One child taken in the U.S. sets off an alarm and law enforcement jumps into high gear and turns to citizens everywhere to be on the lookout. There’s a massive Amber Alert.  Stealing a child is considered a crime, a felony, something that brings communities together in massive searches and triggers panic in the heart of every parent.

But when thousands of children are kidnapped, separated from their families and put in cages – this is left for underfunded organizations, intrepid reporters, a few concerned lawmakers and the relentless ACLU to sound the warning.  Parents can’t find their kids and children, toddlers, even babies, are left abandoned by a system that has no concern for tracking these families, much less reuniting them – ever.  These children are expected to fend for themselves, many of whom are too young to make known their needs – their basic need being their parents.  And even the older children have no understanding of how such a thing could happen, how they could be suddenly parentless in a place they don’t know, surrounded by strangers.  

As if the separation itself isn’t horrific enough, it’s obvious from the reporting that the children are not being properly cared for.  Since 2017, seven children have died in federal custody under this administration.  And how many more will there be since the CBP does not vaccinate children? Crowded, unsanitary conditions, where kids are weak from lack of nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene and positive familial interaction, make detention centers rife for large outbreaks of disease.

The only real crime committed by these jailed families is that they were born on the wrong side of a line on a map and that their skin is the wrong color.  Children should not be pawns in some scheme where the president wants to prove that immigrants, when treated badly enough, will stop coming or go home where they and their children face death from gangs and corrupt governments, some of which U.S. meddling has made more treacherous. 

How we treat the American immigrant is a reflection of how we value the nation’s ideals. We’re supposed to be exceptional as a people in our almost 250-year-old democratic experiment.  Now we only seem to be exceptionally cruel.  

After ACLU lawsuits, intensive media reporting and public outcry, the administration supposedly ordered an end to child separation in June 2018. Parents were frantic and children felt betrayed, abandoned. It was their heartbreaking stories that sparked indignation in the American people. But now we know that the policy continues, that children are still being ripped from their parents’ arms and placed not only in deplorable border shelters, but sent across the country to other shelters and foster homes where neither parent nor child knows the location of their loved ones. 

Overcrowding is blamed for all horrors, but the overcrowding is being caused by the administration’s abject failure to do its job, to properly staff immigration facilities and ensure that at least some of the billions being spent are put toward humanitarian care. It’s obvious the money allocated is not freely flowing to doctors, counselors, teachers or immigration judges.  It isn’t being used for water, food, soap, toothpaste, beds or non-aluminum blankets. However, on August 15, a federal appeals court ruled against the administration and ordered immigration authorities to provide adequate food, water, bedding, toothbrushes and soap to minors.  It remains to be seen if this ruling will be obeyed. The real shame here is that basic humanitarian needs were not being met in the first place.

Now we’re abandoning even more children, little American citizens across the country, by dragging their parents out of their homes and cars, away from their workplaces and neighborhood schools.  We are breaking up families for no reason. They are no threat. They pay their way with jobs and new businesses and often have called this country home for decades. They’re not a burden to taxpayers or to border security because they’re already here.  Yes, deport criminals but don’t destroy families. Don’t leave more children without parents. We have done enough of this already.

But, perhaps, this America is no longer worth the immigrant struggle. To paraphrase German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller‘s poetic confession from WWII:

First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-

Because I wasn’t Muslim.

Then they came for all Immigrants, especially Latin Americans, and I did not speak out-

Because I wasn’t an immigrant.

Then they came for the Journalists, and I did not speak out-

Because I wasn’t a journalist.

Then they came for All Minorities and I didn’t speak out-

Because I was white. 

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Since we are here now at this historic moment, we are accountable for what the government does in our name. Regardless of our skin color, we must speak out against inflicting so much irrevocable harm on immigrant children who are no threat to this country. In fact, we should be welcoming these children for they are America’s future if we have any hope of saving our democracy, building communities and maintaining our competitive economy with an ever aging population.  They are the ones who will fill the jobs of the future and salvage Social Security. They will be the ones who plant the crops, doctor the sick, start the new business, build the homes, provide the innovations needed to thrive – things their parents’ generation is already doing right now in this country. 

