The Immigration Reform American Workers Deserve

February 23, 2016

Democrats have wholeheartedly taken up the issue of income inequality and stagnant real wages of working class families.  Bernie Sanders has criticized our current trade policy; making it a centerpiece of his campaign. He does not support the purposed TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade agreement.

Here in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown has been a longtime opponent of “free trade”.  Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who has a good chance of unsetting Sen. Rob Portland (r) in the upcoming election, is also campaigning against trade deals that put Ohio workers in direct competition with cheap foreign labor and sends Ohio jobs overseas.

What does it matter if we send American jobs overseas for foreign labor to fill or we bring foreign labor into the U.S.?  This is the disconnect of progressive economic labor policy.

In the relatively recent past, prominent liberals agreed that rapidly expanding the labor pool by bringing in millions of immigrants was not in the best interests of working Americans. Labor union leaders and civil rights luminaries, for a century right through President Bill Clinton, supported reducing the number of work permits for foreign laborers. They understood that such a move would spur wage growth and expand job opportunities for Americans.

A 1995 congressional commission, chaired by the charismatic civil rights leader and Democratic Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan, recommended limiting immigration to 550,000 individuals a year. President Clinton praised the recommendation as a “balanced immigration policy that . . . protect[s] the American work force.”

There is no good reason to continue giving out one million new lifetime work permits every year, supporting guest worker programs and having a permissive attitude towards illegal immigration when over 15 million native and immigrant Americans already here are currently unable to find full-time jobs.

From 1924 to 1965, America sharply scaled back the number of immigrants it accepted. Without competition from a large pool of foreign-born laborers, American workers were better able to unionize and demand improved wages and benefits.

The share of income going to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans dropped from 43 percent in 1924 — the year lower immigration quotas were implemented — to less than 32 percent in 1965 — the year the quotas were replaced with the current immigration system.

The post-1965 influx of workers helped freeze wages. In fact, inflation-adjusted wages have actually declined over the last forty years. The average worker in 1973 earned a higher real wage than the average worker does today.

Economists have concluded that high levels of immigration are partially responsible for wage stagnation. Harvard professor George Borjas, an immigrant himself, has shown that expanding the size of any working cohort — as defined by age or education — by 10 percent through immigration reduces the wages of all native-born folks in that group by 2.5 percent. The effect on native-born men is even greater — a decline in wages of 3.7 percent.

For Americans without a high school degree, the wage losses are even more pronounced — about $1,200 for the years between 1990 and 2010.

Immigrants themselves are not at fault. The overwhelming majority of immigrants are industrious people who work hard. It is just that in America, hard work often is not rewarded.  The strongest work ethic in the world cannot defeat the law of supply and demand. The more workers who need a job, the less employers have to pay to attract employees.

Our leaders have the power to stop this economic race to the bottom and boost wage growth. Scaling back the pace at which our nation admits new laborers from abroad would help disadvantaged immigrants who are already here. It would take job-market realities into account and give native and immigrant American workers the leverage to win back the wages and benefits they’ve lost over decades.

America has been and must continue to be a nation that does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or national origin, but there’s no need to bring in one million permanent immigrants every year, allow guest worker programs, on top of illegal immigration when current residents cannot find good-paying jobs.

If progressive candidates are serious about standing up for American workers, they must consider greatly reducing the number of foreign laborers who have access to the American labor market through trade policy and immigration policy.


It is the Labor Market Stupid

January 5, 2014

Why Democrats will not address the real cause of income inequality.

I am hopeful that the public and our political class are coming to terms with income inequality in America and the harm it is doing to our economy and society.  At the same time, I am disappointed in the response by my party, the Democratic Party, to the overreaching economic issues of our time.

While raising the minimum wage would do more good than harm, simply raising the minimum wage would help too few people, too little, and could create inequities of its own.  More importantly, the minimum wage is a placebo, a distraction from the real labor market forces at work that are bringing the ideal of America as a broad base middle class national, to a close.

Our government over the last 30 years has pursued policies by way of trade agreements, cheap foreign labor embedded in the goods imported to the US and an immigration policy of non-enforcement to increase the supply of labor in the United States.  Globalization has been an abject failure for the American middle class.  When President Clinton supported NAFTA he sold out to a corporate establishment and took the Democratic Party’s labor market policy 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

Increasing the supply of labor into the US market has had a predictable, and for some, a desired result.  While corporate profits are at record highs the value of labor in the market has been diminished to the point where a full time job no long provides a place in the middle class.

