Defined by some as “the quintessential American experience,” immigration is the story of America. Still it remains a politically contentions issue. For some the debate is about national identity and the challenges “new” foreigners with different traditions, languages and cultures present to the “American fabric.” For others, the debate is about economic progress and globalization. The conflict between the economic demands of a globally expanding, interconnected world economy and the protectionist desires of those concerned with vulnerable resources and cultural traditions on the other side, frames the political debate.
Added to this is the restructuring of the U.S. economy, which has decreased opportunities for low income and middle class families in the United States. In this debate immigrants are used as scapegoats for persistent social ills and an economic misfortune, diffusing the politician’s responsibility and placing the blame for the current conditions on a distant foreigner.
Congress has been pressured constantly to take on the unfinished political debate on immigration as the immigrant population grows, diversifies, and the immigrant labor becomes institutionalized in a growing set of industries. Whether economic realities, social concerns, and political conflicts are balanced to create realistic future oriented policies is the challenge for the future. In order to inform the debate, this research explores the links between U.S. immigration policy and unauthorized immigration.