Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Immigration 101
The New York Times breaks down the stakes for Democrats and especially Republicans on the issue of Hispanic immigration. The chart shows that the big risk for the GOP is alienating the large Latino populations in swing states like New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and New Jersey.



Meanwhile, CSM looks at the research on whether immigration really costs Americans' jobs, while noting how difficult it is to make any calculations without knowing for sure, how many illegal migrants are in the U.S. today:

...the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates how many people out of a workforce of 143 million are unemployed. Last month, 7,193,000, or 4.8 percent, were out pounding the pavement.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which is in favor of some restrictions on immigration, recently issued a report looking at jobs and undocumented workers. One of its conclusions was that between March 2000 and March 2005, only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults went to people born in the US.

"This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18- to 64-year-old population," writes Steve Camarota, director of research.

Howard Hayghe, an economist at the Department of Labor, confirms that this number is correct. But he also points out that by 2005, the economy was doing a better job of producing jobs - and the percentage of native-born residents finding jobs rose to 41 percent. In other words, the stronger economy absorbed more workers of all educational levels. "The more office buildings you build, the more people you need to clean them. The more roads you build, the more workers you need," says Mr. Hayghe.

In addition to the 7 million Americans looking for jobs, another 1.5 million are considered to be "marginally attached" - that is, not actively looking for work. Moreover, some 386,000 are counted as "discouraged" workers. And there are about 19 million, including students and senior citizens, who are not in the workforce.

"If we close the borders and have less undocumented workers, it would put some upward pressure on overall wages," says Mr. Chan. "It's no secret business will have to pay workers more money."

But it's not a given that business will do that. "They may just outsource a larger percentage of the work, or the jobs may just disappear," Chan says.
The Monitor also breaks down the jobs most commonly held by illegals, courtesy of the Pew Hispanic Center:


And on the opinion front, columnist George Will says its time to "guard the borders, and face the facts, too":
America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.

It is a melancholy fact that many of these may have to be employed along the U.S.-Mexican border. The alternatives are dangerous and disagreeable conditions for Americans residing near the border, and vigilantism. It is, however, important that Americans feel melancholy about taking such measures to frustrate immigration that usually is an entrepreneurial act: taking risks to get to America to do work most Americans spurn. As the debate about immigration policy boils, augmented border control must not be the entire agenda, lest other thorny problems be ignored, and lest America turn a scowling face to the south and, to some extent, to many immigrants already here.

But control belongs at the top of the agenda, for four reasons. First, control of borders is an essential attribute of sovereignty. Second, conditions along the border mock the rule of law. Third, large rallies by immigrants, many of them here illegally, protesting more stringent control of immigration reveal that many immigrants have, alas, assimilated: They have acquired the entitlement mentality created by America's welfare state, asserting an entitlement to exemption from the laws of the society they invited themselves into. Fourth, giving Americans a sense that borders are controlled is a prerequisite for calm consideration of what policy that control should serve. ...

Well what do you know? More reasonable rhetoric from Mr. Will... Now for the surprising part: Will stands with the president on this one:


Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status. To what end?

Within a decade the New York and Washington metropolitan regions will join the Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions in having majorities made up of minorities, partly because immigrants have higher birthrates than whites. Since 2000, births, not immigration, have been the largest source of growth of America's Latino population.

Urban immigrant communities, with their support networks, are magnets for immigrants. Good. Investor's Business Daily reports a new study demonstrating that "over the past 30 years rising immigration led to higher wages for U.S.-born workers. Cities that served as migrant magnets did better than others. Why? Hiring one worker creates wealth with which to hire more workers."

Not for nothing, but I've become, if not a fan of the sometimes huffy Mr. Will, a respecter of his opinion, on Iraq in particular. On this, he may have a point, and for once, Mr. Bush (along with Mssrs. Kennedy and ... gag ... McCain ... probably deserve some credit for trying to come up with a reasonable solution.

I agree that illegal migrants should have no claim on a "right" to be in this country. (The protests asserting such a right, while waving the Mexican flag, struck me as off message, at the least.) They broke the law coming in, and it's incredible cheek for them now to demand the right to stay, collect social services, and bring their relatives. Based on any decent respect for the rule of law, amnesty is not an option. There has to be some penalty for having crossed our borders illegally (or overstayed a visa). But the U.S. has a demonstrable interest in knowing who is in this country -- their backgrounds, work status, etc. Not all of those in this country WANT to be citizens -- many simply want to work here and send money home (boosting the Mexican economy to the tune of some $21 billion a year -- second only to oil revenues as a money maker for that country.) For them, a guest workier program probably is best, since they have no pretensions to loyalty to this country, making any sort of amnesty for them a double atrocity. Let those true "guest workers" undergo a background check, get some sort of ID, and travel back and forth, pay some sort of tax while in this country, and -- importantly -- renounce any future claims to automatic permanent residency for themselves, if not for their kids.

For those who are here and want to stay, that's a tricker issue. At the least, they should be made to pay a fine, learn English, pass a background check, pay back taxes and get to the back of the line to apply for residency or citizenship like everyone else (which sounds an awful lot like Kennedy-McCain.) I would actually favor a stiffer penalty of making migrants who've been here a shorter time return to their countries to await residency papers, which many immigrants fromt he Caribbean already are forced to do. Of course, getting people to come forward on that (or any other) basis is probably next to impossible. There has to be a major carrot to stop someone who's been getting away with living here illegally to step out into the light. And paying a fine and going home to wait for papers are no carrots.