If there was ever a time for a national amber alert, it is now before the children are lost forever in the malevolent bureaucracy that will destroy not only their lives, but extinguish the beacon this country once was to the world. 

UnitedWeStay.org is an immigrant advocacy Los Angeles- based nonprofit founded in 2015 by Marcelino Jose. UWS is dedicated to telling the stories of immigrants and to gathering immigration news on a daily basis, the only organization of its kind to make expanding public awareness its utmost responsibility, believing that knowledge is the key to fighting injustice and upholding American ideals.

Several weeks ago we proposed a universal Bill of Rights for Undocumented Americans.  More recently we published an Acknowledgement of Responsibilities.  We are trying to establish a framework for responsible debate on what still seems to be a third rail issue.

And then the year opens with raids – which have a terrorizing effect on at least 11 million people living here within our borders.  Plus the millions more parents, children and loved ones who are already either legal residents or American Citizens. How many Documented Americans know, love, or employ an Undocumented American? The terrifying ripple effect of these raids might easily be felt by one in five Americans, if not one in four or three.

As of earlier this week almost 150 families have already been directly affected by the detention of a loved one.  This round of home and work incursions seem to be driven by the increase in Central American immigration.  Ironically, much of this traffic is the result of an uptick in gang-related violence back in their countries of origin.  Fear here…fear there.

We pride ourselves as citizens of a nation of laws.  A country where the law matters and law-abiding citizens thrive.  If this is the case then why do these raids feel more like theatre than enforcement.  When do we hear about raids on gangs and brothels?  When do we read about raids on sweatshops and other employers who exploit their labor forces (except for immigration raids of course)?

The answer is obvious.  It seems that we only announce a raid strategy when we know the target has absolutely no leverage, no way to defend or fight back.  Or equally as likely, we advertise it as a policy measure when it has some political expediency or purpose. The Obama Administration orders deferred action and peace of mind for some only to expedite the blanket deportation and terrorization of others.  In theory the focus is criminals.  In reality the raids target anyone.

Well, we’ve been doing some digging and apparently there is some defense against the unlawful detention of anyone in this country – even an Undocumented Immigrant.

First:  Only an ICE agent can detain you.  Local police cannot, unless you have broken a law.

Second:  The ICE agent must have a warrant.  Neither you nor your employer is obligated to open the door if they cannot show you a warrant.  Do not let them in.

Third: Remain silent.  Do not say anything except I have the right to remain silent and I have a right to talk to my attorney.  Do not tell them where you were born.  Do not tell them how you came to the United States.  Do not sign anything or show them any documents unless you have a U.S. Birth Certificate or green card.  Do not show or give them any false documents. If you do not say or sign anything you cannot be tricked.

This is much harder done than said.  But we live in a nation where due process matters.  In other words, how a law is enforced is just as important as the law itself.  ICE has to prove that you are not here legally before you have to prove that you are.  Even if you are undocumented know that you cannot be deported without being given the opportunity to see a judge and with legal representation.

So let us Americans all tell our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and friends that the very same legal system that that prompted the raid can also protect them.  Stick to the guidelines above. There is as much propaganda as purpose in the current raids.  Get legal help and be ready in the unlikely event that you are the victim of a raid.  You may still be detained but deportation is much more challenging.

Marcelino Jose
© 2016

By Marcelino Miyares-

Hace varias semanas les presentamos una Declaracin de Derechos de los Americanos Indocumentados, y posteriormente una Declaracin de Responsabilidades de los Americanos Indocumentados. Nuestro objetivo ha sido crear un marco o estrategia para un debate serio acerca de lo que todava parece ser un tema de menor importancia.

Y ahora este nuevo año comienza con redadas de los inmigrantes, una de cuyas consecuencias es aterrorizar, por lo menos, a 11 millones de personas que residen dentro de nuestras fronteras, y tambien a los millones de padres, hijos y seres queridos que ya son Residentes Legales en el pas o Ciudadanos  Americanos. ¿Cuantos americanos con documentos conocen, aman o emplean a un Americano Indocumentado? La repercusin de estas redadas es el terror sufrido por lo menos por uno de cada cinco americanos,  o quizas por mas.

A principios de esta semana casi 150 familias han sido afectadas directamente por la detencin de un ser querido.  Esta cadena de redadas en los hogares y sitios de trabajo parece ser causada por el aumento de la inmigracin proveniente de Centro America. Irnicamente, mucho de este traficohumano es el resultado del incremento en la violencia relacionada con las pandillas en sus pases de origen. El miedo se siente  tanto aqu como alla…

Nosotros nos orgullecemos de ser ciudadanos de una nacin donde existe la  ley. Un pas donde la ley es importante y donde los ciudadanos que la respetan pueden prosperar. Y si esto es as, ¿cmo es que estas redadas parecen mas un teatro que un cumplimiento de la ley?  ¿Cuando hemos visto que se hacen redadas de las pandillas o los prostbulos? ¿Cuando leemos acerca de redadas en las fabricas clandestinas o de los empleadores que explotan a los trabajadores, por supuesto, excepto cuando los trabajadores son inmigrantes?

La respuesta es obvia. Tal parece que solamente se anuncia una estrategia de redadas cuando se sabe que el blanco de las mismas son personas que no tienen ninguna influencia, o manera de defenderse o de luchar en contra. O tambien, probablemente, se anuncia como una medida legal cuando se tiene algún propsito o conveniencia poltica. La administracin del Presidente Obama da rdenes de aplazar acciones contra ciertos inmigrantes y dar tranquilidad a algunos, slo para apresurar la amplia deportacin e intimidacin de otros.  En teora se supone que el enfoque sea en los criminales, en realidad cualquiera puede ser blanco de las redadas.

Según nuestras investigaciones tal parece que hay maneras de defenderse contra estas detenciones ilegales de cualquier persona en estepas, aun cuando se trate de un Inmigrante Indocumentado.

Primero:  Solamente puede detenerlo un agente  de ICE – el Servicio de Inmigracion y Control de Aduanas. La polica no puede hacerlo a menos que usted haya violado una ley.

Segundo :  El agente de ICE debe tener una orden de arresto. Ni usted ni su empleador estan obligados a abrirles la puerta si no le enseñan dicha orden; no deben dejarlos pasar.

Tercero:  Permanezca en silencio. No diga nada, excepto I have the right to remain silent (Tengo derecho a permanecer callado) y I have a right to talk to my attorney  (Tengo derecho a hablar con mi abogado). No les diga dnde naci. No les diga cmo vino a los Estados Unidos. No firme ningún documento ni les muestre ninguno, a menos que usted tenga un Certificado de Nacimiento de los Estados Unidos o Tarjeta de Residencia Legal(green card).  No les muestre o entregue ningún documento falso. Si usted no dice nada, ni firma nada, no puede caer en una trampa.

Esto es mas facil de decir que de hacer, Pero vivimos en un pas donde los procedimientos legales se respetan. En otras palabras, la manera en cmo se hace cumplir la ley es tan importantecomo la ley misma.  ICE tiene que probar que usted no esta aqu legalmente antes de que usted tenga que probarles que s lo esta.  Aún si usted esta indocumentado, debe saber que no lo pueden deportar sin que se le de la oportunidadde presentarse a un juez y tener representacin legal.

As que, todos nosotros los americanos,  debemos decirles a nuestros hermanos y hermanas, madres y padres, parientes y amigos, que el mismo sistema legal que origina la redada tambien puede protegernos. Atengase a las reglas generales aqu mencionadas. Las redadas actuales tienen tanto de propaganda como de tener un propsito real. Obtenga ayuda legal y este preparado para la eventualidad de ser vctima de una redada. Ademas, tenga en cuenta que puede ser que lo detengan, pero que va a ser mucho mas difcil que lo deporten.

Marcelino Jose
© 2016

Though there never has been a real line for immigration unless the queue at Ellis Island is the sepia-toned image that comes to mind. Our present-day immigrants are coming to the U.S. exactly like our ancestors — however they can and for the same reasons: freedom to be, to join family already here, to escape poverty, persecution and violence and to work for a better life. And there are jobs waiting for them just as our ancestors found work because they are needed to build a nation, to grow the economy. These jobs are often low-level and poor-paying but they’re a starting point – the same starting point that generations of immigrants have used to embark on their new lives, to work their way up and push others ahead of them even higher along the ladder toward the middle class.

