After Congress’ rigorous effort to pass health care reform, the next big issue President Barack Obama is trying to tackle is immigration reform – one of his campaign promises.
Obama’s proposal calls for fortifying U.S. borders, increasing the efficiency of the citizenship process, punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants and working with the Mexican government to create more jobs in Mexico. He hopes to create a plan to satisfy both sides of the issue.
It’s not the first time a president has proposed a complete revamp of the immigration system. George W. Bush failed to close the borders and deal with the millions of undocumented workers in the U.S.
Unlike with health care, there isn’t quite as much uproar. But Obama must succeed where Bush failed. Immigrants already in the country must be given a path to citizenship, so they can continue contributing to the U.S. economy.
Many lawmakers are reluctant to get behind the bill, but some type of immigration reform must be passed. The government owes it to the nation’s Hispanic population, which will continue to grow. Some states have taken matters into their own hands – though not for the better.
Arizona passed a controversial new immigration law that allows the police to ask for identification from anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. Critics said the law will lead to racial profiling, and Obama said to Congress that if it didn’t act, it would lead to more “misguided efforts,” according to the Los Angeles Times. This is a step in the wrong direction, and it must be reversed.
There are some common misconceptions about the issue, one being that illegal immigrants benefit from the U.S. economy, but do not pay taxes. However, according to The Associated Press (AP), illegal immigrants paid billions of dollars in federal income, Medicare and Social Security taxes this year. They are also unable to file for income tax returns or Social Security benefits, which they pay an estimated $9 billion into annually, according to the AP.
It’s clear that undocumented workers are vital to the economy. But it’s unfortunate that candidates who fear losing voters avoid creating a clear path to citizenship. It’s time to stop the runaround and answer the call once and for all.
From a country that blares a creed, “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free,” it is hard to fathom how divided the U.S. is on the issue. Lawmakers should work to make sure the country lives up to its credo.
Any individual who is willing to make an honest living should have an opportunity to be an American. The country should be a refuge for those enterprising souls who only need a dream and an opportunity.
Casting these people aside and labeling them as invaders is limiting the scope of a dream. Congress must respond and bring a federal presence to the table, passing a better reform bill than what Arizona offered.
Jean Telcy is a senior majoring in mass communications.