The following is an excerpt from Donald’s new book, Behind the Greencard: How Immigration Policy is Killing the American Dream.
Enforcement: Arguments and Misconception
In June 2010. Eric Balderas was a Harvard student studying molecular and cellular biology in hopes of a career in cancer research. Within days, he became a controversial figure after attempting to use his Mexican consulate card and Harvard I.D. instead of his passport, which he said he had lost in boarding a plane to Boston from his hometown of San Antonio Texas. Upon discovering his undocumented status, immigration officials took him into custody, and he faced possible deportation to the country he left when he was 4 years old. The case garnered international attention, and two weeks later, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that they would not pursue his deportation.
“I aspire to find a cure for cancer… I hope to succeed someday because this will be a way for me to contribute,” Balderas told America’s Voice.
Not everyone was happy that he remained here. FamilySecurityMatters.org contributing editor Paul Hollrah had this to say about Balderas. “One wonders, if such people are so interested in ‘making a difference’ in the world, why do they insist on bringing that passion to the United States where we’re all pretty comfortable and where we’re not looking for foreigners to make a lot of ‘difference’ in our lives? Why don’t they stay at home and try to make a ‘difference’ in the hell-holes where they were born? Maybe they come because they heard some idiot say, ‘My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you’ll join me as I try to change it.’ After hearing that bit of insanity they just couldn’t resist coming to see what it was all about.”
The enforcement of immigration laws is a polarizing topic, and the closer one looks, the more confusing the facts. We have an increase in the number of people deported, more workplace raids, a stepping up of enforcement. Yet in July of 2010, the Obama administration sued Arizona over the state’s strict immigration law. The Arizona legislature passed the controversial law to try to cut back the illegal immigrants who cross its border from Mexico and to cut down on crimes such as drug trafficking. The administration, however, argued that the new law was unconstitutional and would deplete law enforcement resources.
“As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels,” said Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, in a prepared statement. “Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice.”
This is the crux of the immigration enforcement policy; we have none. Instead, we have a number of arguments as to why we should increase enforcement. We have an administration that argues against stepping it up, but does so just the same.
It’s not true that we aren’t enforcing the immigration laws. We are.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimated it would deport approximately 400,000 people in the 2010 fiscal year. That total is up markedly from the Bush administration’s 358,886 total for 2008 and 202,842 for 2004..
* In 1990, the number was 30,039.
The number of those deported between Oct. 1, 2009 and June 30 of 2010 is nearly twice as much as it was in the same period ending June 30, 2005, according to research by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The increase in worksite arrests in 2008 was twelve times those of 2002. According to the Washington Post, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels…,operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.*
Furthermore, according to ICE data, the Obama administration is devoting more of its resources to removing those who have committed serious crimes. During the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, 136,714 “criminal aliens” were deported. In 2008, the number was 85,334. The figure for the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year for removals of non-criminal aliens was 142,321, compared to 169,429 at the same time in 2008.
Although the term, “criminal alien,” conjures images of gun-toting foreigners intent on destruction, in some states being convicted of drunk driving three times is a felony. So is attempting to enter the United States illegally after being deported. Yet all of these “crimes” are incorporated in the statistics that constitute the “criminal alien” population. These stats are misused, however, because they paint a picture of the illegal alien population as being higher in criminality than the general American population at large. However, if one strips out the immigration crime of trying to enter the U.S. illegally after being deported, one finds that the illegal immigrant population has a significantly lower crime rate that the general population in the US.
Facts on ICE
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- Established in 2003 as part of the federal government’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks. A bureau of the Homeland Security Act, which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
- One of three DHS bureaus. The other two are U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Second largest law-enforcement agency in the U.S.
- In charge of investigation, arrest, detention and deportation at the border and throughout the interior of the U.S.
- Comprises Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and Management and Administration (MA)
- Approximately 19,000 employees in more than 400 offices worldwide
- An annual budget of more than $5 billion in 2010
- Annual budget of $3,557,454 in 2005
According to a February 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. illegal immigrant population declined by almost 1 million. * The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.8 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008. This was the second consecutive year of decline and the sharpest decrease in at least three decades.
Yet criticism of the president and homeland security chief Janet Napolitano increased greatly since Arizona’s 2010 law (SB 1070) gave police more power to detain immigrants. Gov. Brewer criticized Obama for assigning only 1,200 National Guard soldiers to the entire Mexican border, with 524 of them in Arizona.
John McCain said it was the failure of the Obama administration to “secure our borders” that forced Arizona to enact SB 1070 in the first place.
In justifying the legislation, Brewer said the administration had “simply turned a blind eye to the issues that Arizona is being overrun by illegal immigration, terrorizing the citizens.”
Yet, the numbers don’t agree.
What is the policy of the United States? How can we ramp up enforcement, yet on the other hand, file a lawsuit to block the implementation of the Arizona law? Surely it must be more than just a turf war. Makes one wonder who’s running the insane asylum? The problem may be more of a consequence of the Congress allocating more and more money to DHS and ICE for enforcement. Congress is and has been absolutely obsessed with pandering to voters who overwhelmingly favor greater enforcement. No wonder enforcement has dramatically enforced. They are so many more DHS and ICE agents than just five years ago, they seem to be tripping all over each other!
The Criminality Argument
In 1994, California’s Proposition 187 was passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote in 1994. It declared that “the people of California …have suffered and are suffering economic hardship…personal injury and damage caused by the criminal conduct of illegal aliens in this state.”
Although the proposition was later overturned by a federal court as unconstitutional, it expressed a commonly shared belief about immigrants and crime.
“Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities,” said George W. Bush in his address to the nation in May of 2006. Contrary to these assumptions, the illegal immigrant population has less criminality than the general public at large. *
A 2008 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that immigrants are, far less likely than U.S.-born Californians are to commit crime. Although people born abroad made up approximately 35 percent of California’s adult population, they accounted for only about 17 percent of the adult prison population, the report showed. Among men ages 18 to 40 — the demographic most likely to be imprisoned — those born in the U.S. were 10 times more likely than foreign-born men to be incarcerated.*
The Security Argument
Many in favor of strong enforcement believe those immigrants are a security risk and that stepping up those policies will deter terrorists. However, there are as many with green cards inside as outside the U.S. In 2009, 36,231,554 non-immigrants were admitted at U.S. borders. Of those, 32,544,098 were temporary visitors for business or pleasure. *Does anyone really think that adequate background checks had been done on these 36 million visitors? The only way we could effectively increase security in the alien population would be to close the border, and we would be in a depression within twenty-four hours.
The Drain Argument
Of the approximately 3 million students who graduate from U.S. high schools each year, approximately 65,000 are illegal immigrants. In March 2009, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was introduced in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Pioneered by Sen. Orin Hatch and Sen. Richard Durbin, the DREAM Act would allow qualifying undocumented young people who graduate from U.S. high schools to be eligible for a six-year long conditional path to citizenship. Students would obtain a temporary residency for six years. During this time, each student would have to earn a college degree or complete at least two years toward a bachelor’s degree or two years of military service.
“Hopefully, the people who support me will call their Senators and Representatives in order to achieve something because the DREAM Act is what would save us all,” Eric Balderas said.
“Whatever happens during my hearing, good or bad, is only a temporary solution because I would not get permanent residency.”*
Some opponents of the DREAM Act say Balderas was a willing tool to create awareness and support. They say the act will reward illegal immigrants who will take from the U.S. without contributing back to our economy. As do many who support tough enforcement, they see immigrants as a financial burden demanding free medical care and free educations. Yet a U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that approximately 75 percent of undocumented immigrants work for employers who withhold income taxes, Social Security and Medicare payments. According to the Social Security budget, they contribute between $7 billion and $8 billion annually.*
In order to get those jobs, many use false Social Security numbers. They pay into the Social Security system for benefits they will never collect. They pay taxes although they will never file a return or receive a refund. Even immigrants who are compensated in cash still pay phone, gas, alcohol, auto, and sales tax and if they rent, property tax.*
Not do we enforce, but how we enforce
Jason “J.T.” Ready embodies the anger regarding Arizona’s illegal immigration. The former marine and his fellow militia members have donned body armor and gas masks and showed up in the Arizona desert in July of 2010. Ready declared that they were declaring war on “narco-terroists” as well as looking for illegal immigrants.
Ready says he identifies with the National Socialist Movement, a group that, according to the Associated Press, believes only non-Jewish, white heterosexuals should be American citizens, and that everyone who isn’t white should leave the country “peacefully or by force.”
One would acknowledge the government’s right to seal its own borders. You can’t condone illegality; you can’t have laws you don’t enforce. But here’s where the situation gets sticky. Do we have the right to seal our borders? Yes. Enforce our laws? Of course. But do we want big fences and troops? Do we really want a bunch of ICE SWAT teams going into every Denny’s in the country handcuffing cooks and busboys with a gun at their necks while we’re eating our scrambled eggs? Any discussion of enforcement must involve the kind of image we want to portray.
The U.S. needs workers
Illegal immigration exists because for many, it is the only way. Only seasonal workers qualify for the temporary worker programs, and only five thousand permanent residence visas for low-skilled and other workers are issued per year. To obtain any kind of working visa is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. (See previous chapter). Because opportunities for legal immigration are limited, the worker demand is high if only because fewer low-skilled native workers are available in this country. * Between 1996 and 2008, the number of U.S. workers without a high school education dropped by 2.3 million, and the number of U.S. workers with only a high school education fell by 1.3 million or 4 percent.
In her campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor of California, Meg Whitman listed measures she would employ to target illegal immigrants.
“Modeled after drug seizure raids, Meg will institute a system where state and local law enforcement agencies conduct inspections of workplaces suspected of employing undocumented workers.”*
Offenders would have to pay a fine and have their business licenses suspended for 10 days. By the third offense, their licenses would be permanently suspended, and the fine would be “substantial.”
Except that, by law, workplace inspections are a federal responsibility. Whitman soon learned that state raids were not popular with the California Farm Bureau, which endorsed her early in the primary election. In July of 2010, she softened her approach. According to her revised policy, she would wait until after Congress approves a law requiring all employers to screen workers with an electronic ID verification.
Whitman is just another example that when it comes to policy, apparently no one no one is clear or consistent. And that that includes the government.
In the next chapter, we’re going to examine one of the major reasons for our economic decline: our viewing of potential citizens as liabilities instead of as potential customers from whom we can benefit.