At the crossroads for immigration reform

By Doris Meissner
February 24, 2014

Always uncertain, House of Representatives action on immigration reform now appears definitively on off mode for 2014.

That’s because House Republicans loudly denounced Speaker John Boehner’s most recent effort to chart a way forward by proposing principles for legislation. They saw the specter of divisive infighting when what they want is a united front for their November re-election bids.

In shelving immigration action, the speaker sidestepped the problem of intraparty strife. He argued instead that his caucus could not trust President Barack Obama to implement any new immigration enforcement measures Congress would pass. This claim, however, overlooks the enormity of what successive Congresses and administrations, under both Republicans and Democrats, have accomplished in immigration enforcement — including throughout the Obama presidency.

Dating back 25 years, but significantly accelerated since 9/11, Congress has made steep investments to ensure that federal agencies can enforce immigration laws aggressively. The United States now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all its other principal criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined.

Spending for enforcement at the nation’s borders and inside the country, along with biometric screening of all foreign-born travelers arriving at U.S. airports, reached nearly $18 billion by fiscal 2012. That is 24 percent higher than the $14.4 billion spent for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Congress should be trumpeting its achievement in fostering modern, muscular immigration enforcement. The United States now has the lowest rates of illegal immigration across its southwest border in 40 years, when historic levels of illegal immigration began. Partly due to the Great Recession and sustained economic growth in Mexico, but also to significantly heightened border enforcement, there has been no net new illegal immigration from Mexico for at least five years.

Deportations, meanwhile, stand at record highs — nearly four million people have been repatriated since 9/11. More than half of all federal criminal prosecutions are now brought for immigration-related crimes.

These trends represent an historic transformation brought about by unprecedented infusions of money and manpower as well as policies that were built into the new immigration enforcement machinery that links up with the nation’s national security strategies.

This transformation delivers on the policy of “enforcement first.” This was a key take-away from the last congressional debate on immigration in 2005-2007. Many elected officials attributed the failure to enact that legislation to a lack of public confidence in the government’s ability and will to enforce immigration laws.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Congress ignores its own record. After all, more than half — 56 percent, in fact — of today’s Republican House members were elected since 2008. They did not take part in the debates and politics driving the enforcement changes.

Still, public opinion has been considerably more discerning. Skepticism about adequate enforcement no longer trumps other concerns. Polling shows increasing support for comprehensive immigration reform, notably for the most contentious of the issues — legalization of millions of unauthorized residents.

Enforcement is a necessary part of immigration policy, but enforcement of outdated laws cannot solve our problems. We need laws that reflect today’s new realities. These realities include changing demographics that produce shrinking numbers of younger workers, innovation and technology as the source of jobs and prosperity in a global marketplace, and a large marginalized population who could be far more productive given a chance to get right with the law.

Each day that passes without immigration reform squanders unique competitive opportunities and overlooks pressing needs. For example:

  • Twenty-five percent of high-tech firms launched between 1995 and 2005 were created by immigrants.
  • Twenty percent of small business owners are immigrants.
  • Sixty to 70 percent of graduate students in critical technology fields are foreign-born with visas that expire after graduation.
  • Future food prices are estimated to increase 5 to 6 percent and the agriculture sector to lose up to $60 billion due to unmet labor needs.
  • More than 60 percent of the nation’s 11 million unauthorized residents have lived here more than 10 years. They have deep roots in workplaces and communities. Many have U.S. citizen children.
  • Significant numbers of talented, educated young people graduate from U.S. high schools and colleges, yet cannot legally join the workforce because they are unauthorized.

The House Republicans’ demands for more enforcement spending and stiff pre-conditions before addressing broader reforms have it backwards. Fixing our broken immigration system requires aligning immigration laws and policies with the nation’s economic needs and future well-being. Then the United States can harness the advantages of immigration, and our immigration laws would be enforceable.

After the spring primary elections — the challenges that matter in most House races — a political opening to revive immigration reform could again arise. House leaders have said they favor a piecemeal approach — passing a series of bills covering specific issues, such as border security and high-skilled workers.

