As Immigration Reform Looms, What comes Next?

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By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

If there was ever a doubt about what the majority of Americans are thinking regarding immigrants and immigration, a just-published Pew Research Center for People & the Press study has put an emphatic period at the end of it.

Here’s what the study found, in a nutshell:

  • 71% of Americans believe there should be a way for Undocumented to stay legally.
  • 43% say they should be allowed to apply for citizenship.
  • 24% think they should be eligible for permanent residency.

The study is pithy and dripping, with layers of nuance. But overall there’s a sense of momentum towards increasing acceptance and tolerance of undocumented immigrants. And that’s a good thing, given the rumors of an imminent congressional compromise on immigration reform.

Not that a survey and a reform bill settle anything.

This is America, after all, where we love to debate and take the perfecting of our union thing to an antagonistic extreme. But the Pew study and the looming reform do point to a critical mass of sorts. There’s a feeling that things are about to turn a corner; that the rhetorical bickering over immigration will be left in the rear view mirror and that the days of  immigration as a political wedge are behind us as well (okay, not entirely, I know, it will never be that way, but immigration as a menacing thing won’t be that menacing any more…).

The study’s stark revelation is that the whiter the person polled and the lower their education, the more negative their attitude toward immigrants and immigration – and the more false their assessment of each.

Another stark reality: America is changing. Immigration reform, as most Americans think it should happen and as congress – whatever their motivation- seems to be leaning toward, will direct that change in a definite way. And the rest, the 27% who according to the Pew study believe the undocumented should not be allowed to stay? Let’s just say they’re the part of the union that needs tweaking.

And that leads to what will be left in the wake of what’s now rumored to be an inevitable immigration reform. It just may be time to start thinking in earnest about the kind of America we’ll build after comprehensive immigration reform. It matters specifically to U. S. Latinos because we’re in the center of the storm  and when things settle we’ll be at the forefront of moving forward.

There’s always a twist in these things, and the twist here is that the forefront won’t come easily. We’ll be there, working and purchasing and doing the things that Americans do day-to-day to move the country forward, but the fight for equity isn’t going to magically disappear. There will still be disparities at all levels (I don’t think I need to list them). The idea is that immigration reform is going to pivot the great American questions decisively in the Latino direction: What is America? What is America’s future?

Let’s get to tweaking, but know that it won’t be easy.

[Photo by Mr. Wright]

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