So what to do? I would rather see the U.S. impose onerous fines and in egregious cases, jail time, on employers who insist on getting around the current EB visa laws by hiring illegal migrants as cheap, indentured servants, but I don't see the corporate hacks in the GOP-led Congress going that route. (Another solution could be aggressive job training programs for unemployed Americans emphasizing trade skills like carpentry and tile laying, and tax and other incentives to businesses who hire out of this pool, particulalry since these jobs pay $10-20 an hour...)

In terms of legislation, since illegal migration is already illegal by definition, why pass a new law saying it's even more so? (And why would we want to fill our prisons with tens of thosands of brand new felons we have to warehouse to stop them from working, rather than fill a few a few minimum security prisons with felonious, exploitive employers?) The Sensennbrenner and Frist bills, by that reading, are useless, self-serving, race-baiting crap of the worse (and unfortunately, typically Republican) sort, and they should be rejected (though the temptation for border state Republicans to glom on may be irresistible.) So, again, what to do?

First and foremost, there should be actual enforcement of the penalties already on the books for alien smuggling, illegal migration and employment of workers without green cards, and true border and immigration enforcement, before we even begin to talk about immigration reform. A radical idea, I know, but in my opinion, it's the place we should start.

Okay, enough about me. Here's what's on other blogs:

Immigration Daily channels James Pinkerton in saying "no more immigration reveries..."

At the heart of the immigration debate is the basic issue of the social contract between the governed and the government. The government has broken its side of the contract; now the governed will have to step up and force a solution. So our bipartisan betters -- President Bush and Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Edward Kennedy -- are about to get a lesson in the power of small "d" democracy. And all those marchers, parading through downtown Los Angeles chanting mostly in Spanish and carrying, many of them, Mexican flags -- they are about to get the same lesson.

Captain's Quarters asks George Will: "Ich bein ein ost Berliner?" (I hope he isn't calling him a jelly doughnut...)
George Will makes his conservative case for the moderate approach to immigration reform, giving enough room for hard-line enforcement while arguing for eventual absorption of the illegals already inside the US. However, he starts out with an almost unforgivable analogy that will have border-enforcement readers seeing red before they ever get to the rest of his arguments:

America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.

East Berlin? Perhaps George doesn't quite recall the purpose of the Berlin Wall, but I guarantee you it wasn't to keep West Berliners out of East Berlin. The East German government and its Soviet masters built that wall to keep people from fleeing the despair and poverty imposed on the unfortunate half of the city and killed anyone they caught trying to cross it. It wasn't part of an overall interdiction effort that promised to stop illegal immigration, drug traffickers, and terrorists from entering Communist territory; it formed the prison wall for the Gulag State and its inmates.

The Captian comes down about where I come down: border enforcement first, then we can have a reasonable debate about remedies.

On the other end of the reasonableness spectrum, conservative blogger Carolyn Hileman has a case of alien derangement syndrome... and she wants you to go off the meds with her (psst! Carolyn! You're focusing on Kennedy, but did you know that John McCain and the president are in on this thing, too?...

Darleen is probably wondering whether these guys realize Bush is on their side...

Redneckin picks apart the legalization arguments...

Jollyblogger has a conservative Christian perspective (and links to LaShawn Barber's latest earth-scorching anti-(whoever) rant... sorry, but I don't even find her intersting anymore.)

Michelle Malkin is all geeked up about the Mexican flag...

So is Wizbang, but they focus on the upside-down American flag...

Okay, now for the other side:

Blogger Steven Gilliard says, this argument is about race...

ThinkProgress calls out Fox News Channel...

Robert Scheer (h/t to Talkleft) says there is no immigration crisis, and we should legalize ... um ... everybody...

Some 2 million immigrant workers now earn less than the minimum wage, and millions more work without the occupational safety, workers’ compensation, overtime pay and other protections that legal status offers. Consequently, when the president says that immigrants perform work that legal residents are unwilling to do, he may be right — but we don’t know. The only way to test that hypothesis is to bring this black market labor pool above ground.
He then adds this:
Xenophobia today is no more warranted than it has been in the past. The number of claimed “illegal aliens” as a percentage of the population is clearly absorbable by the job market, as our low unemployment rate demonstrates. Yet, the Republican Party and the Congress it dominates are currently teetering between driving undocumented workers further underground and taking a saner compromise approach.

The former, a draconian bill already passed by the House of Representatives, would legalize witch hunts of undocumented workers, by reclassifying them as felons; their employers would be subject to a year or more in prison and punitive fines, as would even church and nonprofit organization members that offer succor to them.

Because employers are not trained to play cop, they will simply be driven to discriminate against job applicants based on “foreignness” determined by ethnicity or accent. The more reasonable alternative, co-authored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and embraced as the heart of the proposal adopted by the Judiciary Committee on Monday, shuns the criminalization of the undocumented, instead offering paths — albeit long, arduous and uncertain ones — to legal status for undocumented workers already here.

This is a moment of truth for America. It is time to acknowledge that we need the immigrant workers as much as they need us, and to begin to treat them with the respect they deserve.
I'm tempted to ask, "what about the respect the law deserves?" but then I'd just sound like George Will...

Tags: , Politics, border, Homeland Security, MEXICO, , Illegal-Aliens, Illegal immigration

posted by JReid @ 8:41 AM  
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