For those of us working on the immigration issue these last few years we are not really surprised by this outburst. There has been perhaps no greater area of collective Republican nuttiness in the past few years than on the issue of immigration, and perhaps no area where their irrational behavior has done more lasting damage to their Party.
Update 2: See NDN's Rob Shapiro debate the issue of the undocumenteds and health care on CNBC the other day in the video clip to the right. His opponent is a leader of FAIR, a group categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate" group. They and other anti-immigrant groups have been using this debate over undocumenteds and health insurance for all as a way to get ready for the coming debate over immigration reform early next year.
Saw a new ad by a new coalition, Coalition for the Future American Worker, this morning on my a.m. cable news show.
In viewing this ad, and a second one you can find on their web site, it is clear that the anti-immigrant forces are elevating their game, and getting ready for what will be a consequential battle over immigration reform in the months ahead.
You can see both of the ads and learn more about the coalition here. Check out the one currently running on TV below:
It was a week of expansive quotations for the NDN family in the news. Simon had the kicker quote in a major NPR piece this week about the Justice Department's inquiries into "enchanced interrogation" techniques. From the piece:
The administration said that the practice, known as rendition and condemned by human rights advocates, would proceed with more oversight.
"I think the Obama administration is having a hard time calibrating all of this," says Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democrat Network. "They were left a bad set of practices and realities by the Bush administration."
"The Obama team is finding that unraveling this is harder than they thought it would be, and they're trying," Rosenberg says. "But we're going to be having this debate a long time, and this [inquiry] is an important step."
That debate, he says, will necessarily involve how the country treated terrorism suspects in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Suggestions that discussion about what happened in the Bush era is either partisan or out-of-bounds is ridiculous," he says. "Laws may have been broken, and our standing in the world was affected."
"We need to have a conversation about this in our country."
Andres was quoted extensively in the Las Vegas Sun about the lack of Latino involvement in local politics:
Andres Ramirez made a bid at becoming only the second Hispanic mayor in Southern Nevada history when he ran for mayor of North Las Vegas against incumbent Mike Montandon in 2005. He lost, in a city where an estimated 38.6 percent of the population is Hispanic. He would have joined Cruz Olague, who held the title in Henderson for two years in the 1970s.
When Ruben Kihuen was elected to the Assembly in 2006, he became the second Hispanic immigrant to become a state lawmaker, after Pablo Laveaga, who was elected in 1875 and hailed from Sinaloa, Mexico. Kihuen was born in Jalisco. He joked at the time about doubling the number of Spanish-speaking voices in Carson City, referring to Moises Denis, who was born in Brooklyn to Cuban parents.
When you go through this litany with Ramirez, who now works as vice president of Hispanic programs for NDN, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, he accentuates the positive.
He notes that most other large counties in the top 15 for Hispanic population have had their large populations for much longer. In Clark County, and Nevada generally, he says, Hispanics "have become a quantifiable political force only since the last census" - less than a decade.
And while Ramirez won't overlook the historical paucity of elected and appointed officials with Latin American backgrounds, he also underlines the impact of those who have worked in other areas, such as former Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority chief Manny Cortez, "one the most powerful tourism officials in the world."
As for politics, Ramirez also points out that the expanding Hispanic population has voted in increasing numbers in the past decade, contrasting the highly contested 1998 race between Harry Reid and John Ensign, when "35,000 Hispanic votes was considered the most you could get," with the recent presidential election, when more than four times as many Hispanics went to the polls.
As for Kihuen and Denis, their victories are the result of lobbying on redistricting from Ramirez and others following Census 2000. The result: District 11, which is Kihuen's, and District 28, which fulfilled its intent with Denis' 2004 election.
Locally, the lack of Hispanic surnames on councils and commissions, Ramirez says, doesn't negate the increasing number of Hispanic staff members whose jobs are to ensure Spanish-speaking constituents are heard.
The rest is a question of "time and maturity." Ramirez predicts a near future that includes the more Hispanic state senators and more candidates for local offices.
Rob was featured in The Age talking about the benefits of a carbon tax:
TRADING of emission permits around the world will become a financial rort that fails to reduce carbon emissions - and will ultimately be scrapped in favour of a simple carbon tax, a former senior official in the Clinton administration has forecast.
Robert Shapiro, former US undersecretary of commerce and author of Futurecast, predicted that the US Senate would reject the emissions trading scheme proposed by President Obama, which is now before it.
