Immigration 2009

No Easy Answers

The announcement that President Barack Obama will begin a public discussion of immigration reform in May will reawaken debate on a highly contentious issue.  At core, the issue pits those fiercely opposed to allowing illegal residents in the United States to convert their status to legal residency against those who, albeit with conditions, seek to legalize most of the U.S.’s estimated 12 million illegal residents.

Political Risks

If the President follows his campaign position in seeking a legislative solution that includes offering legal status to those in the country illegally, he will be investing his political capital in an extremely divisive issue at great political risk.

Prior to the 2008 election in which Democrats gained in both houses of congress, anti-illegal immigrant forces had the upper hand.  While Democratic gains make the congressional votes for reform more plausible, the economic crisis and growing unemployment will intensify concern that giving illegal residents the opportunity to obtain legal status will make already-difficult competition for jobs that much worse.

The President will have his hands full with this one and risks a political fight of an uglier, nastier and more divisive nature than even the financial turmoil has wrought.  

Increasing Attention and Concern

The economic crisis and growing unemployment is likely to increase opposition to immigration generally and make compromise more difficult.  However, some commentators such as Thomas Friedman, in his NY Times column, have noted that allowing more legal immigration could bring wealthy immigrants eager to buy homes, shoring up the contracting real estate market.

Illegality is troubling, but what are the alternatives?

Illegal immigration presents the difficult combination of illegal entry into the United States, perceived competition for jobs, and use of public resources that is a too-bitter pill for many Americans.  Yet with nearly 12 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States, it is difficult to realistically imagine a solution that does not involve granting some form of legal status.

One approach would be to grant permission to work for a period of years, without giving traditional legal permanent residency, which begins a path towards citizenship.  However, advocates of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, recognize that people who have effectively moved to the U.S., will likely be in financial and family jeopardy if they are forced to leave after having lived for five, ten or more years in the United States.  This type of compromise has not received significant support from immigration opponents, either, who chafe at the idea of rewarding those here illegally with any form of legitimate legal status.

Reagan’s Leadership, or a matter of time?

One thing is certain, poor management of the immigration issue in the past has set up a nearly impossible predicament in the present.  Congress could have largely managed the issue by raising legal immigration quotas sufficiently to keep up with the needs of employers during the 1990s and first decade of the new century.   Instead, the demand for labor far outstripped the legal supply and the debate shifted to unrealistic proposals of effective border enforcement on the one hand and mass deportation on the other.

In the end, Obama’s political skill and the Democratic congressional majorities may forge a “legalization” solution, much as Ronald Reagan did in 1986.  However, the opposition will be charged, and losing control of the issue could not only lead to defeat of immigration reform, but chip away at the President’s momentum and, so far, commanding authority.  While both sides in the debate should compromise and seek to offer creative solutions to the real problems that exist, within their principles, there will be those primarily looking to use the issue against Presidential authority and to position candidates for the 2010 congressional elections.

What to expect, at least initially

President Obama will likely push for a legalization process that aims to impliment legal status after the recession eases and the unemployment rate declines.  Mr. Obama is opening the debate in May, and it would not be a surprise for legislation enacted in 2009 or 2010 to provide opportunities for legal status in 2010, 2011 or 2012, when employment is predicted to increase, if the recession ends.

Any proposal is likely to impose penalties and conditions as an attempt to deal with and discourage “unlawful” entry and residence.  More today than in the past, surveillance technology at the border and electronic identification procedures in the workplace make future enforcement of immigration laws possible, although by no means guaranteed.

UPDATE: In Immigration Solutions I push towards a compromise and ask both sides if they are willing to meet half way.  Whether it was because his hands were full with health care of because the prospect for immigration reform legislation was not good, President Obama has put off immigration legislation for at least a year.  In a later post I will review what is going on in enforcement and changes that result from the economic downturn with respect to illegal immigration.

Marc Seltzer blogs at Marc Seltzer’s Perspective: Strategic Insights, not Simplistic Attacks


Joe S.
Jacque Coughlin8 years ago

Illegal aliens are illegal aliens, no amnesty for law breakers.

