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U.S. Immigration Reform - Five Things To Watch



WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will outline his vision for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday, a day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators outlined a proposal that could begin to move groundbreaking legislation forward on an issue that has long divided Americans. A key question is whether the U.S. will find a new path toward moving an estimated 11 million undocumented workers to legal status, and eventually to citizenship.

Here are five things to watch as the debate moves forward:

1. ELECTORAL REALITIES - Both parties are well aware that the number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the past four years to 12.2 million, or 8.7% of all voters. As CNN notes, this means this demographic will only increase its political power. Republicans as much as Democrats must be attentive to issues that matter to Latinos – and comprehensive reform of the way the United States deals with both legal and undocumented immigrants is one that definitely matters.

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Photo - White House/Pete Souza

2. PRESIDENTIAL LEGACY - Obama owes his 2012 reelection, at least in part, to strong support from Latino voters, who had also come out for him four years earlier. Having taken a back seat in his first term to health reform and other major legislation, the President hopes to make immigration reform one of his signature accomplishments of the second term. He will unveil his vision in a much-anticipated speech later Tuesday in Las Vegas, though the President isn't expected at this time to put forth specific legislation, following the initial proposal by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" from the Senate.

3. SAFETY FIRST - The four-page Senate proposal unveiled on Monday stated a number of ambitious objectives, including finding a way for some 11 million undocumented workers to eventually move toward citizenship. But as the Washington Post notes, any such changes are "contingent" on a recommendation from a still-to-be established commission charged with ensuring that America's borders are secure.

4. THE "A" WORD - The signature objective in the reform, to move those currently living in the United States toward legal status, faces stiff opposition from conservative Republicans, who say this amounts to "amnesty" – a concept they say encourages others to follow the undocumented path in the future. "When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration," said Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration."

On the one hand, it is a question of verbiage, as Americans generally don't like the concept of granting amnesty to those who have done something illegal. On the other hand, there are two fundamentally opposing views on how to solve a problem that is very real – the presence of millions of undocumented people inside the U.S.

5. 2016 - Among the four Republicans behind the bipartisan proposal, there is John McCain, the Arizona senator who lost to Obama four years ago. But as Politico notes, just as importantly, there is Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American of Florida, widely considered among the top candidates to bring the White House back to the GOP in 2016. So once again, eyes on the policy – but eyes on the politics as well.

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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