Candidates have started gearing up for next year’s presidential election, which means it’s our time as voters to start paying attention to the issues associated with each party’s platform. One of the hot topics will certainly be in regards to the immigration debate and its proposed reform. Admittedly, U.S. immigration law is extremely complex. This can create a lot of confusion amongst voters as they prepare to make decisions.

Yet, we shouldn’t tune out an issue just because it contains many moving parts. So, what details do we need to know in order to make informed choices and share our opinion?

Below we’re briefly outlining the details of the immigration debate so that you can learn more about the issue and align yourself with a view that resonates with you. We know this won’t fully encompass every argument, but we sincerely hope it’s a jumping off point for deciding where you’d like to press in for deeper research.

Currently, the Immigration and Naturalization Act is the legislation stipulating that 675,000 permanent immigrants are permitted to live in the United States annually. Each of these immigrants fall into a certain category, granting them permanent immigrant status because they qualify for one of the following criteria: family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, protective refugee immigration, participation in the diversity visa program (which provides assistance and priority for individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to America), or other forms of humanitarian relief.

Issues have arisen over the past few decades because individuals have been immigrating to the U.S. illegally, and not going through the proper channels to obtain American citizenship. As a result, some individuals have clamored for stricter laws to regulate and bring order to those not abiding by the rules.

In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was implemented by the Obama administration to provide benefits for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 years old, including receiving renewable two-year work permits and qualifying for exemptions from deportation. Though this policy did not automatically grant these individuals American citizenship, it created uproar on both ends of the political spectrum – some constituents passionately supported the act while others vehemently opposed it.

Controversy arose once again in 2014 when President Obama announced changes to DACA, crafting a series of executive amnesty actions that are summed up most succinctly and eloquently by Conn Carroll in a piece for

“Specifically, Obama’s new amnesty program will give illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years, and who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents, a three year work permit. This permit will also allow them to obtain a Social Security number and get a driver’s license. Pew [Research Center, a non-partisan American think tank based in D.C.] estimates that 3.5 million current illegal immigrants will qualify for this program.”

The current administration supports this program because they believe that this will preserve family ties between people who came to the U.S. illegally and had children who are now American citizens. Additionally, they believe that many of these individuals have worked hard to not only benefit themselves and their families, but also the greater good and the American economy as a whole. Removing them, they argue, would strike a major blow to the economy.

Admittedly, U.S. immigration law is extremely complex. This can create a lot of confusion amongst voters as they prepare to make decisions.

Conversely, opponents fear the negative financial implications that have potential to arise from granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. For example, they argue that undocumented citizens, who have not been paying taxes and contributing to Social Security, will suddenly become eligible for these benefits, draining resources that would otherwise be reserved for current citizens (including immigrants who have gone through the proper channels of obtaining their citizenship legally). Additionally, they believe that the executive amnesty order was a violation of the checks and balances system that was put into place by America’s forefathers to protect any one individual from having too much power over the country.

Ultimately, immigration has always been a major issue that has divided political parties for years and years, and it’s likely that it will continue to do so for years to come.

Regardless of the outcome of debates and discussions between politicians and leaders, our job as American citizens is to educate ourselves first, in order to best stand behind a course of action that we believe in.

What are your thoughts on the immigration debate? 

Image via Lisa Diederich Photography

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