Over the ocean, another nation of immigrants is having a conversation about … immigration.

You just need to re-read the plaque stuck on the Statue of Liberty to remember the story of the nation’s migrants is traditionally a source of pride for most Americans.

But in Arizona, a different kind of story is unfolding. Overnight, the most controversial elements of Arizona’s immigration law were blocked by a federal judge. Provisions, such as one requiring authorities to check the immigration status of individuals while enforcing other laws, will not go into effect. US District Court Judge Susan Bolton also barred the state from requiring immigrants to carry their papers at all times.

But the Arizona argument has caused a fissure that extends beyond that state — nearly six in 10 Americans support Arizona’s new law, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in May. And in a CNN/Opinion Research survey conducted this month, 62% say the policies that were in effect at the time of the immigrant influx in the early 1900s made the country stronger — but 43% say those same customs and policies today are making the country weaker.

The President, like Gillard, is being accused by some of leaning to the right on this issue. And a nation wrestling with the implications of the GFC is not an environment that’s conducive to a sensible conversation on immigration. But at least, with his talk of amnesty for a large chunk of 11 million illegal immigrants already in the US , the President is trying to lead one.

Which is more than can be said for our two main candidates here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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