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  • by Eva Millona, Jeff Jacoby, and Robert Hedlund
  • 27

Undocumented people fill out application forms for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 at Navy Pier in Chicago. (Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP)

Introduction

After last month’s elections, both parties seem ready to make a serious effort to revise and update the nation’s immigration laws.

What should comprehensive immigration reform look like? Should the United States control the rate of immigration, and if so, how? What should be done about the estimated 11 million undocumented workers already here? And what about those who have been deported in recent years but still have family members living in the U.S.?

Eva Millona, Jeff Jacoby and Robert Hedlund offer their thoughts and proposals.

Eva Millona is executive director of, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the commonwealth’s largest organization representing the foreign born.

Anti-immigrant sentiment received a massive blow on Election day. President Barack Obama should seize the opportunity presented by his reelection — and by the renewed interest in immigration reform from Republicans — to push for fundamental immigration reform that reflects the economic and social changes that have occurred since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act.

According to a recent Cato Institute study, fundamental immigration reform that created a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers now in the U.S. — requiring them to register, pay a fine and pass a criminal background check — would add $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 10 years. By contrast, mass deportation would result in $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years.

Today’s immigrants want what immigrants to America have always wanted — an opportunity to work hard and make a better life for their children.

Legalizing immigrant workers would protect honest employers from being undercut by unscrupulous competitors seeking to drive down wages by hiring undocumented workers. It would also end the morally indefensible crisis caused by our current policy of mass deportations. More than 1000 families were separated each day in 2011 as a result of this policy. A new immigration law should include an opportunity to reunite families separated by deportations.

We must also develop a better program for dealing with migrant workers, native-born workers, and their families. Employers that have abused the broken system for years should be penalized.

Today’s immigrants want what immigrants to America have always wanted — an opportunity to work hard and make a better life for their children. That’s why MIRA strongly supports the establishment of a national Office of Integration to develop and support integration policies that help immigrants achieve their full potential as active contributors to America’s social, economic, and civic fabric.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe op-ed columnist and a nationally recognized conservative commentator.

Vigorous debate about immigration has existed since before the nation’s founding. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens? They will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them … Those swarthy Germans will never adopt our language and customs any more than they can adopt our complexion.”

There is no contradiction between conservatism and support for a robust immigration policy. Until 1924 — with the exception of the disgraceful Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — the American tradition generally was to welcome all immigrants unless there was something specific about their behavior (e.g., polygamists, prostitutes) or health (those with infectious diseases) that made them undesirable.

Immigration has always been one of the great secrets of our success. We shouldn’t be angry or distressed because so many foreigners want to join us.

The way to decrease illegal immigration is to increase legal immigration. The great majority of illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to work, because we have (or had until recently) an economy that creates hundreds of thousands of entry-level jobs each year. Most of them come with peaceful and productive intentions, seeking to improve their lot in life. We should make it possible for them to do so without running afoul of the law.

Illegal immigrants should be the kind of immigrants we don’t want — not people we don’t want just because they fall outside an arbitrary numerical quota. Ideally, we should have an immigration system that admits people on the basis of whether they seem likely to become good American citizens – and excludes those who pose a threat to our way of life. Would-be newcomers who are hard-working, patriotic, and self-supporting should be able to come here regardless of nationality — just as many of our ancestors did before the 1920s.

Immigration has always been one of the great secrets of our success. We shouldn’t be angry or distressed because so many foreigners want to join us.
The only time American should really worry about immigration is when people stop coming.

State Sen. Robert Hedlund is the assistant minority leader in the Massachusetts Senate, representing the Plymouth and Norfolk district since 1994.

The lack of a common sense immigration policy doesn’t just affect the federal government; it affects state and local governments too. In my experience, most Americans — whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents — understand and appreciate that we’re a nation of immigrants and a land of opportunity. Most of my constituents welcome new immigrants to their cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

If people want to come to America to work — whether that’s for low-wage, entry-level jobs or for high-wage, high-skill jobs requiring advanced degrees — then we should make it possible for them to come here legally.

But many citizens – again, of all political persuasions — get angry when they see people living here illegally at the taxpayers’ expense. This is true whether we’re talking about tuition at state colleges, public housing, or welfare benefits. That’s why, for example, the state legislature has overwhelmingly rejected allowing in-state tuition rates for college students who aren’t in the country legally — even if those young people have lived most of their lives in Massachusetts. On this issue, many of my more liberal Democratic colleagues have taken a harder line than I have; and that’s because they’re responding to what the voters want.

If people want to come to America to work — whether that’s for low-wage, entry-level jobs or for high-wage, high-skill jobs requiring advanced degrees — then we should make it possible for them to come here legally. Like most Republicans, like most Americans, I’m proud of my immigrant ancestry and I recognize the benefits new immigrants bring to our economy and our society. With the election over, I think now is the perfect time for President Obama to reach across the aisle and work to forge a bipartisan solution to our broken immigration system.

