Saturday, November 21, 2009

Profiling and immigration

Now that the semester is almost over, we have only two more meetings, I hope that we are all familiar with the many instances that have stressed race as a factor in setting immigration policy in the US. The most salient example of such a discriminatory policy is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese had started immigrating in large numbers to the United States in 1848 as a result of the Gold Rush. But as gold became more difficult to find and as unemployment increased after the civil war nativists resentment towards those that looked different grew and Congress was lobbied to exclude the Chinese from coming to the US. Ultimately the Supreme Court, in 1889, approved the Congress’ power to exclude and the act was even widened to include other Asians. This remained the case until 1943 when the exclusion was finally removed.
Ask yourself have things changed much over the past 120 years. The backlash then was against the Chinese, after all, they looked different and many were looking for an easy scapegoat. Currently it is the Hispanic that are blamed for everything from abuse of Medicare, to unemployment and one more time we have a strong lobby that wishes to stop immigration from the southern border. Things have progressively gotten more complicated after the dastardly events of 9/11. Currently the strict enforcement of laws, have ensnared many an innocent person whose only guilt is to be of an Arab decent or to belong to a Moslem sect.
Since there is no denying of the use of racial, religious and ethnic profiling by the Department of Homeland security then we have to ask ourselves whether such a use is justifiable. Let me be very clear about this, under the law as it now stands it is not illegal to use racial profiling in some sense in order to enforce the law. Most objections rest on the solid evidence that the broad use of this technique is totally ineffective. It just does not work. So what is to be done? May I suggest the adoption of positive selection instead of the broad nets that are currently used? What that simply means is that an individual is not subjected to strict and harsh selection criteria unless there is evidence that the person in question has close association with or is a member of a “dangerous” group. What do you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Amnesty in the air?

I decided not to edit the important speech delivered by Secretary Napolitano on immigration reform but to ask you instead to listen to the whole 47 minute presentation. Listen carefully and decide for yourself about the message that she was sending out. It seems to this listener that she is preparing the public opinion for some form of an amnesty plan. If I am right do you think that the nativists will accept this without a raucous and if they scream loud enough would the administration be willing to hold the line or would it blink?

(I decided to correct the title upon the suggestion of Prof. Picoulas despite the fact that the original story carried the word Asylum instead of amnesty. Hat tip George)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Undocummented and Congressional Redistricting.

Preparations for the 2010 census are proceeding with haste. One of the most visible effects of the decennial census is the reapportionment of the seats from the house of Representative among the states.
California is already the most populace state in the union with 53 House of Representatives seats. Texas is the second largest with 32 seats followed by NY that claims a net total number of 29 seats. The fourth most populace state is Florida with 25 seats. So how is any of this connected to undocumented immigrants and the census?
The census counts all those that live in the United States but does not differentiate between citizens and non citizens or legal and illegal residents. That is why many of the Republican members of the House of Representatives have been on a mission to force the upcoming census to ask residents whether they are US citizens or not. As you might have already guessed the motivation for such efforts is far from being purely an interest in the truth. California and New York attract almost fifty percent of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants and since these two states are overwhelmingly democratic then it behooves the Republicans to prevent the Democrats from gaining any “unearned” and “undeserved” advantage over the more “patriotic” and” jingoistic” Republican nativists.
The Bennet-Vitter amendment was defeated today in a vote totally along party lines. All the 58 Democrats voted to reject including the citizenship question on the census forms while each of the 39 Republicans voted to include the question, the two left leaning independents voted with the Democrats. Senator Bennett vowed to continue the fight but it looks very highly unlikely that he would succeed. The Department of Commerce has already sent the forms out for printing and the census is to start by March.
So how big could the discrepancy from this potential miscount be? Here is my rough back of the envelope estimate. Based on an estimated population of approximately 309,000,000 for the country then each congressional districts represents approximately 708,000 US residents. If we are to assume that the 10 million undocumented immigrants are distributed essentially among five states as such: California 4.0 million; NY 2.0 million; Texas 1.6 million; Florida 1.3 million and NJ 1.1 and if one is to assume that California and NY are safe Democratic states while Texas is a safe Republican state while Florida and NJ are to be split between the two parties then it becomes obvious that all this fuss is a big ado about nothing. The greatest potential windfall for the Democratic Party is not more than 2 seats out of the 435 voting seats in the House.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Global Flows

An extremely well done videographic that demonstrates the majoe global immigration trends and that also shows the power of remittances. It is true that the US might have over 25 million immigrants residing within its borders but that represents only around 12 % of the total immigrants in the world. Please also note that most immigrants do not move to different continents but usually stay within their own. Obviously this is also true of North America.
Total estimated remittances from the US totaled around $86 billion. That goes to illustrate, one more time ,that the Neo Classical theory of immigration does not explain many of the motives for migration.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Data

