‘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

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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.


 

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 »

Staying Put: One Man’s Thoughts On Crossing The Border 36 Years Later (KPBS)

BY AMY ISACKSON   JULY 22, 2010  

Despite the economic downturn, the desire to work and live in the U.S. continues to drive migrants north. As part of our Envision series “Crossing the Line: Border Stories,” we bring you the story of one man who understands that desire well.

Rogelio Mendez comes from the village of Tlacotepec in Oaxaca. It’s about 1,700 miles south of San Diego, nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Rogelio_t250
Rogelio Mendez is from Tlacotepec, a Oaxacan village that has a long history of migration to San Diego County. Mendez is working on an irrigation project in Tlacotepec that he hopes will create jobs, because he doesn’t want more people from his village to have to risk their lives crossing the border. (Photo by Julien Pearce)

Many people there speak the indigenous language Mixtec. Half the homes have dirt floors. But many of the cars have California license plates. And, like other villages dotted around Oaxaca, people can rattle off the names of freeway exits in San Diego.

That’s because, for the last 70 years, men like Rogelio Mendez have headed north to San Diego to find jobs. “We’re the kids
of an ex-bracero. They told us that in the United States the
dollar was worth something, more than the Mexican peso,
” says Mendez.

Mendez sits in a wooden chair in the living room of the small pink stucco home he rents in Spring Valley, and travels back in his mind to that first border crossing.

“It was 1974, when I was really young. My cousin brought me and my dad and big brother. We found my cousin’s relatives in Colonia Libertad in Tijuana. One of the kids helped us cross,” recalls Mendez.

In those days, there was barely a fence. “There was barbed wire. There were a few fence panels, but there were a lot of holes,” says Mendez.

There weren’t motion sensors or infrared cameras like there are these days. “The Border Patrol wasn’t so strict. You could cross where you wanted to,” muses Mendez.

Mendez, his dad and his brother eventually landed work in the fields in California. “We didn’t have money or food. We ate tomatoes and a plant we recognized from Oaxaca for three weeks, until our first check arrived,” he says.

DSC_0173_t250
Tijuana’s Colonia Libertad neighborhood butts up against the border fence. This is where Rogelio Mendez first crossed the border illegally in 1974. He says then you could cross where you wanted to. (Photo by Julien Pearce)

They lived in a canyon. When the picking season ended, they went back to Mexico.

Mendez repeated this pattern for a dozen years.

His brother taught him how to do roofing and his wages went up.

In 1986, along with nearly three million other illegal immigrants, Mendez earned residency in the United States under the immigration reform act.

Mendez went through ups and downs, but he was able to work most of the time. He says, “We were able to send home four or five-hundred dollars a month. I built a house in
Oaxaca.”




Mendez brought his family to San Diego.

In 2004, 30 years after he first crossed the border, he bought a home here. Many of his friends and family from Oaxaca did, too. “We all bought. Then we all lost. I think we are in the worst crisis in the United States,” laments Mendez.

The economic crisis is visible on street corners across San Diego County, like this one in Vista. Men read the newspaper and tap their toes as they wait for someone to drive by and offer them work. The men say some days eight hours pass and they still don’t get jobs.

Jorge Ruiz has picked up work on North County street corners for 20 years. He also earned his residency with immigration reform in 1986.

He says he used to earn $20 to $30 an hour. Now, it’s $8. He hasn’t worked in two weeks.

“A lot of the time, you just have to endure the hunger. It’s tremendous suffering. I don’t have anything. And the family in Mexico, they say, hey, what about your kids here and paying for their school? But, I haven’t worked. I’m living out in a field,” says Ruiz.

He says many of his friends who can’t make rent anymore moved back into the canyons.

Mendez says, even so, it’s still more attractive to stay here than go back to Mexico. “Many people don’t leave because their kids were born here. Even if they’re just working once or twice a week, they can dress them. If they go south, there’s no work,” he says.

UCSD Professor Wayne Cornelius studied migration in the small Oaxacan village where Mendez is from.

He says people there and in villages throughout Mexico have been hit by the economic downturn in the U.S. and Mexico. “It’s been far more severe in Mexico than it has been in the United States. So it’s required a great deal of ingenuity to ride this out on both sides of the border,” says Cornelius.

Mendez says he has an idea.

