Obama’s immigration policy is just the first step

America, land of the free and home of the brave, attracts millions of immigrants to the Promised Land every year.

The history of America is the history of immigration and immigrants. Immigration has been a controversial issue since the colonial era. One of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin worried that “stupid and swarthy German” would overrun Pennsylvania. The Know Nothing movement banned immigrants from running for political office.  After the Gold Rush, another nativist movement attempted to close the golden door to Chinese immigrants. Today, undocumented immigrants from Latin America have become the new focus for anti-immigration supporters.

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In 2008, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated the illegal immigrant population of the U.S.  to be about 11 million people, down from a peak of 12.5 million people in 2007. The figure has been stable since 2008 with the 2011 statistic remaining at 11.1 million people, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report--a project of the Pew Research Center. In 2005, 56 percent of illegal immigrants were from Mexico; 22 percent were from other Latin American countries, primarily from Central America; 13 percent were from Asia, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report.

(See also: Drop the I-Word event addresses immigration)

The apprehension towards illegal immigrants is common and the consequences are serious. The U.S. issues deportations for reasons of security, protection of resources, and protection of jobs.

However, many people argue that people from outside of the country also have the right to pursue the American dream. Some argue that it is cruel and inhuman the way many people are being deported in the name of security, especially to those young teenagers who were brought to the U.S. by their parents or families.

As a response to the concern, the Dream Act is a reform initiative that attempts to bring legalization to millions of immigrant children and adults across America. This new legislation promises to permanently bring immigrant children out of the shadows to pursue their hopes and dreams, attend college, undertake military service and live the American Dream.

Obama’s administration announced to offer work permits to some undocumented immigrants  who are no more than 30 years old and who came to the U.S. before the age of 16. It is considered the first step towards addressing the many issues facing children of undocumented immigrants, giving undocumented immigrants a new light from the American political system.

The policy offers joy and relief for many immigrants but it is just the first step to a more broad immigration reform, hinted officials for this administration’s second term. There are still a large number of people  who need help. The speed at which Washington can pass meaningful reform directly affects the fates of these immigrants in limbo.

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Jing Xu