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Perspectives on Immigration

Perspectives offers fresh ideas and alternative viewpoints on immigration policy from writers inside and outside the immigration debate.

Living in Car Culture Without a License

By Sarah E. Hendricks, Ph.D

Community leaders in the United States increasingly recognize the contributions of immigrants to the growth of state and local economies, in both traditional and new immigrant destinations, as immigrants help revitalize declining communities and ailing economies. In recognition of these contributions, states and cities across the country are creating welcoming initiatives that seek to integrate and maximize the contributions of immigrant workers and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, without an emphasis on legal status. On a parallel track in terms of initiatives that facilitate the integration of foreign-born arrivals, some states offer driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. Many more states are considering it. This makes sense given that the United States is among the top motor-vehicle dependent countries in the world. States that do not offer driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants will limit the contributions that immigrant communities as a whole can potentially make, are likely to face negative economic and public safety consequences, and tend to fail in attempts to use such restrictive state-level policies to reduce the presence of unauthorized immigrants.  Read more...

Published On: Thu, Apr 24, 2014 | Download File

The Faulty Legal Arguments Behind Immigration Detainers

By Christopher Lasch, Esq.

In late June 2012, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 and left a fourth vulnerable to future legal challenge. As has been well documented, the Court’s rejection of SB 1070 tipped the balance in favor of federal enforcement and away from state and local enforcement of the immigration laws. But this essay explores a less obvious consequence of the Court’s decision: its implications for the viability of a critical federal enforcement mechanism: the immigration “detainer.”

An immigration detainer is a piece of paper that federal immigration officials send to state and local jails requesting that they continue holding an individual for up to 48 business hours after he or she would otherwise be released, so that agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can investigate the person’s status and assume custody if necessary. Also known as immigration “holds,” detainers are the key enforcement mechanism behind federal enforcement initiatives like the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities.

There has been considerable confusion as to whether a detainer is a mere request that ICE be notified of a suspected immigration violator’s impending release, or a command by ICE that state or local officials hold a prisoner for ICE beyond the time the prisoner would otherwise be released. Independent of that question, however, the Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States identifies a more fundamental problem: that detainers may violate the Constitution and federal statutes even when honored on a voluntary basis.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Dec 18, 2013 | Download File

Crafting a Successful Legalization Program: Lessons From the Past

By Lisa S. RoneyRoney Thumb

One of the themes that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee mark up of the 2013 Senate immigration bill was the necessity of avoiding the mistakes of the past. In the context of legalization for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants now in the United States, the argument is often made that the 1986 law wasn’t tough enough, and any new legalization program should have more requirements and restrictions. However, in my 39-year career with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and after years of studying implementation of the 1986 law, I’ve reached a different conclusion. A successful legalization program depends on simplicity and common sense. There are many lessons to be learned from the 1986 law about how to design a better legalization program. Fortunately, many of those lessons have been absorbed by the drafters of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Nonetheless, as the debate continues on this bill, it is important to reiterate the importance of good design and thoughtful implementation. That is what will ensure success and provide the country with a working immigration system. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Jun 19, 2013 | Download File

Allies, Not Enemies: How Latino Immigration Boosts African American Employment and Wages

Strauss Thumb

By Jack Strauss

A comprehensive analysis of Census data from hundreds of U.S. metropolitan areas indicate that immigration from Latin America improves wages and job opportunities for African Americans. This analysis serves to dispel the common myth that African Americans are negatively impacted by the immigration of less-skilled workers from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. It is often assumed that Latino immigrants and African Americans are locked in ruinous competition for the same jobs, resulting in lower wages and higher unemployment rates for African Americans. In fact, Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market—they are not simply substitutes for one another. In addition, cities which have suffered the effects of declining population are rejuvenated by an inflow of Latino immigrants who increase the labor force, tax base, consumer base, etc. To the extent that there really is a “black-brown” divide, it is rooted in politics and perception—not economics.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Jun 12, 2013 | Download File

Passport Pages Tell Our Tale

The Personal Story of a Binational Same-Sex Couple’s Struggle to be Together Under Current Immigration Laws

Passport Pages

By Judy Rickard

Today in the United States, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Americans who fall in love with and marry foreign nationals are being asked to choose between country and spouse, country and career, and country and family. I know this because I have spent the last several years in a battle with my own government to recognize my wife for immigration purposes. Trying to keep my marriage to a British national together has cost me my career and a full pension, time away from my American family and friends, as well as a great deal of stress over finances and my future.

