News| Immigration Debate | The Nation Debates the Immigrant Issue

News| Immigration Debate | The Nation Debates the Immigrant Issue

Published February 11, 2008

Posted March 30, 2006 – How should America treat the 11 million people who are living in the United States without proper documentation?

This issue brought thousands of students out of their classrooms this week, and prompted hundreds of thousands to join protests from California to Philadelphia and is at center stage in a summit between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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U.S. Immigration policy is also the hot-button issue fueling bi-partisan and partisan debates in Congress. On one side are those who want to tighten the nation's borders and crack down on the flow of undocumented immigrants across U.S. borders, particularly the borders the United States shares with Mexico.

On the other side are those who agree with President George W. Bush's call for a program that extends rights to people who enter the country illegally to work in what’s called a temporary worker or “guest worker” program.

"There are people doing jobs Americans will not do," the president said Wednesday, noting that America is a nation of immigrants. "Many people who have come into our country are helping our economy grow. That's just a fact of life."

But many agree with union officials who say extending the guest worker program “is a bad idea” because immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

“Guest worker programs are a bad idea and harm all workers,’’ AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement. ‘‘They cast workers into a perennial second-class status, and unfairly put their fates into their employers’ hands.’’

Among the proposals being bantered about Congress is a plan that would:

  • Legalize nearly 2 million immigrants who are already working in the United States under an extended “guest worker” program.
  • Grant 400,000 temporary worker visas each year to new workers.
  • Allow a so-called “guest worker” who has been in the country since 2004 to become a citizen after six years if he or she pays a $1,000 fine and back taxes, and clears a background check.

Another Senate proposal championed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would:

  • Make it a misdemeanor to be in the country without proper documentation.
  • Makes it a crime to assist anyone who is in the country without those documents.
  • Impose stiffer penalties on anyone who knowingly hires someone who does not have proper documents, including 6 months in jail and fines of from $500 to $20,000 for each illegal immigrant hired. 
  • Double the number of worker-based Green Cards to $290,000 and increases the number of high-tech worker visas.

Both bills have nearly identical border security and enforcement plans.

The House-approved immigration reform measure has no guest worker provision, but would:

  • Make it a felony to be in America without proper documentation.
  • Make it a felony to assist any undocumented immigrant.
  • Construct 700 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Require employers to do a Social Security check before hiring a new worker.
  • Call for immediate detention of non-Mexican undocumented immigrants arrested at sea or on land or at ports of entry.

Should undocumented immigrants be allowed to stay in America and work? Or should they face criminal charges?

Tell us what you think. Hit “Discuss Now.”

Written by BET-Staff

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