A letter to Mr. Jorge Ramos regarding immigration policy


Dear Mr. Ramos:


You propose that the central element of immigration reform should be amnesty for undocumented immigrants.  While I agree that the treatment of undocumented immigrants is hypocritical, I think that it no longer would be possible to carry out a general amnesty for millions of people who have entered the country illegally or remained with expired visas after the previous amnesty in 1986.


The atmosphere in the country is not like in 1986 when Congress passed an Immigration Reform and Control Act, which included amnesty for undocumented immigrants who had entered the United States before 1982.  There are several reasons for the change of attitude.  The first was 9-11-2001.  The attack that day changed everything about the attitude of citizens towards foreigners, forever.  Whether reasonable or not, people in the country now are suspicious of any foreign person.  The thought of granting amnesty all at once to 11 million foreigners immediately raises this fear.


In addition, there is simply the large number of undocumented immigrants today compared with 1986.  Today there are 11 million (and some people believe that this figure is too low), while in 1986 there were 3-5 million – while the country’s population has increased only about 30 percent (Pew, “Unauthorized…”).  The population of Hispanics in the United States increased 43 percent in the decade of 2000-2010 (Pew, “Hispanics…”).  These figures disturb many people, who can see a segment of the population out of control and incapable of integrating into society.


Then there is the economy today.  The concern of the President and Congress is trying to pull the country out of the recession, which has impacted the country since 2008.  This includes issues of jobs and the possibility that undocumented immigrants take jobs from citizens and documented foreigners.  In any case, the priority is for economic issues, and therefore discussions of immigration policy are far down the lists of legislators.


As we see in recent state legislation such as Arizona’s SB 1070, the sentiment of the country with regard to undocumented immigrants is the opposite of amnesty: instead, it is to make it the case that it is a crime to be undocumented, that employers have to use “E-Verify”, and that employers are fined or lose the business licenses if they hire undocumented immigrants.  These laws show the sentiment of the people of the country (Univision, Radiografía…”). 


For all these reasons and others, there is no chance that Congress is going to approve the legalization of 11 million undocumented immigrants.  None.  So, I think that it is counterproductive to define “immigration reform” as “amnesty” and insist on that.  A democracy like ours is a process of discourse to produce a compromise between different viewpoints.  It serves no one to insist on something that is not going to go anywhere, from the outset.  Therefore, even though you may sincerely believe that amnesty is the best solution, perhaps it is time to ask yourself, “But, is it possible?”  In your programs such as “Noticias” and “Al Punto” in Univision, I think I’ve seen that you know the answer: “No, it is not possible now.”


In that case, I think that the Latino community should redefine what it means by “immigration reform” and propose realistic measures, which have some chance of being considered by lawmakers.  There are many possibilities for productive discussions of immigration reform, little by little, step by step.  Perhaps the measures of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can serve as guidelines for mutually beneficial arrangements.  Workers in Mexico want something, and businesses and employers in the United States want something, and maybe it is possible to match the two.







Pew.  “Hispanics Account for More Than Half of Nation's Growth in Past Decade”.  March 25, 2011.  Consulted July 10, 2011 in http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1940/hispanic-united-states-population-growth-2010-census


Pew.  “Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010”.  February 1, 2011.  Consulted September 25, 2011 in http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=133


Univision.  Radiografía de estados con leyes similares a la SB1070 de Arizona (X-ray of States with Laws Similar to Arizona’s SB 1070).  Noticias de Inmigración (Immigration News).  July 8, 2011.  Consulted July 10, 2011, in http://noticias.univision.com/inmigracion/noticias/article/2011-06-30/radiografia-estados-como-arizona?ftloc=channel100:cmsStage&ftpos=channel100:cmsStage:1
For information on the topic in English, see Colorlines.  “Statehouses Weighing Immigration Enforcement Bills Styled after Arizona’s SB 1070”.  March 2, 2011.  Consulted August 3, 2001, in http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/03/sb_1070_copycat_bills.html