Related:

  • WATCH video of these lectures — plus a Q & A with Eva Millona, Jeff Jacoby, and Robert Hedlund — here.

Tags: #advice2012, Barack Obama, Election 2012, Law, Race

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Kevin Culver

    Every country in this world was built by immigrants.

    But everyone knows that “Anti-Racists” ONLY justify unlimited immigration and assimilation of those immigrants for EVERY white country and ONLY White countries.

    “Anti-Racists” don’t justify this being done to Japan, Sudan, Korea, Brazil, Yemen, or ANY non-White countries.

    “Anti-Racists” ONLY ever argue for this to be done to EVERY White country and ONLY White countries.

    “Anti-Racists” are demanding the GENOCIDE of my people, White people.

    Anti-Racist is a code word for Anti-White

  • http://read-write-blue.blogspot.com/ RWB

    “In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile…We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

    – Theodore Roosevelt 1907

    • tucanofulano

      Teddy must be spinning in his grave at the anti-American Obama policies.

  • wandagb

    - Why are we importing 1.5 million foreigners into a depression economy that can’t provide jobs for Americans?
    – Why are we adding millions at the same time we speak of reducing consumption and energy use?
    – Why are we adding millions of school children into a system that can’t provide adequate funding for American kids?
    – Why are we offering affirmative action to people who weren’t born here?

    So many questions, so little discussion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001671353487 Møhammad Chuu-Chuu

      1 – There is a net decrease in immigration since 2007.

      2 – I don’t understand how that is relavent, but to address it: first, we aren’t. And second, and more importantly, the goal of our economy is to increase consumption (we are trying to decrease SPENDING on the governmental level, which is a huge difference than individual level consumption), a goal which improved with legalizing undocumented immigrants, as it will give them more buying power (not to mention the billions we will recieve in taxes from legal fees) and force employers who exploit them to pay at least minimum wage to everyone. This will also work to offset the downward pressure on minimum wage that illegal immigration currently has.

      3 – Once again, a) we are not, and b) the children of immigrants who get educated and go to college are statistically more likely to produce jobs in key factors of the economy (math, science, engineering, etc.) than second, third, etc. generations. This leads to an increase in our GDP, and a wealth of knowledge and skilled labor.

      4 – I don’t understand this one. So an immigrant, legal or otherwise, does not deserve the same rights as someone who was born here? So you are saying that an immigrant who comes here, is naturalized and becomes a citizen should not get the same rights as you, because you took the effort to be born here. Or is that guy okay, and the immigrants currently living here undocumented are not?

      To address this, first I have to say that illegal immigrants DO NOT fall under any affirmative action currently. How could they? They are no allowed by the government to work legally, so why would they be given priority for jobs that they cannot take? Also, if we project this question into a future where these people have gone through the process and are awarded citizenship, should they not get this right? What makes them different if they are citizens? Should we make classifications and tiers of citizenship? As in, ou are a tier 2 citizen, and an immigrant is a tier 3. I guess politicians can be tier 1, since they have more authority. “Hmm… maybe mexicans in general should be their own tier of citizenship, because we don’t like them. And maybe a tier for black people.” See where this type of classification leads?

      If you logically go through all these questions, its apparent which way the answers point.

      • Carlos

        Environmentally, this country is already grossly over populated. Are you somehow going to grow the environment, as well?

      • Glaivester

        “Net decrease in immigration?” You mean there are fewer immigrants here, or just fewer new people immigrating?

        ” the goal of our economy is to increase consumption” No, the goal is to increase the per capita capacity for consumption. Bringing more people in will not increase overall prosperity if they wind up consuming more than they make. It might increase GDP, but likely not GDP per capita.

        “The children of immigrants who get educated and go to college are
        statistically more likely to produce jobs in key factors of the economy
        (math, science, engineering, etc.) than second, third, etc. generations.” Correlation =/= causation. Put another way, perhaps those who currently are educated tend to be those who would be more likely to be successful anyway. Besides, you are talking about the children of immigrants who go to college. Those who get educated only to a high school diploma or who drop out partway through are still using educational resources and they almost certainly do not show greater than average productivity for it. (And most of those who do not go to college probably would not benefit from college much anyway, so it’s not like college for all would solve this problem).

        “To address this, first I have to say that illegal immigrants DO NOT fall under any affirmative action currently.” They will if we legalize them.

        “Also, if we project this question into a future where these people have gone through the process and are awarded citizenship, should they not get this right?” Because (a) they only received citizenship because we excused their breaking the law, (b) affirmative action was meant to remedy the U.S. history of discrimination against blacks who were forced to come here. Why should it apply to people who chose to come here? (c) If you don’t like tiers of citizenship there should be no Affirmative Action.

