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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Talking About Immigration Reform

Administering the oath of citizenship at naturalization ceremonies.
Taking Action On Immigration
So what exactly is it we are going to do about Immigration? What is it the Republicans are going to propose? What will be included in Obama's Executive Order, should he be pushed to draft something from GOP inaction and obstruction?

Immigrants are taxpayers, entrepreneurs, job creators, and consumers. Hard to believe, we know, but immigrants are people too. They are income earning, often hard working, tax paying, and goods consuming small business owners. Still, there is no doubt the immigration system is broken and in need of serious reform. The U.S. border is not really the problem. People can just fly in for a visit, and stay. The idea that every person trying to get into the United States is crawling over the border, and then running to the nearest welfare office, is ridiculous. In fact, the border now is more secure than ever as a result of decades of steadily increasing border and interior enforcement.

At the same time, what we also have are rigid, out-of-date laws. And We The People know that. The idea that immigration reform is needed, one that includes a clear pathway to citizenship, or work visas, for undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States, is supported by Americans in large percentages. Americans of all political stripes want Congress to pass some sort of safe and sane immigration reform, with just more than half of all Americans in a CNN/ORC International poll arguing that the first priority on immigration should be to provide a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants living in the country. Most intelligent people who have seen a map of the United States realize that a pathway to legal status is key to solving the problem at hand, while building some sort of fence ~~ not so much.

Of course, in this article, it doesn't really matter how many people think we need reform. What matters is that you know we need a legal path for immigrants to follow in order to integrate into our society, pay taxes legally, and save us millions of dollars annually in round-them-up and ship-them-out money. What matters is that you write to your newly elected representatives, and tell them that. Call them, write-in, and sit-in. That's the way this will get done.

Common-sense reform would restore public faith in the system and level the playing field for all Americans, while supercharging the economic benefits from our immigrant population. Amongst all the white collar workers that come here for a better life, these immigrants also watch our children, mow our lawns, clean our toilets, and harvest our food. To ignore that with some sort of isolationist attitude is to doom these caregivers to "illegal" status for no good reason.

(The Star Forum, 2006)
Thanks to our friends at Center For American Progress, below are the latest and most essential facts about immigrants and immigration reform in our nation today. The facts are broken down into the following sections:

Today’s immigrant population

Demographics and political power of new Americans

Immigrants and the economy

Federal immigration policy

Public opinion polling on immigration

In the news: Unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border

Did you know...
Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be incarcerated than native-born Americans. A 2007 study by the Immigration Policy Center found that the incarceration rate for immigrant men ages 18 to 39 in 2000 was 0.7 percent, while the incarceration rate for native-born men of the same age group was 3.5 percent. In fact, crime rates have dropped as immigration rates have increased. While the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 8 percent to 13 percent between 1990 and 2010, FBI data indicate that violent crime rates across the country fell by about 45 percent, while property crime rates fell by 42 percent.

How many people are we talking about? By the end of 2012, there were approximately 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and that number remained constant into 2013 with 11.3 million undocumented immigrants. 

Six states are home to the majority of the undocumented population. As of 2012, 22 percent of the nation’s undocumented population lived in California. Fifteen percent lived in Texas, 8 percent lived in Florida, 7 percent lived in New York, 4 percent lived in Illinois, and 4 percent lived in New Jersey.

Many undocumented immigrants could be sponsored for a green card, but cannot adjust their status because they are presently undocumented. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants could qualify for a green card by virtue of having a relative who is a U.S. citizen, but—because of bars to re-entering the United States that were put in place in 1996—most would have to leave the United States for a period of at least 10 years before becoming eligible to reunite with their families. 

For those of you who think you can just marry into citizenship, think again. One in five undocumented immigrant adults has a U.S. citizen, or lawful permanent resident, spouse. Of the 10 million adult undocumented immigrants living in the United States in 2012, approximately 767,000 were married to a U.S. citizen, and 944,000 were married to a lawful permanent resident, yet remained undocumented due to insane backlogs of bureaucratic processing.

(Fly Paper Magazine, 2014)

Election Results
President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012 with the support of 71 percent of Latino voters and 73 percent of Asian American voters. These groups are a key part of our multiethnic, multiracial, and cross-class Progressive coalition, which also includes African Americans, women, young people, professionals, and economically populist blue-collar whites. These groups generally vote with the Democrats. Unfortunately, without this issue adequately being addressed, a majority of eligible Latino and Asian American voters stayed home on Election Day in 2012, pointing to significant room for improvement in voter participation. Just imagine the Congress we could have had, the leads we would have had, the control we could have kept, if they were motivated to vote.

Here are the sleeping giants we need to tap into in order to take back control of Congress in 2016. While a record 11.2 million Latinos cast votes in the 2012 presidential election, 12.1 million eligible Latino voters did not vote, giving Latinos a 48 percent voter participation rate. Similarly, although 3.9 million eligible Asian American voters cast ballots on Election Day in 2012, 4.4 million did not, giving Asian Americans a 47.3 percent voter participation rate.

What do those numbers mean? Well, 57.5% of all eligible voters voted in 2012, 62.3% of all eligible voters voted in 2008, 60.4% cast ballots in 2004, and in 2000 the turnout rate was 54.2%. Clearly, just in the Latino and Asian sector, their 47% and 48% show-up rates are much lower than the national average. Again, imagine what the outcome would have been, and what the status of control of Congress would have been, had intelligent reform been put into place. If you are angry about the outcome of the 2014 midterms, take a second, and think on those numbers. Then work to figure out how you can support, or even help shape, immigration reform moving forward.

We know that the fast-paced growth of the Latino electorate, and the slow or negative growth among non-Hispanic whites, will change the voter makeup in the United States by 2016. Over the next four years, the number of eligible Latino voters nationwide is projected to increase by more than 4 million people to 27.7 million, which lands us directly at the midterms for whoever will be President next. By 2016, we can expect Texas to have 905,500 new Latino voters, making up 58.1 percent of the net increase in all eligible voters in the state. Most of the races this year were close, very close, down to the wire. How foolish it is that we alienate (pun intended) these demographics by ignoring the realities of the situation. Kicking the can down the street won't get at the problem. Renewing our embargo on Cuba doesn't show our commitment to this growing portion of the electorate. 

Much of the growth in the number of eligible Latino voters can be attributed to the relative youth of the Latino population. More than 90 percent of Latinos under age 18 are U.S. citizens, and about 800,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote every year. Again, young voters in general tend to vote with Democrats. If we continue to dismiss the dreamers, how can we hope to continue to lead the electorate? Sure, the Republicans aren't doing any better with this segment of the population, but that is no excuse for us keeping the status quo. We lose when we don't move on this issue, and in our opinion, we just lost by not moving on this issue.

Let's just talk about those who have followed all the rules up til now. Millions of legal permanent residents are eligible to become U.S. citizens and vote. A total of 8.8 million legal permanent residents, or green card holders, were eligible for naturalization in 2012. In 2013, a total of 503,104 people were naturalized and became eligible to vote. Barriers to naturalization, including the $680 application fee, effectively deny many residents the chance to become U.S. citizens and exercise their right to vote. Is it possible that these voters could punch the holes for Democrats when they enter the voting booth?

(FamilySearch.org)

Radical Republican radio hosts and bloggers claimed that Democrats ran to register undocumented children at the border as Democrats. Well, of course, that's insane. Children don't vote. Non citizens don't vote. That was just garbage. But, what if we did help these immigrants, already living here, already working here, become U.S. citizens. Our grandparents, and great grandparents did it. Why can't they? Why can't they, in this day and age, be processed in a timely and intelligent manner. How can we do something simple like increasing the quality of customer service in this sector? What does it actually cost us to allow eligible residents to become citizens? Does it somehow make our citizenship less valuable? If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, that would be your takeaway.

Nonetheless, A February poll by both Democratic Global Strategy Group and Republican firm Basswood Research found that nearly 79 percent of all Americans want immigration reform, and nearly three out of four Americans will be disappointed if Congress fails to act. Despite members of Congress saying that immigration reform can wait, it is clear that voters disagree.

A Rising Wage Lifts All Workers
One of the reasons big business doesn't want these people legalized is that legalization and naturalization of undocumented immigrants would bolster their wages.The annual income of unauthorized immigrants would be 15.1 percent higher if they were granted legal work status. In addition, if undocumented immigrants earned their citizenship, their wages would rise by an additional 10 percent. This wage increase would occur because legal status provides the undocumented legal protections, grants access to better jobs, promotes investments in education and training, and fosters small-business creation.

Trickling sideways, immigration reform would increase the earnings of all Americans. Immigration reform that includes a five year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would increase the earnings of all American workers by $618 billion over the next decade.With higher incomes, all of these people would also spend more, causing an instant boost to the overall economy of the United States. The wages might cut into the bottom line of major corporations, who have been showing ridiculously record profits over the last few decades, but it will also give the American public a new buying power that, in and of itself, could lift us out of the despair we've been left with since the crash of 2008. But then, Obama would be a hero, and the Republicans just can't have that. McConnell's plan, despite his new conciliatory tone, has been and remains STOPPING OBAMA.

