Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Regularisation is 'the civil rights issue of the 21st century'

... according to Will Sommerville, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, in a thoughtful piece for the Guardian online.

The problem is what to do with the huge illegally resident population in the US, estimated at 12 million, or one in three of the total foreign-born population. (Compare this to the UK, where the estimate is closer to one in 10.) It is a forbiddingly complex policy problem, made even more so by the fact that most illegal immigrants are Hispanic and many live in "mixed-legal" households.

It may be counterintuitive, but the desire to see the problem fixed means people will accept a solution that includes regularisation. In fact, according to the campaigning organisation America's Voice, even swing voters favour comprehensive action on immigration over "enforcement-only" by a margin of 60 to 40.

In the end, though, the most compelling reason reform can succeed lies in the personality and huge ambition of the current White House. For many, and seemingly for the Obama team, immigration reform has become the civil rights issue for the 21st century. This is the prize that makes reform more likely than not, and sooner rather than later.

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