Immigration in America is likely to remain a hot topic all the way to the presidential election in November. While the economy and its handling will be the most hotly debated topic between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the incumbent's decision to put a hold on as many as 1.3 million potential deportations last month is not likely to be forgotten any time soon.
Immigration has always been a controversial subject in the US; whether it's how many agents are needed to patrol the border (the number of 'boots on the ground') or what to do with illegal immigrants who make it into the country or how large the US visa allocation should be each year, every facet of the argument is nuanced and confounded by opinions from all sides.
And so, as this year is an election year, all policy suggestions, all loopholes highlighted and all campaigns started carry more weight and are scrutinised more closely and criticised more widely.
Here is a look at some of the stories regarding US immigration policies and their effects from the last week.
US President Barack Obama took the opportunity during a speech on Independence Day to push reform of the US immigration system...read more.
California's state legislature has made a significant statement in the national debate on US immigration and the states' rights to enact laws by passing a bill which prevents the detaining of any illegal immigrant for anything other than a violent or serious felony...read more.
US immigration advisers in America have cautioned enthusiastic illegal immigrants that shameless con artists are eager to exploit the president's executive order...read more.
A Silicon Valley company has announced its intention to anchor a converted cruise ship 12 miles off the coast of California in order to provide a chance for budding technology companies to work close to the technology hub without the need for a US visa...read more.
Obama pushes for immigration reform during Independence Day speech
Barack Obama says America's
success 'demands' US
US President Barack Obama took the opportunity during a speech on Independence Day to push reform of the US immigration system.
President Obama, addressing a group of immigrants who have served in the military to earn their US citizenship, praised the country's immigrant population as a vital part of the country's success.
"Immigration makes America stronger," said the president. "Immigration makes us more prosperous. Immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.
Immigration is a controversial subject in the US; the debate mainly centres on increasing border security and what to do with the illegal immigrants already in the country. President Obama has previously tried to introduce legislation known as the DREAM Act which would allow some younger illegal immigrants to stay but he has faced tough opposition from his Republican opponents.
However, the president bypassed the congressional processes he had needed to pass the DREAM Act last month when he issued an executive order to halt the deportations of a similar demographic the DREAM Act is intended for: illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US as children, have no criminal record and have graduated high school or served in the military.
The order has ignited a fierce debate around the subject and is likely to have significant influence on the presidential election in November but the president promised that the directive would not be the end of his reforms.
"Just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants," President Obama told the new US citizens.
"That's why as another step forward we're lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children.
"It's why we still need a DREAM Act: to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country.
"It's why we need, why America's success demands, comprehensive immigration reform."
back to the top
California combats Arizona with US immigration bill
California has passed the 'anti-
California's state legislature has made a significant statement in the national debate on US immigration and the states' rights to enact laws by passing a bill which prevents the detaining of any illegal immigrant for anything other than a violent or serious felony.
The bill, passed on Thursday 5 July, received 21 votes of support to 13 opponents in the Californian Senate and 47-26 in the Californian Assembly, both houses have Democratic majorities. The bill's passing sends a strong message to other states in the country that are passing strict US immigration laws in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's SB 1070.
Arizona's strict immigration law was signed into law in 2010 but remained the subject of legal challenges until last month when the Supreme Court struck down three out of the four provisions. While many of the law's opponents hailed the decision as a victory, the one provision upheld was also the strictest.
The 'show me your papers' provision allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of any individual legally stopped or arrested.
Supporters of the law say it is needed as the federal government has failed in properly policing states with borders to Mexico. Opponents say the law encourages racial stereotyping.
SB 1070's passage through the Supreme Court has led other Republican controlled states such as Alabama, Georgia and Utah to introduce similarly strict laws but California, despite having the largest illegal immigrant population in the country, has bucked that trend.
"Today's vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona," said Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.
The bill, known as the 'Anti-Arizona Bill' will now go back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote before being sent to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law.
back to the top
Obama’s order opens door to scams
Despite the good news, immigration
advisers have warned people to
beware possible cons.
US immigration advisers in America have cautioned enthusiastic illegal immigrants that shameless con artists are eager to exploit the president's executive order.
President Obama last month issued an executive order which put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US before they were 16, have no criminal record and have either graduated high school or served in the military.
The move, which was seen as drastic and brave by an incumbent president seeking re-election, is thought to affect as many as 1.4 million people. While affected people may be keen to apply for the work permit included in the order, immigration advisers warn that the potential for scamming is rife.
The federal government is yet to outline how the directive will be implemented - much to the chagrin of dissenting Republicans - meaning there is plenty of room for doubt.
"It's just a very short planning period to put the capabilities into place and to get the information out and to get people to understand what's going to be required," said a senior fellow at the Immigration Policy Center.
"There will be all kinds of misinformation, and there will be people who are trying to exploit this."
Several immigrant advocacy groups are initiating schemes to educate neighbourhoods, particularly the Hispanic areas most likely to be affected by the order, to make them aware of such scams.
Kim Propeack of the Casa de Maryland advocacy group said they have already had hundreds of calls from people reporting so-called immigration advisers and lawyers offering advice, for a substantial fee, of how best to navigate the order to secure a work permit. Many of the shameless advisers' targets are technically still in the country illegally and therefore are too cautious to report the advisers to the police.
"There's just no end to the capacity of these folks to profiteer off these situations," said Ms Propeack.
back to the top
Silicon Valley start-up floats US visa shortcut
Blueseed proposes building a
US visa haven 12 miles off the
coast of Silicon Valley.
A Silicon Valley company has announced its intention to anchor a converted cruise ship 12 miles off the coast of California in order to provide a chance for budding technology companies to work close to the technology hub without the need for a US visa.
While presidential candidates argue about the effects of a high unemployment rate, the thriving technology companies based in the infamous Silicon Valley are engaging in bidding wars to secure the top talent.
However, with current US visa limits set at 85,000 per year for the whole country and with that allocation being filled within weeks of opening, both companies and aspiring engineers have complained about immigration policy hindering the progress of the technology industry.
In order to combat this, Blueseed, an ambitious start-up headed by entrepreneurs Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija, have said they plan to build a floating centre for foreign technology start-ups. This, Blueseed says, will allow them to live and work within close proximity of Silicon Valley without the need for a US visa.
The project, which aims to launch by the end of 2013, will be constructed from a converted ship into a floating town capable of accommodating up to 1,800 foreign entrepreneurs and technology workers. The ship will be anchored 12 miles off the coast of Silicon Valley and residents, who will pay an average of $1,500 (£965) a month, can be ferried to the mainland on a tourist visa.
While Blueseed has attracted significant interest from many of Silicon Valley's residents but faces tough challenges to ensure the project is a success; 12 miles off California's coast is not strictly international waters and therefore questions will be raised regarding the workers' legal status.
Whether the project will come to fruition remains to be seen but even if it fails to get off the ground, it is still being regarded as drawing attention to the shortcomings of the US visa system and the damages it can have on companies needing foreign workers to expand.
back to the top
- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013