In recent years, immigration issues, illegal immigration, has been in the headlines of many major news outlet. It is therefore no gainsay that the United States of America is attracting multiple individuals and groups from all over the world. The US has been acclaimed as a land of opportunities and therefore a dream come true for many who arrive on its territory. But there are several issues when it comes to the process of entering, remaining and working in the US and above all taking advantage of the opportunities that this country offers.
Most illegal immigrants enter the country either by crossing the Mexico-U.S. border or by overstaying entry visas. Mexico is the largest source country for illegal immigration and illegal entry tends to surge following economic downturns in the country. The U.S. government impedes illegal immigration by policing borders and monitoring employers, with the vast majority of resources dedicated to border enforcement. These efforts appear to have had limited success, as the inflow of illegal immigrants continues unabated (Hanson, Scheve, Slaughter & Spilimbergo, 2001).
There is however recurring question whether or not the arrival of so many people in the United States should be welcomed or feared? According to Martin and Midgley (1999), there is no single answer. Though America is adorned with an immigration heritage, yet Americans have lamented over the negative ramifications immigrants in the economic, political and cultural live of the country. As early as in the 1880s, when immigration number began to surge, Congress placed several restrictions that barred prostitutes, low-skilled contract workers, and Chinese and among others, from entering the country (Martin & Midgley, 1999, p.3).
At the end of the 20th century, immigration is as controversial as the beginning centuries. Many Americans are torn between the line of “open borders” and “no immigrants” positions. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is one of such organization that advocates for reduction immigration. FAIR asserts that the latter contributes to excessive population, environmental degradation, displaces low-skilled American, depresses average wage levels, and threatens the cultural bonds of the American society (Martin & Midgley, 1999).
Others hold the inverse of what FAIR believes. Several groups like the Organization of Chinese Americans and Emerald Isle Immigration Center favor immigration from particular region and countries. The Catholic Church and some other religious organization oppose restrictions on immigration as they believe that the definition of national borders is key cause of division in humanity (Capaldi, 1997).
The United States from the core of its inception support immigrants as reflected from its motto “E pluribus Unum—“from many, one.” The Commission on Immigration Reform, established by Congress, reflected a widely shared American opinion when it asserted in 1997 that “a properly regulated system of legal immigration is in the national interest of the United States (U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, 1997).
Among all the ranging ideas and philosophies on immigration, the United state has seen an exponential increase in illegal immigration from early 1970 until the great depression in 2008. Congress made a first attempt to address the issue in 1986 when it passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which commenced the beginning of the current immigration reinforcement era. As a first successful public initiative to tackle illegal immigration, the policy did not take shape easily at the implementation (Meissner et al, 2013).
Characterized as a “three legged stool”; IRCA made the hiring of unauthorized workers illegal for the first time in the history of the US. Additionally, it called for strengthening border enforcement and the legalization of the large share of the unauthorized immigrant population which was on the increase. The implementation stages of this policy were disappointing as most employers were not prepared and lacked the necessary mechanism to determine worker eligibility and provide resources on the current and future status of immigrants. However the legalization process of immigrants was quite successful in the 1990s as many immigrants were able to go through legal process to legalizing their presence in the US (Meissner et al, 2013).
Today, after the 9/11, the policy face of immigration has changed and there are several other restrictive and even inhuman ways of deportation for the sake of national security. More people are seeking asylum and refugees entry into the USA is increasing by day and one may ask what are the current border situations and how do we deal with the current illegal immigrants and how do we help integrate people who qualify to live the American dreams, to achieve their objective of quality living?
Pattern of Contemporary Immigration Policy
The US immigration law is complex and has a lot of nuances as to how it functions. The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) of 1952, the body of law governing current immigration policy, provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members (Immigration Policy Center, 2014). There are other entries given by Congress and the President which includes refugee admissions. The immigration allowance of the United States is based on reunification of families; admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy; protecting refugees; and promoting diversity.