The following , just released by the Department of Homeland Security should be of interest to us in this class about Immigration. The most important “revelation” of this data is that not all foreign born residents of the United States are interested in acquiring the US citizenship. A large segment of the current stock of “permanent legal resident” have been in the country for over thirty years and yet they have not applied for US citizenship although they are legally entitled to do so. The data also makes it very clear that the states of California and New York are still the major destination for LPR’s. Another noteworthy statistic is the fact that although Mexican LPR’s form the largest ethnic group within the LPR’s yet the next three groups are from Asia. Hispanics are the largest group but yet they do not form a majority that is expected to be feared,
You should also note that the Department of Homeland Security considers all those who have entered into the US prior to 1980 to be eligible for legal residency. Please also note that the data has been adjusted to account for mortality and emigration.

Total number of legal permanent residents as of January 1, 2008:……………12,600,000
One half of the above obtained LPR status after the year 2000

LPR’s who have met all conditions that are required to naturalize……………8,200,000

LPR’s by country of birth:
Mexico...............................................26.9 %

Almost 2/3 of the LPR’s live in Californa, New York, Texas and Florida

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Brookings-Duke recommendations and its critics

You were informed a few weeks ago about what was billed to be a major Immigration Study released by the Brookings Institute and Duke University. I believe that the actual study has been posted to BB.
Well, as is often the case, such studies do not live up to their billings. The following is the critique of the study in question by the Immigration Policy Center , IPC. Read both the original and its critique and then decide which side has done a better job.


The report that emerged from this process focuses on six principles:

•Reduce Illegal Immigration by Linking Workplace Verification and Legalization. The Roundtable proposed a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants who had been in the U.S. 5 years or longer, and a mandatory employment verification system with a secure ID. By linking the issues of workplace enforcement and legalization, the Roundtable believed that both those who want legalization and those that want additional enforcement would be incentivized to cooperate with one another.

•Reorient Immigrant Admissions Criteria. The Roundtable focused on maintaining the current level of legal immigration; however the balance of future immigration must be shifted away from family-based immigration and toward high-skilled employment-based immigration. They propose to limit family immigration to the “nuclear family” which does not include adult children or siblings. They also recommend the diversity visa program be eliminated.

•Rationalize Temporary Worker Programs. The Roundtable recommends replacing temporary visas with non-renewable, 5-year provisional visas that do not tie workers to a single employer. Provisional visa holders would have the option to obtain permanent status after 5 years.

•Establish an Independent Standing Commission on Immigration. The report recommends creation of a commission “to provide the deliberative forum that immigration policy has lacked.” It would allow for immigration to be dealt with on a regular basis and to escape the adversarial culture that has emerged.

•Promote the Assimilation and Integration of New Americans. The authors recommend the creation of a new Office of New Americans to oversee and coordinate efforts to integrate and assimilate immigrants into American society.

•Engage Mexico. The Roundtable called for enhanced cooperation with Mexico on issues ranging from law enforcement to immigration.

Despite their valiant efforts, the Brookings/Kenan report falls short in its analysis of the current immigration dilemma. In several ways, the impact of the report’s recommendations would be inconsistent with the very principles the authors put forward. For example:

Maintaining current levels and being flexible: The Roundtable acknowledges that “America needs an immigration policy that responds to the labor requirements of employers…” Yet while calling for a more flexible system, the authors also insist on maintaining current levels of legal permanent immigration without any explanation of why the current number is the correct number.

Legalization and ending undocumented immigration: An arbitrary 5 year cut off date for the legalization program guarantees that a large number of immigrants—30%—would not qualify and would therefore remain unauthorized or try to legalize despite not having proper evidence of residency, thus failing to resolve the problem. A legalization program that invites fraud and leaves a large undocumented population is hardly a recipe for success.

Integration and the family: The authors dedicate an entire section of their report to integration and assimilation, yet their recommendations to severely cut family immigration fly in the face of successful integration. Researchers have shown that immigrant families provide vital emotional, psychological, and cultural resources that shelter and sustain family members and aid in their integration into U.S. society. Shifting the balance from family to employment-based immigration would remove one of the most important ways we have of integrating immigrants.

