Bloggings on Immigration Law
"Congress Must Act Now to Provide Unified Direction for America's Immigration Policy, So That The States Will Not Impose Their Own Patchwork Solutions": Will This Mantra Overcome the Problem of Prejudice? by Roger Algase
It has become almost obligatory among editorial writers and other pundits dealing with this subject to end every comment about the deplorable and dangerous rush among state legislatures, especially but not exclusively in what used to be the old, racially segregated South, to outdo themselves in passing draconian anti-immigrant laws, by repeating the pius wish that Congress, or policy makers in Washington, would "step up to the plate" and pass a comprehensive reform bill to provide central direction over immigration.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that Congressional action, or any coordinated action by policy makers in Washington, is a virtual impossibility in the current political climate. Congress is not an abstract body, independent from the bitter political dispute that is now dividing America over the future ethnic makeup of this country, which is the alpha and omega of the entire immigration issue. Very much to the contrary, Congress reflects, and is torn by, the same kinds of ideological divisions over immigration that are preventing, at least for the moment, any kind of action to deal with America's budget issue.
Just as the budget dispute is, at bottom, one over which section of society (or "class", to use an unpopular word) will bear the burden of putting America's fiscal house back in order, the immigration dispute is one over whether America will continue along its bumpy, but inevitable road to becoming a more racially and religiously diverse and tolerant nation, or whether it will turn back in the direction of shutting its gates against unpopular minorities, as was done in the 1924 immigration act which many anti-immigration advocates openly wish to bring back in one version or another.
The minorities whom immigration opponents want to keep out, or kick out, of America, are in some respects different ones from the targets of anti-immigrant prejudice in the 1920's. Few American politicians in either party have a problem now with Italian, Jewish or Eastern European immigrants, as was the case in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. But prejudice against immigrants from outside Europe still persists and is the main obstacle to any meaningful immigration reform in Washington or any attempt to limit the excesses of anti-immigrant laws at the state level.
The only way to understand what is going on with immigration policy in many state legislatures today is to look at the issue as a continuation of the battle against racial segregation in the 1960's. This struggle is only on the surface about federalism, whether states or the federal government should control immigration policy, just as the civil rights struggle was only superficially about "states rights" as opposed to federal power. At bottom, the struggle for immigrant rights, in common with the struggle to end racial segregation half a century ago, is a battle against hate.
Unless and until this battle is won, look for even more racially inspired anti-immigrant bigotry from the states, and even less action from Washington to counteract prejudice.
A recent study conducted by the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University and the University of Guadalajara noted that interest in immigration to the United States from Mexico has fallen to its lowest levels since the 1950s. The study further noted that net traffic of Mexicans immigrating to the United States legally or illegally has fallen to zero as Mexicans living in the United States are now starting to return home. This in turn led to a sharp and unexpected increase of 4 million people in Mexicoís latest census. These numbers have been supported by a study from the Pew Research Center, which noted that last year there were approximately 100,000 illegal crossings from Mexico to the United States. This was down dramatically from 525,000 annually from 10 years ago.
Policymakers however should necessarily not look at this as a victory for increased security measures at the border and new state enforcement laws such as Arizonaís HB 1070. Rather, this change is mainly a reflection of internal changes in Mexico. As Mexican society changes and its economy improves, there is a lessening of financial and demographic pressures upon Mexican families. With the wide acceptance of new birth control measures, Mexican families have gotten smaller with the average woman now giving birth to less than 2 children instead of the average of 6.8 children in the 1970s. In turn, the size of new workers added to the Mexican labor force has fallen to 800,000 per year from previous years of over 1 million. If this trend continues, Mexico will add 300,000 individuals to its labor force per year by 2030. Additionally, Mexicoís economy grew at a rate of 5.5% last year with its GDP per capita also seeing an increase.
As an off and on recession has plagued the United States, Mexico has in many ways weathered the storm and Mexican laborers in the United States are finding that it isnít as profitable as it once was to work in this country. The Mexican government has been successfully improving general infrastructure in areas where they were previously lacking, with water and sanitation services being available now throughout most of the country. The number of high schools in certain parts of the country have doubled in the past decade. College enrollment is also up as the number of students enrolled in the university system of Jalisco, an area prone to immigration to the United States, has seen a 100% increase in the past decade.
There has also been new visa authorization policies used by US consulates in Mexico that have had a positive change on the process. The number of Mexicans who have entered as an immediate relative of a US citizen has increased by 64%. This is a direct reflection of the new policy of the US Consular Officials in Mexico who are trying to reward those that are trying to cross the Rio Grande legally. Policies that have been instituted include a relaxing of the $100 visa issuance fee to Mexican employees that was supposed to be paid by their American employers, but often paid by the Mexican employees.
While these trends are genuinely seen as good, there are still some unresolved issues in US-Mexico immigration. The H-2a visa program which provides a vital source of agricultural workers to the United States remains confusing. Additionally, an increasing number of residents of northern Mexico are fleeing the drug cartel war. This has led to an over 500% increase of Mexicans attempting to enter the United States to seek asylum and has been coupled with an over 50% increase of Mexicans already in the United States to seek asylum. For individuals such as exiled Mexican Journalist Emilio Gutierrez and former police chief of Ciudad Juarez Marisol Valles this fear is a very real objective reality.
As Mexico continues to progress economically, socially, and politically, its successes may signify a new way to handle immigration problems in the United States. The U.S. has acknowledged its role in the increase of dangerous drug cartels and has strengthened its support of Mexico as a key ally. Migration from Mexico has largely declined because of better conditions in Mexico. In 2008, USAID gave Mexico slightly over $50 million for economic development programs. Policymakers should try to use development programs like USAID as a catalyst to better country conditions, which in turn will insure a better way of life for its residents and stem the tide of illegal immigration to the United States.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years
Danielle Beach-Oswald is the current President and Managing Partner of Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates in Washington, DC. Ms. Beach utilizes her 19 years of experience in immigration law to help individuals immigrate to the United States for humanitarian reasons. Born in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Beach has lived in England, Belgium, Italy and Ivory Coast and has traveled extensively to many countries. Ms. Beach advocates for clients from around the world who seek freedom from torture in their country, or who are victims of domestic violence and trafficking. She has also represented her clients at U.S. Consulates in Romania, China, Canada, Mexico, and several African countries. With her extensive experience in family-based and employment-based immigration law Ms. Beach not only assists her clients in obtaining a better standard of living in the United States, she also helps employers obtain professional visas, and petitions for family members. She also handles many complex naturalization issues. Ms. Beach has unique expertise representing clients in immigration matters pending before the Federal District Courts, Circuit Courts, Board of Immigration Appeals and Immigration Courts. She has won over 400 humanitarian cases in the United States. Her firm's website is www.boilapc.com. William Shwayri is a rising Second Year Law Student at George Mason University and is a Law Clerk in Ms. Beach-Oswald's office.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.