What to Expect With Immigration During 2011

Immigration experts predict that immigration enforcement will be a hot topic in 2011, but don’t expect enactment until after the election.

Immigration is likely to be as hot a topic in 2011 as it was during 2010, according to experts. Democrats and immigration lobbyists are worried about the growing power of Republicans in the White House and across many states. While President Obama has stated that he will push for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (the DREAM Act) and for immigration law reforms, Congress may not be cooperative.

The DREAM act, which would give children who are undocumented immigrants the chance to pursue citizenship through education or military service, has been a dream for more than ten years. It was most recently defeated again in the latter half of 2010. The left is trying to create legislation and inquiries which would help the act pass, but it could be a hard two years for supporters of the bill.

The new Congress has already suggested that some immigration reforms will be approached in 2011. Conservative legislators have proposed legislation which would prevent the children of undocumented immigrants from claiming birthright citizenship in 14 states. A similar legislation was introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-IA. HR140 would not allow for automatic citizenship rights to any child born in the US, but would rather impose restrictions on what is now universal birthright citizenship.

Republicans in the House, including Homeland Security Chairman Peter King and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, have promised to hold a number of hearings to discuss enforcement of immigration laws under the Obama administration. The Republicans have also expressed an interest in seeing tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

Another hot-button immigration topic in 2011 is likely to be state immigration laws. Since Arizona created tough new legislation in 2010 which required all immigrants to show documentation on demand to police authorities and required police to ask for such documentation, six states have introduced proposals for similar laws. At the same time, there are a number of lawsuits rejecting and fighting such laws, so that one issue which will need to be resolved in 2011 is whether states have the right to create their own immigration laws if they feel that the federal laws are being enforced laxly.

Enforcement of immigration is also likely to be a key topic for legislators in 2011. Washington is already listening to proposals which would see new immigration enforcement tools, including increased mandatory checks and verification of employee immigration status. There is also an ongoing debate about the enforcement of laws. The Obama administration is claiming that they removed or deported 400 000 ineligible immigrants in 2010, and hope to remove 404,000 this year, a record. However, critics note that the U.S. Border Patrol caught less than 500,000 illegal immigrants trying to enter the country in 2010 – the lowest capture amount in many years. Critics claim that the Obama administration is taking a “soft” stance on illegal immigration and is not doing enough to enforce laws against undocumented residents.

Since legislators want to appease voters worried about undocumented workers but don’t wish to alienate voters who are from various ethnic backgrounds, experts predict that while immigration legislation will be hotly debated in 2011, not much legislation about the topic will be enacted before elections in 2012.