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Inside Bush’s immigration plan

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In my recent article concerning the United States’ immigration reform policy, I did not have the benefit of the address made by President George Bush on Monday May 15th 2006. Although the address was aimed at discussing immigration reform, issues concerning economic dependency on the US by others, and the ability of the US to influence global migratory patterns and trends were both apparent and direct.

The address was precise on some important points. • Firstly, despite the tightening of the US’ immigration policy, the President recognizes the importance of immigrants’ contribution to the sustained development of the US economy.{{more}}

• Secondly, that a failure to structure a comprehensive immigration plan can be extremely detrimental to the US.

• Thirdly, a weak, unchecked and poorly supervised immigration plan contributes to the weakening of border security, which in turn can be a loophole for the terrorist, and

• fourthly, the new immigration policy is intended to mirror a temporary workers programme.

The President caught most listeners off their guard when he clearly stated in his introduction that there was a most direct link between immigration and terrorism. This was clearly an apparent and an almost totally unjustifiable attempt by the President to link the need for stringent immigration policies with the need to increase homeland security. It is interesting that this took precedent over the more obvious economic justifications available to the President.

The President is aware that the issue of immigration is one which attracts great “emotion”, hence, the new immigration policy could also be used to show those who oppose the war in Iraq that there is at all times an imminent threat by the terrorist to the US, therefore justifying the war on terrorism and all that it entails. The greatest jest of the situation though, is that the immigrants referred to in the address are really people coming from the south particularly Mexico who are armed with no more than straw hats and a worn pair of jeans.

It was not by mere coincidence that the President introduced his address as follows: “There is still an enemy that wants to do us harm and the most important job of the President of the United States is to protect the American people from that harm.” He was extremely clear when he noted, “My job is to use the resources of the United States to prevent such an attack from happening again.” The President was merely saving face by all this talk. However, as the President of a Super Power he has the right to decide the manner in which he handles his internal affairs, and to decide how to use his addresses to justify his actions. In fact, there may be a scintilla of truth in saying that stringent immigration policies would form the most important limb of the War on Terror.

The President was, however, more realistic when he stated that “I believe that, immigration has helped reinvigorate the soul of America. We are a nation of immigrants, we have had a grand tradition in this country of welcoming people into our society; however, the fact that America is a compassionate nation can also be viewed as a weakness.” There are many truths residing in that statement. It is tantamount to the view that in today’s world many good Samaritans in their attempt to show compassion are the same ones who in the long-run must grapple with a host of inflictions directed from the very persons whom they assist.

What was also very interesting is the heavy responsibility that immigration legislation is expected to place on all employers in the US.

The President noted clearly that there is to be an expected increase in manpower to ensure that employers account for the hiring of illegal immigrants. It was also viewed that although a greater responsibility would be placed on employers by the new policy, it was recognized that many employers are actually tricked into hiring persons who are illegal since in many instances they are presented with false documents and have very little means of verifying them.

I cannot fault the President for taking the position that “people ought to be, obviously, here to work only on a temporary basis, the definition of temporary which will be decided in the Halls of Congress.” This, the President contends, would bring order to the immigration situation. However, the President was a bit uncouth when he noted in a reference to immigrants that, “You can come on a temporary basis to do a job Americans won’t do.”

The intention to have a “rational temporary workers plan” is the way forward. One cannot be against this approach, since the immigration policy concerning the free movement of people within the region appears to be structured on a rational immigration plan. The lessons to be learned by the Caribbean region as we embark on the implementation of a single market and economy which involves as one of its primary tenets the free movement of people, is that anticipated migratory patterns in our region must be carefully studied to prevent an economic chaos of imbalances.

So far I hear our leaders merely skim the surface when they speak of the CSME by explaining that people would be able to move from Country X to Country Y to seek employment freely; however, the issue is not so simple. The movement of people is an extremely complex, detailed and many-sided issue, which must be carefully studied.

The long and short of it all is that we must begin to set our own houses in order in the region to respond to the many shocks that may be created by the strengthening of the US immigration policy.

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