False dichotomy between family- and employment-based immigration: By trading family-based visas for highly-skilled employment-based visas, the authors fail to acknowledge that immigrants who come on family visas are workers and contribute to the economy. Research shows that the incomes of family-based immigrants tend to grow more rapidly than the incomes of employment-based immigrants. In fact, the incomes of the two groups tend to equalize over time. Because of their unique backgrounds and abilities, family-based immigrants are more likely to adapt to the evolving demands of the labor market and less likely than employment-based immigrants to compete with the native-born for jobs. Family-based immigrants are also entrepreneurial; broad family linkages are critical because they provide immigrants with the “social capital” to pool financial resources and to start and manage a wide range of small- and medium-sized businesses that would otherwise not be economically viable.

Future immigration and enforcement: The authors clearly want to reform the immigration system in a way that ends undocumented immigration as we know it. However, the way they envision future immigration would appear to invite future unauthorized immigration, thus failing to resolve our current dilemma and making future enforcement even more difficult. By eliminating, or failing to include, legal channels for close family members and lower-skilled workers, the incentive for these individuals to immigration illegally increases, thus repeating the problems of IRCA.

According to Galston, Pickus and Skerry, “During our deliberations, we came to recognize that we would never resolve our principled disagreements. Nonetheless, progress at the policy level turned out to be possible, and the results fruitful.” If the Brookings/Kenan report proves one thing, it is that immigration policy is extremely complex, and even the best intentions could have harmful unintended consequences

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Please register your reactions to the 4 hour special that CNN aired on October 21 and October 22 under the comments section of this post. Thank you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

H1N1 is under orders to Spare the Undocumented.

When the latest efforts to reform the US health care system were being formulated very few, if any, expected the issue of undocumented immigrants to play a major role. Well, welcome to American politics 101 where the fear of alienating some voters leads to the adoption of hybrid positions that are impossible to explain. What better illustration of the above than the fact that both sides of the aisle are willing to see the US withhold offering vaccination against swine flu to undocumented population.

I was flabbergasted when I watched our president, Barak Obama, a Peace Nobel laureate nonetheless, get himself tied up in knots when he was attempting to explain the administrations policy regarding the H1N1 flu shot. He tried to explain with a straight face that the US must consider making an exception in this case since the children of the illegal immigrants will inevitably get in contact with our own toddlers.

Yes, you heard it right, we should inoculate undocumented children, not because the vaccine could spare them from catching influenza and possibly death but we should allow them to get vaccinated only because not to do so might infect our precious children. To make things even worse, no one has raised an objection to this monstrosity of a policy.
I have a better solution Mr. President, maybe we should make it illegal for these children to be seen within say thirty feet of a legal US resident. That way we will not have to worry about providing this expensive service of vaccination when the annual deficit is only 1.4 trillion dollars. You know what they say, every penny counts.

And what about the parents of these children? If they are not permitted to get the vaccine then is it acceptable to have them suffer the ill effects of the virus that they might transmit to their children who are not in contact with other US kids? If a sizable number of the illegal population gets sick then what happens to the various businesses that depend on their cheap uninsured labour?

Oh, the webs that we weave when we try to justify the unjustifiable.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Assimilation II.

A serious epistemological discussion is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. Yet we need , as a prelude to the forthcoming discussion in this post, to be reminded that the conflict between reality and perception has preoccupied philosophers and political scientists for years. Can we ever know reality and if so how do we measure it? What is perception and does it need to be based on reality? Which is more important in shaping decisions and in policy making? Well, as you might have already guessed there are those who advocate one side and then there are some who advocate the other.

What does all of this have to do with immigration you ask? I would suggest that in this area, immigration, perception is crucially important in explaining some of the policies and tensions that we are witnessing world wide. If we are to limit ourselves only to the US vis a vis Europe then my hypothesis is that the US looks upon itself as a country of immigrants while France, Germany and the UK do not. Whether the actual numbers support that perception is not important. As a result of the above I would also suggest the US ends up in dealing with immigration problems in a completely different way than the Europeans. The US is more open to accepting others who do not conform to the majority and as a result does not fear diversity. The Germans, on the other hand; and the French and British; are not as comfortable with diverse culture and so view different practices as an assault or at least an affront on the values of the majority.

