John Skrentny on immigration politics at “The Hill”

John Skrentny writes on winning strategies for immigration reform in a political climate of distrust.


Immigration reform: From distrust to direction

BY JOHN D. SKRENTNY   MAY 16, 2011

What accounts for this distrust? The answer is obvious: the federal government’s long-term record is one of highly visible failure.

The lowlight was the bipartisan Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. That law promised to seal the Mexican border, clamp down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and legalize nearly three million then in the country. For many, this grand bargain became a tragic broken promise, making a mockery of rule of law and cheapening American citizenship. The number of illegal immigrants soared. New industries, notably meatpacking, restaurants and landscaping, joined agriculture in becoming heavily reliant on illegal immigrant labor. Yet the public image of “immigration” is often not of hard-working people tolerating bleak working conditions and low pay, but of news reports showing grainy footage of Mexicans streaming across the border.

Even Obama’s record-setting deportations and unprecedented crackdown on employers have done little to convince restriction-minded voters and lawmakers that the border is or even can be controlled. In this climate, even the targeted legalization bill known as the DREAM Act, which would benefit law-abiding young people who grew up in America and attended college or served in the military, has repeatedly failed.

On Tuesday, Obama hinted—but did not emphasize – something new: change coming from conservative business leaders (he even quoted Rupert Murdoch) and conservative Christian groups as forces for immigration reform.

Why rely on conservative groups? Reformers can learn from the stunning legalization bill passed in March in the deeply red state of Utah. Business and Christian groups in that state re-branded immigration reform as conservative and persuaded the Republican legislature to pass a bill to turn Utah’s illegal aliens into temporary, legal guest workers.

It happened after leaders in the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce witnessed convention business fleeing the restrictionist climate in Arizona for Utah. They saw an immigrant-friendly Utah as good for business. The conservative Mormon church joined the cause because its leaders believed that religious and moral teachings dictated welcoming strangers from foreign lands. Their “Utah Compact” pledged support for business- and family-friendly immigration policies guided by a “spirit of inclusion.”

Utah’s story shows reform is possible when change is led not by government or established immigration reform leaders, but by conservative religious groups with moral clout and business leaders with political and economic power.

The other lesson of the Utah story may be harder for reformers to accept: give up on citizenship as a goal. Unlike his July, 2010 speech, when Obama called for illegal immigrants to “earn their citizenship,” on Tuesday he only said they must “get in line for legalization.” This would be smart political strategy for results-oriented reformers.

The legislators in Utah could not offer U.S. citizenship, but national reformers can learn from Utah’s strategy of providing work visas. For years, reformers sought citizenship for the great majority of millions of illegal immigrants, failing under both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses. The DREAM Act’s narrowly-targeted pathway to citizenship has similarly failed. Since 1986, many voters strongly resist the full rights of American membership for people they perceive as lawbreakers. Reformers in Washington can follow Utah by providing people without papers with a work- or family-related visa.

Arguably, this is simply kicking the can down the road if these visas are made temporary. But as Obama said on Tuesday, most immigrants come to the U.S. to find work. This lesser prize protects workers from exploitation and American wages. Most importantly, it may break the congressional logjam, making other badly needed immigration reform – such as allowing more foreign talent, streamlining the visa process, reforming temporary visas for tech and agricultural workers—finally possible.

John D. Skrentny is Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego and a contributor to Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years.

Read the article »

Immigration at the National and Local Level in Japan

May 6-7, 2011, Weaver Conference Center, UC San Diego

With support from CCIS and participation from co-director David FitzGerald, UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) hosts a two-day conference featuring leading academics from Japan, Brazil, Australia, and the United States who will examine the impact of future economic growth and community relations in Japan and the United States.

Admission is free, but registration is required.  Click here to register.

For more information, visit the website or contact Lane Ogawa.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego and Kazuhisa Nishihara, Nagoya University

Introduction

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego and Lindsey Sasaki, New York University

Session 1 – What is Immigration and its Implication for Japan, the United States, and Europe?

10:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

- Yuri Okina, Japan Research Institute
“Japan’s challenge with economic growth and demographic situation”
- Teruyuki Komatsu, Nagoya Gakuin University
“Brief history of Japanese immigration abroad since Meiji period”
- Apichai Shipper, University of Southern California
“Japan’s immigration politics in comparative perspective”
- Tadamasa Murai, Nagoya City University
“Japan’s distinct immigration policy in comparison with the U.S.A. and EU”

Discussant
David Fitzgerald, UC San Diego and Nancy Gilson, UC San Diego

Session 2 – The Economic and Demographic Effects of Immigration in Japan and the United States

1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

- Kyoji Fukao, Hitosubashi University
“The Economic Impact of Migration: Productivity Analysis for Japan and the US at the National and the Local Level”
- Junichi Goto, Keio University
“Aging, Migration, and Female Workers in Japan: The Impact on Future Economic Growth”

Discussant
Gordon Hanson, UC San Diego

Session 3 – The Education and Adaptation of Migrant Children in Japan and the United States

2:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

- June Gordon, UC Santa Cruz
“Transnational Migration: Identity and Schooling of Nikkei Youth.”
- Kaori Okano, La Trobe University
“Educating migrant children: multicultural policies and practices”
- Marcelo Suarez-Orosco, New York University
“LISA study of the Harvard Immigration Project”

Discussant
Christena Turner, UC San Diego and Eiko Ushida, UC San Diego

Saturday, May 7, 2011
Session 1 – The Discourse of Immigration Policy, Citizenship, Multiculturalism, and Nationalism at the National and Local Level

9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

- Masato Ninomiya, University of São Paulo
“Judicial Cooperation between Brazil and Japan concerning the presence of Brazilian workers in Japan”
- Hideki Tarumoto, Hokkaido University
“Transformation of citizenship institutions in the global migration era”
- Joseph Hankins, UC San Diego
“Multiculturalism in Japan”

Discussant
Megumi Naoi, UC San Diego

Session 2 – The Development of Community Building and Social Movements in Japan

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

- Kazuhisa Nishihara, Nagoya University
“Immigrants from Asia to Contemporary Japan: Focus on the case of Chinese agricultural trainees”
- Hwaji Shin, University of San Francisco
“Zainichi Koreans’ social movements and citizenship in Japan”

Discussant
Lindsey Sasaki, New York University

Session 3 – The Integration of Immigrant Workers in Japan

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

- Keiko Yamanaka, UC Berkeley
“The 2008-09 Economic Crisis, Massive Unemployment of Immigrant Workers, and Efforts to Assist Them in Central Japan”
- Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Nagoya University
“South Americans in Japanese Industrial Cities: Social Environment and the Model of Integration”

Discussant
Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego

John Skrentny and Gary Lee to present at “The Nation and Citizen in Transformation” conference at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, May 6-7.

John Skrentny and Gary Lee will present their paper, “Nationhood and Multiculturalism in Industrialized East Asia,” at a conference on “The Nation and Citizen in Transformation: Making and Unmaking of Transnationalism in East Asia.”  The conference will take place on May 6-7 at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

For details, click here.

Amada Armenta — Policing Immigrants or Immigration? The Implementation of 287(g) in Nashville

 

Seminar to be held in ERC 115 at 2:00 pm.
Amada Armenta will discuss her research on the implementation of the 287(g) program in Nashville, Tennessee. In April 2007, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office began implementing the 287(g) program, which allows trained Sheriff’s deputies to screen all foreign born arrestees for immigration status and process them for removal. This particular paper focuses on how (or if) the adoption of the 287(g) program in Davidson County, affects the daily practices of city police officers whose arrests subject immigrants to screening in the jail, but who do not have immigration enforcement authority. Based on ride-alongs and interviews with Nashville police officers, Armenta’s research examines how field-level officers decide whether to arrest immigrants on misdemeanor violations to state law. Her findings show how officer behavior motivated by formal and de facto police department policies, create the perception that police are targeting immigrants for enforcement.

Amada Armenta is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at UCLA and a Predoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego. Her research has been supported by various organizations including the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Criminology, the American Sociological Association, the Social Science Research Council, and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. She has presented professional papers at numerous national conferences, and has been published in International Migration Review, Qualitative Sociology, and Work and Occupations. Her current research focuses on the politics and implementation of the 287(g) program in Nashville, Tennessee.

Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX)

MIPEX is an interactive tool and reference guide to assess, compare and improve integration policies produced by the British Council and the Migration Policy Group.

These measurements reveal how policies compare against the standard of equal rights and responsibilities and opportunities for migrants.

For more information, visit the MIPEX website.

