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U.S./ Obama, Bush and illegal immigration

Obama is shifting the emphasis given by Bush on the imprisonment or deportation of illegal immigrants working without documentation to increasingly tough penalties for employers

Obama and Bush Obama and Bush

As the battle for the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States intensifies, the problem of illegal immigration will be one of the areas in which the candidates will seek to appear to be the most critical of the Obama Administration.

Meanwhile, the President is beginning to disclose elements of a policy that will appeal to Hispanics and other minorities without completely alienating the voters that strongly oppose any policy that seems to minimize the urgency of the problem and its threat to American national security and territorial sovereignty.

In a front page article in The New York Times (May 30, 2011), reporter Julia Preston describes how President Obama has been abandoning the emphasis given by President George W. Bush to the arrest and imprisonment or immediate deportation of illegal immigrants working without adequate documentation and emphasizing instead increasingly tough penalties for the employers that hire illegal immigrants. These penalties include exponentially increasing fines and jail sentences.

In a recent action against such employers, 42 workers were arrested and the bookkeeping and other such documentation was seized. Yet, when the time came to enforce the legislation, not a single worker was brought before the judge. Instead the owners and their accountant were charged. If convicted of all charges, these face a possible sentence of 80 years in jail. (Compare this to the Bush Administration ordered raid against an Iowa establishment in which 300 illegal immigrants were arrested and publicly taken handcuffed to a federal prison.)

What are we to think about this? Unlike the situation in Europe, it is necessary to remember that the United States is a nation composed of immigrants, and that, as on the State of Liberty, it has invited freedom-seeking immigrants to make it their home. At the same time, no country can survive a totally open border. Instead, a process has to be found that reconciles this invitation with the need for secure borders. It is the nature of this process that has become a serious cultural clash between Americans.