Will an immigration deadlock make the U.S. a second-rate nation?
June 7th, 2012
08:30 AM ET

Will an immigration deadlock make the U.S. a second-rate nation?

A prime-time special: "Global Lessons: The GPS Roadmap for Making Immigration Work" debuts on CNN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 10.

By Fareed Zakaria

As the American economy sags, the race for the presidency gets tighter - except in one dimension. Hispanic Americans continue to support Barack Obama by an astonishing 61%-to-27% margin. Were Obama to win, it might well be because of his attitudes on one issue: immigration. But it is an issue on which he will be unable to enact any of his preferences, let alone those policies that many Latinos support. The Republican Party has taken a tough stand on the topic. Democrats have their own bright lines. That means America's immigration system is likely to stay as it is right now - utterly broken.

We think of ourselves as the world's great immigrant society, and of course, for most of the country's history, that has been true. But something fascinating has happened over the past two decades. Other countries have been transforming themselves into immigrant societies, adopting many of America's best ideas and even improving on them. The result: the U.S. is not as exceptional as it once was, and its immigration advantage is lessening.

Read more at TIME.com about lessons the U.S. can learn from other countries

Read all Fareed Zakaria's TIME columns

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Travis

    We need to make this country a bilingual one since we already have a large Spanish population here. This English only policy is no more than a lot of nonsense nowadays. The Canadians have no problem with being bilingual so why should we? Furthermore, the Canadians never made war on their Native American people as we did at the end of the 19th century.

    June 7, 2012 at 8:58 am | Reply
    • Amato




      June 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • James

      You are anidiot Travis. Stop drinking the Obama Kool-Aid and stop listening to your liberal teachers. If this nation becomes a bilingual nation, then Latinos will have one good reason not to learn English and assimilate. So shut up and stop smoking your bong.

      June 7, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
      • Patrick-2

        That's exactly how the late Saddam Hussein felt about Iraq before his 2003 overthrow by the U.S. led invasion there, James. Saddam wanted everyone in Iraq to speak Arabic only, spawning deep resentment amoung the Kurds and other Iraq minorities. He also wanted all Iraqis to become Sunnis, too.

        June 7, 2012 at 10:44 am |
      • Flash

        Instead of worrying about latinos "not assimilating", how about you go off and learn to speak spanish in addition to English? I speak English, French, and Spanish. We have language requirements in our public schools but unfortunately they are failing. Americans need to start realizing there is a much bigger world outside the US. "If the American dream is for Americans only, it will remain our dream and never be our destiny. - Ren' e de Visme Williamson"

        June 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • Doug

        With the advancements in technology ex.(Google Translate) not sure learning another language will even be necessary in the not two distant future. Certainly it may be useful at the moment but I can certainly see a day where our clothing or glasses are able to translate another language either by just looking at the item or by picking up the sound vibrations.

        June 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
      • Jim

        Good point. Exactly. And as for flash here, WHY should I go and learn Spanish? I've learned other languages, lived overseas as a LEGAL alien, but WHY would I learn Spanish, SIMPLY to bow down to illegal aliens who've come here from mostly Mexico? How does that make any sense? If I move to Mexico...I assimilate into THEIR culture. If I move to an Asian country (which I did), then I assimilate into THEIR language and culture, not the other way around. You're confusing (very simplistically) learning another language with learning the language of 11 to 20 million ILLEGAL aliens, simply to help them in OUR country. Are you nuts?

        June 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
      • joe

        U can be a little polite......u american.....etc.

        June 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • queenbee10

      Okay–we can be bilingual–I nominate Dutch or Cantonese because where I live, we have a lot of 1st generation Dutch and Chinese people....

      June 7, 2012 at 10:59 am | Reply
      • Jim

        Actually, realistically, one of the Chinese dialects WOULD be one to learn, although not to make the U.S. bilingual.

        June 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Belgium and Switzerland are bi- and trilingual countries, but out of historical reasons. No, I think it's important that immigrants should learn the language of their host countries and adapt themselves, or else they might as well stay at home.
      Immigration has helped to make Canada one of the world's richest nations. Challenges related to discrimination and integration are gaining increasing attention. Many recent newcomers come from Asia. The indigenous peoples make up less than two per cent of the population. The way in which provincial governments share land and natural resources with native groups is an ongoing issue. As long as the economy booms conflicts don't emerge.
      Australia ranks as one of the best places to live in the world by indices of income, human development, healthcare and civil rights.The gradual dismantling of the "White Australia" immigration policy in the years after World War II showed an increase of non-European arrivals, and migration remains a politically-sensitive issue.