Gloria Romero
Gloria R9 years ago

Nomi, don't you understand that is the problem!! Mexico's govenment is so involved in lining their own pockets they don't wish to spend time improving the life of their own people. Our government is no better. Senators & Representatives are so busy lining their pockets not only with taxpayer dollars but also, special interest groups and lobby dollars to care about what is best for this country. I agree with Myke B. our military should be trained on our borders. We would have the best protection available and they would receive great training for protecting what truly is "ours". We also need term limits in congress, at the very least for one year out of their terms our representatives should be made to live the life of their average constituent. No more "lifers" in congress. They should be made to remember, They Work For Us!!! A government of the people, by the people and for the people is what we were founded on. I don't want anyone voicing an opinion for me on Capitol Hill that I did not endorse! I live in CA and I am sick and tired of Fienstein, Boxer & Pelosi not to mention Arnold, talk about a waste of tax dollars. But as they do not live in the real world, it's time someone brought that fact home to them again. Unfortunately this will probably happen by any means necessary if this goes on much longer. American citizens are tired of having so much dead weight tied around their necks they are ready for BIG change. Not just a black president. Real Change

Nomi B.
Nomi B.9 years ago

jeebus people apparently none of you guys have spent time living in Mexico, they treat Americans better than their own people.

TL Winslow
TL Winslow9 years ago

The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It's time for a paradigm change.

Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

Read my article by Googling "Megamerge Dissolution Solution" and see how the U.S. and Mexico have a great future together, sans racism.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C9 years ago

Let's see we have 2 young women in N. Korea, 1 was just released from Iran these people were in or are in prison, yet we have no less than 15 million from Mexico? These people are free as they say, collecting your tax money from everything on earth when are your people gonna wake up. Take a stand for once in your life!!!!!! Out they go and yes we will pay tax dollars for that! Enough already with feelling sorry we now have our own problems to face.

Kawazee N.
Kawazee N9 years ago

Here is a cheap and easy fix for several things wrong.

First, secure the borders. Actually secure the borders and really mean it. Every other country has no problem doing this, why do we.

Second, place a bounty on illegals. Call crimestoppers or other like mind community crime groups, and let INS do it's actual job. An unemployed person could make a good living in just about every town for a small bounty per illegal.

Third, anchor babies are not citizens of the US. Once again, no other country would let someone in illegally and then have a child that has become a citizen from an illegal act.

Not politically correct at all, nor hard to figure out; America just needs to grow some balls and take care of a problem that is totally out of control.

Cyn Sopel
Cynthia Sopel9 years ago

We have problems over here in Canada concerning the same issues.

Everybody wants a piece of the 'North American Pie', but both of our governments don't seem to recognize the urgency of taking care of our own backyards first before even thinking about admitting new immigrants.

(my mother was a Russian immigrant to Canada in the late 40's, and my father was an American)

Our economies and resources can't sustain more people! There are too many people in this world and it will get worse!!

Chaz Gaily Berlusconi
.9 years ago

Immigration, should be allowed to those who are honest, those that will create, and bring financial gain, experience to the USA.. I don't believe we should all be penalised because of terrorist acts and people that come into a country to do crime... We should all be given a fair chance.

Myke B.
Margaret B9 years ago

What we have here is a case of minority collusion designed to politically overpower the shrinking white majority.

There is nothing in the US constitution that states that its the job of national government to promote any minority into majority status (using resources provided largely by the current majority), but that will be the outcome with our current government policies and that outcome is totally unacceptable.

Its time to end affirmative action and government sanctioned racism, where the government picks winners & losers based on race and to enforce illegal immigration laws. Besides Reagan tried immigration reform before border control decades ago and the US ended up with an even larger illegal population problem down the road. The fact that this lesson is being tacitly ignored speaks volumes concerning minority collusion because of the mutual benefits such reform would bring to minority populations. Since they won't complain about receiving benefits its time someone on the giving side did because its coming out of the pockets of those who really can't afford it now.


Myke B.
Margaret B9 years ago

There is a LOT here to read - to write a GOOD LETTER to ALL NEWS PAPERS - BUT first - make sure all your FREIENDS have copys of these news papers emails. THEN have them also write their own letters - or you can combined info from here and other info you may of saved - like I have - to make that letter AWESOME!!


These listed below - are all from ONE SITE!
NBC News, Wall Street Journal Poll: Obama Honeymoon Ending

Written by: Jeff Crouere
June 19, 2009

Finally, after five long months of the Obama administration, the American people are waking up. They have been in a political slumber as the new President has been racing to the left and extending government involvement in more and more areas of the private sector. After the most ambitious and dangerous agenda of any President in U.S. history, Americans are increasingly questioning the direction of the Obama administration.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the approval rating for Barack Obama has dropped from 64% to 56%, a significant decline for a politician who receives constant media coverage. Obama is the most televised President of all time and has received the most positive coverage of any occupant of the Oval Office. Yet, despite the cheerleading from the Obama obsessed media, the