Obama Has Mojo--Health Reform’s Lessons for Immigration Reform

New America Media, Interview with Frank Sharry, Sandip Roy Posted: Mar 28, 2010

Editor's Note: An estimated 200,000 people showed up at the National Mall last weekend calling for immigration reform. But the march was overshadowed by the dramatic passage of health care reform. What are the lessons from health care reform for those pushing for a reform of the country’s immigration laws? New America Media Editor Sandip Roy spoke with Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based immigration advocacy group America’s Voice.


What lessons are you drawing from how health care reform eventually came to pass?

One, the president has mojo after all. He had to contend with scared Democrats, obstinate Republicans and fractious constituency groups. And he persevered, and as a result they made history. That’s pretty much the same formula we need on immigration reform. Obviously the delay in health care reform compresses the calendar for us to get it done and this is an election year, but we think the window of opportunity is open for a few months.

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the co-sponsor of the Schumer-Graham immigration bill, said before the bill was signed, ‘The first casualty of the Democratic health care bill will be immigration reform. If the health care bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year.’ What is your reaction?

I think what he is saying is that the toxic atmosphere of partisanship on Capitol Hill will make it difficult to move on legislation like immigration reform that needs bipartisanship. But I doubt if a spat over a procedural matter will end all chances of immigration reform. But if Republicans do stand in the way, they will once again be blamed for blocking immigration reform and putting themselves behind the eight ball politically with the fastest growing group of new voters in the country. I think it’s more bluster and bluff. And I think we have a good chance of seeing a bipartisan bill being introduced in April.

Do you really think the Democrats have the stomach for another protracted fight?

I think many Democrats have realized after health care reform that they were elected to take on the tough issues and they are going to be judged, come November, on their record of accomplishment, not on how many post offices they named. Look, the Democrats and Obama inherited a huge mess. The country wants change. They voted for change. And if they don’t get change, they will keep voting for change.

Our advice to Democrats – lean into these issues, take them on, fight hard for them and let the politics take care of itself. The politics of immigration are so misunderstood inside the Beltway. The pundits say it’s too hard, maybe it mobilizes Latinos, but it hurts you with swing voters and arouses the right in a way that will make health care look like a garden party. The fact is, I think the immigration debate will look a lot more like the Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation fight, where nine Republicans voted for her confirmation. I think we will see Tea Partiers on the outside but we may see more of a Sotomayor-like tone on the inside.

Is that why you released an internal poll of Latinos and the 2010 elections? Did you make it public to put pressure on the parties?

Exactly. We have been saying immigration reform is a threshold issue for Latino voters, with tremendous intensity among Latino immigrant voters. Many in the political class say, ‘No, they don’t really care that much.’ But what I think you saw a demonstration of on Sunday, March 21 is 200,000 people saying this issue is what defines whether the political class is respecting us or not. This is what Katrina was for many African-American voters. If [Democrats] do lean into this issue, Republicans will have to deal with something that divides them. So Democrats would be wise to do that, rather than hide behind their desks until November.

Since no Republicans voted for health care, would they be on the defensive when it comes to immigration reform? As in, they would look even more like the party of ‘no’ if they also oppose immigration?

It looked like a good strategy when health care reform was on the ropes. It does not look like such a good strategy now when what they have done is said no to covering 32 million people. Many people are divided about whether the reform package is good or not, but polling shows people are quite pleased Congress is actually doing something. I think Republicans are going to have to stand up to the far right and say, ‘This is an issue we have to get off the table and that we should share credit with. If we wait too long, it will be too late for us.’

In 2006, 23 Republican senators voted for a version of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite a more right-leaning bill in 2007, that was essentially written with the help of the Bush White House, only 12 Republican senators voted for it. Take a look at it now. What’s our universe of possible gettable Republican senators – probably in the neighborhood of 10. I think the Republican Party has made a historic mistake in losing the advantages that were built up with George W. Bush reaching out to this community. Now they are on the verge of looking like the party of ‘no,’ not just on all manner of issues, but to Latino voters.

