The Obama Administration and Changes in U.S. Immigration Policy

The Obama Administration and Changes in U.S. Immigration Policy

Hyunmo Choi (Director of the Center for Migrant Workers’ Human Rights in Korea)

On November 4, the first black president of the United States was elected. Until the last minute of the election, negative images of Obama were intentionally circulated, such as acquaintance with terrorists, black-and-white conflict, and Muslim controversy. There were also concerns about the Bradley effect, but it had little effect on the outcome of the election. On the night of November 4, 2008, after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, 146 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Americans who elected a black president shouted, ‘CHANGE, WE CAN! YES, WE DID!’ He did not hide his excitement and excitement at his ‘historical choice’.
Obama, created by a high desire for change
As an migrant human rights activist and studying American society, I lived in Washington DC, the capital of the United States, and watched the US presidential election. Immediately after coming to the United States, I was able to meet some progressive intellectuals in the Washington area, and also had an opportunity to assess the significance of this US presidential election by participating in the activities of Latino and other Asian immigrant rights advocacy groups, including Korean immigrant groups. . Although the individual concerns and activities at the moment were different, the attitudes they showed in relation to this election were almost identical. ‘CHANGE’, that is, it was a high desire for change. 
Changes in economic policy, changes in foreign policy, changes in health care and welfare policies, and changes in immigration policy, I felt that almost all areas of American society were demanding change. As an activist for migrant human rights, my interest was undoubtedly on immigration policy, especially on the issue of undocumented immigrants.
At the
end of July, an unusual event occurred in American society against the policy of deportation . Mayors of more than 1,100 major cities gathered at the annual meeting of the Council of Mayors in Miami, Florida, against the federal government to immediately stop raiding and indiscriminate deportations of undocumented immigrants, reunions between families and 12 million illegal (unregistered) immigrants. Adopted a resolution to promote immigration reform, which includes providing legal status to immigrants, providing opportunities to acquire citizenship, and securing current and future legal immigrant workers. Through the resolution, the mayors of the United States stated that ‘immigrants make a significant economic, social and cultural contribution to American society, and the rights of all individuals, regardless of their country of origin or immigration status, should be respected, and equal government services should be provided. Rather, it confirms that the government has a duty to protect all local residents so that they can live a safe and prosperous life.’
  In response to this move, the US media evaluates that the US society has clearly opposed the massive surprise crackdown and indiscriminate deportation of undocumented immigrants by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), which has been ongoing for several years. From October of last year to the end of September of this year, ICE praised itself, saying, “There were strong results of law enforcement, such as cracking down on and deporting about 350,000 people and reducing about 1.3 million illegal immigrants, including voluntary departures.” Some anti-immigrant groups supported it, but the mood in American society as a whole is apathetic. Rather, the indiscriminate crackdown and deportation are raising human rights issues for all immigrants, not just undocumented immigrants. In some regions, economic activity is paralyzed and there are even signs of community collapse, demanding policy change.
Obama’s Policies
Reflecting the Human Rights of Immigrants This demand for change in immigration policy is also reflected in President-elect Obama’s promises. He has suggested that the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States will be given relief measures leading to the granting of legal work visas, permanent residency and US citizenship if certain conditions are met, and that the new legal immigrant quota will be significantly expanded. It has also emphasized that crackdowns such as raids on workplaces, which the Bush administration has been carrying out indiscriminately, should be stopped. With these promises, Obama received overwhelming support from all immigrant advocacy groups, including 67% of Latinos, and was elected president.
  Immigrant advocacy groups have high expectations now that Obama is preparing for the next administration. Now it is the Obama administration’s turn to keep its promises. Although it is difficult to come up with a major immigration policy reform from the beginning because it is necessary to put all efforts to overcome the serious economic crisis as a top priority, the immigrant society demands that only the indiscriminate crackdown on undocumented immigrants should be stopped at the beginning of the inauguration. The desperation of immigrants who want to escape from the fear of indiscriminate crackdown and deportation and enjoy even the minimum of freedom in the society to which they are contributing is deeply permeated. The current outlook is that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress will stop indiscriminate immigration crackdowns early next year and begin immigration reform in the second half of next year. 
In early November, I heard the news that about 100 migrant workers were arrested at once and about 10 seriously injured as a result of the indiscriminate crackdown ‘operation’ of the crackdown team that raided the workplace in Maseok, Gyeonggi Province. It must have driven the Mana-seok area into a state of complete panic. In spite of numerous social criticisms over the past few years, the indiscriminate crackdown and deportation of rabbit herding has caused indelible pain to migrant workers and shakes the local community. The United States has entered into its own preparations, agreeing on the need for national measures to pursue the coexistence of the entire society by pointing out the policy errors of the past few years, acknowledging the value of immigrants and guaranteeing an intact life. The mind watching is complicated. 
STOP! CRACKDOWN. WORKING IS NOT A CRIME! Labor is not a crime! Stop the crackdown! The cry of migrant workers is the same everywhere.
# Secretary General Choi Hyun-mo entered a one-year sabbatical and is currently studying immigration policy in the United States.

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