Five such bills have been reported out by committees. A sixth, on legal status, has yet to be introduced. But the Judiciary Committee and the House leadership is reportedly now discussing it.

These six bills could likely be passed if Boehner was willing to schedule them for floor action — knowing passage would come from more Democratic than Republican votes. This is how the recent debt ceiling bill passed.

Taken together, the House bills would comprise a package that could be the basis for negotiations with the Senate on the omnibus bill it enacted last year.

Politically and procedurally, these are all long shots and unlikely. Nonetheless, significant immigration reform is do-able were key players to embrace it in the name of national interest imperatives — instead of overlooking the evidence in favor of misleading rhetoric.


PHOTO (TOP): Protesters calling for comprehensive immigration reform gather on the Washington Mall, October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

PHOTO (INSERT 1): House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds a news conference at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

PHOTO (INSERT 2): Rosa Ayala carries a Resident Alien placard during the International Workers Day and Immigration Reform March on May Day in Los Angeles, California, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew

PHOTO (INSERT 3): Undocumented UCLA students stand in line at a graduation ceremony for UCLA “Dreamers”, or Dream Act students, at a church near the campus in Los Angeles, California, June 15, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

PHOTO (INSERT 4):  Simon Rodriguez, 2, waves U.S. flags during a protest march to demand immigration reform in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, October 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson




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I live on the Mexican border in Arizona. I have studied the border problem for twelve years, including hundreds of hours flying the border in my airplane (N3422L). Border enforcement is an abject failure – by design. Much of that design came from Doris Meissner when she was INS Commissioner.
Last November I gave a paper at GovSec West in Dallas. It is based on the results of that twelve-year study. Anyone interested in the truth about the border should watch the online video of that presentation.
We are in a worldwide struggle between the nation state and a globalist enclosure movement. The outcome of that struggle will determine if the United States of American survives as an independent nation.

Posted by GlennSpen | Report as abusive

•Twenty-five percent of high-tech firms launched between 1995 and 2005 were created by immigrants.
{{ All are INDIANS! }}
•Twenty percent of small business owners are immigrants. {{ Indians, Greeks, Persians }}
•Sixty to 70 percent of graduate students in critical technology fields are foreign-born with visas that expire after graduation.
{{ Indians and Chinese }}
•Future food prices are estimated to increase 5 to 6 percent and the agriculture sector to lose up to $60 billion due to unmet labor needs.
{{ We need more slave labor? }}
•More than 60 percent of the nation’s 11 million unauthorized residents have lived here more than 10 years. They have deep roots in workplaces and communities. Many have U.S. citizen children.
{{ Illegal aliens by law. Deport or amnesty }}
•Significant numbers of talented, educated young people graduate from U.S. high schools and colleges, yet cannot legally join the workforce because they are unauthorized
{{ We don’t need more high school grads. See High tech and cheap labor above }}

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

I think immigration has been turned into a tool of corporate globalization. All of the bills discussed or alluded to in this article are designed to further flatten out the world labor supply, and to reduce legal issues for employers. It will stop when all Americans and Europeans work for and have the same basic economic level and standard of living as all “emerging” nations. The world will be flat.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

With a 25% unemployment rate among young black men, tell me again why we need to import poverty–disguised as cheap labor.

By mixing the issues of legal immigation with illegal immigration (assuming the author’s percentages are correct, that’s five million people that are in this country illegally) you are fragmenting the conversation.

Again, any legislation that incorporates the term “comprehensive” will be a disaster. Congress needs to address each of the issues separately–be it those who have overstayed their visas, those with criminal records, enforcement, legalization, etc.

Granted, the laws need to address the new reality. But the laws also need to protect the interests of Americans–both now and into the future.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive

Look, I have no problem with the legal immigrants and value their contributions to the nation. I do have a problem with flooding an already anemic job market with illegals. Their reasons for breaking our laws doesn’t matter to me. We have existing laws on the books regarding immigration enforcement our representatives stopped enforcing for political reasons rather than any logistical problem. They want to court the votes and I scream nay! Any politician who expects my votes will avoid this amnesty pandering to invaders. Enforce the law or by God get out of the way and let someone in who will. No new laws until the border is closed once and for all. Lets use what we have. If you stop the people, you will stop the drugs. Enforce the law Washington.

