Immigration debate after the State of the Union Address: has the future already passed?

In their article on immigration, Kristen McCabe and Doris Meissner explain that, despite being coherent with his backing immigration reform, Obama has always assured that he wants economy improvement, together with health care and natural climate defense first. This was one of the reason why during his former mandate there were not significant changes to the immigration system, rather an enforcement of it.


Now it seems that he stated clearly that the emergencies are others, and he added to the list some concerns regarding the education system and strongly emotive hints to gun control. In his State of the Union Address, immigration is mentioned only at the bottom of page 5 out of 9, and it is embedded between significant efforts to put forward ideas for the economy recovering and for finding green energies sources. Apart from the context and the little space and emphasis it has been given, it is the content of the statements on the theme that makes me suspect nothing new is likely to happen. Border control, skills and economical criteria, “path to citizenship” are the catch-phrases that resounded again, upholding a global perspective that is overall not so different from the “three-legged stool” dating back to the ’80s.


I’m not saying that it won’t help somehow, for example opening some larger access to citizenship and integration. A deep structural revision of the “broken-system”, though, is still to be expected in the long-run. For the moment a handful of details and substantial questions remains open, as for the timing for undocumented people to get some form of visa and above all the general approach to future entrances, namely whether they should be based on a strictly economic and skill criterion or, as it traditionally has been, or on the attention to families’ unity.


These changes will be a step toward the evolution of the US society into one of the first cosmopolitan model of nation, exactly as the naturalization of millions during the ’90s due to Immigration Reform and Control Act, has contributed to create the climate of cultural diversity we are all living in now.


But before these ex-illegal new-citizens will do another grueling job to enlarge again the boundaries of inclusion, we should expect struggles and enterprises to shelter progresses which are always under attack. The driving-license debate is now stepping in the State of Arizona and it is emblematic of how a bottom-based claiming for rights can make up for lack of political initiative and create a network of achievements that won’t be easy to dismantle.  


Once again, individual and local efforts can effectively parallel governmental initiatives, and sometimes reach even further.


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