He’s working on plans, with three San Diego engineers, to tap into underground aquifers in his village back home to irrigate hundreds of acres of arable land.

“A big water project like that will need machines and workers. We’ll create work. And why will they come here if they have work there?” questions Mendez.

He says a reliable water source will grow new crops and new life in the village.

Wayne Cornelius says that might provide an incentive for older people to stay put. But for 17-year-olds raised on the idea that they’ll go north, farming doesn’t compete with the possibility of, say, an iPhone in the U.S.

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The Border’s Bottom Line (KPBS)

BY JOANNE FARYON   JULY 20, 2010
 

What are the true costs of illegal immigration in California? KPBS Reporter Joanne Faryon brings us a report on the financial implications of the state’s large illegal immigrant population.

SAN DIEGO — Three million unauthorized immigrants live here in California. The statistics raise an important economic question – just what are the financial implications of such a large undocumented population?

It’s a question Martha Torkington asks herself often. She owns a horse ranch in the south westerly edge of San Diego County.

“You can look up on the hillside and see the tracks. They look almost like water tracks but they are human tracks coming down,” Torkington says, pointing to the faded yellow tracks that traverse down the hillside across from her property.

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Border Patrol at the fence which separates the U.S. from Mexico in southwest San Diego County. (Photo by Julien Pearce)

On the other side of the hill is Mexico. Torkington has seen her share of unauthorized immigration trickle past this hillside.

“The ones who do want to come in and contribute and participate in the United States, we want them. The other side is we don’t want to support them. It’s tough. It’s a tough situation.”

Just whether unauthorized immigrants cost more than they contribute is a complicated question.

“Immigration most sociologists will tell you have short term costs but long term benefits,” says John Skrentny, a UCSD sociology professor and director of The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.

“The fiscal impact tends to be positive for the federal government and negative for localities and states,” Skrentny says.

A few years ago the Congressional Budget Office looked at the various studies of the financial impacts of unauthorized immigrants to state and local budgets.

Their report looked at health care, law enforcement, and education.

About two million school age children in the U.S. are unauthorized immigrants. By law, all children have access to public school regardless of their immigration status. Studies estimate it costs between 20 and 40 percent more to teach kids who are not fluent in English.

Richard Barrera is president of the San Diego Unified School district. He says the benefits of educating all kids far outweigh the costs.

“We realize that every kid we educate is going to be a contributor to our community and our country. We all benefit when we educated children. “

Many of the financial impact studies conclude that at the local and state level, the cost of providing education, health care and law enforcement cost more then unauthorized immigrants pay in taxes. Especially here in California, the state with the greatest number of unauthorized immigrants. However, at the federal level, and over the long-run, it’s a different story.

”It would be different if were getting waves of undocumented elderly who would come here and impose immediately all kinds of costs on the health care system and they wouldn’t be working and they wouldn’t be generating much tax revenue they wouldn’t be generating much wealth that would be a different story,” Skrentny says.

Studies also show half of all unauthorized immigrants file income tax returns and many pay sales and property taxes.

Richard Barrera believes the debate over the cost of unauthorized immigration is being fueled by bad economic times and politicians offering easy answers to complex problems.

“They want an easy answer and they want to be able to say if we only took a group and their families and we rounded them up and took them back across the border, that our lives would get easier.”

Martha Torkington points to a black knit cap she sees on the hillside as she tours a journalist along the hills separating the U.S. from Mexico.

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Martha Torkington points to tracks on the hillside across from her property. (Photo by Julien Pearce)

“That’s a perfect example of a piece of clothing you’ll see on the trails that they follow,” Torkington says.

The cap is a hallmark of an illegal trek made in the dark – migrants wear black to cross in the night and then discard their clothes for more “American-looking” clothes, Torkington says.

There are also two U.S. Border Patrol trucks making their way through the hills and a series of lights that almost make the hillside look like a ballpark.

It turns out one of the largest and most tangible costs of unauthorized immigration is right here in front of Martha Torkington’s property.

It is the cost of keeping undocumented migrants from
jumping the fence and crossing over this hill.

This year the U.S. Border Patrol will spend $3.6 billion patrolling the country’s borders — almost triple the amount spent 10 years ago.

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Immigrant cycle familiar to United States (Arizona Republic)

BY ALIA BEARD RAU   JULY 3, 2010

When it comes to immigration, the United States has come full circle . . . again.

As Arizona’s new immigration law pushes the issue into the national spotlight, decades-old arguments over government policy, economic needs and human rights are being raised in a politicized confrontation over what it means to be an American.

On one side, many fear illegal immigrants are taking their jobs, spreading violence and changing American culture. On the other side, many believe the tide of opposition will result in discrimination, racial profiling and the denial of constitutional rights.

As with previous immigrant waves, a chorus is rising among many citizens that something must be done. Politicians are responding with new laws. Immigrants are leaving.

Throughout America’s history, this pattern has repeated over and over: There’s a need for immigrant labor; immigrants arrive; residents become fearful; laws are passed trying to stem the flow or make life difficult enough that the immigrants will leave; immigrants leave; there’s a need for labor.

Historians say the cycle can be seen with the arrival of Irish immigrants starting in the 1820s, Chinese in the late 1870s, Germans and Italians at the start of the 1900s and Mexicans over the past 100 years.

“We go through it every 20 years or so,” said Arizona State University Mexican history professor Jaime Aguila. “It leads to a massive debate about what it means to be a U.S. citizen and what it means to contribute to the economy of the United States.”

John Skrentny, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California-San Diego, said the unique characteristics of this latest wave – the increased impact on taxpayers and larger number of illegal immigrants – haven’t changed the cycle of response or the rhetoric.

Benjamin Franklin criticized Germans who lived among themselves, did not speak English or adopt American customs, Skrentny said.

“You hear that almost exact line of argument today,” he said.

Arizona’s responses to illegal immigration have included passing Senate Bill 1070, making English the official language, pushing for more border enforcement and requiring employers to verify employees’ legal status. The goal, SB 1070 authors have said, is to deter illegal immigrants from wanting to be in Arizona.

That goal is echoed in many of the laws passed by state and federal governments over the past nearly 200 years.

1820 to 1879

The first major immigration wave since the United States became a nation started in the 1820s and lasted until a recession in the late 1870s. The wave brought about 7.5 million immigrants, primarily from northern and western Europe. Specifically, about a third of those were Irish fleeing that country’s potato famine.

America, still booming from the Industrial Revolution, offered opportunity.

“When we look at history, you see that immigration goes up in times of economic prosperity and down when the economy is not doing so well,” said Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center. The influx spurred opposition from many citizens, who said Irish immigrants were taking Americans’ jobs and opposed the immigrants’ religion. Politicians demanded laws to make it harder for foreigners to become U.S. citizens.

In 1875, the U.S. passed its first restrictive immigration law. It prevented prostitutes and convicts from entering the country.

“Throughout history, it is the laws that really define who is legal and who is illegal,” Waslin said. “At different parts of U.S. history, different groups have been illegal depending on what law there was at the time.”

1880 to 1929

The second wave of immigration spanned the 1880s to the early 1920s, falling off drastically during the Great Depression. It brought more than 23 million immigrants, primarily from southern and western Europe.

The majority were from Germany early in the wave and Italy later. Germans were seeking religious freedom and available farmland, while Italians were fleeing overcrowding, low wages and high taxes.

Also during this period, there was an influx of Chinese workers in search of available jobs building the transcontinental railroad.

“Chinese were coming here, and a lot of Americans were feeling threatened by them economically,” Skrentny said.

He said Chinese were barred from certain types of jobs, so particularly in California, many started laundries.

“In San Francisco, people started to feel uncomfortable that all the laundromats were owned by Chinese people, and so they passed a law that said laundromats couldn’t be made out of wood . . . and then began enforcing this law only on Chinese people,” he said.

At the time, nearly all laundries were made of wood.

The 1880 ordinance was deemed unconstitutional in 1886 by the U.S. Supreme Court, but there were several other state and federal laws passed during this time that also targeted immigrants of Asian descent.

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese laborers from coming to the U.S. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.

In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law, which prevented Chinese, Japanese and Korean immigrants from owning property. Ten other states followed with similar laws over the next decade. In 1952, the California Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

In 1917, Congress began requiring immigrants to take a literacy test and barred people living in most of eastern Asia and the Pacific islands from immigrating to the U.S. These also were later abolished.

Aguila said Mexican immigration was encouraged during this period, mainly because farmers needed laborers to fill the vacancies left by the men who were serving in World War I as well as the decline in Chinese laborers as a result of restrictive laws.

“The belief was that Mexicans were more suited to do agricultural labor than Chinese because Mexicans would come in as migrant labor and once the work was over, they would go back,” Aguila said.

Job opportunities resulted in an increase in immigrants from Mexico, and resentment toward Mexicans began to develop.

The U.S. Border Patrol was created in 1924 to help prevent illegal entry across the Mexican and Canadian borders.

1930 to 1964

During the Great Depression between 1929 and about 1939, there was enormous public outcry that Mexican immigrants were taking jobs unemployed Americans needed.

“That caused a huge backlash with people who felt that Mexicans were overrunning their neighborhoods. . . . They were scapegoated as occupying jobs,” Texas Tech University history professor Miguel Levario said.

The response was a joint local and federal effort called the Mexican Repatriation, which lasted throughout the 1930s. It included raids, roundups and the denial of jobs to Mexicans. As with Arizona’s SB 1070, the goal was two-pronged: to enforce the laws and use them as a deterrent to persuade immigrants to leave on their own.

Either forcibly or on their own, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Michigan to California returned to Mexico. Some who were forced out were U.S. citizens, though the exact number is unknown. “It didn’t do anything to alleviate unemployment,” Levario said.

He said the effort ended when farmers, employers and housewives began complaining that they were losing workers.

World War II again created a need for labor to fill jobs left by military personnel.

From 1942 through 1964, Mexican nationals were allowed to come to the U.S. through a temporary-worker program called the Bracero Program.

“By then, there are over a million Mexicans a year coming to the U.S. to work both illegally and legally,” Aguila said.

In 1954, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service decided it needed to do something to stop the increased inflow of illegal immigrants and started what it called “Operation Wetback” to try to deport Mexican nationals. Modeled after the Mexican Repatriation, it involved a joint effort of local and federal law enforcement in California and Arizona.

Efforts included sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and identification checks of individuals who looked Mexican. Again, there were cases of U.S. citizens being deported along with illegal immigrants.

To discourage re-entry, deportees were taken to central and southern Mexico before being released.

In all, hundreds of thousands were returned to Mexico, either forcibly or on their own.

Levario said Operation Wetback lasted about a year before being halted because of budget constraints and complaints from farmers that they were losing laborers they needed.

1965 to today

The most recent wave of immigrants began in 1965 when Congress replaced a system of quotas based on country of origin with one that uses different calculations to allocate a certain number of visas to each country. Preference is given to individuals who have either special skills or relatives who are U.S. citizens.

Since then, more than 100 million legal and illegal immigrants have entered the United States, with the majority coming from Mexico in search of jobs.

Aguila said the new system gave Mexicans about 30,000 visas a year.

“The economy in the American Southwest was demanding half a million to a million workers,” he said. “Setting a cap of 30,000 for Mexico encouraged more illegal immigration.”

He said in about 1970, federal immigration-reform discussions began again. In 1986, Congress passed new regulations that, among other things, required employers to vouch for employees’ immigration status, granted amnesty to certain immigrants who entered the U.S. before 1982, made it a crime to knowingly hire illegal immigrants and created a citizenship path for certain agricultural workers.

Again politicians promised that would secure the border and end immigration problems.

Levario said enforcement efforts did result in a decrease in immigration numbers.

“But it’s just a temporary Band-Aid,” he said. “Like in the 1930s, once the economy improves, you’ll see another spike in the numbers.”

Aguila said federal efforts such as the war on drugs and the increase of border enforcement helped increase the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. by making it difficult for migrants to go back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico for work.

“Mexicans began to stay rather than go home and risk not being able to return when labor was needed,” he said.

In the past 20 years, the public backlash began to rise again.

Kansas attorney Kris Kobach, who helped write Arizona’s new immigration law, said this wave is the largest and longest-lasting the nation has ever seen.

And unlike with past generations, Kobach said, these immigrants are able to take more advantage of taxpayer-funded social services.

“That changes everything,” Kobach said. “The cost of illegal immigration to state governments and the taxpayers is so much greater than it ever was.”

In 1994, California voters passed Proposition 187, which prohibited illegal immigrants from using health care, public education and other social services. It was later deemed unconstitutional and never enforced.

“It was very similar to SB 1070, at least in its objective to make conditions so difficult for undocumented workers that they leave,” Aguila said.

Arizona’s immigration law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It states that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.

The law goes into effect July 29. Five lawsuits have been filed in federal court challenging its constitutionality.

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Stun gun death adds fuel to fire

Incidents at border intensify debate over immigration policy

BY LESLIE BERESTEIN   JUNE 14, 2010

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Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an undocumented immigrant who worked in construction, was shot with a Taser while being deported in May 2010. He suffered a heart attack and died. — Family photo

The deaths of two people during confrontations with border officials in recent weeks, one in San Diego and one in El Paso, have pushed an already-heated debate over illegal immigration to the boiling point.

On May 28, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, 42, was shot with a Taser stun gun by a U.S Customs and Border Protection officer at the San Ysidro border crossing after he resisted agents trying to send him back to Mexico. He later died.

Last Monday, 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent after a group he was with on the Mexican side of the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez threw rocks at U.S. agents.

John Skrentny, a sociologist and the new director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego, said the tone of the immigration debate has given special significance to the events at the border, with controversy raging over a new immigration law in Arizona and the Obama administration under fire for not overhauling national immigration laws.

“An incident like this, coming into this atmosphere, becomes symbolic,” Skrentny said.

At a San Diego news conference Thursday attended by Hernandez’s family members, an attorney representing the deceased man’s children said an administrative complaint would soon be filed against the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection. If the federal government rejects the complaint, the family can file a wrongful-death civil lawsuit after six months, attorney Eugene Iredale said.

In Lemon Grove last week, a crowd of about 300 attended the funeral for Hernandez, a father of five who moved to the United States illegally from Mexico as a teen and lived in Encanto.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has weighed in, issuing a statement saying his government is “shocked and outraged” by the two deaths and calling for a thorough investigation.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the shooting in Texas “extremely regrettable.” He said that the FBI is investigating both incidents and that the shared interests of both countries would continue to keep the binational relationship strong.

U.S. federal authorities have otherwise declined to comment about the incidents.

Hernandez had been picked up by immigration authorities and sent back to Mexico the last week of May. According to San Diego police, who are investigating his death, he was arrested by Border Patrol agents with his brother May 28 in the Otay Mountain area, trying to re-enter illegally. As he was about to be returned that night, he allegedly tried to fight the agents unloading him from a van. More agents and customs officers were called to assist.

According to a witness, Hernandez was prone with close to 20 officers around him at one point. Humberto Navarrete, a 24-year-old student from National City, said he heard screams as he and a companion were walking toward the border turnstile.

In a grainy cell phone video taken by Navarrete, a man is heard repeatedly screaming “No!” and “Por favor!” (please).

He said the man was eventually moved farther away, after which he heard about five shocks from the stun gun. After that, he said, the man fell silent. An ambulance appeared several minutes later.

Hernandez was declared brain-dead in a Chula Vista hospital the next day and was eventually removed from life support.

According to the county Medical Examiner’s Office, he suffered a heart attack, with hypertension, methamphetamine intoxication and the fight contributing.

Federal agencies are referring inquiries to San Diego police, but in recent days, the union representing Border Patrol agents has come forward. In a statement regarding the El Paso shooting, the National Border Patrol Council pointed out that “rocks are weapons and constitute deadly force” and that agents must defend themselves.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the union’s Local 1613 in San Diego, said weapons such as Taser stun guns, pepper spray or batons aren’t used unless a subject is actively resisting. And while these aren’t intended to be lethal, sometimes they can be.

“There are always going to be exceptions where there is an underlying problem,” Moran said. “It can happen with pepper spray. It can happen with a baton. They are supposed to be less than lethal, but there is always the chance that there is some unfortunate incident.”

In the past four years, four migrants or suspected smugglers have been killed in confrontations with border officials in the San Diego area, including a suspected smuggler who accelerated toward a customs officer, a man who grabbed a Border Patrol agent’s gun, and another man shot during a rock-throwing altercation with Border Patrol agents.

San Diego police are interviewing witnesses to the Taser incident. The homicide unit can be reached at (619) 531-2293.

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Congress Mulls Bill to Revise Birthright Citizenship (Christian Science Monitor)

A bill in the House of Representatives would change the 14th amendment to the US Constitution that grants anyone who is born on US soil the right of American citizenship. Efforts to revoke birthright citizenship could make it the new flashpoint in the debate over immigration.

BY MATT ROCHELEAU   JUNE 2, 2010

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New American citizens are sworn in at a citizenship ceremony in Boise, Idaho.

Anyone born on American soil is an American.

That’s an unconditional right, according to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

It’s not an exclusively American practice. Worldwide, about 30 nations (mostly in the Western Hemisphere) have similar birthright citizenship policy. Citizenship based on where a person is born, is called jus soli which is Latin for “right of the soil.”

But jus soli is primarily a New World right. Today, there are no European nations that grant jus soli. Most countries in Europe use a jus sanguinis policy, which determines citizenship based on having an ancestor who is a citizen.

A bill making its way through Congress, if passed, would bring the US more into line with current European birthright policies. But in the wake of the controversy over Arizona‘s new immigration policy, any changes to the 14th amendment would likely become another flashpoint in the debate over illegal immigrants.

“Many countries do not grant birthright citizenship because they have older histories and see themselves as individual nations with individual identities,” explains John Skrentny, Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and sociology professor at the University of California at San Diego. “Whereas the United States, like many other countries in the Western Hemisphere, began as, and has always seen itself as, a melting pot,” he says.

In recent years, other nations, even if they seem themselves as open to legal immigrants, have taken steps limit the size of any demographic boost based on births to foreigners.

In 1983, for example, England amended its jus soli policy so that children born in the United Kingdom were only granted citizenship if one of their parents was either a citizen or could prove some sort of permanent residency in the country.

And India moved away from granting birthright citizenship in late 2004 to only allowing those born in the country to gain citizenship if both parents are citizens or if one parent is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal immigrant.

In the US, those opposed to this form of granting citizenship would like to revise the 14th amendment, which says, in part:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside ….

The14th amendment was passed after the Civil War with the intent of clarifying that former slaves were citizens and entitled to Constitutional rights. Since then, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld that birthright of children born to foreigners in the US, including a 1898 challenge concerning children of non-citizen Chinese immigrants.

How many children of illegal immigrants are born in the US each year?

No one really knows.

But in April, the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based, nonpartisan organization, released a report that estimated the number of children of illegal immigrants, who received citizenship by birth on U.S. soil, has risen by nearly 50 percent from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. One-third of those children live in poverty, which is nearly double the poverty rate for children of US-born parents.

According to the “Birthright Citizenship Act” bill, which has 91 cosponsors, the proposed changes would affect the Fourteenth Amendment and only grant citizenship “if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is:”

  • a citizen or national of the United States;
  • an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States whose residence is in the United States; or
  • an alien performing active service in the armed forces (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United States Code).”

But getting such changes through both houses of Congress is a long shot.

“I’d be surprised,” if the bill passes, says Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national employer group that supports immigration reform that secures borders, strengthens workplace laws, and brings the immigrants already in the country into, and paying into, the system. “This does come up every so often … but it hasn’t gotten much traction in the past,”

However, some immigration reform advocates argue that federal courts have never specifically faced the question of whether children born to illegal immigrant parents should be granted citizenship, according to a recent NPR article.

Legislation aimed to prevent citizenship from being given to U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents is also being pushed at the state level in Texas and Oklahoma.

A list of countries, by population, that grant birthright citizenship:

  • United States
  • Brazil
  • Pakistan
  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Argentina
  • Canada
  • Peru
  • Venezuela
  • Malaysia
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • Dominican Republic
  • Bolivia
  • Honduras
  • Paraguay
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Uruguay
  • Jamaica
  • Lesotho
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Fiji
  • Guyana
  • Belize
  • Barbados
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Grenada
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Saint Christopher and Nevis



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Mexican Migration: A South of the Border View (Huffington Post)

Writing in the Huffington Post, reviewer Geri Spiegler describes Mexican Migration and the U.S. Economic Crisis as containing information “accumulated over many years that is presented thoughtfully, well researched, and without drama that affirm this
scholarly textbook a place both on an academic shelf and well
beyond the classroom.”


BY GERI SPIELER   JUNE 8, 2010

Mexican Migration and the U.S. Economic Crisis: A Transnational Perspective, Edited by Wayne A. Cornelius, David Fitzgerald, Pedro Lewin Fisher, and Leah Muse-Orlinoff

(Center for Comparative Immigration, February 2010)

As with any social phenomena, an attempt to corral the scope of the issue into a single pen will leave many purviews outside the gates.

