New patterns of Hispanic immigration
are changing the U.S. political landscape.
Addressing the local backlash
will require a more active and progressive private sector.
immigration reform, it may be a long time before
the passage of a comprehensive bill.
Aside from that debate, the country needs a
national integration policy for documented immigrants that brings together the experience and
economic and political will of state and local governments with the private sector and civil society.
While integration of immigrant groups has occurred
naturally over time throughout U.S. history, the growing Hispanic population poses a particular challenge—
especially because it has been overshadowed by the
bitter debate over undocumented immigrants.
The limited programs at the federal level for first-generation immigrants and their U.S.-born children,
in particular, is telling. With federal attention focused
on borders, insufficient resources are dedicated to
help legal immigrants fully participate and exercise
their rights and obligations in the U.S. and achieve
better opportunities for themselves and their families
through education, English-language instruction and
job counseling programs. Instead, there is a patchwork
of programs that lacks unifying objectives and principles. Stitching together these varied and ad hoc programs to develop a coherent effort represents one of the
most serious policy challenges for the U.S., with implications for U.S. society, economy and political comity.
A challenge so crucial to the future of the country
needs to bring together the resources and expertise
of federal, state and local governments, community-based organizations and the private sector. The 2008
election could offer a unique opportunity to bring
this issue to the center of the debate.