Posts Tagged ‘Unauthorized 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.


How to drive down American wages

February 5, 2016

Americans used to say that service jobs were safe from the impact of globalization because there was no way for companies to ship them overseas.

But employers can achieve the same goal by employing unauthorized immigrants, who, like the workers in Asian sweatshops, are outside the protection of American labor law.

A recent example of this was contracting the delivery of the Boston Globe to a company that employed unauthorized immigrants.  The public was upset by the huge number of delivery problems.  It should also have been upset by the loss of jobs of American workers who formerly provided reliable service.

The problem is not the unauthorized immigrants, who are hardworking people who are trying to get by the best they can.  The problem is those American employers who are trying to drive down American wages by any means necessary.


All the News That’s Fit to Print: How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers by Aviva Chomsky.

The tide of illegal Mexican immigration ebbs

November 20, 2015

PH_2015-11-19_mexican-immigration-01These days more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering.  As Mitt Romney might say, they are “self-deporting.”

Immigration, both legal and illegal, peaked in 2007.  Pew Research reported that in that year, the U.S. resident population included:

  • 5.9 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 6.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
  • 5.3 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

By 2014, the figures were:

  • 6.1 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.7 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

Overall, according to Pew, there are just under 59 million foreign-born residents and citizens of the United States, comprising a near-record 14 percent of the population.

Pew Research said one reason for the net out-migration of Mexicans is that the U.S. economy is less of a magnet than it once was.  Increasing numbers of Mexicans tell pollsters that they are just as well off staying in Mexico as they would be going to the United States.

Another factor is increased immigration enforcement.  Even though the number of unauthorized immigrants being stopped at the border is down, the number of deportations is up.

There are still 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the USA, and even if the unauthorized immigrant population continues to shrink at the rate it did from 2007 to 2014, it would still take more than 87 years before they were all gone.

As I’ve written before, I’m of two minds as to what to do about this.  I don’t think immigrants who break the rules should get a place in line ahead of those who obey the rules.   At the same time, I can’t much blame people for breaking rules to  better their lives and the lives of their families.

My bottom line is that it is better to offer a path to citizenship, as President Obama proposes, than to have an exploitable underclass in the United States outside the protection of U.S. law.


More Mexicans Are Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera for Pew Research.

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U. S. by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel for Pew Research.

Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. by Pew Research.

The passing scene: January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Gun Trouble by Robert H. Scales for The Atlantic.

HighAirfare35e18The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any time in American history, and the nation spends almost as much on its armed forces as the whole rest of the world put together.  Yet the USA doesn’t seem to be able to win wars, or even provide troops with a gun that doesn’t jam.

James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that the United States has become a “chickenhawk nation.”  The majority of Americans do not wish to serve in the military and have no real desire to understand the military, so we take the easy way out which is to say, “thank you for your service,” and go about our business.

Military procurement has become a business subsidy and job creation program.  If the USA reduced its military force and weapons spending to what is needed to defend the nation, and nothing else was done, a recession would result.

Infrastructure advances in the rest-of-the-world will blow your mind by james321 for Daily Kos.

We Americans used to pride ourselves on our mega-engineering projects, but now the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

China has opened direct rail service from the China Sea to Madrid.  Switzerland is about to open its 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps.  Italy is soon to start high-speed rail service between Milan and Rome, capable of speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

We Americans don’t even perform maintenance on what we’ve got, and that’s a sign of a society with a fatal loss of concern for its future, just as our military strategy is a sign of a society with a fatal loss of a sense of reality.


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.

Illegal immigrants: not a problem, but a fact

November 21, 2014

One of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s rules was that if a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.

I think the presence of millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States is a fact.  I don’t say their presence is a good thing; I say it is not feasible to deport them all.

Given this fact, I think the choices for the United States are to continue to have an underclass outside the protection of American law or to find a way to assimilate these immigrants into American society.

RonaldReaganonamnestye_oI think this would be the lesser evil, even from the standpoint of native-born American citizens and legal immigrants who have to complete with the unauthorized immigrants.

Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz and other Republican leaders threaten to impeach President Obama for using prosecutorial discretion to concentrate on border security and unauthorized immigrants who break domestic law, giving the others a free pass.  Even though the federal government doesn’t have the resources to discover and deport all unauthorized immigrants, they say decisions to prosecute should be made on an individual basis and not about categories of immigrants.

