Yesterday night, our family celebrated the Fourth of July with friends. Our celebration included the usual ingredients that traditionally mark such celebrations; family, friends, food, drink and fireworks. Our celebration for the most part was typical of those held by families across the nation, with the exception that ours included a few undocumented immigrants.
As we celebrated several things crossed my mind, among them the irony that on a yearly basis an increasing number of undocumented immigrants actually celebrate the 4th of July, since some undocumented immigrants have lived in this country since 1986 and without a doubt celebrate the day with their US born children. The other thing that crossed my mind is that yesterdays Independence Day would be the last one celebrated under the Bush administration. Our next year Independence Day will be celebrated under an Obama or McCain administration.
I'm hopeful that next years 4th of July celebration will be quite different from yesterday for the estimated 12 Million undocumented immigrants currently in our country. Both Obama and McCain have sparred over immigration, but the fact is that both candidates will have no choice but to place immigration reform at the top of their list once they elected to the presidency. Both have campaigned with pledges to address immigration reform within the first 100 days of their administrations.
Between now and November the issue of illegal immigration will test the two candidates. Americans will be faced with confusion about what to do with the 12 Million undocumented immigrants as they are once again thrust into the complexities that make up illegal immigration.
The false sense of victory that some Americans, particularly in the border States, have felt with the deployment of 6000 National Guardsmen will be tested. Those troops are scheduled to be removed as of July 15, 2008. There is no denying that enforcement of the border is necessary, but the reality is that even a beefed up Border Patrol is just one piece of a well run immigration policy. An effective immigration policy must have a workforce enforcement provision that prevents the illegal hiring of undocumented workers and also takes steps to protect the rights of both documented and undocumented immigrant workers. Our current system provides too many ways that unscrupulous employers can employ undocumented workers and thus contributing to the creation of a second class of workers that are routinely denied worker rights and protections afforded to the rest of us.
The policy would have to address the need for immigrant labor in our economy and the contributions immigrants bring this nation not only from an economic point of view, but also from a cultural and social aspect.
No amount of new fencing and strict border enforcement will do much towards encouraging undocumented workers to come out from the shadows, step forward and be counted.
The task for our next President, whether it's work permits, legal residency and an eventual path to Citizenship remains to be worked out.
Let's remember that history repeat itself and as IRCA of 1986 has proven, 10 years from now none of this will matter if our next Presidential Administration does not take steps to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers, the failure successive administrations to enforce sanctions and penalties written into IRCA, steadfastly weakened the rights of all workers both legal and undocumented.
Their is a long list of things this country needs to do in order to fix our immigration system. Let's hope that our next President and Congress provide us the change necessary for us celebrate our next Fourth of July honoring our independence and the values as well as the economic contributions that all immigrants bring to America.