Only "Three-Fifths of a Person" - More Immigrant Deaths Uncovered from Under DHS

At a border conference recently Secretary Napolitano stated, "Our job is to enforce the laws that we have now, to do it intelligently, to do it with well-trained professionals who are well-supervised," but in enforcing current immigration law, DHS is violating the highest law of all - the Constitution of the United States. 
Until due process applies to immigration courts, DHS should seriously revisit this policy. 

I allude in the title to Article I, Sec. II of the original U.S. Constitution (before the 14th amendment providing equality under the law came into being) because today, the New York Times uncovered additional deaths of individuals who were held under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention.  I would like to think that this absence of humanity at ICE persists because many of the DHS officials there are remnants of the Bush Administration.  DHS officials report that these deaths were "missed," the way you'd fail to notice a new hair do, or forget to pick up dry-cleaning.  Not only is the enforcement system itself appalling, more infuriating is DHS's completely unacceptable response.  If I were a family member of that person who was left to die and then "forgotten," DHS would have a wrongful death suit on their hands (at least). 

But most of those detained do not know the legal system, and do not have the resources to effectively fight back, and so they often lose their lives in the attempt.  As Rep. Zoe Lofgren has pointed out, it is unacceptable that in the United States of America, that prides itself on its humanitarian, inclusive values, and "justice for all," ICE detention centers are something out of a "gulag" or dark ages. 

Let me explain how "justice" works in the immigration enforcement system:  first, a person - any person mind you, even U.S. citizens - can have their door knocked down one fine day and get taken in by ICE (because unless you happen to carry your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport in your pocket, you have no proof of citizenship).  Once you are taken in and accused of a violation to immigration law, many are kept for days or weeks on end while they await a hearing.  Because infractions to the INA and immigration laws are a civil penalty, not a crime (contrary to popular belief), if you are detained for an immigration violation you have absolutely no right to a lawyer.  If you cannot get one, tough luck.  Similarly, you have no right to a translator.  So if you don't know to ask for one, if you cannot find one or hire a translator in order to understand the charges against you - again - too bad, you will be processed without being able to understand the charge against you.  How is THAT for due process?

So once you are convicted of an immigration offense that you probably didn't understand, whether you violated the law or not, you are sent to one of these detention centers, where approximately 104 individuals have died since 2003.  That might not seem like a large number, but the fact that many died after needing and requesting medical attention repeatedly means that ICE detention procedures as they stand often amount to manslaughter.  And this is no exaggeration - the fact is that according to the law, detainees have no enforceable rights.  ICE has acted in such a way that has resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, but those people have no due process rights under current law. 

And unfortunately, this epidemic of mistreatment and deaths in detention is not isolated to immigration detainment centers.  Immigrants (and U.S. citizens) when held for immigration violations are sometimes placed in ICE detention centers, but because of overcrowding, they are often moved to local, state and federal prisons.

According to the Department of Justice, there are Bureau of Prisons facilities, privately managed "secure" facilities, and community corrections facilities.  Our focus on detention might begin to explain why our prisons are also the most crowded in the world.  The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world, with 750 inmates per 100,000 persons.  Of those incarcerated, "white" inmates make up about 57% percent of the prison population, while "blacks" make up 39% and "Hispanics" are 32%.  However, the prison system has a disproportionate effect on minorities.  Only approximately 118,000 inmates are white, while approximately 81,000 are black and 66,583 are Hispanic.  Although African-Americans constitute 14 percent of regular drug users, they are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56 percent of persons in state prisons for drug crimes.  Many justice experts have found that the increase in the incarceration rate is the product of changes in penal policy and practice, not changes in crime rates. 

But as I said earlier, the important distinction is that people who violate only immigration law are not criminals.  And thus, they should not be in prisons or similar establishments.  I encourage enforcement of laws and of immigration law, but an immigration law that is functional, fair, and that is in line with our Constitution and our principles.  I do hope President Obama takes this opportunity to reverse much of the damage caused by the 1996 revisions to immigration law and to create a new, realistic, fair, and enforceable immigration law. 

