Thursday, December 6, 2012

Immigration Politics - The view from Texas

Link to HuffPost Voces Latino:

Immigration Politics – the view from Texas

Immigration reform already appears to be high on the agenda for Congress. Although the main debates on immigration reform will be happening in Washington, DC, in many ways the debates at the state level offer an interesting perspective on the potential for reform in the next year or two.  Texas politicians like George W. Bush and Rick Perry have taken a much less harsh approach to immigration than Jan Brewer of Arizona, or Robert Bentley in Alabama.  These states, dominated by Republicans who are pushing for more immigration control, attempted to implement laws designed to encourage illegal immigrants to leave, and require even legal immigrants to carry their papers with them at all times. Although the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Arizona's SB1070, the section on checking suspects' status was allowed to stay in place.

The Texas legislature is also dominated by Republicans, and several introduced strict immigration bills in the last legislative session, but none of these were passed in the last legislative session, and it is expected that the same will occur in the upcoming legislative session.  What is different about Texas?  Not only is Texas on the front lines in terms of being on the border with Mexico, it is also on the front lines of demographic change in the U.S.  As described by the Center for American Progress “Texas is one of five states in the country where people of color make up the majority of the population. Between 2000 and 2009 Hispanic population growth accounted for 63.1 percent of all growth in the state” (Center for America Progress 2012).  These statistics have clear implications for politicians in the Lone Star state.  As the electorate changes, politicians will have to be more responsive to issues like immigration that are a high priority for many who are immigrants or come from families with immigrant backgrounds.

One of the first indicators of a new/different approach is the fact that outgoing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, along with outgoing Senator Jon Kyle of Arizona, both Republicans, have proposed  a version of the DREAM act, which they are calling the ACHIEVE act.  The bill would do most of what the DREAM act does, without a path to citizenship.  A bill being sponsored by two outgoing senators isn’t likely to go far – but it is relevant that two Republicans from border states are now pushing a bill that would provide visas for undocumented immigrants.  However, other politicians in Texas want to go farther.

As reported in the Texas Tribune, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, chaired by Representative Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, released "One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream," a nine-point synopsis of issues that the caucus believes should be addressed.  This includes the DREAM act with a path to citizenship.  It is notable that Gonzalez is a Texan and he will be replaced in the next session of Congress by another Texan, Representative Rubén Hinojosa, D-Edinburg.

Although it is clear that the Hispanic Caucus is taking a very different approach from Senate Republicans, it is important to note that Texas politicians are taking a leading role on the issue of immigration, and it is likely that any legislation that is introduced will need support from the Texas delegation. Any way you look at it, Texas voters and Texas politicians will play an important role in the upcoming debates around immigration reform. Republicans have managed to thrive in this state, despite the growing Hispanic population, but their positions on this issue and others will have an impact on the future of the party as well as immigration reform at the national level.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Republicans propose new immigration measures

This week's news update includes a story from the Texas Tribune on legislative proposals from Texas politicians:

Also in Texas news, immigration bills are trickling in before the start of the legislative session:

In Congress, house Republicans are putting forward bills that would address visas for skilled immigrants:

The House of Representative passed the STEM bill, sponsored by Texas representative Lamar Smith, that would allow foreign students in science and technology to get a green card, but at the expense of the diversity visa program:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The election is over - now what?

The latest blog post is up at HuffPost Voces Latino:
estados unidos
The election is over – now what?

Terri E. Givens

Latinos voted. Obama has won re-election, while the Democrats have held onto the Senate and made inroads into the Republican majority in the House.  Obama won 75% of the Latino vote – not just on the issue of immigration, but on a variety of issues where the Republicans seemed tone deaf.  However, both Democrats and Republicans have to face the reality that the Latino vote is now decisive for national elections, as shown in the analysis by Gary Segura and Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions. As I discussed in my previous blog post, politicians are more likely to respond to the interests of groups when they vote and have an impact on the outcome of an election.  This was clearly the case in this election, and it’s an opportunity that should not be wasted.

When it comes to policy change, the election is just the beginning.  Of course the top issue for all Americans is the economy.  The negotiations over the budget will be difficult, and the President and Congress will need to hear from all of us on those issues, so it will be important to stay mobilized. The majority that Obama was able to pull together was the result of a lot of work on the ground.  More young people and minorities voted in this election than the pundits, and certainly Romney’s campaign, expected.  This energy needs to be maintained to help push for policy change.