Speaking by video to the Trade 2020 conference convened by Austrade and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Dr Shapiro said ''cap and trade'' systems as proposed by the US and the Australian governments to limit carbon dioxide emissions and allow trade in permits do not work as intended.
''Cap and trade has proved very vulnerable to vested interests, and therefore too weak to deliver the necessary emission reductions'', he said. ''Cap and trade creates trillions of dollars of new financial instruments to be traded, and subjected to the next financial fads. China and India will never accept a cap and trade regime.''
A better solution is to impose a carbon tax on emissions and return the revenue from it to households so people are not made worse off, Dr Shapiro said. A similar approach in Sweden has cut emissions there by 8 per cent since 1990 while GDP rose about 40 per cent.
CEDA research director Michael Porter strongly supported Dr Shapiro. CEDA today will release a report urging the Rudd Government to scrap its emissions trading scheme in favour of a carbon tax.
Finally, Simon was also featured in aPolitico video about Senator Ted Kennedy. Simon addresses Senator Kennedy's remarkable legacy on immigration reform around the 5 minute mark. Check it out here:
Just got home from Netroots Nation. It was a very good event this year. It had very little tension. Calm. Workmanlike. In part a reflection of how this is the first gathering of the netroots since the historic 2008 elections, which rid the country of the force that in many ways brought the netroots to life, the failed conservatism of the early 21st century. Amazingly 2000 or so people attended, as many as last year. And Pittsburgh was a wonderful host city, pretty, clean, impressive.
NDN had a strong presence this year. Not only were we a major sponsor of the event, but we managed a panel on the coming Millenial Age with Mike Hais; offered a screening of the incredible film about immigration, 9500 Liberty; participated on a panel about race, Beck and Dobbs; and I was fortunate enough to address the whole gathering in the moments before President Clinton's remarkable speech on Thursday night (NN has already loaded the Clinton speech up, and you can watch it here).
A big Saturday night shout out to Raven Brooks and the whole NN team for pulling off another great gathering. I, like many others, already have NN 2010 in Las Vegas July 22-25 on my calendar.
The Times has a front page piece today on a very welcome move by DHS to begin turning our shameful immigration detention system into one more in line with traditional American concepts of justice:
The Obama administration intends to announce an ambitious plan on Thursday to overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a “truly civil detention system.”
Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal government’s contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation — some possibly in centers built and run by the government.
The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees over the course of a year, and more direct oversight of detention centers that have come under fire for mistreatment of detainees and substandard — sometimes fatal — medical care.
I.U.S. Citizens Caught in the Broken Immigration System – A USA Today op-ed follows my post on individuals ICE has detained illegally.
II."There Will Be Immigration Reform With the U.S.," Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs - In a move that has not been seen since the early days of the Fox Administration, the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa, openly discussed the issue of immigration and provided assurances that Mexico will reach agreements with the U.S. on the issue of immigration reform thanks to the renewed relationship between the two countries. This is an important departure from the Mexican government's traditional stance - it has consistently held that immigration reform is strictly a U.S. domestic issue, and as such it is not its place to intervene in this area of U.S. legislation. However, binational Mexican citizens in the U.S. are putting increasing pressure on Mexico to work with the U.S. and push for a functional immigration system. Milenio - a widely circulated national periodical in Mexico - reported Secretary Espinosa "will insist on immigration reform that meets the demands of Mexicans who live abroad." A large majority of Mexicans in the U.S. are permanent residents or citizens who remain concerned about solving the broken immigration system. The Secretary delivered these comments before the 13th Annual Meeting of the Advisory Board to the Institute for Mexicans Abroad held April 21-25; she highlighted that Mexico is making progress on the immigration front, including enacting reforms to its own General Law on Population.
III. More on Foreign Workers and the Economy - Following last week’s discussion on foreign workers and the economy, this week we have more on H-1B legislation introduced by Sens. Durbin and Grassley. The legislation is specifically damaging to Indian companies because it prohibits firms that have over 50% of staff on H-1B and L-1 visas from hiring more people on these two visas. This would affect all large IT companies, which have branch offices and subsidiaries in the US that are staffed largely by H-1B visa holders. IT companies are speaking out in opposition to the move, Economic Times reports:
Criticizing the move, commerce & industry minister Kamal Nath said it will restrict the ability of Indian IT companies to compete in the US. “This is certainly not in line with the US President’s stand against protectionism at the recent London G20 meeting and our desire to mainstream development in the Doha negotiations,” Mr. Nath said in a statement on Friday.
