Posts Tagged ‘Illegal immigrants’

Why New York state should pass the DREAM Act

June 19, 2016

The proposed New York DREAM Act would allow unauthorized immigrants who’ve earned high school diplomas in New York state to apply for tuition assistance to attend state colleges and universities.

The documentary film profiles six hard-working young people who might benefit from the new law.

State law doesn’t not protect them from deportation, but it gives them the same right to attend public school as citizens and legal immigrants. The proposed law would give them an equal right to apply for financial aid.

An estimated 4,500 undocumented students graduate from New York high schools each year.  An estimated 90 to 95 percent of them do not pursue higher education.


Immigration and the American Indians

August 26, 2015

immigrationcartoonA council of Native American leaders has offered partial amnesty to the estimated 220 million illegal white immigrants living in the United States.

At a meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico … , Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of this continent’s large, unauthorized European population.  The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds.

indianimmigration“We are prepared to offer White people the option of staying on this continent legally and applying for citizenship,” explains Chief Wamsutta of the Wampanoag nation. “In return, they must pay any outstanding taxes and give back the land stolen from our ancestors.

“Any white person with a criminal record, however, will be deported in the next 90 days back to their ancestral homeland.  Rush Limbaugh will be going to Germany.  Justin Bieber will depart for Canada.  And the entire cast of Jersey Shore will be returning to Italy.”  [snip] native groups welcomed the council’s decision today as a step forward toward normalizing relations with the White community.  However, many conservative Native Americans are upset about the plan, claiming that amnesty will only serve to reward lawbreakers.

“Why can’t we just deport all of the Whites back to Europe?” asks Ité Omáǧažu of the Lakota people.  “They’re just a drain on our economy anyway.  They came over here to steal our resources because they’re too lazy to develop their own back home.

“I can’t believe we’re just going to let them pay a fine.  They should get to the back of the line like everybody else — behind the Mexicans.”

via The Daily Currant.


Immigration is a moral issue

October 30, 2011

My refrigerator is covered with pictures of family, friends, children, library receipts and my son’s artwork.  However in Arizona, parents who are undocumented are clearing their refrigerators and placing prominently on them a single sheet of paper.  This one piece of paper tells social services what to do with their children if they are arrested.

==The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray

The Unitarian Universalist Association has recommended “immigration as a moral issue” as a study-action issue for its congregations for 2010-2014.  On Saturday, I attended a social justice conference Saturday at First Universalist Church of Rochester, N.Y.,  sponsored by the UUA St. Lawrence District.

The principal speaker at the conference was the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, parish minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix and part of the UU Immigration ministry.  Others were Diane Chappell-Daly, an immigration lawyer from Syracuse; David Friedman, a St. Lawrence district trustee; and Pacho Lane, an American who identifies with Mexican culture and nationalism.

I learned things I didn’t know.  One is the cruel manner in which unauthorized Mexican migrants are deported.  Immigration authorities confiscate their property, including medications, cell phones, all forms of ID and any cash above $15, and deport them to a city in Mexico where they’ve never been.  Husbands are separated from wives, and parents from children.  Sometimes legal residents or even American citizens are caught up in these sweeps because they happen to be without proper documentation.  Reasonable people may differ about overall immigration policy, but no decent person can think this is right.

“Illegal immigrant” is a misleading term.  To reside in the United States without proper authorization is not a violation of American criminal law, although it is a crime to re-enter the United States once you have been deported.  “Undocumented migrant” is inaccurate, since many have documents; it is just that the documents are expired or invalid.  Arizona’s hard immigration law is not just a restatement of federal law.  It goes beyond federal law.

Frederick-Gray pointed out that until 1924, there were no restrictions on crossing the Mexico-U.S. border.  For many decades after that, Border Patrol enforcement was lax, and people routinely crossed back and forth.

During the past 10 or so years, there has been a crackdown that has made crossing more dangerous, and therefore more lucrative.  The Mexican drug cartel has taken over the business of smuggling people and combines it with smuggling drugs.

The private prison industry is an important lobby for a crackdown on immigration, and an important employer in Arizona.  In the current bad economy, it may be the only growth industry there.

The best estimate is that there are 12 million unauthorized migrants in the United States, and this can’t help but contribute to the high unemployment rate and depressed wages of American citizens.  The uproar over illegal immigration is perfectly understandable, but deportation is unlikely to change the situation.  The Obama administration is deporting roughly 400,000 unauthorized migrants a year which means that, even if no new migrants enter the United States, it would take 30 years to deport them all.

President Obama has stepped up deportation of unauthorized migrants in hopes of gaining support for a path to citizenship for those remaining in the country.  But such support is not forthcoming.  If Republicans would not support this idea when proposed by President George W. Bush, it is unlikely that President Obama would change their minds.  The best that can be hoped for is the Dream Act, which allows children who grew up in the United States a path to American citizenship.