Once the issues around the fiscal cliff are dealt with, comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM act should be top priorities. However, it will take more than goodwill to move forward on these issues.  The election is just the first step in what is likely to be a long process of finding key legislators to take on these issues, and move them forward. Fortunately there are signs that comprehensive immigration reform is moving higher on the agenda.  GOP leaders like John Boehner, and pundits like Sean Hannity have “evolved” on the issue, and say that it needs to be addressed.

However, it’s not clear that all of the GOP is going to support comprehensive immigration reform. Many have also indicated that they may not be as open to immigration reform as some of their leaders.  What is clear is that the status quo is indefensible, as American Conservative Union President Al Cardenas has said.  The GOP has many issues to deal with after this election, and if the party is to remain relevant, they will have to look at why they failed to attract more votes from women, young people and minorities.

This is also an important time for voters to stay engaged at the local and state level.  If you have concerns about the long voting lines and issues around voter suppression, these have to be addressed in your own communities.  We all need to push for policies that will encourage and facilitate voting.  If we value our democracy, we should value the right to vote, and make it easier for those who are eligible to vote, not make it harder.  It’s embarrassing to try to explain to my European friends why some Americans had to wait as long as 7 or 8 hours to vote on Election Day. Regardless of your political orientation, the ability to vote in a timely manner should not be an issue in 2012.  We have the means to resolve these issues, and it should not be done in a partisan manner.

I look forward to the discussions to come around immigration, the DREAM act, and other policies that will help to fix our broken immigration system.  I encourage those of you who care about this issue to stay engaged, I will continue to write about developments in this blog.  As President Obama said, “we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

More articles on the GOP and the Latino Vote

Mostly from the Huffington Post, these articles lay out the issues facing the GOP following last week's election:

Obama's Big Hispanic Voter Win In Presidential Election Worries Republicans

Carlos Gutierrez, Mitt Romney Adviser: Latinos 'Were Scared'

Mitt Romney Latino Loss Shows Republicans 'Have Been Their Own Worst Enemy'

A thoughtful response to the Latino vote issue:
The Demographic Excuse  By ROSS DOUTHAT

Another argument that it's economic policy, not immigration policy that sways Latino voters:
Why Hispanics don't vote for Republican by Heather Mac Donald

Back to immigration -Ten players to watch in immigration reform:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Obama wins ~75% of Latino vote - GOP changes tune on immigration reform

It wasn't long after the election was called for Obama that GOP politicians and pundits began to blame their loss on a variety of reasons, but losing the Latino vote was at the top.  The results from Latino Decisions tell the tale:

Now several GOP pundits like Sean Hannity, and politicians like John Boehner are changing their tune on immigration reform:

...and from POLITICO, 20 quotes on immigration reform:

Rupert Murdoch

"Must have sweeping, generous immigration reform,make existing law- abiding Hispanics welcome. Most are hard working family people."
(Photo: AP Photo)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Article from Cato Institute

This article by Alex Nowrasteh from the Cato Institute does a great job of explaining the economic impact of immigration and a rebuttal to a recent memo by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies:

"Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies and author of the book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Illegal and Legal, criticized a remarkI made to Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan about a new CIS memo.
The memo, which can be found here, claims that immigrants are taking most of the jobs created since President Obama took office.  I told the Washington Times that the memo “makes a mountain out of a molehill” because it ignores key economic explanations that have nothing to do with demonizing immigrants.  Steven Camarota, one of the authors of the memo, evenagreed that one factor I mentioned could explain his findings.
In response, Mr. Krikorian wrote that I should, “Tell that to the 23 million Americans who are unemployed, forced to settle for part-time work, or gave up looking for work altogether.”
My response is that the CIS memo is so flawed it should not be taken seriously."
More at:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Vote?

Link to Spanish Version in HuffPost Voces Latino:
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” Cesar Chavez

As Election Day draws near, I hear many people saying that they may not vote, that there isn’t much difference between the candidates, etc.  Regardless of how you may feel about the candidates, voting is a right and a duty.  Everyone who is eligible should vote, because it will make a difference. 

