The problem of the integration of immigrants into host communities seemed to be relevant only to European countries a while ago. Following President Bush’s address to the nation on May 15, 2006, the debate over immigration reform could be a key domestic issue on the agenda in the year of congressional elections in the U.S. Until recently the President Bush administration has largely kept out of the debate while the lawmakers took steps aimed at pursuing more severe immigration policy. The response of U.S. public to the steps varies.
President Bush’s address to the nation on immigration reform on Monday, May 15, made it clear that he was becoming an active player. The President proposed a number of steps formally meant to help immigrants assimilate. In fact, the steps proposed are designed to boost security of U.S. borders. The statement by George W. Bush outlined several groups of measures, which should be enforced as a response of the U.S. government to curbing continuous attempts of illegal immigrants, a vast majority of them coming from Latin America, to sneak into the U.S at all costs and stay in the country permanently.
The first group of measures concerns tightening border control at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. For starters, up to 6,000 officers of the National Guard will be deployed to the southern border. Given the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, the number of Guard forces is obviously not up to the job if the Bush administration is really going to ensure full-blown and severe border enforcement.
U.S. government simply can not afford to deploy more Guard members at the southern border. Guard units are actively involved in Iraqi and Afghan combat operations. It is worthy of notice that crew change arrangements for the Guard are long overdue. It is clear that George W. Bush’s active foreign policy has lead to overexertion of all America’s resources and deepened the budget crisis in particular. The foreign policy impact would become a major obstacle to fulfillment of effective immigration policy including initial steps planned to secure the border with Mexico. The implementation of the border security plan would not only increase the number of Border Patrol officers, it would also provide for the construction of high-tech fences and barriers at the border. It has been already announced that initial funding for the border security initiative would amount to nearly two billion dollars.
Other steps of the U.S. government would aim at legalizing today’s working immigrants who do not have a legal permit for their stay in the U.S. The steps proposed are a far cry from changes immigrants themselves are looking forward to see. For example, foreign workers would be hired only to do jobs “true” Americans are not doing. Legal foreign workers would be issued new identification cards that should use biometric technologies. The authorities intend to use the new identification cards system for registration of temporary foreign workers who would be required to return to their home country sooner or later.
And, finally, the third group of measures would provide an opportunity to a small and successful part of present-day illegal immigrants to become full-fledged American citizens. To do so, they would have to meet certain conditions e.g. pay a penalty for breaking the law, pay their taxes, learn English, prove that they share common identity as Americans. Foreign diasporas and organizations for protection of illegal immigrants’ rights in the U.S. are unlikely to applaud the latest proposals of President Bush. Some of them already called for taking most radical action to oppose tighter immigration policy. It remains to be seen whether the President’s plan will be good enough for lessening the problems created by illegal immigration in the U.S.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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