Prospects for Immigration Reform Legislation

New America Media, Commentary, Doris Meissner Posted: Feb 07, 2010

Given the jockeying that goes on to get mentioned in a State of the Union speech, it is not surprising that insiders pushing the immigration reform agenda celebrated success. Their issue made it into the speech, reaffirming that the president’s commitment remains alive and well.

Outsiders, however, were disappointed and displeased because the call “to continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system” fell far short of the rallying cry they wanted to hear. The blogosphere kicked into high gear, mostly pronouncing immigration legislation dead for 2010.

That a single sentence at a precarious political moment could be seen so differently is a fitting metaphor for assessing the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. This latest round has again delivered a glass-half-full, half-empty outlook.

On the half-full side, there is the new importance of bipartisanship as the platform for progress in the wake of the Republican Senate election victory in Massachusetts. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) continue work on a bill that they hope to introduce as a bipartisan measure for their colleagues to take up.

Immigration legislation would always have required bipartisanship because at least a handful of Republican votes were needed to pass a bill in the Senate, even with Democrats holding a 60-vote edge. That is because several Democrats oppose key provisions supported by the majority in their party. What has changed is that immigration now becomes a more likely candidate for action because it can win adherents from both sides. In the search for problem-solving elected officials can take home to voters for the fall elections, immigration represents a new target of opportunity.

For those who see the glass as half-empty, jobs and the economy are the central issues. Recession dominated the nation’s policy agenda in 2009. President Obama has pushed economic recovery and employment for the middle class to the forefront of his agenda, as support for a health care bill has faltered.

A key question going forward is whether recovery will bring with it a return to the labor market demand of the boom years, or whether a more fundamental economic realignment will emerge that generates less immigration demand, particularly for low-skilled workers, who have been largely unauthorized.

The recession has interrupted historically high immigration levels – legal and illegal – that had been underway for almost two decades and has sidelined the public controversy generated by large-scale immigration for the moment.

However, continued high unemployment and slow job growth are likely to make some of the main goals of immigration reform – legalizing unauthorized immigrants and providing for future flows of needed workers – even more controversial.

In principle, steady-state legal immigration and reduced levels of illegal immigration present an opportune time to develop and implement meaningful reform suited to the new century and economic recovery. In practice, legislation that embraces immigration has generally been enacted only in times of growth and a sense of domestic well-being.

Thus, continued high unemployment and deep political divisions on immigration within each party, as well as between them, mean that immigration reform faces strong headwinds. The chances for action are likely, therefore, to dwindle as congressional Democrats become increasingly unnerved about the party's eroding popular support at a time of deep economic distress.

While politicians, pollsters, and strategists debate next steps on immigration, another pivotal moment in the life of the nation will take place. In April, we will take the decennial census and update the nation’s population estimates. Among many other things, the census could lead to a redistribution of congressional seats among the states.

As the most dynamic aspect of U.S. population growth and change, immigration will be one of the headline stories of the census. It is all but certain to be a story of continued and increasing diversity and historically high immigration levels that will shine the light from another angle on the deficiencies of the laws and policies that govern a vital element of the nation’s narrative looking ahead.

Yes, it will take serious bipartisan effort to fashion an immigration reform and system that works for all who have a seat at the table. But the longer the glass is perceived as half-empty, the longer U.S. economic growth and competitiveness, national security, and the well-being of communities and individuals - native-born and immigrant alike – will be handicapped, while at the same time they are increasingly important demographically and politically.

Doris Meissner is a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and the former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Related Articles:

Tea Party Dabbles in Immigration Politics

Hispanic Vote Could Punish Democrats on Immigration Reform: Rep. Luis Gutierrez




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rasi selah on Feb 24, 2010 at 15:05:10 said:

immigrams made america for what it is, besides,the world is an open country where men must travel freely. why not leave the indian in charge of immigration, we are all children of immigrans. give the poor people a chance to better thire lives,so god may bless you haters; a time will come when there won't be any republican or democratic, but human being. both parties of america have no love for humanitarian, especially the poor. BLESS!