        “If you logically go through all these questions, its apparent which way the answers point.” Yes it is.

    • FreeTexanDude

      Not to mention that the best way to reduce our ‘carbon footprint’ is to reduce the population. So true – @wandagb – resources are strained already.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001671353487 Møhammad Chuu-Chuu

        The best way to reduce our carbon footprint is to reduce the population? I thought that was China’s approach with the “One Child Policy.” The US’s approach (and the approach of much of the developed world) seems to be, lets improve technology so that we can make better use of our resources and carbon footprint.

        • USAmerican100

          China has a 10% economic growth rate, the “developed world” growth rate is negative.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003736213108 R.t. Greenwood

        Without immigration we are at or near zero population growth which means the environment gets a break.

  • Dea Whyte-Mansburten

    Amnesty? never…
    Deportation? Repatriation? Now you’re talking!

  • tucanofulano

    The usual suspects with big flannelmouths, few brains, no appreciation for the exceptional values held by most Americans, and a desire to destroy the USA of course are in favor of displacing American workers with imports; a reverse outsourcing of jobs in that the work stays in the USA but the Americans are made unemployed by foreigners imported to displace them. Traitors.

  • gabbyur24

    Come live in Washington State for a while and see the results of illegal immigration. We are 1.3 billion dollars short of funding the state coffers and we spend 1.3 billion on “our” illegal workers. We have cut our schools to the bone and are now cutting off arms and legs, jeopardizing our children’s future. School districts beg for more money to build more schools for Mexico’s children. Our jails are bursting. The county’s beg for more money to build more jails to house Mexico’s criminals. Our emergency rooms over run. Birthing centers full thanks to the idiotic Anchor Baby law. But more than that is the Mexican gang crime that is eating us alive. You cannot keep the dangerous element out when it is open door to poor people looking for work. When we fail to enforce our laws, only chaos can result. Illegals are rude, ungrateful, pugnacious, demanding, and contribute only negatives to our society. I’d rather pay more for a head of lettuce than pay through the nose for social services. It would be a lot cheaper.

  • Robert Campbell sr.

    The communist multicultural progressive subversives are bankrupting our country, Transforming our govt and institutions with their twisted, unconstitutional, multicultural, mass immigration, domestic and political invasion…. Unemployment at all time high along with a record number of people on food stamps, SSI, and being institutionalized that is costing us trillions of dollars…Treason is Treason!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003736213108 R.t. Greenwood

    Thanks NumbersUSA for doing such a great job on immigration policy and getting us the facts.

    Immigration Reform means “vote acquisition” for Democrats and “minimize vote acquisition losses” to Republicans. With no jobs for Americans and no great labor intensive job needs, there is no justification for open immigration.

    Myth: The U.S. is not producing enough STEM job applicants. BS!!! Another liberal myth.

    Massive myth: Americans will not work the jobs immigrants (llegal/illegal) are doing. BS!!! Americans are not working those jobs because they are on the many forms of welfare which makes them perpetual Democrat voters. I have seen this first hand in my area. Welfare is food stamps, free cell phones, disability scams, foster children scams, Medicaid, etc. The use and abuse is rampant.

    American tradition of immigration? Well we used to have an American tradition of free enterprise and job growth too but that has disappeared as well. Our economy is not even providing the jobs needed for Americans. We now have an unemployment rate of 23% when the long term discouraged workers are added to the U6 unemployment. (Btw, how would you like to be out of work more than a year and the government does not even include you in the statistics so you cannot possibly be a problem to solve?)

  • CYNICALZ

    Shut down immigration altogether until immigration reform is arbitrated and passed as a referendum by each state. To emphasize the sincerity of resolving the problem until a national consensus is reached, refrain further subsidies to current illegals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Uktr/100003789083347 Ed Uktr

    Ms. Millona shames herself and her cause by equating opposition to law breaking as “anti-immigrant.”

    Is defining the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse “anti-sex?”

    Unemployed workers everywhere — even in Mexico — are entitled to protection from illegals coming and stealing their jobs. Taxpayers are likewise foolish not to protect themselves from illegals who swamp social services in far too many counties.

  • USAmerican100

    “Should the United States control the rate of immigration,”

    This is actually a question? You may as well ask “should the United States continue to exist”, since uncontrolled immigration would explode the country.

    Attitudes like this amount to treason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003736213108 R.t. Greenwood

    STOP with the outdated arguments from T. Roosevelt, Ben Franklin, Methuselah, and so on. Our nation has changed from the Land of Opportunity to the Land of Government Control of Everything. Obama is either killing the private sector or controlling it at every step. We will not become a high tech, college education economy. WE WILL NOT. We have tens of millions of workers who will not or cannot go to college. We need manufacturing and heavy industry that is not subsidized by the government.

  • Patrick Cooper

    Just because people want to come work in this country, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to let them all come.