Attend/Watch NDN Event - Politics and Policy: What To Expect from the Immigration Debate

Please join NDN on Tuesday, August 4 at 12:00 p.m. for a discussion of the political and policy elements that are likely to be considered in the upcoming comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress.

There have been several hearings and discussions among policy-makers regarding our broken immigration system and some members of Congress have indicated that a bill may be introduced in Congress as early as this fall.  There is a diverse group of coalitions - from business, to labor, to faith and community organizations - working to move this issue to the forefront of the national agenda.

NDN President, Simon Rosenberg, will be joined by Tamar Jacoby, President, ImmigrationWorks and Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum for this compelling and timely discussion.

The forum will be held at NDN from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Please click here to RSVP.  Lunch will be served. Please arrive early to guarantee a seat.  For those not able to attend, we will be providing a live Web cast of the event; just go to at 12:15 p.m. ET to catch a high-quality stream of the forum. 

We look forward to seeing you at this important event.  

For additional background information on NDN's work in this space:

Key Arguments:

A Responsible Immigration Policy

Making the Case for Passage of Immigration Reform This Year, Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year, Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09

Hispanics Rising II, Updated May 2008

Can Democrats Seize the Opportunity The Immigration Debate Offers Them?, Simon Rosenberg, 12/11/07 


NDN Poll in Battleground States on Immigration, 9/2/08

Polling of Swing Districts, America's Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, 2/19/09

Recent Polling on Immigration,  America's Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, 6/2/09


NDN Forum Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects,   Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, 6/16/09. Please click here for video of Simon Rosenberg's presentation; please click here for video of Andres’ presentation.

NDN, America's Voice, NCLR Team Up to Reiterate the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year, 2/19/09

“Immigration Reform and the Next Administration,” NDN Event at the Democratic National Committee Convention in Denver, CO, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Marco Lopez, Frank Sharry, Janet Murguia, 8/25/08 

NDN Bicameral Event for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Rep. Gutierrez, Rep.Lofgren, Sen. Reid, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Menendez, 3/3/07 

The New Fault Line in the Immigration Debate


People often ask, "what does 'comprehensive immigration reform' mean?"  At NDN, we believe it means an overhaul of the very broken immigration system.  This overhaul must not only include improved enforcement of immigration laws, but it must improve the current channels for legal migration, as well as provide a path to citizenship for those who are undocumented.  No part of the plan will work without the others.   

In a must-read editorial today, former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Castaneda, and Tamar Jacoby address what true comprehensive immigration reform must look like.  They accurately point out, "President Obama looks to be gearing up to make good on his campaign promise of comprehensive immigration reform. But unlike in 2006, when Democratic and Republican reformers agreed on what was needed in an overhaul, this year there's a new fault line."

The authors' compelling point: 

...This year, in contrast to 2006, organized labor and many Latino advocates are thinking about slicing up the reform package and moving forward with a piecemeal approach: a bill that legalizes the unauthorized immigrants already in the United States -- call them the "stock" -- but makes no provision for those who will want to work north of the border in years ahead, the future "flow." 

The reasoning...with unemployment edging toward 10 percent, it's hard to argue that the United States needs foreign workers. And organized labor, particularly the AFL-CIO, has seized on the opportunity to graft its larger agenda onto the immigration debate. 

...But this view is shortsighted. Just as it would have been a mistake in a Republican era to pass an expanded temporary worker program but leave out legalization and a path to citizenship, so, too, would it be a mistake now to legalize immigrants who are here without creating a way for future workers to enter the United States legally...Consider U.S. politics. With no pipeline for future workers, McCain will not vote for the bill. Without him, there will be no other Senate Republicans. And without Senate Republicans, there won't be enough Democrats, given the inevitable defections among Blue Dogs, New Democrats and other moderates. 

But ultimately, the problem with "legalization only" is bigger than politics in either country. The economic downturn may have cut the traffic from Mexico -- as much as 25 percent, by some estimates. Yet once the economy begins to recover, demographic and economic reality will kick in again on both sides of the border. 

...The United States can recognize this reality and harness it -- or pretend it doesn't exist and live with the costs of denial. If these workers cannot enter the United States legally, they will find ways to enter illegally, no matter how much border and work-site enforcement is in place, no matter how dangerous the trip or how high the price. Hoping that people will stop coming is as illusory as thinking that those already in the United States will pack up and go home. 