I know that my vote will count as a woman, as an African-American, and as someone who feels passionately about issues like immigration.  I have compared the positions of the candidates on a variety of issues and know whose positions are closer to my own.  However, I also know that if I don’t vote, then there will be one less voice for women, and all the other categories that I fit into. 

When the election is over, the parties will look at the results and try to determine what they mean, not only in terms of who is elected president or to Congress, but in terms of the direction that the vote is moving for the future, which will have an impact on policies legislators pursue going forward. Have certain groups of voters been energized or turned off by the issues that were raised, or not raised? Those who voted will have a more legitimate voice after the election in the halls of power, when they are pushing for a particular issue. 

Although I would argue that Latinos don’t make a homogenous voting bloc, they have been treated as one in this election, and President Obama recently argued that he may win the election because the GOP has alienated Latino voters (article). Time will tell if this is true or not. Polls have clearly been undercounting Latinos, as shown in a study by Matt Barreto. You can be sure that analysts will be examining exit polls to determine the impact of the Latino vote, and this will have an impact on policy decisions by those elected. The demographics of this country are changing and we will soon be a majority minority country.  However, that majority has to vote and run for office in order to exercise any kind of power over policy.

The future of immigration policy is in the hands of the voters.  The presidential candidates and congressional candidates have laid out their positions. Of course, this is not the only issue that voters will focus on, it’s clear that the economy is the top issue. However, I would argue that the two issues are intertwined.  A coherent, practical immigration policy will lead to more economic growth in this country as I argued in my previous column. 

I always return to history when discussing these issues and there are many historical examples of groups, particularly immigrants, having an impact on the direction of policy.  German, Irish, Polish, Italians, all of these groups have had an important impact on politics and politicians from these groups have been important to policy change.  It may take time, but every election is another step in a particular direction.  If you care about issues and the future for your family and children, you must raise your voice, vote and help this country determine the direction it will go in the future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time and the Economics of Immigration

HuffPost Voces Latino blog post en espanol:

impuestos estados unidos
Time and the Economics of Immigration

Terri E. Givens 

Organizations who oppose immigration will point to studies that show that immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, are a drain on the system, particularly for education and healthcare. These organizations, like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) tend to minimize what these immigrants pay in taxes as well as what they provide in terms of economic activity and growth. Pro-immigration groups, like the Immigration Policy Center, focus on the positive impact that immigrants have had on the U.S. economy, also noting that deporting all of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. would reduce our GDP by $2.6 trillion dollars over 10 years. 

In a country that was built on immigration, it is this debate that often animates our discussions around immigration and immigration policy.  Personally, I get frustrated with these debates, because the anti-immigration organizations pick the data that supports their perspective, and the pro-immigration organizations do the same. The reality is that this is a story that has to be told over time.  One hundred years ago, members of Congress were concerned about the flow of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and moved to restrict those flows.  Yet, those immigrants became well-integrated and soon became valued citizens.  They helped to build this country during very difficult times, including the World Wars, the Great Depression and the consolidation of the United States as a world military and economic power. 

When Congress changed our immigration policy from one that focused on quotas, mainly for Northern and Western Europeans, to one that focused on preferences, including skills and a strong preference for family members of citizens, few foresaw the huge demographic impact that this would have on our country.  With fewer restrictions on immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America we have seen greater diversity in immigration ever since this important policy change.  We have also seen ups and downs in our economy.  One small part of this is that the kind of technological innovations that have come from immigrant entrepreneurs would have been much less likely if we hadn’t opened our doors to engineers from around the world. 

Another example is the workers who have played an important role in the maintenance and rebuilding of infrastructure, housing, and construction.  They have all helped to maintain the United States’ position as the top economy in the world. This does not mean that there aren’t problems with our immigration system.  I firmly believe that providing opportunities for undocumented immigrants to get visas and work permits would give a boost to our economy. Workers would be able to come out of the shadows, hopefully get paid more reasonable wages, and lead to more job creation.
I also believe that any kind of regularization or amnesty needs to go along with comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a more reasonable number of visas to meet the demands of employers, while taking into account the concerns of organized labor and others who have a vested interest in these processes.  This is going to be a difficult process, because there are many interests that have taken positions for and against reform, but all agree change is needed.  It will take pressure from both inside and outside of Washington, DC to get Congress to move forward, but it is in everyone’s interest from both an economic and human perspective to push for change. As history has shown, America’s strength comes from our ability to adapt, grow and incorporate people from diverse backgrounds.  We need not fear change, we can embrace it and maintain the economic engine which has been the envy of the world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debating immigration

