Common Sense Skepticism: A Wake Up Call on Immigration Reform

Photo Courtesy of Washington Post’s Wonk Blog

Clay Olsen | June 10th, 2013

It is very difficult to keep up with all the news coming out of Washington with scandals appearing left and right. However, the American people must stay vigilant in focusing on legislation that has the power to radically change the country. Even though much of the media is focused on what is happening with the IRS or whatever it may be, we must remember that there is a group of politicians, known as the “Gang of Eight,” that are working to reform immigration. What does this reform mean for America (American citizens)? Surely it cannot be based on political gains, can it? For now, let us forget about the potential political impacts and instead, focus on the issue in a common sense manner.

The bill that the Gang of Eight has whipped up is over 1,000 pages long and is said to be a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. Of course one of the big concerns that Republicans voice with regards to immigration is a secure border. The bill only requires the Department of Homeland Security to submit a plan to secure the border; no action is required. However, we are supposed to trust that the border will become more secure after this bill passes, and we are supposed to give the Left what they want in return.

Let us take a little trip down memory lane and examine past immigration reform bills in our history. The 1965 Hart-Celler Act was defended by Democrats as being a bill that would not increase immigration. However, within the bill were the introductions of chain migration and the elimination of national quotas. Both made it easier for net welfare takers to be accepted by the immigration system. Illegal immigration increased from 2.5 million in the 1950s to 4.5 million in the 1970s to about 10 million in the 1990s. Again, this was a bill that Democrats repeatedly endorsed as a low impact piece of legislation with regards to immigration.

Immigration reform entered the picture again with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. This bill would grant 3 million illegal immigrants with amnesty. In order to get enough support to pass, it “promised” border security. After the bill was passed one can only guess which aspect of the bill got priority. Amnesty or security? The pardon of illegal actions or the safety of our country? As expected, amnesty was given and border security was not.

With this kind of a track record, I think it is safe to say that we should be very careful to trust the Left. They continually tell us that the border is secure right now. So are we to expect any increased security? It is easy for those in the D.C. bubble to claim that the border is secure when they do not witness and are not affected by the gangs, drug trafficking, and shootings that occur on our southern border. And obviously they do not want to know. They seem to not even care about the danger that is threatening our nation as displayed by President Obama’s Oval Office meeting with illegal immigrants last month while disregarding the opinions of border security officials and immigration officers. The job of these politicians is to represent the American people, not illegal immigrants.

Welfare benefits and government subsidies are also an issue when discussing immigration reform. A large amount of illegal immigrants would qualify for welfare. This large of an amount would have a huge impact on an already bankrupt welfare state that the left refuses to reform. I fear that the legalizing of millions of illegal immigrants would be like taking a flamethrower to an already raging forest fire. The Gang of Eight bill does not relieve American taxpayers from subsidizing illegal immigration. It waives the public charge law. The public charge law prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from accepting an application from an illegal immigrant that would be an economical weight in our society. So there would be no consideration as to how the taxpayer would be affected by accepting an illegal immigrant into the system.

The bill also sets up a slush fund for advocacy groups to assist potential amnesty applicants. Remember that “government funds” is another term for “taxpayer money.” Also, illegal immigrants would be able to litigate against amnesty decisions that they consider unfair. Again, the litigation would be paid for by the American taxpayer. No doubt, a concept that Eric Holder is drooling over.

So now we must decide how we are to go about fixing the current immigration issues. What do you do the morning after a burglar has broken into your home? Do you make sure there is milk and cookies out on the table for the next intruder? Or do you upgrade the lock on your front door to prevent it from ever happening again? Not a perfect analogy, but it will have to suffice. We have an avenue for immigrants to come into our country with no background check, no security scan, and no way of keeping track of them. We must fix the leak and then deal with those that are within our borders.

Now Marco Rubio has been criticized by some as scheming with the Left and praised by others because he is starting the conversation. I like how he is trying to slow the process down so that more people can comprehend the bill and give their opinion on it. I know Marco Rubio is a smart Republican, and I hope he fully understands whom he is dealing with.

How are we to respond to immigration reform? We must make sure that the law actually secures the border. The United States is the wealthiest country on the earth; I think we can successfully secure our borders. We must make sure that legal immigration is encouraged and illegal immigration is discouraged. Two immigration reform bills (discussed above) brought by the Democrats have clearly failed at accomplishing this task. Illegal immigration has skyrocketed while the legal immigration system remains broken. Above all, we must make sure that the law is in the best interest of the American citizen, a notion that seems obvious but is often disregarded.

