Foreign Policy Blogs

Immigration Reform Planned by Obama Administration

Next year the Obama administration will likely push for comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes millions who are currently in the United States without documentation. The US has an estimated 11 million “illegal immigrants, representing approximately 3% of the total population. (Note: Please see a clarification on terminology below.)

This is an astonishing number. Albeit the immigrants are not evenly distributed across each state or region, consider this mental exercise. The typical Major League baseball game draws nearly 30,000 fans. Imagine that the next time you got to the ballpark, statistically speaking, you are cheering alongside nearly 1,000 undocumented persons.

The debate on granting citizenship to “illegal immigrants” aside, one major roadblock to changing documentation is the capacity of the major government agency charged with this role, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency is working to put a system in place that will allow it to speed its processing capacity. A New York Times article provides further insight into these preparations.

When President Bush raised immigration reform in 2007 it drew enormous attention from proponents and opponents nationwide. No doubt USCIS is aware of this, and therefore “officials have held meetings around the country in recent weeks to gather suggestions from the public for the overhaul”. It appears that 2010 holds the promise of more rallies and rhetoric about US immigration policy.

At present, Obama is already finding it challenging to pass new health care legislation. Once it is over, how much political capital will he still have to tackle immigration? No doubt, each remain critical issues for the United States in the 21st century.

Terminology: As an aside, the correct terminology for use in this case is actually irregular migrant, which does not have such a negative connotation, and separates the individual, the migrant, from an action, illegal entry. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines irregular migrants as persons who move to a new location by means of irregular or illegal methods, without officially recognized documentation. These irregular migrants are not illegal people, but may indeed be in another country illegally. For further analysis on the debate over terms, please see this article within Migraciones Internacionales.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.