In case you missed it - here's the candidates discussing immigration in last night's debate:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Investing in a Dream

This week's blog post -
Link to Spanish version on HuffPost Voces Latino:


Investing in a Dream

Terri E. Givens 

Immigrant advocates often focus on the economic benefits that immigrants provide, but as a university professor, I get to experience the hopes and dreams of my students, many of whom are from or have ties to other countries, mostly from Mexico.  I never cease to be amazed by the diversity I see in my classrooms, which vary from 65 to 350 students.  I often tell my students that this is what America is all about, that students from all types of backgrounds can come to a place like the University of Texas at Austin and get a great education.
Our university accepts undocumented students for admission, and if they provide evidence that they have resided in Texas for at least three years and graduated from a high school in the state, they can qualify for in-state tuition. If they are in the top 8% of their graduating class, they are guaranteed admission to the University of Texas.  Many of these students also qualify for state grants and financial aid, although they are not eligible for federal financial aid.  In any case, in many ways we are subsidizing the educations of these students, who clearly are high achievers to make it into the Texas university systems.
The disconnect comes when they are working their way through college, and realize the limitations they will face, even if they are successful and complete their degrees. For example,  I often encourage students in my classes to consider studying abroad.  It can be a great experience for students who want to learn about other countries in an up-close and personal manner, learn a new language and broaden their horizons.  I tell them about how my first trip abroad to France changed my view of the world, particularly seeing the Normandy beaches and the military cemeteries from WWII.  It made me realize that for most Europeans WWII is still very much a part of their lives, not ancient history. 
After telling this story in one of my classes, a young woman approached me and told me how inspired she was by my experience.  She wanted to study abroad, but there was a complication – she was undocumented.  I told her that it would be impossible for her to study abroad under the circumstances.  We both felt disappointed.  I felt that here was someone who had benefitted from public education in Texas since she was a small child, felt that she was American, yet couldn’t take advantage of all that a university education could offer.
I certainly would never ask a student’s status, but since I teach a class on the politics of immigration, I often have students who come to talk to me about their particular situation. Many of the students I have met over the years find themselves with few options to do internships, work or pursue many of the opportunities that their fellow students take for granted, because of their lack of documents.  What we end up with is wasted potential.  A story in the Texas Tribune talks about a student with a degree in biomedical science that went on to work in a restaurant because he couldn’t provide employers the proper documents to get a job in his field.  This is in a country where employers complain that we don’t have enough high-skilled workers and that we must import workers from other countries.  We shouldn’t ignore the talent we have here – I want the tax dollars that I have invested in this state’s education system to pay off for all students. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

No New Immigration Proposals

This week's blog on HuffPost Voces Latino:
trabajadores inmigrantes

English Version:

