Pregnant pay premium to get into US



Development: On 11 November the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a report on the prices illegal Mexican immigrants pay to get into the US.

Significance: The DHS working paper argues that the effort and expense the US has put into reinforcing its southwestern border between 1993 and 2006 has pushed up the price illegal migrants have to pay to get into the US. The DHS reckons that the price illegal migrants have to pay people traffickers jumped from US$600 a head in 1993 to US$1,500 in 2007. Pregnant migrants usually pay even more. The DHS working paper found that 95% of first-time crossers used people smugglers in 2006.

The DHS admits that its estimate of the cost of being smuggled into the US is at the lower end of the spectrum. The Mexican Migration Field Research and Training Program survey (MMFRP) puts the 2006 price at well over US$2,250.

What is fascinating about the DHS working paper is how tentative its conclusions are. It points out that there is little evidence on whether people smugglers have tried to lower their unit costs by smuggling other goods (such as drugs) into the US alongside people.

The links the DHS does make are pointed: it cites an academic study which suggests that a 10% decline in Mexican wages compared with US wages leads to a 6% increase in border apprehensions. In the past 12 months border apprehensions have dropped by 17%, year-on-year, to 473,000. This suggests that potential Mexican migrants now calculate that the risks of crossing into the US are higher than the potential rewards.

Read the Article »

A Chance to Get Immigration Reform Right

AEI Study Outlines Principles for Regulation of Low-Skilled

NOVEMBER 3, 2010


Recent immigration reform proposals, such as Arizona’s SB1070, have focused on curtailing illegal immigration through increased border enforcement and deportation of unauthorized residents. But border enforcement is expensive and often ineffective. In addition, while foreign workers benefit the U.S. economy–whether they’ve entered legally or illegally–they also increase the tax burden on U.S. citizens. In Regulating Low-Skilled Immigration in the United States (AEI Press, 2010), Gordon H. Hanson, director of the Center on Pacific Economies, outlines principles for immigration reform that will balance these fiscal costs and benefits. Successful reform, he argues, must attract in-demand workers who have strong incentives to assimilate and be economically productive, but will not place excessive demands on public services.

Hanson outlines three broad choices policymakers must make concerning the mechanisms that govern immigration:

  • Whether to regulate the entry of immigrants using prices or quantities: The current regime of legal immigration is primarily quantity-regulated, as Congress determines how many visas are available each year. However, a price mechanism, such as a visa processing fee, would attract workers with higher incentives to be productive during their time in the United States. A visa processing fee would also generate revenue for the federal government and help to offset the fiscal burden immigrants place on public services.
  • How much variance to allow in the number of work visas: Current policy places strict caps on the numbers of visas issued, but a more flexible approach would benefit the economy by allowing immigration to increase during times of expansion and decrease during times of contraction. During times of economic growth, wages would rise and demand for visas would grow, pushing up their price. The government would receive a signal to increase the visa supply to keep prices stable. Accordingly, when the economy slows down and demand for visas falls, government would decrease the supply.
  • How to balance the fiscal cost of immigration with incentives for assimilation: Easing the path to U.S. citizenship for legal and illegal immigrants would mean greater demands on public services, but it would also benefit the country by encouraging important investments in U.S. society, such as pursuing higher education, purchasing a home, and becoming active in community organizations. A method of balancing the fiscal costs and benefits would be a graduated system of residency rights, whereby an immigrant could earn increased benefits and eventual citizenship through demonstrated productivity and compliance with visa regulations.
  • When the Obama administration addresses immigration reform, as it has promised to, it “should seek first to do no harm,” Hanson writes. “Constructive reform requires allowing low-skilled immigration to occur under a legal framework that respects market mechanisms and treats immigrants as individuals with the potential to contribute to U.S. society. Unless Congress recognizes and understands the successes and failures of low-skilled immigration policy to date, we risk losing another chance to get reform right.”

    Gordon H. Hanson is director of the Center on Pacific Economies and a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego.

    Read the Article »

UA-linked effort looks at crossers, effect of violence

Students interviewing hundreds of deportees

BY JAZMINE WOODBERRY for The Arizona Daily Star
OCTOBER 25, 2010

University of Arizona students are interviewing hundreds of deported illegal border crossers over the next year to document the connection between drugs, guns and violence on the border.

The study is funded by a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, a private Michigan-based organization that awards grants to social-justice causes globally.

While the students’ research won’t be completed until early next year, preliminary returns from the surveys show that illegal border crossers are experiencing an increase in emotional and physical violence at the hands of smugglers and Border Patrol agents, said co-principal investigator Jeremy Slack.

The buildup of border enforcement and the overlap of drug- and human-smuggling appear central to a rise in violence over the last three years, Slack said.

“We are committed to tell this story by using their voices to tell the phenomena of the border,” he said.

UA students from several academic areas work with professors and students from partnering Mexican universities to conduct the interviews. They are talking with deported border crossers at shelters in Tijuana; Nogales, Sonora; Ciudad Juarez; Matamoros; and Mexicali.

The project stems from a dissertation by Daniel E. Martinez, a University of Arizona Ph.D. student and research visitor at Notre Dame. He was introduced to the shelters through Anna Ochoa O’Leary, who was awarded a 2006 Fulbright grant for her survey-based research with female migrants.

Initial data collected focused mainly on Mexican migrants in shelters near Tucson. But with the grant, researchers now can expand beyond the Tucson-Nogales area, and Martinez said this change will broaden preliminary data for an executive summary to be released next spring.

The Ford Foundation also funds the University of California-San Diego’s Mexican Migration Field Research Program, whose research is based on interviews with illegal border crossers. Researchers with that program conduct interviews in three Mexican communities with varying illegal-migration patterns and socioeconomic status.

A focus on how border enforcement is affecting migration is crucial, said Jonathan Hicken, a research associate with the Mexican Migration Field Research Program. The survey research adds a more human element missed in other, non-interview-based efforts, he said.

“It’s in our best interest for programs like this to start sprouting up everywhere,” Hicken said of the UA program.

to Read interviews

To read some of the interviews conducted by UA students with illegal border crossers, go to researchdiscuss.blogspot.com

Who’s paying for it?

To learn more about the organization funding the research, go to the Ford Foundation’s website: fordfoundation.org

Jazmine Woodberry is a University of Arizona student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet. com or 573-4128.