They’ve got a point.  Hard cases make bad law.  I’d take the Republican leaders more seriously if they were equally indignant about the administration’s use of prosecutorial discretion in financial fraud committed by “too big to fail” bankers.

I sympathize with poor people from Mexico or Central America who break the law by coming to the USA to get jobs and help their families.  I have no sympathy at all for Wall Street manipulators who break the law in order to get richer at the expense of everyone else.


Obama’s huge new immigration plan, explained by Dara Lind for Vox news.

Obama’s Immigration Order: The Right Thing in the Wrong Way by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.

Obama Pretends to Put Immigration Reform in Play by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

Cowering behind a border wall by Chris Ladd on GOPLifer.

Surge in migrant children? Maybe not

August 15, 2014


Has there been a surge in the number of unaccompanied central American children trying to cross the border into the United States?  Are they fleeing gang violence?

Maybe not, according to Prof. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, of the UCLA Department of Chicano and Chicano Studies, in a report released Tuesday.  Gang violence is indeed a serious problem in central America, and unaccompanied children from Honduras and other Central American countries do deserve the hearings guaranteed by Wilberforce Trafficking Reauthorization Act of 2008, he said.

But the ups and downs in the number of unauthorized immigrants, including children, are related to the ups and downs of the U.S. economy and, in particular, the unemployment rate among Hispanic people in the USA, not to trends in crime in Central America.  The murder rate in Honduras peaked several years ago, he noted.

There has been an increase in the reported number of unaccompanied children, but Hinojosa-Ojeda thinks that is because Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had to do a more thorough job of reporting because of the Wilberforce act.

I don’t think my previous posts about child refugees from gang violence were contrary to fact.  I don’t think the people I quoted made up the stories they told about young boys and girls being forcibly inducted into gangs.  But this is not the whole story.

Click on The Economic Recovery, Not Gang Violence, Caused the Border Crisis for an interview with Hinojosa-Ojeda in The New Republic giving another angle on gang violence. (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

[Update 8/20/14]  On second thought, maybe it doesn’t matter whether the unaccompanied migrant children represent a “surge” on not.

Five Children Murdered After They Were Deported Back to Honduras by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee for Think Progress.

What would William Wilberforce do?

July 22, 2014

Refugees from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are fleeing to Mexico and many other countries, not just the United States.  But there is a particular reason, besides the obvious economic reason, why so many of the refugees are unaccompanied children.

This is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act, passed with broad Democratic and Republican support and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008.  Children were already turning up at the border then, and Central American children turned back into Mexico were easy prey for prostitution rings and other human traffickers.

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce

It provided that any child caught crossing the border, if not from Mexico or Canada, would be granted a hearing to determine whether they were genuine refugees.

Under the international Refugee Convention, signing nations are required to give refuge to persons with a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, group membership or political opinion, and no protection from their own government.

The law was appropriately named for William Wilberforce, the great British Evangelical Christian reformer, who campaigned for the abolition of the African slave trade and then for the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies.

I think he would have approved of the law that was enacted in his name, and I think he would have been sad to see American politicians breaking their nation’s promise to give refuge to children.

Of course once the law was enacted, word filtered down to Central America that unaccompanied children, if caught by the Border Patrol, would have a shot at being able to stay in the United States—even though somebody fleeing criminal gangs does not really fit the technical definition of refugee.

We Americans remember how in 1939 our government turned away ships carrying Jewish refugees because of our immigration restrictions, and how many of these Jewish people were later killed by the Nazis.  We will have further cause for shame if we turn away children who wind up being killed or forced into prostitution and crime.


Crime and justice: Links and notes 11/4/13

November 4, 2013

British lawyers to get higher legal-aid fees for early guilty pleas by Owen Bowcott for The Guardian.   Hat tip to Boing Boing.

judge1Talk about perverse incentives!  The British Ministry of Justice has announced a new fee schedule for Legal Aid lawyers which will pay them more if they persuade their clients to plead guilty than if they bring the cases to trial.  Fees could be 17 percent to 20 percent in common types of criminal cases.   The overall Legal Aid budget is being cut.