CCIS at the Midwest Political Science Association meeting

CCIS Director John Skrentny will be presenting “Obama and Immigration Reform: A Tough Sell for a Grand Bargain” at the meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, March 31-April 3, 2011. CCIS Research Claire Adida will be presenting “Gender and Generosity: Problems in Islamic Integration into France” at the same meeting.

Information about the conference »

GOP drafts legislative assault on illegal immigration

Congressional Republicans want more fencing, sensors, agents and drones to keep out all illegal migrants.


Congressional Republicans want more fencing, sensors, agents and drones to keep out all illegal migrants.

BY BRIAN BENNETT   MARCH 30, 2011

60535738
A crew works on the border fence in downtown Brownsville, Texas, in January. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Washington — Congressional Republicans are drafting legislation that would require the federal government to develop a plan to add more fencing, sensors, agents and even drones to stop every illegal entry into the United States.

The legislative effort offers another example of how a more conservative Congress has steered the immigration debate away from the Obama admini-
stration’s two-pronged push for reforms and improved
border security, and toward strict enforcement
of immigration laws.

In December, a lame-duck House controlled by Democrats passed the Dream Act, a reform that would have created a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S., but it was narrowly defeated in the Senate.

The Democrats’ Senate majority means the latest legislation is unlikely to pass, but the goal may be more political. By continuing to spearhead such measures, Republicans, who feel they are in agreement with most voters, hope to force Democrats to take a position on immigration issues in advance of the 2012 campaign.

The debate’s change in tone also comes as census data show that Latinos comprise the fastest-growing block of voters, potentially a complicating factor for Republican strategists. The number of Latino voters is increasing most in states that in 2010 gained congressional seats and Electoral College votes, according to a study released in January by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Immigration skirmishes seem to excite the Republican base, said Wayne Cornelius, a professor emeritus at UC San Diego who has spent more than 40 years studying cross-border migration.

“In the short-term, they calculate they can gain more votes with these hard-liner proposals,” he said, but some may have qualms about alienating Latinos.

A Republican strategist acknowledged there was debate within the party about how to handle immigration enforcement without driving away Latino voters who might otherwise agree with the fiscal conservative aspects of the party platform. Republican activists have said they think some Latino voters support the GOP position on immigration.

But many Republicans want a modernized immigration system that is consistent with the values of an immigrant nation, and those party members who speak loudly against reforms are a “vocal minority,” said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the debate.

The U.S. has spent more than $4.5 billion to improve border security in the nine years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and critics argue that stopping every illegal crossing is an impractical goal.

“It is all just symbolic showmanship. It will never get through the Senate. It may have short-term electoral utility but will not result in any real legislation,” Cornelius said.

But Rep. Candice S. Miller, a Michigan Republican who wrote the Secure Border Act of 2011, said in an interview that “Congress needs to reflect the political will of the majority of the American people, which is to secure our borders.”

The Republican effort to push the Homeland Security Department to take a tougher stance on immigration enforcement follows a request last year by all seven Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee that asked the department to determine how much money it needed to deport every illegal immigrant the government encountered.

The Homeland Security Department has not estimated the cost, but a 2005 report by the Center for American Progress concluded it would require $206 billion over five years to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.

The Obama administration has, in practice, largely supported the argument that border security is the first priority, Cornelius said. “It is really a red herring. We will never have the border secure enough…. Making immigration reform hostage to border security is a recipe for policy paralysis.”

Miller’s proposed legislation would require the Homeland Security Department to give Congress a five-year plan to bring unlawful entries and smuggling down to nearly zero, and let Congress decide whether to fund it. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) and 10 other Republicans have agreed to co-sponsor the bill, which could be introduced as early as Thursday.

The proposal may come with such a hefty price tag that it’s unrealistic to carry out. But Republicans say cost should not be the Border Patrol’s concern. “They need to be very candid with us and tell us what they need,” Miller said. “We’re the ones passing the budgets and we have to decide amongst ourselves.”

Customs and Border Protection developed a strategic plan for securing the border by 2014, but some lawmakers say it doesn’t go far enough. The Border Patrol reported to the Government Accountability Office that by October 2010 it had control of 873 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of the Southwest border, or 44%.

Asking the Homeland Security Department how it can stop all illegal entries is “asking the wrong question,” said Doris Meissner, former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, because law enforcement cannot change the underlying forces — jobs and the illegal drug market — that draw migrants and smugglers to the U.S.

“Members of Congress may want to pour concrete from sea to shining sea,” Cornelius said, “but it is simply not realistic.”

Read the Article »