How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: Why immigration reform has gone nowhere since 9/11

Photo by jeromebot/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Marchers in downtown Los Angeles rallying for immigration reforms on May 1, 2006

Why is it that in spite of public opinion poll support for broad immigration reforms and two presidents who have pushed for it recently, such initiatives have fallen short in the last decade?

The Migration Policy Institute examines the fate of immigration reform attempts in the post-9/11 era in a new report authored by Marc Rosenblum, an immigration policy specialist with the Congressional Research Service. From the executive summary:

The election of George W. Bush in 2000 seemed to mark a turning point in US immigration policy. Thirty- five years after the last major changes to the US immigration system, and two decades into an increasingly assertive, but mostly ineffective, immigration enforcement policy, the Republican president seemed to see immigration as offering important benefits to the US economy.

He called for a new and large-scale temporary worker program, saw the growing Hispanic population as important swing voters, and met five times in nine months with Mexico’s newly elected president, Vicente Fox.

But migration negotiations with Mexico collapsed following the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001. In the post-9/11 period, Congress passed a series of tough measures to tighten border security and facilitate data collection and information sharing on suspected terrorists, and broadened the government’s power to detain and deport immigrants.

Both Presidents Bush and Barack Obama have supported broader immigration reforms. Yet, while Congress took up “comprehensive immigration reform” (CIR) bills (i.e., legislation combining enforcement, legalization, and changes to the visa system) in 2006 and 2007, it did not deliver a bill for the president’s signature. Legislative action in 2009-10 was limited to debate on a legalization proposal focusing on unauthorized youth (the DREAM Act) — a proposal that was defeated on a procedural vote in the Senate.