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Current Immigration Debate in the United States

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For decades, the US immigration policy has been a hallmark for great political debates in the history of America. The policy makers have spent much time trying to weigh the need of attracting the best of foreign talent to maintain the country’s competitiveness in the globe against the need to control illegal immigration, which will enhance security in the U.S borders. The visa application, a heavily bureaucratic process, can be streamlined so as to address the issue of undocumented immigrants, ranging in millions in the U.S.; furthermore, this process has become a hot debate in the U.S. Congress in the recent times. The main question is: Who should be allowed to come and live in America? How many needs to be accepted? Are there any rules that may need to be applied to these people when they arrive in America? These questions revolve around immigration controls, which are seen by the opponents of these controls as justified to infringe on the liberties of some people, while protecting more significant liberties and rights.

A little general background of immigration would be very essential in order to have an understanding of the current debates surrounding the U.S. immigration policy. There are two types of immigration. A legal immigrant has a proper registration, follows all the immigration rules and afterwards has an admission into the United States. An illegal immigrant breaches one or all these requirements, when pursuing to enter into America. The main aim of this paper is to discuss the current immigration debates in the United States in an effort to find a lasting solution to various challenges that are faced by the US Immigration Department.

Historical Background of Immigrants in the US

The immigrants formed the majority of the population of the earliest generations, which are said to have left behind the lessons claimed to have been confronting the American capitalism. Capitalism was an urgent social change that flourished in the United States, where the emergent ideologies led to the pursuit of a success in the business and secular world. Immigrants became very important to the whole industrial transformation. The knowledge and skills brought by immigrants were indispensable for the growth experienced by some industries. The availability of a large pool of labor led to the attraction of more investors in America. At that time, immigrants were confronting specific ideologies and leaders triggering the resistance, acceptance and different paths that define the capitalist economy and no longer looking at amorphous America.

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Most immigrants, who moved to America after the 1830 during the industrial growth century, were descendants of capitalism. Appreciating times and lands of origin of immigrants helps in understanding their experience in America. There were a significant number of immigrants, namely the Europeans, who were the vast majority having moved to America after the World War II (Bodnar, 1987). Many of these immigrants came to America during the major immigration waves in the colonial era, which took place in the 19th century and also during a period from 1880s to 1920s. They came to look for greater economic opportunities, while others, like the pilgrims of 1600s, came to seek a religious freedom. Others had also come to America willingly or forcefully as slaves between the 17th and 19th centuries (United States Immigration Before 1965, n.d). 

Justification for the Immigration Control in the US

The attack in September 11, 2001, by nineteen foreign terrorists was significant in making immigration a “national security” issue. An argument arose that a lax controlling of immigration subjected the country to terrorism; particularly it was emphasized incessantly and explicitly by such groups as Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). In the last three years, the federal government has used the notion that if immigration is controlled, the national security will be enhanced, and this has been their justification of a wide range of measures controlling immigration. The measures are backed by the USA Patriot Act, which allows the visa-issuance officers and immigration authorities to share the criminal database of the FBI. The Patriot Act also mandates the federal government to indefinitely detain people born in foreign countries, without charges and later have them deported through what they term as secret hearings.

The 9/11 attacks justified workplace sweeps, which have been conducted in an effort to track immigrants working in sensitive places. Post 9/11 attacks also justified foreign student visa-holders crackdown, making their lives in colleges and universities quite complicated. The Congress has given a mandate for the “National Security Entry-Exit Registration System”, to be created, which is meant to exclude a special registration of a specific group of nationals, especially from Muslim countries, living in America. It is generally arguable that more of the additional and genuine security is gained from the continued investments in various immigration control forms. Some of the measures initiated against terrorism are likely to be more cost-effective as compared to the general purpose controls of immigration. It is proposed that foreign governments can assist in doing a better job of ensuring their airline passengers are screened at their various airports (McLaughlin, n.d.).

The 287(g) program is a common program instituted in 1996 as an amendment done to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Its aim is to prevent the illegal immigration, especially at the local levels. The purpose of the law is to enforce arrest and, consequently, the detention of criminal aliens. There are claims that th rights of immigrants are violated in America, since the government is typically involved in controlling immigration, leaving cities and states to protect the rights of immigrants by developing and enforcing policies and programs related to immigration. The 287(g) program is specialized in the arrest and subsequent detention of criminal aliens. The program has a full support of the program.