“We asked for workers. We got people instead.” ― Max Frisch

Terri E. Givens
It has been a very interesting week in politics.  In the wake of the release of videos showing Mitt Romney writing off 47% of the electorate, both candidates had important appearances on Univision.  Despite the partisan audiences, many important questions were asked on immigration by Jorge Ramos in particular.  Neither candidate had any new proposals or positions to present, but the policy differences were clear, President Obama has been unable to get Congress to pass the legislation he wants on comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM act and Governor Romney maintains his position on “self-deportation.” For immigrants and those who want immigration reform, the stakes in this election are high.
Amidst the politics surrounding the immigration issue, I was reminded once again that this is not just about politics but about human lives.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is at least a temporary step forward, but there are real human lives in the balance if this policy does not turn into a law that will address the situation of these undocumented immigrants for the long-term.
It’s a problem that has haunted U.S. policy makers throughout our history.  One the one hand, we tout the “American Dream” and on the other, we demonize many of those who would dare to reach for it. Although we are a country of immigrants, nativism rears its head on a regular basis, nearly every ethnic group has faced discrimination and been told to “go home” often despite being in the country for generations.  Organizing and voting for pro-immigration candidates is important, but perhaps some of the more important initiatives in moving forward on immigration reform have to do with humanizing immigrants.  People like Jose Antonio Vargas have given a face to DREAMers who came to this country as children.  Several new movements of undocumented youth have grown out of the article he wrote, declaring their status and perhaps influencing President Obama’s moves on deferred action. 
Another initiative for highlighting the stories of recent immigrants is Tony Hernandez’s Immigrant Archive Project (  The videos are a chronicle of the life stories of immigrants from a variety of backgrounds and countries including celebrities like Edward James Olmos to a DACA eligible college student.  Although these stories may not change the political narrative on immigration, they certainly can have an impact on the narrative that these immigrants have for themselves.  Rather than being acted upon, they can take action and take pride in their stories.
As the title quote demonstrates, immigrants are more than units of labor that can be easily shifted around.  They are grandparents, parents, children and members of the community.  They have dreams and aspirations for themselves and their children.  There are millions of them who are here with visas and green cards and millions who have no such documents.  As the politicians debate the issues around immigration, it is important to keep in mind that it is not just policy, but human lives that are involved.  As Governor Romney said, it would not be possible to deport 12 million people.  But some states like Arizona and Alabama are already trying to make the lives of thousands of immigrants miserable enough that they will leave of their own accord, with predictable consequences for those labor markets, particularly agriculture.
Hopefully the immigration reform debate will move forward after the election.  While all voices need to be heard, there is a time for leaders to step forward and be a voice for those who represent the future of our country. We are for the most part a product of our ancestors who came to this country from other lands. We need to honor our tradition of being a country of immigration and deal with this ongoing issue in a responsible and equitable manner.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blog post from HuffPost Voces Latino - English Version: Latinos and the 2012 Election – Lessons from 1996
Latinos and the 2012 Election – Lessons from 1996
Terri E. Givens
It’s mid-September and the presidential campaigns are moving into high gear.  It is clear that both parties are trying to court the Latino vote (acknowledging the diversity within this category), with Latino politicians playing a prominent role in both the Republican and Democratic conventions.  The latest polls show that President Obama is maintaining a strong lead over Mitt Romney among Latinos. Vice President Joe Biden told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s audience, Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to become, and already have, the most powerful force in American politics,” at their recent gala. Despite this, neither candidate has talked much about immigration – not necessarily a top issue in comparison to the economy, but still an important to many Latinos. This summer President Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which falls far short of what is called for in the DREAM Act. Mitt Romney mainly played to his base early in the campaign and came out against an amnesty for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, while supporting high-skilled immigration. Despite the fact that comprehensive immigration reform has been a bi-partisan issue, it’s clear that it will take more motivation on the part of Republicans in Congress to move forward legislation that will address the main problems with our immigration system.
Like many immigrant groups before them, Latinos are moving into a position to influence elections in many states beyond places like Texas, California and New York, where they already have strong influence.  I was in graduate school in California in the mid-1990s when then Republican Governor Pete Wilson pushed forward an anti-immigrant agenda with Proposition 187 which would have denied undocumented immigrants and their children welfare benefits and access to public schools. Wilson was re-elected in 1994 and Prop 187 passed with nearly 60% of the vote.  Much like today’s SB1070, it seemed like a restrictionist tide was heading across the country.  Pete Wilson was unable to turn his success in California to success as a presidential candidate, but the Republican platform in 1996 called for legislation that would bar the children of undocumented immigrants from public schools.
However, these restrictive moves prompted increased naturalizations, helped by President Clinton’s Citizenship USA initiative in 1995, and subsequent increased voter registration in the Latino community. Mexican Americans in particular voted in record numbers in the 1996 presidential election.  Clinton won handily, including in California, and naturalizations continued to increase, particularly as permanent residents were being restricted from getting certain welfare benefits under welfare reform. George W. Bush was much more conciliatory towards immigrants, and worked much harder at getting the Latino vote than Bob Dole had in 1996.  Once he became president, he was on course to work with Mexican President Vicente Fox on immigration issues, but 9/11 put an immediate stop to those efforts.
Latino voters were successful in shifting the agenda on immigration in 1996.  With the wave of anti-immigrant bills being passed in state legislatures over the past few years, the question is whether the Latino vote will once again have an impact.  As with Proposition 187, most of the components of SB 1070 have been found unconstitutional. In California, Governor Jerry Brown is pursuing a much more immigrant friendly agenda and is considering whether to sign the TRUST Act which would limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal authorities through the Secure Communities program. In Texas, Republicans have been much more conciliatory on the immigration issue, while promoting the careers of Republicans like Senate candidate Ted Cruz.  Although some are arguing that the Latino vote won’t grow much, if at all in the November election it’s often at the margins where the vote matters, particularly in swing states like Iowa.  Turnout will not only have an impact on the current election, it will have a major impact on the direction of policy for many years to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Blog on HuffPost Voces - with English Version