The real problem is not so much how immigrants enter the U.S.; it’s how hard the nation makes it for us to stay and work toward legal status. We’re already here — 11 million of us who aren’t documented. Spending billions more on border security before addressing a path to legal residency or citizenship makes no sense. Southwest border security is already 84% effective at a cost of $18 billion. We pay into this system that builds walls instead of bridges, a system where our mere presence is illegal and our existence alien.

During the nation’s first century, the U.S. had an open immigration system that allowed any able-bodied immigrant in, if he or she could find a way to get here. Now there are many more requirements, including higher costs and longer waiting periods.

The current immigration process is broken, offering few effective options with high costs ($200-$700 plus attorney fees) and wait times that are daunting. The so-called line for immigrants is already 4.4 million people long and the wait, depending on visa type and country of origin, can be decades long. Some immigrants are able to enter the U.S. legally by being sponsored by an employer or family member, applying for refugee status or by securing selectively distributed professional or diversity visas (the 55,000 green cards available to those coming from countries with low immigration rates).

Often times, the wait is intolerable because of poverty, violence and the desire to keep families safe and to be reunited with loved ones already resettled. Many risk it all to come and far too many don’t make it.

There is no line to stand in for the poor with few skills trying to gain permanent U.S. residency. Generally, gaining permission to live and work in the United States is limited to people who are highly trained in a skill that is in short supply here, those escaping political persecution or those joining close family already here. This leaves behind the majority of those who just need a chance to prove themselves.

While the anti-immigration forces harp on the illegal status of the Undocumented, they do nothing to fix the law, to streamline the bureaucracy or to recognize the contribution of immigrants. While they shamelessly stereotype and perpetuate their ugly myths about immigrants, the nation suffers, not just from a failure to live up to its highest ideals, but to actually prosper from realizing the full potential of the immigrant, especially Undocumented Americans.

According to Rana Foroohar’s October 2015Time article, Migrants Could Be the Key to a Stronger Economy, 52% of Silicon Valley start-ups from 1995-2005 had at least one immigrant founder. She also points out that a 1% increase in the share of immigrant college graduates leads to a 6% increase in patents per capita.

Why would a Congress, supposedly looking out for the best interests of the nation in a highly competitive global market, want to oppress innovators and stymie the education of ambitious young Dreamers?

Most serious scholars believe that the bravery of immigrants has its own sort of economic value, according to Ian Goldin, director of Oxford University’s Martin School and author of Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future. Migrants are a disproportionately dynamic part of the labor force globally. Innovative and entrepreneurial, they create a higher-than-average number of patents, start businesses more frequently than natives and founded 40% of the Fortune 500 firms.

The last successful congressional immigration reform came under Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan signed the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which combined employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers with amnesty to almost three-million Undocumented living in the U.S.

Congress failed to pass the Dream Act first introduced in the Senate in 2001 and resurrected on several occasions in various iterations until it failed for the last time in 2010. A 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate but was never brought up for a vote in the House. With Congress’ failure to act, President Obama signed two executive orders, first DACA and later DAPA, both offering deferred action, not citizenship, for as many as five million Undocumented, but DAPA is being deliberately held up in the courts as those eligible worry and wait. So not only is there no real line for attaining legal status; there’s no lifeline for being saved from deportation.

Goldin reminds us that In the 19th century, a third of the population of Sweden, Ireland and Italy emigrated to America and other countries. The U.S. is the very best example of how dynamic a country of immigrants can be.

If the U.S. is to maintain its world-leading economic status, it will need the help of all those who have, generation after generation, made it possible – the enduring legacy of immigrants reinvigorating both the democracy and a belief in American ingenuity and hard work.

Again and again, Congress refuses to act, to provide a clear, workable framework for attaining legal status where the bureaucratic process is transparent and easily understood — designed to expedite, not impede, where requirements and waiting periods are reasonable. Immigrants have already made it clear that they’re committed to the American Way of Life through the very act that they got here, often against impossible odds. They believe they’re earning their citizenship every day even if they can’t find a way into the system, even if they can’t find that elusive line.