Read the Article »

Reaching for a New Deal: President Obama’s Agenda and the Dynamics of U.S. Politics (Russell Sage Foundation)

Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, John Skrentny is part of a team of political scientists, led by Theda Skocpol and Larry Jacobs, who joined forces to provide “a detailed and sweeping set of assessments of the accomplishments, limits, and political dramas of the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency during the 111th Congress.”  While Skrentny focused on immigration, other scholars analyzed a broad set of reform areas, including health care, the financial regulation, higher education, organized labor, K-12 education, energy and tax policy.


Employing a rich variety of data sources, a working group of nine leading scholars has analyzed and tracked the accomplishments, limits, and political dramas of the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency during the 111th Congress.

Barack Obama won the presidency of the United States as the candidate of change, pledging to fundamentally transform domestic policy in many areas of national life—health care, environmental regulation, immigration law, labor policy, the financing of higher education, and taxes and revenue collection. As the Wall Street crisis escalated in the months before the 2008 election, financial system reform became one more item on Obama’s already extensive list of challenges. Obama’s election coincided with increased Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, and many viewed the advent of his administration as a once-in-a-generation chance to significantly reorient U.S. public policy and reverse decades-long regulatory and tax trends that redistributed wealth and opportunity upward and widened the chasm between rich and poor.
Two years later, the record is mixed, and accompanied by political turnarounds. The Obama administration proposed redirections of federal activities in many key areas, and landmark legislation was passed that may fulfill some of the promise of Obama’s change-oriented presidency. Yet the key achievements remain invisible to many Americans, including pundits engaged in assessing the first two years of this presidency. And in a number of areas, changes have been limited by partisan polarization and obstructionist tactics in Congress, even as a fragmented and increasingly politicized media has blared extreme and conflicting messages about politics. Amidst the clamor, citizens have become increasingly disillusioned with Washington DC, as they face a sluggish recovery from a deep recession marked by persistently high unemployment and slow-private-sector job growth. Although polls tell us that Republicans have even less credibility than Obama and the Democrats, the GOP is poised to make major gains in the midterm 2010 elections. The American public, once flush with excitement over the possibility of a new character and tone for politics and governance, now doubts that government can be used for positive purposes to widen opportunity and overcome economic threats – and gridlocked politics in coming months may confirm their worst fears.
The project provides a detailed and sweeping set of assessments of the accomplishments, limits, and political dramas of the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency during the 111th Congress. With support from the Foundation, political scientists Theda Skocpol (Harvard University) and Lawrence Jacobs (University of Minnesota) formed a working group on President Obama’s Agenda and the Dynamics of U.S. Politics. The effort started more than a year ago, and has involved nine leading scholars tracking the course and fate of Obama’s efforts to reorient domestic policy during 2009 and 2010. Working group members traced developments in eight specific policy areas: health reform, financial regulation, energy and climate change, tax policy, higher education funding, primary and secondary school reform, immigration policy, and labor law reform. They also shared insights to develop an overall perspective on Obama’s approach to domestic reforms amidst a deep economic downturn. Employing a variety of data sources, including public documents, speeches, media coverage, public opinion polls, campaign contribution records, and interviews with key actors, the scholars in this project identify what the Obama administration and its allies tried to do and when; trace successes, setbacks, redirections and failures. Each author explains what happened, probes the foreseen and unforeseen political consequences, and situates the efforts and achievements of the early Obama presidency in the context of previous federal policies. The papers tell us much about the workings and pathologies of U.S. politics today, and highlight the institutional and political constraints that channel and limit changes – especially changes intended to mitigate social and economic inequalities in the United States.

Pundits and politicians alike have compared Barack Obama’s ambitious policy initiatives to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which sought to alleviate the economic devastation of the Great Depression. One of the unique features of this extraordinary and timely set of readable analyses, collected in the volume Reaching for a New Deal, is that it analyzes immediate developments by using comparisons to a variety of historical episodes including the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Reagan era. These comparisons cast into sharp relief the ways in presidential calls for policy change are buffeted by different types of economic crises, changing public moods, shifts in civic engagement and interest group activity, and the impact of media norms and operations on public debate.

The volume is organized into three major sections. The first section considers areas where the Obama administration managed majored legislative breakthroughs. The second section looks at realms where action occurred primarily through administrative means under Cabinet direction. And the third section probes the deadlocks and political conflicts that have so far blocked decisive action on that analyze to address inescapable challenges in immigration, energy and climate change, and tax reform.
These first-rate studies take account of developments through the winter of 2010. The Foundation has published a book entitled Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years, in 2011.
CONTENTS (PDF)

INTRODUCTION
Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years
After 2008 brought a decisive victory for Barack Obama and enhanced Democratic margins in the House and Senate, many observers felt the door was open for a second New Deal, especially because candidate Obama had highlighted growing inequalities in the United States and promised to redirect federal benefits, taxes, and regulations to enhance opportunity and security for the middle class. The usual institutional obstacles to rapid policy change slowed progress on presidential priorities; and Democratic majorities were always certain to wane by 2010. Extraordinary circumstances also proved daunting. Unlike FDR in the 1930s, Obama took office just as a financial and economic crisis was starting. He joined with the previous Republican administration to bolster Wall Street and the banks, but did not or could not forestall rising and persistent unemployment. Republicans decided on a strategy of all-out opposition to the President’s initiatives, hoping to benefit from economic sluggishness and public disillusionment in the 2010 midterm elections. Partisan polarization is at an all-time high; Senate filibuster practices are now routinely invoked to stall all sorts of decisions; and today’s media structures and practices magnify oppositional voices and make it hard for the President to get any consistent message across to most citizens.
Despite all of these obstacles, President Obama and his allies have achieved major legislative breakthroughs in health reform, higher education reform, and financial regulation. In addition, Administration officials have used regulatory powers to promote labor and school reforms. But major national dilemmas about immigration, energy and environment, and taxes remain unresolved, as attempts at compromise legislation have stalled in Congress and partisan posturing runs to extremes. The future for Obama’s presidency, whether or not he wins a second term, will be even more daunting than the first two years, as Republicans gain ground in Congress and the public becomes increasingly frustrated with the inability of the federal government to promote job growth and tackle national challenges. Obama has made a start on the second New Deal he promised and his administration is determinedly implementing reform legislation. But it remains to be seen whether new steps will be rolled back or undercut, and whether further efforts to use federal powers on behalf of broader opportunity and security for most Americans can make headway in a stormy political environment, in which anti-government conservatives and interests determined to preserve privileges will have greater leverage.
LEGISLATIVE LANDMARKS

