Sunday, May 21, 2006

Open or Closed Nation?

A sunny morning in New York. But before resuming discussions on the future of Russia, it is imperative to try to get through the Sunday papers.

The New York Times on Sundays is one of the more solid pieces of information to be found on this globe. There, as elsewhere, it is obvious how immigration is now the big issue dividing Americans and dominating its politics. Not even Iraq or Iran reaches the same intensity in terms of the debate.

And this coming week the Senate will try to get its act together and decide on its position. The House already has - to the horror of many.

For those interested, the Washington Post has excellent coverage of the issue. And the New York Times a good editorial today.

There are 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. For all practical purposes we are talking about Mexicans - mostly referred to as Hispanics. And increasingly they are all over the US.

There are two extremes in the debate - an amnesty for them all, paving the way for citizenship, or more or less immediate imprisonment and deportation for everyone.

President Bush is trying to create a middle ground. But he's not having an easy time with the issue.

On the one hand he did important inroads into the Hispanic vote - increasingly important - in his latest elections. He is from Texas with its large Hispanic population and close ties to Mexico, and he speaks Spanish.

But on the other hand parts of the hard core of the Republican party is very militant in its deportation approach to the issue.

So he is on the one hand sending the National Guard to patrol the border with Mexico and on the other hand paving the way for a scheme under which some recent illegal immigrants would have to go back while those that have been here longer will be offered possibilities of staying.

Not an easy balancing act - but a decent attempt to secure a decent middle ground in a very divisive debate.

A debate very much like the one we now find in a number of European countries.

The pressure of the South is reshaping socities on both sides of the Atlantic.