While debates over illegal workers, border controls, employer sanctions, access to services, amnesty, temporary workers, and the like have persisted at least since the formation of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1979, the positions taken by advocates and the policies proposed by politicians have recently become more contentious and extreme.

In the coming months, reconciling divergent views in the House and Senate on these issues in legislation will be difficult, if not impossible. The Bush administration’s Border Security Initiative would deploy new military technologies, 370 miles of fence, 6,000 National Guard, and 15,000 new Border Patrol officers. While many Senators insist on amnesty-like “pathways to citizenship” for most of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants, the majority in the House would block access to permanent residency and impose felony charges for illegal entry. Up for renewed scrutiny are restrictions on immigrants’ access to health, education, and social services, and high-tech identification cards for all Americans. And more.

In unprecedented public response, hundreds of thousands of undocumented and legal immigrants have joined protest marches in cities across the country, culminating in the May 1st “Day without Immigrants.” Private militias are patrolling the border to make up for federal, state, and local governments’ “chaotic neglect” of border enforcement. And in national newspaper ads the Mexican government is claiming “shared responsibility” for U.S. policies and is publicly protesting to President Bush about his plans.

What sense can be made of the forces that are driving these conflicting stances and tumultuous activities? In “Border Battles: U.S. Immigration Debates” you can find original insights from social scientists on the key underlying issues.