Kamal Nath pointed out that besides being the fast-growing market for US exports, Indian IT firms have also helped American companies become globally competitive. “I would, therefore, urge that the lawmakers, administration and the US business community ensure that the contents of the bill do not come in the way of the growing India-US trade partnership,” he said.
Many of the big Indian IT exporters have started recruiting locally but the numbers are still small. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for instance, has stepped up its local recruitment in recent years but the number of locals employed by the firm is still around 10,000 globally.
“What the US needs is comprehensive reform. The number of H-1B visa holders is very small compared to the number of tech and other jobs in the US. It should not be related to job losses in the US,” said Nasscom president Som Mittal. He said the Nasscom was willing to work with US authorities and help them if there was abuse of visas.
An interview on the Satellite radio Bob Edwards show discussed a recent study that found: America's Loss is the World's Gain as the U.S. resists highly talented and skilled foreign professionals. Researcher Vivek Wadhwa led a group that surveyed 1200 Indian and Chinese immigrants who had worked in the US for a year or more, or had received their education here, only to return to their home countries. Wadhwa argues that if these skilled workers felt welcomed and stayed here, they would launch companies and create far more jobs for American workers than they leave by heading home or by never coming to the US in the first place.
The pace of lower-skilled migration has slowed due to higher unemployment. This could make it less contentious to ease the path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers and their families in the U.S. It's also a good time to ask why we turn away skilled workers, including the ones earning 60% of the advanced degrees in engineering at U.S. universities. It is worth pointing out the demographic shortfall: Immigrants are a smaller proportion of the U.S. population than in periods such as the late 1890s and 1910s, when immigrants gave the economy a jolt of growth. Immigrants have had a disproportionate role in innovation and technology. Companies founded by immigrants include Yahoo, eBay and Google. Half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants, up from 25% a decade ago. Some 40% of patents in the U.S. are awarded to immigrants. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation found that immigrants are 50% likelier to start businesses than natives. Immigrant-founded technology firms employ 450,000 workers in the U.S. And according to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started one quarter of all U.S. venture-backed firms.
IV. Timing of Immigration Reform - An article by Georgetown University Law Center Dean Aleinikoff:
The Obama administration recently signaled interest in beginning a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform before year's end. It might seem that a severe economic downtown is not the best time for a major legislative initiative on immigration. But starting this conversation now makes sense for several reasons…
The legislative initiative discussed in this article is not precisely CIR. Dean Aleinikoff believes that Congress should hold off on passing comprehensive legislation and first develop a credible E-verify system and then a legalization program.
V. Latin America Has the Highest Levels of Migration – According to a recent study by the World Bank, Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest levels of net migration among all developing regions. Migration from these countries to developed countries totaled 18.5 million persons between 2000 and 2005. The World Bank also found that remittances sent to developing countries totaled $300 billion last year - Latin American countries received 63 billion dollars in remittances in 2007, second only to the region of East Asia and the Pacific. Mexico received 43% of total remittances in 2007. As the world faces a severe financial crisis, developing countries that had enjoyed a period of consistent growth and prosperity now face the same challenges that affect developed nations.
VI. Lawyer Makes Case Against Immigrant Myths – Dallas Morning News covered a new book, Hispanic Heresy: What Is the Impact of America's Largest Population of Immigrants? – released in January and written by a Dallas lawyer and two Texas Tech University business professors. The book aims to dispel many of the myths about immigrants and Hispanics that have received too much air time on TV talk shows other media:
While politicians may debate the merits of immigration reform, many economists and researchers have already made up their minds: Immigrants contribute far more to the U.S. economy than they take.
Last week we posited that Immigration Reform is a vital component of economic recovery. This week, we’ve seen hopeful signs in the seriousness of the immigration debate while we have also seen Republican and Democratic law makers attempt to use this pivotal policy issue as a publicity tool. As stated by Simon in The Politico today:
The small visa programs have little to do with the central issues of the broader immigration debate, such as how to handle the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S., said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a progressive group seeking a broad immigration package. But they have become the stray dogs in this political fight. “It’s irresponsible the way some members of Congress are going after this,” Rosenberg said.
This week, after the Obama administration again delayedimplementing a rule requiring federal contractors to use the E-Verify system (an Internet tool that checks the validity of employees’ Social Security numbers) Rep. Lamar Smith argued this constituted "an insult" to "legal immigrants and Americans." The rule originally was to go into effect in February, but the Obama administration delayed it until May 21, and now until June 30. What Rep. Smith fails to highlight is the significant error rate in this system, which is designed to check a social security number against a name for determining benefits, not as an immigration database.
