IMMIGRATION REFORM – WHAT IS IN STAKE?
By Roger Adhikari special to N24:
According to the Public Policy institute of California (PPIC), a highly respected think tank chaired by former Senator Gary Hart, the undocumented immigrant population in America is about 11 million, one million down from its peak in 2007. Mexico is leading the pack with 60% while 20% from other South American countries, making the Latin American Countries’ contribution to the undocumented population total of 80%. Out of remaining 20%, 11% shared from Asia and rest from other parts of the world.
The PPIC report also suggests that 75% of the undocumented immigrants are in US workforce – paying all short of taxes and contributing in overall economy of the country. Contrary to the widely held believe, the report didn’t find any evidence of significant displacement of either American born or legal residence by the undocumented workforce. Most of the undocumented workers are employed in the farming businesses, not particularly interest to the native born, and other highly labor intensive and low paying jobs that are otherwise rejected by the documented workers.
Yet, Republicans were forming line to spew anger against immigrants in 2012 election, as if they were responsible for economic decline in America. The election outcome was, however, a rude awakening to the conservatives, who, now, recognize that expressing anger may help rile up their base. However, to win election, especially Presidential, not only, they must control their anti immigrants rhetoric, the GOP must address the problem in a meaningful way.
Unfortunately, the solution they have, so far, offered to address the immigration reform by passing the Stem Bill, immediate after losing the White house and winning eight fewer congressional seats, is neither going to soften the Hispanic voters in their favor nor is a kind of immigration solution this country so badly need. Such as, what to do with the people who are already in the country, going to school, working in factories and service industry, and living among us in a shadow?
The Stem (Science technology engineering and math) Bill, HR 6429, quickly zoomed through the Republican lead congress with 245 to 139 party line vote, not only addresses a small part of big and complex immigration problem, it leaves out 11 million undocumented people, the main cause of the immigrants’ wrath against the GOP in 2012 election, from any solution
It’s true that the United States of America is losing many talented foreign born engineers and scientists to its competitors for having an unfavorable and rigid immigration laws. Therefore, the HR 6429 Bill would have been a step in right direction had the bill not gotten rid of the Diversity Visa, also known as DV Lottery, which has allowed hundreds of thousands small businesses meet their low wages job need, since enacted in 1990. The DV visa has also offered hope to thousands of people all over the world by offering them immigrant status, and, in return, in has helped strengthen America’s relations with other countries.
Therefore, as important as the other immigration issues are, any real immigration reform must address the question of the undocumented people, yet, must maintain a balance approach. Hence the Bill, as passed by the congress, can’t be the answer to the problem the country is yearning for.
The good news is – since the White house and the Democratic controlled Senate won’t be satisfied with anything less than a comprehensive solution, regardless of politicking and political posturing by the GOP congress, the HR 6429 is only the beginning of the long negotiations on the immigration reform matter.
By definition, negotiations usually end up with some level of compromise. Therefore, despite no chance for the Bill passing the Senate in its current form, the DV lottery visa and other immigrant visa priorities to the immediate family members may come back as the bargaining chips in the future negotiations. Meaning, unless, the immigrant community is vigilant by communicating and lobbying with their elected officials, including the White house, the comprehensive immigration reform solution may come at the expense of the group of immigrants who are already marginalized and underrepresented in the country.