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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 11:46 GMT
Will US immigration law overhaul work?

Millions of illegal workers in the US could be given legal status, if George W Bush has his way.

The US president is calling for a major overhaul of the law to allow some of America's undocumented immigrants to work there legally for a fixed period.

Mr Bush said the proposals will make Americans safer as the government will have a better idea of who is crossing US borders, and that they would make the US a "more compassionate, humane and stronger country" .

But critics believe it is merely an attempt by Mr Bush to gain support from Hispanic voters in the next election.

What do you think of the proposals? Will they work?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Mexico needs to fix its problems at home and this will do none of that
John Meis, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
I voted for Bush but with this I regret my decision. Mexico needs to fix its problems at home and this will do none of that. This is a slap to all of those who worked hard to come here legally. It is just another bill that will allow millions to stay in the USA. It is amnesty, because what of those who do not get a guest worker visa? Well they will cross the border as they have in the past. It will stop nothing - the only solution is for Mexico to have reforms that allow for more employment at home for Mexicans - that is the real solution!
John Meis, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

This is folly. During the nineties the numbers of H1B visas issued got out of control. Now there is a glut of techies which has lowered wages and led to unemployment amongst natives. Many illegal "companies" will be created just to employ the immigrants. It is also a slap in the face to those who played the game and came here legally. The illegals should be deported immediately.
Kevin, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

As Britons trying to settle in the US, for President Bush to allow millions of illegal immigrants to settle here is very annoying to say the least. We are waiting for our green card to come through which is taking forever and the cost of this is mounting. Also we had to go through medicals and blood tests which were degrading. It seems as though there is one law for them and another for us. I thought that the British were supposed to be "friends" of the US. We certainly do not get treated like that. We have even been told that we speak the wrong language!
John Chater, Florida, USA

The US has being made by immigrants. The US constitution approves immigrants. I don't see any reason why it does not just continue to admit peoples of all race, sex, and religion.
Isaac L Rivera, Guadalajara, México

Anything is better than what's going on now. Our neighbours are wonderful hardworking people. Sure they are a healthcare and educational burden, as have been all new immigrant groups. But California has always been Mexican and American.
Brian Larson, San Luis Obispo, California, USA

Since millions of Mexicans and South Americans have forced their way into the US and the United States want to make life better for them, then America should send money to those countries and help them build their own countries. Help them define industry and show them how to work within those industries and to become successful at home. A good motto could be "work where you live". George Bush's idea is sickening to millions of Americans who really do want him out.
Jean, Atlanta, GA, USA

Americans are out of work and the man in the Oval office wants to import people to compete for the few jobs we have
Cherie, USA, Detroit, USA
Americans are out of work and can't afford health care. The man sitting in the Oval office worries about saving the people of Iraq. A recovery is announced on TV and Americans are still out of work. Those that find work earn substantially less than what they did before. Americans are out of work and the man in the Oval office wants to import people to compete for the few jobs we have. I think compassion is great. It would be nice if some could be shown to Americans who are out of work and struggling to survive.
Cherie, USA, Detroit, USA

The most overlooked aspect of the Bush proposal is: people can apply to work in the US for three years if a US company offers them a job. That means you can live in India, China, Nigeria, etc and as long as you get a job offer and apply to the program, you can come to the US to work. Amazing. I welcome this. It can bring back industries to the US that we lost years ago.
John, MA, USA

I don't think people who are illegally should be given any priority over those who are applying for visas legally. All this does is make it harder for those trying to come here legally.
Tim Delaney, Front Royal, Virginia

This is a great move from government. There are brothers and sisters living in this country for over 20 years still illegal, no medical benefits and working under wages. My special thanks to G W Bush.
Rizwan Syed, Laguna Niguel

I think its a wise decision and will serve both the sides. The US government will have a better idea of who is crossing US borders, and illegal workers will have greater opportunities and better life. This would make US more humane and stronger community.
sadaf, Florida, USA

Whether it works or not, it is a start and it is the right thing to do. As Americans, we need to get beyond our own focus of: "it's all about me" and look toward our neighbour in need - by the way, everyone is our neighbour. If one nation can make a difference in the lives of the poor and the needy maybe others will follow suit.
Penny, USA

