The dramatic announcement on May 17, 2011 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for another eighteen months to Haitians, including those who entered the country no later than January 12, 2011, is a welcome step forward in the saga of the Haitian earthquake. The decision to extend and redesignate Haiti for TPS has been a long time coming and reflects more than a year of solid effort on the part of advocates and the Haitian community. In many ways, DHS’s handling of the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti is emblematic of the triumphs and tribulations discussed in a recent report issued by the Immigration Policy Center, Second Annual DHS Progress Report: An Analysis of Immigration Policy in the Second Year of the Obama Administration. This critique found that the immigration agencies appear to be tackling issues affecting Haitians independently, failing to coordinate their enforcement and benefits-oriented policies. At times, critical information was disseminated in a limited and ad hoc fashion, generating confusion and unease about DHS policies. Observers have been left questioning how DHS’s priorities are ordered and whether they are integrated at the department level. DHS’s latest actions offer hope that a more coordinated, thoughtful, and humanitarian approach will prevail.
Ongoing reports about Mexico’s bloody conflict with organized crime have raised again the question of whether the United States should do more to prevent such violence from “spilling over” into the country. While officials have documented few cases of actual “spill over,” fears of exploding violence in Mexico and concerns about illegal migration are driving a policy debate that is centered on “securing the border.” To whit, President Barack Obama announced last May the deployment of 1,200 more National Guard troops to enhance border security, and requested an additional $500 million from Congress to further modernize southwestern border security. In August, the U.S. Congress approved a $600 million “Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010” in near record time. The question is whether such policy actions are effective.
Each year, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant students graduate from American high schools and embark on uncertain futures. Their inability to legally work and receive financial aid stalls, detours, and derails their educational and economic trajectories. Most importantly, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a federal bill aimed at providing immigration relief to these young people. The passage of this bill would grant many undocumented youth access to legal residency and federal financial aid—thus removing legal and economic barriers to higher education and increasing their contributions to America and the likelihood of upward mobility.
It’s hardly news that the complaints of our latter-day nativists and immigration restrictionists—from Sam Huntington to Rush Limbaugh, from FAIR to V-DARE—resonate with the nativist arguments of some three centuries of American history. Often, as most of us should know, the immigrants who were demeaned by one generation were the parents and grandparents of the successes of the next generation. Perhaps, not paradoxically, many of them, or their children and grandchildren, later joined those who attacked and disparaged the next arrivals, or would-be arrivals, with the same vehemence that had been leveled against them or their forebears.
Similarly, the sweeps and detentions of immigrants during the early decades of the last century were not terribly different from the heavy-handed federal, state, and local raids of recent years to round up, deport, and occasionally imprison illegal immigrants, and sometimes legal residents and U.S. citizens along with them. But it’s also well to remember that nativism, xenophobia, and racism are hardly uniquely American phenomena. What makes them significant in America is that they run counter to the nation’s founding ideals. At least since the enshrinement of Enlightenment ideas of equality and inclusiveness in the founding documents of the new nation, to be a nativist in this country was to be in conflict with its fundamental tenets.Read more...
During the spring and summer of 2010, America’s broken immigration system erupted into national news headlines as a result of the passage in Arizona of a sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), growing concerns over drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and calls in some quarters for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. While these events might seem new, the issues involved—unauthorized migration, labor disputes, violence, federalism, and constitutional rights—have played out over and over again, particularly along the border. Back to the Border provides analyses by two historians who situate today’s controversies within the context of the broader history of the border region. Understanding that history not only allows us to make sense of the complex issues behind the current rhetoric, but also demonstrates why it is necessary to go beyond the rhetoric and search for lasting solutions.
The following “Perspectives” by historians Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava compare and contrast conditions and incidents along the Arizona border in 1917, 1976, and 2010. The similarities between the three eras are startling.
Arizona politicians who support the state’s sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) are not particularly fond of facts. For instance, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has made all manner of ludicrous statements about unauthorized immigrants typically carrying drugs, killing cops, and leaving headless bodies in the desert. But the most hypocritical of the anti-immigrant statements made by politicians such as Brewer concern kidnapping. Not only do Brewer and company pretend that kidnappers are lurking behind every corner in Arizona, but they usually neglect to mention that unauthorized immigrants are the primary victims of the kidnappings that do occur. In other words, the kidnapping of unauthorized immigrants is being used as a justification to crack down on unauthorized immigrants. This is a nonsensical policy that attacks the victims rather than the perpetrators of the crime.Read more...
The 2000 Census found that immigrants, while accounting for 12 percent of the population, made up nearly half of the all scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees. Nearly 70 percent of the men and women who entered the fields of science and engineering from 1995 to 2006 were immigrants. So it should come as no surprise that immigrants will help drive the green revolution. America's young scientists and engineers, especially the ones drawn to emerging industries like alternative energy, tend to speak with an accent. Yet, the connection between immigration and the development and commercialization of alternative energy technology is rarely discussed.
In IPC's lastest Perspective on Immigration piece, Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith explain how policymakers envision millions of new jobs as the nation pursues renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, and hightlight the voices that warn that much of the clean-technology talent lies overseas, in nations that began pursuing alternative energy sources decades ago.
While visiting Phoenix, AZ in late January with a group of evangelical leaders who were in the border region to learn more about immigration, I met an immigrant family struggling to survive in a difficult economy. The father was employed as a mechanic but recently lost his job and lived in constant fear of being separated from his two young children who are U.S. citizens. This man considered moving his family back to Mexico because life was so hard in Phoenix, but was concerned about his two young children who would go back to a country they never knew. They were generous in feeding a group of American visitors delicious homemade Mexican food, as their children ran around the yard, yelling at each other in a mix of Spanish and English. During the same visit, my colleague met an undocumented immigrant woman named Maria whose son was killed by a drunk driver. She cannot press charges, however, because of her undocumented status.Read more...