Posts Tagged ‘Illegal immigration’

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.


What would Trump’s immigration policy cost?

February 8, 2016
Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Donald Trump has proposed building an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border to halt illegal immigration while hunting down and deporting the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the United States.

2. 2006-modes-of-entry-01-600x311My question: What would this cost?

Anybody can climb over a wall, so a barrier, to be effective, would have to be guarded, like the Berlin Wall.  Maybe it would be possible to use electronic surveillance, perhaps from drones, to detect illegal crossers, but it would still cost a lot of money and require a lot of people.

3.illegalimmigrantsmain-qimg-453a3f0f33d47ef175266090f05f9598Furthermore a wall would not be sufficient to secure U.S. borders.  A large fraction of illegal immigrants enter the U.S. by sea, or enter the U.S. legally and overstay their visas.  More than a million of them are from Asia.

Finding and deporting unauthorized immigrants would be no easy task.  Many of them would be protected and hidden by their employers and friends.  That could be made a crime, too, I suppose.

I don’t see how this could be enforced without a fascist-style or Soviet-style requirement that everybody be required to carry identity papers at all times, subject to arrest if they don’t, and a system of checkpoints so that people have to frequently show their papers.


Bush and Reagan on illegal immigrants, 1980

November 23, 2014

During the 1980 Republican Presidential primary campaign in Texas, George H.W. Bush said the children of unauthorized immigrants should have the right to attend public schools, and Ronald Reagan advocated an open border so that Mexicans could work temporarily in the United States.

The video above cuts off Reagan’s statement in mid-sentence.  His full statement is:

I think the time has come that the United States, and our neighbors, particularly our neighbor to the south, should have a better understanding and a better relationship than we’ve ever had.  And I think that we haven’t been sensitive enough to our size and our power.  They have a problem of 40 to 50 percent unemployment.

Now this cannot continue without the possibility arising—with regard to that other country that we talked about, of Cuba and what it is stirring up—of the possibility of trouble below the border.  And we could have a very hostile and strange neighbor on our border.

Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?  Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they’d pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back.  They can cross.  Open the borders both ways.

This is the only safety valve right now they have, with that unemployment, that probably keeps the lid from blowing off down there.

Republicans have changed a lot in the past 30-some years.

As have we all.


What Reagan said about a border wall by Chris Ladd on GOPLifer.

Ronald Reagan Says ‘Open the Border Both Ways’  by Jesse Walker for Reason magazine.

Mexican border as secure as it is going to get

May 14, 2013


Apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border, which is the only way we have to measure illegal immigration, are at the lowest level in more than 40 years, according to the Washington Spectator.  Deportations of unauthorized residents meanwhile are at their highest level in more than a century.

I don’t say that this is a solution to the unauthorized immigration problem in the United States.  I do say this is as close as we’re going to come to solving the problem through enforcement alone.

Click on The Border Hasn’t Been This Secure in 40 Years for the full article in the Washington Spectator.

Click on The Wrong Kind of Immigration Spending for a report and charts from The American Prospect

Click on Immigration Enforcement In the United States for a PDF of the Migration Policy Institute’s report.

Click on Migration Policy Institute Topics for a menu of recent news items about the Institute from USA Today.

Is immigration a right?

September 15, 2012

Years ago, when I first learned there was a controversy in California over whether unauthorized immigrants could get driver’s licenses or send their children to public schools, I wondered how that could even be an issue.  If someone is in the United States who is known to be here illegally, why is the person not deported immediately?

After a little bit of reading and thinking, the answer became obvious:  Because it is to the benefit of employers to have an underclass of workers who are outside the protection of U.S. law.

David Bacon, a former union organizer and immigrant rights advocate and current photojournalist, spelled out in detail just how this works in his 2008 book, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.  He drew a picture of the authorized immigration situation by connecting a great many dots that usually are not connected.

He began the book by describing the labor struggles of Mexican immigrants at a luxury hotel in California and a meatpacking plant in North Carolina.  He showed how employers used immigration enforcement as a means to suppress workers who asserted their rights or tried to form union.  Then he went to the parts of Mexico where many of these workers came from, and described the conditions which forced them out of their homes.

Some came from Oxaca in southern Mexico, where imports of cheap mass-produced U.S. corn, and the cessation of Mexican government purchases of corn for government grocery stores, bankrupted many small farmers and turned them into migrant laborers, like the Okies and Arkies during the U.S. Great Depression.  Others came from Sonora, where copper miners in Cananea went on strike against wage and benefits cuts, and were blacklisted.