I feel this can be good and bad for the reason that immigrants send money to their countries and America losses revenue. People can view it as they want but I think this will not become a law. But we'll see what happens.
Pedro Talavera, San Diego, California

It is very wise and bold decision of the President Bush. It will strengthen the economy of the great Untied States. It proves that President has patience with the humanity. Now, people will work with more zeal and efficiency for development of the United States.
Muhammad Ashiq, Islamabad, Pakistan

George Bush immigration proposal is both good and bad. It would encourage migrant workers to be a part of the tax paying population, discourage hiring illegals and make it more easy to deport migrant workers when their job ends. It is confusing because they can file for citizenship. How could you deport someone who is surely going to file for citizenship? Time will tell.
Zeke, Elizabeth, USA

*cough* election bid *cough, cough*...
Rebecca Aspbury, Brisbane
*cough* election bid *cough, cough*... The only problem with that though, is that once he is undoubtedly re-elected, he will suddenly 'change his mind'. GIVE THEM A CHANCE!
Rebecca Aspbury, Brisbane, AUS

It's a slap on the faces of people like me who want to make America my home the legal way. I intend to get a valid student visa, burn my last 2 year's savings of $20,000 to get a masters degree from an American University, try to find a job after I graduate, and then intend to ask my employers to sponsor an American citizenship. I believe it would have been easier to walk across the Mexican border! But I am sure I will feel more self worth if I use my approach.
Rakesh, USA

I spent a year in Mexico and travelled throughout Central America. Almost everyone I met wanted to come to America, except of course for the Leftist University types who despised America but they were maybe one out of 30 people. Bush's plan is nothing more than a recognition of the current situation. Just like Reagan's similar venture it will only halt illegal immigration if the immigration laws are changed and the number of legal immigrants allowed per year is increased.
Phil D, NYC, USA

The greatest US president will be the one that will make Mexico a US state. This is the perfect solution to the never ending conflicts with Mexico
Tighil Moses, Chicago, USA

As a guest worker programme it would be progressive. If it gives permanent status it not only will attract justified criticism from those who have entered legally but be seen as vote pandering. The USA is not the great big melting pot that people like to think and a further influx of legalised immigrants from a third world nation will do nothing to help.
Keith, USA

I have zero respect for Bush, and am sure that his plan is largely based on a hope that it will increase votes for the Republicans. What I don't understand is how it will actually do this. Foreign workers on work permits are no more eligible to vote than illegal workers. Only citizens can vote, and that takes five years' residence. I suspect that Bush has little understanding of how the US immigration system works.
Sally Amis, Prague, Czech Republic

What puzzles me is that no one is questioning how corporate America will take advantage of this law. What will stop them (corporate America) from drastically reducing wages throughout industry to hire documented immigrant workers who will work for a lesser wage? Why would corporate America hire a college graduate when they could hire three immigrant workers for the same price?
David, Patton, PA USA

The people who are the target of this proposal are already here in the US. It is time that we recognize them. Whether or not the proposal will work, it is the right thing to do.
Margaret, USA

NO! The proposals by BUSH will not work! The illegals have and are breaking the USA Law by being and working in the USA. Bush is rewarding criminals PLUS many millions more will cross the border into the USA - further bringing-down the economy and way-of-life for Americans.
Terence Gaffney, UK & USA

I believe it is quite likely he is doing it because he thinks it's the right thing to do
Jason, Detroit, USA
George Bush is the only American president in the last 20 years who has done controversial things that have actually cost him votes. But he did them because he thought they were right. The way a real leader does. Is he doing this for Hispanic votes? Maybe? But, I believe it is quite likely he is doing it because he thinks it's the right thing to do. And I am willing to support him on it. Now if he would get to the task of tightening border security in combination with this plan.
Jason, Detroit, USA

Before you type your comment, consider for a moment that someone other than George Bush was introducing this plan. Would you still be spiteful and critical, or would you be hailing it as a tremendous victory for the poor and suffering? I know the answer. Look in the mirror, do you?
Jason, Detroit, USA

