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Rising Tensions

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Arizona’s decision on April 23rd to make illegal immigration a state misdemeanour in addition to a federal civil violation has sparked serious controversy. The law requires state police to check the papers of anyone whose immigration status they have “reasonable” cause to doubt, forcing all non-US citizens to carry documents proving their immigration status. The new law has caused a national uproar, as Americans claim the legislation is un-American and  could lead to racial profiling. On May 1st, about a million people across the country took to the streets to protest Arizona’s legislation. The cancellation of corporate conferences, a possible tourism boycott and talk of relocating Major League Baseball’s 2011 All-Star Game worry some Arizonans.

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has ballooned in the past decade to between 11 and 12 million, with most coming from Central America. Politicians often focus on the negative consequences created by illegal immigrants. As immigrants are exploited by their employers, wages are driven down. Not surprisingly then, anti-immigrant sentiment is highest in places where unemployment is highest. Historically considered a federal responsibility, the federal government has struggled to deal with this inflammatory issue. Although pres. Obama has voiced his commitment to making progress on the immigration issue, nothing of substance has been produced by the Obama administration.

America claims to be a melting pot, a country built by immigrants, and a compassionate nation. Illegal immigration presents many seemingly unsolvable problems, but it’s not going away. As states struggle to manage illegal immigration, the Obama administration has a duty to set the tone for the nation. Its silence is deafening.

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