I just started a new blog for the Huffington Post's Voces Latino - here's the link to the first post:
(thanks to Johann Roldan for translating from English to Spanish)
...and here's the English version
The Politics of Immigration – Introduction
Terri E. Givens
Why is an African-American political scientist writing a blog on immigration politics for Latino Voices?  The main reason is that it is an issue about which I am both knowledgeable and passionate.  For my first blog post, I thought it would be helpful to provide some background on me and my interest in immigration politics. My interest began when I was growing up in Eastern Washington State, where seasonal workers were an important part of the agriculture-based economy. Although I went on to study International Relations as an undergraduate at Stanford University, my interest in the politics of immigration continued as I learned how immigration had impacted French politics during a study abroad program in 1986.  When I went on to get my Ph.D. at UCLA, immigration was a hot topic in California. Proposition 187 went on the ballot in 1994, during my second year of graduate school.  Despite thousands of protestors marching in the streets, the proposition was passed, and then subsequently invalidated after five years of political and legal wrangling.  It amazed me at the time, that few in political science were studying the politics of immigration.

For over 20 years I have been a student of immigration policy and politics, both in the U.S. and Europe.  I have lived in Border States (California and Texas) that have taken very different approaches to the issues of both legal and illegal immigration. I have taught literally thousands of students about immigration policy in the U.S. and Europe. I have read countless books, conducted hundreds of interviews and spent time in Washington, DC and European capitals trying to gain insights into the factors that were influencing the behavior of political elites. As I have watched Congress and the President wrestle with issues around immigration reform I have developed my own theories around our current deadlocked politics and want to share them from my perspective as an African-American political scientists and a comparativist who has become a leading scholar in the study of immigration and immigrant integration.
From my perspective, it is clear that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to deal with a variety of issues that we are facing.  There is also a clear need for the passage of the DREAM act. Temporary measures like Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are a move in the right direction, but don’t begin to deal with the need for long-term solutions, from those who have gotten an education here to seasonal workers and the employers whose labor needs are driving undocumented immigration.  It is an understatement to say that our immigration system is broken, with estimates of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, increasing numbers of deportations, and states passing laws in the face of inaction at the federal level.  The dilemma for politicians is how to address the issue in a way that can actually lead to solutions while keeping from feeding into the fears that immigration raises in the general population.  Politicians have painted themselves into a corner by focusing on border security while being unwilling to pursue or compromise on policies that would deal with the immigration problem that is already inside of our borders.

With this blog, I will track developments in immigration politics and provide examples of potential solutions for our current deadlock over immigration policy.  Politicians have been able to compromise in the past, and there will hopefully be compromise in our future.  Stories from the state and local level can also provide the basis for potential solutions to our current impasse. America has been and will continue to be a country of immigration, it is in our best interest to find strength in our past to build a better future.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Republican Party, Immigration and the Hispanic Vote

As the Republican National Convention winds down to a close it is interesting to note that many of the speakers spoke of their immigrant roots, yet none took a position on immigration policy as noted by Victoria DeFrancesco Soto of NBC Latino: Opinion: The RNC's Immigrant Tease and Alex Seitz-Wald in Salon: Don't say "immigration"

Even Mitt Romney's son spoke in Spanish and got choked up when speaking of his immigrant grandfathers, "Craig Romney's heartfelt story of his family's immigrant roots was among more than half a dozen convention speakers who highlighted their immigrant backgrounds, but it has created what one expert describes as an "awkward dance" because of the GOP's reputation for being hostile to immigration."