Posted by Pyromancer | Report as abusive

Corporate America sent millions of our middle class jobs to China, Mexico and India. Our Government sat on it’s hands and did nothing to protect our workers.
Now, it cannot create jobs, because they don’t exist.
Add to that, the refusal to enforce our immigration laws and protect our borders, even after 9/11.
If the American people don’t see what’s really going on, they deserve the consequences.
We have 11-15 million Illegal Immigrants that they know nothing about, taking jobs from American citizens.
Our Government no longer is for the people and by the people.

Posted by stymie222 | Report as abusive

Meissner ignores the question that people in and out of Congress, including the one-dimensional media, refuse to address, i.e., how would 20 million jobless Americans benefit from giving work permits to 12 million illegal aliens, doubling annual legal immigration to 2 million people and in just 10 years adding 33 million foreign workers while the job market remains dismal?

Posted by davegorak | Report as abusive

With so many people out of work, how can you even consider amnesty for illegal immigrants? Those people that are here illegally should be deported. Not rewarded.

Posted by Nannytk | Report as abusive

Let’s face it, this immigration thing is a 20th century issue that has slopped over into the 21st century. The time has come to finally resolve it in an intelligent fashion, as three-fourths of Americans favor and Obama confronts head-on. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of immigrants and minorities is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues.
As the book points out, immigrants and minorities are a major force in America. Immigrants and the children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. In fact, forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant, creating 10 million jobs and seven out of ten top brands in our country.
More importantly, they come to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon, as did the author’s grandparents when they landed at Ellis Island in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing from Europe to the Land of Opportunity. Many bring skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter chronicles “foreigners” who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance in Anytown, USA. Perhaps intelligent immigration reform, White House/Congress and business/labor cooperation, concerned citizens and books like this can extend a helping hand, the same unwavering hand, lest we forget, that has been the anchor and lighthouse of American values for four hundred years.
Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”

Posted by lgjhere | Report as abusive

Illegal immigration is good for the illegals, its good for big business, and its good for adding Democratic voters. It destroys the job market for our own citizens, and it puts undue strain on the American Taxpayers through endless entitlements for the illegals. Its time for America to start worrying about Americans for a change. Send the illegals home!Secure the border!

Posted by GEO689 | Report as abusive

Doris Meissner is yet another anti-American fellow traveller trying to help Obama destroy the USA.

Posted by 4uDoc | Report as abusive

Doris Meissner is a notorious open borders hack who has been pushing amnesty since she was head of the INS. Yes, demographics are changing—because for 50 years immigration laws have not been enforced and all the White House and Congress’ energy has been devoted to passing amnesties.

Unemployment among the young, blacks, Hispanics, disabled Americans, under-educated and recently returned veterans is at an all time high. For those who fit two or of those labels, eg, young and black or Hispanic without a high school diploma, the chance of finding a job is twice as unlikely.

Where does Meissner get her audacity to promote an illegal immigrant agenda ahead of American citizens.

Sickening editorial written by a sickening woman.

Posted by redblack | Report as abusive

Another anti-American stabs Americans in the back – just as does Obama

Posted by 4uDoc | Report as abusive

What’s wrong if indian and chinese or other immigrants are capable to do things that natives do not want or can not achieve themselves.

Without the “idiot” like Zuckerberg, those big companies will not exist in US and zero job for us and zero tax $. Check this to get idea about how much contributions of those immigrants. r/2013/04/25/40-largest-u-s-companies-fo unded-by-immigrants-or-their-children/

Also another “idiot” Bill gates let an indian immigrant to be CEO of microsoft.

2. According to US census, Foreign-Born Getting STEM Degrees at Higher Rates than Native-Born r10-06.pdf

So ask the smart professors in university why they find all natives to fill in those stem positions, not letting tax $ to educate foreigners? The answer is simple: They can not find enough CAPABLE natives to do the job

Posted by 4immigrant | Report as abusive

Doris Meissner wants to declare victory on illegal immigration enforcement and go home. She calls recent efforts and “muscular”.