If I am right, it is this attitude that raises the headdress and burqa to a level of confrontation in France and the United Kingdom while it is a non issue in the US. I have no doubt that a society as that of France, that is built on the formidable triad of liberty, equality and fraternity is very much of a secular society. But yet a liberal state is capable at times of taking illeberal actions. Moslem immigrants are presenting a major obstacle to integration and assimilation in Europe because the French essentially take pride in being the most secular society in the world and so they feel that the headdress and the burqa are a serious challenge to the idea of keeping religious practice out of the public square. The problem in this case is that for many fundamental moslems there is no separation between the civil and the religious. Sharia is the rule of Allah and must be followed by all. There is no duality. The US on the other hand, regards itself as a nation of immigrants and is willing to accept all sorts of different practices as long as these do not encroach on the glue that is required to keep the various pieces of the mosaic hanging together. It would be interesting to find out how far would the US be willing to stretch the principle of personal liberty ? Would there be ultimately a US backlash that would demand allegiance to nativists principles just as the Europeans seem to be demanding? Who is right in this case and who is wrong? Is secularism a principle that is to be trifled with? Is the perceived US permissiveness the answer? You decide.

I hope most of you would feel that you have an opion to express on this matter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is Assimilation Desirable?

Assimilation often becomes the main focus of any and all discussions about immigration. Most of the anti-immigrant groups and some of the sympathetic ones usually wind up in concluding that immigrants to the United States during the early part of the twentieth century assimilated better and at a faster rate into the US mainstream. Is such a conclusion accurate? Is it desirable? And above all is it possible to advocate such outcomes in the year 2009? May I suggest; and this is a purely subjective statement; that the answer to all the above three questions is a resounding NO.

Some academics have even developed measures for assimilation and their studies show that the current immigrants do assimilate just as rapidly as those of a hundred years ago. It is also to be noted that what the “restrictionists” mean when they speak of assimilation ought to be rejected since their conception is best described as a linear process instead of the realistic dynamics that change both the new arrivals and the natives at the same time. Furthermore, even if old fashioned traditional assimilation was possible a century ago it is no longer plausible for the simple reason that immigration is not presently undertaken with the sole expectation that it is to be permanent. Temporary immigration is what explains immigrant remittances and the “new economic theory of migration”.

Old fashioned assimilation, as a one way street, where the minority loses its identity in order to acquire the characteristics of the majority can succeed only in an undemocratic and hegemonic environment. We ought to celebrate its demise instead of decrying its death. Gracias amigos/as.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Fiscal Cost? :-)

A new Nobel season is upon us and as is often the case all the six awardees so far have been US citizens? So what is newsworthy about that you ask :-) it is the fact that two of the three winners in Medicine are immigrants and also two of the three winners in Physics are immigrants.
As you all well know by now, I do not put much stock into this idea of nationality, race or gender. But I am willing to make an exception, obviously for the purposes of the course :-), by asking the obvious question: Do you think that the benefits/surpluses garnered from such immigrants should be used to compensate for the so called fiscal deficit of the less fortunate immigrants?
PS: The Nobel season is not over yet, there might be much more to come over the next week.
The Nobel prize in Economics will be announced on the 12th.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And So It Goes

Immigration is not to be judged only by its short term fiscal burden on the Feds. Just note these three stories in the news

(1)We have all learned about one possible reason why Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. One member of the IOC grilled President Obama about the type of reception the foreign visitors are likely to receive at border entry points .He even went on to descibe the entry experiences into the US as being "harrowing". We should be very careful not to conclude that this was the reason that Chicagos' bid lost but there is no doubt that current US paranoia at the border has played a factor in the decision to award the 2016 Olympic games to Brazil.

(2) The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has two important cases on its docket. In "Padilla vs Kentucky" scheduled to be heard on Oct. 13, 2009 the court will decide whether a criminal defense attorney is obliged to inform foreign-born defendants about the potential impact of the criminal case on their immigration records. On Nov 10 the court will hear the arguments for "Kucena vs Holder" and has to rule on the federal courts' right of oversight in immigration cases. These two cases are being very closely watched by the immigrant community for any possible reversal in the courts' interpretation of immigration law.

(3) And last but not least the US Human Rights Record is again being questioned. (Wasn't Abu Ghraib enough?) It has been alleged that in many border areas, especially in Arizona, anti immigration vigilante groups have been spreading fear, chaos and mayhem in a number of border communities. As a result of the alleged abuses the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS has decided to accept hearing such cases against the US government.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Immigrant Rights

