CCIS Associate Director David FitzGerald speaks about the shifts in migration.
BY MIKE FREEDOM FEBRUARY 6, 2013
Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs has often criticized current immigration law, saying it makes it hard to hire foreign-born engineering graduates when the company recruits at U.S. universities.
On Tuesday, Jacobs got the chance to make that pitch directly to President Barack Obama as one of about 10 business leaders invited to the White House to discuss immigration reform.
Jacobs joined chief executives from Motorola Solutions, Goldman Sachs, Yahoo, Marriott, Alcoa, United/Continental and other firms in the private meeting with the president, who has made immigration reform a priority of his second term.
Jacobs was unavailable Wednesday for an interview. But Qualcomm issued a statement saying the San Diego company supports comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration laws.
“Highly skilled immigrants are critical to innovation and are important contributors to economic growth in the United States,” said Jacobs. “As a company that employs and hires thousands of engineers, we believe it’s critical that we do everything possible to welcome the most talented inventors to our shores by updating immigration rules that disadvantage U.S. companies.”
Qualcomm’s gripe with current law centers on caps and restrictions on temporary work visas and permanent green cards for foreign workers.
For example, one rule forbids spouses of workers with temporary visas from seeking jobs in the U.S., said Alice Tornquist, Qualcomm’s vice president of public affairs based in Washington, D.C. Caps on the number of green cards issued each year can result in foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities waiting years — sometimes a decade — to be cleared to work here permanently.
Supporters of reform say these hurdles discourage not only foreign-born, highly skilled workers but also noncitizen entrepreneurs from founding companies and creating jobs.
“We don’t know to what extent we’re losing talent, brilliant people, who just decide upon graduation not to pursue employment in the United States,” said Tornquist. “We’re making it impossible.”
A bill recently introduced in the Senate raises caps on annual temporary work visas and exempts certain jobs from the green-card limits in fields such as science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM.
“So a STEM graduate from a U.S. university with an advanced degree — master’s or above — with a job offer in a science, technology, engineering or math field, would get a green card without waiting,” said Tornquist.
Critics of loosening rules for highly skilled immigrants say many U.S. citizens with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math can’t find jobs in those fields, said John Skrentny, a sociology professor and director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego.
“For example, about 15 million Americans have STEM degrees, but only 5 million work in STEM,” he said. “Where do these STEM workers go? It’s not clear.”
U.S. computer programmers have complained that they are replaced by cheaper foreign workers here on temporary work visas, added Skrentny. “Some also argue that employers refuse to train or retrain American workers and prefer to simply import foreigners who have the needed skills,” he wrote.
Lawmakers last tackled comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Those efforts largely failed. Qualcomm is hoping for a better outcome this time.
“We really look at this opportunity, with comprehensive immigration reform, as the best chance to get the changes that we think are needed,” said Tornquist.
John Skrentny, CCIS Director, discusses the changes to the nation’s immigration laws.
BY MONICA MEDINA JANUARY 9, 2013
Tom K. Wong is haunted by a childhood memory. It is of being awakened in the middle of the night by his mother, and being taken into the hallway, along with his older brother. There, she held them both tightly and sobbed while helicopters hovered overhead.
“It was bizarre,” says Wong, who still remembers the incident that occurred when he was 10, in their low-income neighborhood in Riverside, California, which was comprised mostly of Mexicans, Salvadorians and Guatemalans. “That night, my mother was really scared. There were helicopters flying around, and lights shining down by our house, but they weren’t there for us. The police were surrounding our neighbors’ house. Yet, it was clear my mother thought the immigration officials were coming to raid our house. I connected the dots later on in life.”
For Wong, who today is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, connecting the dots included coming to America from Hong Kong with his parents and brother, at the age of two, and staying long after their visas expired. The revelation that he was an undocumented immigrant came when he reached the age of 16. Like most youth at that age, he was eager to get his driver’s license. Instead, he learned that he couldn’t because of his undocumented status, and the news left him reeling or, as he says, “It was like having a bomb dropped on me.”
“A lot of young undocumented immigrants aren’t aware that they’re undocumented,” notes Wong, whose research focuses on the politics of immigration, citizenship, and migrant illegality. “They learn later in life, after they’ve spent a lifetime being a part of the society. In that context, learning that you’re undocumented is completely shattering for one’s identity. At least it was for me. Suddenly, the things I wanted to do I actually couldn’t do because of my identity.”
Besides not being able to apply for a driver’s license, Wong discovered that being undocumented meant he’d have to make other adjustments. Having spent high school enrolled in all Honors and AP (Advanced Placement) classes, he’d now have to put aside his dream of going to college. Instead, he’d join his parents—selling toys at swap meets. He also had to figure out how his new identity as an undocumented immigrant would affect the relationships he’d built with his friends.
“I had to learn to navigate my personal relationships with others,” he says with some regret. “And, I didn’t do it very well. I didn’t tell any of my friends. I felt so lonely and isolated and I had nobody to talk to. I was ashamed. When I finally did tell somebody, I told my best friend, and the response was one that I didn’t expect.”
His best friend stopped speaking to him. But, around this time, when Wong was 18, he started dating Rose Bloomberg-Rissman, a high school classmate who, seeing that he was facing deportation, stepped in to help.
“I don’t think I told her until a couple months into us being a couple,” recalls Wong. “It became real when (in order to become a U.S. citizen) I had to go back to Hong Kong and wait 10 years. I think it was only then that she realized what it meant for me to be undocumented. She proposed to me, though I didn’t say yes right away. It was a tough choice and I was ready to go to Hong Kong.”
But, with their parents’ blessing, they married. Wong, though, wants to make it clear that his decision to marry wasn’t all about the green card. ”Eleven years later, and we’re still married. She’s the mother of my kids (triplet boys). The immediate assumption is that we got married so that I could stay, but I was ready to go.”
