President Bush’s proposal to address the problem of undocumented immigration by creating more opportunities for legal immigration and providing a legal status to those already here is a useful starting point in reforming a broken immigration system that costs hundreds of lives and billions of dollars every year.
In the hours following the deadly terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government took the extraordinary step of sealing U.S. borders to traffic and trade by grounding all aircraft flying into or out of the country and imposing a lock-down on the networks of transportation and commerce that are the lifeblood of our economy and society. Given the uncertainty over what might happen next, these emergency procedures were a necessary and appropriate short-term response to the attacks.
Victims of persecution who make it to the United States and are granted asylum from their persecutors must wait 12 years to become lawful permanent residents and 16 years to become U.S. citizens because of arbitrary numerical caps and federal mismanagement. This state of affairs not only is inhumane, but undermines the original intent of Congress to help those who have escaped persecution to integrate quickly into U.S. society.
The new Department of Homeland Security divides into three separate agencies immigration functions that previously were combined. This reorganization raises questions about who is in charge of immigration policy as a whole and how immigration services will fare in a department heavily tilted towards enforcement.
Increased repression by the Castro regime and limitations on the admission of Cubans into the United States create the risk that desperate refugees will look for more dangerous, unauthorized means of escaping persecution. The Bush administration must reform immigration policies towards Cubans to forestall such a crisis.
The 1996 welfare reform law barred most lawful permanent residents of the United States from receiving many of the public benefits their tax dollars help to fund. Benefit restrictions have increased food insecurity and reduced access to health insurance for both legal immigrants and their U.S.-citizen children, while failing to significantly reduce government healthcare expenditures due to the high costs of caring for the uninsured.
After September 11th, efforts to reach an immigration accord with Mexico came to a halt. As a result, the Bush administration continues a poorly conceived border-enforcement strategy from the 1990s that ignores U.S. economic reality, contributes to hundreds of deaths each year among border crossers, does little to reduce undocumented migration or enhance national security, increases profits for immigrant smugglers, and fails to support the democratic transition that the administration of Vicente Fox represents for Mexico.
Some of the restrictive policies toward non-citizens implemented after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – particularly those affecting visa processing and others targeting Muslims and Arabs – may undermine U.S. foreign policy in the long term. According to foreign policy experts, these policies risk damaging U.S. relations with the international community without enhancing national security.
As American troops, including many immigrants, are now engaged in military action in Iraq, the Immigration Policy Center has updated its fact sheet about the role and participation of immigrants in the U.S. Armed Forces.
A recent study by the Little Hoover Commission suggests that California policymakers need to consider new public programs in order to successfully assimilate immigrants. The Commission's recommendations attempt to align federal immigration policy with the interests of state and community integration.