Immigrant restrictions in the U.S. are mainly based on the protection of possible privileges that are found in the country, with regards to the special position the country is occupying and not due to any special amenities in it. It is this privilege protection that is so ethically damaging to the U.S. immigration laws. The controls ensure that the inequality in the world between the haves (the U.S.) and the have-nots (immigrants and potential immigrants). America, therefore, fears that a substantial influx of people would compete for jobs and scarce resources in the U.S., which would cause a lowering of the standard of living of residents.

The proponents of immigration controls argue that immigration is a theft, since all the U.S. and its wealth is the America’s property, which they have a right to treat the way they see well. Immigrants are fighting to get a share of the wealth, for which they have no right, unless it is willingly offered to them by the Americans. The resident Americans also believe that if immigration is opened, the essential American values would be destroyed. The values have a transcendent importance and therefore, if destroyed, it concerns not only the Americans, but also foreigners and potential immigrants. The controls are said to provide the protection for the disadvantaged or the unprivileged. Some argue that the proponents of immigration controls are community members exercising their right of protecting their culture and values through the exclusion of those, who are considered outsiders when necessary (Jonas & Thomas, 1999).

Impact of Immigration Control Policies on the Socio-Economic and Political Foundations

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The demographic transformations, which resulted from the robust immigration, later translated into social-economic and political changes in the U.S. history. In all periods of the U.S. history, fierce debates based on the economic, social and national security issues that are the consequence of immigration. Several dramatic policy innovations resulted from the struggles related to the American national politics inspired by immigration. One of the policies that have remained controversial for many decades is the immigration policy, which led to both expanding and restricting immigration opportunities.

 The reforms on immigration of the 19th century gave rise to the exclusion policies of the Chinese and entry of the European newcomers, who also remained at the close of the Gilded Age. In 1965, the Congress saw the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed the Americans to invite or sponsor their relatives from the countries, where they originated from. In terms of this Act and subsequent legislations, there was a shift in the America’s experience of immigration patterns resulting to more immigrants coming Latin America and Asia and not Europe.

The new immigrants have in the recent history proven their ability to exert a substantial influence on the electoral process and, hence, on individual candidates, build new ethnic organizations, which are able to influence the actions of the government. Through the organizations, immigrants are contributing to social science expertise shifts, which are relevant to policymakers. It is essential to note that policies that were meant to restrict new immigration, although initially were designed to preserve the political and the socioeconomic status quo, have turned out to routinely contribute to the creation of powers and state structure.  The result of this is an enhanced regulation by the federal government of aliens both within and at the borders (Tichenor, n.d.). The Americans value their roots as immigrants, but find the current immigration levels becoming unnecessarily high. The most common attitude of the public towards immigrants is restrictionism, but this attitude has significantly declined since 1995. The research indicates that 81 percent of the Americans are opposed to a higher immigration. The Immigration Reform believes that immigration is a threat to their values and goals that is an inherent fact and nature of immigration. The pragmatic restrictionists, most of which are social scientists, believe that such conflicts as that surrounding immigration are changing and contingent, not to be anticipated. The federal government has been blamed for its failure to ensure the border control and failure to ensure that local costs of this failure are defrayed. The political difficulty is faced when opposing immigration even that of an undocumented without the significant group of voters in the states with high immigration levels being alienating.

The local government and state have recently aggressively challenged the weak enforcement efforts of the federal government. In 2006, it had to be encouraged by the growing impatience of the public concerning the illegal migration and the debates over a new legislation in the Congress, in which about 500 immigration- related bills were introduced, leading to the enactment of 27 states. The organized labor is the most crucial group that has recently rose to immigration. In their view, immigrants are low wage competitors for the jobs of their members and are a brake on the growth of wage (Swain, 2007). The United States is faced with a different wave of immigration, which can be described by the gap between the goal of the U.S. as an immigration country and also incorporating the immigrants, who arrive passing thorough the legal entry process. Closing this gap is essential in the U.S. immigration debates (Cornelius, 2004).

