Solution to Arizona immigration law troubles: 'Safe passage' home?
Allowing all illegal immigrants 'safe passage' out of the country is one proposed solution to the tangle of problems presented by federal immigration reform and the Arizona immigration law.
With its now-suspended immigration law, Arizona sent a clear message to illegal immigrants: Pack your bags and go home. Five other state legislatures have introduced similar legislation and 20 more are considering it.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, a group committed to stopping illegal immigration is proposing a way to make this happen.
It's called "safe passage," and it's the idea that the US should allow – and in some cases help – the 15 million undocumented Hispanic workers believed to be residing in the US to leave the country freely.
A political action committee, Americans for Legal Immigration (AILPAC), believes safe passage could be a breakthrough idea in Capitol Hill's immigration-reform deadlock. That remains an open question. But some experts say it taps into Americans' mixture of antipathy and sympathy toward undocumented migrants, many of whom share bedrock values with conservative Americans, such as a strong work ethic and deep religious beliefs.
"I don't think most people support a mass deportation, so a safe passage speaks to a more voluntary return," says Audrey Singer, an immigration expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The complicated part for people returning has to do with opportunities abroad and opportunities here, how embedded they are socially, whether they have kids who have grown up, and how long they've been here. But there are others, especially young men, who are more footloose who are thinking of leaving or who have already left."
Tough immigration enforcement at the state level, along with the availability of work, has already had an impact on migration. As many as 100,000 undocumented workers have already left Arizona in the past two years, going either to other states or back to their home countries, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
Americans' contradictory opinions
Recent polls reveal America's contradictory views on illegal immigration.
An Arizona Republic poll released this weekend found that 55 percent of Arizonans support SB 1070, the law that would force local law-enforcement officials, during routine stops, to determine the immigration status of people they think might be illegal immigrants. (A judge temporarily halted that portion of the law in a ruling Wednesday.) National polls have found similar support for Arizona-style laws.