For a party that holds the moral high ground on so many important issues, it sickens me to see Democrats pandering to foreign nationals who have intentionally broken our immigration law in order to gain an electoral advantage, and to a corporate establishment that is willing to put short term profits above the economic interest of their employees and their own customers.

It is my wish that the Democratic Party will set aside the interest of foreign nationals and big campaign contributors and return to their core values of supporting a strong and prosperous middle-class.

Please like the Facebook Page: Democrats Against Amnesty   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Democrats-Against-Amnesty/152334804799707?ref=br_tf


Illegal Immigrant: Defending the Term

April 8, 2013

In the wake of the Associated Press decision to drop the use of “illegal Immigrant” from their Stylebook, I have reviewed my use of the language in this blog.  Here is my conclusion.

The term “illegal immigrant” may not be the perfect solution, as reasonable shorthand to refer to a foreign national present in the United States in violation of immigration laws, but it is far better than the alternative that is being provided: “undocumented immigrant”.

Jonathan Rosa, an assistant professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes that “immigrant” defines someone who is a legal permanent resident.

A group of 24 scholars, led by Rosa, put out a statement last week arguing that “illegal immigrant” should not be the preferred phrasing because it’s imprecise and frames the debate in narrow terms. “It is baffling to think that [The New York Times] would suggest ‘illegal immigrant’ is accurate and neutral,” Rosa said in an interview with ABC/Univision. “The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines immigrants as people who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, so “legal immigrant” is a redundant concept and ‘illegal immigrant’ is oxymoronic,” he noted. 1

By this reasoning, the term “undocumented immigrant” would imply that a person is legally present in the United States but for a missing piece of documentation.  This shorthand does not convey the full nature of a foreign national present in the United States in violation of immigration laws.

I would prefer the term “illegal alien”.  From a legal standpoint, it is more correct and it would end the confusion regarding the word “immigrant”.  Unfortunately, we have dropped the word “space” for the term “space alien” so in common usages “alien” refers to a creature from outer space.  I would concede that this renders that term dehumanized, not because it is technically incorrect, but because of our cultural vocabulary deficiency.  I have discontinued the use of the term “illegal alien”.

Key here though is not the word “immigrant” but the word “illegal”.  The movement pushing the term “undocumented “ to describe a person, or to discuss the body of persons in the United States in violation of US immigration law, is not about replacing an imperfect term, it is all about scrubbing the word “illegal” from the discussion.

So, why not “illegal immigrant”?  Some feel that the term “illegal immigrant” is offensive.   Advocates for “undocumented” say that groups have the right to self-identity.  I would agree that racial, ethnic groups have that right to self-identity and have the right to change that identifier as they see fit.  But illegal immigrants are not a racial or ethnic group.  An illegal immigrants’ only common element is their illegal presence in the United States.  I can understand that someone in the United States, in violation of immigration law or someone who cared about a person who is in violation of US immigration law, would be uncomfortable with the word “illegal”.  But can you maintain your journalistic integrity while backing away from a clear and powerful language because some are not comfortable with the clear meaning that it conveys?  Undocumented is less powerful, it is less offensive and it is also less clear.

The other objection to the term “illegal immigrant” suggests that a person cannot be “illegal” and we should only use “illegal” to describe an illegal action.  One common example given is that you would not call a jaywalker an “illegal walker”.

“If we talk about a child who skips school, we don’t say he’s an illegal student,” Santa Ana said in reference to truancy laws. “We call a person who crosses the street illegally a jaywalker, not an illegal walker.” Linguists George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson suggest in their 2006 paper “The Framing of Immigration”2

This reasoning fails to recognize the continuous nature of one’s immigration status or citizenship.  A jaywalker is only a jaywalker while they are crossing the street improperly.  An illegal immigrant is in a constant state of violation of US immigration law.

The New York Times style guide maintains that “undocumented” is a “euphemism”.  I agree with the assessment.  I hope that The New York Times will stand by that clear statement of journalistic principle.

Immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas’ campaign to replace “illegal” with “undocumented”, which is largely responsible for the reassessment and change to the AP Stylebook, is not about clarity but about shifting the conversation away from the fact that millions of foreign nationals are present in the United States in violation of immigration laws.  Jose Antonio Vargas is making a moral argument that anyone should be able to become a United States Citizen.  He believes that the millions of illegal immigrants are not in fact illegal but have simply not yet received the legal recognition and legal documents to which they are morally entitled.