Hard-Fought Legacy: Obama, Congressional Democrats, and the Struggle for Comprehensive Health Reform
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law a landmark in U.S. social provision, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. For many decades, reformers and previous presidents had sought reforms to expand health insurance coverage while also controlling rapidly rising health care costs. All had failed, until Obama and Democrats in Congress brought a fifteen-month process to successful legislative conclusion, enacting Affordable Care with bare majorities of only Democratic votes. Early in 2009, Obama chose the risky course of making comprehensive health reform a top priority, despite the fact that he took office during a major economic crisis. His White House set broad themes for reform and stressed long-term cost controls, and then let Congressional committees work out compromises with major health industry stakeholders. Republican ideas were solicited and incorporated into major bills. But when Republican Congressional leaders turned to all-out opposition, legislation could advance only through intricate compromises between liberal and moderate to conservative Congressional Democrats. Final legislation almost failed when Senate Democrats lost a seat and could no longer break a filibuster.
But in the end, the election of Republican Scott Brown not only failed to stop reform, but opened the door to a more egalitarian version of health reform passed by majoritarian procedures. Affordable Care is now on the books, yet must be implemented at the national and state level in an intricate process stretching over the next five to ten years. Opponents are calling for repeal — or, failing that, for major changes in spending, regulations, and taxes. Looking forward, and taking for granted a less propitious political environment in Congress, President Obama’s signature health reform seems likely to survive as a legislated framework, but it may experience modifications that will, in the end, make the law less effective at regulating business and health care practices that lead to inexorably higher costs, and less beneficial to lower and middle-income Americans.

Eliminating the Market Middle-Man: Redirecting and Expanding Support for College Students
Suzanne Mettler (Cornell University) evaluates the administration’s initial efforts to broaden access to college. She explains how Obama was able to recalibrate a student-loan system that favored private lenders—by establishing government-issued loans and generous tax tuition credits – yet at the same time lost traction on other initiatives, such as creating guaranteed Pell Grant funding.

The Contest of Lobbies and Disciplines: Finance Politics and Regulatory Reform in the Obama Administration
In July 2010, President Obama signed into law the most far-reaching legislative regulation of the American financial sector since the New Deal. This essay examines the legislative success or failure of the Obama Administration’s various proposals for financial reform, focusing upon five themes: (1) leverage restrictions and capital requirements, (2) restrictions on proprietary trading, (3) regulation of derivatives and swaps, (4) regulation of credit ratings agencies and (5) a consumer financial protection agency. I conclude that substantive and transformative statutory reform was accomplished in most of these areas, though critical proposals were watered down through lobbying, often in ways that eluded the public eye. The legislation leaves numerous decisions and operations for agency regulators to implement; this reflects both a penchant for delegation in the legislation, as well as the centrality of existing agencies as lobbying and framing agents in the politics of financial reform. Post-signing battles over appointments to the consumer protection agency and ongoing adjustments by banks to divorce their proprietary trading operations from their core services may intimate something about the legislation’s likely accomplishments. In perhaps the most subtle but substantial change accomplished in the past two years, reform politics pried open the previously restricted and privileged network of voices, perspectives and officials that participate in the making of American financial policy.

CHANGE THROUGH REGULATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION

The Unsurprising Failure of Labor Law Reform and the Turn to Administrative Action
This chapter analyzes the most recent attempt at labor law reform during the first two years of the Obama Administration. To account for failure, I argue that several long-term institutional and political obstacles present throughout 20th century American politics including the geographical concentration of labor, the conservative coalition in Congress, combined with antimajoritarian features of the American state, continued to be insurmountable for the labor movement. More short-term factors such as the Obama Administration’s policy sequencing, the role of interest groups, especially the Chamber of Commerce’s intense opposition, organized labor’s strategic choices, and declining public opinion of unions also help explain labor law reform failure in 2009-2010. However, in lieu of the unsurprising failure of labor law reform, President Obama has advanced some labor policy reforms through administrative politics—appointments and rulemaking—with the potential to strengthen unions politically.
Surprising Momentum: Spurring Education Reforms in States and Localities
Lorraine McDonnell (University of California, Santa Barbara) describes the Obama Administration’s K-12 agenda, and places it in the larger context of prior federal and state education policy, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (EASA). McDonnell traces the ideas and politics responsible for Obama’s agenda, and shows how stimulus funding—which requires state laws to fall in line with federal priorities—has sped up state-level educational reforms and provided the administration with unprecedented leverage for encouraging shared practices across the states. McDonnell also identifies the future challenges facing education reform.
FAILED BARGAINS AND INTENSIFYING CONFLICT

Obama’s Immigration Reform: A Tough Sell for a Grand Bargain
Immigration reform in the United States typically takes the same form as 1986’s Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). That is, it creates a “grand bargain” that marries a legalization of millions of illegal immigrants with increased efforts at border control. IRCA failed miserably, and the number of illegal immigrants in the country at that time has grown to nearly 11 million. President Barack Obama, like George W. Bush before him, has sought a similar grand bargain to reform that would offer a plan to legalize the undocumented and increase border enforcement. Obama has not yet delivered for several reasons. The main reason is the negative meanings attached to grand-bargain reform arising from IRCA’s failure that taught opponents to not make more grand bargains, as well as the common view of illegal immigrants as undeserving of aid. There are several other obstacles to reform, including the great number of veto points for opponents to stop a bill, the Republican strategy of total opposition, the Great Recession, and the new front created by states such as Arizona creating their own immigration measures. Chances for reform appear slim but are most likely to increase if reformers move to incremental reform focusing on legalization for undocumented children and/or agricultural workers; if reformers gain more strength from a big push by evangelical groups or big businesses; or the GOP changes its strategy and seeks to back reform to appeal to the growing number of Latino voters. In that case, Obama could win reform even if Republicans take control of a least part of Congress. This would allow both parties to take some credit for immigration reform.

Cold Front: How the Recession Stalled Obama’s Clean-Energy Agenda
Judith Layzer (MIT) analyzes Obama’s attempts to address the looming problem of climate change by promoting a transition to a clean-energy economy. Layzer examines how efforts to pass climate change legislation were undercut by regional economic concerns and exacerbated by the economic recession. Layzer shows how the White House has used administrative tools to circumvent congressional deadlock and further some of the President’s goals in transforming national energy production.

Paying America’s Way: The Fraught Politics of Taxes, Investments, and Budgetary Responsibility
Andrea Louise Campbell (MIT) tracks the fate of Obama’s campaign pledge to return to a more progressive tax code by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for households in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, while increasing taxes on capital gains and dividends. Campbell lays bare the sources of Obama’s failure and anticipates coming debates over the budget deficits and federal tax policy.

Together, these timely and sharply drawn studies provide a vivid overview of the Obama administration’s agenda – and its successes, set-backs, and political reverberations. At a time when journalists, citizens, and analysts are all attempting to understand what is happening in a pivotal and tumultuous period in American politics, Reaching for a New Deal offers telling facts and bracing analysis. These studies deliver close-up examinations of the country’s policy challenges, accompanied by a big-picture understanding of what the first two years of the Obama presidency reveals about possibilities for—and limits on—change in U.S. public policy.

Read the Article »

A jumbled view of illegal immigrants (Los Angeles Times)

The Meg Whitman dustup is a metaphor for Californians’ conflicting views on the issue.

BY CATHLEEN DECKER   OCTOBER 2, 2010

With the tears of a housekeeper who claimed she was wronged by a candidate for governor, the issue of illegal immigration came roaring back into California’s political landscape this week, like a blast of uncomfortable deja vu.

After two news conferences by Republican Meg Whitman and two by her former housekeeper’s attorney, Gloria Allred, voters were left to sort through questions, some of which may be aired in a debate Saturday between the gubernatorial candidates:

Did Whitman do the right thing, or not, when she fired her housekeeper after being told the woman was an undocumented worker? Did she do the wrong thing, or not, by declining to alert immigration authorities? Legalities aside, did she have some sort of moral responsibility to help out a woman whom Whitman herself described as a member of her extended family, or was it appropriate to banish the woman with no further contact after firing her?

The answers may affect Whitman’s campaign for governor, but more broadly the whole emotional, televised, confusing mess was a perfect metaphor for the jumbled and contradictory views that Californians hold on illegal immigration.

The nation has been here before. Several of President Clinton’s early Cabinet choices were derailed because they had either employed illegal immigrants or neglected to pay taxes on them, or both.

California too has revisited similar situations time and again. In 1994, the state fought its way through a debate over Proposition 187, the measure that would have denied most taxpayer-financed government services, including schools, to illegal immigrants. That year, a Senate race between incumbent Dianne Feinstein and Republican challenger Mike Huffington exploded when he was found to have knowingly employed an undocumented nanny. The matter went nuclear because Huffington had argued that he would be tougher than Feinstein on illegal immigrants.

A year later, while preparing to run for president, then-Gov. Pete Wilson was stung by reports that he too had once employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper. Wilson, now the campaign chairman for Whitman, had been the chief proponent of Proposition 187. (His presidential campaign whimpered to an early end, for a host of reasons).

Part of the propellant for the 1990s fixation on illegal immigration was economic. The state was reeling from a recession and the shrinking number of military and aerospace jobs and facing a massive budget deficit. Conditions are arguably worse now, but the anger has been focused less on illegal immigrants than on politicians.

California has generally been moving toward greater acceptance of immigrants, even illegal ones. In 1982, the Field Poll found that only 19% of voters thought illegal immigrants had a favorable effect on the state. By this July, 34% felt that way. The proportion of voters who felt illegal immigrants had a negative impact had dropped from 75% to 56%. In 1982, 52% of voters felt illegal immigrants were taking jobs away from legal Californians; by this July, only 34% felt that way.

Some of the movement has come from the demographics of California, which is growing less white by the year. Part of it is sociological: People tend to become more understanding of illegal immigrants when they live with or near them. (The exception: A sudden influx of illegal immigrants or public focus on them tends to increase disapproval, which in part explains Arizona’s recent adoption of strict anti-immigrant measures).

“People who live in more diverse regions tend to be more positive” about illegal immigrants, said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California. Although he said he did not want to “paint a Pollyanna picture of California … Arizona is now at the forefront of those types of legislation and California is not. Maybe what’s happened is in California, people feel we passed out of those things with some changes in perception and attitudes.”

The shift has been reflected in the race for governor. Both Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee, and GOP nominee Whitman have, from opposite political poles, genuflected deeply toward the moderate middle. When asked in Tuesday’s debate if he favored a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, Brown said yes, with a caveat.

“At the end of the day, we have a couple million people in the shadows and there has to be some process,” Brown said. Yet he added that, as attorney general, he forwarded the fingerprints of those arrested in California to immigration officials for deportation. “If we’re going to work on illegal immigration, let’s start with those who break the law.”

Whitman declined to support a legalization process but still emphasized she was not a 1990s Republican.

“I have been, by the way, I think balanced and very fair about this,” she said. “I have said from the beginning that I was not for Prop. 187. I just didn’t think it was the right thing to take a K-12 primary education away from children, and I also said I didn’t think the Arizona law was right for California.”

Mike Madrid, a GOP strategist who specializes in Latino matters, marveled at the change in rhetoric.

“You certainly wouldn’t have seen a Republican candidate 10 years ago saying that,” he said, noting that Whitman defeated a primary challenger who ran as tougher on illegal immigration. “It would have been more fire and brimstone.”

With the environment changed, the question remains: Will the focus on the housekeeper damage Whitman’s campaign? Many strategists suggested that the facts of the case are blurry enough, and Whitman’s positions moderate enough, that she will avoid the hypocrisy charges that flew at Huffington and Wilson.

The biggest danger, many said, was that voters might accept that she was duped by her housekeeper but also object to how Whitman treated the woman. That too would be completely in line with a populace that can love the illegal immigrant but disdain illegal immigration.

As with many issues, voters want it both ways on immigration, said John Skrentny, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego. Many want a small government but expansive government programs, he noted, or lower taxes but excellent schools.

“A lot of us have contradictory views on different things,” he said.

