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US Immigration Reform: Who benefits?

On April 4th 2007, the continuing tensions surrounding US immigration reform and its effect on American industry was highlighted on a raid on the Cargill pork plant in Illinois. In the raid, 62 illegal immigrants were arrested and taken into custody. While they are part of an independent sanitation crew, the Cargill raid and make up of the workforce is common among meat producing companies throughout the US as well as support companies. In Cargill alone, one-third of the workforce is Hispanic, while the majority of the sanitation crew is made up of Hispanics. Out of the 62 arrested, 13 were taken for identity theft, 49 on immigration charges including the manager of the sanitation company as well as the personnel administrator.

See Reuters Article: US Immigration officals arrest 62 at pork plant

While Cargill's official policy is to hire legal immigrants, they are not alone in being swept up in complex employment factors which affect almost every industry in the US. With the approach of the next US election there is a push to reform immigration laws to allow for legal immigration, while deterring illegal immigration. President Bush proposed raising the H-1B visa cap by making it easier to become a temporary guest worker in the US. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee also proposed a comprehensive immigration reform which would allow for immigrants to be naturalized if they resided in the US for more than 5 years, would take English classes, offered community service and were of a "good moral character".

Not all in the US have such a positive view to an open policy towards immigration reform. In December of 2005, the House of Representatives Bill 4437 (H.R. 4437) was introduced by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. The proposal was to build a 700 mile fence along the Mexican border, criminalize actions which help illegal immigrants as well as mandatory detention of illegal aliens. While Bill 4437 was passed in the House of Representatives, the Senate in May 2006 passed a compromise bill that proposed a 370 mile fence to be built and that illegal immigrants already in the country would have a legal route to citizenship. It would also provide for 200,000 more guest workers per year.

See Video ,

Despite the adjustment of policy, the issues surrounding immigration reform will likely not offer an easy solution for any future candidate. In a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, it was found that there were currently between 11.5 million and 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the US, with 600,000 still residing in the US after being ordered to leave. Even after $204 million were spent to establish an effective program from deporting "fugitive aliens", the lack of funding, detention space and the fact that since Feb 2002, there has been an 88% increase in the number of fugitive aliens, shows how difficult it is for any policymaker to devise an effective solution to the problem of immigration reform. With the next President likely having immigration reform as one of the main issues in the next few years, it remains to be seen if any policy or reform of the US immigration system will give any advantage to political candidates in the next Presidential election.



Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration