ImmIgratIon reform: two ProPosals
By rodolfo o. de la garza
A New Approach to Immigration Reform
Neither Walls Nor opeN Borders
The government’s failure to realistically confront immigration has created a political and policy crisis. Getting beyond this quagmire requires changing how we think about immigration. We must begin by viewing it as an ongoing socioeconomic process, rather than as a national security issue to be attacked and controlled. This will help us acknowledge that extreme measures—
such as “closing the border” or allowing the status quo to continue—offer (at best) pyrrhic solutions, and that it is possible to influence immigration and mediate its effects through new policies that address all major facets of the problem. It is also essential to recognize that immigration significantly affects virtually all key aspects of society— the nation’s demography, economy, culture, and politics—in ways that generate potentially unbridgeable political cleavages. Add to this the multi-dimensional impact of the nation’s current economic crisis, and it is easy to understand why the politics of immigration reform have become so complicated that policymakers have essentially opted for inaction—either by doing nothing or by proposing solutions that will never be formalized (despite the obvious failure of extant policy). Making reform more difficult is that successfully managing immigration will require more than overcoming domestic conflicts. Immigration is an “intermestic” issue—that is, it simultaneously involves politics in the U.S. and the immigrant-sending states. Managing it, therefore, requires international collaboration, without which it will be impossible to stem the flow of immigrants—a key component of any immigration management policy and its attendant problems.
New Labor Forum 20(1): 65-71, Winter 2011 Copyright © Joseph S. Murphy Institute, CUNY ISSN: 1095-7960/11 print, DOI: 10.4179/NLF.201.0000010
Large numbers of the undocumented stay put. efforts to implement IRCA have focused much more on removing unauthorized workers. resulting in more than $3 million in fines from employers who have hired unauthorized workers. The former will provide the basis for meeting employer demands for low. Their concerns are well founded. in the past
The Obama administration’s silent raids have resulted in more than $3 million in fines from employers who have hired unauthorized workers.900 places of employment. due to a number of identity-validation inadequacies. legal residents. This has led to raids in sectors where workers’ safety is particularly at risk..2 According to the New York Times. the goal of these silent raids seems to be a lesson-teaching one—as the previously-employed and newly-arriving undocumented residents learn they will not be able to find jobs on U. Rather than raising the arrest and deportation numbers. and authorized guest workers. No reasonable interest group should reject these objectives. meat cutting). This generates opposition on two fronts: agricultural. soil. who are often the only workers willing to take such poorly-paid.g. construction. hotels and restaurants) industry employers depend on large numbers of undocumented immigrants. The latter will validate our overstated claim of being a nation that welcomes immigrants. Raid-seasoned immigration officers have seen workers jump through plate glass windows to escape.What measures must be taken to create a new policy? First. or race through work sites crowded with equipment—like band saws and heavy machinery—that could harm them. de la Garza
. there is no evidence of large-scale reverse migration. Documented immigrant residents have also been caught up in the raids.
year Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have audited employee files at more than 2.S. such as manufacturing and food production (e. which requires ensuring that anti-immigrant discrimination is reduced and immigrant-worker rights are respected. often without being able to notify their spouses and children or make
arrangements for their well-being. restricting jobs to citizens. and then there are the pro-immigrant and human rights advocates who fear the potential human and civil rights violations that may result from the enforcement of current law. low-status jobs.e. only to find themselves in dire financial
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R. raided employers have suffered production disruptions and financial losses stemming from the subsequent understaffing. and service (i. Yet. undocumented workers were arrested and deported. The Obama administration has resorted to what employers call “silent raids”—audits of employee files. we must establish its dual focus: the economic and social well-being of the nation. existing national employment laws should be enforced. Secondly. they might return to their countries of origin. Although the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 calls for the fining and possible incarceration of employers who hire the undocumented.1 Once these raids were completed. In addition to fines. the practice of which has been optimized by technological advancements.and high-skilled labor. and respect for the civil and human rights of immigrants..