In this particular examination of the flow of Mexican migrants into the United States, the authors state that the lack of jobs in the U.S.–not border enforcement–is postponing migration. However, although fewer people are coming over, the economic issues are still significantly troublesome for businesses, governments, and citizens on both sides of the border.

In Mexican Migration, the authors have taken slices of life and explored the dynamics surrounding each: coping, enforcement, economics, dual cultures, education, values, family dynamics, realities, and community. Each of the nine chapters offers its own conclusion to the study but ultimately they all end up with the same result: Mexican migration is damaging to the health, welfare, and cultural way of life for the Mexican people.

What differentiates Mexican Migration from other books on the same topic bursting onto the market today is a distinctive approach to the issue. The book is a follow-up to Mayan Journeys by the same editors and authors. The book is based on the Mexican Migration Field Research Study and Training Program (MMFRP) in the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California, and San Diego.

The location is a small village in the Yucatan’s north-central region called Tunkás, a Mayan-speaking town of approximately 2,600 people. Although the book is an academic study, it has more of a feel of returning to a community of friends called Tunkaseños whom we have not seen in a while and are now catching up with their lives.

The Tunkaseños are a close group of people who only began migrating to the United States in the last 20 years. Before that and for many decades they have been moving back and forth to Mérida and other tourist communities on the Mayan Riviera (Cancún, Playa del Carmen) for better paying jobs only a few hundred miles from home.

Granted, this book is an industrial-strength academic production on Mexican migration, yet the laser-focus on one community’s struggle with survival brings a humanistic clarity not found in high atmosphere flyovers.

During the research process, every household in the tiny village was visited and usually everyone in the household was included in the discussions. This approach allows the authors to tell us in-depth personal stories about families they have gotten to know over the years.
We learn, for instance, that as the economy slowed down and fewer jobs were available for Mexican migrants, that Doña Yolanda and Doña Margarita pawned some of their family jewelry to pay household expenses. When prospective jobs never arrived, both lost their jewelry to the pawnshop.

Reducing expenses for the Tunkaseños meant looking for alternative sources of income. The study revealed informal yet complicated attempts by this tight-knit community to keep their family and households together.

“In addition to reducing expenses, many Tunkaseños are entering the informal economy in search of an alternate source of income. Some launch home-based businesses, such as selling prepared food to other town residents or engaging in traditional jobs that require low start-up investments, such as weaving hammocks. Identifying a profitable niche involves innovative thinking and a unique business strategy that enables someone to compete in the town’s large informal sector.”

Perhaps it is the approach the researchers used to reveal family disruption that made this book so much more meaningful and intimate. The book shines a brutal light on the stress of economics that pushes families apart. The grinding down of poverty on a family is exponentially confounded when one parent leaves the family home to live and work hundreds or thousands of miles away for long periods. In many situations, the separation is so great that the family is never reunited torn by time and broken relationships.

This scenario is not unique anywhere and always damaging to our society.

In Mexican Migration we learn how the Tunkaseño families struggle for solutions that are unique and surprising by looking for an “internal migration” opportunity that has a lower degree of disruption for the family. A job within Mexico, maybe at one of the many tourist resorts and hopefully just a few hundred miles away, will offer proximity and ease of communication reducing the overall financial and emotional costs. Even though the family may get higher wages elsewhere, the return for family togetherness is a price they will pay.

It seems like a logical and reasonable solution, yet it cannot always work. As an example of the struggle between internal and international migration, we hear about Señora López’s brother who migrated to Cancún to support his wife and children on the income he earned working in a fish market. Her husband, on the other hand, had to go to the United States, where higher salaries enabled him to pay for their son’s cancer treatments. Unfortunately, Señora López tells the researcher, in case he did not know, her son died anyway.

It is this detail of personal information accumulated over many years that is presented thoughtfully, well researched, and without drama that affirm this scholarly textbook a place both on an academic shelf and well beyond the classroom.

Reviewer Geri Spieler is a journalist and author. Her latest book, Taking Aim at The President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford, was published by Palgrave Macmillan. Spieler is a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books www.nyjournalofbooks.com, and is working on her next book about current political values.

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