Renewed Calls for Immigration Reform

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down some parts of Arizona’s controversial immigration law while upholding some elements of the legislation. Once the Supreme Court decision was announced, legislators and advocates called for Congress to make federal reforms to immigration laws. However, it is unknown whether major immigration reforms will be successful, especially given the poor track record of such reform attempts in the past.

Experts believe that Congress may never agree to pass a large bill which would address many immigration problems. What to do about undocumented immigration is especially mired in controversy. It is estimated that about 11.5 million immigrants are in the country without legal status. While some would like to see some of those undocumented immigrants receive status or even wide-spread amnesty, others want to see them deported. Legislators and elected representatives are similarly divided on the issue.

Congress has already tried to pass larger bills for immigration reform – in 2006 and 2007 – but those did not pass. Any future attempts may be more modest reforms, but that will depend on the president and on public support. Many experts predict that wide-range immigration reforms could take many years and would likely come about as part of piecemeal efforts.

In 2006 and 2007, sweeping immigration reforms supported by Senator John McCain, Rep. Jeff Flake, and Senator Jon Kyl were not successful in part because they included a way for undocumented immigrants to eventually gain citizenship. Many conservative Republicans oppose any such measures, saying that they amount to amnesty. Currently, Kyl, McCain, and Flake say that the US must first secure its borders to prevent new undocumented immigrants from arriving before any wide-spread immigration reform can take place.

Undocumented immigration remains one of the most controversial issues in immigration reform – as well as the most emotional issue. The more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the US contribute to the US economy and provide low-cost labor for many industries, but they also have no status. When undocumented immigrants commit crimes or have children – who are by virtue of being born in the US, US citizens – the issue becomes even more complex. Many undocumented immigrants have lived in the US for years and have built entire lives here, so determining what to do with the issue is complicated, at best.

Many states have been unhappy that the federal government is not doing enough to stop undocumented immigration. As a result, states such as Arizona have passed their own legislation in an effort to curb undocumented immigration. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, states introduced 53 immigration laws in the first half of 2011 alone. Many of these laws were based on Arizona’s SB 1070. Now that parts of that law have been struck down, states may be looking more to the federal legislators to create immigration solutions.