to Mr. Jorge Ramos regarding immigration policy
Dear Mr. Ramos:
You propose that the
central element of immigration reform should be amnesty for undocumented
immigrants. While I agree that the
treatment of undocumented immigrants is hypocritical, I think that it no
longer would be possible to carry out a general amnesty for millions of
people who have entered the country illegally or remained with expired visas
after the previous amnesty in 1986.
The atmosphere in the
country is not like in 1986 when Congress passed an Immigration Reform and
Control Act, which included amnesty for undocumented immigrants who had
entered the United States before 1982.
There are several reasons for the change of attitude. The first was 9-11-2001. The attack that day changed everything
about the attitude of citizens towards foreigners, forever. Whether reasonable or not, people in the
country now are suspicious of any foreign person. The thought of granting amnesty all at once
to 11 million foreigners immediately raises this fear.
In addition, there is
simply the large number of undocumented immigrants today compared with
1986. Today there are 11 million (and
some people believe that this figure is too low), while in 1986 there were
3-5 million – while the country’s population has increased only about 30
percent (Pew, “Unauthorized…”). The
population of Hispanics in the United States increased 43 percent in the
decade of 2000-2010 (Pew, “Hispanics…”). These figures
disturb many people, who can see a segment of the population out of control
and incapable of integrating into society.
Then there is the
economy today. The concern of the
President and Congress is trying to pull the country out of the recession,
which has impacted the country since 2008.
This includes issues of jobs and the possibility that undocumented
immigrants take jobs from citizens and documented foreigners. In any case, the priority is for economic
issues, and therefore discussions of immigration policy are far down the
lists of legislators.
As we see in recent
state legislation such as Arizona’s SB 1070, the sentiment of the country
with regard to undocumented immigrants is the opposite of amnesty: instead,
it is to make it the case that it is a crime to be undocumented, that
employers have to use “E-Verify”, and that employers are fined or lose the
business licenses if they hire undocumented immigrants. These laws show the sentiment of the people
of the country (Univision, “Radiografía…”).
For all these reasons
and others, there is no chance that Congress is going to approve the
legalization of 11 million undocumented immigrants. None.
So, I think that it is counterproductive to define “immigration
reform” as “amnesty” and insist on that.
A democracy like ours is a process of discourse to produce a
compromise between different viewpoints.
It serves no one to insist on something that is not going to go
anywhere, from the outset. Therefore,
even though you may sincerely believe that amnesty is the best solution,
perhaps it is time to ask yourself, “But, is it possible?” In your programs such as “Noticias” and “Al Punto” in Univision, I think I’ve
seen that you know the answer: “No, it is not possible now.”
In that case, I think
that the Latino community should redefine what it means by “immigration
reform” and propose realistic measures, which have some chance of being
considered by lawmakers. There are
many possibilities for productive discussions of immigration reform, little
by little, step by step. Perhaps the
measures of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can serve as
guidelines for mutually beneficial arrangements. Workers in Mexico want something, and
businesses and employers in the United States want something, and maybe it is
possible to match the two.
Account for More Than Half of Nation's Growth in Past Decade”. March 25, 2011. Consulted July 10, 2011 in http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1940/hispanic-united-states-population-growth-2010-census
“Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends,
2010”. February 1, 2011. Consulted September 25, 2011 in http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=133
Univision. “Radiografía de estados con leyes similares a la SB1070 de Arizona (X-ray of States
with Laws Similar to Arizona’s SB 1070)”. Noticias de Inmigración (Immigration News). July 8, 2011. Consulted July 10, 2011, in http://noticias.univision.com/inmigracion/noticias/article/2011-06-30/radiografia-estados-como-arizona?ftloc=channel100:cmsStage&ftpos=channel100:cmsStage:1
For information on the topic in English, see Colorlines. “Statehouses Weighing Immigration
Enforcement Bills Styled after Arizona’s SB 1070”. March 2, 2011. Consulted August 3, 2001, in http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/03/sb_1070_copycat_bills.html