Immigration reform

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Immigration reform is a term used in political discussion regarding changes to current immigration policy of a country. In its strict definition, "reform" means to change into an improved form or condition, by amending or removing faults or abuses.[1] In the political sense, "immigration reform" may include promoted, expanded, or open immigration, as well as reduced or eliminated immigration.

Immigration reform in the United States[edit]

"Immigration reform" in the United States of America is widely used to describe proposals to increase legal immigration while decreasing illegal immigration, such as the guest worker proposal supported by President George W. Bush. Illegal immigration is a controversial issue in the United States. Proponents of greater immigration enforcement argue that illegal immigrants tarnish the public image of immigrants, cost taxpayers an estimated $338.3 billion (however, opponents would claim this figure is loaded with errors and misleading assertions and state that published studies vary widely but put the cost to government at a small fraction of that total[2]), and jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officials and citizens, especially along the Mexican border.[3]

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants, but left the immigration system without a key component - a workable non-immigrant visa system program for lesser-skilled workers to enter the United States. Following this 1986 law, almost 12 million undocumented workers came across the U.S. border. It was estimated that this undocumented workforce made up about five percent of the U.S. workforce. It was also estimated that about 70 percent of those undocumented workers were from the country of Mexico.[4]

Vicente Fox, former Mexican president, writes that in 2001, President George W. Bush, and the leadership of both parties of Congress were about to pass significant immigration reform legislation benefiting Mexican emigration to the U.S.[5]

In 2005, 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.[6] The legislative negotiations and national activism behind immigration reform from 2001-2007 is the subject of 12-part documentary film series How Democracy Works Now.

In 2009 the immigration reform again became a hot topic, since the Barack Obama administration signaled interest in beginning a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform before that year's end.[7][8] The proposed comprehensive immigration reform plan had as one of its goals bipartisan support, and includes six sections designed to have "something for everyone." These six sections are:

  1. to fix border enforcement,
  2. “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 program to provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, and
  6. programs to help immigrants adjust to life in the United States.[9]

A 2010 academic study[citation needed] has shown that when immigration issues receive national media attention, established residents living in places that have seen influx of new immigrants suddenly become much more politicized against immigration. This suggests that it is not the influx of new residents or new proximity to established residents that stir anti-immigrant sentiments; rather, resentment is spurred by the heated and prominent nature of the debate itself[dubious ]. The study, done by Georgetown University and published in the American Political Science Review, “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition,” examined more than twelve different surveys relating to immigration and local anti-immigration ordinances, spanning the years 1992 to 2009. During a period of high national attention to immigration, anti-immigration attitudes among established residents in fast-changing counties increase by 9.9%. The study’s author states that ethnic and racial surroundings appear to affect Americans’ political attitudes far less than previously thought: “Those who live near larger proportions of immigrants do not consistently exhibit more negative attitudes.” Rather, the author concludes, “day-to-day encounters can be shaped by salient national issues.”[10]

Benefit the US Economy[edit]

Some studies have estimated that immigration reform that includes legalization of unauthorized immigrants would add at least $1.5.trillion in cumulative U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 10 years, and increasing wages for all workers. An increase of personal income would generate consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs.[11][not in citation given] The studies also claimed it would generate and estimate of $5.4 billion in tax revenues. It would also mean that the immigrants would be entitled to government programs such as welfare and food stamps putting an even higher burden on states and local governments.

Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, founding director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, estimates that in just the first three years following legalization for undocumented immigrants, the “higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in net personal income of $30 to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue. Moreover, an increase in personal income of this scale would generate consumer spending sufficient to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs.”[12]

Broken Families[edit]

The U.S immigration system determines who enters the country, and how many, either by order or under certain circumstances. It also decides who can apply for permanent visas for family and relatives. Advocates of increased admission of family members characterize the current system as "broken," for preventing family reunification. They argue that family reunification will reduce waiting lines and conflicts over the number of visas of children and spouses.[13] Approximately 5,100 children with a detained or deported parent were in the public child welfare system in 2011.[14]

Arizona SB 1070[edit]

In 2009, services provided to illegal immigrants, including incarceration, cost the state of Arizona an estimated $2.7 billion.[15]

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 (Arizona SB 1070), the broadest and strictest immigration reform imposed in the United States.[16]

The SB1070 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 in keeping with federal requirements.[17] Previously, police could not stop and check identification papers on a mere suspicion that someone might be an illegal immigrant. Police could only ask about an individual's immigration status if they are suspected of involvement in another crime.[18]

On July 6, 2010, the US Department of Justice filed suit against Arizona. The intent of the suit is to prevent Arizona from enforcing the law and asks the court to find certain sections of the legislation null and void.[19] The United States Congress has left this issue untouched as many feared such a vote could threaten their chances at reelection.[citation needed]

Being the first state to pass such legislation, Arizona has set a precedent for other states, but this legislation has also caused Arizona to carry a large burden. Arizonans have faced boycotts and protests from their commercial businesses to sporting events and concerts. 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.[20]

Due to conflict and protest, the week after Governor Brewer signed SB 1070, the Arizona legislature passed 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."[21]

