With extensive arguments over border security and immigration reform in the U.S., the amount of undocumented workers coming to the U.S. has decreased for the first time in a decade. Due to various factors including a weak U.S. economy and stronger enforcement, the U.S. is no longer a prime destination for immigration.
With the largest amount of immigration peaking at 12 million in 2007, the amount of undocumented immigrants coming to America dropped to 11.1 million in 2011. In fact, there are currently more immigrants coming from Asia than from any Latin American country. Because “80 percent of all illegal immigration comes from Mexico and Latin America,” with less favorable conditions for immigrants, it is highly unlikely that immigration will ever reach a number close to the peak ever again. With Congress divided over whether or not to pursue a broader immigration policy, some suggest that policymakers should focus more on the immigrants currently residing within the country. The biggest wave of immigration that occurred in the mid-1990s has those residents settled in the U.S. for over 10 years now. More importantly, those who arrived during this immigration surge will be well past the “young age” required to qualify for congressional proposals such as the DREAM Act that only offer citizenship to young adults.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist from the Philippines, states, “The priority now is to push a vigorous debate about the undocumented people already here.” Several immigration activist groups are pushing for immigration reform that will prevent immigrants from being deported and create a process to offer documents to those who reside and work in the U.S. Many immigrants wish that President Obama and lawmakers would propose a policy that legalizes all immigrants in the U.S., not just the youth. Earlier this year President Obama extended temporary reprieves which prevented younger immigrants from being deported, but this excluded the older immigrants. With the problem of undocumented workers coming to the country no longer pressuring Congress, the bigger concern should focus on what can be done for the immigrants still waiting on Congress here.
Immigrants are tired of policymakers going back and forth on immigration and extending the process. Vargas states, “If you want us to pay a fine to become a citizen, OK. If you want us to pay back taxes, absolutely. If you want us to speak English, I speak English. But we can’t tread water on this issue anymore.” Policymakers respond to this by saying it is not a simple issue that can be fixed within a day. The policies that they pass regarding immigration will have an effect on the future labor force in the U.S. While Congress members continue to dispute over the proper handling of immigration reform, immigrants and citizens alike are waiting to see how this country will progress.
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