Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 26, 2010

Immigration: Front and Center

Filed under: Immigration — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on April 26, 2010

Immigration reform promises to be the hot topic in the coming weeks as it has moved up the list of policy priorities, thanks in part to a new Arizona law.

On Saturday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB1070, which requires Arizona police to question anyone “reasonably suspected” of being undocumented.  Under existing law, they could only require information on someone’s status if the person is suspected of a crime. Legal immigrants are required to have their immigration paperwork handy. The law is the most restrictive state immigration law in the nation and has generated a great deal of attention, especially for its potential to encourage racial profiling.

On Friday, President Obama criticized the bill and has ordered the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to monitor developments to assure that civil rights are not being violated.

On the Hill, the leading players on immigration reform have been Senators Schumer and Graham, who have been working on a bipartisan piece of legislation that addresses the three prongs of immigration:  1) Enforcement, 2) Future Flow, and 3) Pathway to Citizenship.  In late March, the Senators announced a framework for their bill, which was endorsed by President Obama.  They have been working on gaining additional support, especially from Republicans, when the Arizona law came along.

As the Arizona legislation was considering SB1070, Senators McCain and Kyl released a Ten Point Border Security Action Plan that included the deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops along the border, along with 3,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and lots and lots of miles of fence.   Both are advocating a border security first approach to addressing immigration issues.  Ironically, both Senators were supportive of past efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform but are now asserting that the federal government is not doing enough to secure the border.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated last week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that immigration might be next on the agenda for the Senate, ahead of climate change which many thought was next in the queue. His remarks follow similar comments he made in Arizona that he was committed to immigration reform.   Senator Schumer is expected to reach out to a number of Republican Senators, including those President Obama called last week – Senators Brown, Murkowski, LeMieux, Lugar, and Gregg – in order to get a deal that can move forward.

Complicating things is that Senator Graham is also the leading Republican on the bipartisan climate change legislation.  The unveiling of that bill, which was supposed to be released by Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham today, has temporarily been canceled.  While Senator Graham has not walked away from discussions with Senator Schumer, he did send out a letter to many involved in the climate bill process, stating that his participation in climate discussions was being adversely affected by Senator Reid’s decision to move immigration next.

In the House, Speaker Pelosi has indicated that the House will move immigration legislation — if the Senate passes something first.

A lot of activity with lots more expected.  There is little question that immigration reform is much needed — the question for policymakers is how to do it successfully so as not to replicate the failures of  the 2007 attempt to address the issue.

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Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 26, 2010 @ 11:11 am

Thank you for your post. Immigration is almost as third rail as social security used to be.

The facts are always a bit nebulous, but there seems to be a theme to them. We have an immigration problem. The current system of legal immigration dates to 1965. during the civil rights movement, It was alleged that America was practicing a form of egalitarianism and our immigration practices were racist. There was a hierarchy of sorts to American inclusion; Europeans were superior to Nordics, who were themselves superior to Mediterranean’s, who were superior still to Jews, etc. So with “everyone” feeling a bit slighted immigration advocates commented on quotas discriminated against them in favor of Western Europeans. Perhaps a bit more tribal, it may seem more likely that the predominance of selecting officials were of European descent and their cognitive bias was to select there”own kind”. I think there is merit to both perspectives. So the Immigration and Naturalization Act was signed and was supposed to level the immigration field so to speak and giving a nearly equal shot to anyone from every corner of the world.
The reunification of families and the changing demographic of people wanting to come to America also was part of the equation. So, in the broadest terms; we may have, whether by accident or on purpose began the shift from European to “other” as a feeding mechanism to populate America.
Over a decade later there seemed to be several scenarios overlapping to create angst; the economy was tanking, Viet Nam was over, the President resigned and our “National malaise” was upon us. Other things that affected these emerging situations too; a dropping birth rate amongst Americans, the initiation of transitioning industry to overseas, and the changing or redefining what was acceptable work for Americans. Perhaps an overstatement or generalization on my part, but I think there is some relevance to it.
I make this statement from a personal point of view; recently I discovered that my great grandfather came to New York in steerage on the USS State of Nebraska to take work in a glue factory in Brooklyn. That kind of work was unacceptable for a “Nativist”. Would you work in a glue factory? Would I?
Flash forward to today. Do we have a legal immigration problem? Perhaps. But the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than any other country in the world…and quite frankly, where else would they want to go? Nationalism aside, the growing and changing demographic allows perhaps a million+ to naturalize annually. Is this the problem? Again, its one of the symptoms. Do we have an illegal immigration problem? I’d say, based on the data we certainly do. The strain on infrastructure, social programs, and lack of assimilation makes it a conundrum. It’s a problem.