Marcelino Jose
© 2015

 

Research Sources: Time’s Rana Foroohar: Migrants Could Be the Key to a Stronger Economy, Christian Science Monitor’s Stephanie Hanes’ 2013 Immigration: Assimilation and the Measure of an American, Jason Deparle’s 2013 The Atlantic Daily, Why the U.S. Is So Good at Turning Immigrants into Americans, Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: Republican Debate Missing the Point, L.A. Times Kate Linthicum: Asians To Top Latinos, The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: Immigration in the U.S., L.A. Times’ Don Lee: U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants, Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s This Land Is Your Land and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship, ABC News, Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: Trump’s Deportation Idea, Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy, linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About,” attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Ivan Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s  Alicia A. Caldwell, USA Today’s Alan Gomez.

It seems hard to believe that anyone living in the U.S. could escape the steady cultural onslaught – what to wear, where to go, the latest tech gizmo. Americanization is beyond a national marketing campaign; it’s a global money-making behemoth. Our culture invades countries worldwide whose citizens don our jeans and listen to our music, even countries where we’re seen as the Great Satan. American culture, by its overwhelming scope, seems to run roughshod over nostalgia for the old country and yet the fears persist that we’ll never fit in.

We Undocumented Americans may be discussed as if we’re different, as if we’re to be excluded from the national branding, but we’re not left in a cultural vacuum while we struggle to belong. We are already both the audiences and the influencers of the American Way of Life.  No one need worry that we’re not fully engaged in the national discussions and pastimes.

We are unmistakably an integral part of American life. We are everywhere: workplaces, schools, churches, sporting and entertainment events. We populate the big cities and small rural towns, places where immigrant populations appear to have grown overnight. Since 1970, the foreign-born population of greater Atlanta has risen more than 3,000 percent, according to Jason Deparle’s 2013 Atlantic article on Why the U.S. Is So Good at Turning Immigrants into Americans.

While we may be everywhere geographically, we’re often stuck economically — denied good public schools and in-state college tuition and unable to advance in universities and the workplace without required documentation. The politicians who view us as illegal aliens do everything they can to make sure we know we aren’t wanted, that we’ll never belong, that we will self-fulfill their prophesy of never becoming real Americans.

Radical conservatives want the nation to believe that we’re ungrateful and unconnected while they are the ones keeping us in perpetual legal limbo. Liberals and academics point to studies that confirm we embrace this country with more optimism than many native born and do identify as Americans, not necessarily overnight but within a generation or two. In fact, immigrants from Latin America already define themselves as Americano.

Children growing up in America almost unavoidably assimilate American values, respected economist and Oxford professor, Paul Collier, writes. The same is far from true in Europe. However, measurements of mobility, which should be unrivaled in the U.S., are higher in Europe. Here’s where integration hits a monumental roadblock.

Mobility is an integral part of the American Dream. Many countries in the world excel at keeping millions on the bottom and their ongoing success in global economics suffers because of it. If 11 million of us remain Undocumented Americans, the U.S. faces the real possibility of creating a permanent underclass without hope, as has happened in so many other countries where immigration tensions have mounted. If we live, work and go to school here, we need the papers that make advancement possible. If the government we admired from afar continues to serve us and all Americans so poorly in its perpetual gridlock, there will be a tragic loss of individual talent and national potential. This loss is what the country should fear, not us.

In Stephanie Hanes’ exploration of Immigration: Assimilation and the Measure of an American, she cites the 1990’s work of Princeton University’s Alejandro Portes, considered one of the leading thinkers on immigrant integration. He helped develop a theory of ‘segmented assimilation,’ which at a basic level says that because American society is so unequal, there are a number of social places where an immigrant can fit – including the social underclass.

Portes is quoted as saying, “Nativists take the position that they don’t want any immigrants at all – they want to build fences…The other position is to turn [immigrants] into Americans as quickly as possible – this is forced assimilation…The problem is that the first generation cannot be turned into Americans instantly. And the attempt to do so is often counterproductive. It creates fear and alienation, it denigrates the culture and language of immigrants themselves, and it denigrates it to their kids.”

