America to absorb 11 million illegal immigrants

Rising star: Marco Rubio, the Latino senator leading immigration reform © Getty Images

Young ‘Dreamers’ who live and work in the shadows of the US without legal status may be offered a path to becoming legitimate members of society. It’s a rare moment of political agreement.

They call themselves the ‘Dreamers’: young people who have grown up calling America their home, but who, because they were brought in illegally, lack the legal status to get a student loan or a driving licence. They have no way to work or even remain in the country without being in constant breach of the law, and face deportation at any minute.

Now, in what would be a historic victory for bipartisan politics, they could be absorbed into the ranks of US citizenry. The right wing Republican party and their Democratic rivals have reached an agreement and this week published proposals for immigration reform, to rescue these illegal immigrants from living in constant fear of the authorities.

The politicians hope it will enable the ‘Dreamers’ to become real examples of the American Dream – the country’s long held belief that in the USA, perhaps uniquely on earth, anyone with any background can come to achieve their ambitions.

An estimated 11 million people living in the United States are ‘undocumented,’ either because they or their parents entered the country illegally. And President Obama promised to tackle the issue during this, his second and final term.

Described as ‘surprisingly generous,’ the changes would allow even those who have recently been deported (unless for criminal activities) to become American citizens, as long as they have close relations in the US.

Set to benefit most are Asian and Hispanic communities, where the generations are often a mixture of legal and undocumented family members. And first in line to argue for the proposals has been Senator Marco Rubio, whose Cuban roots and success as a rising star in the Republican party make him an ideal champion for reforms which President Obama on Tuesday called ‘commonsense steps.’

Latino voters shunned the Republicans in the latest US election, and experts predict that because of a rapid rise in that part of the population, they will struggle to regain the White House unless they broaden their appeal to ethnic minority voters.

Politics or history?

‘Aha!’ say some suspicious commentators. This initiative is all about two rival political parties courting a particular set of voters - bringing them into the fold will make these millions part of the electorate, and neither side wants to oppose this legislation and alienate them.

Others point to America’s long history as a nation in which successive waves of immigrants arrived to make their fortune - building a relatively young country into the most successive economy in the world. As Obama said, these changes will not only reunite families - they will absorb entrepreneurs and hard workers into a nation still fighting its way out of recession.

You Decide

  1. Is an ‘amnesty’ for illegal immigrants a good idea? Give your reasons.
  2. A major news agency, Associated Press, has asked journalists not to use the phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ because it encouraged negative stereotypes. Are they right?

Activities

  1. Write to your MP with your opinion of what America is doing and relating it to your own country’s challeges.
  2. Research the ethnic background of current US citizens and design an interesting way to present your findings. Decide how many generations back you go.

Some People Say...

“There’s never been a nation like the United States, ever.’ Senator Marco Rubio”

What do you think?

Q & A

Other countries could never have a similar amnesty.
Interesting point: in the UK, one party proposed a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants at the last election but it proved to be very unpopular. Many will argue that America’s unique background and enduring character as a nation created through many different waves of immigration, create a totally different debate there.
So will this change anything for non-Americans?
Possibly. With the whole global economy sluggish, every nation is looking for ways to boost business and restore prosperity. If they see even right wing politicians in the US like Rubio supporting this move as pro-business, maybe it will gain supporters elsewhere.

Word Watch

Final term
The US constitution prevents the President standing for election a third time. President Obama won in 2008 and again in 2012 so will be barred from the 2016 contest.
Undocumented
Americans campaigning to become citizens prefer to call themselves and the rest of the 11 million affected by this political initiative ‘undocumented’ rather than ‘illegal’. They, and the news organisation Associated Press, say the phrase conjures up a harmful stereotype.
Marco Rubio
The son of Cuban immigrants, Senator Rubio is only 41 and was elected a Florida Senator in 2011. But he is already seen as potential future Republican Presidential candidate because of his modern image and allegiance to the party’s growing right wing conservative wing, the Tea Party.
Young country
America was a territory fought over during the 1700s by England and France, finally becoming a British colony in 1763. But in 1775 the colonists rebelled, starting the war of independence, and by 1783 had thrown off the British crown to become a nation in its own right.

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