Immigration has been cornerstone of policy debate for decades. The debate has focused on many different aspects of the reform, but the U.S. economy and border protection have always been at the epicenter of the discussion. As expected, policy approach for the immigration reform is divided across party lines. Democrats emphasize economic benefits of a larger labor market and the right for a path to citizenship for immigrants residing in the country while republicans focus on border security and amnesty threats.
The argument put forth by the Democratic Party is a moral one, based on the United States immigration heritage. President Obama and his party emphasize the need for a road to citizenship for undocumented residents who currently live in the shadows of our society. The President argues that these residents have contributed to the U.S. economy and have placed roots and families in this country, yet the United States has not rewarded their hard work and dedication. On the contrary, the current immigration system has left 11 million undocumented residents living in fear of our institutions. The President especially focuses on the children of undocumented parents (‘The Dreamers’) who were brought to this country through no fault of their own. To be clear, this liberal view does not neglect the need for undocumented individuals to admit they have broken the law; on the contrary, it assumes immigrants will be required to pay adequate penalty in fees and taxes for their illegal stay in the United States.
Republicans, on the other hand, are fearful of setting a precedence for lax immigration reform, which, they argue, will encourage illegal immigration in the future and put in question the security of our borders. The republican view also brings to question the effect on the economy of the 11 million illegal residents who would become citizens (and therefore would be entitled to all government and social services) as a result of Obama’s reform. Consequently, policy aspects discussed by republicans focus mostly on work permits for illegal immigrants, rather than options for citizenship.
While most politicians agree that the current immigration system is broken, their idea for the reform is different. The Democratic Party supports an ‘open door’ immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants while republicans focus on employment permits, arguing that illegal immigrants have broken the law and should not be awarded a citizenship. Until common language is agreed on and consensus reached, the battle for immigration will continue, with no productive implications for residents living in the shadows of illegal immigration.