Tags: Immigration | Changes | Face | the | Nation | Part | One

Immigration Changes Face of the Nation – Part One

Monday, 03 September 2001 12:00 AM

The president said his initial steps will be modest, and he has ruled out a general amnesty, which would offer citizenship to millions of illegal aliens now living in the United States. Nevertheless, his action will thrust his administration into one of the most contentious issues of the past 35 years, perhaps nowhere more contentious than in California.

In the past decade, the United States has seen more immigration than at any other time in its history, surpassing – by several millions – the outpouring from Europe between 1901 and 1910, which brought 8.1 million people to America.

Emerging by century's end as the most politically stable nation in the world, with the largest economy and the greatest guarantee of personal freedom, the United States is a magnet across the globe. And when Congress removed the quota system and other barriers to immigration in 1965, it opened the doors to an influx of foreigners that has accelerated almost every year since.

Refugees from wartorn Bosnia, weary victims of strife in Northern Ireland, brilliant computer experts from India, Hmong warriors who fought with the United States in Southeast Asia, Russian Jews from Odessa, Israeli teachers and Egyptian doctors all have transformed this nation in the past 35 years.

There is no sign that this influx will abate. When the U.S. government offered 50,000 visas recently under a lottery program, there were 11 million responses.

At the core of this in-migration have been people of the Western Hemisphere, primarily of Hispanic origin, primarily Mexican nationals, who came across one of the longest land borders in the world.

George J. Borjas, a Cuban-born professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, says the flow of humans is driven by the disparity between the countries.

"The income gap between Mexico and the United States is the largest income gap between any two contiguous countries in the world," Borjas notes.

The changing face of the United States was crystallized in the results of the 2000 Census. The latest figures show a nation of 30 million immigrants – an estimated 9 million are here illegally – that is growing six times faster than the native population.

The numbers have galvanized debate over what to do about the dusty and dangerous 1,952-mile border with Mexico, punctuated at points with motion sensors, remote cameras and 15-foot walls, and guarded by more than 9,000 Border Patrol agents.

Although millions have been spent fortifying the border, hundreds of immigrants die each year trying to cross into what they hope will be a better life.

On this side of that border, the immigration explosion has jolted politicians looking over their shoulders at an exponentially growing Hispanic vote.

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Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The president said his initial steps will be modest, and he has ruled out a general amnesty, which would offer citizenship to millions of illegal aliens now living in the United States. Nevertheless, his action will thrust his administration into one of the most contentious...
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2001-00-03
Monday, 03 September 2001 12:00 AM
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