In August 2002, a special report, Social Rights and Citizenship: An International Comparison, about immigration policies in liberal democratic states including Australia, United States, and Canada was published by Michael Fix and Laureen Laglagaron form the Urban Institute – an independent non-partisan which analyzes problems and policies in America and other countries (2008). The report explored general trends in immigration policies in liberal democratic states.
The report Social Rights and Citizenship discussed different access provided in countries including Australia and the United States such as permanent status, rationing benefits, indirect bars to benefits, restrictions to contributory benefit, public sector employment, private sector employment, and self-employment.
It also included the anti-discrimination policies and their policy recommendations (Fix and Laglagaron 2002).
Australia and the United States offer an incredible open access to its immigrants such as extensive labor market rights to legal non-citizens. Generally, the migrants are characterized with comparatively low education, from ethnic and racial minorities, non-citizen status, and compromise the labor force. The immigrant countries saw the importance of promoting policies for the social rights such as ration benefits for citizenship.
Australia and the United States are some of the countries that offer employment for immigrants; non-contributory social welfare programs like cash transfer, heath care, and housing assistance; contributory social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and pension programs; and selected social investment programs such as education for elementary and secondary, job training, and grants for higher education (Fix and Laglagaron 2002).
Citizenship in both countries is either immigrant entering as legal permanent resident or landed immigrant converting followed by citizenship conversion. In order for a legal immigrant to be naturalized, two years is the minimum; but in the United States, it will take five years of permanent residency status (Fix and Laglagaron 2002). In Australia, immigrants who wanted to file for citizenship must pass a test. The test is not required for people aged below 18 and above 60, those with hearing and sight impairment, and those with permanent physical and mental incapacity. Entrants who are required to take the test must of course pass the test, a permanent resident, satisfied the residence requirement, and with good character. However, there are exemptions for the residence requirement if they served in the permanent forces of Australia for three months; six months in either navy, army, or air force; or discharged in service as medically unfit (2006).
In the United States, on the other hand, naturalization process takes for entrants who are lawfully permanent resident or those with “green card”; but there are exceptions: if the applicant is below 18 years of age, served in the U.S. Army during war, suffered from physical and mental impairment, 50 years or age and lived for 20 years in the US, or 55 years of age and permanent resident for at least 15 years.. Otherwise the applicant must satisfy the general requirements: residence requirement of five years, three months physical presence before filing for naturalization, literate and speaks English, basic knowledge on U.S. history and government, and possesses good moral character (2008).
In Australia, not only the immigrants do benefit from the immigrant and citizenship policies but also the Australian business sector. According from Minister Peter McGauran of Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Indigenous Affairs, cultural diversity in the workforce can help export companies to understand overseas markets and therefore achieve competitive edge in the international trade. Australia is host country of people from approximately 200 countries. The minister added that cultural and linguistic diversity can be an opportunity for business leaders in Australia to understand and gain from cultural diversity (2005).
In the United States, a research study conducted by the Federal Reserves Bank proved that immigration can disadvantageous in the short run but beneficial in the long run. An immigrant with comparatively low education, for example, is equivalent to $13,000 costs per year but once at least two-year college education is achieved, it will generate $198,000 in taxes. Jorge Santibañez, researcher from Northern Mexico Border College, said that operations against illegal migration do not prevent immigration. In 1996, there were about 916,000 legal immigrants in the U.S. while 300,000 were illegal. In 1997 U.S. population, 59% were Anglo while 41% were Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American. George Borjas, professor at the Harvard’s University’s School Government, added that the number of Hispanic immigrants is likely to increase over the years (Vinas 1997).
In Australia, skilled immigrants have played a significant role in business. Immigration has also helped the country increased its population over the years since the end of World War II where more than 5.7 million immigrants moved to Australia. It covers the 40% population growth. The population became more diverse when people from parts of Europe and Asia transferred with New Zealand as the highest contributor of immigrants in Australia. Family migration has also increase in 1980. The Howard Coalition government then emphasized the need for skill migration focusing on migrant’s employability, work experience, English proficiency, and age. Under the same policy, opportunities for migrant students also increased (Khoo 2002).
In U.S. however, there is a growing concern over the ethics about the immigration reform. In February 2007, “Love Thy Neighbor? Ethical Underpinnings and Racial Politics of Immigration Reform, a panel discussion was held among professors and directors of different sectors. According from the debate, ‘economic uncertainty and social transformation’ have changed how Americans perceive national and racial identities especially to the immigrants and neighboring countries. Policymakers and public leaders have ignored the ‘racial dynamics of immigration’ and highly focused instead on the effects of immigrant populations to U.S. economy and employment. Naomi Mezey, law professor at Georgetown University, said that anti-immigrant minorities such as anti-Chinese campaigns is beginning to be a popular movement. These movements however are led mostly by recent immigrant themselves. There is an increasing fear that is developing against immigrants who are willing to work in low salaries that they could be an economic threat (Duncan 2007).
Americans argue that too many people migrating in the U.S. is a threat. Beginning from 1981, Haitians seek asylum and refugee law but six were only given the chance among the 21,000. Susan Benesch, former director of the refugee program at Amnesty International US, argued that “starving is not a form of suffering that qualifies you to enter another country or to stay in that country and eat under asylum law”, since most of the Haitians attempted for refugee status. She also added that the ethical part of the U.S. immigration law is the asylum and refugee law however question of national security hinders the moral obligation to help foreigners who are in need. Immigration policies cover the issues on legal or illegal immigrants and wage-labor employment. According from Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, there are estimated 38 million immigrants. It means that one out of eight people is an immigrant. Ann Matter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania, commented that opinions raised about immigration are only based from personal experience and not from reason (Duncan 2007).
Although liberal democracies like Australia and the United States offer an open access to immigrants, there are still other benefits that the entrant cannot avail fully. The report on Social Rights and Citizenship has specific recommendations for the immigration policies including both countries such as: access to social benefits should not be based upon citizenship; rights to residence, labor market security, or naturalization should be protected; employment should promote for integration of permanent residents; and, anti-discrimination policies to ensure private employment and equality (Fix and Laglagaron 2002).
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Fix, M. and L. Laglagaron (2002). Social Rights and Citizenship: An International Comparison, Urban Institute: 1-53. Retrieved 10 May, 2008, from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/410545_SocialRights.pdf
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Vinas, A. (1997). “Study Proves Immigration Benefits U.S.” Retrieved 10 May, 2008, from http://www.nmsu.edu/~frontera/old_1997/dec97/1297imm3.htm.
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