Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would attach the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to the Department of Defense authorization bill expected to come before the Senate as early as next week. The vote will be an important test of whether Congress can transcend partisan politics and work together on crafting solutions to the broken immigration system that both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge is in desperate need of reform. That the proposal will be considered as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill is appropriate, given the Department of Defense's support for DREAM Act as a way to improve military readiness.
First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act would address the plight of young immigrants who have been raised in the U.S. and managed to succeed despite the challenges of being brought to the U.S. without proper documentation. The proposal would offer a path to legal status to those who have graduated from high-school, have stayed out of trouble and plan to attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.
Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, many at the top of their classes, but cannot go to college, join the military, work, or otherwise pursue their dreams. They belong to the 1.5 generation - any (first generation) immigrants brought to the United States at a young age who were largely raised in this country and therefore share much in common with second generation Americans. These students are culturally American, growing up here and often having little attachment to their country of birth. They tend to be bicultural and fluent in English.
Washington D.C. - Over the last several weeks, a handful of elected officials have re-ignited a call for the repeal of birthright citizenship. Claiming that countless unauthorized and temporary immigrants are coming to the United States solely to give birth, some are suggesting changing the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, thereby forcing the U.S. government to individually determine the citizenship of every single child born in the country.
A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center is intended to provide data on the numbers of children born to unauthorized immigrants each year. However, the report offers no real clarity on the question of birthright citizenship. Limitations in the Census data upon which the report is based make it impossible to determine how many children are born into families in which both parents are unauthorized or temporarily in the United States. As a result, the report is only able estimate that 340,000 of the 4.3 million children born in the United States in 2008 had at least one unauthorized parent. In other words, this figure includes families in which one parent is unauthorized and the other a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant, so we still have no idea how many children would be affected by a change to the Fourteenth Amendment. If anything, the Pew report highlights how complicated this issue is given that so many unauthorized immigrants live in "mixed status" families that also include U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.
Washington D.C. - Today, Fox Newsis reporting on data provided to them by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which amounts to a highly misleading fiscal snapshot of the costs allegedly imposed on U.S. taxpayers by unauthorized immigrants. However, in its rush to portray unauthorized immigrants as nothing more than a drain on the public treasury, FAIR completely discounts the economic contributions of unauthorized workers and consumers. Moreover, FAIR inflates their cost estimate by indiscriminately lumping together native-born, U.S.-citizen children with their unauthorized parents.
Washington D.C. - On Monday, the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) hosted a teleconference with border and national-security experts who dissected the myths linking immigration and border violence. These experts shared their analyses of the reality of crime and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, what the real sources of violence are, and how the U.S. should respond. They all made the point that nearly twenty years of immigration policy focusing on "securing the border first" has failed to address the underlying issues and criminal cartels that are the real cause of violence along the border. The experts noted that immigration laws and policies of the past two decades have, ironically, made the border less safe and have actually benefitted the traffickers and smugglers who operate at the border.
Washington, D.C. - Following a meeting to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with Senate Republicans, President Obama announced that he would send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and would request $500 million for additional border personnel and technology as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill.
As we have seen time and time again, efforts to overhaul the entire immigration system have taken a back seat to the political expediency of pouring more money into border enforcement. While it is clear that border violence must be addressed, it is also clear that enforcement alone is not a solution to our country's immigration problems.
Over the last two decades, the United States has spent billions of dollars on border enforcement. Since 1992, the annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol has increased by 714 percent. At the same time, the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the southwest border has grown by 390 percent. Interior enforcement has expanded as well, and detentions and deportations are at record levels. However, during the same time period, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has roughly tripled from 3.5 million in 1990 to 11.9 million in 2008. Yet close family members of American families continue to wait in visa backlogs that routinely last 5 to 7 years, and Americas competitiveness in the global market place is challenged by difficulties recruiting and retaining exceptional foreign workers.
Washington D.C. - In the midst of a loud, long and contentious battle over immigration, a soft voice emerged yesterday which spoke volumes about our nation's broken immigration system - and the fear and havoc it creates in the lives of million of young people in America. "My mom... she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers," whispered a second grade girl in Silver Spring, Maryland, to Michele Obama during her visit to that school yesterday. Her honesty was powerful testimony on behalf of 5.5 million children (75% of which are U.S. Citizens) in America, who have at least one parent without proper immigration status.
