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Immigration Reform Bill Could Solve Half the Problem
Photos from the immigration reform rally last Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photos by Derek Schwabe/Bread for the World)
A path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States may be closer to reality than it has been in more than 25 years. This week, a bipartisan group of senators — the so-called “Gang of Eight” — is expected to make public its proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal is believed to represent an agreement between Congress and the president. It could reach the Senate floor for debate before the Memorial Day recess.
Thousands of advocates descended upon the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday in an effort to jump-start the reform process. They carried flags of Latin American countries together with U.S. flags, as well as signs and banners in English and Spanish with phrases like “The time is now” and “We are all immigrants.” Rally leaders described the event as vital to building public momentum for reform in what they see as a window of political opportunity.
As U.S. policymakers and advocates alike weigh in on the necessary discussion of how to fairly draw the nation’s current undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows,” we cannot neglect the other half of the problem. As we’ve mentioned before, there is no question that undocumented immigrants will continue to come. The more important (though less often addressed) question is why.
The 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, opens a discussion of “why” with information about the economic situation in many Latin American communities:
Immigration from Latin America is at the center of the debate on immigration policy in the United States—yet very little attention has been paid to the conditions that drive people in Latin America to enter the United States illegally. Migration as a coping strategy is not unique to Latin American immigrants in the United States. Around the world, people have escaped poverty by migrating to places where there is a better chance of earning a living. This includes the rural youth in Uganda mentioned earlier in this chapter, migrating to cities in search of opportunity, and it includes young people from village after village in Guatemala who head to the United States or sometimes to jobs on sugar and coffee plantations in Guatemala or Mexico. The United States is a more popular destination—despite the risk of crossing the desert—because the plantations pay little more than they would be able to earn at home.
While thousands speak out for a better life for immigrants here in the United States, we should remember that the voices we aren’t hearing are those of more than 40 million people in Latin America who struggle to feed their families. Global initiatives such as the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have driven economic progress in many countries, but efforts to end hunger and extreme poverty must come from both sides of the border for an effective response to the “supply” side of undocumented immigration.
Visit the 2013 Hunger Report website to read more about the relationship between hunger and poverty and immigration.
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