    While no country should close their borders to all immigration, no country can sustain uncontrolled and unlimited immigration. Currently, the US has an immigration policy that is unlimited and uncontrolled immigration. This must stop.

    – We fail to prosecute those who come here illegally. And we have almost no limitations preventing them from garnering jobs and benefits due American citizens. Finally, we continue to provide mass amnesty programs that then reward the illegal behavior. Many of these workers take lower wage jobs from American citizens, and consumer more education, healthcare and legal resources than they financially support.

    – We allow workers to come to this country based on big business saying they can’t find American employees. When what the big businesses are really saying, is we won’t pay descent wages, so give us foreign workers who will work for less. The end results is corporate executives, who through loopholes pay lower tax rates, make more money, while the average citizen makes less – a next loss in tax revenues.

    – We allow STEM workers to come take seats in our colleges away from our children. We then allow them to stay and take jobs away from our young men and women.

    No where in our policies to we justify why we allow illegal citizens to work and stay here illegally.

    No where in our policies do we justify why we allow foreign workers to lower wages or take education job opportunities from our youth.

    Yet time and time again, so many say – without any sound, rational argument – bring them on! Let them come! How can you be so cruel to deny them!

    America has limited resources and opportunities that we are throwing them away and we won’t be able to get back. If we have a place everyone wants to come, it seems to reason we would be better off using our resources to educate other countries for a fair return on our investment? Or allow people to come to the country for a price?

    But of course, most American’s are too selfish and self centered to look at the big picture and think about the entire population. American’s are too consumed with their piece of the pie, to think about the fact that soon there will be no pie left… for anyone!

  • http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/ Frannie Carr

    Hi all —

    Please keep the comments and the debate in this section civil. If you do not, your post will be removed.

    You can read WBUR’s community discussion guidelines here:
    http://www.wbur.org/community/rules

    All best,
    Frannie
    editor/producer, Cognoscenti

  • maxonepercent

    We have at least 20 million unemployed Americans and another 47 million Americans on food stamps, and these “experts” think it is a good idea to add millions more low-wage, welfare-eligible workers? If our nation were to follow their advice the end result will be: more unemployment, lower wages, and even more tax-dollars going to welfare programs. This is insanity!

    Our national priorities should be to fix the economy and get unemployment down to acceptable levels, get the astronomical deficit spending under control and only then start working on immigration reform. Until we address the fundamental problems facing this country adding more low-wage immigrants will just be throwing fuel on the fire that is destroying the middle-class.

  • marianne

    This is crazy! After reading an expansive message from a disabled Vietnam Vet last week on Facebook –he doesn’t get enoughpension to live on–he recounted the fact that an illegal mother with 8 children in his state (GA) gets $1500.00 per ;month for each child—are you kidding? She is not a citizen, has never worked here, or lived here, and we give her that much!!? Insane! We need more jobs here to fund our government, not give money away to these people who do not deserve it! Sorry–let’s give jobs to our citizens, and stop these hand-outs to those that don’t belong here!

  • americansfirst

    Polls have shown that 70% of the population of both China and India would emigrate to America if they could. Think about a future America that would allow that to happen. American policy should be about what is best for it’s own citizens and not what’s best for foreigners.

  • sailor50

    I frankly don’t understand the most vocal Hispanics in my state of Arizona who demand open borders. Are they nuts? Illegals who come in here tend to displace our working citizens who are at the bottom of the job market. Where are the voices of the Hispanic citizens who know this. Why aren’t they speaking up?

  • Mifouf

    Just a little reality check. There are about 7 million illegal aliens who currently are working in non-agricultural jobs in the U.S. They work in manufacturing, construction, and service industries where less well-educated US citizens also compete for jobs. The U6 unemployment rates for our nation show that about 40% of Hispanics who don’t hold a degree are unemployed; about 23% of all Blacks are unemployed; about 41% of younger Blacks who don’t have a degree are unemployed. Into this catastrophic situation, these experts in Public Policy are advocating an open border approach. Among many other questions, one could wonder if they have the slightest sympathy for the trashed lives of their own unemployed fellow citizens.

    Just as a second issue to keep in mind, there are also vast expenses to the general public that are imposed by hosting new immigrants. Many have an admirable work ethic, but nevertheless most are also aware that public support can be obtained, most avail themselves of these services, and there are also extensive other expenses such as schooling, police, environmental issues, and so forth. These experts are volunteering their fellow citizens to fund all of these expenses at a time that we are greatly stretched to fund entitled services of our own citizens.

    I urge readers to educate yourselves on the totality of the effects of massive population increases. Citizens who are environmentally alert in particular should look with great concern at the effects of population numbers. Do you care about the use of land and the protection of environment for your children and grandchildren? If so, demand that your representatives respond to you rather than to special groups which have a self-interest in keeping wages depressed and maximizing the needs for public services.

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