Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The problem is that no one knows for sure whether or not these reforms will actually work how they are intended to. What an incredible waste of time and effort it would be if an immigration reform bill made its way all the way through Congress and onto President Obama's desk, only for it to fail or create a new set of bigger problems down the line.
One solution to this would be to ignore our desire to blaze a new path and to instead imitate what other countries in the world are doing. What to do about a mass influx of immigrants is hardly a dilemma unique to the United States; all the top economies are destinations for people looking to emigrate.
In fact, the situation in Western Europe with immigrants from Africa shares many similarities with immigrants to the United States from Mexico and Central America. But, unfortunately, the countries of Western Europe have also had many of the same outbursts of xenophobia within their native populations that has also hindered smart immigration policy. They may not offer the best model for reform.
Australia and New Zealand have long been top destinations for immigrants, but for a compassionate and functional immigration system we need not look so far away. We just need to follow the lead of our neighbors to the north.
Monday, April 6, 2009
I think the new rules are both more sensible and more humane. It makes sense to go after the people who have been convicted of a felony before you go after the person who is just here trying to make a living. The new rules, if properly advertised, could help improve the relationship between undocumented immigrants and the police because people may be more willing to talk to the police knowing they won't be asked about their immigration status if they haven't done anything wrong.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also spoke out against immigration raids as well. She is quoted in the same article attempting to highlight the human cost of workplace raids:
"Raids that break up families in that way, just kick in the door in the middle of the night, taking [a] father, a parent away, that's just not the American way. It must stop."I think these are great signs of progress. Workplace raids are one of the most tragic examples of the flaws in the current immigration system and its enforcement. Instead of addressing the real problems, workplace raids merely punish the the most vulnerable while letting those truly responsible off the hook. And yet they are held up as tangible proof of our tough border policy in action.
The same article quotes Rep. Lamar Smith saying that by deciding to mobilize 450 federal agents to the border in response to violence by Mexican drug cartels, President Obama ""appears to be using border violence as an excuse" to decrease immigration enforcement within the country's borders.
The notion that workplace raids, which are little more than a show of force, serve any real enforcement or national security purpose would be laughable if they weren't so traumatizing. The raids are an attempt to scare undocumented immigrants into hiding by terrorizing a small group of hardworking people. How anyone could mistake these efforts for a smart use of finite resources is beyond me.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Now this is not an indictment of him at all, he has been president for less than two months and he has to prioritize. I think that in this era of internet news and 24 hour cable news stations the way progress and achievement are perceived has been thrown way out of sync, and that everyone needs to step back and give actions time to either succeed or fail, or fall somewhere in between the two, before evaluating the president's actions. As the saying goes, "a watched pot never boils."
But President Obama will have to address the immigration problem sooner or later, hopefully sooner because I think a lot of other problems can be solved by smart and sensible immigration reform. What will Obama's views be on the subject? Let's take a look at some of his past statements on immigration. From 2007 while campaigning:
He shows a good understanding of the real problems associated with the current immigration system and not just generalizations. I also like that he said, "The notion that we are going to round up 12 million people is unrealistic." He also presents a smart, albeit vague, 5 step plan for bringing undocumented immigrants out of hiding and onto the path to citizenship. But this was during his campaign, and two years ago, and as a result should be taken with a grain of salt as viewpoints tend to change as voters' opinions do. Here he is during a debate with Hillary Clinton in 2008:
He scores more points with me with his assertion that blaming problems on immigrants is scapegoating. But both of these came during the campaign, what will he do now that he has been elected and needs to actually take action on the problem.
On the White House website a five part plan is given for immigration reform, but lacks any explanations for how the changes will be accomplished. From the website:
Create Secure Borders: Protect the integrity of our borders. Support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.
Improve Our Immigration System: Fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.
Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally: Remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Bring People Out of the Shadows: Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.
Work with Mexico: Promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.I agree with all of these points, however I believe immigration reform will be an even greater obstacle than health care reform and entitlement reform. And both of those are shaping up to be epic battles. But while most people agree that health care and entitlement programs are in serious need of drastic changes, the same cannot be said about immigration for some parts of our society. Whether the cause is xenophobia, insecurity about jobs, or racism, there are people who believe we should kick everyone out and close our borders completely. These people are vocal and unwavering in their positions, and have a lot of clout in Congress and the media, and I can only hope President Obama has the determination to see immigration reform all the way through. Because with opponents like these, immigraton reform will be a long and unimaginably difficult battle.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I have attempted to show on this blog that the current border policy in the United States hurts both those who wish to immigrate and the United States itself. The long, complicated process deters many immigrants from attempting to go through the system, and as a result the U.S. misses out on many workers, both skilled and unskilled, that our economy desperately needs. Not to mention the incalculable contributions that immigrants make to American culture, which has always benefited from a wide variety of ingredients to make it a "melting pot" that is envied throughout the world.
But this is not to say that no one is benefiting from our draconian border policy, in fact one group of criminals is thriving because of it. People smugglers, or "Coyotes" as they are called in the southwestern United States, exist mainly because the current immigration process is so painstakingly long, and even pointless, for many who aspire to immigrant to the U.S. The process takes years and there is no guarantee of ever getting a visa, especially if you are poor and only marginally educated.
As a result, many decide to cross the border illegally, sometimes enlisting the help of a coyote. These coyotes are sometimes hailed as heroes for helping people start a better life in the U.S., however underneath this Robin Hood like perception lies a reality filled with violence, abuse and exploitation.
As people smuggling has become more profitable, the fee charged per immigrant has increased from around $200 to $1,500, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, honest and independent coyotes are being muscled out by violent drug cartels and organized gangs.
"This used to be a family business. The coyote and the migrant were from the same town; they were connected. Now, because of the so-called security needs of the border, what's been created is this structure of smuggling in the hands of really nasty people who only treat the migrant as a commodity," said Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, chair of the department of transborder studies at Arizona State University, in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The drug cartels have also merged their drug trafficking and people smuggling operations, forcing immigrants to transport drugs as their fee for crossing, according to the same article.
These new organizations have little sympathy for their clients, and many are malnourished, dehydrated, and even abandoned during their journey to the U.S. Violence between gangs has also increased, including a shootout on Interstate 10 in 2003 during which four coyotes were killed, according to an article in the Arizona Republic.
The same article says that smugglers were much less common a decade ago and instead immigrants were helped by other immigrants for much less money. But as federal authorities started cracking down, people smugglers have increased to help immigrants navigate the more complicated route to the United States.
The relatively new phenomenon of organized people smuggling, coinciding with stricter enforcement on the border, shows that eliminating the problem is as simple as eliminating the smugglers clientele. The creation of a guest worker program would go a long way towards keeping powerless people out of the clutches of powerful, and ruthless, drug cartels.