Ali on Feb 14, 2010 at 20:36:06 said:

Telo Velaj wrote:"They hate middle class. For this reason Demokratik party need to move forward in favor of middle class. That's it !The Republicans are enemy of middle class. I hate them."
-------------
Too bad you didn't read the part of American history about the Democratic party's opposition to illegal immigration because it harms American workers. I'm a lifelong Democrat and my immigrant grandparents worked in factories under conditions similar to those illegal aliens work under today: low wages, dangerous conditons, and sexual harassment. They and others like them unionized and fought for laws to protect workers and improve working conditions, only to see unions busted and illegal alien scabs used to help do it. It's the elite of the Democratic party that want amnesty because they want votes. The party rank and file such as my blue collar brother whose wife is Mexican-American oppose amnesty.


Ali on Feb 14, 2010 at 20:31:22 said:

Thanks for the report, Doris.
We need a steady flow of immigrants in this country. We need people who are willing to work hard and start with low wages. Having such a resource will exert a constantly deflationary force on our economy, which will otherwise be threatened by inflation in the deficit-spending days ahead.
And having such people in our manufacturing sector is the only way we can get prices down so our goods can compete with developing nations.
Please continue your work in protecting the interests of these hard-working people.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full
------------
Gee, Casey--Why just claim we need illegal aliens to keep down MANUFACTURING wages? Why don't we need them to keep down managerial wages? Technical wages? Oh, wait. That's what we're doing with "guest worker" programs such as H1-B. Fact is, what you want to do is turn the U.S. into a Third World country, with Third World wages, and Third World buying power. People who don't earn don't have the money to buy goods and services, especially high-value goods and services, or haven't you noticed the links among our recession, low consumer confidence, and the high rate of unemployment (high unemployment is also symptomatic of Third World countries which have a lot of workers available thereby depressing wages and creating high unemployment).


Ali on Feb 14, 2010 at 20:24:29 said:

Shah said:

\"Dont forget that 50% of students doing masters or PhD in US universities are immigrants. And if US does not come out with a plan to absorb them via better immigraton system, other nations are ready to grab that talent.\"
------------
The only reason we have so many foreign students is because the US government decided, as a matter of policy, to use them to keep academic and research salaries down. A post-doc in the sciences earns less than a citizen with a bachelor\'s degree in science or engineering. There\'s no incentive for an American to give up years of salary from working to go to grad school, only to get a degree that won\'t make up for the lost wages. Foreign students, on the other hand, will put up with low wages and literally abuse in order to get a graduate degree and a chance at a green card. If we didn\'t have foreign students, then academic and research salaries would rise, attracting Americans into these fields.


Norski on Feb 10, 2010 at 14:18:31 said:

To Melissa s - Your claim that Illegal Immigrants are holding jobs Americans just won't do and Wall Street deserves all the blame does not hold up to reality. Even when unemployment was at the lowest point of this decade in 2007 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the following:

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations Unemployment Rate = 8.5%
Construction and extraction occupations Unemployment Rate = 7.6%
Production occupations Unemployment Rate = 5.7%
Transportation, material moving occupations Unemployment Rate = 6.0%
Service occupations Unemployment Rate = 5.9%

Meanwhile Management, professional, and related occupations Unemployment Rate = 2.1%

During 2007 we only reached full employment in the Management, professional, and related occupations. Occupations that attracted Illegal Immigrant workers suffered unemployment rates that never left recession levels for the entire decade thanks to Illegal Immigration. In 2007 we had seven million Illegal Immigrants working while twelve million Americans were looking for work and not finding it IN THOSE SAME PROFESSIONS. And people earning below poverty line wages rose to above 12%. And youth unemployment was over 20%. And this was before the Mortgage Backed Securities started to implode so it is incorrect to blame anyone on Wall Street for this. With devastating statistics like this the real wonder is not that people are calling for Illegal Immigrants to go home. It is that there are actually Americans who can turn a blind eye to this suffering in favor of those who break the law.


melissa s on Feb 08, 2010 at 18:58:14 said:

I'm so tired of people hatred against illegal immigrants.First of all it's the people on wall street that caused this economy meltdown and the only job that illegals are holding down are landscaper,meatpacker etc. So how can they be stealing your jobs that we both know you dont want.If we wanna rebuild this country,economy and restore our power we have to unite. Illegal immigrants dont want to steal from you,they just want a chance to give back.Open your hearts and lets make this country even more stronger than before.
Remember, in God We Trust and in his name we should love and accept each other. Please dont let AMERICA lose what it stands for LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all.

YES TO IMMIGRATION REFORM.


Julie B on Feb 08, 2010 at 15:45:54 said:

With 23 million Americans that can not find full time employment we simply can not afford an amnesty.

Illegals are brought here when there is a labor shortage. There is no labor shortage in the US.
No to Amnesty!


l00ker on Feb 08, 2010 at 11:34:02 said:

Fairness will be restored after all of these border criminal grifters and the ones that they farted out here are rounded up and deported. And try going back to your home countries and demanding some fairness.


l00ker on Feb 08, 2010 at 11:28:05 said:

Fairness will be restored after all of these illegal border criminals and those that they farted out are deported, along with the sealing of our southern border. There's some fairness for you, better still, go back to your home countries and demand some fairness.


Norski on Feb 08, 2010 at 11:21:28 said:

To "Truth" - I see we have another Ivory Tower shake and bake Immigration Study shilling for the legalization of Illegal Immigrants. It never ceases to amaze me what passes for economic analysis these days.

You state "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" but you neglect to realize what this really means. In a similar study by George Borjas it was found that "In dragging down wages, immigration currently shifts about $160 billion per year from workers to employers and users of immigrants' services." The Rich get richer and the Poor get poorer. Gordon H. Hanson may think that $160 billion is a small amount of money compared to the overall economy, but for the estimated 20 million Americans who earn below poverty wages that amounts to an average $8,000 per year loss in wages. It may be a pittance to the economy as a whole but it is a plague to those most affected.

Then there is the statement "the native-born, low-skilled work force has shrunk, while employers continue to require low-skilled workers." But these analyses never seem to include Legal Immigrants of which an estimated 50% currently wind up in the low skilled labor market. One needs go no further than statistics published by our own Government to see the true effects of Illegal Immigration and why it has been such a problem. Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Report of Feb. 5, 2010:

Construction and extraction occupations = 24.6% Unemployment
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations = 25.9% Unemployment
Production occupations = 15.4% Unemployment
Transportation, material moving occupations = 15.0% Unemployment
Service occupations = 11.4% Unemployment

Total US Unemployed Citizens and Legal Residents = 14,873,000
This figure excludes 5,965,000 Persons who want a job but are not included for various reasons.
Total Number of Americans Looking for Work = 20,838,000

But before seasonal adjustment Americans looking for work = 22,256,000

Pew Study estimate of working Illegal Immigrants = 7,500,000
Most work in agriculture, office and house cleaning, construction, and food preparation. Even in Agriculture with the highest percent of working Illegal Immigrants the percent of unemployed Americans is higher.

Meanwhile Management, professional, and related occupations = 5.0% Unemployment

And studies like this NEVER include the cost of Unemployment and Welfare payments made to unemployed Americans who are relegated to unemployment while Illegal Immigrants are working. Using current Unemployment and Welfare rates the cost of having 7.5 million unemployed Americans thanks to 7.5 million working Illegal Immigrants is about $100 billion PER YEAR. Again, that is not a huge number compared to the overall economy. But when you average it out across working Americans it comes to an average cost of $700 per year per working American. Or to put it differently, it is equal to almost half the average deficit incurred during the first seven years of the recently ended Bush Presidency.

Economic analyses and their success at modeling the real world are characterized by what the analyst chooses to ignore. Unfortunately, the analyses you cite seem to ignore too much that hurts.


Restore Fairness on Feb 08, 2010 at 11:03:36 said:

This is a really good analysis of what to expect in terms of immigration reform. The truth is we need just and humane immigration reform to benefit the country in terms of national security and also economic prosperity - as reports have shown the pros and cons of reform v/s continued detentions and deportations.
www.restorefairness.org


lsjogren on Feb 08, 2010 at 09:52:30 said:

Carey Rowland said:

"We need a steady flow of immigrants in this country. We need people who are willing to work hard and start with low wages."


So Americans are lazy and greedy?


Carey, your xenophilia is showing.


lsjogren on Feb 08, 2010 at 09:50:38 said:

Shah said:

"Dont forget that 50% of students doing masters or PhD in US universities are immigrants. And if US does not come out with a plan to absorb them via better immigraton system, other nations are ready to grab that talent."


And what exactly is so bad about people from other countries using their talents to help their own countries achieve prosperity?

Does that not benefit everyone, including people of the United States?

Or are you a "glasss half empty" kind of guy?


lsjogren on Feb 08, 2010 at 09:47:14 said:

Carey Rowland:

So you wrote a book called "Glass Half-Full"

How about a sequel titled: "Don't Worry Be Happy"


lsjogren on Feb 08, 2010 at 09:45:06 said:

Teol Velaj: I agree with you that immigration laws need to be stricter, but what makes you believe President Obama is an ally of those who support that?


