Immigration Policy

Immigration Policy

Immigration reform refers to changes in government policies that attempt to either promote or curb immigration.

Learning Objectives

Identify key pieces of legislation that shaped immigration policy in the U.S.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Proponents of greater immigration enforcement argue that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers an estimated $338.3 billion dollars and jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officials and citizens, especially along the Mexican border.
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. In 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act and the Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act.
  • In 2010, Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. The law directs law enforcement officials to ask for immigration papers on a reasonable suspicion that a person might be an illegal immigrant and make arrests for not carrying ID papers.

Key Terms

  • amnesty: An act of the sovereign power granting oblivion, or a general pardon, for a past offense, as to subjects concerned in an insurrection.
  • bipartisan: relating to, or supported by two groups, especially by two political parties

Background

In 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which favored source countries that already had many immigrants in the U.S. and excluded immigrants from unpopular countries. Immigration patterns of the 1930s were dominated by the Great Depression, and in the early 1930s, more people emigrated from the United States than immigrated to it. Immigration continued to fall throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but it increased again afterwards.

Immigration is also widely used to describe proposals to increase legal immigration while decreasing illegal immigration, such as the guest worker proposal supported by George W. Bush. Proponents of greater immigration enforcement argue that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers an estimated $338.3 billion dollars and jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officials and citizens, especially along the Mexican border.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. In 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, and in 2006 the U.S. Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. Neither bill became law because their differences could not be reconciled.

The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Cellar Act) abolished the national origins quota system that had been put in place by the 1924 Immigration Act. In 2006, the number of immigrants totaled a record 37.5 million. After 2000, immigration to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year. Despite tougher border security after 9/11, nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005–more than in any other five-year period in the nation’s history. Almost half entered illegally. In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted legal residence.

Recent Immigration Reform Hot Topics

In 2009 immigration reform became a hot topic, since the Obama administration recently signaled interest in beginning a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform before the year’s end. The proposed reform plan had as its goal bipartisan support and included six sections designed to appeal to both parties. These six sections are: (1) fixing border enforcement, (2) fixing interior enforcement, such as preventing visa overstays, (3) preventing people from working without a work permit, (4) creating a committee to adapt the number of visas available to changing economic times, (5) an amnesty type of program to legalize undocumented immigrants, and (6) programs to help immigrants adjust to life in the United States.

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Jan Brewer: Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, who signed the controversial Suppor Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law.

Citing Congress’ failure to enforce U.S. immigration laws, the state of Arizona confronted reform and on April, 23, 2010 Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the broadest and strictest immigration reform imposed in the United States. The Arizona immigration law directs law enforcement officials to ask for immigration papers on a reasonable suspicion that a person might be an illegal immigrant and make arrests for not carrying ID papers. On July 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Arizona with the intent of preventing Arizona from enforcing the law. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case Arizona v. United States, upholding the provision requiring immigration status checks during law enforcement stops but striking down three other provisions as violations of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, many advocacy groups have focused on improving the fairness and efficiency of the immigration court system. They propose incremental steps the executive branch can take to stop an assembly line approach to deportation proceedings. These groups have identified several issues that threaten the due process rights of immigrants, including reliance on low quality videoconferencing to conduct hearings, inadequate language interpretation services for non-English speakers, and limited access to court records.Being the first state to pass such legislation, Arizona has set a precedent for other states. Although the response has cost the state between $7 million and $52 million, some in the state still feel that this outcome will outweigh the initial cost. Due to conflict and protest, Governor Brewer signed the Arizona House Bill 2162 (HB 2162) amending text in the original document. HB 2162 includes that race, color, and national origin would not play a role in prosecution; in order to investigate an individual’s immigration status, he or she must be “lawfully stopped, arrested, or detained. ”

Illegal Immigration

Unauthorized immigration is when a non-citizen has entered the country without government permission and in violation of the law.

Learning Objectives

Describe the nature and scope of illegal immigration in the United States

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Between 7 million and 20 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States. The majority of illegal immigrants are from Mexico.
  • About 8 percent of children born in the United States in 2008 — about 340,000 — were offspring of unauthorized immigrants. These infants are, according to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, American citizens from birth.
  • According to USA Today in 2006, about 4% work in farming; 21% have jobs in service industries. Substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (19%), production, installation, and repair (15%), sales (12%), management (10%) and transportation (8%).
  • A common means of border crossing is to hire professionals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border for pay. Those operating on the US-Mexico border are known informally as coyotes.

Key Terms

  • coyote: A smuggler of illegal immigrants across the land border from Mexico into the United States of America.

An illegal immigrant in the United States is a non-citizen who has either entered the country without government permission and in violation of United States Nationality Law, or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa. Unauthorized immigration raises many political, economic and social issues and has become a source of major controversy. Illegal immigrants continue to outpace the number of legal immigrants—a trend that’s held steady since the 1990s. While the majority of illegal immigrants continue to concentrate in places with existing large Hispanic communities, illegal immigrants are increasingly settling throughout the rest of the country.

Between 7 million and 20 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States. The majority of these illegal immigrants are from Mexico. An estimated 14 million people live in families in which the head of household or the spouse is an illegal immigrant. A quarter of all immigrants who have arrived in recent years have at least some college education. Nonetheless, illegal immigrants as a group tend to be less educated than other sections of the U.S. population: 49% haven’t completed high school, compared with 9% of native-born Americans and 25% of legal immigrants.