“Sovereignty” seems to have become the most common argument in favour of placing restrictions on the entry of aliens at the borders. Nativists often use a variation of the above by staying “since it is my country then I am free to do whatever I want”. And unfortunately whenever the above sentiment is made explicit it often end the conversation; it goes unchallenged. Is it really that simple and that clear that a sovereign state has the right to infringe on the rights of others?
Let us subject the above “argument” to some cursory analysis, shall we? Let us assume that a New York citizen agrees to hire 10 Asians to help with the farm work. Does the state have the right to prevent entry to those with whom he has freely signed a contract? Isn’t such interference by the state as much of an infringement on the rights of one of its own citizens as much as it is an interference with the right of the imported labour? I always thought that the purpose of the state is to protect the rights of its citizens and not violate them.
Another issue to consider is that of natural rights. We all know that the US declaration of independence is essentially based on the natural rights ideas promulgated by Locke. All individuals possess the same natural rights, whether citizens or noncitizens. This implies that the state should enforce the laws equally but does not have the right to discriminate; aliens should be held to the same standards as all other citizens but not to either a higher or a lower standard. To do otherwise is nothing short of veiled discrimination.
When the US Supreme court and many of the state supreme courts, such as New Jersey and Texas, declare school funding programs that rely solely on property taxes unconstitutional they are in essence striking down discriminatory zoning laws designed to keep the riff raffs out of certain school districts. But aren’t these illegal measures just as offensive as the arbitrary laws of excluding aliens from residing in a country? When we commit any of the above are we not acting like the lords of the manor?
Many will agree with the gist of the above and others will object vehemently to what is being said. That is to be expected and a civil dialogue about the rights of immigrants will benefit all of us.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Immigration Reform Around the Corner?

The following is an item that appeared in the press yesterday. Please note that there just might be some major legislative development in the area of Immigration Reform before the end of this semester. The skeptic in me says that October 13 is a date that will come and go without hearing from Rep. Gutierrez. Time will tell :-)

"At a gathering in Washington this week, long-time immigration reform advocate Congressman Luis Gutierrez announced that he would soon introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House. This marker bill is likely to have something for everyone in it, combining the DREAM Act, family reunification, a legalization program, and even smart-enforcement components. He gave the self-imposed deadline of October 13 for the framework to be ready and it couldn’t come sooner.

The lack of immigration reform continues to plague the administration at every turn, and plays a role in every major legislative battle the administration has fought since the inauguration. It came up in the stimulus bill and is now making a command appearance in the health care reform debate."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Health care for illegals,

One of the most contentious issues in the current health care debate has nothing to do with the health coverage of US citizens. Yes, you have guessed it, it is the issue that led a congressman to call President Obama a lier on national television.
The administration and all its supporters claim that the new proposed health care reforms being championed by the White House would not provide any coverage whatsoever to the illegal/undocumented immigrants in the country while most of the opposition make the counter claim that up to 6 million undocumented individuals would most likely be covered under the new plan.
Well, who is right and who is wrong? As difficult as this might be to believe, both are right and both are wrong at the same time. Technically the new health care reform would not provide any subsidies to any of the illegal/undocumented individuals but there are no active provisions to prevent these workers and their families from misleading the authorities by taking advantage of the lack of enforcement to get coverage that they were not targeted to get. Realistically many will find a way to cheat the system in the same way that many find a way to cheat on their income taxes, job applications and yes school exams. At times, we spend on enforcement more than the potential savings achieved from the strict adherence to the intention of a particular policy, and so we have to ask whether it is worth it to spend huge sums of money in order to prevent people from accessing health care?
The argument to provide heath care to those that need it, whether undocumented or not, does not rest on the human rights premise only but it can be shown that it is more efficient for all of us if we subsidize health care to undocumented because once the illness is severe and it requires urgent medical attention then we do provide medical aid through the expensive ER route.
So the question should not be concerned with the possibility that some will cheat but whether we should encourage people to cheat by depriving them of a service that will increase their own welfare and ours simultaneously. What do you think? Why shouldn't we provide health care to those that are working for us?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Kind of a Dialogue Are We Going to Have?

We asked for a labor force but human beings came...

I'm sure everyone has a view on immigration but most likely the majority of Americans aren't aware of the legal, social, economic, and political aspects of US immigration. There's lots of misinformation out there, some of it quite intentional. Emotions are fine as long as they don't interfere with the facts. I don't have a problem with people putting a stake down on an issue, but I do have a problem when this stake is put down on false pretences and false impressions.

A learned person, with a critical mind, who really wants to know the facts, is able to amend his/her views when better information or reasonable argument is presented. Unfortunately, too many people will not reveal their true prejudice and instead choose to fight against a notion on different grounds. For example, health care reform will cost a lot more because all the "illegals" will get medical (and free) care...

I'm looking forward to having a discussion here. I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome message

This blog is meant for the exchange of ideas especially between the students registered in the Immigration course at Pace University. The comments will not be moderated and so you are asked to express your ideas and beliefs clearly , un-apologetically but to apply restraint to the choice of words :-)

Let us cut to the chase and ask each one to post a comment about what Immigration measures you would advocate if you had the power to pass any legislation that your heart desires . (That would be nice wouldn't it? lol)