Health care as it finally passed was very different from health care reform as was proposed. While you don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, are you satisfied with the Schumer-Graham proposal as the starting point here? Is there enough room for compromise as there definitely will have to be?

They have issued a blue print. It’s not highly detailed yet. It has the right elements. Sure, they couch it in very conservative terms, law and order terms. The solution to the problem of unauthorized immigration is you combine some smart targeted enforcement, in particular going after employers who are unscrupulous, with a way people here illegally can get on the path to citizenship, get to the back of the line, etc.

But grassroots groups are saying the Schumer-Graham bill is much more onerous on people trying to legalize themselves, that it could mean waiting 20 years outside the United States.

None of those details are known yet. What has been represented to us is the legalization program will have low fees, a six or seven year period of conditional status. What’s onerous is the current situation in which every day people are being picked up, detained and deported. The Obama administration is on track to surpass the Bush administration’s record of deporting some 400,000 people a year. This is a human rights crisis in immigrant communities.

Insurance companies and chambers of commerce spent millions trying to defeat health care reform. Is the hope for immigration reform that a lot of business is in support of it?

The best part is we won’t have zillions of dollars being spent against it, as they did in health care reform, by the business community. Businesses generally are in favor or not opposed. The opposition comes from a virulent and visible anti-immigrant movement that is very effective at mobilizing people who want to deport 11 million people and keep the people who look different out of the country. I don’t think we will be facing zillions of dollars in ads but we will be facing millions of faxes from angry people.

Related Articles:

Blog: Health Care Reform's Lessons for Immigration Reform

Immigrants Can Cheer and Jeer for Health Care Reform

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User Comments

k on Apr 02, 2010 at 09:33:00 said:

All we have to do is send a loud and clear message come election time. And that is to VOTE OUT THE DEMOCRATS WHO VOTED FOR AND SUPPORTED HEALTH CARE REFORM. They must be voted out of office to let them know and any new comers know we say what gos and what stays. Health care reform must be repealed and deportation of illegal aliens and there illegitimate citizen children must begin and illegal immigration must stop for the sovereignty of our county is at stake.


k on Apr 02, 2010 at 09:20:37 said:

All we have to do is send a loud and clear message come election time. And that is to VOTE OUT THE DEMOCRATS WHO VOTED FOR AND SUPPORTED HEALTH CARE REFORM. They must be voted out of office to let them know and any new comers know we say what gos and what stays. Health care reform must be repealed and deportation of illegal aliens and there illegitimate citizen children must begin and illegal immigration must stop for the sovereignty of our county is at stake.


PaulC1958 on Mar 30, 2010 at 14:03:26 said:

To those who demand amnesty I say there is NO demand from American citizens to grant amnesty to illegal aliens! Quite the contrary is the case according to most polls. Yes, corporations, church hierarchies, various Hispanic organizations, and most politicians want amnesty, but American citizens, even large numbers of Hispanic American citizens, are not demanding amnesty for illegal aliens. Neither are American citizens demanding the massive immigration, legal and illegal, that our government has thrust upon us to implement the CHEAP LABOR regime demanded by corporations.

One of the latest claims is that illegal aliens pay taxes therefore they should get the same benefits as US citizens. I say it makes no difference whether illegal aliens pay taxes as those same taxes would be paid any way by American citizen if the illegal aliens weren\\\'t here. In fact illegal aliens never pay enough in taxes or add enough value to the economy to cover their costs much less make them of any real value to the US.

Massive immigration, legal and illegal, creates exponential population grow which in turn is destroying our country. How anyone can think adding another 150 million people to the US population by 2050, in just 40 years, is a good thing must be mentally impaired. According to the US Census Bureau that is exactly what will happen if we don\\\'t come to grips with our immigration policy. Remember, a country\\\'s immigration policy is about doing what is good for the country and its citizens, not what is good for the immigrants; there interests are to be served by their country of origin.