Does Mr Bush plan to do anything for the tens of thousands of legalized immigrant workers, like me, who follow each and every law to get a permanent status (Green Card) and who have been waiting for the past 3 years without any progress.
Sam Swaminathan, Poughkeepsie, NY

I think the proposal is good in that I understand there are thousand of illegal immigrants and are hardworking and with the Strong economy as American people keep on flogging in to US for search of better life. Bush please help the vulnerable. Most of those have failed to earn citizenship through the green cards system. Most Africans are there because of the power economies back home.
Exilda M Jika, Lusaka, Zambia

This new proposal is only encouraging illegal immigration
Dain, USA
The United States spends over 4 billion dollars a year on health care for illegal immigrants. Almost 75% of that is for people from Mexico. This money could be used to help under funded educational institutions, where the school systems here can't even sustain teachers because they don't have the money to pay them. This new proposal is only encouraging illegal immigration.
Dain, USA

About 60% of illegal immigrants are uneducated even they do not know how to write their name. They do not speak English. It is not only Hispanic illegal immigrants also from other countries illegal immigrants too. If they are well educated please welcome to the USA.
Khangai, Chicago, Il

There seem to have been no comments on the role of the American companies that hire these illegal immigrants. The agricultural industry makes vast profits by using underpaid labour. Those profits would suffer if fair wages were paid to American workers. The new law seems aimed more at protecting corporate profits than making the country safer or more humane.
Hans, Canada

Those who do not go through proper channels to get into the country should be deported
Zachary, USA
President Bush's plan to overhaul immigration is not only bad for the economy, it is representative of the agenda of radical Republicans and Democrats. Those who do not go through proper channels to get into the country should be deported, or forced to work in the military, along with many people in the prison system, to ease troop shortages.
Zachary, USA

The President of the United States has clearly stated that this programme is not a prelude to a full scale amnesty for illegal and unregistered aliens in the US. I would like to know why the Department of Homeland Security is not viewing these people as a potential threat to the national security of the country. If there are over 10 million illegal and unregistered aliens in the US, then we have a potential threat to our collective security.
Mehran, St. Paul, USA

Of course, it won't work. It's just a hastily concocted ploy to gain votes from a group that barely recognises its voting power to make that vital choice between Coca Cola and Pepsi government. Incidentally most of the illegal immigrants I know (and many of them have lived in the US for many years) pay their taxes and are law-abiding residents. While the US seriously needs to revamp its immigration law, this is neither the moment nor way to do so.
CJG, New York

Bush's proposal is the smartest way to include them inside of a system that they are living on the edges of
Craig Traylor, Texas, USA
It seems that my American brothers what don't live next to the border don't get it. The reality of the situation is that the Mexican nationals are ALREADY here. Bush's proposal is the smartest way to include them inside of a system that they are living on the edges of. Don't forget that Bush was the governor of Texas and has a very full and complete understanding of the "on the ground" reality along the border states. Besides, it's the right thing to do anyway and was on the schedule to be done before 9-11 came around. In reality this proposal is 2 years behind schedule.
Craig Traylor, Texas, USA

The law may or may not work, but President Bush's willingness to gather Latin votes by any means necessary is another nail in the coffin of the Democratic party.
Hamza Sheikh, USA

George Bush and his corporate buddies are more dangerous to my country than any terrorists. They are giving away our jobs, our technology, our security and rights, and our future.
Mike Brooks, USA

As a first generation Mexican American, I'd like to know how this overhaul is going to help my country. Who's going to pay for the high price of healthcare? Minimum wage isn't going to cover it. A lot of Mexicans come to this country to work but a lot also come for the welfare and great medical care that my taxes pay. My taxes also get to pay for the thousands of Mexicans sitting in county jails living better lives than back home. Bush lost my vote.
Dina, Chicago/ USA

As soon as they register, the currently undocumented workers will have all of the rights legal workers have including the right to minimum wage, workman's compensation, unemployment insurance, OSHA protection, and the right to sue. This will make it impossible for them to find work because the denial of these rights is the only reason we hire them in the first place.
Mark, USA

