Immigration is a difficult issue growing more complex by the day, and understanding the laws surrounding it has quickly become important to many Americans. But according to experts in the field, despite recent political decisions that have seemed indicative of progress, the picture will remain murky for the foreseeable future.
“It’s been more than [ten years] since the last major, substantive overhaul of immigration laws, and I suspect there will be continued efforts to effect major changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act within the coming decade,” says Lorri Unumb, an attorney on the immigration team at Carlock Copeland, Semler & Stair LLP.
But where are the masses to turn for reliable and impartial information on immigration? Newspapers can only provide so much background information, and tend to focus more on current debates than on answering basic questions. On Wikipedia, a common source of reference for wired information hounds, controversial issues like immigration run the risk of vandalism from interest groups or anonymous Internet users.
One reputable resource, it seems, is blogs. A valuable medium for immigrants, business owners and the general public alike, blogs – such as the South Carolina Immigration Law Blog, maintained by immigration attorney Laura Paris of Carlock Copeland – are an informative and accessible resource on the web.
South Carolina isn’t the first state most people think of when the word “immigration” comes to mind. But there are a growing number of immigrants living there. According to a PDF report by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (now called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) detailing illegal immigration to the U.S. from 1990-2000, there was an estimated growth of approximately 29,000 illegal immigrants in South Carolina during that decade. It is important to note that this estimate does not include legal immigrants.
“The immigration phenomenon is fairly new to South Carolina and, as a result, people don’t generally associate [it] as a state with ‘immigration issues,’” says Paris. “However, we have had a boom in the Hispanic population (mainly from Mexico in the last 5 years), and both the State legislature and County Commissions have been very active in writing new legislation to address the issue.”
Much of the new legislation, Paris adds, has dealt with Employee Eligibility Verification (I-9) compliance, an issue that has “a very real impact” on the businesses she represents.
The firm had already developed their immigration practice in response to the growth, and took it one step further in early December 2006 when they launched their blog, meant to – according to Paris – “educate the public, both immigrant and non-immigrant.”
The immediate future of immigration law got a bit clearer today, when a Senate vote killed a controversial bill that would have led to comprehensive immigration reform in America. A defeat of the bill – which, if passed, would have essentially established a new immigration system and provided legal residence to millions of illegal immigrants – is sure to be a major turning point in the issue.
With the bill’s defeat, Paris thinks that “we’re going to see more workplace raids and a polarization of the immigrant population as it tries to avoid enforcement actions.”
That’s not all, according to Unumb. The next decade, she believes, is sure to bring more widespread changes.
“Although most of the media and public focus in the last year or two has been on congressional efforts to enact a legalization program, I think an equally significant reform that is being considered is the restructuring of the visa program,” Unumb says. “Both immigrant and non-immigrant visa requirements and programs need attention, and Congress seems interested in embracing a merits-based point system.”
One way or another, it seems blogging has only touched the tip of the immigration iceberg. Now that the axe has fallen on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, change is coming – and anyone who doesn’t want to be left behind will need to find ways to stay on top of the latest developments. With the web such a prominent tool in society today, weblogs seem like the almost-inevitable answer.
So does this mean an increased number of immigration blogs?
“I hope so,” says Paris. “All too often, public opinion is shaped by sound bites as opposed to real, informed opinions; I think blogging is a great way to let the public know about your services while providing an informed update as to the current state of legislation.”