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Current Issues and Future Challenges | United States of America |

Current Issues and Future Challenges

Nicholas Parrott

/ 4 Minuten zu lesen

Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama (in office since 2008) all attempts for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) have failed. CIR is therefore again an issue in the electoral campaign leading up to presidential elections in November 2012.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR)

Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama (in office since 2008) all attempts for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) have failed. CIR is therefore again an issue in the electoral campaign leading up to presidential elections in November 2012. Both, the Democratic candidate Barack Obama as well as his Republican opponent Mitt Romney announced that they would pursue some kind of comprehensive, long-term reform to the U.S. immigration system.

Presidential elections and the Latino vote

On June 15, 2012, Obama announced that his administration will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, who were successful students or served in the military, and do not pose a criminal or security threat. This move represents a shift in Obama's immigration policy with regard to illegal immigrants. During his first two years in office nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants were deported per annum, about 30% more than the annual average during Bush's second term. This restrictive stance on illegal immigration has caused major disapproval within the ranks of the Hispanic population that had supported Obama by heavy margins in the presidential elections in 2008 (67% of Hispanic voters in favor of Obama). Yet, a Pew Hispanic survey finds that Latinos still favor the Democrats' presidential candidate over his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. With the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. Latinos have significantly increased their political influence. As in 2008, Latino voters could tip the balance in several key battleground states such as Colorado, New Mexico or Florida. Candidates for presidency must thus reach out to these voters in order to gain their support. As a survey of the Pew Hispanic Center has shown issues that matter the most to registered Hispanic voters are Jobs, education, and health care. Debate on the latter has dominated much of Obama's presidency. In fact, Black and Latino Americans are expected to heavily benefit from the Affordable Health Care for America Act (enacted in 2010) that grants easier access to insurance coverage since many of them fall into the low and moderate income group the reform is especially targeted at.

Irregular migration and the impact of the economic recession on migration

Irregular Migration will keep on playing a key role in the debate on immigration since it remains closely connected with security issues: Any successful legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform will therefore almost certainly have a significant emphasis on security – not only on border controls, but on enforcing the laws on employer sanctions – as well as some means of accommodating irregular immigrants already residing in the U.S. While Democrats and Republicans are likely to reach a compromise on border control measures, dealing with the large irregular immigrant population residing in the country promises to be significantly more difficult.

Yet, current data suggests that irregular migration to the U.S. is decreasing especially due to a slowdown in irregular migration from Mexico. One of the key reasons for this development is the latest recession that hit the American economy and caused job losses across the board, including in industries such as construction which are known to employ many undocumented migrants. The recession (late 2007 until mid-2009) that followed the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 hit minorities much harder than whites. Between 2005 and 2009 the median wealth fell by 53% among black households and 66% among Hispanic households as compared to 16% among white households.

QuellentextKochhar/Fry/Taylor (2011).

"Household wealth is the accumulated sum of assets (houses, cars, savings and checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc.) minus the sum of debt (mortgages, auto loans, credit card debt, etc.). It is different from household income, which measures the annual inflow of wages, interest, profits and other sources of earning. Wealth gaps between whites, blacks and Hispanics have always been much greater than income gaps."

Overall, America's ethnic minorities have disproportionately high poverty rates. In 2009, 25.8% of blacks, and 25.3% of Hispanics had incomes below poverty, compared to 12.5% of Asians and 9.4% of non-Hispanic whites. To even this disparity out will be one of America's future challenges as its society is getting more racially and ethnically diverse.

Changing color lines and questions of identity

The changing color lines of the country's population are also an issue that has, in the past few years, taken on increased importance. The U.S. Census 2000 brought to light the growing role of the Hispanic population which now outnumbers African Americans and therefore constitutes the nation's largest minority. Projections estimate that Hispanics will make up 30.2% of the U.S. population in 2050. This development has raised concerns especially among the white majority population. These become visible in partly fierce debates on America's national identity. Despite these controversies, there is, however, continued pride in the country's history as a nation of immigrants and it seem unlikely that this will change in the near future.



  1. Lopez (2008).

  2. Lopez et al. (2011).

  3. Ross (2012).

  4. Kochhar/Fry/Taylor (2011).

  5. Shrestha/Heisler (2011).

  6. The fear of the impact of (Hispanic) immigration on the U.S. national identity is displayed in Samuel Huntington's book “Who are we? The challenges to America's National Identity” (2004).

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