      June 8, 2012 at 3:40 am | Reply
    • Edward

      You have a poor understanding of Canada and how much tention the language issue has caused in the country. It has almost torn Canada apart. Canada is a multi-cultural country where your culture, languages and traditons are welcome. America is a "melting pot" where all melt together and speak English.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
      • Jim

        You're very correct, Edward. Or at least, we USED to be a melting pot. Sad...

        June 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • forreal89

      move to CANADA

      June 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • David

      After 9/11, and yes before, if you're not here legally, why are you here? Change your home country to be more like the United States instead of changing American culture, religion and language to be more like where you are from . In case you haven't noticed, American English is an amalgamation or blend of many different languages, agreeably a good part British, as well as coloquial words/phrases. But not everyone can be California girls, or Texans, or New Yorkers. Be proud of where you were put in this world and live there, stay there, visit here, go to school here, work a short time, buy a souvenir and go home to change your country or life. Respect us, our Judeo/Christian/Native American heritages, and our culture and language. I can't go anywhere anymore on any day that I don't hear Spanish in stores and restaurants, and that's just wrong. If Latinos cry prejudice, let them look no further than the mirror.

      June 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
      • shemy

        you need to study your history! Spanish was spoken in Florida,Texas,California New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Oregon , Oklahoma over 100 years before English was introduced . Personally, I collect greetings in different languages. I am up to 18. My most recent is Nepalese "namastaka" hello. The gas station attendant is from there. "Love your neighbor as yourself" ( Bible)

        June 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Rick

      English only..

      June 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Lisa

      You aren't paying attention then.... Canada has lots of problems with being bilingual. Quebec has tried several times to leave Canada saying they have nothing in common with the others.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  2. JAL

    The current immigration situation is not root cause to any significant problems in the US. This is because the Latino immigrants are not free-loaders.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Tee

      That's laughable. I bet your whole family are illegals.

      June 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply
      • katie

        ur the one thats sadly mistaken! you think the illegal immigrant that washed your dirty dishes at the local restaurant, or the illegal who cleaned the hotel room ur family vacationed at just woke up one morning and decided hey gee i think today im gunna leave everything i have behind. Walk through the dessert with just a few bottles of water, just to be discriminated against. no they came here for a better way of life, a decent job so they can actually put food on the table. If they could come here legally without having too wait years dont you think they would???

        June 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  3. James

    Fareed Zakaria should go back to India and live there. Who is he to come here and tell Americans what to do. He must be one of those multiculturalist that just wants to destory the US and we Americans have let these third worlders come here and dictate to us what we should do. Fareed should go back to India and advocate immigration of chinese, Pakistanis, arabs and Bangaldeshis into his country. I am sure he will not agree with that.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • BobH

      Zakaria is an American citizen. Maybe you would prefer life back in your family's country of origin?

      June 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  4. Ted

    Of course they support him, he lets them get away with murder, wants to give them blanket amnesty, etc...we are already turning into a third world dump because of them.

    June 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • Jet83

      Move to Canada.

      June 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  5. Galactus999999

    Real immigration reform might just help the United States, but today it is often just code words for giving amnesty to the over 11 million illegal aliens living in the US. More US citizens would be willing to discuss increasing some kinds of immigration into the United States, if we first stopped the flow if illegal immigration into the country and deported all of the illegal aliens living here now.

    June 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
    • Jet83

      Thats not going to happen.

      June 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • forreal89

      what a place this country would be without these non-productive immigrants

      June 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • shemy

      more illegal aliens have been deported under this administration than any other.

      June 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  6. MK

    Just deport 5 millions of illegals.

