From the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, immigrants have made significant contributions to the United States by serving in our military forces. Today, immigrants voluntarily serve in all branches of the U.S. military and are a vital asset to the Department of Defense. To recognize their unique contribution, immigrants serving honorably in the military who are not yet U.S. citizens are granted significant advantages in the naturalization process. Over the past eight years, Congress has amended military-related enlistment and naturalization rules to allow expanded benefits for immigrants and their families and encourage recruitment of immigrants into the U.S. Armed Forces. Without the contributions of immigrants, the military could not meet its recruiting goals and could not fill its need for foreign-language translators, interpreters, and cultural experts. This latest Special Report reflects on the vital role immigrants have and continue to play in keeping our nation safe.
We can expect every major piece of comprehensive reform legislation to tackle the issue of creating a legal status for the 11- 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Ultimately, most politicians and policy makers agree that practically, the U.S. cannot deport this population, and some kind of process for legalizing status is necessary. However, there remains a temptation to create high penalties in exchange for a green card because many politicians want to ensure that people have paid the price for coming to the country illegally. An overly punitive process, however, ultimately defeats the purpose of a legalization program because it will deter people from participating and potentially drive people further underground. A successful legalization program combines measured penalties with clear and achievable goals that will get the maximum number of people into the system, identify the relatively few who do not belong here based on criminal activity, and integrate those who can contribute their talents as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data on the Latino population of the United States that underscores the extent to which the immigrant experience is embedded in the social (and political) fabric of the United States. The political significance of these statistics is apparent in the most recent IPC Fact Check. Latinos comprise the fastest-growing group of voters in the United States. The number of naturalized U.S. citizens is increasing rapidly and the electoral clout of New American voters who share a direct, personal connection to the immigrant experience—that is, naturalized citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants—is on the rise.
September 17th is Citizenship Day—a day to recognize and celebrate all of the immigrants who have chosen to integrate fully and become U.S. citizens. While some fear that demographic shifts threaten American identity, research and experience have shown that today’s immigrants integrate into American society just like generations of immigrants before them. Citizenship Day is a time to celebrate the many immigrants who have taken a step toward full integration and participation in U.S. civic life.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, changes in federal, state, and local law-enforcement priorities and practices have had a profound impact on America’s Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Some of these policy shifts applied exclusively or primarily to those communities, such as the federal “special registration” program, selective enforcement of immigration laws based on national origin or religion, and expanded federal counter-terrorism efforts that targeted these communities. At the same time, a wide range of ethnic groups have been affected by the use of state and local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law, and the aggressive use of detention and deportation authority for even minor infractions and technicalities.
Across the United States, police departments and Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have responded with varied approaches to the new post-September 11 reality. In some cities, serious tensions between law-enforcement agencies and immigrant communities have arisen. Other cities have taken steps to alleviate these tensions and promote dialogue and cooperation with immigrant communities. This report evaluates the challenges and successes of recent trust-building efforts between immigrant communities and local police departments, and the responses of each to new and proposed policies that threaten those efforts. Using the experiences of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, the report offers insights that apply to much broader populations. It draws attention to best practices and policy solutions such as the creation of more effective channels for public dialogue and communication, public education campaigns, officer training and recruiting programs, and forms of cooperation between police and community organizations.
Immigration has begun to level off and immigrants are climbing the socio-economic ladder and becoming increasingly important to the U.S. economy as workers, taxpayers, and homebuyers supporting the aging Baby Boom generation.