American perfect power is with in the American dream. So it vital and proper that the Americans allow the proposal to stand to give growth to the American dream and freedom.
Edwin Korkoyah, Liberia

For the people in this forum who keep remarking about how difficult life is being an illegal immigrant, good! It should be difficult. You are breaking the law and slapping the faces of all the rest of us citizens and legal immigrants who work hard and play by the rules.
Lisa, Wisconsin, USA

I'm sure the snakeheads are already gearing up for this
Helen, Hong Kong

Sure this is a political ploy but don't forget that the taxes these workers will be paying are desperately needed to pay off the largest debt ever in US history. But if this looks likely to go through, the US can expect a massive influx of people, thousands and thousands from China alone... I'm sure the snakeheads are already gearing up for this.
Helen, Hong Kong

Whoever is criticizing Bush with the idea of election pandering in mind, you are totally wrong and ill informed. Mexican President Fox and President Bush have had to postpone this immigration law due to 9/11. I believe it is a step in the right direction, since the many millions of illegal and undocumented workers will remain here anyway, whether we like them or not. Ultimately, the legalities of a humane immigration policy will be pointless unless we are able to safeguard our borders, which this takes steps in such a direction.
J Sexton, Las Vegas, USA

I think what Bush is trying to do is to start to bring the laws up to date with the situation. The fact that he is a former governor of Texas is significant here because, as I saw when I was a boy in Texas, enforcement of the present laws would be economic suicide. What I saw as a boy in a community full of illegal immigrants was that in the overwhelming majority of cases the illegal immigrants came to work and improve their lives.
Wallace Callen, Amherst, USA

Mr Bush has a long record of making bountiful promises which never quite arrive and this sounds like one of them
Mike, London, UK
It's a nice soapbox oratory, but Congress will never pass this in its current form. Mr Bush has a long record of making bountiful promises which never quite arrive and this sounds like one of them. It might win him a few votes from the Latino community, but only those whose memories do not stretch back to the promises he made to win Mexican votes in the run up to the last election.
Mike, London, UK

I'm very happy about this proposal of Mr G Bush, but not only Hispanic but to Nigeria and other countries. We are the people that doing all the work and they are ready to pay their taxes and willing to obey the law of America and Mr Bush should please grant them green cards so all the money will still in America.
Wasiu, Texas/Nigeria

It is clear that Bush has absolutely no understanding of the way his country's immigration policy works. There are already means for providing temporary work visas, and employers already need to satisfy a test that they cannot find American workers. All he would need to do is to increase the number of visas available.
Sally Amis, Prague, Czech Republic

A great 'legalised' way to enter the US without being fingerprinted or photographed - no need of visa (that needs to be 're-validated' for every small reason), not even a passport. Way to go (about the elections - do they get voting rights as well?)!
Gita, India

As a Californian I have visited these illegal workers several times. They live in the fields where they work. In tents. Or in trailer parks. They work impossible hours for far, far less than the minimum wage. And they are good people - English or no. So I don't care why Bush is doing it: if he can make their lives just a little bit easier for even a little bit, I am all for it.
Inna Tysoe, Sacramento, California, USA

This is a slap in the face to all of us who have been working hard to become legal United States citizens for years (including learning English and not Spanish!). These people have no respect for USA. Why should they walk in illegally and take the benefits and be protected when they do not even respect American laws?
Jean, USA and France

If you really read between the lines, nothing has changed. Are immigrants supposed to jump for joy just because there are "more" work visas? It is just a way for America to control immigration. In the meantime, menial jobs will still get done and after three years the US can then force these immigrants out, bringing in fresh ones, for another three years, keeping America's agricultural activities up to par.
Anon, Cape Town, South Africa

The people who have broken the law need to be sent back home
Robert Rathgeber, Gresham, Oregon USA
This new immigration proposal is deeply offensive to a large group of American citizens. The people who have broken the law need to be sent back home. If they want to come to the US then I would suggest they apply for immigration and then come here legally. This is a terrible proposal by President Bush.
Robert Rathgeber, Gresham, Oregon USA

