The recent controversy over toughening immigration policies has a divisive impact on a national level, because the law’s provisions promise to have an ambiguous outcome. Though to many it appears necessary due to the rise in illegal immigration (and the crime and other social problems that have accompanied it), it may also have an adverse affect by making it tougher for illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.
The current piece of legislation, a Republican-sponsored bill supported by President Bush, would call for the construction of 370 miles of virtually impermeable double- and triple-layered fencing along the American-Mexican border in Arizona, where illegal crossings have surged in recent years.
In addition, the bill includes amendments calling for tougher enforcement of using English as an official language, provisions under which illegal immigrants could pursue legal citizenship or participate in “guest worker” programs, and a demand that the Department of Labor restrict “guest worker” status by verifying that an American worker is not available to fill a given job. The bill has spawned a great deal of debate in Congress, where some Republicans want only the border fence measure passed but not amnesty; meanwhile, the Democrats are sharply divided on the entire bill (Gaouette).
In addition, the Senate has temporarily set aside the language amendment, calling it too great a demand for assimilation (Muskal). Taken as a whole, this bill would, if it became law, severely restrict the number of illegal immigrants in the United States. On the positive side, the proposed fence along the Mexican border would curtail border crossings in a particularly vulnerable area, thus requiring them to either remain in Mexico or seek legitimate means of coming to America.
In addition, illegal immigrants would be considered for citizenship based on their criminal records; those with one felony, three misdemeanors, or skipped deportation hearings would be barred from seeking citizenship (Hulse and Rutenberg). This would bar roughly 500,000 illegals from gaining citizenship (Gaouette), thus keeping repeat offenders out of many communities and reducing crime rates to some degree.
Also, it would allow illegal immigrants without criminal records to more easily pursue legal means of remaining in the United States, either as citizens or guest workers, thus allowing them access to social services and protections under American law. Though some conservatives oppose it, others (as well as many Democrats) approve this measure (Muskal), which shows lenience toward those who want to become American citizens and may need help doing so. However, the language amendment (which has been temporarily shelved) would make assimilation more difficult, since many immigrants are unfamiliar with English and need some time to learn it.
Having access to documents in both English and their native languages (as well as interpreters) would make immigrants’ transition easier, and the proposed bill would create a less fair situation. Also, the process of determining whether suitable American workers are available for jobs (rather than guest workers) seems rather cumbersome and may exclude capable employees who want to remain in the United States legally, and may face hardship in their native countries without such jobs.
The bill intends to have both Americans’ security and immigrants’ legal standing in mind, and it would be beneficial without the harsh, unfair language provision, which appears to attack immigrants’ culture and forces a quick assimilation on them. The border fence and exclusion of criminals are both fair, though, because they would help reduce the number of illegals in America not solely by shutting them out, but by giving them legitimate avenues for remaining in the United States and joining American society in a just manner. Its intentions are good, but its provisions should be fair and not make legal immigration unfair or unattainable.
Gaouette, N. (2006). Enforcement toughened in Senate immigration bill. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 May 2006 from http://www. chicagotribune. com/news/nationworld/chi-0605180186may18,1,3096252. story? coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed Hulse, C. and Rutenberg, J. (2006). 2 Immigration Provisions Easily Pass Senate. New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2006 from http://www. nytimes. com/2006/05/18/washington/18immig. html Muskal, M. (2006). Border Bill Trips Over English Amendment. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 May 2006 from http://www. latimes. com/news/nationworld/nation/la-051806immig_lat,0,3241484. story? coll=la-home-headlines