Gay Americans who are legally married in the U.S. have a marriage that is not recognized by the federal government. Therefore, the 28,500 same-sex binational couples in America, in which one spouse is an American citizen, are in a situation where they cannot sponsor their husbands and wives for immigration purposes. This also means they do not receive the 1,138 federal rights, benefits, protections, and obligations that automatically come with marriage and serve to protect and support families.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 29, 2013 | Download File

AIC Executive Director Ben Johnson's Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and provide testimony on behalf of the American Immigration Council. The American Immigration Council is a non-profit educational foundation which for 25 years has been dedicated to increasing public understanding of immigration law and policy and the role of immigration in American society.

Today’s hearing on “Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration” provides an opportunity to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the role that immigration can and should play in building a 21st century America that prospers and grows. Prosperity is a shared goal that unites us all, and offers an important lens through which to evaluate the vital role immigration plays in our economy today, as well as the necessity of retooling our outdated and hopelessly broken immigration system. As we do so, however, it is critical for us to recognize that skilled immigration encompasses a wide range of individuals with very different educational and occupational backgrounds. Moreover, the talent we seek very often comes to these shores not only through employment-based channels of immigration, but through family reunification, the admission of refugees and asylees, and can even be found within the current population of unauthorized workers.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 05, 2013 | Download File

Overhauling Immigration Law: A Brief History and Basic Principles of Reform

By Mary Giovagnoli

For more than a decade, efforts to systematically overhaul the United States immigration system have been overshadowed by other events—from foreign wars and national security concerns to the financial crisis that threatened to bring down the world economy. In addition to this ever-changing list of national crises, years of partisan political fighting and the resurgence of a volatile restrictionist movement that thrives on angry rhetoric have made opportunities for advancing genuine reform few and far between. As a result, many in both parties opted for a political strategy that emphasized immigration enforcement over immigration reform, holding to the argument that efficiently deporting non-citizens would reduce illegal immigration and pave the way for more sensible outcomes in the future. Instead, the unprecedented spending on immigration enforcement, the extraordinary rise in deportations, the passage of state anti-immigrant laws, and the almost daily anecdotes of separated families and discrimination finally took their toll. Voters signaled in the 2012 federal elections that they were tired of enforcement-only immigration policies and the senseless pain they caused. Now more than ever, the opportunity to craft immigration laws that reflect American values and needs is a distinct possibility. The White House, Members of Congress, and countless organizations have issued new ideas and principles for making the system work. These proposals vary and will likely change even more as proposals translate into legislation, but there are a number of common themes that exist. This paper lays out an overview of the underlying legal system, the most basic principles of reform, the reasons behind them, and how they are likely to be reflected in coming legislation.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 | Download File

Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now

While there are many facets to an intelligent immigration reform package, one thing is clear: legalization for undocumented immigrants helps all of us.  Most economists recognize that legalization has worked in the past.  After a significant percentage of the undocumented population legalized under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), information on IRCA applicants was used to assess the legislation’s impact.  My own research has shown that IRCA provided immediate direct benefits by successfully turning formerly clandestine workers into higher-paid employees. Other researchers have shown that IRCA provided unexpected indirect benefits to the communities where legalized immigrants resided.  After legalization, fewer of these immigrants sent money back to their home countries, and those who sent back money sent back less.  More of their earnings were spent in their communities in the United States.  Research also showed that the legalized population became participating community members—nearly two out of five people who legalized under IRCA were U.S. citizens by 2001.

What we learned from IRCA gives us a bird’s eye view into what we can expect to happen with a new legalization program. By examining three areas of concern: work, family, and community, we can see what economic and social benefits would be derived from a legalization program in 2013.

By Sherrie A. Kossoudji, Ph.D.

Published On: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 | Download File

AIC's Michele Waslin Testifies before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

On August 17, 2012, Michele Waslin of the American Immigration Council testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The hearing explored the "Civil Rights Effects of State Immigration Laws." The testimony was given in Birmingham, Alabama on August 17, 2012.

Published On: Fri, Aug 17, 2012 | Download File

How to Fix a Broken Border: A Three Part Series

In this three part series, former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard assesses current threats to our border security and calls for a coordinated, multi-dimensional, bi-national approach to cracking down on cartels. Goddard's suggestions for federal action include targeting cartel money, closing money-laundering loopholes, pursuing cartel leaders, and focusing border security on ports of entry.

Download the Executive SummaryRead more...

Published On: Thu, May 17, 2012