So before a group of politicians try to ram through another immigration reform bill, let us remember the past and tread carefully when we talk of compromise. With an estimated amount of 11 million illegal immigrants within our borders right now, we must take immigration reform very seriously because it has the potential to have a huge, negative impact on our country’s future.

The Ambivalent Elephant in the Room

Gang of Eight

Senator Marco Rubio speaking at a press conference on Capitol Hill with his Senate colleagues outlining his ideas for an immigration overhaul
Picture Courtesy of Desecret News

Danny Zeng | May 9, 2013

Many on the Right have come out in full force against Sen. Marco Rubio’s courageous effort to reform the current immigration system. Although there are legitimate arguments to be made against “amnesty,” economic and social, some rhetoric are nonetheless blown out of proportion. Smart people on very short attention span seem to forget just how bad the current immigration system is for lawful and unlawful immigrants. As it stands now, we don’t even know who’re in our country! Not to mention an unsecure border that let’s in criminals and narcotics, a legal system that deprives many of economic and social mobility, and a conscious polarization of our society between citizens and the foreign-born. Many immigrants have been active in their communities, working and living in the U.S. for many years, paying taxes, raising a family, and saving up for college. Even the most ardent exclusionists can appreciate the powerful motive of human beings’ innate desire for a better life. Immigration is plagued by systemic problems, so naturally it requires systemic solutions. Sen. Rubio and others have started this conversation. Let’s finish it and act in good faith to make our immigration system work for those who are currently in the country and many more highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs who thirst to benefit from our capitalist enterprise and to achieve their American Dream.

The current Senate bill, first and foremost, focuses on securing the border. It asks the Department for Homeland Security to come up with a border security plan that will be conditioned as a triggering mechanism for providing undocumented a provisional status. The path to citizenship is at least 13 years. Currently, undocumented immigrants will have to pay back fines and taxes. The bill cuts down chain migration by eliminating adult siblings and children from the preference system. It also boosts the number of allowance for skilled immigrants and provides uncapped access to foreign entrepreneurs. This shift from family-centric to skill-based immigration regime is monumental. It will contribute to America’s competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy. 

On Monday, Heritage released its heavily criticized study that concludes that “If amnesty is enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would receive $592,000 more in government benefits over the course of his remaining lifetime than he would pay in taxes.” Unfortunately, by only examining taxes and welfare, Heritage fails to consider positive economic contributions from provisions embedded in the reform bill, such as opening up our system more to high-skilled workers. The Heritage study counts retirement benefits that are decades away without even acknowledging the possibility of entitlement reforms in the near future. The government predicates that Social Security will dry up by 2036, at which time benefits will either be curtailed, people will shore up by paying more taxes, or government defaults on its obligations to its citizens. Entitlements will be reformed sooner or later as a matter of necessity. Thus, projecting the current welfare spending level outward into the future is misleading.

The study has also been criticized by leading free-market experts from the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute for its misleading figures that fail to take into account the dynamism in our economy. Daniel Foster, who writes for National Review Online, argues that the Heritage study, if anything, is a strong case to roll back the welfare state. Cato condbucted a study a few years back that concludes that comprehensive immigration reform will have a net positive $1.5 trillion contribution to our economy, as real wages tend to go up for unlawful immigrants who come out of the shadow, yielding higher consumption and more government revenues.

The immigration bill is also found by the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration to have a “substantial positive effect” on the economy by shoring up entitlements. According to the Social Security Administration, the bill would add more than $275 billion in revenue to Social Security and Medicare, increase the gross domestic product by 1.63 percent and add more than 3 million jobs over the next decade” (May 8, 2013 Bloomberg)

Instead of a coordinated campaign of shooting ourselves in the foot, let’s shore up our nation’s broken immigration system by actually leading on the issue. Ignore the fringe noise of exclusionists. GOP leaders should be vocal in support of reform. There are those who advocate for incrementalism in reforming immigration. Democrats and their union stooges will never opt for that route, so realistically incremental reform will get us nowhere, if not worse than status quo. Comprehensive reform is the only politically viable way forward. The defeatists within the Party would suggest that the 11 million undocumented would necessarily vote Democrat in decades to come. That is synonymous to waving white flag and admits defeat without even putting on a fight.  If our party cannot figure out dynamic ways to engage our fellow Americans with an optimistic vision and sound public policies, then our party will be swept into the dustbin of history. The GOP House will have sufficient political sway to ensure whatever safeguards deemed necessary to strengthen border security and enforcement provisions. The Republicans have the upper hand in this negotiation. Let’s not squander the opportunity to lead on an issue that will create a safer and stronger United States of America for the 21st century.

