The current political debate over undocumented immigrants in the United States has largely ignored the plight of undocumented children. Yet children account for 1.8 million, or 15 percent, of the undocumented immigrants now living in this country. These children have, for the most part, grown up in the United States and received much of their primary and secondary educations here. But without a means to legalize their status, they are seldom able to go on to college and cannot work legally in this country. Moreover, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know. This wasted talent imposes economic and emotional costs on undocumented students themselves and on U.S. society as a whole. Denying undocumented students, most of whom are Hispanic, the opportunity to go to college and join the skilled workforce sends the wrong message to Hispanics about the value of a college education-and the value that U.S. society places on their education-at a time when raising the educational attainment of the Hispanic population is increasingly important to the nation's economic health. Read more...
Aging populations and the growing need to provide long-term care to the elderly are among the leading demographic, political, and social challenges facing industrialized countries, including the United States. As of 2004, 34.7 million people in this country had lived to their 65th birthday or beyond, accounting for about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly 90 percent of the elderly population is native-born. By 2030, the number of older people in the United States is likely to double, reaching 72 million—or nearly one out of every five people. The aging of larger numbers of Americans will require significant increases in financial and human resources for healthcare support and other social services. As a result, immigrants will continue to play a significant role in the growth of the U.S. labor force in general and of the direct-care workforce in particular. It is in the best interests of long-term care clients, providers, and workers if governments and private donors foster high-quality training and placement programs rather than leaving the future of the direct-care industry to chance. Read more...
Since 9/11 the watchword in the debate over immigration reform has been “security.” As a result, most policymakers and pundits now approach the subject of immigration largely from a law-enforcement perspective. However, the current border-enforcement strategy, which tends to lump together terrorists and undocumented jobseekers from abroad as groups to be kept out, ignores the causes of undocumented immigration and fuels the expansion of the people-smuggling networks through which a foreign terrorist might enter the country.
For the undocumented in America there is little doubt that the iniquities of the father are visited upon the child. On November 7th, for instance, an astounding 71 percent of voters in Arizona passed a referendum (Proposition 300) which states that only U.S. citizens and legal residents are eligible for in-state college tuition rates, tuition and fee waivers, and financial assistance. These are kids brought by their parents to this country as young children, in many instances infants in their mothers’ arms, and in every instance as children for whom the decision to come here was made without their participation. And yet, they shall pay the price, perhaps with their futures. The same referendum would deny childcare to the U.S.-citizen children of undocumented parents. Yes, the child is a citizen of the United States, but voters in Arizona have concluded that to provide the child with care is to reward the parents for the sin of seeking a better life in America.
I do a daily radio talk show on Radio Campesina in Phoenix and, clearly, since the November elections callers are once more allowing themselves to dream of the day their hard, hidden existence comes to an end. Their dreams are tentative and cautious, but nonetheless hope has been resurrected. Yet in Arizona hope is interspersed with anger. Four anti-immigrant referendums passed overwhelmingly, one of which, Proposition 300, will impose steep tuition increases for undocumented community-college and university students. Most legal observers believe it is constitutional. The only resolution lies now in the hands of Congress. Delay in passing comprehensive immigration reform, or at the very least the DREAM Act (which would provide a path to lawful permanent residence for hundreds of thousands of undocumented high-school graduates), will have immediate and tragic consequences for thousands of Latino kids in Arizona.
Anyone who has been keeping close tabs on the immigration debate in Washington over the last five years can attest to the fact that it has all of the ingredients for the perfect political storm. For starters, U.S. immigration laws are so arcane that only a handful of legislators truly understand them. As a result, many policy makers search for simple, sound-bite driven solutions to problems that are far too complex for quick fixes. The complexity of the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that the immigration issue is not easily defined by party labels. Supporters and opponents of various immigration proposals come from both parties and span the political spectrum. This makes it difficult for party leaders to determine where, when, and how to discuss the issue. Finally, and perhaps most destructively, the topic of immigration evokes intense emotions that are easily stirred by politicians and pundits who play to the fears and insecurities of the electorate rather than deal with the issue honestly and pragmatically. It is the emotional nature of the debate that really has whipped the political winds into a fury over the last five years.
Benjamin Johnson, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, discusses the futility of an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform and the need for a more comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem of undocumented immigration. In this new "Perspective," he argues that immigration cannot be treated simply as a law-enforcement issue. Rather, the United States must begin managing immigration as a national resource.
The most striking thing about today’s immigration debate is how many times America has been here before—and how many times it has made the same mistakes. With respect to David Letterman, here is a list of the biggest errors that U.S. policymakers have made in designing immigration policy. As Congress wrestles to find the right mix of immigration enforcement and immigration reform, it should keep in mind what it has done wrong in the past so that it has a chance to get it right this time.