Immigration is the act of entering a country with the intention of staying there permanently. "In 2001, more than one million aliens settled in the United States, about 1,000,000 legally and an estimated 500,000 illegally. This is nearly four times as many immigrants as the United States was receiving only 30 years ago."( Camarota, October 2001) Americans now realize that the costs of our present high level of immigration, legal and illegal, are enormous and growing. "The Center for Immigration Studies estimated in 1995 that immigration costs us a net $29 billion a year--more than the combined budgets of the Departments of State, Justice and Interior."(Camarota, October 2001) These costs include both programs targeted toward immigrants, as well as the increased costs of education, health care, and welfare programs that are used by immigrants. Immigration has a profound impact on the issues that Americans say matter most to them. Frequent concerns about national security, the quality of education, high tax burdens, urban sprawl, and many other "front burner" issues are directly affected by an influx of more than one million immigrants annually into the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau (2003) projects that with the current trend and policy, "Immigration will be the principal cause of a 50 percent increase in our population during the first half of the 21st century." President Bush's January immigration initiative has moved this issue front and center into political campaigns across the country. .
The Bush proposal, which he reiterated in his State of the Union address in January of 2004, includes granting guestworker status, for up to six years, to millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S. and an open-ended program to bring new guestworkers to the U.S. In addition, the proposal seeks to increase legal immigration, already at historic highs, and grant illegal aliens access to social security benefits when they retire.