And yet:

• Illegal aliens apply for and receive child tax credits worth $19 billion over a decade (Politico, 2/14/14)
• An illegal Mexican was charged with aggravated child abuse in Shreveport last Friday (Shreveport Times, 2/21/14)
• Illegals can now get driver cards and take jobs from Oregon workers (The Oregonian 1/25/14)
• Of the 360,000 people deported last year, only 134,000 were deported from the interior of America. That’s only 1% — 1%!! — of the 12 million illegals here.

Doesn’t sound muscular to me. More like flaccid.

Posted by gnther666 | Report as abusive

The “Reality” of today is that we have felons who have broken and abused our immigration laws. The reality is that we have two agendas involving the illegals in this country. The first agenda is business’ need for really cheap labor. Business that violate our immigration laws. The second agenda is political. Politicians want more voters. In particular, voters that rely on big government to support them. James Mitchner wrote in his book “Caribbean” about the Spaniard’s influence and the Catholic Church’s influence on the inhabitants of Mexico, South and Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean. That this influence encouraged dependence on the Church and the Government. It still exists today in the population of these areas of the Western Hemisphere. Each illegal wants the government to support them. For Obama, and Doris Meissner, it means their influence on that population. And, their agenda intentionally ignores the millions of Americans out of work. Men and women who follow the laws as citizens of this country. Men and women born and raised in this country. Men and women who were educated in this country. Reality is my cousin working in the corn fields of Indiana, tasseling corn to earn money for college. She and other young citizens were fired by the farmer. The farmer turned around and hired illegals to finish the tasseling. Why? The farmer could hire the illegals for less money per hour – increasing his profit. So, there are Americans willing to work those jobs that only illegals work now. In summation, immigration reform has nothing to do with what is “right”. It has everything to do with Business, Politics, and the Liberal agenda. None of the three care about true Americans. It’s all about profit and power.

Posted by Missilier | Report as abusive

We need a national referendum on immigration. We need to cut through the log jam and decide the overall policy for the nation. Only the citizens speaking at the voting booth can really settle this question of good and all. I suggest we start with a simple pole giving voters the following three options.
1) Increase immigration to above the current rate.
2) Keep immigration constant at the current rate (1.1million/yr),
3) Cut immigration below the current rate.
Once the most popular option was decided we could have a further questions to narrow down the extent of the desired changes up or down.

Posted by jackvance | Report as abusive

Another traitor who can think of anything but amnesty and thinks the borders are secure.

Posted by jackvance | Report as abusive

Every four and one-half days (4.5 days) the population of the world increases by 1 million people.

To think about immigration, consider the difference between Japan and India.

Although its first human habitants came from China, Japan rose to prominence among human cultures because it was, like England, an island nation, and compared to other countries, had almost zero immigration thereafter.

Japan, the Land of the Gods, grew such a strong culture, admired around the world, because it was not constantly disturbed by immigrations.

Japan is the exact opposite of, say, India, which has constantly, throughout its history, been disturbed by immigrations.

Including its immigrants, India today has a population of 1.17 billion people, compared to Japan’s 128 million.

India has had migration after migration from every direction. It is made up of Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, Christians, just to start.
India, the land built by immigrants, has literally dozens of languages, great corruption and chronic diseases. Everybody speaking a different language, worshiping a different god, stealing from each other. That is India, the poster child for immigration advocates.

Yet Japan, with a population only one-tenth the size of India’s, has a GDP 4 times as big as India. That means the average Japanese citizen is roughly 40 times as productive as the average Indian.

Japan, the island nation, protected from immigrations, has a cohesive culture, very high economic production, high per-capita incomes and wages, and the lowest crime rate in the world.

So America should ask itself, do we want to remain a strong culture, like Japan, or do we want to allow immigrations from all directions, and end up with the chaos and poverty and disease that is India?