    June 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  7. JohnR


    June 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  8. PaulC

    I strongly beg to differ with the overused bromide "broken system". The U.S. immigration system is, if anything, over generous. There are MORE LEGAL immigrants to the U.S. each year than to all the other countries combined. Becoming a U.S. citizen is ridiculously simple. I personally know several naturalized citizens who cannot make one coherent sentence but they passed. The only broken aspect of the U.S. immigration is the enforcement. Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be heavily fined and punished. To give illegals a "pathway to citizenship" make a mockery of the millions of immigrants who go through the proper process. What does it say when you tell a person to "just sneak across the boarder and we will make you a citizen anyway"? I remind you that EVERY country in this hemisphere was settled by immigrants from Europe while killing and displacing the natives and every one of them have immigration rules and enforce them without hesitation. With 330 million people and the inability to feed, house and provide medical care for millions I find it amazing that you say that more will make everything better.
    If more immigration will help the economy than I propose that we send a few million of our illegals to Haiti to improve their economy.

    June 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • badcafe

      Just go talk to the LEGALS and see how difficult the process is. You have to be on an H-1 work visa for a few years to get a Green Card. The current EB3 Green Card system is still 8-10 years behind on schedule, meaning people who applied 10 years back with full time, legitimate, high end (ie, qualified with degree) jobs are waiting to get their green cards. I have colleagues in my office who have been waiting 10 years just to get their green cards. And then after that you wait another 5 years and only then are you a citizen. In Canada, you can be a citizen in 2-3 years.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
      • not everyone


        you know full well that there is no guarantee with an H1-B visa of getting permanent residency in the US. That was never promised to you. Any immigration policy that is not open borders means that NOT EVERYONE who wishes to move here can. That is the current immigration policy of the US and that is the way most US citizens want it. It's our right to set limits, just as every other nation does. You have the right to go back home any day or to move to other countries that will take you in.

        June 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  9. Chris

    Yeah because immigrants are not already treated special enough by getting jobs that need to fill minority quotas and food assistance even if they are not legal citizens. If any crime is committed against them it is deemed a HATE CRIME but if they attack anyone that is outside of their color we should all have sympathy for their struggle. Getting tax credits to hire these criminals is the problem.

    June 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  10. cigarman

    We in America do NOT need ILLEGAL Immigration. I don`t know where this person who wrote this story is from, but I sure wish that he would go back to where he is from and better his own country. We as America, should have an old fashioned round-up of all of these criminals who are here in America Illegally. If the Republicans start talking about Illegal Immigration and that they will round-up all Illegals, I will vote for them, but if they don`t, I will vote for Obama. If the Republicans would offer a bounty on Illegal Criminals, I could become a million real fast.

    June 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  11. forreal89

    this makes no sense we do not need immigrant we have too many. the type of immigrants from Africa and Middle East offer nothing but freeloaders breeders and terrorists. NO MORE IMMIGRATION

    June 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  12. sr

    I am glad you brought this topic up. Immigration definetly needs to be reformed. I dont know much about illegal immigrants. But i am living here in work visa for last 13 years and still waiting for my greencard. I am very much legal and pay my taxes every year. Its very unfare to treat educated people like this when this country can actually gain by using educated man power from abroad. Immigration system is a money making machine for the government which will come to bite them later

    June 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
    • Ed in Houston

      What's your issue?

      June 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • not everyone

      people here on non-immigrant work visas seem to think they have the right to get a greencard. Perhaps we should better explain how things work to anyone here with a visa. Our immigration system deliberately does not admit anyone who wants to move here. The limits are a feature of our system. Just because you don't qualify doesn't mean our system doesn't work. It may not work for you, but it works for the over 1 million new green card holders every year.

      June 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  13. leen321

    I beg to disagree with the author. The immigration laws in place work. Depending on the country one is from or the skills one has it can take 1 day to 20 years to get a green card. Illegal immigration makes a mockery of those who choose to enter this country legally by waiting their turn, filling out the appropriate paperwork, etc. Most other countries are incredibly selective of who let immigrate.

    June 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  14. Ed in Houston

    American marketting is the genius and what makes a great product great. That and the widely accepted American English

    June 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  15. Kris

    Mr. Zakaria. We have already plenty engineers working for $20/hr on temporary visas. In my last job we had 70% of Indian/Pakistani engineers/IT on temporary visas and no openings for US citizens/green card holders.