...The bottom line is that the only way to stop illegal outflows from Mexico is to legalize them, adapting the law to reality, not the other way around. 


Weekly Immigration Update: Hate Crimes, Sotomayor, 9500 Liberty Trailer, and the Current State of the GOP


1. This week:  Congratulations to the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. 

2. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings and all the discussion surrounding this “wise Latina” led to a great deal of political theatre on the part of Republican Senators.  We have more on that, and on what’s coming up next. 

Judge Sotomayor was asked about immigration briefly during the hearings as Senator Durbin asked her to comment on how changes in the immigration courts have affected federal courts.  

A great piece by Frank Rich on Sotomayor and the GOP’s evident decline is reminiscent of NDN's writings on the end of the GOP's "Southern Strategy", which you can read more about here.  Rich writes: 

Yet the Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent…

…Southern senators who relate every question to race, ethnicity and gender just assumed that their unreconstructed obsessions are America’s and that the country would find them riveting. Instead the country yawned. The Sotomayor questioners also assumed a Hispanic woman, simply for being a Hispanic woman, could be portrayed as The Other and patronized like a greenhorn unfamiliar with How We Do Things Around Here. The senators seemed to have no idea they were describing themselves when they tried to caricature Sotomayor as an overemotional, biased ideologue…

…When Tom Coburn of Oklahoma merrily joked to Sotomayor that “You’ll have lots of ’splainin’ to do,” it clearly didn’t occur to him that such mindless condescension helps explain why the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation is bolting his party.

Click here for NDN's analysis of the State of the Modern GOP.

3. Local enforcement of Federal Immigration Law 

9500 Liberty Trailer released - Just a few miles from Washington, D.C (and many miles from the Mexican border), Prince William County, VA became ground zero of local law enforcement of immigration laws, and an example of how these policies divided a community.  On the one hand, we saw a xenophobic County Council Chairman and a group of residents attacking anyone who "looked" foreign, and on the other hand we had a County Police Chief and county residents who warned us of the impact such divisive and ineffective policies could have.  To take us through the journey of local politics, racial profiling, and two communities up in arms, filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler have completed a documentary entitled 9500 Liberty.  Check out the trailer of the film here.  As writer John Grisham stated, "9500 Liberty makes it clear that when we, as a nation of immigrants, debate the immigration issue, we are defining our very identity as Americans." 

Enforcement does not equal Rule of Law – As long as the federal government does not fix the very broken federal immigration and nationality act, localities will continue to take matters into their own hands, as demonstrated by this lawyer, who seems to be making a bundle from state and local governments under the auspicies of fighting “illegals.”  Is this the best use of your taxpayer dollars? 

Mr. Kobach is on a dogged campaign to fight illegal immigration at the local level, riding an insurgency by cities and states fed up with what they see as federal failures on immigration. As these local governments have taken on enforcement roles once reserved for the federal government, he is emerging as their leading legal advocate…

And with the Obama administration indicating that it will put off an overhaul of immigration until late this year or beyond, the courtroom campaign for tougher rules is likely to expand as cities and states remain the main battleground for shaping immigration policy. 

…Lawyers who have confronted Mr. Kobach in court say the cases he pursues would cover the country in a patchwork of local immigration rules that are contrary to federal law and costly to defend.

“These laws divide communities, stereotype Latinos, burden businesses and trigger needless and expensive litigation,“ said Lucas Guttentag, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

…Mr. Kobach lost a suit against Kansas to block a statute allowing illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates in public colleges. But he won a similar case in California; it is now before that state’s highest court. And he helped Arizona defend a statute that cancels the business licenses of employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants; it was upheld by the federal courts.

Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, praised Mr. Kobach for empowering local governments by helping his city craft “a masterful ordinance that at the end of the day will have a great effect on this country of eliminating illegal immigrants.”

The recently elected mayor of Valley Park, Grant Young, was more guarded, noting that the town of 6,500 had paid some $270,000 in legal fees.