Larry Brown on Feb 08, 2010 at 08:28:17 said:

The shocking election victory of GOP candidate Scott Brown for the open Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat, ended the immediate threat of Obamacare. Just as important it ended any chance of the dangerous and preposterous scheme of President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders to give U.S. citizenship to 12-20 million foreigners who have violated our labor, tax, and immigration laws.


aku on Feb 08, 2010 at 02:25:38 said:

i'll like to pay taxes. give me the work authorization and i'll


l00ker on Feb 07, 2010 at 18:57:37 said:

PT Barnum on Feb 07, 2010 at 17:03:02 said:...American White Males are "scripted" by the MSM, Schools, The Democrats, and the Neo-cons to be afraid "very, very afraid"...



That was brilliant Barnum, brilliant.


Utilitarian on Feb 07, 2010 at 18:41:11 said:

Earned Citizenship & Ideal Immigration Reform

1. If you are in the United States and out of status but enter the country with inspection, must show I-94 (Arrival – Departure Record) or other entry documents.

A) 20 years plus stay in the US : you will get a green card immediately.
(must show past Federal Tax for 18 years)
B) 15 years plus stay in the US : you will get a green card after 1 year.
(must show past Federal Tax for 13 years)
C) 10 years plus stay in the US : you will get a green card after 5 years.
(must show past Federal Tax for 8 years)
D) 5 years plus stay in the US : you will get a green card after 10 years.
(must show past Federal Tax for 3 years)
E) less than 5 years stay in the US : you will get a green card after 12 years.

2. If you are in the United States and out of status but enter the country without inspection, cannot show I-94 (Arrival – Departure Record) or other entry documents.

a) You will be given a special visa to go back to your country and a guaranteed return (within 90 days), and inspection with USCIS.
b) After 12 years you will get a green card.

3. If you are in the United States and out of status but accompanied by your parents before the age of 16.

a) You will be given a special visa to go back to your country and a guaranteed return (within 90 days), and inspection with USCIS.
b) You must have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least 5 years
c) You must either complete 2 years of collage or serve in the military for a minimum of 2 years.
d) You will get a green card after your 26th birthday.

4. You must pay $3000 fee to USCIS regardless of your status to process your application.
5. All applicants must prove their common English language skills within one year after you file your application.
6. Pass a background check with FBI.
7. Barred from any Federal Welfare Program until you get your Green Card.
8. If you are married and have children (under 21) they will be united to you immediately.
9. You must prove each year as a TAX PAYER. Must pay $2000 or more per year FEDERAL TAX. If you pay $5,000 or more FEDERAL TAX, you can expedite your application process by one year. $10,000 or more by two years and $15,000 or more by three years.
10. All applicants will be issued a 5 years Work Authorization Card immediately.
11. You can travel outside the country but cannot stay more than 90 days.
12. After you get your green card, 2 years later you will become a US Citizen.


Martin Ulrich on Feb 07, 2010 at 17:16:34 said:

It sad that most people dont know realy what going on.Im US citizen since the foundaition of this great country.I wanted just to say that never thing that all illegal are ignorant there is doctor,engineer and more amoung them.Pulling them out of the shadow will help our country and our future more than it will hurt.I ask people to look around them and think wisely before rofering some bad word amoung those humain being.GOD bless America.


PT Barnum on Feb 07, 2010 at 17:03:02 said:

American White Males are "scripted" by the MSM, Schools, The Democrats, and the Neo-cons to be afraid "very, very afraid" to make sure they use only economic reasons for why immigration laws should be changed. Of course, if all those millions of illegal immigrants were whites from Europe they would be creating jobs instead of being on welfare and sponging off America's historically superior culture and government.

We need to go back to National Origins Immigration policies and definitely need to repeal the 1965 Immigration Act which has destroyed the fabric of our society. We are now becoming a Balkanized, third-world country. The Democrats and Obama love the idea of the U.S. getting in so far in debt to the Chinese that we have to either default or ask to delay payment. The liberals and minorities would love nothing more than to take America down a peg buying making us come begging hat in hand to the Chinese.