    June 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • Ann

      I totally agree with you.It is a sad reality in USA. . There is no overisght for h1b/1 visa holders.Some of these so called H1B workers broght by these IT body shops are working in gas stations running by indians and giving money to their employers to generate pay stub to keep visa active . STOP green card processing for H1B workeres. Hire USA citizens. USA need to follow UK immigration standards in this regard. Most of indian IT companies will never hire american citizens .There is enough talent here. I do not agree with Fareed at all for immigration issue

      June 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • Lee

      If both legal and illegal immigrants did not drive down wages to give more money to the corporate elite and their lackeys in DC and the media we would have a secured border and common sense immigration laws enforced. The U.S. is being sold off for a profit. RIP U.S.A.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  16. David

    I wonder how the rest of the world would feel if the shoes were on our feet and the boat was headed in their direction and our lanuage was just about all they heard. What if it was Spanish, Russian, German, Arabic, or mostly Chinese culture, art, food, and language that was spoken-what if everyone spoke one language, had one religion or none, voted or couldn't vote. How would we feel then? Dehumanized? Denationalized? Communist or Socialist? Where does the freedom to live the American dream exisit if our country is overrun, flooded by illeagal immigrants; if there aren't enough jobs for the legal citizens that care about the American dream, instead of sending the money they earn back to their home country so more of their family and friends can come here. Nakita Khrushchev said a long time ago that Russia would take over the United States without ever having fired a shot. Congress would do well to remember commies and solcialists don't need to apply. I welcome HONORABLE, RESPECTFUL, and HONEST, LEGAL immigrants, whatever gender, color,creed, or religion they happen to be.

    June 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  17. RudyG

    So ignore the law? This man is a genuine advocate of ignoring the law and having disorderly, illegal immigration! I've heard it all now!

    June 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  18. Stephen

    Sixty-two percent of permanent-resident visas in Canada are based on skills, while the remainder are for family unification. In the U.S., the situation is almost exactly the reverse: two-thirds of America's immigrants enter through family unification, while only 13% of green cards are granted because of talent, merit and work. And it's actually gotten worse over time.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2116713,00.html#ixzz1xFVtwwBQ

    June 8, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  19. Jerry Brown

    Baby Boomers were too cowardly to defend our borders and we must accept leaving our children less. Illlegal destroyed our schools ability to teach in many areas and have over whelmed hospitals forcing closure of many.
    We don't measure up to previous generations of Americans and must accept our diminished fate.

    June 10, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • Lee

      Like athletic teams that are always near last place there is a reason some countries are third world nations. It is their rosters. If you fill the majority of a winning teams roster with poor players you will see the team go downhill. Sounds like what is happening with rosters in U.S. and Europe as our rosters are being filled with third world players. Of course the rosters are being changed for one reason to provide more wealth for the corporate elite and their lackeys in DC and the media. America is being sold out we are now and economy not a country. RIP U.S.A.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  20. Mary

    The only part of our immigration system that is broken is the enforcement part. The part that doles out greencard works quite well – giving out new green cards to over one million new permanent residents each and every year. Mr. Zakaria and others only complain that the system is broken because it does not legally admit everyone who would like to come here. But our system deliberately has limits on who and how many came come here, as does every other nation on Earth. US Citizens are tired of our government ignoring worksite enforcement promised over 25 years ago in exchange for the one-time only legalization program. Until the government actually puts into place mandatory E-Verify and actually reduces the numbers of people working illegally in non-agricultural jobs from over 7 million today to less than 500,000, there can be no proposals for any second legalization program. Promises of enforcement are no longer credible, only widespread, effective, actual immigration enforcement. Employers and our government have put self-interest ahead of the national interest. So sad.

    June 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply

    Before any reform. Lets do some enforcement. Dont even talk about reform unless we are 100% on enforcement. You should probably start by checking Taxi drivers first who are probably 80% illegals. Lack of enforcement does not make sense for reform.

    June 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  22. bill

    Just as a matter of correctness, Intel was not founded by Andrew Grove, who was an important early employee and eventual CEO. But Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce were the actual founders, both of whom are legends in Silicon Valley and the tech industry and deserve continued recognition for their founding of Intel. Somewhat less important, both Yahoo and Google had native born founders as well (Filo and Page respectively). Mis-information is not helpful to the argument and not up to the standards of GPS. I'm sure there are more compelling examples of your point that research would discover.

    June 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
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