Things to Think About Re: Immigration for Tonight

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Danny Zeng | March 5, 2013

There are about 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including hundreds of undocumented students attending the University of Texas at Austin. What drives immigration? What are some of the struggles that immigrants face on a daily basis? What is the political solution to this issue? What kind of discourse should we have to ensure that America continues to stand for opportunity and freedom? Join us tonight in GAR 0.102 from 6 to 8pm to explore these points with some of the distinguished scholars on this issue. Immigration reform has been on the back burner for policy makers of all stripes for a very long time now. Our nation needs to rethink how we go about managing the flow of immigrants and emigrants in an increasingly globalized world. We don’t agree too much with our friends from University Democrats, but we do agree on the need to take action on this issue. Instead of providing an exhaustive list of points to consider, I offer you the following less-emphasized points to think about on this issue that I personally find quite interesting:

  • Citizenship through marriage has provided thousands of foreign nationals a path to become U.S. citizens. This is under the “nationality through naturalization” part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, currently U.S citizens with gay and lesbian partners cannot successfully petition for their foreign spouses to become naturalized citizens because their civil union is not recognized by the U.S government. Specifically, the law states that the foreign spouse has to have been continuously “living in marital union with the citizen spouse” [emphasis mine] for three years prior to applying for naturalization. Not only this, same-sex foreign spouses cannot even be petitioned for green cards. These hurdles have caused some gay and lesbian Americans to immigrate to other countries to live with their foreign spouses. Regardless of your position on marriage equality, this is an incidence of legal discrimination against one group of Americans, pushing them away from homeland; such anathema should be considered for amendment.
  • The visa geared toward highly skilled workers, H1-B visas, had a cap at 85,000 in 2012. U.S. firms hit the cap as early as June of last year, causing many companies to lose qualified candidates who could greatly contribute to our economy, including graduate students working in American research universities. The cap needs to be enlarged or lifted to allow for a more dynamic movement of skilled labor and talents into the U.S. This will ensure our competitiveness in the global economy. Is the U.S. experiencing a labor shortage? Who are the winners and losers for allowing more foreign skilled workers to come to the U.S?
  • Some in the debate focus heavily on the terms “path to citizenship” versus “path to permanent residency.” In actuality, they are much the same for many immigrants, as many Latino immigrants stop short of becoming naturalized by maintaining their green card status instead. For Mexican immigrants, their naturalization rate is at mere 36%, lower than 61% for Latino immigrants overall, according to research by Pew Hispanic Center. Many choose not to naturalize for personal and administrative reasons i.e. need to learn English and cost of application is too high. How can we get people more involved on this issue in politics? In fact, net migration from Mexico was reported to be zero in 2012. Note this does not mean there were not people coming from Mexico, but simply that as many people are going from the U.S. to Mexico as well. Data also indicates that immigration from Mexico is at all-time low.
  • Asian Americans have become the fastest growing racial group in the United States, according to Pew Research Center. Though ethnically diverse within this larger racial construct, Asian Americans as a whole earn more money (median salary at $66,000)  and are better educated (49%  have at least bachelor degree). The group has grown 46% since 2000 – Texas being the second-largest growth state for Asian Americans. Today, Asians constitute 4.4% of population in Texas (Census data). However, looking through Asian American history, Asians had faced legal immigration barriers for ages  i.e. Chinese Exclusion Acts, Immigration Act of 1917, Cable Act, Nationality Act of 1940. The Asian population  especially Chinese Americans, have had a history of “illegal” immigration. A present influx of illegal immigrants from Asia persist today. How can we reconcile the relative affluence and talents of this group with components of illegal immigration? More bluntly, do economic demands trump legality?

