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Has the US missed the best chance to solve its immigration problem?

By Tim Fernholz

After a brief respite attributed to the recession, the latest data show the population of unauthorized immigrants in the US is growing once again. And it may mark a major missed opportunity for US policymakers.

We’ve been following the progress of America’s efforts to reform its broken immigration system, which lets in millions of unauthorized immigrants while letting in too few authorized workers—and the two issues are connected. The political moment was considered ripe, since Republicans, traditionally opposed to recognizing unauthorized immigrants, had suffered an electoral loss due to stunningly bad returns among America’s growing Hispanic population. And, thanks to the recession, unauthorized immigration had stopped or perhaps even reversed.

Now, it seems unauthorized immigration is on the uptick again as the US economy recovers, and the bill passed by the Senate is stalled in the Republican house, with little sign that it will emerge before the end of this year as fiscal problems take precedence. That means that rather than creating a path to citizenship and creating legal alternatives for potential unauthorized immigrants while their population was stagnant and cross-border flows were low, the bill may instead face a larger number of unauthorized immigrants, complicating both the politics and the implementation of the law.

Tim Fernholz
Reporter
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