But I think its much more complicated than simply railing against “the Mexicans”. As is the case generationally, the new groups of immigrants coming to the United States are heavily exploited and prejudiced against. The Jews, Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans were basically cannon fodder in both the back end of the civil war and World War 1. Labor exploited them and the Nation was built primarily on the backs of these late 19th and early 20th century immigrants. I think the difference and argument boils down to legal “paying you dues” immigrants and the illegal immigrants. That’s some of the fuel. More of the fuel is the fact that unfortunately, we ALL have a bias and degree of prejudice within our social construct. Whether its education, class, ethnicity, religion, etc, we tend to socialize and self organize within our like or tribal comfort group. Look at New York, Chicago, Boston etc. Continue across the country to Minnesota, the Dakota’s too… all have diasporic pull to gather amongst one another.
I think combining this generational “acculturation” and the development of an American prejudice is part of assimilation, right or wrong. It is once again generational and has been demonstrated routinely and culturally over time. Combine this with our standard of living, our expectation, our growing entitlement class, and anger over this disruption of cultural homeostasis. Change anger to fear…
Our immigration problem is one of convenience. Most of the illegal immigrants or more aptly described as undocumented workers do the jobs Americans by and large believe themselves to be too good for. Again is this an overstatement? Guess it depends on your POV. The undocumented workers process our poultry and meat. They pick our vegetables and fruit and clean up after us. They build our homes and maintain their appearance. When we can hire a group for pennies on the dollar it’s a good deal. When they fall of our roof and break their neck or arm, we complain their clogging the health care system and getting free health care. Unions exploit them too, but that’s another storyline. The bottom line is we’ve seen this cycle of loathing and anger before. They do work that we simply no longer do.
The violence on the southern border has more to do with narco terrorism than workers. I also don’t see a great deal of southern migration from Canada. So with all this social subterfuge it becomes clear as mud. If we want to address the illegal immigration problem, we’d better be prepared to deal with the reasons they are willing to die to get here. If we want to deal with the illegal immigration problem, we’d better start with the mirror instead of the finger. Do we owe them anything because they’re “oppressed”? I think not. Do we owe them the “American Dream”? No there too. But if we are going to exploit them for our own convenience and comfort we are as much to blame if not more as they are. Sorry for the length, it’s just more than meets the eye.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 26, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

Good post and fantastic comment by DAN!

The problem to me is summarized by my firm belief that in fact, though of course not international law, the US and MEXICO are one country and one history. Probably CANADA also. We never read how much alike we all are but how different. Is it fear of the “other” that drives immigration discussion? Probably. Like DAN states, look in the “Mirror!”

Comment by Main Street USA

April 27, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

“No Rooms To Let” – The Real Story About Today’s Imigration Challenges To America is a book being written which will address why We as Americans cannot openly embrace any and all as We are a $12trillion+ bankrupt nation, void in local, state and national leadership, a beltway gridlocked by self-stroking arrogant “entrusted” – elected – leadership on both sides of the aisle.

We cannot afford to take care of ourselves for the bankers and governing officials have raped hard working people not only here in Amsrica, but in so many other countries. The system has been so widely abused that it is broken in Greece, in Portugal, next Italy and so on and so forth…

As chatter increases and the world sees Islamic factions soon to breakout war amongst themaselves where oil will go to $10 per galoon and so forth and so on, yes, laws enacted to assure proper immigration to this country from wherever, however unfortunately greed and arrogance will not have the time to worry about the long term future for shortly We will all see and share in the misery of mankind as bankers, greedy leaders and religious differences shatter all hopes and dreams of the 21st century and beyond!

Hold on for the ride will like none every witnessed and immigration, pensions, salaries, interest rates, oil prices, oh…the list goes on for laws are enacted to be enforced and We have not done so for entrusted leaders have proven my contention that professional politicians at the local level, state and national should be limited in term and these tenured positions of prowess should have been eliminated for far too much leniency as existed in law enforcement and too many standing with hands outstretched to take advantage!

God Bless our beloved Republic!

Christopher Tingus
Main Street USA


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