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What Is Immigration Reform?

Many lobbyists head to Washington DC with the intent of shaping immigration policy.
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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
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Immigration reform refers to official changes enacted by a country’s government in regards to its immigration policy. The DREAM Act in the United States is an example of such legislative changes. These changes can be in favor of open immigration or lead to immigration reduction. Furthermore, immigration reform may be brought about in response to illegal immigration. Factors influencing both proponents and opponents to immigration reform include the state of the country’s economy, the portion of government expenditures related to immigration, population density, and national security concerns.

Countries experiencing an increase in legal or illegal immigration or suffering from a dwindling population due to aging or low birth rates often encounter calls for immigration reform. Also, proponents of immigration reform may request such changes to aid people in third world countries or living under oppressive governments. Changes to a country’s immigration law may also be called for if an immigrant class has a certain skill set or background deemed desirable to the population or threatening to the population.

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During periods of economic turmoil, petitioners for immigration reform may seek to establish policies that discourage immigration. This is especially true if a high proportion of immigrants accept jobs for wages less than a native or naturalized citizen would take. One justification for this is that by agreeing to work for less, immigrants create financial hardship for citizens by depressing wages, reducing the bargaining power of workers, and increasing the supply of available workers — despite stagnation in the demand for such workers.

The impact of immigrants on government expenditures is also highlighted as a reason for limiting immigration. Proponents for restricted immigration often cite an immigrant group’s use of government social programs like public schools, welfare, housing vouchers, and health care subsidies. Under this view, proponents of immigration reform believe the money spent by the government to aid the immigrant population contributes to the country’s budget deficit or would be better allocated to citizens.

Immigration reform may also be used to advocate for liberal immigration policies. The reasons for such requests can be based on humanitarian beliefs, a desire to unite families, the need for a certain skill set provided by immigrants, or the need to increase a population to stimulate a country’s economy. Some countries have lottery systems that provide citizenship to citizens in impoverished or repressed areas. Furthermore, some immigrants may have certain skill sets that a country’s native population is lacking. Also, countries that have a higher proportion of older citizens may seek to increase immigration in an effort to prevent a decline in production or spending that stimulates the economy.

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