4. Speaking of Enforcement – Check out this Sunday’s Op-ed by Lee Hockstader in the Washington Post, “Immigration’s Sideshow.” 

5. Anti-immigrant Campaigns Don’t Pay – Famously anti-immigrant Sen. Ensign falls eight more points in the polls.  No silver bullet there. 

Immigration's Sideshow

In case you didn't read it, this week's Washington Post op-ed on Immigration by Lee Hockstader:

Immigration's Sideshow

By Lee Hockstader

Sunday, July 19, 2009 

The Obama administration, moving gingerly toward what the president has said will be a far-reaching overhaul of the nation's broken immigration system, is trying to show at the outset that it is serious about enforcing existing laws. 

A glimpse of the president's strategy came earlier this month, when Department of Homeland Security officials said they would scrap a Bush administration initiative, tied up in the courts, that would have used Social Security information to force employers nationwide to fire millions of unauthorized workers. Instead, DHS said it would require federal contractors to use a separate government database to verify that their employees are authorized to work here. At about the same time, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the government would put new limits on local police who have been deputized by the feds to help deport undocumented immigrants. 

Immigration advocacy groups scowl at such efforts to front-load enforcement before an overarching reform effort is undertaken, one that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants and expand the supply of visas for future immigrant workers. Many Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, want much tougher enforcement measures, while opposing any strategy that smacks of what they consider amnesty for illegal immigrants. They are all gearing up for a new battle as early as this fall. 

The ingredients of the debate are familiar from the failed Bush-era attempts to fix immigration, including the rhetorical excess of all sides. And while the administration's early, tentative moves have been attacked from both sides, in fact they are modest and reasonable steps that may set the stage for the fight ahead. 

Take the employee verification program, known as E-Verify, that the Obama administration would require for federal contractors. Business and civil liberties groups dislike it, insisting that inaccuracies in the electronic data make reliance on such systems unfair. In fact, E-Verify is surprisingly accurate. Of 1.8 million E-Verify checks on workers made by employers between October and December last year, less than 0.5 percent of the system's initial responses were reversed on review, according to an outside audit commissioned by Homeland Security. And in Arizona, where businesses initially objected to the nation's broadest law requiring employers to check new hires through E-Verify, the state Chamber of Commerce, to its surprise, now acknowledges the system is working relatively smoothly and accurately. The federal government is correct that there's nothing inherently unreasonable about requiring companies to confirm that their employees are authorized to work in this country. 

Then there is the federal program to deputize local police to help deport undocumented immigrants. Advocates of immigrant rights are correct that it has led to racial profiling and deepened mistrust between police departments and immigrant communities. But the DHS move last week aims to minimize abuses by forcing police to pursue all criminal charges that prompted an arrest in the first place; that should dissuade cops from slapping handcuffs on people suspected of no more than lacking valid documents. 

It is tempting to think that the nation's economic anemia has sapped the immigration debate of its urgency. Given the pain of rising unemployment, why worry about legalizing undocumented workers, let alone clearing a path for still more immigrants to cross the border on the up and up? Why not just fine-tune enforcement, as the government is doing, and leave the rest for later? 

The answer is that the government's moves, even if they tend to rationalize and improve on Bush administration policies, are essentially a diversion. Ditto the ongoing efforts to reinforce personnel and fencing along the Mexican border. Any serious solution to the nation's immigration mess will have to do more than make employers toe the line or dissuade police from following their worst instincts. The fact remains that enforcement by itself is only part of the problem, and it will not magically make 12 million undocumented immigrants disappear, provide a realistic framework for future immigrants or settle a noxious debate that has raged in virtually every state legislature in the country. As Congress gets set to tackle the immigration mess, the administration will need deft politicking, and a broad strategic lens, to push for a comprehensive solution. 


Weekly Immigration Update (con.): E-verify controversy, Al Franken, and CIR Recommended by Task Force for Economy, Security

E-VERIFY - DHS reported today that starting Sept. 8, the E-Verify system, an online tool that checks a worker's Social Security number and immigration status, will be mandatory for all  contractors and subcontractors and their employees assigned to federal contracts.  Moreover, these contractors and subcontrators now have to run all employees - not just new hires - though the system.

Soon after the announcement, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to the FY10 Homeland Security appropriations bill offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions that would make the soon-to-expire – and increasingly criticized – E-Verify program permanent.  

A lesser-known provision was inserted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to permanently authorize the EB-5 visa program, which enables foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in the United States to obtain a green card (yes, a fact unknown to most Americans is that you CAN buy a legitimate green card…if you can afford it).  

The Senate also voted 54-44 to adopt an amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), that would require the department to build up to 700 miles of fencing along the Southwest border (because those taxpayer dollars have been SO well spent until now) – nice way for those Republicans to “cut back unnecessary spending.”  

AL FRANKEN – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM? – Yes, with Franken in the Senate Dems now have 60 votes.  Yes, Democrats have the votes, but many are still missing the backbone to fix the broken immigration system.  While Franken is exemplary in his support of immigration reform, this is still not the case for many of his colleagues. 

The vote on the e-verify amendment presented the first break between Franken and the Senior Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (Dem leadership and Franken voted against the amendment, Klobuchar voted in favor).  It is these kinds of New Dems who will have to be whipped into shape (figuratively) to recognize the urgency and need for immigration reform.  

HOW TO CONVINCE THEM? – Many of us who study the issue of immigration on a daily basis are fully aware of the economic and social net benefit that reform will bring to all Americans.  Luckily, today's developments coincided with the release of a bipartisan task force report that said overhauling the nation's immigration system and giving millions of undocumented workers a path to legal citizenship is critical to America's national security and economic interests.  Comprehensive legislative changes should be "a first-tier priority for the Obama administration and Congress," said the report, released by a Council on Foreign Relations task force led by former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Thomas (Mack) McLarty, who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.

The authors of the report essentially reiterated what I wrote in my Weekly Update on Monday:  "The United States, a country shaped by generations of immigrants and their descendants, is badly mishandling its immigration policy, with serious consequences for its standing in the world," the report said.

Among other things, McLarty disputed the notion that giving undocumented workers now in the country a path to citizenship would be akin to giving them amnesty. They would have to first pay fines, learn English, assimilate and wait behind current applicants, McLarty said.


NDN Comments on President Obama's Remarks on Immigration at Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

President Obama's remarks today show that his commitment to comprehensive imigration reform has not wavered.  The President's speech is consistent with what he has said all along -- that he supports fixing our broken immigration system.

For additional background information, NDN released new video, presentations and background on immigration reform, including video of yesterday's presentation and more:

NDN Forum Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects,   Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, 6/16/09. Please click here for video of Simon Rosenberg's presentation; please click here for video of my presentation.

Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year (PDF), Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 - Rosenberg lays out the basic foundation for why Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform. This summary is a good introduction for those wanting to learn the fundamentals of this issue.

Recent Polling on Immigration Reform, Benenson Strategy Group, 6/2/09 - Since a previous America's Voice poll in November, Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Stratagey Group finds that support for comprehensive reform has been stable (and high), but increasing numbers of voters see the economic benefit of passing comprehensive immigration reform. The poll is consistent with NDN polling by Bendixen & Associates in its affirmation of overwhelming public support for immigration reform.

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year, Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09 - Rosenberg argues that the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is "yes."

The GOP's Impossible Dream: Republicans Can't Win Without Latino Support in Millennial Era, Mike Hais, 6/10/09 - NDN Fellow Hais writes that on his Web site, Nate Silver recently raised the possibility that the Republican Party could more effectively compete in the 2012 and 2016 elections by turning its back on Hispanics and attempting to maximize the support of white voters in enough 2008 Midwestern and Southern blue states to flip them red. The Republican Party rode similar exclusionary strategies to dominance of U.S. politics during most of the past four decades. But America has entered a new era.

Latinos Vote in 2008: Analysis of U.S. Presidential Exit Polls (PDF), Andres Ramirez, 1/18/09 - I provide an overview of the Hispanic electorate in key states from the 2008 presidential election. The analysis concludes that Hispanics participated in record numbers in this election cycle, increasing their turnout from the 2004 election;  Hispanics significantly shifted towards the Democratic nominee in 2008, reversing trends from the 2000 and 2004 presidential election cycles; Hispanics played a key role in Obama’s victory in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico; Hispanics are poised to make other states competitive in future elections; and if these trends continue, the national map will continue to get harder for Republicans.

National Survey of Hispanic Voters on Immigration Policy
, Bendixen & Associates, 5/18/09 - Bendixen & Associates conducted a poll for America's Voice that comprehensively documents Hispanic voters' view on immigration policy.

NDN Backgrounder on Judge Sotomayor and Our Changing Demography, Melissa Merz, 5/26/09 - In response to President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court, Merz compiles key NDN commentary and analysis on the great demographic changes taking place in America today.

Immigration Discussion Today Here at NDN

For those wanting to learn more about and discuss the compelling issue of how to best fix our broken immigration system, please join us today at noon either here at NDN or online for an event, "Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects."  For more information or to rsvp go here.

Hope to see you later today.....

Weekly Update on Immigration: Heritage Foundation Feels Compelled to Respond to NDN's Case for Passing Immigration Reform

As noted earlier, Heritage felt the need to respond to our Case for Passing of Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year.  We begin our week with a response to their claims:

1.  Illegal Immigration and Labor Supply

NDN argues that, "Legalizing the five percent of the work force that is undocumented would create a higher wage and benefit floor than exists today for all workers …"

Heritage wrote:

Legalization absolutely would create a flood of new immigrants. The 1986 immigration reform granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens and sent the message that we are not serious about enforcing our immigration laws. By 2006 the number of illegal immigrants in this country had risen to 20 million.

Our response:
1) It is telling that instead of citing Census data, GAO reports, Congressional research service, or other neutral and accurate sources of data, Heritage cites itself as the source for the “20 million” number of estimated undocumented immigrants in the country.  The Census and other Government sources have admitted how difficult it is to project a statistic of undocumenteds and are careful to highlight that we have only estimates.  Yet the confidence with which Heritage throws out numbers gives the impression that it has gone over every inch of the U.S. and been able to magically locate each and every single immigrant to provide such an unequivocal assertion.  Even if this assumption of a number were true, that only helps us make the case for the urgency of CIR.  The more people we have in this country that are unknown to our government, the greater the security threat, the greater the number of individuals we need to bring under the protection of U.S. labor laws and tax laws, and the greater amount of revenue we will generate through taxes if we bring these people out of the shadows.

2) Yes, the 1986 law did provide amnesty.  The CIR proposal being discussed today allows no such amnesty.  To become legalized, individuals would have to pay fines, pay taxes, undergo background checks, and a series of other requirements before they could begin the process.

3) Yes, the 1986 law failed to adequately deal with future flow of immigrants, setting unreasonable quotas and limited legal channels, thus making it easier and much, much less expensive for immigrants to come here illegally rather than legally.  That is why we propose broadening legal channels for immigrants, not limiting them.  The absence of accessible, cost-effective legal channels for workers or immigrants in 1986 did not deter people from crossing illegally then, so what makes us think it will suddenly deter immigrants in the future?

2. Illegal Immigration and Federal Deficits

In response to our contention that putting the undocumented population on the road to citizenship will also increase tax revenue in a time of economic crisis, as the newly legal immigrants will pay fees and fines, and become fully integrated into the U.S. tax-paying system, Heritage writes:

This assumes that these individuals will not take anymore social services than they do as illegals. But with an unemployment rate of 8.5% it is difficult to assume that people that are largely high-school dropouts would be able to get jobs with millions of Americans looking for work. In reality, they are more likely to be on unemployment. Furthermore, statistics that are used to show they would bring more money fail to recognize the cost of providing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare to 11 million more people—already broken systems. Overall, amnesty will cost taxpayers at least $2.6 trillion.

