditions (Massey 7). This can only be addressed if proper reforms are made to the H-2A program currently under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The unions champion the Congress to enact legislation in order to reform the immigration laws as well as to allow the workers to be citizens of the country. The Farm Workers Organization urges House of Representatives to pass the legislation of the path to citizenship.
The framework for immigration reforms proposed by the Obama administration entails a pathway to citizenship and enforcement of the provisions for the status of agricultural workers. The committee of eight Senators, four Democrats and four Republicans are expected to present the bill to the Congress for debate this year. If the bill passes in the Congress, the immigrants will then have an opportunity to become U.S. citizens.
Comprehensive immigration reform that will involve improvement in enforcement of the existing policies of immigration and legal procedures is considered as the starting point for reforms in the U.S. immigration procedures. The introduction of a proper pathway for immigrants to become citizens of the U.S. will be of higher economic benefit to the nation and the immigrants. The 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States will get an opportunity to become citizens legally. The challenge, however, remains as there are different opinions between Republicans and Democrats which may prevent the bill from becoming a law. In order the bill becomes the law, it will be necessary to obtain its mobilization by the Obama administration and acceptance by the Republicans.
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