Both the Federal Congress and Senate in the United States have failed to act decisively on immigration. They both passed legislations sometime ago but the joint committee of congress has failed to come up with and acceptable compromise bill, despite encouragement by the White House.
The House bill, dubbed "enforcement only" by critics, is devoted solely to removing illegal residents and preventing others from entering. It would make illegal immigrants and anyone who assist them in any way, including emergency care-givers and religious institutions, a felon.
The Senate bill is more tolerant and would beef up border security while simultaneously legalizing some illegal immigrants.
The White House initially favored the Senate bill but has recently shifted to an "enforcement first" posture. That strategy calls for putting border-security programs in place before embracing illegal immigrants and creating ways for newcomers to enter the country legally.
Both Federal houses are currently holding public hearings across the nation to gauge the public reaction to their competing proposals.
In addition, many states are also proposing legislation to curb illegal immigration. They are also holding hearings and soliciting the public’s input. In most of these bills State lawmakers would cut off all government paid benefits to illegal immigrants, make English the official language, and make it a felony to knowingly employee illegal immigrants. This is pure political posturing because once passed the federal legislation would preempt their legislation.
In the meantime, several municipalities, that will also be preempted, have enacted and implemented ordinances that met out harsh fines to anyone who rents too or employees an illegal alien. This all started with a sleepy little town in Pennsylvania where the mayor became an overnight national hero for taking a stand against immigration. He was an instant celebrity on all the national talk shows and newspapers.
Not to be outdone, Riverside, New Jersey, a small town with a long history of tolerance toward immigrants has just this week, unanimously enacted, ordinances that fine landlords and employers a thousand dollars for each incident of renting to or employing illegal immigrants. Businesses that violate the ordinance will also be denied business permit or renewals and barred from receiving grants or township contracts for five years.
What makes this bizarre is that more than half of the general population and business owners are Brazilian immigrants. They have revived the economy of this old industrial town, rehabbed and occupied vacant buildings, opened stores and restaurants on main-street and substantially raised the real estate value of properties.
I have attended some of these public hearings and read all the press accounts of them and in my opinion it is clear that the majority of the public that participated in these hearings are strongly opposed to granting amnesty to the illegal immigrants that are currently here in the U.S.
This sentiment is resonating with the conservative politicians that are up for re-election and it has emboldened them to criticize the churches, hospitals and charities that have provided shelter and emergency care to illegal immigrants.
In a recent, Pennsylvania public hearing to discuss proposed legislation similar to the Federal house bill, a State legislator, after discussing an instance where a hospital incurred a substantial cost in saving a mother life in childbirth, suggested "that hospitals would not be burdened by the costs of caring for illegal immigrants if they notified police whenever an illegal immigrant sought care".
Another legislator challenged the moral authority of the church in granting aid to people who break the law. In any other forum these positions would be political suicide, but with respect to illegal immigration they seem to resonate with the voting public
All these events and the public sentiment lead me to believe that the wind of American public opinion has shifted in favor of the proposed Federal house bill and it is likely that the new compromise legislation will be very intolerant of illegal immigrants and punitive in nature.
Bob McCulley is a CPA with a business in Brazil and many friends in the Brazilian community in the USA you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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