“How do we remain a country that is both diverse but also has a firm integration policy?”, asked Igor Tymofeyez, director of immigration policy and senior advisor for refugee and asylum affairs at the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. This question of U.S. identity has occurred since the early 20th century. At this time, immigration was based upon a quota system. Immigration from Northern and Western Europe was encouraged, while Jews and Latin Americans were discouraged from coming to the United States. As Stephen Pitt, professor of history and American studies at Yale University noted, “there was a fear of cultural assimilation”. In the 1960’s, with the passage of the Hart-Celler Immigration Bill of 1965, family unifcation became the overriding principal of immigration. This focus continued in the Immigration Reform and Control(IRCA) of 1986, the basis of our current immigration policy.
Panelists argue that IRCA put polices into place that led to the current large population of illegal immigrants in the United States today. While the law offered amnesty to anyone how had resided in the United States since before 1982, it cut off any future flow of legal immigrants. Yet people were still drawn to the United States for jobs that were readily available. The magnet was work says Myers. In addition, political turmoil and revolutions in Central America, massive structural adjustments in Mexican economy, and the increased numbers of foreign owned factories along the U.S. – Mexican border that employ Mexican workers, all acted as “push factors”, driving people into the United States.
Because U.S. immigration policy made it so difficult to gain citizenship, it artificially built up an undocumented population.
These are excerpts from an article on an immigration symposium. I found the article very informative and truly gained insight into the dynamics of this complicated issue. What I liked best, was that a need was identified to have an open process regarding immigration a need to flexible. Immigration policy is not a one time fix, but most be monitored constantly to ascertain, what policies are working and what is no longer effective.