The same tone was taken in discussions over legal foreign workers. Even though labor organizers themselves recognize the need to deal with the issue of future flow, we’ve seen debate over comprehensive immigration reform stop at “how many?” instead of answering the essential question: “how” do we fix our broken immigration system?
There is something very wrong when our immigration “system” is comprised of 70,000 legal immigrant workers and an estimated 400,000 undocumented workers each year. How do we create a fair, safe, effective, and productive immigration law? An immigration system should ideally: 1) serve as a record-keeping mechanism that allows a government to know who is within its borders, 2) achieve this by putting incentives on the side of legal flow, not by attempting to stop flow, 3) help reflect a country’s values, and 4) generate revenue through an effective and speedy application process.
Is the purpose of reform solely to legalize those currently here? Or is the goal to develop a comprehensive, forward-looking plan to effectively end undocumented immigration? In a 21st century globalized world, with a globalized economy, it is naïve – at best – to argue that people won’t come to the U.S. because the economy is not doing so well, because they’re not welcome, or because we don’t want them to.
They will come; the bottom line is: do we want them here legally, or illegally? Do we repeat the mistake of 1986 and pass reform arguing that we look after all those currently in the shadows, many of them in abusive conditions, but leave the rest in ambiguity? Turning a blind eye towards the plight of legal immigrants currently in the country and to the undocumented that are on their way as they cross over illegally and in inhumane conditions? Only those who have had to undergo the increasingly expensive and irresponsibly drawn out process of legal migration can understand how the existing policy has of its own design dictated how much easier it is for individuals to fall out of legal status or come to this country illegally. We do not advocate “open borders,” we argue for justice and the rule of law – the rule of a just law that responds to reality, that encourages legality instead of exacerbating illegality.
A piece in today’s Wall Street Journal by Jason Riley contends that President Obama will “be pressured by advocacy groups” to focus on a legalization program as part of a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform – I disagree with this contention as it is presented because it implies that this is not already the President’s position. President Obama has been a longtime supporter of the essential components of comprehensive reform (CIR):
1. Enhanced border security, 2. Bring people out of the shadows 3. Work with immigrant-sending nations 4. Improve the legal immigration system 5. Remove incentives to enter illegally
Despite this week's news articles, the legalization of the estimated 12 million undocumented individuals in the U.S. will prove equally or more controversial than fixing our legal immigration system. A true immigration reform proposal must include all the above elements, supported by the President.
Foreign H-1B workers are the most recent subject of much of the anti-immigrant sentiment. The argument that H-1B workers bring down wages and “displace” U.S. high skilled workers could be equated with positing that women are unfair competition to their male counterparts because all the studies and statistics demonstrate that we make less than our male counterparts in the same position. Instead of doggedly insisting on making foreigners “the boogieman” of this economic recession, let’s focus on fixing the inequities and flaws that do exist in the broken legal immigration system. We can't ignore the fact that many of these "foreign workers" are educated in the U.S., have been long-time residents of the U.S. and as such have strong ties here.
Additionally, we can’t forget that just as we receive foreign workers, other countries receive U.S. workers, too. As highlighted in Gebe Martinez’s piece today:
Goldman Sachs has about 200 H-1B employees, Blankfein said at a recent meeting of the Council of Institutional Investors. “But we have 2,000 employees who are working overseas and pay U.S. taxes. Do we want to invite other countries to take punitive measures against us?”
Particularly conservatives advocate a merit-based society, yet these are the same individuals that – like Sen. Grassley – have been suggesting to companies like Microsoft that H-1B workers be laid off before qualified Americans. How about we let companies let go employees based on their individual contributions, regardless of nationality? [Microsoft General Counsel Bradford Smith responded that the company complies with civil rights law and does not base its compensation decisions in the U.S. on an employee’s citizenship.]
If President Obama is to be more successful than the previous administration when it tried to reform immigration, he must remain cognizant of the reasons behind the failure of the last major immigration reform legislation enacted in 1986 (IRCA).
IRCA focused on the legalization piece and border enforcement enhancements, and did not address the issue of future flow of immigrants. It merely designed a system of what was desired future flow, not a system based on reality and actual demand. It’s no news that the border enhancements over the past two decades haven't hampered the illegal flow whatsoever, they have merely made it more profitable to smuggle human beings across the border. But that hasn't stopped immigration restrictionists from calling for still more security measures.
