President George W. Bush put immigration reform on the national agenda in January 2004 by outlining his general plans for a temporary worker program. But last year, the main reform proposal, the Democrat-sponsored Safe, Orderly, Legal Visas and Enforcement (SOLVE) Act, died in committee.
This year, however, members of Congress have sponsored numerous reform proposals that have pushed the debate forward and generated significant media coverage. In late November, Bush renewed attention to immigration reform with speeches in Arizona and Texas in which he stated his support for both increased border enforcement and a temporary worker program.
The McCain-Kennedy "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act" in the Senate and the Cornyn-Kyl "Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act" in the House are the best known proposals, but new bills continued to be introduced nearly every week as the fall progressed. Some analysts expect the White House to make December "Border Security Month."
Many of these bills use the president's temporary worker plan as a base, though none perfectly reflect the Bush administration's vision as articulated by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in recent testimony before the U.S. Senate in October.
Of course, events such as the Minuteman Project, which involved citizen patrols along the Arizona-Mexico border in April, the declaration of states of emergency by the governors of New Mexico and Arizona in August, and illegal immigration as a campaign issue in the Virginia governor's race have all helped keep immigration reform on the national agenda.
Even if none of the current proposals become law, immigration reform will be issue number one starting again in early 2006.
For more information, please see the following articles:
• Solving the Unauthorized Migrant Problem: Proposed Legislation in the U.S.
• The Declining Enforcement of Employer Sanctions
• IRCA: Lessons of the Last U.S. Legalization Program
• The Mexico Factor in U.S. Immigration Reform
• Bush Puts Immigration Reform Back on Agenda, Approves Funding for DHS
• Immigration Reform Bill and DHS Restructuring Focus on Enforcement and Facilitation
• Free Flights and New Enforcement Proposals Address Unauthorized Migrants
• Expansive Bipartisan Bill Introduced on the Heels of REAL ID Passage
• Policy Brief - Lessons from the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
• Insight - Independent Task Force on Immigration and America's Future: The Roadmap
• Insight - Reflections on Restoring Integrity to the United States Immigration System: A Personal Vision
• Chart - Comparison of Major Immigration Legislation Pending in 109th Congress