First – unless I missed something, it is not looking like those unemployed GM assembly-line workers in Detroit are on their way down here to rural Virginia to pick apples and tomatoes.  There are jobs to do – Americans just don’t want them.  Furthermore, the 2.6 trillion is another number that was just pulled out of the Heritage hat.  In fact, if Heritage were interested in data, they might have read the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate for that same bill they cite (S.1348).  Including the legalization provision, the CBO score for S.1348 stated [emphasis added]:

CBO and JCT estimate that enacting this legislation would:
• Increase federal direct spending by $10 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $23 billion over the 2008-2017 period.
• Increase federal revenues by $15 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $48 billion over the 2008-2017 period. That increase would stem largely from greater receipts of Social Security payroll taxes, which are classified as off-budget.

Thus leading to a net gain of at least $30 billion.  Heritage is concerned about Social Security – in fact, there is something called the “Earnings Suspense File” (ESF) held by SSA.  The ESF holds the funds from all the people who pay into the system because it is deducted from their paycheck, but cannot claim those benefits.  For example, undocumented immigrants who use a false or stolen SSA number pay into SSA with each paycheck, but cannot retrieve that money.  The ESF is currently at over $520 billion.

3. Illegal Immigration and Border Violence

NDN wrote:  Tackling the growing influence of the drug cartels in Mexico is going to be hard, cost a great deal of money, and take a long time. One quick and early step toward calming the region will be to take decisive action on clearing up one piece of the problem — the vast illegal trade in undocumented migrants.  Heritage commented:

We do need to reform our immigration system. But not through an amnesty which is what most of the left calls “comprehensive immigration reform.” We need to 1) secure the border and enforce workplace laws (2) support economic development and governance reforms in Latin America (3) reform USCIS (4) strengthen citizenship and (5) improve legal worker programs.

Thanks Heritage, for supporting our argument.  Everything mentioned here by Heritage WOULD BE INCLUDED in our recommended CIR legislation and supporting administrative policies.

4. U.S.-Latin American relations

NDN believes that just as offering a new policy toward Cuba is part of establishing that it is truly a “new day” in hemispheric relations, ending the shameful treatment of Latin migrants here in the United States will go a long way in signaling that America is taking its relations with its southern neighbors much more seriously than in the past.  Heritage commented:

A fundamentally dishonest immigration policy that claims to legalize only those illegal aliens now here is no way to start a “new day” with Latin America. Building a real US-Latin America Partnership takes patience and time.

Absolutely, we don’t believe that only tackling the plight of those who are already here is a solution (more will inevitably come).  NDN argues that CIR must put in place a realistic system for future flow, to serve as a first step in building a partnership with immigrant-sending nations.  President Barack Obama believes working with immigrant-sending nations is a key component of CIR as well.

5. A Clean Census

On this, NDN believes passing immigration reform this year would go a long way to ensuring we have a clean and effective census count next year.  Heritage:

The census does need to be cleaned up. But cleaning up the census isn’t an excuse for amnesty.

Easy response: NDN AND ADVOCATES FOR CIR DO NOT SUPPORT AMNESTY (see response number 1).  Glad Heritage agrees that the Census must be a clean one. 

Having established that no one is for "amnesty," if Heritage is against the plan to provide those who are currently undocumented with a path to citizenship, even once they have had to undergo a series of background checks and fulfilled a number of requirements, then Heritage is in the unpopular spot supported by approximately 2/10 of voters.  And what would Heritage propose?  Would Heritage propose deporting the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants?  The status quo does not work.  Keeping people in the shadows or blanket deportation won't work for several reasons:

1.  As we mention in "Making the Case," legalization is an untapped source of revenue in a time of economic crisis.
2. It would be impossible to deport the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.  If legalization would cost $23 billion, DHS has reported that deportation would cost taxpayers over $100 billion (DHS's entire budget is around $35 billion), not to mention it would take around 200 years to carry out that many deportations.
3. About 2/3 of families with undocumented immigrants are mixed status, meaning they also include U.S. citizens.  As such, deportation of immediate family of citizens, or citizens themselves not only brings serious human rights issues to surface, it can bring about a series of legal challenges.

Weekly Update on Immigration: The GOP Still Doesn't Get It

Let me begin by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Joe Scarborough as one of the few more sensible, moderate Republican voices out there nowadays.  However, Scarborough and Ed Gillespie's appearance on Meet the Press yesterday demonstrated that the Republican party is either unable or unwilling to step back and take an honest look at the main reason behind its current unpopularity.  Republicans are unwilling to accept that it is precisely their conservatism - their social conservatism - that has caused their demise.  There is no "big tent" any longer when it comes to the GOP.