Wong, with his wife Rose, and their triplet boys.
Today, Wong is trying to help other undocumented youth. He has reached out to students, sharing his story in the hopes that they would come forward and, in turn, share their stories with him. And they have. In droves. The reason, says Wong, is simple.
“So much of this is cathartic. When you hear someone else’s story and you can sort of connect to that person because yours is similar, it is a healing experience. It empowers them. And people instantly want to get more involved. It’s becoming more and more common.”
Wong is also trying to combat assumptions made about undocumented youth. “We have just around 40 million immigrants in the U.S., and about 11 million are undocumented,” he observes. “The face of the undocumented immigrant is Latino, but there’s Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and undocumented people from Canada, France and Australia.”
Studying immigration politics and policy is personal for Wong, something he does in honor of his parents. “As a Chinese family, we aren’t very apt on sharing our feelings with each other. A lot of why I do it, is to show them my appreciation, my acknowledgement that I understand why we came here the way we did and why the struggle growing up was actually worth it.”
He adds, “Recently, I did a press briefing in Los Angeles about undocumented Asians, and my mom called me because she saw an article in a Chinese newspaper saying this is great. Even though we don’t talk about our situation directly, they get why I do this.”
Wong’s experience as an undocumented youth, or former “DREAMer,” as he calls himself, has led him to want to help other undocumented youth get on the path to citizenship. In addition to his work at UCSD, Wong serves as the director of the DREAM Project, a non-profit that collects the oral histories of undocumented students. Largely through his own personal funds, he also is making available 30 private grants of $100 each, to assist students in the costs of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Wong is actively involved with the San Diego Dream Team, which plans to host a statewide summit of the California Alliance Dream Team Alliance, the first to be held in San Diego, beginning Friday. The purpose is to strategize for comprehensive immigration reform and other statewide policies.
Wong, who is committed to studying immigration trends and its influence on politics, asserts that immigration will be a major issue in 2013. Which is why for him, his work is just beginning. “It’s a perfect storm for San Diego in a positive way,” he says, “to get people energized and mobilized towards social justice, and I’m just glad to be part of it.”
CCIS Associate Director, David FitzGerald, comments on Canada’s program for Mexican guest workers.
CCIS Associate Director, David FitzGerald, speaks about a reverse in mass migration from Mexico to the United States.
CCIS Director John Skrentny provides insight on the origins of affirmative action and the place of Asian Americans within it.
“They are undergoing an unprecedented demographic challenge,” said Skrentny. “The world has never seen this before, where birthrates have plummeted well below replacement level.” CCIS Director John Skrentny discusses Italy’s dwindling population and dual citizenship.
Wayne A. Cornelius, CCIS Director Emeritus, has been honored with Mexico’s highest award for foreigners: the Order of the Aztec Eagle. Cornelius was selected “for his work of more than five decades to achieve greater and better understanding of Mexico in the United States”.
Two San Diegans awarded Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners (U-T San Diego)
UCSD scholar Wayne Cornelius and Rancho La Puerta Founder Deborah Szekely
BY SANDRA DIBBLE JUNE 6, 2012
For San Diegan Deborah Szekely, volunteerism and philanthropy are a way of life. (John Gastaldo • U-T)
Two San Diegans — a scholar who found fulfillment studying Mexican migrants and a refugee who built a successful spa in Baja California — are receiving Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners, it was announced Wednesday.
Wayne Cornelius, 66, a longtime professor at the University of California San Diego, was selected “for his work of more than five decades to achieve greater and better understanding of Mexico in the United States,” according to a statement by President Felipe Calderón.
Deborah Szekely, the 90-year-old founder of the internationally known Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, was praised for contributions “oriented to preserving the environmental, social and cultural heritage over the past seven decades.”
A third American recognized with the distinction — called the Order of the Aztec Eagle — is Rick Bayless, a chef who specializes in Mexican cuisine. He hosts the PBS television series “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” which recently aired a segment on Baja California cuisine.
“Mexico has always been my focus, my passion,” Cornelius said. “I have unlimited respect and admiration for all those generations of migrants who have had the courage to leave their homes and try to make a life for themselves and their children in the United States — for all the obstacles they have faced in doing so.”
Cornelius and Szekely learned of their selection from U-T San Diego on Wednesday. The announcements were made in Diario Oficial de la Federación, the Mexican government’s official registry.
Szekely, who also founded the Golden Door spa in Escondido, has received much recognition as she celebrates her 90th birthday. But “this is the one that takes the cake,” she said.
She gives much credit to her daughter, Sarah Livia Szekely Brightwood, current president of Rancho La Puerta and the force behind much of the environmental work carried by the spa through its foundation.
In his proclamation, Calderón highlighted the spa’s community-service projects in Tecate, including:
- environmental training and campouts for 25,000 children
- protection of 2,000 acres of Rancho La Puerta through the 2004 establishment of a conservation easement with the Mexican environmental group Pronatura
- and financing of a program to improve the urban zone around the Tecate River.
Close ties with the community have been key to the spa’s success, said Szekely, who moved to Tecate in 1940 with her husband, Edmond, as World War II refugees.
“What we did could never have been done in any other place,” she said. “My husband and I got there as undocumented aliens, no papers, no money. This (honor) is for the people who welcomed us.”
In his remarks for Cornelius, Calderón said the professor’s “research has influenced the manner in which shapers of opinion and decision-makers in the United States perceive the Mexican reality.”
The president cited Cornelius’ 38 years of teaching, noting that he “has trained a great number of experts on Mexico in different universities.” He also mentioned Cornelius’ role in founding the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies in 1979 and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies in 1999, both at UC San Diego.