Reinventing American Immigration Policy for the 21st Century
Katzenstein, Krissy A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law
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
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. …