Historically the Mexican government provided some protection for small farmers and union workers, but, Bacon reported, these were withdrawn under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and administrators of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  They operated under the “neo-liberal” philosophy that says that benefits to farmers and working people are illegitimate because they interfere with free trade and the free market.  Unemployment in Mexico and Guatemala rose to 25 percent.  In order to survive, Mexicans and central Americans came to work in the United States without legal rights, at a time when U.S. workers were losing ground on wages and benefits.

Bacon described the political struggles of Mexican immigrant workers in the United States, and their sometimes successful efforts to form alliances with the African-American community and the U.S. labor movement.  Mexican immigrant workers, African American workers and white Anglo workers should recognize that they’re all workers, and not allow themselves to be pitted against each other, he wrote.

He ended the book by tracing the history of Filipino immigration and labor struggles in the United States, and a report on immigrant workers’ struggles in Germany and Britain, which are similar to the U.S. conflict.

He rejected sanctions against employers as a solution to unauthorized immigration, for the reason that sanctions have not been enforced.  In practice, they are used as a rationale for threatening Immigrant workers who stand up for their rights.

He said “guest worker” programs and the H-1B visa program for high-tech immigrant workers are another form of exploitation.  Both programs leave immigrants at the mercy of their employers, with no right to quit their jobs.  They are like the indentured laborers of colonial America, who were obligated to serve a particular employer on his terms for a specific period of time, such as seven years—the difference being that, after serving our their indentures, they were free to remain.

Do unauthorized immigrants have a right to remain in the United States in violation of U.S. law?  Bacon argued that if corporate executives have a right to shift capital freely from country to country in search of profit, surely people have the same right to go from country to country in search of work.

There is a legal doctrine which, I think, is called “adverse possession.”  If I allow my neighbors to use a footpath across my land for decades, and never close it off, at some point they gain a right to use it.  If migrants are brought into the United States, and the laws against their being here are winked at, do they not at some point gain a right to stay here?

A friend of mine knows a man who does work abroad as an architect and subcontractor for work on U.S. embassies and consulates.  He had just got back from doing work in Norway.  My friend said he told him that Norway deals with its immigration situation by strict enforcement of wages and hours laws.  Contractors could import workers from the Balkans or Turkey, but what would be the point if they had to pay the same wages and benefits as a Norwegian workers?

Bacon would say that is the real question.  If workers in all countries could earn sufficient wages to provide for themselves and their families, immigration would not be an issue.

Click on David Bacon News for his home page.

Click on How Mississippi’s Black / Brown Strategy Beat the South’s Anti-Immigrant Wave for an article by David Bacon in The Nation about a political alliance between Mexican immigrants and African-Americans defeated anti-immigration legislation in Mississippi.

Perilous journey

April 18, 2012

Last year I read a book entitled The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands about unauthorized immigrants and the Arizona borderlands.   The title referred to the death of Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl who was left behind to die on thirst and exposure in the desert when she was unable to keep up with the rest of her group of border crossers.

Josseline Hernandez was from El Salvador, not Mexico, and many of the other individuals mentioned in the book also were from Central America.  I wondered how this migrants made it across Mexico, a country which more restrictive on immigration than the United States.  This excellent Al Jazeera documentary tells how they do it.  Crossing Mexico is perilous.  Only about 40 percent of those who start out make it to the U.S. border, although some may succeed on a second or third try.

It stands to reason that a lot of people who cross the border without authorization probably do so for illicit reasons.  But I can’t help sympathizing with people who risk so much in order to gain a better life for themselves or their families.  All of us Americans, except for native Americans, the descendents of black slaves and the descendents of titled aristocrats, are descended from people like that.

Click on Death along the Arizona border for my review of The Death of Josseline.  The author, Margaret Regan, a reporter based in Tucson, describes the human side of unauthorized immigration very well, and does justice to the views of all concerned.

Death along the Arizona border

March 17, 2011

During the mid-1990s, the Border Patrol attempted to deal with illegal immigration by sealing off the crossings opposite San Diego, El Paso and the other cities along the Mexican border.  Officials of the Clinton administration figured that the problem was solved because no sane person would brave the Sonora-Arizona desert with its murderous heat and lack of water.  They were tragically wrong.  Hundreds of  people die in the desert each year, but they continue to cross, in search of a better life and the means to feed their families.

Margaret Regan, a reporter based in Tucson, wrote The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands as a connected series of stories about deaths, near deaths and rescue attempts of migrants in the desert, but touching on all aspects of the border situation.  She did not directly advocate a policy, but her accumulation of human stories has a powerful and mind-changing impact.

The stories that touched me the most were several different incidents when illegal migrants summoned the Border Patrol for help when one of their party was sick or injured, sacrificing their own chances of entering the United States even when the other person was a stranger.