When it comes to illegal aliens, no consideration whatsoever should be given to their desires and interests since they intentionally and knowingly broke our immigration laws without any regard to what their presence here would do to our country and its citizens. Life is tough and usually unfair, and our welfare systems are designed, funded and intended to help US citizens overcome a few of the conditions in which fate placed them. Our welfare systems were not designed to address illegal alien needs, they should apply to their own government for whatever assistance they believe they need to achieve their dreams. If we allow

As for their illegal alien children, again no consideration for their dreams and aspirations is warranted as it\\\'s their parents who are responsible for their situation not the citizens of the US. We can not be made to be responsible for the bad choices of their parents. We must always put the interests of US citizens and our country ahead of the dreams and desires of anyone in the country illegally. Finally, amnesty for illegal aliens is not an option, as changing their status only exacerbates the problems their presence in our country has and continues to causes.

What to do about the children of illegal aliens born in the US and therefore are US citizen? I believe they should be immediately removed from the custody of their illegal alien parents, and the parents and all illegal alien members of the family quickly deported. We don\\\'t want US citizen children to be reared by people who have no concern for the law; in a nation of laws reverence for the law is a cardinal principle every citizen must embrace. If these kids grow up in a family that by their every action demonstrate to the children that the law need not be followed, the kids will in large numbers do exactly the same thing. Furthermore, we don\\\'t want our children to be seen as a source of income for illegal alien parents. If the result of having a baby in the US means the child is taken from them and they are immediately deported, the number of \\\"anchor\\\" baby will virtually vanish.

Illegal aliens are acting in very rational ways, it\\\'s American citizens who are acting irrationally. We must make life in the US for illegal aliens far worse than what they find in their home country. If we do that they will continue to make rational decisions — they will go home if they are here and they will stay in their home country if that is where they are.

Trtuth on Mar 28, 2010 at 06:27:11 said:

US economy largely unaffected by illegal immigration

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.03.2009

WASHINGTON — A study released Wednesday concludes that illegal-immigrant workers do not drain jobs or tax dollars and have a neutral impact on the U.S. economy.
Because illegal immigrants occupy a small share of the work force — about 5 percent — and work low-skilled jobs at lower wages than other workers, their overall influence on the economy is trivial, according to the report, sponsored by the Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration think tank in Washington.
"The fate of the U.S. economy does not rest on what we do on illegal immigration," said Gordon H. Hanson, author of the report and economics professor at the University of California-San Diego.
Illegal immigrants contribute a tiny 0.03 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, with that gain going to employers who save money on cheap labor, the report says, while their cost to the economy is 0.10 percent of GDP, which mainly comes from public education and publicly funded emergency health care.
The net impact at minus 0.07 percent of GDP means that illegal immigrants have an essentially neutral effect on the economy, Hanson said.
The report does not factor in the spending or entrepreneurship that illegal immigrants contribute to the economy, said Marc Rosenblum, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
Where illegal immigrants do have a substantial impact, Hanson added, is in specific labor-intensive and low-skilled industries such as agriculture, construction, hospitality and cleaning services, where the share of native-born workers has dropped precipitously.
Because the U.S. has dramatically raised the education level of its adult population in the last 50 years — going from about 50 percent of all working-age adults without a high school diploma in 1960 to just 8 percent today — the native-born, low-skilled work force has shrunk, while employers continue to require low-skilled workers.
This leaves room for illegal immigrants to take such jobs at a low cost, the report says.
Illegal immigrants now account for 20 percent of working-age adults in the U.S. who don't have a high school degree.
While the influx of illegal immigrants is one of the factors keeping low-skilled wages stagnant, the biggest losers in the current system are legal low-wage workers, both native and foreign born, who compete with the illegal immigrants, Rosenblum said.
Meanwhile, employers reap higher profits because of lower labor costs and more productive businesses.
The solution to this imbalance, proposed by the Migration Policy Institute, is to provide more visas and legal channels for unskilled workers to enter the U.S.
Today, low-skilled workers must have a green card — effectively requiring them to have close family members in the U.S. — or obtain a temporary work visa.
"We really need to approach migration control comprehensively by both strengthening enforcements and creating legalization mechanisms that will control the unauthorized population and improve the economic outputs that we get from immigration," Rosenblum said.

