In the article, America’s Immigration Policy Fiasco: Learning from Past Mistakes, Dr. Douglas Massey provides an overview of the history of Latin-American immigration policy, particularly in regards to Mexico, over the last half-century beginning with policy changes in the sixties.
The policy changes were set into motion by the civil rights movement of the period which created a popular movement towards stamping out racism, particularly within government institutions. While these changes were in many ways beneficial to Asians, Africans, and Eastern Europeans, they threw a monkey wrench into the migrational system between Mexico and the United States where many of the immigrants were temporary workers who would return to Mexico at the end of an agricultural season. The changes limited the number of legal visas that could be obtained, but it did not lessen the number of people to come over the border but rather simply served to change their status from legal to illegal.
Now that they were illegal, though, they were “criminals” which could be used to the advantage of ambitious politicians and bureaucrats who took advantage of the sort of “get tough on crime” attitude that tends to be appealing to the public whether it works or not.
Dr. Massey argues that current policies are counter-productive to the needs and realities of the United States, Mexico and the residents of both countries. He sees immigration reform as a necessity and is supportive of a pathway to legalization for unauthorized immigrants.
Pew Research Center points towards a trend of an increasing number of people who think the emphasis needs to be increasingly on border security opposed to any other immigration issue. (Pew Research Center, 2014) However, if Dr. Massey is correct then this focus is misplaced but expected due to the negative narratives that exist about illegal immigrants.
According to Open Society Foundations, people waiting for a legal visa could do so for years or decades if they do not have any family who are already legal citizens of the country because the visa caps are simply too low for such a large and prosperous country (Open Society Foundations, 2013).
I believe the Mexican population, in particular, draws so much attention due to their proximity. The shared border makes it that much easier to create an environment of fear over the immigrants coming into the country, and exploiting that fear can be beneficial to politicians in the like who make promises to seal the border to keep the country safe.
I personally believe the pros outweigh the cons in regards to creating a path to citizenship. I believe a potentially decades-long wait to come into the country is unreasonable*, and I would prefer people living in this country to be able to freely contribute to taxes to maintain resources, as well as to be able to more freely contribute goods and services to the community they live in*.
Massey, D. (2013). America’s Immigration Policy Fiasco: Learning from Past Mistakes. Daedalus, 5-15.
More Prioritize Border Security in Immigration Debate. (2014, September 3). Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.people-press.org/2014/09/03/more-prioritize-border-security-in-immigration-debate/
Open Society Foundations. (2013, August 1). Why Does the U.S. Need Immigration Reform? Retrieved 2015, from http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/why-does-us-need-immigration-reform
**To expand upon the above now that I’m a little older – Every year I seem to become more aware of how fleeting life it, and to be honest, it seems a little ridiculous to me that one’s life should be spent wrapped up in a tangle of bureaucracy (for the sake of citizenship) rather than living in and contributing to the community of their choosing. I would imagine that societies can benefit from people who want to be there. A couple of months ago there was an article about how a number of Fortune 500 companies were founded by American Immigrants or their children. Right now our system seems convoluted and bogged down by red tape, and rather than fixing it there seems to be a large focus on being frightened of an “other”. This does not seem to be a beneficial mindset – but, unfortunately, it also seems to be spreading to many areas of our national discourse. We seem to be creating “others” to fear in many areas of our society. At the moment, most prominently, within our borders: in the realm of politics (Democrats vs Republicans or Liberals vs Conservatives).