"To Govern Is to Populate": Argentine Immigration Law and What It Can Suggest for the United States
Slater, Victoria, Houston Journal of International Law
I. NATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS--THE AMERICAN AND ARGENTINE EXPERIENCES A. A History of United States Immigration B. A History of Argentine Immigration II. THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LAW A. Argentina--Human Rights and the National Migration Act B. The Plan Patria Grande C. The U.S.--Immigrants, Non-Immigrants, and "Illegals" D. At an Impasse--The Proposed U.S. Immigration Reforms III. GETTING TO YES--ARGENTINE IDEAS AND U.S. POLICY. A. Why the Immigration Reform Bills Did Not Pass B. Could the Argentine Plan work in the U.S.? IV. CONCLUSION
"TO GOVERN IS TO POPULATE" (1)
During the recent presidential campaign, it was anticipated that there would be several hot button issues that the candidates would need to focus on. (2) One of these anticipated issues was immigration and the reform of our current immigration law. (3) Yet, amid a floundering economy and intense debate over the war in Iraq, the immigration issue receded into the background. (4) Immigration reform was such a sensitive and controversial issue that, in a time of national distress, the candidates stayed away from discussing it. (5) It was an issue easily forgotten, as the immigration laws most devastatingly affect the one group of people in the U.S. who are unable to do anything about it: immigrant non-citizens who are ineligible to vote.
An ongoing debate exists concerning immigration law and undocumented immigrants in the United States. (6) These debates heated up during 2006 and 2007 when several immigration reform bills were introduced into the House and Senate. (7) These bills purported to contend with the perceived rise in "illegal" immigration in the United States, and their proposals ranged from building fences to creating guest worker programs and granting partial amnesty. (8) In contrast, Argentina, arguably the country most similar to the U.S. when it comes to immigration flows, has recently passed various immigration laws and resolutions to deal with a similar undocumented population. (9)
The new immigration policy changes in Argentina can serve as a guidepost for immigration reform in the United States, given the similarities between the two countries' immigration history and recent challenges with undocumented immigrants. However, implementing Argentina's very liberal policy, with its focus on human rights, (10) may be a challenge in the United States without some modifications.
This Comment is divided into four parts. Part I traces the history of immigration in both the United States and Argentina, then discusses the legislative histories of both countries, and finally explores the current immigration situation of both countries. Part II describes and analyzes the immigration law that is currently in place in the United States and Argentina. Part III then builds upon the previous analysis of the current law by determining the pitfalls of the recent legislation in Argentina and the plausibility of its implementation in the United States, with Part IV concluding that the Argentine policy is perhaps the most equitable solution for the United States, with some modifications.
I. NATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS--THE AMERICAN AND ARGENTINE EXPERIENCES
A. A History of United States Immigration
Historically the United States is a country of immigrants. (11) According to the 1790 United States census, there were 3,929,214 people in the territorial United States. (12) Of this population, the majority was immigrants or only one or two generations removed from immigrants. (13) In 1790, the first immigration statutes were passed in the United States, which regulated naturalization (14) through a two-year residency period and required repudiation of all other national loyalties and any claims to nobility. (15) This liberal policy soon changed in response to turmoil in other parts of the world, with acts in 1795 and 1798 raising the residency requirement for citizenship to five and fourteen years, respectively. (16) In 1819, the United States began requiring ship captains to submit a register of everyone on board when the ship arrived at ports in the United States. (17) Nevertheless, from the founding of the nation until the last few decades of the nineteenth century, very few restrictions existed on who entered the country. (18) However, starting in the 1870s, Congress began to pass acts that restricted immigration, which were usually aimed at groups that were considered undesirable--such as convicts, prostitutes, and migrants from Asia and southern Europe. (19)
Even with increased restrictions, from 1850 to 1930, the foreign-born population of the United States increased from 2.2 million to 14.2 million. (20) For the first part of the nineteenth century, the U.S. economy was largely agrarian. (21) America was perceived to be a land with infinite opportunities for settlement and endless possibilities to gain wealth. (22) With virtually unrestricted borders and vast prospects, mass immigration was actively encouraged. (23) However, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the economy was turning towards industry and America was becoming an increasingly urban society. (24) A shift in the ethnic origins of immigrants to the United States came with this economic change--rather than a continued emigration of farmers from northern and western Europe, more immigrants were unskilled laborers from eastern and southern Europe and Asia. (25) These new immigrants spurred a nationalistic and xenophobic reaction in the more established American population, which had a lasting effect on subsequent U.S. immigration policy. (26)
In 1921, the U.S. government began instituting quotas on the number of immigrants from various countries, a policy that was solidified by the National Origins Act of 1924. (27) Despite a series of laws passed during and after World War II dealing with labor shortages and American servicemen returning with war brides, the 1924 legislation on immigration remained in place through the middle of the century. (28) In 1952, the first Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was passed--a comprehensive statute that pulled together all the previous immigration codes put into force by the government and reaffirmed the quota system. (29)
1. Immigration Re-formed
The INA of 1952 is still the basis for immigration law in the United States. (30) The Act has been updated frequently, often annually, reflecting current attitudes towards and issues surrounding immigration. (31) In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) (32) was passed, making the most substantial changes in Unites States immigration policy since