Truth on Mar 28, 2010 at 06:26:09 said:

The Undocumented immigrants paying more taxes than you think!!

Eight million Undocumented immigrants pay Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. Denying public services to people who pay their taxes is an affront to America’s bedrock belief in fairness. But many “pull-up-the-drawbridge” politicians want to do just that when it comes to Undocumented immigrants.

The fact that Undocumented immigrants pay taxes at all will come as news to many Americans. A stunning two thirds of Undocumented immigrants pay Medicare, Social Security and personal income taxes.

Yet, nativists like Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., have popularized the notion that illegal aliens are a colossal drain on the nation’s hospitals, schools and welfare programs — consuming services that they don’t pay for.

In reality, the 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified Undocumented immigrants from nearly all means tested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization.

The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education. Nevertheless, Tancredo and his ilk pushed a bill through the House criminalizing all aid to illegal aliens — even private acts of charity by priests, nurses and social workers.

Potentially, any soup kitchen that offers so much as a free lunch to an illegal could face up to five years in prison and seizure of assets. The Senate bill that recently collapsed would have tempered these draconian measures against private aid.

But no one — Democrat or Republican — seems to oppose the idea of withholding public services. Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that requires everyone who gets Medicaid — the government-funded health care program for the poor — to offer proof of U.S. citizenship so we can avoid “theft of these benefits by illegal aliens,” as Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., puts it. But, immigrants aren’t flocking to the United States to mooch off the government.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS’ scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers.

No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows. What’s more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks.

Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they’ll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security administration stashes in the “earnings suspense file” — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus.

The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year. Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children.

The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume. Yes, many illegal migrants impose a strain on border communities on whose doorstep they first arrive, broke and unemployed.

To solve this problem equitably, these communities ought to receive the surplus taxes that federal government collects from immigrants. But the real reason border communities are strained is the lack of a guest worker program.

Such a program would match willing workers with willing employers in advance so that they wouldn’t be stuck for long periods where they disembark while searching for jobs. The cost of undocumented aliens is an issue that immigrant bashers have created to whip up indignation against people they don’t want here in the first place.

With the Senate having just returned from yet another vacation and promising to revisit the stalled immigration bill, politicians ought to set the record straight: Illegals are not milking the government. If anything, it is the other way around.

The Undocumented Immigrants pay the exact same amount of taxes like you and me when they buy Things, rent a house, fill up gas, drink a beer or wine, buy appliances, play the states lottery and mega millions . Below are the links to just a few sites that will show you exactly how much tax you or the Undocumented Immigrant pays , so you see they are NOT FREELOADERS, THEY PAY TAXES AND TOLLS Exactly the same as you, Now if you take out 10% from your states /city Budget what will your city/state look like financially ?

Stop your folly thinking , you are wise USE YOUR WISDOM to see the reality. They pay more taxes than you think, Including FEDERAL INCOME TAX using a ITN Number that is given to them by the IRS, Social Security Taxes and State taxes that are withheld form their paychecks automatically.

Taxes, paid by You & the Undocumented are the same in each state check your state :

GAS Taxes paid by you & the Undocumented are the same. Go to and check out your states tax;

Cigarette Taxes paid by you & the Undocumented are the same, check this out in
Clothing Sales Taxes, are the same paid by you & the Undocumented Immigrant;

City Taxes, are the same paid by you or the Undocumented, since he pays rent and the LANDLORD pays the city.




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