respectively). birth certificate. or proof of LRA status—or a non-duplicable high-tech ticket for electronic verification. Establishing ticket prices below these levels would greatly reduce the incidence of illegal entry and false documents. cannot resolve the wide range of problems caused by the loss of jobs resulting from silent raids or the nation’s increased hostility toward immigrants (particularly the unauthorized ones). and repeat violators would face incarceration. publicly-funded social services (that a family-based immigration system requires) will drop. To this end. even the most ardent family-based immigration proponents might rethink their approach. so as not to unfairly reward those who have not followed established immigration law procedures. a valid Social Security card or passport.S. though empirically false. a ticket system should be instituted for undocumented job seekers who are at least eighteen years old. These tickets should be priced at less than what many drug traffickers charge (the current rates for smuggling Mexican and Chinese immigrants into this country are $3. so the number of fake claims—such as those resulting from the IRCA-affiliated Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program—becomes minimized. If preferences are given to immigrants over the age of eighteen. claims that English’s status as the national language is being undermined. Immigration reform must also consider demography and culture. Those who employ the undocumented should continue to be fined. protections against fraudulent residential claims must be better implemented and vigorously enforced. Given the virtual certainty that silent raids will continue. not only will the number of new immigrant workers greatly increase. even those of the peaceful. but far more
immigrant-friendly than. it will satisfy the concerns of right-wing critics and civil libertarians.3) When age-based preferences are coupled with the provisions I will later elaborate on. (Government-sponsored bilingual educational programs have given rise to powerful. Since the ticket program would not require citizens or LRAs to obtain any documents they do not already have. the income generated from the ticket sales would likely exceed the program’s operational costs.000. civil rights-respecting variety.conditions which lead them and their advocates to ask: “What’s going to happen to the kids?” Enforcement of the employment laws that are already on the books. Additionally. New immigration policies must respond to labor market demands insofar as they serve overall national interests. the employer-favored guest-worker program. employers should rally behind a ticket system that will provide them with however many workers they need. This would be similar to. the focus must be on reimagining the conditions that allow those already in this country to stay. Employers who fail to comply with the certification system would be substantially fined.
certify workers using documents that citizens and LRAs (legal resident aliens) already possess—such as a U. Moreover.000 and $20. both of which are heavily influenced by age. Thus. Employers would still be obligated to
A ticket system for job seekers who are at least eighteen years old would be more immigrant-friendly than a guest-worker program. but the need for wideranging. and any surplus funds could be
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Neither Walls nor Open Borders
Applicants would be selected via a lottery system. the unfounded clamor about promoting foreign languages at the expense of English would be eliminated. which is what people in the U. related immigration reform measures (or they could be distributed amongst the states. based on each state’s number of ticket holders). developed with the cooperation of the sending states. would only be available to citizens. (The formula for allocating tickets should also consider issues surrounding internal conditions that may be beyond the state’s control. Upon discovery. Recent patterns suggest. Ticket holders could return to their home countries as frequently as they desired. This will emulate pre-European Common Market patterns of Italian and Spanish migration. de la Garza
R. Given that many. Tickets would be allocated to the sending states based on a formula combining U. in some cases. national interests and the foreign state’s willingness to cooperate with developing the lottery system and repatriation programs. if not most. would have all the rights of U. and Central America illustrate. Ticketless undocumented adults would be denied employment and access to social services.
After five years of residency. non-ticket holders would be forced to return to their countries of origin through repatriation systems developed in accord with the sending countries. Since children who are not citizens or LRAs would be denied school enrollment.S. LRAs. If rates of immigration are to be slowed. the rights of ticket holders cannot be extended to their families. have tickets. however.put toward other.
