News / Americas

US Immigration Proposal Divides Reform Advocates

Immigration reform activists hold a sign in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, Jan. 28, 2013.
Immigration reform activists hold a sign in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, Jan. 28, 2013.
A legislative proposal out of Washington may soon give hope to millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States, while at the same time sparking renewed fears of a system run amok and warnings that years of inaction have made the problem only more complex.
 
The plan, being floated by a group of Democratic and Republican senators, calls for a “tough but fair” path to citizenship that helps attract and retain high-skilled workers while ensuring immigrants who apply for jobs are in the country legally.
 
Groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) are not impressed.
 
“To a certain extent this is déjà vu,” said Special Projects Coordinator Jack Martin. “It basically is a rehash of the push that was made in 2007 to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform that could pass. And it did not pass Congress.”
 
FAIR’s biggest objection is the plan’s path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, a provision it sees as nothing more than a general amnesty.
 
“The public basically opposes that because of the fact that they want people to come into our country legally, and they see the amnesty-type proposal as encouraging more illegal immigration,” Martin said.
 
Yet that “tough but fair path” to citizenship is exactly what many groups that work with undocumented workers have been clamoring for, and something they say has been sorely lacking from the country’s intense focus on immigration enforcement.
 
“It’s almost like the Wild West where workers are isolated and they have very little rights and protection,” said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations Campaign.
 



Family is key
 
The National Domestic Workers Alliance represents nannies, housekeepers and other caregivers, not all of whom are in the U.S. legally. Poo says many have already been given the responsibility of caring for the country’s children and elderly — some of the most vulnerable members of society — although they themselves have nowhere to turn when victimized by crime or abuse.
 
“[They are] living in fear of immigration enforcement, living in fear that on your way to work you could be stopped at a checkpoint and deported immediately and separated from your own family,” she said.
 
Other groups that work with undocumented U.S. immigrants worry that many immigrants find themselves in a similar situation — unskilled laborers with few trusted places to turn to for help.
 
The Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, estimates of the 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011, the majority are in jobs that currently require little education and little or no certification, like construction, food service or even light manufacturing.
 
But Pew Hispanic Center Senior Demographer Jeffrey Passel argues those numbers tell only part of the story.
 
“The stereotype is a young man who is here maybe working in construction or agriculture, and there are a lot of those people,” he said. “But 40 percent of the adult unauthorized immigrants are women. Those women and most of the adult men are in families. There’s about four and a half million U.S. citizen children who have parents who are unauthorized immigrants. So we’re talking largely about young working families.”
 
Pew estimates that between 40 and 50 percent of the adult unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. are parents of U.S.-citizen children. Two-thirds of them have been in the U.S. for 10 or more years.
 
“This is a group that has come here, formed families and put down roots,” Passel said.
 
Illegal immigration slowing
 
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 60 percent of the unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States — more than six million — are from Mexico; another 400,000 to 500,000 are from El Salvador, with significant numbers from Guatemala and Honduras, and smaller numbers from other Latin American countries. But Passel says the numbers of new illegal immigrants to the U.S., especially from Mexico, is falling substantially, in part because of a down U.S. economy and in part because U.S. enforcement measures are working.
 
“We have data that tells us that it’s gotten much more expensive to hire a smuggler. It’s physically gotten more difficult to get into the United States, to sneak in,” he said.
 
Last May, a study by the Pew Hispanic Center found “the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.”
 
Meanwhile, the numbers of illegal immigrants from outside Latin America remain relatively small. According to Passel, several hundred thousand unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. come from India, China and other Asian countries, many of whom did not sneak into the United States but, instead, overstayed their visas.
 
Then there is the problem of the high tech and skilled workers that companies want to bring into the United States but cannot.
 
“We have major fashion designers who cannot get their models and their staff in the United States on visas that cap out in certain seasons,” said Michael Wildes, managing partner of the immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg. “America [sic] then gets marginalized because we’re not effectively up to speed on the needs of certain commercial industries and corridors.”
 
Targeting workers to stay
 
One of the sectors that has been most vocal has been high-tech.
 
“We have a large number of people — it’s estimated to be somewhere in the range of 500,000 people — who are here on a temporary basis, and many of them face a very long backlog,” said David Hart, director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy at George Mason University.
 
“There’s no question that they are going to stay, that they add value to our country,” he said.
 
But Hart warns many of them get stuck, unable to advance in their careers or move on from the companies that sponsored their entry into the country, and that ultimately hurts U.S. competitiveness and job creation.
 
“One of the things that they bring to that process are relationships with businesses and communities in their home countries,” he said. “They can help to drive exports. They can help to create businesses that native-born Americans wouldn’t have thought of starting.”
 
The plan being floated by the group of eight U.S. senators aims to make sure “the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs” are not forced to leave.
 
But for groups like FAIR, concerns remain. Martin argues any plan that looks at increasing immigration levels — whether for skilled or unskilled labor — “flies in the face of what we think is appropriate.”
 
“We have so many unskilled Americans who are out of jobs, and they also question the need for any expansion of skilled immigration because of the fact that we similarly have many skilled Americans looking for jobs who are out of work,” he said.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: phuong from: georgia
January 29, 2013 12:41 AM
Looking around the world, is there any where we can get scholarship ... to earn a degree and over stay to take the jobs of their people? can you senators just name one place? why keep doing thing like this? The author is right when saying this:

“We have so many unskilled Americans who are out of jobs, and they also question the need for any expansion of skilled immigration because of the fact that we similarly have many skilled Americans looking for jobs who are out of work,” he said.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Canadian Authorities Seek More Power to Thwart Terror Suspects

Canada's PM Harper he'll press for speedy OK to track terror suspects abroad, and to detain people in the country suspected of plotting attacks
More

Brazilians Set to Choose New President

President Dilma Rousseff and Senator Aecio Neves face each other in weekend runoff
More

FARC Rebel Gets 27 Years in US Prison for Hostage-Taking

Alexander Beltran Herrera responsible for kidnapping three Americans whose plane crash-landed in Colombia
More

Canadian Shooter's Mother ‘Mad’ at Son

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's mother, Susan told the Associated Press part of her 'wants to hate' her estranged son, who killed a soldier in Ottawa
More

Canadian Couple Accused of Spying in China Held in Near Isolation

Treatment of the couple, who are being held without charge at a remote facility in the border city of Dandong, has seriously strained China's ties with Canada
More

Mexico Governor Resigns After Student Disappearances

Students from a rural teachers training college went missing after a confrontation with police in the town of Iguala on September 26
More