For several years a range of academics have documented the powerful effect this uncertain future is having on the lives of children in America. The Immigration Policy Center has produced fact sheets and provides links which highlight these various studies.
Washington D.C. - In data released "exclusively to FoxNews.com," the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - architects of the new Arizona law SB1070 - claim that unauthorized immigrants in Arizona are costing the state's taxpayers $2.7 billion per year for education, medical care, and incarceration. The release of this "fiscal analysis" takes advantage of the absence of any legitimate economic analysis by the state on what SB1070 will cost. However, judging from FAIR's track record when it comes to these kinds of state estimates, it is likely that their numbers are virtually meaningless. In its most recent state studies on unauthorized immigration in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, for instance, FAIR has dramatically exaggerated the fiscal "costs" imposed by unauthorized immigrants by including schooling and medical care for their native-born, U.S.-citizen children in its estimate, and conveniently forgetting to account for the economic role that unauthorized workers play as consumers who help support local economies.
Washington D.C. - Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer may sign into law a bill that has the potential to sink her state much deeper into the red than it already is. Touting a $10 million investment into local law enforcement from discretionary federal stimulus money the state received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Governor Brewer is gambling with Arizona's economy. The costs associated with SB 1070 have not been quantified by the Arizona legislature but it is safe to assume that $10 million dollars is only a drop in the bucket towards what it would actually cost to enforce this law.
In Arizona, when a bill is introduced in the state legislature, a "fiscal note" is attached which lays out the cost of implementation. In the case of SB 1070, the accompanying fiscal note is shockingly lacking in detail, concluding that "the fiscal impact of this bill cannot be determined with certainty. We do not have a means to quantify the number of individuals arrested under the bill's provisions or the impact on the level of illegal immigration." At a time when Arizona is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, however, enacting an enforcement program that will surely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars is fiscally irresponsible at best.
In the absence of any current fiscal data on the cost of SB 1070's implementation, some Arizonans are pointing to a fact sheet produced by Yuma County Sheriff Ralph E. Ogden in response to similar legislation proposed in 2006. Yuma County is one of Arizona's 15 counties, with a population of about 200,000.
Washington, D.C.- Frustrated by Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, states across the country continue considering legislation that relies heavily on punitive, enforcement-only measures which not only fail to end unauthorized immigration but also have the potential to dig their state's finances deeper into a hole.
The latest example of this kind of policy nose dive is in Arizona. A recent bill, "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" (SB 1070), was passed by the Arizona State legislature and awaits the signature of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. As the Governor ponders whether or not to put her signature on SB 1070, she should consider the potential economic impact of the bill, which would require police to check a person's immigration status if they suspect that person is in the United States illegally. This bill, if it becomes law, will likely affect not only unauthorized immigrants, but all immigrants and Latinos in general. Given the vital role that immigrants and Latinos play in Arizona's economy, and considering Arizona's current budget deficit of $3 billion dollars, enacting SB 1070 could be a perilous move.
Washington D.C. - A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), entitled Immigrant Legalization: Assessing the Labor Market Effects, yields both some enlightening and some potentially misleading results about the likely impact of a legalization program. Because the PPIC report focuses on legal status acquired under current immigration law, it does not reflect the long-term benefits and gains that follow from a comprehensive immigration reform package which includes legalization.
While the PPIC report dovetails with other reports when it concludes that legalization would not have a negative impact on native workers' wages and employment, their findings on the wages and mobility of the newly legalized differ from other academic studies on how immigrants fare after legalization. This difference can be attributed to the fact that PPIC looks at legalization only, and how the newly legalized are doing just 4-13 months after becoming legalized. Almost all other previous studies haven take a longer term view of their success.
PPIC relies upon data from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), a sample of foreign-born individuals who acquired legal permanent resident (LPR) status between May and November 2003. It is important to keep in mind that the NIS is not representative of the unauthorized-immigrant population as a whole. As opposed to the individuals captured in the NIS, most unauthorized immigrants do not have a means of acquiring legal status. Moreover, individuals in the NIS were interviewed 4-13 months after acquiring LPR status.