North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Saturday, November 22, 2014

US illegal immigration challenges mirror those faced in many countries

This week's U.S. Presidential executive action on illegal immigration has highlighted the similarities between the U.S. and many countries around the world wrestling with borders, refugees (from not only military conflicts, but from economic and political crises), and appropriate responses.

Also similar to any effort among individual countries to develop and implement border and immigration policies, the controversy among political factions is often intense and filled with factions.

In the case of the U.S., the issue is often cast as another Democrat/Republican conflict, but President Obama's actions this week underscores the intent of the most recent Presidential effort by G.W. Bush, who championed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The fact that the comprehensive bill failed to be enacted by Congress highlights why President Obama seven years later felt it worthwhile to push the issue via executive action.

Individuals attempting to leave their own countries and enter others by any means, are overwhelmingly seeking refuge from conflict, oppression, or to better their lives. Many instances of attempts to cross seas are risky and often fatal. Here an overloaded boat from North Africa is intercepted by Maltese and Italian officers. Photo from

U.S. President Obama took actions that shield approximately 4 million illegal (to lower the word choice temperature, let's use "unauthorized") immigrants from the looming possibility of deportation - specifically offering the possibility of a three year reprieve from deportation if one qualifies. At the same time, the border patrol (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)) search for unauthorized individuals would concentrate on felons, not those having arrived in childhood, or who have US born children (hence the soundbite "felons, not families"). As a result of this decision to not deport certain segments, there would be more flexibility for obtaining better paying jobs and many other positives, or so the narrative goes.

The southern border between the U.S. and Mexico is often a stark contrast between a relative dispersed and orderly US side (to the left in this picture, near San Diego, CA) while the Mexican side is teeming, and often full of conflict (to the right, Tijuana, Mexico). Photo from

The anger and resistance to the President's actions stem from a variety of concerns. There seems to be little denial that the U.S. legal immigration system (work visas, green cards, guest worker programs, citizenship requirements, quotas per country) is in need of reform, not to mention illegal immigration, but the complete package to reform immigration (both legal and illegal) is elusive to put it mildly, mainly due to the nearly infinite set of factors and possibilities.

Much of the political resistance to unauthorized immigration focuses on the U.S.-Mexican border, with Mexicans being the largest national immigrant group in the past years. Interestingly, the peak in 2007 coincides with the beginning of the U.S. recession that has subsequently depressed the possibility for unauthorized individuals to find work upon arrival. Graphic from

Legitimate concerns over President Obama's actions are several - does he have legal authority to offer social security numbers or work permits - though he does have the authority to practice discretion in what border agents should prosecute. But perhaps the biggest issue is whether his go it alone approach (without Congressional approval or involvement) represents a pyrrhic victory that sows seeds for court action and possible reversal, or even contradictory legislation from a Republican Congress.

Interestingly, actual border security across the U.S. Southern border is less of a factor in this latest initiative than previously. Many experts believe significant progress on border security has been made. In fact, the U.S. President is also calling for increased security efforts in conjunction with his shielding millions from deportation. The unauthorized immigrant debate has become more focused on economic costs and benefits linked to the sizable underclass already here in the shadows. The ongoing debate over citizenship, rights, and a desire to diminish the festering consequences of millions living in the U.S. without legal status has been given a jolt. Photo from

Points to consider

Unauthorized immigrants may be enjoying better economic lives in the U.S. than in their home countries, but Teatree leans towards this being an unfair permanent underclass - a formidable sized population that businesses can take advantage of and have. All the more reason to reduce the unauthorized pool of individuals living in the U.S. while strengthening the legal immigrant program.

Farm workers come to mind as representing a permanent underclass that businesses rely on. So what should a guest worker program look like? One that maintains workers specific safeguards as to health and safety without fear of deportation, while perhaps diminishing in numbers over time .... Employee verification programs are currently available that would greatly reduce unauthorized immigrant employment, but businesses are against their use, as are many Democrats. Roughly 1.4 million farmworkers are employed on U.S. crop farms annually. Illegal immigrants account for as many as 60 percent or more of them, according to Ronald Knutson, a Texas A&M University emeritus professor in an article found here. Photo from

With a weak U.S. job market, will the increase of over three million individuals more able to look for better work conflict with new legal immigrants or low skill workers already seeking those often low wage jobs?

The recent surge of nearly 50,000 women and children (in this case a woman and her two children from Guatemala) may have contributed to the U.S. President's decision to poke the hornet's nest. Photo from

A naturalization ceremony - these fortunate folks are full U.S. citizens, no need to live in the economic and judicial shadows, and in Teatree's opinion, represent the way to go in addressing immigration. A healthy, out-in-the-open increase in legal immigration is the process that moreover has consistently been a bright point in U.S. history. Photo from

Regardless, for those unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., often with decades and multiple generations involved, perhaps the President's provocative actions will spark some progress across the broader front of border security, citizenship, and compassion for what is in this country, a history of peoples seeking a new life and opportunity.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Amazing border photo.