MR. GREGORY:  But, Joe, it seems like the fundamental question is, what does the party want to be, right?......Ron Brown, seen in his column this week in the National Journal, talks about the party being more monochromatic, more conservative regionally and in terms of the voters.  And he talked to Tom Davis of Virginia who said this, "…Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the Republican--the National Republican Congressional Committee, calls Specter's defection a `devastating blow' that will send a `bad signal' of ideological intolerance to the moderate white-collar suburbanites the party must recapture if it is to threaten the Democrats' congressional and Electoral College majorities.  `The dilemma for Republicans is, are we--what are we going to become, a coalition or are we going to be a private club?'"
MR. JOE SCARBOROUGH:  ….So there's always a back and forth.  But the bigger question is, what does the Republican Party need to be? We keep hearing that it's too conservative.  You know, it depends on how you define conservative.
MR. GREGORY:  Right.
MR. SCARBOROUGH:  Over the past decade we've spent too much money, we've spread our armies across the globe, we've, we've changed rules on Wall Street that allows, you know, that allowed bankers to leverage 40-to-1.  That's not conservative, that's radical.  And we have to understand that and be truly conservative.


MR. GREGORY:  [On the Economy] You say independents are with Republicans on this.  Obama advisers say just the opposite, that he's in the high 60s in terms of approval among independents, much more trust for Obama than for Republicans on the economy.  And, and this from the ABC/Washington Post poll:  Who do you trust to do a better job handling the economy?  It's Obama 61 percent, Republicans in Congress 24 percent.
MR. GREGORY:  "The Last Best Hope:  Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise." And then look at the headline from The New York Times this week: "GOP Debate:  A Broader Party or a Purer One?" Both of you address this question.  Should it be broader?  Should it be purer?
MR. SCARBOROUGH:  That's a false choice, though.  Ronald Reagan was about as conservative as you can be.  Ronald Reagan said, you know, the government that governs the least governs best.  Thirty years ago you had Margaret Thatcher, 30 years ago this month, coming into power.  Again, Thatcher, a hard-core conservative on economic issues, especially.  We need to be conservative, but like Reagan.

But it was not President Reagan's fiscal policies that earned him two elections and popularity - it was his character.  Mr. Scarborough and most Republicans fail to understand the moment in history that we are living.  Republican, Democrat, Independent voters - who might disagree on fiscal policy, tax policy, etc. - all supported President Obama because he changed the tone of the debateThey supported him because of what he stands for: empathy, conciliation, unity, progress.   As stated by Simon - the key to unlocking America's 21st century electorate is to understand and embrace how the concept of race is changing in America.  Fear-mongering, highly secterian, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Hispanic rhetoric and actions - in the name of "conservatism" - is the reason for the GOP's minority status.  Case in point (also played during Meet the Press):


As demonstrated by the recent polling conducted by ABC/Washington Post and the New York Times, American voters reject these "conservative" values.  Passing comprehensive immigration reform is one way for Democrats to consolidate their majority status by demonstrating to voters that they are problem solvers, and it is also a way for Republicans to begin the long road back to mainstream America.

Meet the Press ended with very fitting footage from an interview with Jack Kemp, who passed away this weekend:


(Videotape, February 9, 1997)
Representative JACK KEMP:  It's the single most important issue facing America at the turn of the century and the new millennium:  racial reconciliation, civility.  An America where you can have a dialogue over affirmative action, for instance, without being accused of being a, a racist on either way, or on either side of that issue.  These are important issues that have to be addressed, and I would like to see an America in which black and white actually listen to each other.  And it can't be solved with rhetoric, it has to be solved with sound, positive, progressive, inclusive policies.  And I want to see the Republican Party lead that debate, because we are the party of Lincoln.  And we must be an inclusionary party that says that by the year 2000, as I tried to say at Harlem one day during the campaign, I'd like to see an America where half of all black Americans are voting Democrat, but the other half are voting Republican.


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