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Is the United States ready to move from border security to immigration reform?

When you were in elementary school and middle school, what were you taught about immigration?

Did you learn about the influx of new Americans of the 1800s, with the Statue of Liberty acting as a beacon of hope? Maybe you had to recite the Emma Lazarus poem painting America as a country of open arms? Or perhaps you were given a more realistic picture of struggles, of hardships and poor working conditions and discriminatory laws.

Immigration has always been a heated topic, but in the past decade, it’s become especially so.

With the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the federal government made national security a top priority, immediately passing the Patriot Act in the fall of 2001. The law expanded the scope of immigrants who are ineligible for admission to the United States – or eligible for deportation – because of suspected terrorist activities.

A debate about immigrants living in the country illegally spun off this, and became a balancing act for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama: accommodating well-intentioned people who seek to become part of our country while barring those who would do us harm.

The reality uncovered over time was that things were not this cut-and-dried. Sometimes well-intentioned people happen to be here illegally. Perhaps their visa expired; maybe they didn’t leave immediately because they had a steady income. Maybe there’s a more desperate need for money and employment that their native country cannot provide.

For many, this is simply unacceptable: If someone is here illegally, they should get the boot, no question about it; our country does not have to coddle those who do not want to abide by our rules. For others, this is an indicator that maybe those rules are too complicated – maybe the system isn’t working, and perhaps it should be overhauled to make it easier for people to emigrate to the United States.

President Bush tried to do this, unsuccessfully, beginning in 2004; President Obama is trying now, and meeting with the same resistance.

The issue is where to begin. Those who favor a stricter approach to immigration want to first secure the borders and make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent illegal entry into the United States. (This primarily means the southern border, with Mexico – the country’s poverty often drives its citizens to find work to the north.) Once the borders are secure, proponents say we can talk about making it easier for people to gain legal residency.

Obama argues that the first part is done; border security has been reinforced over the past six years. A border fence has been erected, more Border Patrol agents have been trained and are in place, the number of intelligence analysts working along the border has been tripled, and plans are set to screen all rail shipments between the U.S. and Mexico.

“So, we have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” Obama said to a crowd in El Paso, Texas, this week. “But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time.”

The president joked that next, those supporting a crackdown on border security will ask for a moat. Or alligators in the moat. “They’ll never be satisfied,” Obama said. “And I understand that. That’s politics.”

Obama says it’s time to stop worrying about the border and start looking at our immigration system. It should be modified to crack down not only on those who are here illegally, but also on the businesses that hire them, he says. The path to legal immigration should also be improved to be more inclusive, and with incentives to stay given through higher education and military opportunities. Critics feel that Obama’s remarks are preelection bluster, an attempt to win the favor of Hispanic voters – who become a bigger group of voters each election.

Others just feel his priorities are wrong. Rep. Peter King of New York, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, told the Christian Science Monitor that only 15 percent of the Southwest border is “under control,” not the entire border, as Obama suggests.

“The president has again called for amnesty for illegal immigrants without offering a single proposal to actually improve the security of our borders,” King said. “The time has come for real action, not words.”

While the fate of federal immigration reform remains uncertain, many states have passed their own laws. A controversial Arizona law in 2010 gave police authority to check the immigration status of anybody they detain; Georgia’s legislature passed a similar law this year. And Texas is considering a bill that would outlaw “sanctuary cities” – municipal governments, county governments or school districts that pass laws preventing police from enforcing stricter state immigration laws.

What do you think?

Is the United States ready to move from border security to immigration reform? Has the progress Obama highlighted done enough to deter illegal immigration? Is his vision for an overhaul of immigration policy a good one? Should more work be done on border security? What do you think of state laws, such as Arizona’s expansion of police authority or Texas’ move to outlaw sanctuary cities? Join the discussion!
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Comments
9/26/2014
MI
Meg
Spruytte
I believe immigration laws should be handled by the states until the time comes that the Federal government is willing to make a decision.

