US Immigration Policy

An immigration policy deals with the migration of individuals across a country's borders. Particularly, it relates to those individuals who plan to remain in the country, legally or illegally, and to find work. Immigration policies can run the gamut, from completely prohibiting all migration to allowing some or all migration. Generally speaking, the immigration policies of a country such as the United States is closely related to other key governmental policies, particularly those of labor unions, but also these policies:

  • Tax, tariff and trade policies determining what types of goods immigrants can bring into the country, what services the immigrating individual is permitted to perform while in the country temporarily and which immigrants may remain in the country permanently
  • Investment policies permitting business investments by wealthy immigrants in exchange for more favorable treatment, easier access to passports and guaranteed permanent resident status
  • Agricultural policies that regularly allow migrant farm workers to enter a country to do work during the harvest season and then to return home when the season is over.
  • Health regulations overseeing inadequate or poor living conditions, including overcrowding, which can easily foster the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases in specific parts of the country.

One important feature of the U.S. immigration policy is refugee treatment, or the treatment of individuals who throw themselves on the government's mercy to apply for entrance to the United States in an effort to escape poor or harsh treatment in their own country.

Of course, the issue of terrorism cannot be ignored. National security is threatened when foreigners are allowed to cross the country's borders because of inadequate or under-enforced regulations. While most people believe terrorists enter the United States from overseas, there is the growing threat of terrorism from within our own country, often driven by easy access to endless and unrestricted information and communication via the Internet. Despite government pressure from some groups to loosen immigration policies in an effort to promote tourism, the fear of terrorism often creates even tighter visa requirements, more invasive security searches and the discouragement of immigration and even temporary visitors, such as foreign students pursuing a U.S. education. Many believe the threat of terrorism will eventually lead to censorship of the Internet, using filters to block terrorist websites, or any site that espouses hatred of other national or ethnic groups.

Recent facts show some interesting trends:

  • Immigration in the U.S. was accelerating up through 2000, but has declined in most states since that time.
  • In states where immigration is still fairly new, immigrants are not yet assimilated and, therefore, fall into the lowest socioeconomic groups. In states like California, however, where immigrants have been settled for as long as 30 years, homeownership, employment and English proficiency rates are positive and continue to increase.
  • The image of the non-English speaking immigrant trapped in poverty and causing a burden to society is quickly falling away. As the so-called Baby Boomers age beyond 65, demand for younger workers increases. In fact, between 2010 and 2030, the ratio of retired seniors to working age adults is expected to increase by 67%. As Medicare spins further into crisis, the labor force develops a voracious appetite for workers, and immigrants fill these jobs, helping to support retired seniors economically, particularly when it comes to purchasing their homes.

From a practical standpoint, U.S. immigration policy should become more closely aligned with an ever-growing global economy, so that immigration policies are more responsive to market forces, while at the same time enforcing tougher labor laws for all workers. Immigration today is a transnational issue, and requires attention and negotiation with countries, particularly Mexico. In this way, the U.S. could gain greater control in monitoring and regulating immigration in a way befitting the new demands of this age-old issue.

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