Musings on Immigration

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Time to fix immigration system, Campos says

David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, states that now is the time to fix the immigration system.

After more than a year of campaigning, President Obama finally won much-needed and long-overdue changes to our health care system. Achieving what four other presidents could not, Obama broke through the political impasse to obtain health care coverage for the vast majority of uninsured Americans. The president now needs to take this mandate and act quickly on what should be the next major item on his domestic agenda: modernizing our immigration system.

Comprehensive immigration reform requires a balanced and measured approach that includes a broad legalization component, a foreign policy that promotes meaningful and equitable economic development in the region, and humane enforcement measures that strengthen, rather than divide, local communities.

Right now, more than 12 million people live under the shadow of fear because they lack legal immigration status. Many are hardworking mothers and fathers who, rather than watch their families suffer under the brutality of poverty and political turmoil, made the difficult and often dangerous decision to leave their homeland in search of the American dream. Many are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who fled death threats and persecution, or whose same-sex partners lack the legal right to file a petition on their behalf.

Even though many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, contribute to our economic and social advancement and want to be fully integrated into our society, the dread of deportation makes civic engagement a risky endeavor for them. Perhaps most importantly, they fear reporting crime in their neighborhoods or mistreatment in the workplace, making all of us less safe and causing labor standards to sink across the board.

A broad legalization program would be good for the economy. According to research from the Migration Policy Institute, as our country has become more educated, our share of native-born low-skilled workers has fallen significantly. That is why immigrant workers have become such a needed and ready source of labor for various industries, including construction, agriculture, food processing, and building-cleaning and maintenance, just to name a few.

The blueprint set forth by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham on March 18 (”Marchers hoping to focus attention on immigration,” March 21) prioritizes curbing unauthorized immigration as a primary function of immigration reform. They focus on increased militarization and security measures at the border and in the interior of the country. While I recognize that we have a right and obligation to protect our borders and that any comprehensive immigration reform package must contain some enforcement provisions, enforcement has its limitations.

For one, increased enforcement has not been the panacea many thought it would be. Even though border-enforcement spending has tripled since 1993, it has failed to deter significant numbers of unauthorized migrants from attempting entry. This is because illegal-immigration patterns are largely the result of macroeconomic needs in our economy as well as macroeconomic changes in the economies of immigrants’ home countries. In other words, no wall, military force or barbed wire will stop people from attempting to cross the border if staying behind is tantamount to misery, despair or even death. Thus, in addition to enforcement, we need a foreign policy that promotes meaningful and equitable economic opportunities for all.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/28/INB61CKBI7.DTL#ixzz0jaPLJ4RW

Mass Deportation–The Wrong Solution

The Center for American Progress released a report detailing the actual cost of the only solution proposed by anti-immigration restrictionists–Mass Deportation. In “The Costs of Mass Deportation,”Marshal Fitz, Gebe Martinez and Madura Wijewardena have put together a realistic appraisal of the costs of the only option other than comprehensive immigration reform. It is not a pretty picture. With costs over 5 years of $285 BILLION dollars (money which most folks understand that we do not have), we are faced with what appears to be an easy choice.

One, bring 12 million people out of the shadow economy and into the light. Allow them to pay taxes. Allow them to drive without fear. Allow them to live with their families. Allow them to generate wealth in the greatest economic engine ever created by man, the U.S. economy. Change our legal immigration system to eliminate outrageous non-immigrant and immigrant visa delays and encourage the immigration to the U.S. of the best and the brightest.

Or, two, deport everyone who had the courage to try to make it in America, even without a visa or status. Keep legal immigration restricted and strangle the economy, innovation, and motivation. Create fear and panic in immigrant communities, both legal and undocumented. Unmotivate immigrant youth to excel in school. Do everything in your power to cause distrust of lawful enforcement authority in immigrant communities.

These are your choices Congress. These are your choices Mr. President. Which will you have the courage to pursue and change?

The Immigration Malaise–Is the Mojo Gone?

Are we back in the 70’s? As a child of the 70’s myself, I have not so fond memories of the economy and the politics of that era. I am experiencing a sort of deja vu right now as I consider the possibility of immigration reform happening during this Congress.

Now, don’t get me wrong. there were good things about the 70’s. At some point I will think of them and write a blog about them. But, for now, let’s focus on the parallels that cause me concern.

The 70’s were famous for “stagflation.” a seemingly unending period of increasing prices, no or slow growth, coupled with a general feeling of the blah’s among the American People. We had lost our “mojo.” It was tough to find jobs, and what jobs you could find were not one’s you wanted to do. The politics of the era were even worse. Simply put: Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon, Ford, Carter. Not exactly a pantheon of great issues or leaders.

Here we are in 2010. We have a non-growing economy, with no “stagflation” but with a general sense of the “blahs.” Few employers are hiring, and no one is willing to take risks. Again it feels like that unique American mojo has dissipated. Politically? Well what can you say? If anything, the partisanship, and cross party rivalry is even worse than during the 70’s. Nothing is effectively getting done, and certainly nothing that requires courage is passing Congress.

Which, finally, gets me to my point. The entire immigration structure in America appears to have lost its way. Congress is lacking the courage and political will to tackle a difficult but necessary issue. The government agency responsible for “service” is currently in “screw you” mode, trying every which way to limit the ability of employers to get visas for prospective employees, seeing “fraud” under every bush and behind every tree, and trying its best to dissuade folks from actually using the immigration system. The agency responsible for enforcement recorded an increased number of removals for FY2009, and is on track for a “better” year this year. The agency in charge of letting folks into the country legally, is doing a terrific job of turning away nonimmigrants with valid visas. The agency responsible for protecting American workers jobs is doing such a great job that many employers with audited petitions now wait TWO years or more to see if the advertisement they ran TWO years ago was adequate for a position available TWO years ago, which the person can then wait another 7 years to fill permanently. Overall, I would say the immigration system has lost its mojo.

So, what can we do. Enlist Austin Powers to find the Mojo? Or, push forward with hope and a belief that the good and right will ultimately prevail. What caused me to ponder on this was rather unusual. I was listening to “great speeches in history” on my IPod, and happened upon Ronald Reagan’s’ Inaugural Speech from 1981. I particularly love this quote:

Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.


Whether you believe that President Reagan was a great President or not, you have to admit, the speech was inspirational. And, it made me think. Maybe not all hope is lost. If there were only someone to inspire us. If only there were someone to move us forward as a country on the issue of immigration. Right now, I am still searching for that leader, that voice. Let’s hope she shows up soon.