10/11/2013
Watertown/Ma
Keith
Rimas/Watertown
I think we are not ready because the illegal population are occupied doing the jobs that legal Americans are too lazy to do or don't want to do. Illegal immigrants should be given 1 to 2 years of working and absorbing our culture and after the allotted time be given the citizen test if they fail they should be deported and if they succeed that will make them a legal citizen. That, to me, gives them fair a chance to get a small piece of the freedom that made this country what it is today.

10/11/2013
Watertown/MA
Edmundo V.
Rimas/watertown high
Personally i belive that the US should have a program that allows illegals to come in legally(most illegals are poor & can't afford passports etc.) and most illegals take the jobs most Americans don't want, like working on the farms & the physical labor jobs etc.

1/5/2012
Montgomery/Texas
John-Paul
Metzger/Montgomery High
Well if you ask me I honestly I think that our government or national guard or somebody needs to be very tough on illegal immigrants. We Americans are living here legally paying our taxes and they are just getting by. They might be working but still they need to 100% legal before they even think about living here. It just makes me mad when people are over here getting off. It's bad enough that our economy is bad right now. And them not paying taxes and being here illegally is not helping at all.

5/26/2011
Irving/ Texas
Kenneth
H. Bradley/ Nimitz
Border security should be strict. I am not saying that immigrants already here are not welcome, but America is becoming over-populated. With the population increasing, it is harder to get jobs. I think it is safe to say that we are going through an economic crisis as well, so I do not see why anyone would still want to come. Obama is doing his best, but he should look more into it. I do not think he is really understanding what it is doing to our nation and how it is affecting already american citizens.

5/24/2011
Irving/Tx
David B.
Bradley/Nimitz
Send more National Guard soldiers to the border if you asked me. People prostest about all the immigration reforms like in Arizona. Illegal immigrants further contribute to the toxicity in our society. In the news, an intoxicated illegal slammed his Nissan Sentra into a car waiting at a stoplight, killing a U.S. Marine home on leave and his passenger whose blood alcohol level was measured at .32 – four times the legal level in Maryland for intoxications.

5/24/2011
Irving/TX
Alen G.
Bradley/Nimitz
The US has already made several attempts at immigration reform for years. However, they've put a great deal of focus on the protection of our border. Yet, more reform is needed to enact actual legislation to justify immigration. Obama's progress has indeed swayed the streak of illegal immigration, but more work undoubtedly remains. The states' attempts at restricting immigration is understandable, as it's a great deal of their money lost in the housing of illegal immigrants. Yet, state laws should lie somewhat in correlation with federal law; the dissonance between the two would create unnecessary rift.

5/23/2011
Irving/TX
Brittany P
Bradley/Nimitz
I disagree with illegal immigration, and support the punishment/deportation of illegal immigrants and the companies hiring them. I also agree that there should be a policy in place, but not until there is secure control on our borders. If the U.S. can first lock down our borders and bring the illegal immigration to a halt, then they can present the new immigration reform. I think it is the states right to enforce their own laws as the federal government will not be as concerned with single states, so they must make their own actions. I have recently seen on cars "They can't deport us all", isn't that screaming illegal immigrant? So why can't our Texas government or police officers do anything about it if they're deliberately breaking the law?

5/23/2011
Irving/Texas
Aaron M
Bradley/Nimitz
The US needs to lock down our boarders, then implement new immigration policies. The boarders should be shut down until new policy can come into effect and until the proper security is stationed at the boarders. Illegal immigration needs to be prevented, and the illegal immigrants need to be sent home until they can come here legally. What is the point in having a law about immigration if it is not enforced? Illegals are here *illegally;* their name says it all. Until the borders are secure and illegal immigration is stopped, there is no point in reforming immigration policy.

5/20/2011
Irving/ Tx
LaTisha V.
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
I strongly disagree with illegal immigration, I feel that if you can't come to the U.S. legally then you shouldn't be in the country at all. But it is not enough to just block the borders, that will change nothing. A large portion of the population is illegal immigrants. It will not work to just make sure no more immigrants come illegal. Something has to be done with the ones that are already here. Giving them jobs isn't going to help the issue either. I strongly believe that the country has to work as one to prevent and do something about illegal immigrants. Don't let them through the borders, don't give them jobs, don't allow them in the schools. If they are in this country illegal, give them legal residence, or send them back.

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