The focus of the conference was on unauthorized migration from Mexico into the American Southwest, but migrants come from many countries and enter all regions of the United States.  Upstate New York is an important agricultural region, and many farmers employ unauthorized migrants.

It is not that American citizens don’t want to do farm work.  Employers who pay minimummarket wage and obey American labor law can get all the workers they want.  But the economic incentive is to hire workers outside the protection of U.S. law.  Chappell-Daly said U.S. courts have ruled that it is legal for an employer to refuse to pay back wages to an unauthorized migrant.  Somebody in the audience, however, said that the New York Department of Labor will try to get workers the wages they’re owed—if they can find the person after they’ve been deported.


The least bad option on immigration

March 21, 2011

I don’t see any good options on immigration policy.

The least bad option is some sort of amnesty and path-to-citizenship program for the more than 10 million illegal migrants estimated to be in the United States, combined with some sort of guest worker program that would allow foreign migrant workers to enter the country temporarily.

The amnesty is a bad option because periodic amnesties make a mockery of immigration laws.  It is in practice not much different from no immigration restrictions at all. If an illegal migrant gets into the country somehow, all the person has to do is to escape detection until the next amnesty.

A guest worker program is questionable because there is no guarantee against repetition of the abuses of guest worker programs in the past.  The workers were at the mercy of their employers, much like the indentured servants in colonial times.

An amnesty / guest worker program is, from my standpoint, bad politically because it drives a wedge into the liberal Democratic political coalition; it sets Hispanics against non-Hispanic blacks and whites, and immigrants against labor union members.  However, it also splits the conservative Republican coalition between nativist anti-immigration militants and employers who want cheap labor.

The argument is sometimes made that the illegal migrants are a net benefit to the United States, because they do work that citizens aren’t willing to do.  Many of them work under conditions citizens wouldn’t be willing to accept, but that’s another matter.  There are an estimated 11.2 million migrants in this country illegally, and at least some of them must be competing for jobs with the more than 13.6 million unemployed American citizens and legal migrants.

An amnesty would be unfair to immigrants and would-be immigrants who have observed U.S. laws, and would see lawbreakers get in line ahead of them.  Nor would it do away entirely with the problem of securing the borders.  So long as there are any limits on immigration at all, there will be people who try to circumvent them.

But even so, it is less bad than the other options, or so it seems to me.  It is less bad than the status quo, which is to have a vast hidden underclass in this country, which is outside the protection of the laws and the Constitution.  It is not just that members of this underclass are exploited themselves.  Their presence helps drive down wages and working conditions of citizens and legal immigrants.

Bringing the migrants out of the shadows would give them the protection of American laws on wages and hours, worker health and safety and the right to organize in unions and bargain collectively.  Bringing them within the law is in the common interest of citizens and migrants.

And a guest worker program would allow the migrants to return home when the economy is bad without having to risk never being able to get back in.  Remittances that migrants send back to Mexico are an important part of the Mexican economy.  Aside from the sympathy we have for Mexicans as human beings, we U.S. citizens would not want to face the consequences of a Mexican economic collapse.

I like the slogan, “A high fence and a wide gate” – meaning a generous program for admitting immigrants legally combined with strict enforcement of laws to keep the others out.

The problem is the high fence. To root out and keep out illegal immigrants would require national laws much more draconian that the controversial Arizona state law.  You could do it a biometric ID on file for every citizen and legal resident, and frequent checks to determine which individuals have a right to be in the United States.  You would have to require employers to screen all job applicants, and hold them criminally responsible if they fail.  You would have to greatly expand the Immigration and Naturalization Service – not a desirable way to reduce the national unemployment rate.

This is not just a problem for the Southwest borderlands.  Upstate New York has an important fruit and vegetable industry that depends on low-wage illegal migrants – or that is what I perceive from the outcries of growers every time the INS raids one of their camps.  The Border Patrol operates freely in Buffalo and Rochester, which are within 60 miles of the U.S. border; they can be found in the bus terminals, checking the ID of any foreign-looking person who gets off the bus.  There is a detention center in Genesee County near the New York Thruway and distant from everything else.  I can see why, given the requirement to enforce existing laws, these things are done, but it smacks of a police state more than I like.

I can see how someone might find my thoughts overly sentimental.  In an earlier post, I reviewed the book, The Death of Josseline, whose title refers to the death of a 14-year-old girl crossing the border from Sonora into Arizona.  But after all, the hundreds of thousands of migrants who cross the border every year might find a few hundred deaths an acceptable risk.  And many 14-year-old girls have died in Iraq and Afghanistan as a byproduct of American efforts to achieve national objectives there.  You could do a cost-benefit analysis – the death of X number of migrants versus reducing their number by Y thousands.

The ultimate solution to the immigration problem would be a high-wage, full-employment economy, in which the laws on wages, hours, health, safety and the right to bargain collectively are enforced, and sound economic development in Mexico and Central America, so that people in that part of the world could earn living wages where they are.  I don’t think these goals are impossible, but I don’t think they will be achieved anytime soon.