It seems to me that if your assumption is criminal defendants too poor to pay lawyers should be presumed guilty, it would be simpler and cheaper not to have legal aid at all.  In fact, you could save a lot of money by not bothering with the trial.  On the other hand, it costs a lot of money to feed and shelter an innocent person in prison.

I don’t know of anything like this in the USA, but the caseload of public defenders in this country is so great that we might as well have, because they don’t have the time or resources to give most of their clients a proper defense.

Nobody Should Shed a Tear for JP Morgan Chase by Matt Taibbi for Rollilng Stone.

Too-big-to-jailJP Morgan Chase and its CEO Jamie Dimon recently agreed to pay a $13 billion in fines for its part in the sub-prime mortgage fraud which lead to the 2008 financial crisis.  The fraud consisted of writing mortgages for people they knew could not repay, then repackaging the mortgages as securities and selling them to suckers.

The fine seems like a lot of money, but, as Matt Taibbi pointed out, it is a lot less than the $25 billion in TARP funds that JP Morgan Chase received, not to mention other government subsidies.  And it also is a lot less than the $100 billion to $200 billion that JP Morgan Chase might have had to pay if pending lawsuits had gone to trial.

And, unlike with Bernie Madoff, no guilty individual will pay a dollar in fines or spend a day in jail.  It will all be paid by that fictitious person, JP Morgan Chase.

CNBC discovers a firing offense by Alex Pareene for Salon.  Hat tip for this to Bill Elwell.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius deserves to be fired because of the messed-up rollout of Obamacare, according to CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo.   When Alex Pareene said on an earlier show that Jamie Dimon should be fired as CEO of JPMorgan Chase for multiple violations of the securities laws, Bartiromo regarded this as crazy talk.  But nobody was bankrupted or foreclosed on because the ACA web site doesn’t work right.

Congress’ Illegal-Immigration Detention Quota Costs $2 Billion a Year by William Selway and Margaret Newkirk for Bloomberg Businessweek.  Hat tip to Kids Prefer Cheese.

detention_center_0112-thumb-640xauto-4858U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is locking up and deporting more unauthorized immigrants than ever before.  The late Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, inserted into Homeland Security’s 2009 budget a requirement that ICE keep a minimum of 33,400 illegal immigrants locked up at all times.

Keeping all those people locked up costs $120 a day each, or $2 billion a year.  Congress has twice rebuffed White House budget requests to cut the quota and use less expensive means, such as electronic ankle bracelets, to keep track of detainees.  I imagine the for-profit private prison lobby was opposed to the change.

Girl smuggled into Britain to have her organs harvested by Steven Swinford of The Telegraph.

British authorities reported a young girl was brought from Somalia for the purpose of having her organs removed and sold to people desperate for transplants.  The World Health Organization estimated that about 7,000 kidneys are obtained for transplant illegally each year.  The transaction requires organization—a recruiter to find a victim, someone to arrange transportation, medical personnel and someone to market the organ.

Unemployment and unauthorized immigration

February 20, 2013

Joe Guzzardi argues in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle that granting legal residence or a path to citizenship to 11 million unauthorized immigrants would be devastating to the 20 million Americans who are now unemployed or underemployed, which, as he points out, include a large number of poor African-Americans and Hispanics.

deport-chart-no-2012-1The problem I have with his argument is that these 11 million unauthorized immigrants already compete for jobs with American citizens and legal residents.  One of the big advantages of hiring unauthorized immigrants is that they are outside the protection of American law.  They can’t complain about being paid sub-minimum wages, not being paid overtime or being forced to work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions.

Bring them under the protection of American labor and workplace laws, and enforce those laws, and the playing field between immigrant and native-born is leveled.

I imagine Joe Guzzardi would say it would be better simply to deport the unauthorized immigrants.  But the U.S. government has been trying this for years.  President Obama is deporting unauthorized immigrants at the rate of 400,000 a year, many more than under the Bush administration.  At this rate, it would take more than 27 years to track down and deport 11 million people and that only if no new unauthorized immigrants slipped in during that time.

I think President Obama’s amnesty proposal is the least bad of the possible alternatives.   And I don’t think deportations are the key to reducing the unemployment rate.

Click on How Obama’s Path to Citizenship Actually Works for the specifics of the President’s draft bill.

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.