Mass immigration into America today, on an unprecedented scale, has flooded the labor markets, driving down wages and causing joblessness, destroying American careers and families. Immigrants (America has 45 million immigrants today) occupy scarce American housing, driving rents sharply higher for Americans.

Immigration on such a vast scale is quickly destroying the American middle class.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

20-25% of businesses are started and owned by immigrants because 20-25% of the population is foreign-born. Immigrants possess no magic power to fuel our economy. They are merely people, just like the rest of us. In the final analysis, the only effects of immigration are to grow our population and our labor force. No discussion of immigration is complete without a discussion as to whether or not that makes sense. Part of that discussion needs to be the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption, and its role in driving up unemployment and poverty.

Pete Murphy
Author, “Five Short Blasts”

Posted by Pete_Murphy | Report as abusive

America is already dangerously overpopulated. Any additional people will only further decrease our quality of life.

There are millions of unemployed Americans. The idea that there are jobs “Americans won’t do” is a myth. If a job pays a reasonable wage it will attract plenty of applicants.

Big Business loves immigration — particularly illegal immigration, because it provides a supply of workers who can be exploited and paid less than US citizens.

Overpopulation is key though. Our aquifers are being sucked dry. Prime farmland is being paved over for residential development and strip malls. Traffic in most major cities is unbearable, and crippling local business. More people (of any race, religion, nationality, etc) means more pollution, increased environmental destruction, even more crowded school classrooms, more traffic congestion, more people on government assistance, a higher crime rate, more traffic, higher unemployment — in short, a lower quality of life.

The primary beneficiaries of greater immigration are employers.

We cannot control what other countries do, but we have a moral obligation to protect what’s left of our country and it’s natural resources.

We need to reduce our population, not increase it.

Posted by sajohnson33 | Report as abusive

STEM bill SPECIFICALLY need to include

“Masters Holders in INDUSTRIAL design” .
Industrial design involves computer modelling and is
at the very head of industrial progress

Posted by jmk4546 | Report as abusive

Written like a person who most likely lives in a nice (white) suburban neighborhood, and who doesn’t have to see the actual reality of the situation. Look at some of the euro nations, who have traditionally been extremely liberal with immigration. Even they are now cracking down. Why? Because even they have discovered, there’s only so many people you can fit in the lifeboat. Citing the small percentages of people who actually do come here and do something significant with their lives, is not addressing the other overwhelming majority, who come here with nothing. No education, no money, and few skills. And it’s that larger percentage that places a giant burden on our system. A burden we can no longer support. And just because people technically start a business, that doesn’t mean we need it. Somebody running a liquor store or yet another gardening service, isn’t something that is imperative to the functionality of America. Nobody who snuck over the border 5 years ago, came here to start a superconductor plant, I guarantee that. And we are not doing any favors to Mexico by continuing to give their people an easy out. They need to stay there and fix their country.

There’s still plenty of people here that need/want jobs. They just don’t want to work for next to nothing. Americans need to restrict as much of their purchasing to US made products as possible, which then forces the manufacturers to produce those products, which then creates higher priced products, and more money to pay people decent wages, right here in the country.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

As posted above! “With a 25% unemployment rate among young black men, tell me again why we need to import poverty–disguised as cheap labor.”

#1: Build the fence and patrol it! #2: mandate e-verify and actively prosecute business that employes illegal immigrants. Like in Alabama, the illegals will SELF-DEPORT, leaving those (not minimum wage) jobs for AMERICANS to fill up.

ONLY AFTER our borders have been secured should we even discuss a guest worker (no citizenship, definitely NO amnesty).

Posted by yerbullstuff | Report as abusive

It amazes me that only the government is pushing for all this immigration reform. It is quite obvious that the vast majority of the people do not want most of it; just tightening the border security. It goes to show you that Corporate America is firmly in charge. Welcome to the USCA!

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

@sajohnson33 – you make valid points, but population increase is not just about immigration, it’s about birthcontrol as well. But of course, corporations now claim religious exemption to healthcare coverage of birthcontrol…. oh dear, the future is gloomy.

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive