Opening a debate he admits is both "controversial" and "emotional", Barack Obama signalled his intention to overhaul America's immigration system yesterday, finally creating a means for the nation's millions of illegal residents to become fully-fledged citizens.Good on him. This is a courageous move. Illegal immigration is a huge social problem, in the US and in Britain, and the intransigent hardline beloved of the rightwingers is cloud-cuckooland stuff. The problem is too big to be addressed through their prefered means of rounding all the immigrants up and shipping them off to .. somewhere or other.
The President plans to take on the issue next month, confounding predictions that it would be kicked into the long grass as a result of the current gloomy economic climate.
Under proposals floated by the White House, undocumented workers who admit that they violated the law will be given a "path to citizenship", provided they agree to pay fines or undergo other sanctions. (1)
Unfortunately, of course, it is also the sort of issue that any full can make political capital out of - take a bow, Oswald Mosely, Enoch Powell, Nick Griffin - and addressing the issue from a saner standpoint takes political guts. What comes of it, of course, is another matter.
Offering those that are here the opportunity to regularise their status is smart, pragmatic and brave - three qualities I'd begun to suspect the Obama administration was devoid of.
Now, will the British government - or David Cameron's government in waiting - have the guts to make a similar move to deal with the illegal immigrants in Britain? A Tory had made hopeful noises some time ago (2), but the silence from the Conservative leadership has been profound, and not, I suspect, the silence of deep thought.
1 - 'Obama's immigration overhaul,' by Guy Adams, published in The Independent, 10th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/obamas-immigration-overhaul-1666847.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/09/tory-advocates-unthinkable-amnesty-for.html