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North America: Map of Mexico and United States border

The Pew Hispanic Center determined that according to an analysis of Census Bureau data about 8 percent of children born in the United States in 2008 — about 340,000 — were offspring of unauthorized immigrants. In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009. These infants are, according to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, American citizens from birth. These children are sometimes pejoratively referred to as anchor babies by those aggressively opposed to this method of citizenship attained outside of the legal immigration process. The majority of children that are born with illegal parents fail to graduate high school, averaging two fewer years of school than their peers. But once the parents do gain citizenship, the children do much better in school.

Illegal immigrants work in many sectors of the U.S. economy. According to USA Today in 2006, about 4% work in farming; 21% have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (19%), and in production, installation and repair (15%), with 12% in sales, 10% in management and 8% in transportation. Illegal immigrants have lower incomes than both legal immigrants and native-born Americans, but earnings do increase somewhat the longer an individual is in the country.

There are an estimated half million illegal entries into the United States each year. A common means of border crossing is to hire professionals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border for pay. Those operating on the US-Mexico border are known informally as coyotes. According to Pew, between 4 and 5.5 million unauthorized migrants entered the United States with a legal visa, accounting for between 33–50% of the total population. A tourist or traveler is considered a “visa overstay” once he or she remains in the United States after the time of admission has expired. Visa overstays tend to be somewhat more educated and better off financially than those who entered the country illegally. A smaller number of unauthorized migrants entered the United States legally using the Border Crossing Card, authorizing border crossings into the U.S. for a set amount of time. Border Crossing Card entry accounts for the vast majority of all registered non-immigrant entry into the United States – 148 million out of 179 million total – but there is little hard data as to how much of the illegal immigrant population entered in this way.

Immigration Reform

Immigration reform regards changes to current policy including promoted or open immigration, as well as reduced or eliminated immigration.

Learning Objectives

Summarize recent legislative trends in immigration reform on the state and national level

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Proponents of great immigration enforcement argue that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers an estimated $338.3 billion and jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officials and citizens, especially at the Mexican border.
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants.
  • In 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 and the Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. Neither bill became a law.
  • President Obama proposed to fix border enforcement, interior enforcement, prevent people from working without a work permit, create a committee to adapt the number of visas available to changing times, an amnesty program to legalize undocumented immigrants and programs to help immigrants adjust.

Key Terms

  • deportation: The act of deporting or exiling, or the state of being deported; banishment; transportation.
  • amnesty: An act of the sovereign power granting oblivion, or a general pardon, for a past offense, as to subjects concerned in an insurrection.
  • bipartisan: relating to, or supported by two groups, especially by two political parties

Use of the Term

Immigration reform is a term used in political discussion regarding changes to current immigration policy. In its strict definition, reform means to change towards an improved form or condition by amending or removing faults or abuses. In the political sense, immigration reform may include promoted, expanded or open immigration. It may also include reduced or eliminated immigration. Immigration is also widely used to describe proposals to increase legal immigration while decreasing illegal immigration, such as the guest worker proposal supported by George W. Bush.

Legislative Trends

Illegal immigration is a controversial issue in the United States. Proponents of greater immigration enforcement argue that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers an estimated $338.3 billion dollars. They also argue that these immigrants jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officials and citizens, especially along the Mexican border.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, and, in 2006, the U.S. Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. Neither bill became law because their differences could not be reconciled in conference committee.

In 2009, immigration reform became a hot topic as the Obama administration signaled interest in beginning a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform. The proposed comprehensive immigration reform plan had as its goal bipartisan support. As such, it includes six sections designed to have something for everyone. These six sections are: (1) fixing border enforcement, (2) increasing interior enforcement, such as preventing visa overstays, (3) preventing people from working without a work permit, (4) creating a committee to adapt the number of visas available to changing economic times, (5) a type of amnesty program to legalize undocumented immigrants and (6) programs to help immigrants adjust to life in the United States.

The Case of Arizona

Citing Congress ‘ failure to enforce U.S. immigration laws, the state of Arizona confronted reform. In 2009, services provided to illegal immigrants, including incarceration, cost the state of Arizona an estimated $2.7 billion. On April, 23, 2010, Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the broadest and strictest immigration reform imposed in the United States. The Arizona immigration law directs law enforcement officials to ask for immigration papers on a reasonable suspicion that a person might be an illegal immigrant. Officials can then arrest those not carrying ID papers. On July 6, 2010, the US Department of Justice filed suit against Arizona with the intent of preventing the state from enforcing the law and asks the court to find certain sections of the legislation null and void. Congress has left this issue untouched as many feared such a vote could threaten their chances at reelection.

Being the first state to pass such legislation, Arizona has set a precedent for other states. Nevertheless, this legislation has also caused Arizona to carry a large burden. Although the response has cost the state between 7 million and 52 million, some in the state still feel that this outcome will outweigh the initial cost. Due to conflict and protest, Governor Brewer signed House Bill 2162 (HB 2162) a week later, amending text in the original document. HB 2162 includes that race, color, and national origin would not play a role in prosecution; in order to investigate an individual’s immigration status, he or she must be “lawfully stopped, arrested or detained. “

Reform and Advocacy

In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, many advocacy groups have focused on improving the fairness and efficiency of the immigration court system. They propose incremental steps the executive branch can take to stop an assembly line approach to deportation proceedings. These groups have identified several issues that threaten the due process rights of immigrants, including reliance on low quality videoconferencing to conduct hearings, inadequate language interpretation services for non-English speakers, and limited access to court records. They also focus on problems arising out of the recent increase in immigration law enforcement without a commensurate boost in resources for adjudication. Other calls for reform include increased transparency at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and more diversity of experience among immigration judges, the majority of whom previously held positions adversarial to immigrants.