I'm torn on this issue. On the one hand, as the grandson of a Latino immigrant, I applaud Mr. Bush for offering legal status to so many hard-working Latino migrants and all the benefits that entails. An addition benefit that they will now become a part of our nation's tax base. On the other hand, however, it disturbs me that so many people will be rewarded for flouting our old immigration laws. In the post-9/11 world in which we live, that thought makes me uneasy to say the least.
Jason Velez, New York, USA

In spite of it's a good thing to not let honest people in the clandestinely, the US should look at the experience of some European countries which have tried to legalize illegal immigration (France in the early 80' and Italy more recently): the immediate effect is to boost the illegal immigration and make the integration more difficult! So it doesn't solve anything.
François, Paris, France

When we recall the genesis of USA it is all about immigrants. The development of USD through the past 200 years is about immigrants, and it will always continue to be the land to fulfil 'America Dreams'.
Rahel Akalewold, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

It is always better to have regulations that respect the human rights of any individual. And for those Americans that worry about less job opportunities for them, just remember that the majority of those Mexicans (actually all Latin American people), are doing jobs that Americans don't want.
Lilian Garcia, Monterrey, Mexico

Won't work, we Americans are tired of losing jobs overseas and illegal immigrants taking those at home. The lower income Americans are being driven to despair by Bush.
Walt, Longview USA

Living illegally is hard - you have no rights
W Lawson, Boston

As an Englishman living and working illegally in America, I welcome the new proposals and hope they will not just apply to Mexicans! Britain fought with and supported America in the recent war and it seems crazy that us British illegals could be deported. Living illegally is hard - you have no rights, it is harder to find a job and you can't visit friends and family back home because you won't get back into the US. And to be deported means being forcibly separated from the friends, loved ones and indeed whole life you have acquired here over a number of years - it really is a horrible thing.
W Lawson, Boston

I fight long and hard to be here legally. Even so if I lose work I have to leave immediately. But my countrymen who sneak, lie and cheat to get to USA are welcomed my Senor Bush with open arms, even promised green cards. It makes me seek to the stomach.
Oscar Hernandez, Colorado

I do not think this proposal will work because it is all in an effort to get the Hispanic votes so Mr Bush can stay in office. I pity immigrants because they will get all hyped up for no apparent reason.
Cynthia, USA

If these workers speak English, I have no problem with allowing them to work here. If they do not speak English, they should be required to learn it or be exported. If I were going to work in France, I would have to learn French. Therefore, these Mexicans should learn English before they come.
R.D., Kansas City, MO USA

Think about this. Our borders are becoming more wide open and our freedoms are being eroded at the same time. So much for the (Rhine) homeland security and The USA PATRIOT ACT. Just an excuse to enact a police state!
Renee, Arlington USA

It is not fair... people like us who are trying to legally... interested in pursuing in legal residence are being discriminated in jobs because employers are saying that there are no jobs for Americans, but how is that illegal immigration is always favoured? Very soon US is going to become a country of minimum wage, uneducated workers if these kind of policies continue.
RH, Chicago

It seems that President Bush will go to any length to win the election in November
Charles Bruce, La Paz, Bolivia
It seems that President Bush will go to any length to win the election in November. This latest play for popularity appears to be his strategy to win certain key States including Florida which will have better voting machines this time around. His key theme is making Americans safer which may be getting out of hand. Why doesn't he do something for the unemployed Americans and not illegal immigrants?
Charles Bruce, La Paz, Bolivia

This is an election year. Compassion and humane considerations are to be expected. What I did not expect is from a President who has implemented finger-printing and photographing visitors to the country is now proposing to take in illegal workers. Yes, very consistent!
Mouli Narayanan, Portland, Oregon

As an immigrant myself and struggling for years to make my way to the US, I welcome this with open arms. Even if Bush is trying to win votes. I've never been his biggest fan, but what he is proposing makes sense. Billions of $s are sent home by illegal workers to their families. The US loses tax dollars. If they are legalized, the US will get their tax money, have control over workers and many hopeful immigrants will be granted a FAIR chance to make their dreams come true. And believe me, they are really willing to be lawful abiding citizens. They are willing to pay taxes. Everybody's problems could be solved.
Anon, Paris, France

US to overhaul immigration law
07 Jan 04 |  Americas


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