The Obama administration has reached a milestone of deportation of about 2 million unauthorized immigrants from the United States (Rosenblum & Meissner, 2014). This is particularly alarming situation when several people, most of whom are born in the US are being sent home after many years of residence in the US. There is still pressure on the current government to respond to recent border crisis of children and unaccompanied kid entering into the United States.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, the underlining deportation enforcement has been transformed by a number of policy changes since the 90s. Firstly, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) rewrote the laws governing the deportation process (renamed “removal” in the new statute). The act significantly created and revised two forms of summary removal: expedited removal for recent border crossers and reinstatement of removal for people previously deported. The effect was outrageous as noncitizens were removed without appearing before an immigration judge, and they make them ineligible for almost any form of relief from removal regardless of their equities in the United States (Meissner et al, 2013, p.2).
Again, a lot of reinforcement was made particularly in the post-9/11 period. With the support of the successive administrations and Congresses of both parties, overall funding for immigration enforcement rose from $1.2 billion in 1990 to $17.7 billion in 2013. Most importantly, investments in modern technologies have transformed Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations at the border and within the United States (Meissner et al, 2013).
A 2009 report by the Council on Foreign Relations’ independent task force concluded that “the continued failure to devise and implement a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America’s economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security,” (Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), 2009). In other word the context of immigration debates goes beyond the shores of the US borders and impacts the lives of people beyond the mere deportation that most illegal immigrants are confronted with. The sovereign right of states to regulate their borders is fundamentally important, however, the interdependency of the international system cannot overshadow the transnational flow of ideas (DeLaet, 2000, p.18). It is this vain that the present policy paper analyses the alternative to deportation as began in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is policy by the Obama Administration issued in June 15, 2012; which directed the Department of Homeland Security to defer deportation of some individual for a period of time. It is to ensure “that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time.” Deferred action, however, does not provide lawful status. It may be revoked at any time (USCIS, 2014).
Expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
There are currently about 11.7 million illegal immigrants in the United States. At the same time there is a lot of demand on the government to expedite deportation of illegal immigrants and this is the area of the present policy intervention recommended in this paper which will reflect in the subsequent policy briefing.
The long protracted debate and lack of political will to curtail immigration crisis in the nation has pushed the Obama administration to consider executive action to provide relief from deportation to some of the nation’s millions of unauthorized immigrants. These actions could include an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, extension of deferred action to new populations, or further refinement of enforcement priorities to shrink the pool of those subject to deportation.
The current eligibility to this deferment is limited to the youth under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; arrived in the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time; were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS; had no lawful status on June 15, 2012; are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety ( USCIS, 2014).
Moreover, the DACA is a temporary relief that does not confer permanent residence status or any other form of legal immigration status. It has a target group of people which even exclude immediate relative of DACA beneficiaries. The deferment excludes therefore the spouse, children or parents of the immigrant with deferred action.
As a matter of policy, additional provisions to the DACA can be used to help reduce the risk of several hundreds of thousand immigrants who are listed for removal or deportation. According to a study by the Migration Policy Center, about 3.2 million other immigrants may be eligible for deferred action under this policy if extend (Capps & Rosenblum, 2014, p.2). The expansion of this policy could be incorporative of all other immigrants who may have stayed longer in the United States.
Consequently, the extension of the DACA to cover other population is going to increase the number of eligible immigrants for extended stay in the US and whilst providing for authorization to work and thereby increasing the labor force of the country. It is noteworthy that adoption of such policy recommended herein to capture a larger age group would save the country some money on deportation whilst making for investment on wages increment. As a matter of fact the government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, and has allocated nearly $187 billion for immigration enforcement since 1986 (Meissner et al, 2013).
For consideration in the current policy, if at least one of the eligibility criteria listed above in this paper was changed there would be remarkable increase in the number of people eligible for DACA. For instance expanding the eligibility to youth with US residence since 2009 or 2011 instead of 2007 would expand the population by about 50,000 and 90,000 respectively. Another 180,000 people would be eligible for exemption from deportation if the eligibility age was capped at 18 instead of 16yrs. And again, if the maximum age of 30yrs was eliminated whilst maintaining the age of arrival, there would be another 200,000 people rescued from deportation. Better still, eliminating the education requirement of high school and its equivalent, there would be some other 430,000 people given the opportunity to stay in the United States to also live the American dream (Capps & Rosenblum, 2014).