After five years of residency. will have maintained ties to their communities of origin—and that their children will have deepened their roots there—some may choose to return home. consulates abroad. and ticket holders. and re-enter the United States at no additional cost. ticket holders may not be accompanied by their spouses unless they. so as to ensure allocation fairness. This ticket system should not be considered an illegal immigration-eradicating silver bullet. a ticket system would reduce the total number of unauthorized immigrants. Ticket holders. such as the January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti.S. ticket holders would be able to apply for legal resident alien status. The number of tickets allocated to the sending states will be affected by the extent to which each provides social services and is politically accountable to its citizens.S.S.) As the high rates of emigration from Cuba. Social services. are increasingly demanding. organize unions. and would be valid for five years. be so dire that many people will continue to illegally enter the U. Home-country conditions will. Mexico. Nonetheless. and ticket holders can’t bring children. Those who have been employed and have no pattern of criminal behavior would be allowed to stay. Thus. including education. that most will exercise their right to stay. enroll in educational programs at their own expense. workers—they could move from job to job or state to state. and enlist in the military. including agricultural workers.S. Temporary hardships caused by not allowing spouses and children to accompany ticket holders will be mitigated by ticket-holding immigrants’ freedom to return to their home
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countries as frequently as they choose. too. Tickets would be issued by U. ticket holders would be able to apply for LRA status. a state’s failure to be politically accountable and responsive to the needs of its citizens fuels massive emigration.
Guatemalans. officials to extend the temporary status of those who emigrated to escape natural disaster-related
Neither Walls nor Open Borders
. El Salvador asked U. But such pressure must be resisted—the ticket price should be set with an eye toward undercutting illegal immigrant trafficking from certain countries. and how much will each country be charged? The latter may be particularly problematic because there will be pressure to establish a uniform ticket price for all participating countries. Mexicans. especially regarding the well-being of its emigrants who were incorporated into Bracero program agreements. The case of Mexico. and Mexico have a long history of repressive policies. for example. Thus. Salvadorans.S.S.
hardships between 1998 and 2001. we should first focus on the logistics of the ticket allocation and distribution process—what factors should be considered in determining how many tickets each country will receive. the principal sending state.S. the demand for tickets in the sending countries will also reflect the needs of the American labor market. unjustifiable policies that favor or punish one state’s immigrants in comparison to another’s must be eliminated.5 An even more noteworthy example of sending-state efforts to shape U. Mexico was heavily involved with the design of the Bracero program. Given that U. immigration policies.
Regimes in sending countries such as China. since trafficker fees vary by country. they must be willing to make them of sending states. Cuba.Refusing to require states to change their internal policies to benefit their populations is tantamount to encouraging those states to use emigration as a political safety valve. it is imperative that sending states collaborate—by helping to establish a transparent ticket-distribution system and modifying their respective national politics and policies—in the formation of new U. would be lower than that of the 1990s. efforts to re-design their domestic politics and internal affairs—but many of these countries have long negotiated immigration policy with the United States. officials regularly make comparable demands of our military allies and major trading partners.4 Sending states will protest U. Additionally. to reflect local demand. For example. The current demand. immigration policy to help manage its domestic problems. and ethnic Chinese face at least as great a
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The number of tickets allocated to the sending states will be affected by the extent to which each provides social services and is politically accountable to its citizens. As noted earlier. immigration policy is the amicus brief the Mexican government filed in one of the five lawsuits that have challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law. Cuba has a history of manipulating U.S.S. and this must be stopped. The brief argued that the law unconstitutionally jeopardized Mexico’s national interests and its citizens’ rights. Guatemala. Finally. illustrates the willingness of officials to profit even as they fail to develop redistributive policies that benefit their society as a whole. so should ticket rates. To proceed with the development of these new relationships.S. and governing elites—including officials and members of favored interest groups—will strongly resist changing how they do business.