Read the Article »

2010 Guardian Study Guide (UCSD’s The Guardian)

BY NEDA SALAMAT  FOCUS EDITOR  
SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

BEST SOCIAL SCIENCES PROFESSOR – John Skrentney

One of the worst things ever invented — clocking in just after Furbies, but before fist-pumping bros — are three-hour classes. After sitting through five grueling courses, I know firsthand how tedious they can be. It takes a special kind of charm to make these gabfests into something students bother attending, but for sociology professor John Skrentny, it’s just another day at the office.

The cards seem to be stacked against him: a three-hour class that runs into the evening, lectures on the sociological nuances of law and a massive room that makes sleeping both inconspicuous and ideal. Instead, the man turned water into wine — he gestured, he chuckled, he paced, he joked. Skrentny’s teaching style is based on the Pied Piper, leading his students to their ideological destination before they even realize they’re following. Skrentny spends class time telling funny stories about his childhood, asking for students’ opinions on current sociological matters and discussing the facets of law. The man has turned teaching into a performance art.

Plenty of people will tell you his classes are easy and — true enough — it is possible to scrape by with minimal studying, which is a testament to his ability to make a complex concept seem simple. Soon, you’ll forget you’ve been watching the Piper play for the past few hours, paralyzed by his teaching finesse and ready to follow his analysis.

Read full Article »

‘Cynical’ policy tacitly encourages illegal immigration (The Orange County Register)

BY RONALD CAMPBELL   SEPTEMBER 14, 2010

SECOND OF FOUR PARTS.

On Nov. 6, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that was supposed to end illegal immigration.

Instead, it became one of the biggest public policy failures since Prohibition.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act legalized most of the illegal immigrants then in the United States. To keep others out, it forbade businesses from hiring undocumented workers and threatened those who did with fines.

For a description of the law, see Government Accountability Office, “Foreign Workers: Information on Selected Countries’ Experiences,” September 2006 (GAO-06-1055).

Almost a quarter-century later, the undocumented population has soared from about 500,000 after the amnesty to about 11 million today. The primary reason: the breakdown of worksite enforcement, which Reagan had called “the keystone” of the 1986 law.

“Soared from about 500,000”: The law legalized 2.7 million out of a population estimated in 1986 at 3.2 million; see “Unauthorized Aliens Residing in the United States: Estimates Since 1986,” by Ruth Ellen Wasem, Congressional Research Service, RL33874, Aug. 25, 2009. “… to 11 million”: See “Illegal immigration estimates, 1986-2008,” spreadsheet derived from estimates from Congressional Research Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Homeland Security and Pew Hispanic Center. “The keystone”: from Reagan’s signing statement.

“We’ve been running a very cynical policy for the last 15 years,” said Doris Meissner, the government’s top immigration cop from 1993 to 2001. “What we are saying out of one side of our mouth is, ‘We will make it harder for you to cross the border. … But there will be a job for you when you get here.'”

Interview, Doris Meissner, Dec. 17, 2009.

“The ’86 Act was built around this idea of workplace enforcement,” said Meissner’s successor, James Ziglar, who headed the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 2001 through 2003. But when the INS tried to carry out the law, “members of Congress whose districts were affected started to complain. … So it just didn’t get funded.”

Interview, James Ziglar, Feb. 9, 2010.

Over the decades, presidents and Congresses of both parties have chosen other priorities for immigration enforcement – securing the border, deporting people already in jail for violent crimes, preventing illegal immigrants from getting jobs at nuclear plants or airports.

Despite the post-9/11 crackdown, more than 500,000 illegal immigrants entered the country each year between 2000 and 2006. The flow began to ebb only in 2007, when immigrants encountered a much more formidable foe than the Border Patrol: the Great Recession.

“More than 500,000”: “U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade” by Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Hispanic Center, Sept. 1, 2010. Also see “Illegal immigration estimates, 1986-2008,” Register compilation of estimates by Department of Homeland Security, Congressional Research Service, Pew Hispanic Center and others. The illegal immigrant population rose from about 8 million in 2000 to about 12 million in 2007 before declining to 11.1 million in 2009. Pew, which does the most widely cited studies of illegal immigration, estimates the annual inflow at 850,000 from March 2000 through March 2005, 550,000 from March 2005 through March 2007 and 300,000 from March 2007 through March 2009.

Federal immigration policies largely ignore the millions already here and almost entirely ignore the reason they illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas: jobs.

The Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, has focused on the border and on immigrants who break non-immigration laws.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2009, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, said, “A scattershot approach where DHS targets any and all of the around 12 million people in the United States illegally does not amount to an approach that maximizes public safety.”

Testimony of Secretary Napolitano before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, May 6, 2009.

These policies have contributed to California’s growing dependence on immigrant labor. Some 1.75 million California workers, one of every 11, is here illegally.

“One of every 11”: 1.75 million unauthorized workers in a work force of 19 million, or 9.3 percent. See Passel and Cohn, “U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade,” Sept. 1, 2010. Their estimate of the total work force is about 500,000 more than the Census Bureau estimate used in these stories. See also “A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States” by Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Hispanic Center, April 14, 2009.

“What you observe in the data is not like the weather,” said Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors restrictions on immigration. “It’s the result of policy choices.”

Interview, Steven Camarota, Nov. 18, 2009.

‘CLOSING THE BACK DOOR’

Illegal immigration became a hot issue in the early 1970s when labor unions persuaded House Judiciary Chairman Peter Rodino, D-N.J., to introduce a bill to fine employers who hired illegal immigrants. It went nowhere.

“Declining Enforcement of Employer Sanctions” by Peter Brownell, Migration Policy Institute, Sept. 1, 2005.

In 1981, a presidential commission on immigration, headed by Notre Dame University President Father Theodore Hesburgh, recommended employer sanctions as a means of “closing the back door to illegal/undocumented immigration, (and) opening the front door a little more.”

Cited in “DHS and Immigration: Taking Stock and Correcting Course,” by Doris Meissner and Donald Kerwin, Migration Policy Institute, February 2009.

After several tries, Congress passed a compromise bill containing employer sanctions in late 1986.

The new law scrapped a 1952-vintage loophole that had allowed employers to hire illegal immigrants for jobs those workers legally could not hold.

But the sanctions contained in the 1986 law were, by design, weak. Congress set the fines low and the government’s burden of proof high: Businesses had to “knowingly employ” illegal immigrants.

