from The News
Immigration reform in the U.S. Senate
- Published on Monday, 01 July 2013 01:10
By Liébano Sáenz
The passing of the immigration reform bill this Thursday in the U.S. Senate is a transcendent measure for both the U.S. and for Mexico. Common sense has finally prevailed. The change isn’t a concession to illegality, as the reform’s opposers would have you believe. In reality, immigrants represent a significant economic contribution for the U.S. Yet, their “irregular” status creates distortions that should be solved through a fair and inclusive formal structure.Another factor that helped change political opinion toward undocumented immigrants is the growing influence of the “Hispanic” vote in elections. Republicans need to be proactive, as the support by this electorate for Democrats is overwhelming. In some ways, what the U.S. gains through immigration, Mexico loses. Many valuable young people and women leave the country because of a lack of opportunity in their hometowns.More than a few regions have been depleted of human capital precisely because of this, though you can’t ignore the benefit of remittances sent by immigrants to their families in Mexico. Unfortunately, these funds in the best part are spent on consumption, rather than invested. Temporary migration is an option that can benefit both countries. U.S. labor organizations and the country’s Chamber of Commerce have agreed on a temporary work program that could create up to 200,000 jobs, depending on economic variables such as unemployment and the opportunities presented by the labor market.The immigration reform has the ability to solve the illegal status of 11 million people. The content of the bill could still be modified, however, in the House of Representatives — the equivalent of our Chamber of Deputies. The reform doesn’t propose an amnesty, but a long process spanning more than 13 years for formalized citizenship, during which migrants would need to show they have no criminal record, pay a fine, pay their taxes, and learn English.One of the most controversial aspects of the bill is the proposal that undocumented immigrants would obtain legal status as soon as they start the process — something that would not only bestow them with labor and legal rights, but would mean a virtual integration into the formal work force. An illegal status currently not only means a lower wage, but also jobs in areas that are of little interest to the formal workforce. There are two principal worries among conservatives: they feel uneasy on the one hand “rewarding” those that have entered U.S. territory illegally, and on the other hand, they don’t want to be seen privileging foreigners over natives.The fact is, immigration has always been a fundamental component driving the North American economy. If indeed it’s true that the country’s conservatives traditionally align themselves with the Republican party, it’s also true that here have been important figures in favor of immigration reform within this institution.President George W. Bush sought to make changes to the system (in vain), and now, Marco Rubio, a Cuban American Republican senator from Florida was a key member of the bipartisan committee of eight senators who achieved consensus in the Senate. At 42 years old, he has been rumored as a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Concessions made to conservative lawmakers for the bill to pass meant a commitment to strengthening border security through more border guards, more fly-overs, more technology to watch over the border and the construction of more walls.
As with everything, it’s clear that there is a unilateral solution, a product of the political balance that exists in the Senate — a much more favorable environment for the immigrant cause than that in the House of Representatives.
The Mexican Foreign Secretariat has expressed the government’s support for the immigration reform, and a more modern and efficient border. It has also signaled that illegal immigration cannot be tackled by walls or police, but by attending the root causes that push individuals to migrate. It’s clear that the best solution for Mexico is a growing economy, one of the principal aims of the federal government and the Pact for Mexico.
The reforms and the accord in Congress between opposition parties and the government has been a recent phenomenon with enormous potential to improve the negative image of the country around the world, and in this way, make the country more attractive for foreign direct investment.
Though Mexicans comprise the largest number of immigrants in the U.S., they coexist alongside many other nationalities. In the case of the Hispanic groups, Mexico should assume a position of agreement and understanding with Central American countries where, owing to the size of their populations and economies, immigration has become a factor governing economic stability and the nation’s well-being.
As such, Mexico’s foreign policy in relation to the countries to its south should be based on a common goal of responsibility — a central tenet of the immigration issue — and particularly, a complete respect for human rights. This is something demanded of Mexico because of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that travel north through Mexico from Central America and other parts of the continent.
The legislative route to ratify the Senate’s decision looks to be complicated. The balance between House members favors the conservatives, besides, there isn’t a large Hispanic electorate in many of their regions to put pressure on these representatives who hope for reelection — one of the most potent variables of the legislative vote in the U.S. Congress. The passage of the bill is a question of time.
Sooner or later, the economic and political need created by the millions of undocumented migrants will demand a response.