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USA Today features dueling views on immigration solutions

June 29, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Rep. Lamar Smith

Photo by Litherland

Last Thursday, the White House hosted a bipartisan and bicameral meeting on how to begin the immigration reform process this year.

Newspapers from around the country reported on this important meeting and President Obama’s commitment to lead the way to ensure that immigration reform becomes a legislative reality.


In the opinion section of USA Today, two opposing views discuss how to address the current immigration mess. The first perspective authored by the Editorial Board, looks at the current economic recession not as a roadblock to reform but as an opportunity to fix our current immigration system:


…the recession has been teaching some useful lessons about how to ease the [immigration] crisis. Even before rising unemployment began to affect Americans, Mexicans were reacting to the changing jobs climate. Data just out from the Mexican government show 226,000 fewer people emigrated from Mexico in the year ended August 2008 than during the prior year. That's a 25% drop.


…the recession is delivering another message: Enforcement alone won't resolve the problem. If fewer illegal immigrants are coming, there's no evidence yet that those already here are leaving. In 2008, there were still about 12 million illegal residents in the USA, only slightly down from 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington think tank.


Presumably, they sense that tough times here mean tougher times where they came from, and Pew notes that many have families here, including children who are citizens. Which means the nation should provide a way for the most qualified to become legal, productive, taxpaying citizens.

Recession freezes immigration debate but points to answers, June 29, 2009



This piece mirrors what we have often said: On immigration, it’s the economy, stupid. Undocumented immigration responds more to economic pull factors —like the ability to find a job to feed your family — than the politics of immigration enforcement tactics. If we want to move forward on immigration, we need less politicking and more problem-solving.


Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo. Although quietly acknowledging that mass deportation of 12 million undocumented immigrants is derisible —not to mention a logistical and resource nightmare— there are some who argue that “attrition through enforcement” could be a viable alternative to broad reform of our immigration system.


Enter Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). In his opinion piece, he makes numerous false claims on reform, including how legalization would bankrupt the Social Security system, despite economic reports  that document the increasingly important role that immigrants can play in overcoming the demographic crisis and shoring up not only Social Security and Medicare, but the U.S. tax base and the U.S. workforce as well. He also writes:


Granting amnesty would increase illegal immigration…


To achieve immigration reform, the choices are not just amnesty or mass deportation. A strategy of "attrition through enforcement" would dramatically reduce the number of illegal immigrants over time.


If the federal government enforced our immigration laws, especially those that target the employment of illegal workers, many illegal immigrants would simply return home because they can't get jobs. Others would never come to the USA in the first place because they would not be hired

Opposing view: Amnesty makes no sense, June 29, 2009


Wrong. The enforcement only approach toward solving our nation’s immigration problems is unrealistic and ineffective. Despite of the last administration’s beefed up enforcement tactics, there was only a small decrease in the undocumented population. Unless restrictionists think that “attrition through economic recession” is the next big proposal, we need to come up with real practical solutions.


Immigration reform would help curtail illegal immigration. It would transform a disorderly immigration system that fosters illegality into a controlled and functioning legal immigration system that accurately responds to the economic and labor needs of our country. It would secure our borders by targeting enforcement resources to fighting crime, drugs and violence; it would restore fairness to our labor markets and it will uphold workers rights and values and traditions that unite all Americans.




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