Business and civil rights groups had objected to employer sanctions, Meissner recalled. If the provisions had been any tougher, the bill would have died.

Workplace arrests of undocumented immigrants plunged 85 percent in the first full year after the passage of the 1986 law. They slowly recovered, peaking at 17,552 in 1997, midway through Meissner’s eight-year tenure as INS commissioner under President Clinton. Then they fell again.

In 2008, one of the bigger years for worksite enforcement, the odds of an undocumented immigrant getting busted on the job were about 1 in 1,300.

The maximum fine for a business that “knowingly employs” undocumented workers is $11,000, a fraction of the amount charged in other countries. In Germany, for example, the maximum fine is 500,000 euros ($640,000).

But the potential amount hardly matters because few employers are fined or even threatened with a fine. In 1992, the INS issued a record-high 1,461 notices of intent to levy a fine. In 2009, it issued just 172 such notices.

PLAYING IMMIGRATION COP

From the start, worksite enforcement has been unpopular with employers. It requires a boss to play immigration cop, sorting through as many as 26 forms of identification to spot the fakes.

Some employers ignore the requirement or pay it little mind. Mariela, a 28-year-old illegal immigrant and Highland resident who speaks unaccented English, got her first job at a restaurant without showing any identification. Her current employer accepted a photocopy of a crudely forged Social Security card.

Illegal immigrants surveyed by retired UC San Diego political scientist Wayne Cornelius and his students said that while most employers asked for identification, almost half of the employers knew they were unauthorized and another 11 percent probably knew.

Raids and audits are rare, but the consequences for the employer can be devastating.

After an audit of employee documents in the early 1990s, immigration authorities told Poway landscaper John Mohns to dismiss 50 of his 150 employees – “really good guys that we had put a lot of effort into training.” But his ex-employees were not deported. Instead, Mohns said, most of them “went down the street and got a job with my competitors.”

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at six Swift & Co. meatpacking plants on Dec. 12, 2006, resulted in the arrest of 1,300 Swift employees and cost the company $30 million, Swift Vice President John Shandley testified.

Swift had been participating since 1997 in E-Verify, the federal government’s voluntary Web-based program for confirming that workers were legal. Every one of the arrested Swift workers had passed an E-Verify check.

“Simply put,” Shandley testified four months after the raid, “a company cannot legally and practically do more than we have done to ensure the legal workforce under the current regulations and tools available from the government.”

POLITICAL ‘THIRD RAIL’

No wonder then that Meissner calls worksite enforcement “a bit of a third rail” or that her successor, Ziglar, says that “nobody wanted to touch it.”

In 1999, responding to pressure from Midwestern congressmen, Meissner told top INS career official Mark Reed to find a way to drive undocumented immigrants out of Nebraska. Reed sent meatpacking plants letters identifying thousands of workers whose employment documents did not match federal databases.

As a result, “3,500 people fled the state of Nebraska,” Reed said. “Two weeks later, all those people (who had urged action) kicked me out of their state for ruining the economy.”

Ziglar, the INS commissioner from 2001 until 2003 when it was dissolved into the Department of Homeland Security, had no better luck making worksite enforcement politically palatable.

He remembers watching a congressman on television complaining about lax INS enforcement.

“I was literally watching it on TV and a spokesman brought in a letter he had sent” complaining that INS raids were hurting the harvest in his district, Ziglar recalled. He wouldn’t identify the congressman but said that he was a fellow Republican.

BORDER WAR

Instead of funding worksite enforcement, Congress poured money into border enforcement. And funds have continued flowing in ever-larger amounts since 1993, even as the undocumented population nearly tripled.

In 2003, UC San Diego economist Gordon H. Hanson calculated, the federal government devoted 53 times more man-hours to the border than it did to worksite enforcement.

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security budgeted $126.5 million for worksite enforcement and 27.8 times more – $3.5 billion – for the Border Patrol. DHS spent more money training the workers who X-ray luggage at airports than it did on worksite enforcement.

Even within the agency that enforces immigration laws inside the borders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, worksite enforcement is a stepchild. In 2009, the agency devoted just 5 percent of its man-hours to worksite enforcement.

The Border Patrol had 3,200 officers when the 1986 act passed and 4,000 when Bill Clinton became president in 1993. By the time he left office, it had more than doubled to 9,200 agents. Under President George W. Bush, it doubled again, to 17,500.

Last year, under President Barack Obama, it had 20,000 agents – far more than the FBI.

In addition to expanding the Border Patrol, Congress in 2006 authorized a high-tech border fence to discourage illegal immigrants from crossing the 2,000-mile frontier with Mexico. Average cost per mile: $2.91 million.

For all the billions spent and the thousands hired, it is unclear whether the border crackdown has worked.

At least a third of illegal immigrants walked right by border guards. They entered legally and overstayed their visas. Despite more than a decade of effort, the government is still struggling to track the comings and goings of tens of millions of foreign visitors.

The undocumented population, about 4.5 million when the border crackdown began in 1993, swelled to 12 million in 2007. It declined to 11.1 million in 2009, the first drop in decades.

The Bush and Obama administrations have claimed partial credit for the drop. But it also coincided with the deepest recession in 75 years.

The Great Recession has hit illegal immigrants particularly hard, giving prospective immigrants reason to stay home. Federal Reserve economist Pia Orrenius reported last year that immigrants are especially vulnerable to a downturn because they are less educated than other workers and more likely to work in construction or other recession-sensitive jobs.

While the recession has discouraged prospective immigrants and caused 1 million immigrants to leave, millions more are waiting it out.

One of them is Luciano, an illegal immigrant who welds iron doors and window frames in Anaheim. During the boom, he worked 45 hours a week. He now works 15 hours a week. He stays, he says, because of his daughters, both born in the U.S. “We want the girls to have a better future.”

BOON FOR COYOTES

Surveys of illegal immigrants by Cornelius, the UC San Diego political scientist, have showed consistently that most immigrants make it past the Border Patrol. Although about 45 percent are caught at least once, 97 percent eventually succeed.

The buildup on the border has made one big difference, however: It has forced immigrants to rely on immigrant smugglers, known along the border as “coyotes.” Coyote fees have risen nearly in lockstep with Border Patrol staffing. A one-way trip that cost $500 when the 1986 law was passed and $722 when the border campaign began in 1993 cost $2,848 in 2008.

