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Perspectives on Immigration

Perspectives offers fresh ideas and alternative viewpoints on immigration policy from writers inside and outside the immigration debate.

Investing in the American DREAM

By Roberto G. Gonzales Ph.D.

Each year, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant students graduate from American high schools and embark on uncertain futures.  Their inability to legally work and receive financial aid stalls, detours, and derails their educational and economic trajectories.  Most importantly, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know.  The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a federal bill aimed at providing immigration relief to these young people.  The passage of this bill would grant many undocumented youth access to legal residency and federal financial aid—thus removing legal and economic barriers to higher education and increasing their contributions to America and the likelihood of upward mobility.

Published On: Thu, Dec 02, 2010 | Download File

The DREAM Act: A Resource Page

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Published On: Thu, Sep 16, 2010

The Unwanted: Immigration and Nativism in America

By Peter Schrag

It’s hardly news that the complaints of our latter-day nativists and immigration restrictionists—from Sam Huntington to Rush Limbaugh, from FAIR to V-DARE—resonate with the nativist arguments of some three centuries of American history.  Often, as most of us should know, the immigrants who were demeaned by one generation were the parents and grandparents of the successes of the next generation.  Perhaps, not paradoxically, many of them, or their children and grandchildren, later joined those who attacked and disparaged the next arrivals, or would-be arrivals, with the same vehemence that had been leveled against them or their forebears.

Similarly, the sweeps and detentions of immigrants during the early decades of the last century were not terribly different from the heavy-handed federal, state, and local raids of recent years to round up, deport, and occasionally imprison illegal immigrants, and sometimes legal residents and U.S. citizens along with them.  But it’s also well to remember that nativism, xenophobia, and racism are hardly uniquely American phenomena.  What makes them significant in America is that they run counter to the nation’s founding ideals.  At least since the enshrinement of Enlightenment ideas of equality and inclusiveness in the founding documents of the new nation, to be a nativist in this country was to be in conflict with its fundamental tenets.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 | Download File

Back to the Border: A Historical Comparison of U.S. Border Politics

By Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava

During the spring and summer of 2010, America’s broken immigration system erupted into national news headlines as a result of the passage in Arizona of a sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), growing concerns over drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and calls in some quarters for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship.  While these events might seem new, the issues involved—unauthorized migration, labor disputes, violence, federalism, and constitutional rights—have played out over and over again, particularly along the border.  Back to the Border provides analyses by two historians who situate today’s controversies within the context of the broader history of the border region.   Understanding that history not only allows us to make sense of the complex issues behind the current rhetoric, but also demonstrates why it is necessary to go beyond the rhetoric and search for lasting solutions.

The following “Perspectives” by historians Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava compare and contrast conditions and incidents along the Arizona border in 1917, 1976, and 2010.  The similarities between the three eras are startling.

Published On: Thu, Sep 02, 2010 | Download File

Truth Held Hostage: Dissecting the Lies about Kidnapping in Arizona

Arizona politicians who support the state’s sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) are not particularly fond of facts.  For instance, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has made all manner of ludicrous statements about unauthorized immigrants typically carrying drugs, killing cops, and leaving headless bodies in the desert.  But the most hypocritical of the anti-immigrant statements made by politicians such as Brewer concern kidnapping.  Not only do Brewer and company pretend that kidnappers are lurking behind every corner in Arizona, but they usually neglect to mention that unauthorized immigrants are the primary victims of the kidnappings that do occur.  In other words, the kidnapping of unauthorized immigrants is being used as a justification to crack down on unauthorized immigrants.  This is a nonsensical policy that attacks the victims rather than the perpetrators of the crime.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 | Download File

Why Immigrants Can Drive the Green Economy

By Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith

The 2000 Census found that immigrants, while accounting for 12 percent of the population, made up nearly half of the all scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees. Nearly 70 percent of the men and women who entered the fields of science and engineering from 1995 to 2006 were immigrants. So it should come as no surprise that immigrants will help drive the green revolution. America's young scientists and engineers, especially the ones drawn to emerging industries like alternative energy, tend to speak with an accent. Yet, the connection between immigration and the development and commercialization of alternative energy technology is rarely discussed.