We work very hard to be integrated, not assimilated into America. We’re not giving up who we are but we’re becoming American. We may not be Made in America but we’re determined to make our way. Our origins are not as important as what we do with our opportunities. We are not here through some accident of birth but because we made a hard choice to come and to make something better of ourselves — aspirations any country should welcome.

We risk everything to come to the States and then must find a place to live, work and overcome language barriers while dealing with a broken immigration system. Before we can become citizens, we must learn English, American history and take a citizenship test – waiting for years to even find a way into the bureaucracy. During this wait, we do what we can, taking advantage of DACA and DAPA, should it be upheld in the courts. We work and worry and wait. We focus on our children ensuring that they get the education we believe to be their ticket to acceptance and success.

In 2012, children with at least one Undocumented parent accounted for 6.9% of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade. A significant majority of these students were born in the U.S. (representing 5.5% of all students in 2012); the rest (1.4% of all students) are Undocumented themselves. The share of these students with unauthorized immigrant parents climbed to 7.2% in 2007 from 3.2% in 1995.

The Pew Research Center estimates that in 2012 four-million Undocumented parents, or 38% of adults in this population, lived with their U.S.-born children, either minors or adults. Of these, three million have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more. There are 6.3 million children who live in a household with a DAPA-eligible parent and 5.5 million of these children are U.S. citizens.

For so many of us, the young Undocumented and our U.S.-born children, the U.S. is the only country we know. We have settled ourselves into the American Way of Life and added our own stories, hopes and dreams. What we bring is affirmation of the nation’s democratic ideals — a world view of a global citizen choosing to earn American citizenship. We’re not a threat to the concept of being an American but a strong validation that comes with gifts — more languages, skills, cultures, points-of-view, art, sports and cuisines. It’s what every generation of immigrants has brought in rich abundance since our nation’s founding.

Marcelino Jose
© 2015

 

Research Sources: Christian Science Monitor’s Stephanie Hanes’ 2013 Immigration: Assimilation and the Measure of an American, Jason Deparle’s 2013 The Atlantic Daily, Why the U.S. Is So Good at Turning Immigrants into Americans, Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: Republican Debate Missing the Point, L.A. Times Kate Linthicum: Asians To Top Latinos, The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: Immigration in the U.S., L.A. Times’ Don Lee: U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants, Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s This Land Is Your Land and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship, ABC News, Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: Trump’s Deportation Idea, Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy, linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About,” attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Ivan Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s  Alicia A. Caldwell, USA Today’s Alan Gomez.

What is the nation being led to believe? Even if all immigrants aren’t criminals, they steal from the system, living off welfare and other government handouts. This is just another good reason for sending them back so we can take care of our own. The entire concept of a generous, caring nation filled with opportunity needs expunging from the global narrative to stem the tide of immigrants.

What some seem to forget is that immigrants are our own; 41.3 million of us are foreign-born. We live in various stages of trying to belong legally while knowing in our hearts that we belong because we are here, because we work at being good citizens, because we have deep ties to family and community, because the U.S. is our home. 

A 2015 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group advocating for less immigration, found that 51%f of the nation’s immigrants receive some kind of government assistance –Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance — compared with 30% of native-born.

This study was reportedly based on 2012 data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. It included U.S.-born children, naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, those on short-term visas and undocumented immigrants.  In other words, the study included citizens and residents who are legally eligible for government assistance.

Looking at this one study doesn’t really examine the actual impact of current immigration law on the Undocumented. First of all, most public benefits require proof of legal immigration status, so the Undocumented do not qualify for welfare, food stamps or Medicaid.

Secondly, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the States for over five years. Citizen children of the Undocumented do qualify for government programs, and the Undocumented are eligible for public schooling, though in-state-tuition benefits are available in only a handful of states.

Third, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, does not grant the Undocumented access to taxpayer-funded subsidies or credits to buy health insurance through the exchanges. However, the Undocumented can’t be turned away from emergency rooms.

