According to a new study by UCLA’s Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a ten year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The report, which runs several different economic scenarios, finds that enacting a comprehensive immigration reform plan which creates a legalization process for undocumented workers and sets a flexible visa program dependent on U.S. labor demands not only raises the floor for all American workers, but is an economic necessity.
While some characterize our immigration crisis as solely an issue of the 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in this country, our problems extend beyond the number of undocumented people to a broader range of issues. The lack of a comprehensive federal solution has created a slew of lopsided, enforcement-only initiatives that have cost the country billions of dollars while failing to end unauthorized immigration. The first step, however, in devising solutions to our problems is understanding the scope of them. IPC’s latest report addresses several key areas, including how our current immigration system functions, the structural failure of our system, issues stemming from an inadequate federal response and long-delayed immigration reform.
From the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, immigrants have made significant contributions to the United States by serving in our military forces. Today, immigrants voluntarily serve in all branches of the U.S. military and are a vital asset to the Department of Defense. To recognize their unique contribution, immigrants serving honorably in the military who are not yet U.S. citizens are granted significant advantages in the naturalization process. Over the past eight years, Congress has amended military-related enlistment and naturalization rules to allow expanded benefits for immigrants and their families and encourage recruitment of immigrants into the U.S. Armed Forces. Without the contributions of immigrants, the military could not meet its recruiting goals and could not fill its need for foreign-language translators, interpreters, and cultural experts. This latest Special Report reflects on the vital role immigrants have and continue to play in keeping our nation safe.
Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and law‐abiding U.S. employers are in unfair competition with unscrupulous employers who increase profits by hiring cheap and vulnerable labor. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on enforcing these broken laws.
The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation. Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously. Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities. Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track—it is part of the solution.
While some characterize our immigration crisis as solely an issue of the 11 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in this country, our problems extend beyond the number of undocumented people to a broader range of issues.
With Congress once again poised to consider comprehensive immigration reform, a key question confronting lawmakers is to what extent immigration and unemployment are related. Opponents of immigration reform frequently argue that immigrants “take” jobs away from many native-born workers, especially during economic hard times. Yet an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau clearly reveals that this is not the case. In fact, there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state, or county level.
IPC has compiled this one-stop analysis of all the available data on the Asian, Latino and New American vote and shows how and why they voted the way they did in the 2008 election cycle. The report features a variety of early, exit and election-day polling which tells the story of not only a record rate turnout, but also provides insight into the greatest areas of concern for these voters. It also explores early signals from the new administration and congress with respect to immigration reform.
The 2008 elections clearly demonstrated the growing power of the Latino, Asian, and immigrant vote. Not only did these groups turn out in record numbers, they also overwhelmingly rejected anti-immigrant politicians who attempted to use immigration as a wedge issue through hateful campaign rhetoric that is quickly becoming an unhealthy trademark of the Republican Party.
The following report illustrates the growing electoral clout of Latinos, Asians, and New Americans; provides data on how and why they voted; and demonstrates that immigration was an issue that motivated them to the polls. Election results from races in which immigration was a hot issue show that immigrant-bashing did not work as a campaign strategy. The report also provides evidence that a majority of all voters favor comprehensive immigration reform, and details early signs from the incoming administration and Congress that point to a new direction in immigration policy.
Politicians of all stripes would be wise to listen to the voices of ethnic and New American voters and not take them for granted. The analysis provided in the following pages points to the strength and growth of what may be the most important voting bloc in 21st century politics—one that now has the power profoundly to change American elections in the years to come.
At a time when federal, state, and local elections are often decided by small voting margins—with candidates frequently locked in ferocious competition for the ballots of those “voting blocs” that might turn the electoral tide in their favor—one large and growing bloc of voters has been consistently overlooked and politically underestimated: New Americans.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, changes in federal, state, and local law-enforcement priorities and practices have had a profound impact on America’s Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. Some of these policy shifts applied exclusively or primarily to those communities, such as the federal “special registration” program, selective enforcement of immigration laws based on national origin or religion, and expanded federal counter-terrorism efforts that targeted these communities. At the same time, a wide range of ethnic groups have been affected by the use of state and local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law, and the aggressive use of detention and deportation authority for even minor infractions and technicalities.
Across the United States, police departments and Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have responded with varied approaches to the new post-September 11 reality. In some cities, serious tensions between law-enforcement agencies and immigrant communities have arisen. Other cities have taken steps to alleviate these tensions and promote dialogue and cooperation with immigrant communities. This report evaluates the challenges and successes of recent trust-building efforts between immigrant communities and local police departments, and the responses of each to new and proposed policies that threaten those efforts. Using the experiences of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, the report offers insights that apply to much broader populations. It draws attention to best practices and policy solutions such as the creation of more effective channels for public dialogue and communication, public education campaigns, officer training and recruiting programs, and forms of cooperation between police and community organizations.