On October 4th, four members of the CCIS team – led by David FitzGerald, Sam Bazzi, Angela Garcia, and Jonathan Hicken – joined the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC to privately brief congressional staffers in the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Room on the results of their latest research on the effects of border and interior enforcement on unauthorized Mexican migration to the United States.
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.
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.
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
Introduction and Panel 1. What role do low-skilled migrants play in the Japanese and American labor markets?
Panel 2. What role do high-skilled migrants play in the Japanese and American labor markets?
Panel 3. Similarities, Differences, & comparative perspectives on low- & high-skilled migration
Panel 4. Alternatives to migration? Education, mechanization, wages, the role of women
Panel 5. The Politics of migration in Japan, Asia and the US
Panel 6. The US and Japan’s Immigration Dilemmas in Comparative Perspective
UC San Diego. The Weaver Center. September 10th & 11th, 2010. 10:00am-5:00pm Click here to download the complete agenda »
This event is sponsored by the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership with generous support from the Center for Research on Immigration, Population, and Public Policy at UC Irvine; the Institute for International, Comparative, and Area Studies at UC San Diego; and the Center for Pacific Economies at the school of International and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego.
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.
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.
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.
Immigrants have driven down wages in low-skilled trades. But they’ve made life easier for middle- and upper-income Californians.
Changing U.S. immigration policy means grappling with polarizing choices – like amnesty and a national ID card.
The book Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States has just been released. Edited by Monica Varsanyi, Associate Professor of Political Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, it is the result of a 2008 conference hosted by CCIS.
CCIS Director John Skrentny was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
BY JOANNE FARYON JULY 20, 2010
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.
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.
“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.