Immigration Reform

Congress remains deadlocked over immigration. Many Republicans and border state legislators emphasize securing the U.S. border with Mexico as the critical first step toward reform. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl in April 2010 called for 3,000 National Guard troops to help close the border and stem cross-border violence. A bill sponsored by Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Chuck Schumer became law in August 2010, sending about 1,000 additional enforcement personnel to the border and providing increased funding for unmanned surveillance drones. Republicans have also called for an expansion of guest worker programs and for an end to birthright citizenship, which, under the 14th Amendment, means anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen. Democrats, led by Sen. Harry Reid, argue for a “comprehensive” approach--which critics derisively characterize as “amnesty”--including not only border security but also a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already in the country. Frustrated at Congress’s lack of action, several states have moved to institute legislation to enforce immigration law locally, most famously in Arizona. In April 2010, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial law that made many federal immigration-related crimes state crimes as well and required police officers to enforce them. Opponents criticized what they saw as racial profiling. The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in July 2010, arguing that the Arizona immigration law stepped into federal jurisdiction. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the most controversial portions of the law. Immigration reform has also long been a touchstone for Hispanic voters, some of whom have pushed for an end to workplace immigration raids and for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.