Reinventing American Immigration Policy for the 21st Century

By Katzenstein, Krissy A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Reinventing American Immigration Policy for the 21st Century


Katzenstein, Krissy A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

With an estimated eleven to twelve million undocumented workers currently in the United States, the need for immigration reform is critical. As lawmakers grapple with the question of how to best meet the needs of the country, they should keep in mind that the United States is a country of immigration. If the U.S. reverts to a guest worker program like that proposed by the Bush administration, it should expect the results that history suggests--worker exploitation, falling wages, deteriorating working conditions, and discrimination. However, proposals calling for immediate permanent legal status also fail to completely address the needs of the country because the United States is no longer the developing country it once was. Therefore, a fundamentally new policy is likely necessary to address the number of undocumented workers in the United States as well as the needs of the country. One such policy would allow guest workers to obtain permanent legal status through a points program that would award points for achievements that promote both social and economic integration, and thus preserve the melting pot.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 I. INTRODUCTION
II. AN OVERVIEW OF IMMIGRATION POLICY AND CALLS
    FOR REFORM
    A. The Changing Face of Immigration: Past
       and Present Immigration Policy in the
       United States and Germany
       1. The United States
          a. Immigration Policy
          b. Migrant Worker Programs
       2. Germany
          a. Immigration Policy
          b. The Gastarbeiter Program
             and Migration to Germany
          c. Current Immigration Policy
             in Germany
    B. Proposals for Immigration Reform in the
       United States
       1. The Bush Administration's Proposal
       2. An Alternative Proposal
IV. A CRITICAL LOOK AT THE PROPOSALS FOR
    IMMIGRATION REFORM
    A. The Objectives of Immigration Reform
       in the United States and Germany
    B. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Bush
       Administration's Proposal
       1. Problems with the Bush Administration's
          Proposal
          a. Ignoring the Melting Pot
          b. Adopting Bracero Problems
          c. Recreating the Gastarbeiter
             Dilemma
       2. Benefits of the Bush Administration's
          Guest Worker Program
          a. A Solution for Undocumented
             Workers
          b. A Ready Source of Cheap Labor for
             Employers
    C. The Strengths and Weaknesses of the
       "Save America Comprehensive
       Immigration Act".
       1. Flaws of SACIA
          a. Challenging "Earned Access to
             Legalization"
          b. Failing on Integration
       2.  Strengths of SACIA
          a. Maintaining the Melting Pot
          b. Hope for Foreign and Domestic
             Workers
 V. TRANSFORMING GUEST WORKERS INTO FULL
    CITIZENS: A PROPOSAL OF COMPROMISE
    A. The Basic Structure
    B. Compliance Incentives
    C. Incorporating the Strengths of both Bush's
       and Jackson-Lee's Proposals
       1. The Melting Pot
       2. The Effect on Foreign and Domestic
          Workers
       3. Prioritizing Integration
VI. CONCLUSIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

As the United States juggles with the idea of immigration reform, one of the most fundamental principles of the United States is being threatened--the notion of the melting pot. Since elementary school, many U.S. students have learned that "America" has welcomed immigrants from around the world and that the success of this country has been built on the hard work of all Americans, including immigrants. However, with many proposals calling for a guest worker program, (1) it is unclear whether the melting pot can survive. Thus, when drafting proposals for reform, legislators should recognize that the implications of reform affect not only how foreign citizens enter this country, but also how the U.S., as a country, perceives itself. …

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