The 11.7 million estimated numbers of illegal immigrants cannot be underestimated in terms of importance to the economy and also to the international relations with other countries. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, has said that foreign students “return home with an increased understanding and lasting affection for the United States. I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here.” Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, has echoed that judgment: “In the last half century, allowing students from other countries to study here has been the most positive thing America has done to win friends from around the world.”
Still, DHS is deporting close to 400,000 people per year. On this scale, even highly focused enforcement has a substantial impact on immigrant communities, which has generated an alias for Obama as the “deporter in chief,” enabling a system that rips families apart. Indeed, with illegal immigration flows at a 40-year low, most unauthorized immigrants—including a substantial share of people intercepted at the border—have lived in the United States for years and have deep ties to the country (Rosenblum & Meissner, 2014).
Beyond deferred action, the Obama administration is said to be considering refinement of immigration enforcement priorities to limit the deportation of certain groups of unauthorized immigrants if they are apprehended by federal immigration authorities. As a matter of fact, the enforcement of immigration policies can be informed by the subsequent expansion of the DACA policy to include a larger population who are illegal immigrants but have stayed for quite a long time in the US. As the administration is considering refining the enforcement priorities that guide deportations, it would be rather cost effective to help transition those who are already in the system to legal status that would give them the chance to work at the same time increase the tax base of the country.
According to Rosenblum & Meissner, when we look beyond the DACA-eligible population, 3 million unauthorized immigrants had lived in the United States for 15 or more years as of 2012, 5.7 million for at least ten years, and 8.5 million for at least five years. The numbers here speak to the fact that many are those who have made the US their home and cannot be detached from their homes or even deported to a non-existing home. The challenge is clear that we are not doing any good to illegal immigrants who have stayed their entire productive lives here in the United States of America.
The American immigration system really need some repair as soon as possible to help curtail the current immigration crisis. The immigration issues as confronted by most government agencies always have to play around the spirit and the letter of the law. The most effective way may not be the letters of the policies as we read and implement them. The policies enacted since the beginning of the nation has always been welcoming to foreigners until the surge in recent times, yet it does not undermine the capability of the US institutions to curtail the situation.
In advocating for a change to the DACA policy, it is in line with this paper to present a Deferred Action for Immigrants Integration (DAII), as a bill worth presenting for consideration to cover all the recommendation outlined in this paper for rescuing immigrants from deportation. Under some ideal situations, the government may deport criminals for national security but the aforementioned recommendations can be considered in line of policy enforcement.
Government should consider the redefinition of “recent illegal entrants” to those apprehended within six months of entering the US as a way to reduce the removal number substantially. According to the Migration Policy Center, if the definition of recent illegal immigrants was extended within one year of apprehension there would have been a reduction of deportation by 232,000 during 2003-13. In this case my recommendation would have reduced deportation by 348,000 within the same period.
It is worth noting too that there are a number of immigrants that are contributing positively in their communities and to the nation as a whole and cannot be summarily deported without any consideration. As the DACA is a way to extend the stay for some illegal immigrants, there are some others who are teachers in private schools, volunteer in non-profit and faith based organizations, who are making incredible contribution to rehabilitation facilities, mentoring the youth and contributing to community-wide afterschool and vacation times with the youth. There are many others who are within the educational system, bringing dynamism to the American education long rooted in the bond of diversity and incorporating all cultures for which it stands strong today.
To increase therefore immigrants’ integration, we may want to measure the extend of contribution each immigrants is making, consider those eligible ones for some welfare provisions like the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program to help single mothers and children through smooth integration and economic support for immigrants instead of rushing them to their countries where they have no known support.
As a matter of rights, all Americans have the right to the pursuit of happiness and no one enjoy to work for the benefit of one ne who is not contributing to the national cake. The American outcry for immigration reform is more important than ever. The nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States are in need of work authorization to also contribute to nation building and help themselves and their families live a decent live. The initiative in expanding the DACA provision to cover greater population of immigrants is a means to increase the workforce of the nation and as well the tax base of the nation. It no gainsay that the giant industries and corporation like Google, eBay and among others are in existence, thanks to immigrants.
The benefit is inestimable when these people are given a chance to do something for a country that offers them most of what there is to get.
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