Here’s another way of looking at it. In 2007, when taxpayers spent $2.3 billion on the Border Patrol, coyotes collected perhaps $800 million to sneak immigrants past the guards.

Hard evidence is scarce, but rising coyote fees might force undocumented immigrants to stay put rather than go back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. In a 2001 study, Cornelius wrote that by driving up coyote costs, the government might be “keeping more unauthorized migrants in the United States than it is keeping out.”

Luciano’s wife, Martha, last visited Mexico in 2000. She was caught on her first attempt to return north and took a “very rough” trek through the desert to finally make it home to Orange County. She has not dared go south again, not even to see her grandson born in late 2009.

“We empowered alien smugglers,” said Reed, the former top INS official. “Now they (immigrants) have to bring their families with them because they can’t go back and forth. … It will be worse tomorrow than it is today.”45

E-VERIFY BLUES

“The border is really symbolism,” said Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a business-backed group that lobbies for expanded immigration. “It’s in the workplace that it has to happen.”

Interview, Tamar Jacoby, Sept. 24, 2009.

If she is correct, the future of worksite enforcement rests with E-Verify. But despite 14 years in development, E-Verify has yet to deliver on its promise: a simple, near-instant way for employers to make sure their workers are legal.

Congress mandated the Basic Pilot, predecessor of E-Verify, in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Basic Pilot was one of three electronic verification pilots authorized by the 1996 law; the other two were dropped in 2003. See “Immigration Enforcement: Preliminary Observations on Employment Verification and Worksite Enforcement Efforts,” Government Accountability Office, June 21, 2005 (GAO-05-822T).

E-Verify was designed to combat the use of fake documents, a problem since the beginning of worksite enforcement. But while E-Verify can detect document fraud, it cannot detect identity fraud – the use of real documents borrowed or stolen from legal workers.

E-Verify cannot detect identity fraud: “Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation,” Westat, December 2009.

The result: Undocumented workers more likely than not will get a pass from E-Verify. That was among the findings of the most recent review of the program by the government’s social science consultant, Westat. The consultant found that 54 percent of the time E-Verify wrongly says that an undocumented worker is eligible for a job.

Westat, “Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation,” December 2009.

E-Verify also wrongly tries to deny jobs to naturalized citizens. The system issues false warnings that a particular worker is not authorized 1 percent of the time. But naturalized citizens, who are legally equal to native-born Americans, are 32 times more likely than natives to get a false warning, requiring them to prove the U.S. government wrong or lose their jobs.

Westat, “Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation,” December 2009.

The agency that runs E-Verify, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in response to the Westat report that E-Verify “accurately detects the status of unauthorized workers almost half the time” and is “much more effective” than hand-checking documents, as most employers do. The agency also is making it easier for naturalized citizens to challenge false warnings.

“Westat Evaluation of the E-Verify Program: USCIS Synopsis of Key Findings and Program Implications,” USCIS, Jan. 28, 2010.

About 780,000 of the nation’s 7.7 million workplaces use E-Verify. Legislation to mandate E-Verify for all hires is pending in Congress.

“780,000”: This is the number of offices, including branch offices, using E-Verify; e-mail from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Mariana Gitomer, Aug. 30, 2010. Between Oct. 1, 2009, and Aug. 14, 2010, 14 million prospective employees were run through the system. “7.7 million”: This is the most recent number of business “establishments,” a term that includes branch offices and thus is comparable to the E-Verify number; from U.S. Economic Census, 2007. “Legislation to mandate E-Verify”: HR 2028 by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, and HR 2083 by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. Broader immigration reform bills, including the outline released by Senate Democrats in May, also mandate E-Verify.

Reed, the former INS official, is skeptical about E-Verify. It was very good at spotting fake green cards, he said, but “it’s got a huge blind spot” for undocumented immigrants who claim to be citizens.

Interview, Mark Reed, Sept. 24, 2009.

He places more hope in the Obama administration’s strategy of auditing employment documents at businesses suspected of hiring unauthorized workers.

In July 2009, ICE issued 652 audit notices – more than it had issued in the entire previous year. It announced 1,000 more audits last Nov. 19.

“In July 2009”: ICE media release. “Nov. 19”: ICE media release. ICE does not have an estimate of the annual number of audits it has conducted; in its July 27, 2010, reply to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Register, the agency said it does not centrally track the number of audits.

By using audits instead of raids, Reed explained, “One agent can go after 300 companies rather than 300 agents go after one. … Now they’ve got some real economies built into this thing. They’ve got a nuclear bomb now.”

The question, he added, is whether they’ll use it.

View the article »

Illegal immigration drops (The San Bernardino Sun)

Jose Zapata Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, pointed to research out of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego that found fewer immigrants wanted to cross the border last year, because jobs are scarce.


BY JOSH DULANEY   SEPTEMBER 11, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO – Gerry Gates is a concrete contractor who has seen his fair share of illegal immigrants looking for work in front of home improvement stores.

But their numbers are thinning, he said Friday as he loaded parts and equipment into his truck outside a Lowe’s store on North Hallmark Parkway.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s as many guys,” Gates said.

A study released this month by the Pew Hispanic Center might bear that out.

The annual number of illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. was nearly two-thirds smaller from March 2007 to March 2009, than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to estimates by the center.

That has translated into an overall reduction of 8 percent in the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S., to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12million in March 2007, according to the estimates.

Researchers said the numbers represent the first significant reversal in the population growth of illegal immigrants over the past two decades.

Those who assist them said the numbers show that illegal immigrants are hard-working people who are looking for jobs, but they can’t find jobs in what some say is the worst economy since the Great Depression.

“It’s not that immigrants or Mexicans want to take over the United States, like some of the arguments we hear on the other side from the Minutemen and the Tea Party,” said Emilio Amaya, director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center. “Immigration is tied to jobs.”

According to the Pew center’s estimates, California had the largest number of illegal immigrants in the 2009 labor force, with 1.8 million.

The illegal immigrant population was 9.3 percent of the labor force in California, which was a larger share of the labor force in any state except Nevada, which stood at 9.4 percent.

While Gates isn’t seeing as many immigrants in Home Depot parking lots, Amaya is seeing fewer in his office.

He said his group is dealing with a 20 percent decline in clients over the last two years.

“Last year was very difficult,” he said. “Our services are tied to the communities we serve, and we are noticing a huge decrease in services and donations from the community.”

