Tuesday, December 13, 2005


According to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, both legal and illegal immigration are reaching record levels while Congress has done little to control America's borders. The report found that nearly 8 million people moved to the United States in the past five years, the highest five-year period of immigration on record.

Deriving its findings from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey from March, the report reveals that there are 35.2 million foreign-born people presently living in the United States. That's about 12.1 percent of the current U.S. population, and according to Census figures, the highest percentage since 1920.

The report also said an estimated 9 million to 13 million are here illegally, and that immigrants, on average, are less educated and more likely to live in poverty than people born in the United States.

"The 35.2 million immigrants living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded -- two-and-a-half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910," said the report by Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tougher policies on illegal immigration and favors attracting immigrants with needed job skills.

Camarota said the U.S. should work harder to expel people who are in the United States illegally.

"The obvious thing is to enforce the law, at the border and at the work site, and to deny access to bank accounts and driver licenses," Camarota said.

Those are key requisites to enforcement. People in the U.S. illegally shouldn't be able to obtain bank accounts, driver licenses, or anything else that helps ease or legitimize their status. Otherwise, how can the U.S. meaningfully enforce its laws?

Audrey Singer, an immigration fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, "There's no doubt that we are at a high in immigration to the United States." Singer says that immigrants come to the U.S. due to economic reasons, and because of social ties to people already living here.

"Look at places where people come from, these are places with very limited economic opportunities," Singer said.

Not surprisingly, Mexico is the largest contributer of immigrants to the United States, followed by East Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, according to the report.

Some immigrant rights activists argue that the American economy would collapse without the cheap labor provided by undocumented workers. Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, is one of them. She says it would be impossible to deport as many as 11 million illegally immigrants, who make up about 5 percent of the U.S. work force.

"There isn't fairy dust that is going to make the 11 million people go away," Kelley said. "It would be far more sensible to have them come out into the light of day ... and give them a chance to join the American family on a permanent basis."

But it's truly hard to imagine the U.S. economy collapsing due to the loss of 5 percent of its workforce.

For various reasons -- be they egalitarian, political, or economic -- members of both parties have ignored this issue for years, and polls show that Americans are fed up with their representatives lack of action. That frustration may finally be getting through.

A divided House Judiciary Committee approved a bill last week that would enlist military support for border surveillance and set new mandatory minimum sentences on smugglers and people convicted of re-entry after removal. Illegal presence in the country, now a civil offense, would become a federal crime. That would surely boost the U.S. prison population quite considerably.

Hopefully, the report will inspire the House as it considers a bill that would curb illegal immigration by boosting border security and requiring workplace enforcement of immigration laws. The full House is expected to take up the measure this week, before it adjourns for the year.

The bill doesn't include President Bush's proposed guest worker program, which would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country temporarily to fill jobs unwanted by Americans. The great mystery is what exactly would compel a guest worker to leave the U.S and go back home after a three year stay, and how immigration officials would find them to enforce the law. It would be very easy for these workers to go back 'underground', as many illegal immigrants presently are.

Experts contend that the only way to enforce the law is to mandate employers to comply under the threat of stiff penalties. At present, those laws are almost entirely ignored and go unenforced. That's the root of the problem. As long as there is a demand in the workplace for illegal immigrants, there will be an endless supply of them willing to come to the U.S. to take those jobs.

No comments:

Post a Comment