The 1986 amnesty was never going to solve the problem, because it didn't address the root cause….Illegal immigration to the U.S. is primarily a function of too many foreigners chasing too few visas. Some 400,000 people enter the country illegally each year -- a direct consequence of the fact that our current policy is to make available only 5,000 visas annually for low-skilled workers. If policy makers want to reduce the number of illegal entries, the most sensible and humane course is to provide more legal ways for people to come.
It's unfortunate that the "no amnesty" crowd has been able to suck up so much oxygen in this debate. Immigration hysterics on talk radio and cable news have used the term effectively to end conversations. And restrictionists in Congress have used it as a political slogan to block reform. But from a public-policy perspective, the fate of the 12 million illegals already here...will solve itself over time if we get the other reforms right.
As in 1986, our economy and society have already absorbed most of these illegal workers. Many have married Americans, started families, bought homes, laid down roots. If their presence here is a problem, it is a self-correcting one. In time, they will grow old and pass on with the rest of us.....
Past experience shows that economic migrants have no desire to be here illegally. They will use the front door if it's available to them, which reduces pressure on the border and frees up homeland security resources to target drug dealers, gang members, potential terrorists, and other real threats.
We need to improve existing legal channels and provide more pathways. This could be done by creating new – more inclusive – visa programs or increasing green-card quotas or both. The end should be to create more legal channels for workers and family members. The 1986 legislation did not create realistic legal pathways, which is why we now have the problem of 12 million undocumented immigrants (who have incidentally already been absorbed by the U.S. labor market). If we don’t think and act globally, then we will all suffer the penance of our own short-sightedness.
Granted, this will be a hard sell at a time when growing numbers of Americans are out of work. Even in good times, zero-sum thinking -- the notion that what is gained by some must be lost by others -- dominates discussions about immigrants and jobs. But the schooling and skills that the typical Mexican immigrant brings to the U.S. labor market differ markedly from the typical American's, which is why the two don't tend to compete with each other for employment. Labor economists like Richard Vedder have documented that, historically, higher levels of immigration to the U.S. are associated with lower levels of unemployment. Immigrants are catalysts for economic growth, not job-stealers.There are plenty of ways and plenty of time to deal with the country's undocumented millions in a fair and humane manner. But we'd do better to focus first on not adding to their numbers. If the fate of this group instead drives the policy discussion, we're more likely to end up with the status quo or faux reforms like amnesty that dodge the real problem.
Cable news seems to be multiplying blatantly racist shows, as opposed to shutting them down. By accident I happened to catch some of the new "Ed" show, 6pm time slot on MSNBC and was less than happy to see the man who almost had to resign for recommending the U.S. bomb Mecca - Tom Tancredo - on with him to discuss immigration reform of all things. I mean, even Fox news no longer has Tancredo on. Mind you, one thing is to have a healthy debate and someone on the show who opposes reform, but Tom Tancredo does not know healthy debate. He is no opponent of immigration, he is a proponent of hate and mass destruction. Lest we forget his campaign ad equating immigrants and Hispanics with "Islamic terrorists." On the bright side, bring him on - keep bringing on the Tancredos out there - there will be no better tool to pass CIR. As Simon has said before, anti-immigrant positions don't deliver politically. Hence Tancredo was at 1% favorability among Republicans during his vie for his Party's nomination. His anti-immigrant stance and hatred towards other cultures is not popular. He did so poorly in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination and in his own district, that he didn't even attempt to run for re-election in 2008. A post on Kos pretty much expresses the same reaction to seeing Tancredo on the air, re-posted below. So we are left with the question? Is Ed going to be MSNBC's Lou Dobbs? Don't networks want to report actual news stories, or riveting educational pieces as opposed to serving as a space for bigoted individuals to air their frustrations?
Ed Schultz: Why Tancredo?
Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 06:43:22 PM PDT
This diary is about the new Ed Schultz show on MSNBC called "The Ed Show" which airs at 6 pm EST in place of the 1600 Penn Ave hosted by David Schuster. I have watched the Ed Show since its inception and for the most part I've enjoyed it. The Ed Show's main focus is topics related to the middle class. For instance, one day he discussed the rising costs of healthcare and had Senator Wyden of Oregon to discuss his healthcare plan. Another day, he discussed the EFCA and had a union guy as a guest. On Wednesday, he talked with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on how to fix the education system. Until today, I liked Ed's topics and guests.