and more than half had been in the country for five years or more.6 or offering amnesty to the undocumented without doing anything to meaningfully control their rate of entry or enfranchise them once they get here. Conservatives are also likely to applaud the extent to which such reform would reduce unauthorized immigration. Indeed. Cultural conservatives would no longer be able to allege that immigration constitutes
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an assault on “American culture” since the number of immigrants. de la Garza
. though often hypocritically. they have little choice but to get behind it if they genuinely support their national interests. on issues (economic and otherwise) that are vital to their regimes’ interests. The illegal-entry rate will go down. A ticket holder-based policy could be (gradually) enacted if all of the trade-offs were clearly presented. This new policy will add an arrow to those regimes’ quiver—if they only view immigration reform from the vantage point of serving their “own people. This nation has long. The demand for social services will decline. repatriating undocumented immigrants. according to Julia Preston of the New York Times. advocates should support the extent to which this reform will enable and encourage immigrants and their families to maintain their cultural roots. which—the passion it evokes notwithstanding—involves fewer than 8 percent of U. . Nonetheless.” they’ll be risking less cooperation from the U.-born babies. this proposal may offer enough to all or most groups involved in the immigration reform process. The U. immigrants—should they choose to stay in the U. But only Cubans are currently guaranteed legal residency if they are able to step onto U.S. and bring their families after five years—will be more likely to successfully develop a blended cultural identity. Immigrant advocates will oppose limiting entry to ticket holders because of the potential disruption to families. What are the chances of enacting this type of reform? Realistically. Furthermore. which should please everyone but those who facilitate the practice. . Furthermore. government would have to launch a full-scale campaign to educate the public about the kinds of returns
R. But ticket holders will remain tied to their families by returning home whenever they choose—which makes this proposed reform more family-friendly than the current system. territory. and civil/human rights advocates can trumpet the advancement of ticketed workers’ rights. would decline. and the demand for special language programs.S.chance of abusive treatment at the hands of their government officials—such as corrupt military or police officers—as Cubans.] illegally had been here for more than a year . “more than 80 percent of mothers in the [U.”7 So charges that the undocumented race across the border “to drop a child” are unfounded and cannot be used to justify efforts to amend the Fourteenth Amendment—a move that would forever tarnish the claim that this is a nation of immigrants. They will likely oppose provisions allowing those already here to stay if they pay a fine—but they would surely consider that option much more appealing than general amnesty. though it must be noted that the undocumented have tended to make little use of them. they are low—but they are higher than the chances of passing reactionary alternatives. The stronger those ties are.S. to at least one undocumented parent) issue. enabling each of them to feel its goals have been met. claimed to support democratic regimes. under which immigrants live in constant fear of deportation and painful separation. The business sector will get the workers it needs. The ticketing process will eliminate the “anchor baby” (a child born in the U.S.S.S.S. such as completely militarizing the border. Foreign policymakers will probably be among the strongest opponents of this proposal.
S.C. 5. Generations of Exclusion: MexicanAmericans. these raid-related comments were made during interviews conducted as a part of the author’s “operation Jobs” research. “Unwanted Immigrants: america’s Deportation Dilemma. Immigration Policy (washington. July 9. george w.: Pew Hispanic Center. Still. 2. 3. Opposition
to change has hardened along ideological lines. Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U. de la garza. 7.C. And then. this proposed reform will not be enacted in the foreseeable future. 2010.edu. 2003).: Center for Immigration studies. august 11. Joseph Chamie. 2010. 6. and Race (new York: russell sage foundation. Outrightly shaming their bigotry may not lead them to change their positions—but it could help reduce the number of Americans who might otherwise support them.S. July 27. and gary freeman. at some point much later down the road.this program could bring. We are most likely to see temporary modifications that will not address the broad. 1996). april 2006). D. available at www. ma: Harvard University Press. D. fundamental issues raised here. “Illegal workers swept from Jobs in ‘silent raids. Those who oppose the program out of self-interest or nativistic racism must be challenged frontally.” Yale Global. Jeffrey Passel and Paul taylor. Mexican Officials Feather Their Nests While Decrying U.-Born Children (washington. the silent-raid approach avoids the dangers inherent in traditional raids. 2008). roger framm. Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration (Cambridge. 2010). which means we will continue with the failed policies of the past—or create new policies that are even worse. Operation Jobs: An Evaluation of INS-Dallas (los angeles: tomas rivera Policy Institute.
Neither Walls nor Open Borders
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. 83. see rodolfo o.
4.yale. Julia Preston.yaleglobal. edward e. Assimilation. telles and Vilma ortiz. immigration reform will once again take the forefront as a major political issue—will we be ready then?
1. richard alba and Victor nee.’” New York Times. Claire sheridan. grayson.