That is the immigration reform in the United States, a political conflict between what has been promised, what is possible, what is desirable and what is appropriate, a challenge that the Democrats are now facing. Meanwhile, the undocumented population has almost quadrupled.
This 6th November marks 35 years since the promulgation of the amnesty that legalised some three million people. It happened in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president. However, subsequent efforts by Democratic and Republican administrations did not bear fruit.
Neither of the former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (Democrat) reached that objective when they had strong support in congress. It was not firmed up into a reform due, especially, to pressure from the most conservative sectors who insisted on including strong – and sometimes inhumane – security measures on the southern border.
Donald Trump did little in this direction. Rather, he initiated the building of a wall and the push of xenophobic measures against those who attempted to enter the country, whom he described as terrorists, thieves and drug addicts, among other epithets.
Now, with Joe Biden in power, one of his first acts was to bring forward an immigration reform plan, which among other things fixed a route for granting citizenship to millions of people who arrived in the country before 2011. But, in practice, it has all remained just a promise.
Pro-immigration groups are pressuring him to keep his word.
According to experts of the topic like Maribel Hasting, an advisor to American Voice, the organisations that defend immigrants are right to criticise the Biden administration for not doing enough to help undocumented people.
Millions of immigrants have spent decades living in the shadows, working and paying taxes in secret, building a family and a future on United States territory, she says.
In the Democrats’ way is a whole maze created by the Trump government, difficult to untangle and a barrier to progress on this topic.
The last few weeks, for example, have seen the restarting of the former Republican president’s “Remain in Mexico” programme, which places thousands of immigrants in a desperate situation and which has been strongly criticised by “Welcome With Dignity”, a wide coalition which brings together defenders of immigrants.
Biden wanted to cancel it but the courts demanded that it continue. The programme as Trump implemented it was a sham to reject asylum applications, after obliging immigrants to remain for a long time at the mercy of the violent environment that reigned in Mexico.
The continuation of this policy allows the administration to defend itself from Republican criticism about opening the borders. For that reason, the coalition is accusing the government of taking advantage of the situation for political ends.
According to analysts, the issue of immigration is politically thorny, but that does not justify keeping quiet when the Democrats do not fulfil their promises.
The proposal to only issue work permits to and protect from deportation between seven and eight million undocumented people was the latest alternative that the “blue party” tried to include in the budgetary agreement with the senate but, apparently, it did not progress.
Indeed, the so-called “Plan C” would protect from deportation and grant work permits to those who entered the United States before 1st January 2011. The permit would be for five years renewable for another five years for people who meet the requirements.
What is certain is that three-and-a-half decades later there is still no reform and the undocumented population has almost quadrupled in size.
The two sides use immigrants as a political football without a solution favourable to this sector of the population, which has a substantial weight in the United States economy, being anywhere in sight.
For example, some of the data from organisations close to the issue indicate that Mexican migrants satisfy the growing demand of the United States labour market.
Mexican migrants’ contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006 reached 485 billion dollars or 3.7% of the total. This group represents over 4.7% of the United States workforce. At that time, they brought 268 billion dollars to the dynamisation of the internal market through the exercise of their capacity to consume. (PL)