Unfortunately, today's show I think Big Ed may have jumped the shark with his invite of Tom Tancredo to appear on his show.
ademption's diary :: ::
Now I understand that immigration is a very divisive issue, even among Democrats. I also gather from today's show that Big Ed does not support comprehensive immigration reform like Obama. That's fine. We as progressives can't always agree on everything. I can understand Ed Schultz wanting to discuss the topic of immigration and even invite a guest that shares his viewpoint on the topic. But I cannot accept his choice of guest to discuss the issue tonight.
Tom Tancredo was the absolute wrong choice to discuss immigration. I can't understand why a professed progressive like Ed Schultz would give a divisive figure like Tancredo a platform for his show. Does Big Ed recall his insane remarks about bombing Mecca? His likening Miami, Florida to be a third world country? Tom Tancredo is so radioactive that even he and Karl Rove had a falling out. That is how much of a cretin that Tancredo is. I am absolutely flabbergasted that Tancredo was even invited on a so called progressive show. I don't even think that Fox News has Tancredo on the air anymore. Maybe I'm wrong, but I haven't even heard about Tancredo since the Republican primaries in 2007. I thought that he had fallen off the face of the earth until I watched the Ed show today.
I know that the Ed Show has gotten really decent ratings in his first week on MSNBC. But I don't think that having Tom Tancredo on his show helps. I am so offended by Ed Schultz having Tancredo appear as a guest that I am seriously considering not watching the show ever again. And again, I like the show. But having Tancredo appear really touched a nerve. I'm not only writing my concerns on Dailykos, but I'm going to let MSNBC know as well.
For those who watched Big Ed during his regular timeslot at 6 pm or his guest stint on Countdown at 8 pm EST, do you think it was appropriate for Ed Schultz to invite Tom Tancredo to appear on his show?
After President Obama's discourse today on how to help working Americans through this crisis, I thought it appropriate to reiterate points we have made on the economic arguments for immigration reform. And I highly recommend this piece in the American Prospect on "The Real Economics of Immigration," by Cristina Jimenez:
...Immigration reform is a tougher sell in a recession. That's the blunt observation Wall Street Journal
columnist Gerald Seib recently offered: "Pushing any kind of
immigration reform, particularly one that includes a path toward
legalization, is a lot harder in an environment in which Americans are
Yet the political difficulty predates the Wall Street collapse and
job-loss figures. For years, there has been little analysis of how a
path toward legalization would increase the positive economic
contributions of undocumented immigrants. Instead, conservative critics
have found willing partners in the media and government to turn
immigration reform into a zero-sum game, a war of us-versus-them in
which every job performed by an "illegal" must have been stolen from a
more deserving American.
The politics won't change until the real economics of immigration reframe the debate.
Here's a reality check: Consigning undocumented workers to a
precarious existence undermines all who aspire to a middle-class
standard of living........
By complying with tax law, many immigrants have made it clear that they
are willing to help build a new middle class through cooperation.
Contra the myth of immigrants as economic parasites, tax dollars from
undocumented immigrants are an integral part of our national economy,
funding programs like unemployment benefits that support a large number
of Americans in a time of economic crisis. This money is more
indispensable than ever. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that
undocumented immigrants contributed nearly $50 billion in federal taxes
between 1996 and 2003. Ironically, it's easy for undocumented
immigrants to document their earnings; a passport and proof of address
are all they need for a tax-identification number.....
The Small Business Administration finds that immigrants are nearly 30
percent more likely to start a business than non-immigrants and that
they represent 16.7 percent of all new business owners. In New York
City, the borough of Queens -- the most diverse county in the nation --
remains the leading source of job creation in the city. According to
the Center for an Urban Future, three zip codes in Queens had
employment growth of more than 80 percent in the past decade, adding
66,000 immigrants from 2000 to 2005....
Nancy and Carlos live with the constant threat of deportation,
surviving between hope and trepidation as best they can. "We need to
hide like criminals, and we go to work in fear, hoping that God brings
us back home. You know, we will do any work to survive," Nancy
insisted. Some jobs that paid $10 an hour just a few months ago now pay
only $4 an hour.
Yet Carlos sounded unfazed by the recession. "We have our savings;
the difficult times have taught us that we need to save for
emergencies," he told me. "We pay our taxes; our son makes online
monthly payments to the IRS because we get paid cash."
A path to legalization for millions of people like Carlos and Nancy
is a cost-effective path to short-term stimulus and long-term recovery.
We cannot afford to ignore it any longer.