Immigration and the 2008 US Presidential Elections
In a Democratic presidential debate this fall, the issue of driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants in New York State tripped up candidate Hillary Clinton; the same topic caused Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidates to stumble at a subsequent debate. Republicans have also had increasingly testy exchanges about immigration enforcement, charging each other with "sanctuary" practices in years past.
Although polls show that voters' main concerns are the war in Iraq, health care, and the economy, immigration is surfacing repeatedly. With 2007 having failed to produce immigration reform (see Issue #1: Political Paralysis: The Failure of US Immigration Reform), some voters are angry enough that candidates' stands on immigration may well get them to the polls — and may affect the outcome of races in some districts or states.
New Settlement Patterns in the United States as a Consequence of State/Local Lawmaking on Immigration
Even though many local-level ordinances targeting unauthorized immigrants have not been enforced, and Hazleton has a court injunction against its law(see Issue #7: US Cities Face Legal Challenges, and All 50 States Try Their Hand at Making Immigration-related Laws ), the fact that communities support such regulations has caused immigrants to leave many of those towns, as the media have reported. Consequently, in 2008, we may hear more about immigrants settling in states and communities perceived as friendlier to them.
The End of the Visa Waiver Program as We Know It
The United States has been concerned for some years about the security loopholes in the air travel system (see Issue #5: Managing Global Travel with Technology and Cooperation), including the existing Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Under VWP, citizens of designated countries may travel to the United States for business or personal reasons for under 90 days without obtaining a visa.
Thanks to a law that President Bush signed in August, VWP travelers eventually will have to register online (but not for visas), and their submitted information will have to be approved before they can travel to the United States. Modeled on a system already in place in Australia, the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system will collect basic passenger biographic information that the Department of Homeland Security will use to assess potential threats. Although the target date for ETA's implementation is unknown, look for debate on its merits and drawbacks in 2008.
Migration and Climate Change
The Norwegian Nobel Committee focused public attention on climate change this year by awarding its Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The citation read, in part, "Extensive climate changes may...induce large-scale migration."
However, climate-change discussions have not seriously addressed the likelihood and mechanisms of cross-border movement of people affected by rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, desertification, and extreme weather events. The most basic steps toward consensus on appropriate responses to climate-induced migration have yet to be taken. Indeed, migration did not make the formal agenda of this month's UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Bali. Expect climatologists and migration specialists to start talking to each other in 2008.
France as a Trendsetter
Known for his law-and-order approach to immigration, Nicolas Sarkozy — France's interior minister twice during Jacques Chirac's presidency and the French President as of May 2007 — has already instituted some of the immigration measures he proposed leading up to the election.
He created the Ministry for Immigration, Integration, National Identity, and Co-development to address all these issues under one department. A law passed this fall requires prospective immigrants to take a French language test and an exam on French values. Relatives in France seeking to bring over family from abroad must prove they make enough money to support them.
A plan to test some would-be migrants' DNA to verify their relationship to family in France sparked heated criticism. DNA testing will now be an 18-month trial and done only on a voluntary basis, with the French government paying for all tests. Sarkozy even wanted France to begin collecting data on ethnicity — long banned because everybody is considered French — a proposal that failed.
None of these measures are considered radical by European standards, but Sarkozy is not finished. He wants to see a "Mediterranean Union" that would link the region's countries through educational, health, or cultural projects, as well as shared security and business deals.
These plans, which have already upset countries in northern Europe, took shape in October when Sarkozy announced in Morocco that France will host a conference next summer to lay the political and cultural groundwork for the union. Migration issues will likely figure largely in discussions.
Sarkozy's determination to shake things up means France could become the immigration trendsetter in Europe in 2008.