While discussing as a group of foreign nationals present in the United States in violation of immigration laws, I will continue to use the shorthand term “illegal immigrants” I feel it conveys, in the most direct way, the nature of their immigration status.

Individuals who are subject to immigration law enforcement action will be referred to as “alleged illegal immigrants”.

The subset of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children will be referred to, when the context of the story merits a deeper understanding of their immigration reality, as “Dreamers” or “children who were brought to the United States in violation of immigration law”.

This brings me full circle back to Jose Antonio Vargas.  Mr. Vargas would like us to call him an undocumented immigrant; someone who lacks a document to legitimize his legal status.   I cannot do that.  It just does not express the reality of his immigration status.  If Mr. Vargas is offended by my use of language, I can only say that I am offended by millions of foreign nationals who have knowingly, and with intent, disregarded the immigration laws of the United States of America.

1) http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/linguists-york-times-illegal-neutral-accurate/story?id=17366512#.UVzChVeRcxD

2) http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/linguists-york-times-illegal-neutral-accurate/story?id=17366512&page=2#.UV2SV1eRcxA


Jose Antonio Vargas: The Moral Argument for Unlimited Immigration

March 29, 2013

Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist and immigration activist who has taken on the cause of the “Dreamers”, children brought to America, in violation of our immigration law, at a young age , who were able to avoid enforcement long enough to become integrated into American society and have a sense that America is their country.  Mr. Vargas, himself, came to the United States at age 12 and remained in the United States without legal status.

I am sympathetic to the dreamers; I would like to see provisions in the immigration law to provide legal status to these children caught in a nether world of their parent’s illegal actions and a federal government that is unwilling to enforce our immigration laws.

But, when you take a deep look at Mr. Vargas’ movement and philosophy we find that he is not talking about the one time fix for the immigration system that has been allowed to devolve out of control.  Mr. Vargas is extolling a notion that for any parent who can manage to get his/her child inside the United States and if that child can avoid enforcement for an unspecified length of time, this child is entitled to legal status.

While Mr. Vargas’ “Define American” web site is long on emotional appeals it is short on a real discussion of immigration policies, particularly how we enforce our immigration laws,  Mr. Vargas’ concept of a “21st Century Underground Railroad” is a call to American citizen’s to facilitate the presence of young illegal immigrants in the United States until they can claim citizenship by moral fiat.

Indeed, mine is a story about the heart and compassion of the 21st Century Underground Railroad: American citizens helping new American immigrants as we strive for full citizen rights. My teachers, school administrators, mentors and friends were all part of my “Railroad.” They are the chief reason I’m able to tell you my story.

Mr. Vargas seems willing to take advantage of our sense of fair play and compassion for young people to manipulate our immigration policy, giving power and control of our immigration policy to those willing to break our immigration laws.

I also take issue with his assertion that there is a parallel moral equivalency between an underground railroad for slaves and illegal immigrants.  Not being enslaved is a fundamental human right, there is no basic right of immigration.

As Mr. Vargas seeks to define who is an American, I hear him saying that anyone can simply declare oneself an American.  Mr. Vargas seems to be putting forward a moral imperative that sweeps all other consideration aside, that anyone who wants to be an American is entitled to be American.  Mr. Vargas, and many others, are making a moral argument for unlimited immigration.


Deportation: The Only Real Answer to Immigration Reform

March 20, 2013

Who can and cannot be an American

When you consider that far more people want to come to America than we admit legally or come illegally, our immigration policy is mostly about who cannot be an American.  The back log of those waiting to come to America, legally, is often held out as proof that our immigration system is broken.  While I am sure that our immigration bureaucracy could be improved, the fundamental reason for this back log is that far more people apply to immigrate to the United States every year than, under current law, can be legally admitted.  So it only follows that the back log grows year by year and hopeful immigrants wait and wait for their chance at the American dream.  This is just one point where the logic of Immigration Reform starts to break down.

If we give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, there is simply no way to overcome the opportunity cost to all those who are waiting in line for their chance at legal immigration.  If our society and economy can accommodate 12 million more souls then was provided for by law, why not 12 million souls who are following the law and are waiting in line for their pathway to citizenship?