However, as pointed out in a Miami Herald article, the GOP has done a better job at recruiting top level Hispanics who outnumber Democrats in the Senate and Governor's mansions: Balancing the GOP Tripwire on Immigration

The GOP Platform takes a tough line on immigration, and calls for "self-deportation"

However, speakers like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are pushing the GOP to take a pro-legal immigration stance rather than being the anti-immigration party

It remains to be seen how Mitt Romney will approach the issue as he tries to attract more Hispanic voters and moves more to the center to attract independent voters after the convention.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Federal Court Rules on Alabama and Georgia Immigration Laws, Gov. Perry says nothing has changed in Texas

Yesterday's big news was the ruling by the Federal appeals court on immigration laws in Georgia and Alabama.  It was a mixed result, with the court striking down measures in Alabama related to checking the status of school children, and measures in Georgia that would criminalize the transportation or harboring of undocumented immigrants.  As in the case of the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's SB1070, the court left in place the "show me your papers" measures, with the reservation that they would reconsider if civil rights or due process issues arise:

 “The court today rejected many parts of Alabama and Georgia’s anti-immigrant laws, including attempts to criminalize everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants and Alabama’s callous attempt to deprive some children of their constitutional right to education. The court explicitly left the door open to further challenges against the "show me your papers" provision, which we will continue to fight in order to protect people’s constitutional rights.”

Read more:

The New York Times editorial page welcomed the "repudiation of bad laws":

My San Antonio website reported on Governor Perry's response to the implementation of DACA:

“Quite simply, the governor's letter reiterates that the secretary's directive does not change state law, and he expects agencies to continue to follow state law,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said. “There are no plans to issue an executive order as Gov. Brewer did."

It would appear that the Governor was more focused on bashing the Obama administration's policy rather than taking action to keep undocumented immigrants from getting driver's licenses:

“I don't think there's anything the kids need to worry about with the governor's letter. I think it was very carefully worded, intended to satisfy some constituents and yet leave the door open to the Latino voters that the GOP will need in the future,” Austin immigration lawyer Dan Kowalski said.

Read more:

A link to Perry's letter from the Texas Tribune:

NBC News reports on a disturbing case of criminal detention for a legal immigrant and the overall increase in detentions which is fueling the private prison industry:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

DACA and Immigration Law

As discussion around the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continues, many are concerned about the impact, and whether this will lead to a more permanent situation for the undocumented, or leave their families open to deportation as noted in this article that originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
However, the Monitor also notes that states like Arizona and Nebraska which will continue to deny driver's licenses for those who are eligible for DACA - Article

Just discovered a new resource for those interested particularly in immigration law: - a recent blog post discusses the decline in state laws on immigration:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Immigration, Presidential Politics and State Politics

As the presidential election shifts into high gear, it looks like immigration is unlikely to become a high-profile issue, despite New York Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to get the candidates to focus on the issue.  The economy, budget and deficits will top the agenda with Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his VP.  Immigration looks like it also taking a lower profile at the state level, as reported by Fox News.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is supporting California's TRUST act that would limit cooperation between local and federal officials on immigration enforcement as mandated by Secure Communities
Antonio Villaraigosa Secure Communities

Monday, August 6, 2012

Immigration Updates

As officials move to implement the President's deferred action policy, issues of cost have come to the fore:

Cost for immigration program at $585 million

USCIS has released details on the program and will begin accepting requests on August 15th.

It will be important to follow developments with the implementation of this program, for many potential applicants there will be questions, concerns and worries about what their situation may mean for family members who don't qualify for deferred action.

Skilled immigration has become a hot topic, as seen in this event at the Brookings Institute:

More to come!

Friday, June 29, 2012

June and the 2012 Presidential Campaign

In the past month we have seen two critical decisions for immigration policy.  The first was President Obama’s executive order on undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and the second was the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB1070. Not only does this mean that it’s time to update my syllabus for my course on immigration policy, but these two decisions could play a major role in determining the pressure for and contours of immigration reform in the next few years.