Congress is projected to tackle immigration this year, as early as late March. And just yesterday, Secretary Napolitano called immigration her “No.1” priority. The political climate is ripe for immigration reform, if not at least major changes to existing immigration system. The challenges and opportunities facing immigration are rooted in politics, history, and law.

College Republicans are honored to co-host this immigration policy forum with our friends from University Democrats tonight here on campus. We’ve assembled some of UT’s top faculty in this field to join us for the dialogue. Join us for a lively conversation on this issue! #UTimmigration

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Half of the Youth Vote Left Untapped: Potential Game Changer for 2016?

 

Let’s look at the numbers from the election in an attempt to make some sense out of it. In 2012, Romney won Texas with 57.2% of the vote versus Obama’s 41.4%, close to 1.3 million more votes than the President, that is a 15.84% margin. This is not surprising, considering that last time Texas went for a Democratic nominee was in 1976 – Jimmy Carter.  Close to eight million Texans casted a ballot in this election. Republicans have gained a two-percentage lead in the state from 2008.

Now looking at Travis County: 385,081 voted in Travis County this year in the presidential race, 60.1% went for Obama and 36.2% for Romney. There are 635,300 registered voters in Travis County, bringing this year’s countywide turnout to 61.3%.

Back in 2008, the President won Travis County 63.5-34.3. Over the last four years, the President’s advantage eroded more than three percentage points. [Interesting Side Note: My native Harris County in Houston was split down the middle, essentially tied, with the President edging a win with a mere +585 margin. Jefferson County is another close win for the President, 50.4% over 48.8%. Texas is all red except Travis County, Dallas County, Harris County, Bexar County, counties in the Valley, and a few counties in West Texas]

The youth vote (19-29) went to Obama 60-36 in this election. That is a 24-percentage point gap that Republicans need to close in coming years. However, this can be viewed as improvement from the 66-31 ratio in 2008. Nationally, the Obama coalition lost five percentage points in youth vote. This has to be one of the most under reported statistics from this election (all we hear about is that Latinos overwhelmingly voted for Obama). Obviously, the Republican Party can do more to include young voters into its fold.

To provide you with an idea of how important – or rather, how underrated – the youth vote is to this year’s election: according to CIRCLE, “In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, if Romney had won half the youth vote, or if young people had stayed home all together, he would have won those key battleground states.  A switch of those 80 electoral votes would have also changed the presidency, electing Romney as president.” 

This speaks to the strength of the youth vote in the years to come, particularly in the next presidential election. 23 million young voters turned out to vote in this election, which is only one half of eligible young voters, meaning the other half is left untapped by political organizations. In toss-up, or leaning states, youth turnout was as high as 55-58%. There are 3.7 million youth voters in Texas. That is 23% of the state’s eligible voters. Turnout is under 40%, so more than 2 million young people do not turn out to vote. If 60% of them do turnout and vote Democrats in future elections, Texas might become a blue state. That is how big of a deal young voters are to the future political landscape.

Who are the young voters? Well 1 out of 11 youth voters self identify as LGBTQ, that is more than double the proportion of the electorate as a whole. 1 out of 10 youth voters are Hispanic young men. About half of the youth voters (44%) are Hispanics, Blacks, or LGBTQ, groups that voted overwhelmingly for the President. 90% of youth have family income at or below $50k. The youth vote has gained 17 million new members since 2008. While fewer young voters identified themselves as Democrats this election, almost none moved into the GOP rank – more identified as “independents.”

A particular stab at young Republicans’ failure in messaging this past election: overwhelming proportion of youth (67%) blamed the economy on George W. Bush. Young minority women voted overwhelmingly for the President, with young black females voting 98% for the President. Not all youth groups supported the President though; young white males and young white females supported GOP by a slim margin. Young females have a slight better turnout than young males. Mobilizing young males to go to the polls may help Republicans in the future. Also, the GOP needs to do more to explain the role of government to non-whites. There is a 20-point gap between non-White young males and white young males on their view of the role of government. 66% of youth with college experienced turned out to vote, versus 35% of youth without college experience. GOP needs to do a better job reaching out to youth without college experience. That requires a new way of thinking about social media outreach and campaigning beyond mere college campuses, as college aged (18-24) young voters make up only about one-fourth of the youth vote.

Sources: CIRCLE, Travis County Clerk, Politico Election Results, Dave Leip’s Atlas Election Results