Fourth, and most telling of all, is that non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25% less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born counterparts and are also 37% less likely to receive food stamps, according to a 2013 study by the Cato Institute.

The Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, Steven Camarota, said that the nation’s immigration system should be more selective and indicated that education should be a major criterion for opening doors to the more prosperous immigrant. To be fair, he didn’t openly advocate returning to the decades before passage of the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, prior to which the U.S. openly discriminated against most of the world that wasn’t Europe.

It is hard to imagine even well-educated immigrants, who have left everything behind, starting over with everything they need unless they are wealthy and/or well-connected. The U.S. already expedites visas for needed skills but using education as a criterion for immigration has its own drawbacks. Even if the U.S. only allowed the better educated, many of their professional licenses would be invalid in our country and they might have to work for years in low-level jobs to earn equivalent standing in the U.S.

First-generation immigrants have usually struggled much more than their children. Linda Chavez, President of the Becoming American Institute, says that these kids who get subsidized school lunches today will go on to graduate high school…will go on to college and move up to the middle class. She points out how much things change in just one generation. Already, education levels are on the rise. For example, nearly half of Mexican immigrants, 25 or older, had graduated high school and one in eight held a BA.

Even when Camorata turned from education to the ability to advance through hard work, he seemed perplexed by his finding that if you were to work for $10 an hour, 40 hours a week, you couldn’t be receiving welfare, could you? To his surprise, he found the answer to be a resounding yes.

Focusing on family incomes, he discovered that 76% of immigrants with children received some form of government assistance. This high percentage seemed more understandable once compared to the 52% of native-born households with children who also received help.

What Camorata did not appear to explore in greater depth is that immigrants often work several jobs and still don’t make a living wage. They come to this country with a willingness to work hard and a dream to work their way up, but being undocumented often keeps advancement and higher wages at bay – a shameful waste of human potential occurring every day.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, according to the Center’s study, immigrants are more likely to be working with 87% of households reporting at least one worker compared to 76% of native-born families. Notwithstanding the work ethic, government assistance was needed most for immigrants from Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The rates for other regions include East Asia (32%), Europe (26%) and South Asia (17%).

What is missing from the discussion is how much immigrants contribute to the economy through their businesses and services, how much they pay in taxes and Social Security and what unleashing their full potential would do for the nation’s competitive edge and to its commitment to provide equal opportunity.

A CBO report on the failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 concluded that a path to legalization for immigrants would increase federal revenues by $48 billion accompanied by a $23-billion increase in cost of public services with a final surplus of $25 billion for government coffers. By the time the Senate passed a 2013 immigration bill that never even got a vote in the House, the CBO projected reduced national deficits of $175 billion over the first 10 years and at least $700 billion in the second decade.

We, the Undocumented, contribute far more to this country than we take. It may say more about the nation than it says about us that we often struggle to survive, even while working several jobs and living in crowded and even deplorable conditions – where we find ourselves in the company of native-born Americans who are also living on the margins.

We’re not looking for a handout or even a hand up; we’d just asking for some relief from all the hateful rhetoric, the never-ending bureaucratic obstacles and the failure of the government to act: to fully implement DACA and DAPA for deferred action and to provide us with a path to citizenship where we can finally realize our potential and the promise of the nation.

 

Research Sources: Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: Republican Debate Missing the Point, L.A. Times Kate Linthicum: Asians To Top Latinos, The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: Immigration in the U.S., L.A. Times’ Don Lee: U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants, Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s This Land Is Your Land and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship, ABC News, Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: Trump’s Deportation Idea, Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy, linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About,” attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Ivan Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s  Alicia A. Caldwell, USA Today’s Alan Gomez.

Quick, spend billions on completely sealing the 1,954-mile border the U.S. shares with Mexico, then man this wall with armed troops, military vehicles and killer drones. This will surely deter the immigrants and refugees, not to mention all the businesses, tourists and families that depend on border access.

GOP leaders make it sound like we’re facing a violent invasion, that we’re at war with Mexico. They zero in on one border and one kind of immigrant and they tell us that these immigrants are overtaking the country. Assuming this budget-busting wall would impede the dispossessed, families and children fleeing violence and poverty, it will do nothing to mitigate the flow of drugs into the U.S. or arms to the cartels.