Opponents of the law say that it will ultimately cost the state “$26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product and approximately 140,024 jobs” if all illegal immigrants are removed from the state.[22]

Immigration Court Reform[edit]

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.[23][24][25] They propose incremental steps the executive branch can take to stop an “assembly line approach”[26] 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.[27] They also focus on problems arising out of the recent increase in immigration law enforcement without a commensurate boost in resources for adjudication.[28] Immigration Judges and DHS Trial Attorneys are overworked,[29] and the pro bono community has been unable to meet the demand for representation: 49% of individuals facing removal proceedings in 2011 were unrepresented.[30] Other calls for reform include increased transparency at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)[31] and more diversity of experience among Immigration Judges, the majority of whom previously held positions adversarial to immigrants.[32]

The deferred action process President Obama announced on June 15, 2012 is one example of the incremental reform these groups seek. Under the program, illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age fifteen can apply for a work permit and a two-year deferment from deportation proceedings.[33] The policy expands the Department of Homeland Security’s prosecutorial discretion policy, focusing finite resources on criminals and other threats to public safety.[34]

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Removal Proceedings[edit]

Since President Obama took office in 2008, more than two million unauthorized immigrants have been deported. Most of these people were not a danger to society.[35] In the fiscal year 2013 ICE removed 151,834 individuals who didn’t have a criminal conviction.[36] If immigration reform becomes law, many of those who entered the country illegally would likely be able to remain in the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, has enforcement priorities that involve: apprehension of terrorists, violent criminals, gang members, which are categorized under three priorities. The first and highest priority is to remove aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety (other than drunk driving, home invasion, or other "victimless crimes"). Second priority is recent illegal entrants; those who have recently violated immigration control at the border such as overstay visas. The third priority is aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration control, for instance, reentries after prior order of deportation. ICE resources are limited; an estimated 400,000 aliens can be removed per year, but that is less than 4 percent of the illegal population in the United States.[37]

High Costs of Spending[edit]

The immigration enforcement has increased rapidly since the 1990s. The U.S Border Patrols's annual budget has increased by 714 percent. The cost went from $362.2 million in the fiscal year 1992 to $2.7 billion in the fiscal year 2009. Also the U.S Immigration and Customs enforcement has grown 73 percent, from $3.3 billion since its inception to $5.9 billion in 2014. [38]

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, or S.744[edit]

On January 28, 2013, a bi-partisan group of eight Senators, known as the "Gang of Eight" announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The Senators involved include: Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.[39]

The policies envisioned by the Senators include the following provisions:

In April 2013, according to Congressional Quarterly, the existence of a bipartisan group of lawmakers working to reform immigration was revealed during a question and answer session at a Ripon Society event with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).[41]

On April 16, 2013, the "Gang of Eight" in the United States Senate introduced S.744, the long-awaited Senate version of the immigration reform bill proposed in congress.[42]

On June 27, 2013, the United States Senate approved S.744, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 in a historic 68-to-32 vote.[43] The immigration reform bill was sent to the United States House of Representatives, where the bill has not been brought to the floor for debate or an up-or-down vote by Speaker of the House John Boehner of the Republican Party. The legislation is a product of bipartisan cooperation among Senate lawmakers, business groups, labor unions, agricultural interests, and immigration advocates, who negotiated many compromises resulting in an architecture for reform – including a path to citizenship for eleven million illegal immigrants, an temporary worker program, increased visa numbers for skilled foreign workers, and a nationwide employment eligibility verification system.[44] The border crisis in 2014 where thousands of children alone or with their mothers crossed the border and turned themselves in to the Border Patrol has been seen, in part, as a result of the 2008 immigration reform bill signed into law by President Bush.

President Barack Obama's Executive Actions of November, 2014[edit]

On November 20, 2014, in a televised address from the White House, U.S. president Barack Obama announced a program of "deferred action" which would allow roughly 45% of illegal immigrants to legally stay and work in the United States.[45] The largest prior deferral action, in 1990 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, affected 40% of undocumented immigrants then.[46] Up to 3.7 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents in the country for at least five years, are eligible for the new deferrals, as are about .3 million immigrants who arrived as children before January, 2010. (The second group are eligible by expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. DACA previously covered 1.2 million people; the expansion brings it to 1.5 million).[47] The new deferrals are to be granted for three years at a time. Supplemental executive actions also announced include an end to the Secure Communities program, increased resources for border enforcement, and new procedures for "high-skilled immigrants." These other "parts of the president’s plan" could provide "protection from deportation" for roughly "an additional one million people." President Obama's actions were clearly presented as a response to Congress having been unable in recent years to agree on a general legislative overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. In "acting where Congress has failed," Obama said, he still hoped "to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary."[45] [48]

Immigration reform in the United Kingdom[edit]

As of 2010, in the United Kingdom, there is some cross-party support for immigration reform, largely under the auspices of the Strangers into Citizens campaign. Although the Liberal Democrats are the only major party to fully support reform, some Labour MPs (including former leadership candidate John McDonald), the IPPR (a Labour-leaning think-tank) and Boris Johnson (the Conservative Mayor of London) also support a selective amnesty for illegal immigrants. Under the Liberal Democrat proposal, this would involve regularisation for illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for at least ten years and who do not have a criminal record.

