We are all the descendants of immigrants. Somehow, someway, our ancestors came to America seeking a better life.
Immigration issues have raged throughout the history of the United States. Whether itâ€™s conflicts over a rash of Irish immigrants in the 19th century, or the recent debates over immigration â€“ the issue has always been ingrained in American culture.
The Politics of Immigration
According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, an estimated 2.6 million illegal immigrants resided in California in 2009. The number accounts for about 25 percent of the entire estimated population of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
With such a large illegal immigrant population, the demographics of California have changed dramatically. As a result, so has the political landscape â€“ the debate on illegal immigration has become a cornerstone for any political campaign, including the governorship.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said on her website that she supports, â€œtough, common-sense immigration reform that will strengthen border security.â€ If elected governor she plans to advocate for comprehensive federal legislation that will first and foremost offer a solution to securing the borders.
â€œWe are never going to solve the problem of illegal immigration as long as there is strong demand for undocumented labor,â€ Whitman said.
However, recently Whitman has come under scrutiny from fellow GOP members as a result of her recent Spanish language commercials.
According to NBC Los Angeles, â€œIn Spanish language media she is proclaiming her opposition to both Proposition 187 and Arizona’s SB 1070.â€
In an opinion piece for a Spanish language newspaper, Whitman said that she shares the same stance on immigration as her opponent – Democrat Jerry Brown.
Brown recently told Spanish language paper, La Opinion, that he â€œwould do everything in my power to promote immigration reform.â€
Brown added that undocumented immigrants are vital to the economic future of California and as governor he would work closely with the president of Mexico.
National politicians are also adding their voice to the immigration debate. Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was on Meet the Press, where he not only said illegal immigrants do essential work in the US, but he is aware of the work they do because they have worked on his house.
â€œThey’re all over my house, doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I’m sure you’ve seen them at your house,â€ Powell said. â€œWe’ve got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status.”
Although Powell is a Republican, he officially endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
President Obama has also come out on the issue of immigration. Recently, he met with Hispanic lawmakers, where, according to a White House statement, he called for extensive immigration reform.
“This reform must provide lasting and dedicated resources for border security, while also requiring accountability from both individuals in the U.S. illegally and unscrupulous employers who game the system for their own economic advantage,” the White House said.
Border security recently added another element to the immigration debate with Arizona Senate Bill 1070.
Arizona Senate Bill 1070
According to an Arizona Legislature fact sheet, Senate bill 1070 â€œRequires officials and agencies of the state and political subdivisions to fully comply with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws and gives county attorneys subpoena power in certain investigations of employers.â€
The bill also â€œestablishes crimes involving trespassing by illegal aliens, stopping to hire or soliciting work under specified circumstances, and transporting, harboring or concealing unlawful aliens, and their respective penalties.â€
As a result of the billâ€™s enactment in June 2010, a tremendous amount of media and political backlash occurred. The Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona by terminating all public contracts with the state â€“ contracts valued at $7.7 million.
President Obama criticized the bill before it was even enacted. In a New York Times article, Obama said the bill threatened, â€œto undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.â€
The Republican Party is also divided on the bill. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele expressed his disapproval of SB 1070 to Spanish television station Univision.
â€œThe actions of one stateâ€™s governor (are) not a reflection of an entire country, nor â€¦ a reflection of an entire political party,” Steele said. â€œThe governor and the people of Arizona made a decision that they thought was in their best interest, and thatâ€™s the beauty of a republic, thatâ€™s who we are.â€
On July 22, US District Judge Susan Bolton filed an injunction against some portions of the bill â€“ including the portion that requires law enforcement officials to check immigration status of people they suspect to be illegal immigrants.
By taking the teeth out of SB 1070, some fear that the drug wars going on in Mexico will spill into Arizona â€“ and the rest of America.
The War on the Border
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico is a city at war. According to a Reuters article, the city is Mexicoâ€™s â€œbloodiestâ€ drug war city. Over 2,000 people were killed in Juarez in 2009 alone. In March of 2009, President Felipe Calderon sent hundreds of heavily armed soldiers into the city â€“ the most of the 45,000 currently fighting drug cartels.
The city is located across the border from El Paso, Texas and has been the location of a turf war between several Mexican cartels.
“Juarez is prisoner to an infinity of groups fighting for the territory, and others who are making the most of the confusion for easy money,” Enrique Torres, an army spokesman said to Reuters news outlet.
Juarez is one of many towns on the Mexican side of the border that are experiencing bloody drug wars. This violence often spills into the border towns of America.
In an Examiner.com article, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu described the extent of reach Mexican drug cartels have in America.
â€œMexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona,” Babeu said. â€œThey literally have scouts on the high points in the mountains and in the hills and they literally control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.â€
These drug fueled wars across the border often take away from a different side of immigration â€“ the human side.
The Human Face of Immigration
The Fourteenth Amendment states that, â€œall persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.â€
Recently, this amendment has been added to the immigration debate with the term â€œanchor baby.â€ An anchor baby is the offspring of an illegal immigrant who, because of current legal interpretation of the amendment, becomes a U.S. citizen at birth, according to the Federation For American Immigration Reform website.
These children then are able to qualify for welfare and other state and federal programs.
The issue of anchor babies has come to the forefront due to posturing by South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. In an LA Times article, Graham demanded reform to this interpretation and said that illegal immigrants are aware of this rule and just come to â€œdrop a child.â€
According to the same LA Times article entitled â€œKeeping the Fourteenth Amendment,â€ both Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are not in favor of changing this interpretation.