The Neo-cons and Liberals gave away our manufacturing base to the Chinese and Asia. Reagan destroyed our manufacturing base and signed off on the 1987 Amnesty of Mexicans with his neo-con pals. Our governemnt is filled top to bottom with minorities to "increase diversity". Asians and Hindus have a median income that is 50% higher than the median income of white families in the U.S. yet our government mandates preferential hiring and loan terms to them to inrease diversity. What a disgrace. And how do they thank us???? They laugh and hate America even more and talk about how much better their Asian culture is than ours.

We need to kick the neo-cons out of the Republican Party and kick the neo-cons out of the Tea Party (which they are now trying to co-opt). But, for us to beat the Democrats we have to unite as Conservative Pro-American Republicans in the Fall.

First and foremost we have to stop all attempts at Amnesty of Mexicans. Secondly, we must deport all illegal immigrants. And third (and most importantly) we must repeal the 1965 Immigration Act. To do anything else is to simply rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.


Shah on Feb 07, 2010 at 13:44:45 said:

Dont forget that 50% of students doing masters or PhD in US universities are immigrants. And if US does not come out with a plan to absorb them via better immigraton system, other nations are ready to grab that talent. Dont mix this issue with illegal immigration. And looking at the bleak picture of waiting more than 10 yrs for permanent residency, many students are deciding not to even come to US. And encouraging US student to take STEM courses is the long term solution, you can't change reality in near or medium term.


DaveT on Feb 07, 2010 at 11:18:41 said:

In addition to decreasing the number of illegal aliens by enforcing our existing laws, it is well past time to curtail legal immigration.

We currently admit about 125,000 legal foreign workers monthly -- even when unemployment for Americans is the highest in decades.

Unemployed working class Americans need the jobs stolen by illegals AND the jobs that are given away to the 125,000 legal immigrants monthly.

We have to therefore reduce legal immigration to the more historic levels that preceeded Ted Kennedy's disastrous 1965 Immigration Act.


DaveT on Feb 07, 2010 at 11:11:59 said:

The real question is are illegal aliens a net drain on society -- and obvious answer is yes.

For example, just look at how illegal immigration has devasted California schools, emergency rooms, and prisons.

Nationally, the Heritage Foundation estimates that "comprehensive immigration reform" amnesty would impose a net burden of at least $2.6 TRILLION on American taxpayers.

Legalizing impoverished illegals will not suddenly make them wealthier or less dependent on taxpayer-funded assistance.

We simply cannot afford to import Mexico's poor anymore.

NO TO ANY FORM OF AMNESTY.


l00ker on Feb 07, 2010 at 11:00:11 said:

What is it with all of these jews who facilitate and advocate for illegal immigration; these traitors are the chief benefactors and mouthpieces for these border criminals and grifters.


Carey Rowland on Feb 07, 2010 at 10:14:43 said:

Thanks for the report, Doris.
We need a steady flow of immigrants in this country. We need people who are willing to work hard and start with low wages. Having such a resource will exert a constantly deflationary force on our economy, which will otherwise be threatened by inflation in the deficit-spending days ahead.
And having such people in our manufacturing sector is the only way we can get prices down so our goods can compete with developing nations.
Please continue your work in protecting the interests of these hard-working people.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full


Truth on Feb 07, 2010 at 06:54:30 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.


Telo Velaj on Feb 07, 2010 at 05:25:42 said:

The immigration here in USA is one biggest problem. I don't understand what happen here with this problem. President Barak Obama needs to move. Are not enough the words. Important is the action. If republican are against the health care reform and immigration reform doesn't matter. They are against everything that is in favor of American people. They represent wealth people and not middle class. They hate middle class. For this reason Demokratik party need to move forward in favor of middle class. That's it !The Republicans are enemy of middle class. I hate them.


Joel Wischkaemper on Feb 07, 2010 at 01:44:29 said:

The Migration Policy Institute is a group with a very significant agenda. They have suggested \'historically high immigration rates for the last two decades has been put on hold\'. In fact, the literacy of the institute is in high question: the illegal aliens are invading, and they institute does not realize this is exactly what massive numbers of American People have been fighting for a very long time. Take a look at the supporters.. and make note that the Ford Foundation support open borders heart, mind, body and soul. That institute is a Trojan Horse supporting big business... not supporting the American People.

migrationpolicy.org/about/funders.php

No to amnesty.. no to the illegal aliens.. and I most certainly don\'t think such people as Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) represent anything beyond the money they recieve from the hotel business that desperately want those cheap workers in their rooms changing sheets.

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