Proposed Way Forward from an Immigrant’s Point Of View

The immigrants from different parts of the world have played a significant role in changing the face of the American cities. Globalization is the most visible aspect of immigration. One of the reasons for the immigration debate is the broken system of immigration in America. It is essential to rise up and take responsibility for fixing the broken immigration system in terms of both illegal workers in America and those that hire them. Under a compromise proposal by a bipartisan comprising of eight senators, the undocumented immigrants, who have been in the U.S. two to five years would be required under the provisions of a new bill to move out of the country, work out their new approval to return and continue working for four years as required in the temporary status of immigrants. Later, they will be given an opportunity to seek a permanent status as legal immigrants (Swain, 2007).

One of the fundamental values of America is the provision of equal opportunities to all, including those, to whom it was denied in the past. California alone is carrying about one third of the American immigrants, while believing that getting the right reform is a sure way of having their core values at the center and front. If the aspiring Americans, who are distinguished as a group of the permanent underclass, lack equal rights as all other Americans and are denied the right to speak up their interests without them and their families being at risk, the democracy of the nation is demeaned and values are diminished.

The federal government in Washington should learn from California that bringing the inclusiveness and equality rights into the immigrant debate will thrust the efforts of seeking solutions to immigration problems to considerable heights. Recently, the California Immigrant Policy Center and the National Immigration Law Center, immigrant rights and civil rights organizations outlined a set of core principles in order to lead the way to reform through the recommendation of an inclusive immigration system that promotes living up to the American values (Hirschfield, Ross, & Silard, 2013).

The Mamdouh’s restaurant business is one of the leading sources of the local economic growth in America. The industry is a gateway, through which immigrant workers of the low-wage category are able to make a living in a new country. The campaigns should focus on the need of a new framework suitable for addressing immigration, which must take not only a clear-eyed view of the struggle of America, but also enable forward-looking, effective and humane policies (Sen & Mamdouh, 2008).

An example of a current immigration issue in the US is when the Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, signed into the law on April 23, 2010, some broad and substantially strict anti-immigration Bill. The Bill received a lot of the international attention as well as the national controversy.

The US is initially a nation of immigrants and in the recent past, the number of foreigners has rapidly grown. By 2008, it was estimated that people without a legal authorization made up 30% of the US population up from 3 million in 1986. By 2006, the estimated number of foreigners had more than tripled such that states, like Arizona, had to come up with a kind of immigration laws basically to deter aliens into the state. The Arizona SB 1070 laws require that foreigners possess registration documents, making it a crime for foreigners to be in the state without valid immigration documents. This law was basically aimed at deterring the rampant undocumented immigration at the Mexico-US border. This new law requires immigration officials to check on the immigration status of a person they suspect to be in the US illegitimately if they have a reasonable suspicion to do so. Moreover, any foreigner found to be in the US unlawfully will be charged with the misdemeanor (Garcia, 2010).


The current debate on immigration is based on the questions that revolve around immigration controls, where the opponents of these controls perceive them as a justification to infringe on the liberties of some people, while protecting more important liberties and rights. An illegal immigrant is not charged on the basis of the right or wrong things done, but whether one has followed the legal process to be in the U.S. The debate has been going on for many decades and centuries, during which those immigrants, who were caught on the wrong side of the law or during a crackdown on illegal immigrants, have been either arrested and detained or deported. The latest development is that those immigrants, who have been in the country between two to five years, may get an opportunity to live and work in America as they process their legal documentation.

America needs an immigration policy that is ethically defensible and based on an equal moral worth principle. This is only one component from a whole integrated program, which enables the middle-class and the rich to accomplish their obligations to the unprivileged people in their society. Undocumented immigrants should not to be treated as mere victims of political or economic forces, which they are unable to control. They are neither public charges nor dangerous criminals lurking on society’s fringes, but immigrants are responsible agents or their fathers are for having made tough choices in a risk and complicated environment, for which all Americans bear blame. The choices have positive and negative impacts both for the country as well as for immigrants themselves. The American immigration policies must look at both sets of consequences, which is the only genuine way of examining the predicament of approximately eleven million illegal immigrants and not ignoring the native-born Americans’ legitimate concerns about the presence of immigrants.

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