In IPC's lastest Perspective on Immigration piece, Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith explain how policymakers envision millions of new jobs as the nation pursues renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, and hightlight the voices that warn that much of the clean-technology talent lies overseas, in nations that began pursuing alternative energy sources decades ago.

Published On: Wed, Jun 23, 2010 | Download File

Arizona's Anti-Immigration Law is also Anti-Faith

By Jenny Hwang

While visiting Phoenix, AZ in late January with a group of evangelical leaders who were in the border region to learn more about immigration, I met an immigrant family struggling to survive in a difficult economy. The father was employed as a mechanic but recently lost his job and lived in constant fear of being separated from his two young children who are U.S. citizens. This man considered moving his family back to Mexico because life was so hard in Phoenix, but was concerned about his two young children who would go back to a country they never knew. They were generous in feeding a group of American visitors delicious homemade Mexican food, as their children ran around the yard, yelling at each other in a mix of Spanish and English. During the same visit, my colleague met an undocumented immigrant woman named Maria whose son was killed by a drunk driver. She cannot press charges, however, because of her undocumented status.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 | Download File

The Anti-Immigrant Movement and the Politics of Exceptionalism

By Roxanne Lynn Doty

Over the period from 2005 to 2007, I researched the anti-immigrant movement. As I spoke with immigration restrictionists and observed their patrols and anti-immigrant rallies, I was often haunted by the question, “Are these people to be taken seriously?”  At times it was hard to fathom that they amounted to anything more than a disgruntled fringe element of a society experiencing complex transformations in an increasingly interconnected world. I witnessed much hyperbole and many “colorful” characters, but at times questioned their potential broader impact.Read more...

Published On: Fri, Jun 04, 2010 | Download File

Re-Living Our Immigrant Past: From Hazleton to Arizona and Back Again

By Jeffrey Kaye

The intent of Arizona’s SB 1070, the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” is to chase illegal immigrants out of the state. Or, as the new law puts it more formally: “to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” The stern new law quickly made Arizona the target of international news headlines, boycotts, demonstrations, and lawsuits—most recently by the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups. While the spotlight has been on Arizona, however, copycat legislation has been brewing in at least 16 other states, supported to one extent or another by two organizations that have made a cause of providing legal and political assistance to lawmakers similarly intent on “attrition through enforcement.”

The two groups, which work together, are the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the lesser-known State Legislators for Legal Immigration. IRLI lawyer Kris W. Kobach, who was a chief adviser on immigration issues to Attorney General John Ashcroft following the attacks of 9/11, has consulted with lawmakers around the country, helping frame and defend state and local legislation targeting illegal immigrants. (At the Justice Department, Kobach engineered a controversial program that aimed to register visitors from certain Muslim countries).Read more...

Published On: Fri, May 21, 2010 | Download File

The Lasting Impact of Mendez v. Westminster in the Struggle for Desegregation

By Maria Blanco

Years before the U.S. Supreme Court ended racial segregation in U.S. schools with Brown v. Board of Education, a federal circuit court in California ruled that segregation of school children was unconstitutional—except this case involved the segregation of Mexican American school children.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reached this historic decision in the case of Mendez v. Westminster in 1947—seven years before Brown.  Historic in its own right, Mendez was critical to the strategic choices and legal analysis used in arguing Brown and in shaping the ideas of a young NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall.   Moreover, the Mendez case—which originated with LULAC but benefited from the participation of the NAACP—also symbolized the important crossover between different ethnic and racial groups who came together to argue in favor of desegregation.

From a legal perspective, Mendez v. Westminster was the first case to hold that school segregation itself is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment.   Prior to the Mendez decision, some courts, in cases mainly filed by the NAACP, held that segregated schools attended by African American children violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because they were inferior in resources and quality, not because they were segregated. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 | Download File