11/5/14 ~~ At the 'day after' GOP Press Conference,
Republican strategy remains oppose President Obama at every step.

(MSNBC) 
To be abundantly clear, all studies agree that permitting undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and citizenship would expand economic growth. Naturalized workers earn higher wages, consume more goods and services, and pay more in taxes, which in turn creates economic growth. If the undocumented immigrants in our nation were granted legal status today, and citizenship in five years, the 10-year cumulative increase in U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would be $1.1 trillion. So what's the hold up?

We've established granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants would create jobs and increase tax revenues. In fact, if undocumented immigrants acquired legal status today, and citizenship in five years, the economy would add an average of 159,000 new jobs per year, and formerly unauthorized workers would pay an additional $144 billion in federal, state, and local taxes over a 10-year period. Immigration reform would translate into a significant additional decrease in the federal budget deficit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, found that S. 744—the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, as passed by the Senate—would reduce the budget deficit by $135 billion in the first decade after the bill’s passage and by an additional $685 billion in the second decade, when most undocumented immigrants would become eligible for citizenship. Heck, with those numbers, big corporations and the wealthy, who mostly don't pay taxes anyway due to loopholes and deductions, could have their tax rates reduced like Republicans are always begging to do, leaving the draconian budget cuts we suffer today completely unnecessary.

How else can we put this? 
Passing the DREAM Act (which is a section of S. 744) would provide a pathway to legal status for eligible young people who complete high school and some college or military service. If the DREAM Act became law, $329 billion and 1.4 million jobs would be added to the American economy over the next two decades. That's a jobs bill everyone should be getting behind.

Another section of S. 744 calls for an expansion of the Deferred Action program, which would immediately yield billions of dollars in tax revenues, while increasing wages and job security for all Americans. Allowing low-priority unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country for five years to apply for deferred action—a temporary work permit and deferral of deportation—would mean that they could earn higher average wages and benefit from protection from exploitation. This would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, yielding $6.1 billion in payroll tax revenue in the first year and increasing gains of up to $45 billion over the next five years.

(Decisive Magazine)

We are NOT talking about freeloaders. We are NOT talking about those who "drain our public resources, and live off food stamps, or welfare." Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes annually. Households headed by unauthorized immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010. This includes $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.2 billion in property taxes, and more than $8 billion in sales and excise taxes.

As it stands, despite protestations from the right, immigrants—even legal immigrants—are barred from most social services, meaning that they pay to support benefits they cannot even receive. Taxes paid by legalized immigrants more than offset any use of social programs. The CBO found that increases in costs to social programs are modest and will be more than paid for by the tax contributions of immigrants. The increase in spending in Social Security and Medicare from 2024 through 2033, for example, will be $65 billion—just 4.4 percent of the total increase in tax revenue. That's another 95.6% of their tax revenue for Congress to fight over. Where would they spend all that money? Just imagine.

What happens if we just continue to do nothing?
Inaction on immigration reform carries a heavy cost. Each day the House of Representatives fails to pass immigration reform costs the United States $37 million in missed tax revenue. As of October 2014, the House’s inaction has cost more than $17.7 billion. Maintaining the status quo is not revenue neutral. With only one-third of unauthorized immigrants working in the formal economy and contributing about $12 billion in payroll taxes each year, the United States loses around $20 billion in payroll tax revenue annually.

The United States spends more on immigration and border enforcement annually than the annual gross domestic product of 80 countries. In fact, the United States now spends $3.5 billion more on immigration and border enforcement—a total of nearly $18 billion per year—than it does on all other federal law enforcement combined.

The Need For Action
This issue requires a long discussion. It requires debate. It definitely requires more than stump speeches, or claims of Ebola children on our southern border, or tales of headless migrant farm workers left in the desert. It requires sober and thoughtful consideration by the people we elected to Congress. Can any of you remember when Congress debated fairly and squarely the issues of the day with an eye toward negotiation and high quality results? All we've seen over the last 6 years is a perfectly executed plan by the right to stop all forward movement entirely. Power seekers all, with no regard for the safety, sanctity, or quality of life of the average American citizen. We are in shambles. And if the Republicans really cared about what the rest of the world thought about us, the first item on their agenda, now that they are "in charge," oughta be getting to the business of governing, instead of playing capture the flag.

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