It is argued that bringing many of these (estimates varying widely from 300,000 to 800,000[49]) individuals into the legal economy would allow police to concentrate resources on tackling people traffickers and criminals - and would raise billions in tax revenue - whereas deporting them would cost £4.7 billion and take 30 years.[49] This issue is still a matter of political debate today in the United Kingdom.[50][51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Illegal Immigration: How much does it cost? 2008 May 7. 30 November 2008.
  4. ^ Reiff, Laura (2013-01-29). "The Winds of Immigration Reform Blow Again - Part 1". Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  5. ^ Fox, Vicente. "Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith, and Dreams of a Mexican President”, p. 230.
  6. ^ Fears, Darrylnfdn (2007-03-23). "Immigration Reform Revisited". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  7. ^ Condon, Stephanie (2009-06-19). "Obama Promises Immigration Reform". CBS. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  8. ^ Barack, Obama. "President Obama's campaign issues on Immigration". Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  9. ^ Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  10. ^ "Politicized Places: When Immigrants Provoke Opposition". Journalist's 
  11. ^ Hinojosa-Ojeda, Raul (6 May 2014). What is the Future of the US Economy?. Ronald D. Lankford, Jr. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Enchautegui, Maria E. "Broken Immigration Policy: Broken Families". The Urban Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "The Cost of Doing Nothing". Immigration Policy Center. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Barnes, Ed (2010-05-17). > "Cost of Illegal Immigration Rising Rapidly in Arizona Study Finds". Fox News. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  16. ^ Archibold, Randel (2010-04-23). "Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration". Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  17. ^ "Arizona's SB-1070: the Battle for Immigrant's Rights" Making Contact, produced by National Radio Project. November 16, 2010.
  18. ^ Randel Archibold, Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration, 23 April 2010, 29 November 2010 <>.
  19. ^ Obama's Key Promises, 29 November 2010 <>.
  20. ^ Ed Barnes, Cost of Illegal Immigration Rising Rapidly in Arizona, Study Finds, 17 May 2010, 29 November 2010 <>.
  21. ^ Casey Newton and Ginger Rough, Arizona governor signs bill revising new immigration law, 1 May 2010, 20 November 2010 <>.
  22. ^ Ed Barnes, Cost of Illegal Immigration Rising Rapidly in Arizona, Study Finds, 17 May 2010, 29 November 2010 <>.
  23. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," May 2012.
  24. ^ American Bar Association. "Reforming the Immigration System," February 2010.
  25. ^ Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). "Taking Steps to Enhance Quality and Timeliness in Immigration Removal Adjudication," June 2012.
  26. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," p. 1.
  27. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," pp. 4–9.
  28. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," p. 2.
  29. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," pp. 33-49.
  30. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," p. 67.
  31. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," pp. 77–80.
  32. ^ Appleseed. "Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line," p 22.
  33. ^ US Citizenship and Immigration Services Website
  34. ^ June 2012 Memo from Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Napolitano.
  35. ^ "Most Immigrants Deported by ICE in 2013 Were a Threat to No One". American Immigration Council. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  36. ^ "FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals". U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  37. ^ Morton, John. "Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  38. ^ "The Cost of Doing Nothing". American Immigration Council. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  39. ^ "Senators Reach a Bipartisan Agreement for Comprehensive Immigration Reform". The National Law Review. Fowler White Boggs P.A. 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  40. ^ "Senators Propose Immigration Reform". The National Law Review. Varnum LLP. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  41. ^ "Dueling Tracks In House”. Congressional Quarterly News, 4/19/13. Retrieved 1/27/14 via Lexis Nexis .
  42. ^
  43. ^ La Venia, Melissa V.; Altro Levy LLP (June 28, 2013). "Update: U.S. Senate Votes to Approve Gang of Eight’s U.S. Immigration Reform Bill and Key Canadian Provisions". The National Law Review. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  44. ^ Reiff, Laura Foote; Greenberg Traurig, LLP (June 28, 2013). "U.S. Senate Passes Landmark Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation". The National Law Review. 
  45. ^ a b "Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration". New York Times. 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  46. ^ New York Times, "Obama’s Immigration Decision Has Precedents, but May Set a New One" (November 20, 2014, retrieved 2014-11-21)
  47. ^ New York Times, "What Is President Obama’s Immigration Plan?" (November 20, 2014, retrieved 2014-11-21)
  48. ^ Keeling, Drew (2014), "Transcript of Obama's November 20, 2014 Speech," Migration as a travel business
  49. ^ a b "Call for immigrant amnesty in UK". BBC. 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  50. ^ Rajan, Amol (2008-04-09). "Mayoral candidates unite in call for illegal immigration amnesty". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  51. ^ Kelly, Charles "UK immigrant amnesty ‘worth £3bn’ say LSE" Immigration Matters, 2009-06-16. Retrieved on 2009-06-25.

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