The election has been over for a week, and the last contests have finally been decided. What the election holds for immigration law and policy is anyone’s guess at this point.
On this Veteran’s Day 2010, we give thanks to those who have served around the world to make our country and planet a better place. As we do so, we also pause to analyze where our country stands with those who have sacrificed by leaving their own countries to immigrate to the US in search of the American dream.
Here is several elements of our current broken immigration system:
a. Green Card lines for Master’s and Bachelor’s degreed professionals are measured in years, with the current wait for many of the most talented people six to ten years. This is on top of the approximately ten years they have already spent in the US studying and working. These are smart, talented people that no country can have enough of. Frustrated with the long lines, many have given up and returned home or immigrated to Europe or Canada where they will begin to help the economies in these areas grow and prosper.
b. Only 5,000 Green Cards are issued each year to the people who occupy unskilled positions. Since their family members count against this number, this means that only approximately 1,250 workers are let in each year to perform (legally) ALL of the unskilled work across America. With just over 3,300 counties in the US, this means that there is only one worker to fill every unfilled unskilled position for three counties.
Think about it – in the Washington Metropolitan area alone this means that all of the unskilled work of Fairfax County, Washington, DC and Montgomery County should be left to one person. Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties would also have to share one legal worker among them. In New York/New Jersey, one worker would have to do all the jobs located in Westchester County, New York City and Union County.
Three workers to fill all the jobs in nine of the most populated jurisdictions in the world. Our system is indeed broken.
c. Family members (sons, daughters and spouses) of permanent residents are separated by months and years of waiting in lines caused by insufficient quota numbers.
d. States are feeling even more empowered to pass anti-immigration legislation. Throughout the US, we are already witnessing a sharp increase in the number of “Arizona”-type legislation filed in State Legislatures. We can expect to see tighter restrictions and increased local enforcement of Federal law. The responsibility of “good Americans” to fear foreigners will be the rallying cry of the anti-immigrant forces set to take over many State capitals in December and January.
The anti-immigrant groups’ goal of “attrition” continues through the combination of a bad economy and record deportations from increased enforcement under the Obama Administration. As the Obama Administration concludes 2010 with a second record year of deportations, the number of foreign nationals living in the US without lawful status continues its decline. In addition, with so many people out of work, there are fewer jobs that Americans are unwilling to take. This is likely to change when the economy returns to good health and better jobs return.
Political parties are missing the opportunity to lock up the bulk of the “immigrant vote” by refusing to take real action to pass immigration reform. The first major political party that gives more than lip-service to immigration reform will likely benefit for generations to come from grateful new citizens. Unfortunately, both parties have been driven by short-term fears of blow-back by a small but vocal band of anti-immigrant vigilantes. So long as the few control the will of those who represent the many, immigration reform will be just an unrealized dream.
Congress and the President have six weeks to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform. We will know on Christmas Eve whether they were able to get anything done on this very important issue.
As always, let us know how you feel. Send a message to MI@mooers.net.