US immigration policies have dated as far back as 1882. However the first Act that did not use race as a category to choose immigrants into the US was the 1965 Immigration Reform Act. Citizens from every country had the same quota in numbers to immigrate to the US but the act did not increase the number of people to enter. It wasn’t until the 1990 Immigration Act (IMMACT) that immigration numbers jumped 40% to 700,000. Today, there is an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.
Births by immigrants have been attributed as the greatest cause of increase in the US population with, since 2004, the Hispanic population being half of total US growth in population. A 2004 government report also states that more than half of illegal immigrants actually enter the US legally but elect to stay illegally on after their visas have expired. These numbers have been said to put some pressure on the Medicaid and other benefits. There is an immigration reform going on presently in the US to make the necessary adjustments. In December 2005, the House of Representatives passed a border security bill H.
R. 4437 (Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act) making it a federal crime to live in the United States illegally thereby turning immigrants to felons. The bill also makes it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants. This provision has caused an outcry within the social services and church communities as well as in immigration groups. It is currently a violation of civil immigration law to live without a visa or green card in the US (but not a violation of criminal law). In March 2006, the bill was sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr.
of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York and would give new meaning to the term ‘alien smuggling’ such that groups aware of illegal immigrants could be ensnared. The bill also proposes to step up border enforcement by erecting fences along one-third of the border of Mexico and create a temporary guest-worker program. The temporary worker program requires participants to work for six (6) years before they can apply for a green card and cannot remain unemployed for more than 60 days in this time frame or they will be forced to leave the country. With the green card Permanent Residents can apply for citizenship 5 years later.
They will also be required to pay a fine, back taxes and learn English. None of these have as yet been passed into legislation but the Congress is in debates concerning a revamp of immigration laws. President Bush’s recommendation is for a comprehensive plan that will grant the millions of illegal immigrants the right to work in the US temporarily. Critics of this approach say this amounts to an amnesty program. The debate is nearing conclusion and nerves are frayed while the outcome is being awaited.
1. (Editorial), Don't fence us out; Immigration. (A debate begins), The Economist (US), April 1, 2006 2. Douglas Waller. Mistreating The Guests. (Notebook) (guest-workers in the United States), Time, May 29, 2006 3. Raymond Hernandez, Clinton Suggests Legalizing Some Immigrants, The New York Times, March 9, 2006 4. Miriam Jordan, In the Straddle. Immigration Spat Poses Big Challenge For L. A. ’s Mayor, The Wall Street Journal (24 May 2006) 5. Massimo Calabresi. Who's Going To Stop That Man? (Notebook)(George W. Bush's plan for border security), Time, May 22, 2006 6. (Editorial), Thousands Rally in Cities for Immigrant Rights, The New York Times, March 25, 2006 7. (Editorial), The Gospel vs. H. R 4437, New York Times, March 3, 2006