The book’s title is based on the story of Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador, who crossed the border with her 9-year-old brother. Her mother worked illegally in California and her father in Maryland at low-wage jobs; she lived with relatives until her parents saved enough money to pay for her trip north with trusted friends.

Josseline knew nothing of what to expect or how to dress for the desert, which can be freezing cold (as it was then) or unbearably hot.  When she became sick and couldn’t keep up, the “coyote” (guide) went on without her.  He told her the Border Patrol would be sure to rescue her.

Josseline Hernandez

This didn’t happen.  Weeks later her body was found by a member of No More Deaths, one of the volunteer organizations that sets out water and food along the likely migrant trails.  No More Deaths reports that 1,755 bodies were found along the Arizona border over a 10-year period, and more than 5,000 along the U.S. southwest border as a whole over a 15-year period.  This is a count of bodies, not deaths; nobody knows how many bodies were never found.

Josseline’s mother couldn’t accept the fact her daughter was dead, and an unscrupulous coyote claimed to know of her whereabouts, which he would disclose, for a fee.  Only after a DNA test did she give up hope.

Why would loving parents subject their daughter to such risk?  Regan did not describe the individual circumstances of Josseline’s parents, but it is hard to survive economically in El Salvador or any of the other countries that are sources of migrants.  These countries suffer not only from internal conflicts, but from the influx of subsidized U.S. grain, which has wiped out small farmers in the region.  Free trade agreements with the United States were supposed to make it possible for Mexico and Central America to create export industries that would employ their people, but this didn’t happen.

If the United States had a guest worker program, under which Josseline’s parents could have entered the United States legally on temporary visas, they could have gone back for their daughter.  But with the closed border, illegal migrants don’t dare leave because they might not get back.

I was struck by how many of Regan’s stories were about migrants were from El Salvador, Guatemala and other central American countries rather than Mexico itself.  There must be some sort of known system, maybe even an underground railroad, for getting past guards on Mexico’s southern border, traversing Mexico’s 2,000 miles from south to north, crossing the U.S. border and then traveling within the United States to their destination.  As a friend of mine said, this is a whole shadow world that is all around us, and which affects our lives, but of which we are unaware.

Much of the book is about the impact of the reverse Berlin Wall the United States has built along its southern border.  I was tempted to write that the East Germans were more successful at keeping people in than we Americans are at keeping people out.  But the volume of illegal immigration has declined during the past decade, and the estimated number of illegal immigrants present in the United States also has fallen a little in the past couple of years.  Perhaps there are economic factors, but stepped-up border enforcement must have an effect.

Regan interviewed many resident Arizonans with a roughly equal dislike for the illegal immigrants, who trespass on their property, leave litter and trash, and sometimes commit vandalism and theft, and the Border Patrol, which also has little regard for property rights.  This includes residents of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose Indian reservation touches on a big segment of the border.

She stuck strictly to facts, and did not overtly propose any policy.  She did an outstanding job of being fair to all points of view, including the Minute Men border vigilantes, who are shown performing individual acts of kindness to people in distress.

I have a certain sympathy for the Minute Men.  I think there is an upper limit to how many immigrants a nation can absorb and still preserve its social and economic fabric.  The question that Margaret Regan forces me to confront is: How many 14-year-old girls am I willing to see die in a futile attempt to enforce that limit?

Click on U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing Deaths Are a Humanitarian Crisis for a summary of a 2009 American Civil Liberties Union report.


I guess I know what is meant, but…

December 31, 2010

The Tennessean reported that State Sen. Bill Ketron is drafting a bill that would criminalize illegal immigration, but attorneys are working to make sure the bill conforms with the state constitution.

via The American Independent.

… when we speak of “criminalizing” that which already is a violation of U.S. law, it shows how confused and confusing the immigration debate is.


Obama deports more migrants than Bush

October 20, 2010


The federal government deported more illegal immigrants in fiscal 2010 (which ended Sept. 30) than in any previous year.  Nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants were deported.  While that is a lot, it is estimated that there are more than 10 million people residing in the United States who entered without proper documentation.  At the present rate, it would take 25 years to deport them all – assuming they weren’t replaced by additional illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration has continued to step up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, and has expanded the Bush administration’s Secure Communities policy, which helps local law enforcement officials identify illegal aliens among people arrested on criminal charges.

The big bottleneck in immigration enforcement is the same under the Obama administration as under the Bush administration – failure to appoint sufficient numbers of immigration judges to process the cases.  Immigration judges are officials of the U.S. Department of Justice, not part of the federal court system.

Surveys by the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that illegal immigration fell nearly two-thirds in the past five years, but this probably is due more to the bad U.S. job market than enforcement.

What all this shows is that, for good or ill, the Obama administration’s policy on immigration is a continuation of the Bush administration’s policy.