Some, armed with their own anecdotes, dismiss the findings, saying the Pew Hispanic Center is pushing agenda-driven research.

“I don’t believe anything they say,” said Rick Oltman, spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization. “I talk to the Border Patrol agents and rangers on the border, and they’re basically seeing the same ebb and flow of (illegal immigrants) as they were before.” Oltman said the research demonstrates an open-borders bias that seeks to change and deflect the immigration debate.

“If the government knew what the number was and the word got out, you would have more than 70 percent (of Americans) supporting the Arizona law,” he said.

Others disagree, saying the center’s findings are consistent with other research.

Jose Zapata Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, pointed to research out of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego that found fewer immigrants wanted to cross the border last year, because jobs are scarce.

“What comes into play is the economic crisis that began in 2007,” Calderon said. “They don’t leave their country just out of wanting to. They leave because of the lack of jobs and the lack of security in terms of survival.”

Calderon said because of that, all the tough talk on border security is meaningless.

“Migration patterns will not significantly change with domestic immigration policies,” he said. “A long-term solution is really putting pressure on those companies (in other countries) who are not paying these workers very much, and that is something that the trade agreements have not addressed in the past.”

Amaya said stepped-up enforcement is having at least one counter effect.

“People decide to stay here,” he said. “They bring their own families because they are not able to go back. In the past, I would see these people come to the United States, work three to six months, go back, then (return) in a year. Now they bring everybody.”

Download: Pew Study

Read the Article »

Immigration and California (The Orange County Register)

The Orange County Register has released the first two parts of a four part series which looks at Immigration and California.  Director Emeritus Wayne Cornelius was referenced in Part 2 of the series as shown below.


Immigration and California: The series at a glance »

Part 1: California’s addiction to immigrant labor »

California relies more on immigrant labor than any other state and almost any developed country. That’s the result of decades-long economic and demographic shifts as well as political choices.

Part2: ‘Cynical’ policy tacitly encourages illegal immigration »

More than 10 million undocumented immigrants have moved to the United States since Congress vowed a crackdown in 1986. A key reason: the government’s failure to lock them out of jobs.

Illegal immigrants surveyed by retired UC San Diego political scientist Wayne Cornelius and his students said that while most employers asked for identification, almost half of the employers knew they were unauthorized and another 11 percent probably knew.

“Current Migration Trends from Mexico: What Are the Impacts of the Economic Crisis and U.S. Enforcement Strategy?”, by Wayne Cornelius, UCSD Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, presented to congressional staff June 8, 2009. Copy provided by Cornelius to the Register. “Almost half”: 49.6 percent, according to the survey of illegal immigrants.

Part 3: Who wins, loses from mass immigration to California? »

Immigrants have driven down wages in low-skilled trades. But they’ve made life easier for middle- and upper-income Californians.

Part 4: Immigration reform: Touching the third rail of U.S. politics»

Changing U.S. immigration policy means grappling with polarizing choices – like amnesty and a national ID card.

Few Nations Give Guarantees Like 14th Amendment (NPR)

CCIS Director John Skrentny was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.


[podcast]http://ccis.ucsd.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/skrentny-npr-8-14-10.mp3[/podcast]

TRANSCRIPT:

GUY RAZ, host:

Now, many opponents of so-called birthright citizenship point to other western countries where birth doesn’t equal citizenship. And as U.C. San Diego sociologist John Skrentny points out, not a single European country allows it.

Dr. JOHN SKRENTNY (Co-Director, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies; Sociologist, University of California, San Diego): We’re an anomaly in many ways. And the ease with which one can be a citizen is one of them, which is not to say that there’s no other countries in the world that have citizenship laws that are similar to ours.

On the one hand, there are what are called ethnic nations. Ethnic nations tend to have what are called jus sanguinis citizenship laws. And you can tell from the words sanguinis, there’s this notion of blood there.

RAZ: Blood.

Dr. SKRENTNY: Yeah, if you know Spanish at all, sangre. And the idea there is that the nation, the people are bonded together through ancestry. That is the most common conception of nationhood or peoplehood in the world.

The other notion of nationhood is generally understood as a civic notion of nationhood. And this is the idea that folks are bonded together by where they are, by locality and by the ideas that they might share. And that’s what we have in the United States. There are folks who say that, you know, to be an American is to embrace an idea.

RAZ: If legal scholars who supported this idea of either changing the 14th Amendment or passing a statute that would end automatic citizenship by birth, if they were looking for precedents, they might look overseas. There are many countries that have passed laws in recent years that, you know, effectively deny automatic citizenship to people born in those countries.

Australia did it in 2007, New Zealand in 2006, Ireland in 2005. Why couldn’t that be done in this country?

Dr. SKRENTNY: Well, the difference is numbers. The United States receives more immigrants than any other country in the world. Throughout the 1990s, we were receiving between 700,000 and a million new immigrants a year. About a third of those were undocumented.

And so if you are not going to grant birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants here, you’re going to have just a much larger number of folks who are effectively stateless, who don’t have any country to call home, who it’s not obvious where you would deport them.

The likelihood is that many of them would end up staying, and the likelihood is that they wouldn’t have access to rights in the United States. They would be excluded from different programs. And for many Americans, they might look at that situation and say, is this the kind of country that we want to be?

RAZ: John Skrentny, let’s imagine for a moment that the 14th Amendment does get repealed. Do you think it would have a dramatic impact on illegal immigration in this country? Do you think you would see the numbers of illegal immigrants drop?

Dr. SKRENTNY: No, I don’t think so at all. And, again, the experience of Europe is helpful here. Europe is becoming a very diverse place. And you hear on the news, you know, increasing numbers of Muslim populations there and non-white populations in Europe. A lot of that happened in the 1950s and 1960s when European states were bringing on guest workers who were supposed to just stay for a few years, many of them brought their kids. And when they brought their kids, they tended to stay.

And in the United States, we have a similar situation. Most – the vast majority of the migrants who come here are coming for economic reasons. They bring their kids because they want to be with their kids because they love them. They’re not making rational, long-term calculations on this as much as they are just short-term trying to get by.

RAZ: That’s John Skrentny. He is the co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and a professor of sociology at the University of California in San Diego.

John Skrentny, thank you so much.

Dr. SKRENTNY: Thank you.

View the Interview »