All this hysteria comes as the irrational response to stop the near zero-net migration recorded along the U.S.-Mexican border since 2011. Southwest border security is 84% effective at a cost of $18 billion. Cost for completely walling the border would be $28 billion, the entire Justice Department budget. Think how much good these billions would do if put toward the nation’s decaying infrastructure – roads, bridges and rail lines.

The number of Undocumented in the country has dropped from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012. Though Mexicans are a majority of unauthorized immigrants (52% in 2012), their numbers and share have declined in recent years, according to Pew Research. As the Mexican numbers continued to drop between 2009 and 2012, unauthorized immigrant populations from South America, Europe and Canada held steady. Unauthorized immigrant populations from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and the rest of the world grew slightly from 2009 to 2012.

What has been upsetting to see in the past year has been the arrival along the southern border of not immigrants, but those more aptly designated refugees. Since October 2014, 35,000 children traveling alone and 34,500 mothers and children have fled their violent hometowns in desperation, most turning themselves in, hoping for asylum. They are sent back or await their fate in detention centers. This is a humanitarian crisis where further militarization of the border is not the answer.

While the nation’s attention is focused on building walls to the south, immigrants are flying in from all over the world, especially Asia, already 6% of the population. The patterns of immigration are changing. By mid-century Asians will overtake new arrivals from Latin America.

As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1900, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 20% of the population in contrast to 12% today. In 1965, when Congress rewrote the immigration laws, the foreign-born population stood at 5%. By 2055, the percentage is projected to be 18% of which Asians will comprise 36% and Latinos 34%.

If Latinos are not a monolith, then Asians are even less so. There is no dominant language and the cultures vary significantly. They come to satisfy the same needs as Latinos and even native-born Americans: family unification, housing, education, jobs and healthcare.

Of the more than 31-million foreign-born living in the United States in 2009, about 20 million were either citizens or legal residents. Of those who did not have authorization to be here, about 45% entered the country legally and then let their papers expire. This percentage is less now. In 2015, there are 41.3-million foreign-born out of a total population of 320 million.

Immigrants and their offspring will make up 88% of U.S. population growth over the next half century according to Pew Research. Without this growth, the U.S. will not be able to remain competitive in the global marketplace. What makes the nation so fortunate is that people want to come for the opportunity. They are tenacious, ambitious and willing to work hard. In recent years, a survey found that immigrants are better prepared with more education. For example, nearly half of Mexican immigrants, 25 or older, had graduated high school and one in eight held a BA.

America has always found a way to take advantage of the immigrant, too often in a dark nether- world working for low wages under inhumane conditions with no recourse for grievances. The current immigration discussion has been hijacked from finding ways to make the most of the unrealized potential of the millions of Undocumented to exploring mass deportation schemes to make us leave, to tear us from our families, jobs and communities. The nation needs us to add our skills, experience and knowledge to an aging labor force. The mere fact that we were determined enough to get here overcoming all obstacles, to stay despite discrimination and often paralyzing fear, and to continue to strive regardless of constant vilification – should make us ideal workers, leaders and citizens.

There is no human tsunami of Undocumented aliens crashing the border, waiting to take American jobs, ruin the economy and raise the crime rate. We, the 11-million Undocumented, who are already here, are predominately national assets: working hard, starting businesses, getting an education, paying taxes, contributing to community and country.

What should be remembered about the Undocumented is that we follow a long line of immigrants.  Most every American is one of us – one or two or 10 generations removed from being immigrants themselves. None of us are here as invaders.  We are here to invest, reaffirm and renew the American Dream, the dream that our political leaders seem so intent on sealing off from the rest of the world.

Marcelino Jose
© 2015

 

Research Sources: Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: Republican Debate Missing the Point, L.A. TimesKate Linthicum: Asians To Top Latinos, The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: Immigration in the U.S.,L.A. Times’ Don Lee: U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants, Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s This Land Is Your Land and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship, ABC News,Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: Trump’s Deportation Idea, Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy, linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About,” attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Ivan Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s  Alicia A. Caldwell.