The US continues to debate what should be done with the country’s many illegal immigrants who currently pay no tax.  New proposed legislation could put the more than 10 million illegal immigrants on the road to citizenship, along with allowing thousands of new workers into the country.  However, it will also hold businesses more responsible for verifying that all their employees are legal citizens.  If passed, the legislation will mean the most significant changes to US immigration law in nearly 30 years.

Like so much in life, the key driver appears to be money for the government (perhaps with a smattering of ethics thrown in for good measure): given that it would cost too much to make the illegal immigrants leave they might as well be paying taxes seems to be the basic sentiment from what I can gather.  Obama has called for an April debate on the issue which is currently stalled with details such as minimum wages – he wants to pass the reforms this year.

The big concern those who support the bill have had to face is future border security.  After all, if you get rewarded with citizenship for making an illegal journey, who wouldn’t?  This week Senators toured the border reviewing fences and drones and watching border agents at checkpoints.  The proposed legislation will likely specify tougher border security which employs newer technologies.

People have a lot at stake here, this is a huge deal. We’re talking about the lives of 11 million people just to start with, so I understand why passions are high and sentiments are high,” McCain told reporters Friday, while emphasizing that despite this progress is steady.  Proving his point, in Chicago about 500 people marched the streets this week calling on lawmakers to do more to help immigrants who are working to become U.S. citizens.

As we have commented many times on this blog, and The Economist commented in November last year in an article entitled ‘The rainbow nation’, the face of American politics is changing.  Will this legislation, which means that an even greater proportion of Hispanics will become voting citizens and that more skilled immigrants will be allowed in, change the demographic face of the nation even more?

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...