Immigrants are what this nation’s heritage is built on, but concerns about national security, economic and social stability are driving the controversy in the United States and consequently Colorado.
A Gallup poll in 2013 found that two-thirds of Americans believe immigration policy needs to be reformed. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates there are approximately 170,000 undocumented immigrants in Colorado, roughly 3 percent of the state’s total population.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics since the 1990s around one million immigrants are lawfully admitted into the United States annually. Whereas, a reported 11.1 million undocumented immigrants are in the U.S. as of 2011, according to pewresearch.org, 55 percent of which are from Mexico.
Slow processing undermines the legal system. In 2012, there were 4.3 million people waiting to be reunited with their families alone in a backlog of bureaucracy, according to the 2013 National Issues Forum guide on immigration.
A recent CSU alumni and immigrant from England can attest to the slow process. James Hopcroft, economics major who graduated last spring, moved to Fort Collins in his freshman year of college.
“The whole process took about 3 years. It’s a very long process… If you do it correctly,” Hopcroft said. “My dad got a visa because his business was going to provide 150 American jobs, then we got green cards, which took about 6 months to get. After that we applied for citizenship, which took about a year and a half.”
It’s worth noting that immigrants who can provide more for the U.S. tend to be processed faster. According to the NIF guide a British person with a Ph.D may have to wait six months for a green card, while an Indian computer programmer may have to wait 35 years.
Some argue streamlining the process would increase threats of terrorism. Currently, criminal and background checks are done on all applicants to determine if they are of, “good moral character,” another requirement for citizenship.
“The reason my citizenship took so long was literally because of 9/11, after 9/11 everything became a lot more difficult,” Hopcroft said. “I actually did my blood work for the INS on 9/11 and my brother and mother were detained for most of the day.”
Legal immigration remains the main source of the U.S.’s immigrants, but certain reform policies could erode the legal system, like allowing undocumented workers already in the U.S. to become citizens.
An alternative to this could be creating a temporary/seasonal work visa program for agricultural workers, allowing immigrants to take advantage of the work opportunities in the U.S. and reduce criminal activity related with coyote smugglers. It could also be viewed as a type of foreign aid, if one were to assume most of the earnings would be remitted back to the immigrants’ home country.
Undocumented workers make up over 50 percent of crop pickers in the U.S., according to the 2013 NIF guide on immigration. In Colorado around 100,000 jobs were in agricultural production in 2007, according to a study by CSU’s Agriculture and Resource Economics Department.
Promoting a seasonal agricultural work program is perfect for the changing U.S. work force that refuses to do low-skilled labor. Increasing naturalization programs for those who do want to contribute to U.S. society may be necessary to reduce the chance of fractionation.
While diversity is valuable, fractionation is dangerous. In order to keep the U.S. from becoming a bifurcated nation between English and Spanish speakers there must be an emphasis on naturalization programs.
Concerns about the costs of naturalization programs and English language classes have validity. But, if American ideals are to guide us then it would make sense to give immigrants the opportunity to succeed by supporting their effort to become functional citizens in our society.
In 2012 a study by the Small Business Administration found that immigrants were twice as likely to start a business than non-immigrants.
“Immigrant-founded companies produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2005,” according to the NIF guide.
Diversity is good, but American principles are the foundation of this nation. Therefore, following those principles, immigration needs to be reformed for the changing world environment.
Collegian Editor at Large Daniel Sewell can be reached at email@example.com. Sewell also works for the CSU Center of Public Deliberation.