There is no constituency for a family living in Haiti or Bangladesh or Syria.  There is no constituency for the millions or tens of millions of people that live in the countries far poorer and more war-torn than the countries of origin of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.  But these 12 million people have a large and powerful constituency.  They have their fellow countrymen and family members that were granted legal status by the 1986 amnesty.  They have their children that are US citizens.  They have their employers.  They have census and apportionment processes that bestow them with political power.  And they have their physical presence inside our borders. They have presidential politics on their side.  All of this political power has its genesis in illegal acts.  Our immigration policy has been co-opted by a population with a proximity to our border and a willingness to violate our immigration laws and commit document fraud on a massive scale.

There is also no way to overcome the fundamental fact that normalizing 12 million illegal aliens is rewarding their illegal acts.  To believe otherwise is pure self-delusion.

Immigration Reform, as proposed, is not about fairness, it is not about our immigration traditions, it is not about what is best for the economy, not from the view point of working families anyway.  Immigration Reform is about a political expediency, it is a one percent solution that puts the desires of business above working families.  It is about both parties believing that Immigration Reform is critical to winning the White House

It is often said that we cannot deport 12 million people.  That is true, our government simply cannot bring itself to identify and deport illegal immigrants.  I can hear my Democratic friends, the ones that I have left, howl with rage: Obama, they would say, has deported far more illegal immigrants than G.W. Bush.  They are right, but doing better than President Bush was not a high bar to get over.  Both the Bush and Obama administration held out the promise of Immigration Reform and have sent a clear message to illegal immigrants to remain in the country and for new illegal immigrants to come in anticipation of a pathway to citizenship. Obama’s policy of focusing enforcement on a small segment of the illegal immigrant population is designed to give most illegal immigrant the opportunity to do just that, remain in the United States until amnesty is past.

I have often wondered what would be the impact on illegal immigration if the President, any President, would have gone before the nation to announce that our immigration laws would be vigorously and consistently enforced and that illegal immigration will no longer be tolerated.  This kind of basic statement of policy has never been made by any President because it has been federal policy for decades not to enforce our immigration laws.

After the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, when we reset our immigration policy by normalizing 3 million illegal immigrants, we were promised that our immigration laws would be enforced.  We were promised workplace enforcement and more secure borders.  How did that work out?  Twenty seven years later and our illegal immigrate population has grown to 12 million individuals.  The 1986 Immigration reform failed 12 million times because we could not bring ourselves to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

And, what is different this time around?  Nothing.  It may sound jingoistic, but if you are not willing to enforce the law then you cannot expect the law to be obeyed.  You can secure the borders, great, but illegal crossing will continue.  Forty percent of illegal immigrants simply overstay their legal temporary visas.  You can punish employers that hire illegal immigrants, great, but if you do not deport the employees they will find their way back into the work force.

The only immigration enforcement policy that will ever work, if you plan to exert any control on an immigration policy, is deportation.  Until we come to terms with this simple, undeniable fact; if we cannot bring ourselves to deport the most sympathetic of illegal immigrants, any attempt at Immigration Reform is an exercise in futility and self-deception.


Senator Rails Against Elitist Immigration Reform

February 8, 2013

Why are Democrats supporting an immigration reform plan that hurts working families?

The Daily Caller reports on Senator Jeff Sessions R-Ala. comments regarding the expansion of guest workers visa programs and immigration reform  “We have seen this before: the ‘masters of the universe’ want low wages and cheap labor and don’t seem to care much about how it impacts workers or taxpayers.”

See full story at The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/06/sessions-slams-obamas-closed-door-meetings-on-immigration/#ixzz2KLfPsi2J

Like the Facebook page Democrats Against Amnesty: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Democrats-Against-Amnesty/152334804799707?ref=hl


Farm Labor Organizer Says Immigration Reform Will Mean More Competition for Jobs

February 7, 2013

On channel 13abc’s Sunday morning public affairs show; Conklin & Company, Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee stated that immigration reform would lead to more completion for jobs in the labor market as newly legalized agricultural workers seek out better year-round jobs.  This would leave a “void” of agricultural workers that would require a guest worker program to fill.

Mr. Velasquez said “So that people who get legalized in agriculture are going to find their ways in to more permanent employment in order to support their families 12 months of the year”

The full interview with Mr. Velasquez can be seen on the 13abc web site: http://www.13abc.com/story/16366357/conklin-and-company


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