Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration Reform

By Lina Newton | Go to book overview

Epilogue

As I complete this book, the nation is once again embroiled in a bitter debate over immigration control, how best to accomplish it, and what course to pursue in dealing with the resident unauthorized population, whose size is currently estimated to lie somewhere between 10 and 12 million people. Each chamber of Congress has pursued solutions (either singly or in combination) that follow four general formats: criminalization of the act of illegal immigration and unauthorized presence in the United States; extension and expansion of southern border control efforts, including limited or no due-process procedures for those people apprehended there; expansive guest-worker programs; and a broad-scale legalization program. Supporters of each option have publicly defended their preferred solutions with stories with antecedents that have appeared in policy debates past. These stories continue to enjoy resonance today because they are built upon narratives and social constructions that are so firmly entrenched in the policy culture that even such important contextual changes as new administrations, shifts in party ideology and legislative control, and other key events, cannot dismantle them.

The latest round of immigration reform efforts has occurred amidst several historic changes in the political and policy dynamics of both the United States and Mexico. First was the November 2000 election of Texas governor George W. Bush to the presidency. As the Republican presidential candidate, Bush had worked to pull the Republican Party back from the anti-immigration message that it had pursued nationally in the 1990s, as well as in the West and South. Having accumulated support from Latino voters in his state (he even increased his share of the traditionally Democrat-leaning Latino vote from 28 percent in 1994 to 49 percent for his 1998 re-election), as well serving as a border state governor, Bush had the credentials to steer the national party in a different direction. During his campaign, Governor Bush established that he was interested in pursuing a large-scale guest-worker program and

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