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Border wars: a proposed crackdown on illegal immigration ignites protests.

What should the United States do about its 12 million illegal immigrants? For years, that question has been debated. Late last month, debate spilled onto the nation's streets. In Los Angeles, California, alone, hundreds of thousands of people, including many students, protested a tough new immigration bill.

Passed by the House of Representatives last December, H.R, 4437 would make living in the U.S. illegally a felony (serious crime).

Supporters of the bill say that illegal immigrants are putting a strain on education, health care, and law enforcement. Others argue that the U.S. is "a nation ... built by immigrants," as one immigrant leader said.

"Why should you compare something like wanting a better life to murder or robbery?" asked Luis Gavilanes, 16, a Mexican immigrant who now lives in California. Gavilanes and other students had just staged a massive walkout to protest the bill.

The Senate Responds

After the protests, moderate Republican and Democratic Senators came together with an alternative bill. Their legislation includes a measure left out of the House bill: a guest-worker program. Such a program has been at the center of President George W. Bush's plan for immigration reform.

The Senate bill would allow workers now in the country illegally to apply for a three-year work permit after paying back taxes and a $1,000 fine. The permit could be renewed once. After that, workers could apply for permanent legal status or citizenship, as long as they have learned basic English and have no criminal record.

As JS went to press, other suggestions were still being put forth in the Senate. For any legislation to become law, the same version of a bill must be passed by both houses of Congress, then signed by the President. Observers say that an agreement is unlikely to happen soon.

Many conservative lawmakers object to the guest-worker program. They have called it merely amnesty (a pardon) for a crime. "It will encourage further disrespect for our laws, and will undercut our efforts to shore up homeland security,'" said Senator John Comyn, Republican of Texas.

Critics also say that the program would be unfair to the many immigrants who have played by the rules and entered the U.S. legally.

A poll released last month by the Pew Research Center showed that the country is also divided on the issue. According to the survey, 53 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigrants should be forced to go home.

The debate will only become more heated as the November congressional elections approach. Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona predicted that voters will object to the continuing loss of jobs to illegal immigrants.

"Get ready for a real tough time," Kyl said to his fellow Senators, "when American workers come to your office and say, 'How did you let this happen?'"

Your Turn

THINK ABOUT IT

Last month, nearly 40,000 students in Southern California staged walkouts to protest the House immigration bill. Was leaving school the best way for the students to make their voices heard? Explain.
Illegal Residents
in the U.S. (2000)
(Percentage by place or origin)

Caribbean 2.4%
Asia 4.6%
South America 5.5%
Central America 6.8%
Mexico 68.7%
Other 12.1%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Source: U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Service, based
on Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.

Note: Because of rounding, percentages do not add up to 100.


* Decide whether each sentence is true, false, or an opinion. Write your answer on the blank line provided.

--1. A bill passed by the House of Representatives last December would make being in the U.S. a minor offense.

--2. President George W. Bush opposes a guest-worker program as a type of immigration reform.

--3. Illegal immigrants do not deserve a guest-worker program.

--4. According to the 2000 Census, more than half of the illegal residents in the U.S. came from Mexico.

--5. Anyone who is in the U,S. illegally should be required to return home, then request permission to enter and work here.

1. false (would make it a felony--a serious crime)

2. false (He supports a guest-worker program.)

3. opinion

4. true (68.7%)

5. opinion
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:NEWS: SPECIAL
Author:Brown, Bryan
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Apr 24, 2006
Words:700
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