Posts Tagged ‘Unauthorized migrants’

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.

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.

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.