Of course these actions also have the potential to impact the presidential campaigns of President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. For President Obama, who has been unable to get comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM act passed in Congress, it was a way to address a pressing issue, and hopefully energize Hispanic voters who will are key to his re-election bid. In making the order Obama stated, “They pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper”( ). Governor Romney has taken a tough line on illegal immigration, and has said he disagrees with the court’s ruling on SB1070, “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law,” Romney told donors at a fundraiser in Scottsdale (

Immigrant votes have played a role in shifting electoral coalitions through the history of the United States.  In their time, German, Irish, Italian and other ethnic groups used their voting clout to elect politicians who supported more open immigration.  Hispanic voters do not necessarily vote as a block, but they do play a key role in important swing states. It’s clear that President Obama is betting that Hispanic voters will make the difference in at least a few of these states.  Turnout will be key, which possibly underlies GOP efforts to pass voter ID laws in many states.  However, it is clear that the Hispanic vote will play an important role in this election and it is up to the Republican party to find a strategy that will reduce Obama’s commanding lead in the polls with Hispanic voters: (

Monday, June 25, 2012

SCOTUS Rules on SB1070 (updated 6/25/12 6:00pm)

Arizona officials react to ruling:

The New Republic on Scalia's dissent:

The Romney Campaign's response (or lack thereof) as reported by Politico:

Updated as of 5:00:

Analysis from the Texas Tribune and KUT news:

As CNN reports, the Supreme Court has struck down most of Arizona's SB 1070:
The remaining provision, known as the "show me your papers" law, remains in force, although the Supreme Court made it clear that enforcement could become an issue.
Justice Kennedy wrote the decision for the majority:

In-depth analysis from Daily Kos:

Reaction from the Migration Policy Institute:
Supreme Court's Ruling in Arizona Immigration Case Affirms Federal Primacy in Immigration Policy, MPI Experts Say

WASHINGTON — With today's ruling in Arizona et al v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 law, allowing to stand the section that requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop.
Migration Policy Institute (MPI) experts offered the following statements:
  • Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director of MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, who served as Commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1993-2000:
“This ruling reconfirms the long-held principle of federal primacy in immigration policy. It should largely put to rest questions about the respective roles of state and federal authorities in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws and raises important cautions for the policing provisions that Arizona enacted. The decision underscores yet again the need for Washington to respond to legitimate state concerns and take up the challenge of creating an orderly and fair immigration law.”
  • James W. Ziglar, MPI Senior Fellow who served as INS Commissioner from 2001-2002. Ziglar, who began his law career as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, taught immigration and constitutional law at the George Washington University Law Center:
“The Supreme Court has confirmed a long-established principle in federal immigration law, policy and history that America must speak and act as one country and one people."
"The justices have by and large followed precedent. Even the portion of the opinion that upholds the requirement that police check immigration status does so in a very cautionary way. The court suggests that an overly broad implementation of Section 2(B) could cause that provision to be constitutionally defective."
"In the closing part of its opinion, the court reflected on America’s history as a nation of immigrants and said: ‘Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the nation …. The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.’"
  • Michael Fix, an attorney who is MPI Senior Vice President and Co-Director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy:
"What the Supreme Court is saying is that the states can’t impose on unauthorized immigrants more punitive sanctions than the federal government. They can, however, adjust the intensity of their permitted enforcement activity -- in this case compelling state and local officers, during the course of an otherwise authorized stop, to inquire into the immigration status of those whom they suspect to be in the country illegally."

"While this ruling imposes some restrictions on the states, it can still lead to quite differing climates of reception for immigrant populations depending on how states interpret and embrace this ruling."
  • Muzaffar Chishti, Director of MPI's office at New York University School of Law. Chishti is an immigration attorney and has focused much of his research in recent years on state- and local-level activity on immigration enforcement. Chishti also co-authors the monthly "Policy Beat" feature of the Migration Information Source, MPI's online journal, which has examined issues surrounding SB 1070.

    "“Even though the Supreme Court has allowed the most controversial section of the Arizona law to go forward, it has left open the possibility that the provision could also fall if its implementation conflicts with federal law. However, in the interim, the ruling could lead to many citizens and non-citizens facing adverse impacts at the state and local level.”
(Meissner and Ziglar, in their capacity as former INS Commissioners, submitted an amici brief to the Supreme Court in the Arizona case, which the court cited in its opinion. The amici brief can be read here.)

To reach an MPI expert for comment, please contact MPI Communications Director Michelle Mittelstadt at 202-266-1910 or
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit