Immigration

The Devil's Immigration Glossary

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The immigration debate has given rise to a host of new words and phrases: "self-deportation," "operational control," "Dreamers." The latest: "legal status," the enigmatic term Republicans have recently used to describe their approach to dealing with the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the country. (As opposed to "illegal status"?) Given its capacity to persuade and express power, all political language is fraught, of course. But this is especially true of the immigration debate, where fiercely held views have given rise to a tendentious lexicon rife with euphemism and loaded language. This is perhaps no surprise given the (dreamy) ideology behind the idea of citizenship, the lore of American self-improvement, and the conflation of immigration with national security since September 11. But it's made the immigration debate a bit impenetrable for the casual observer. Here's your guide to decoding it all.

No, We Aren't Getting Closer to Immigration Reform

Flickr/Donna Burton

Yesterday, congressional Republicans released a set of principles on immigration reform which are supposed to guide the writing of an actual plan. This has led some optimistic people to say that perhaps some kind of compromise between the two parties might be worked out, and reform could actually pass. I'm sorry to say that they're going to be disappointed.

I might be proved wrong in the end. But I doubt it, because the fundamental incentives and the dynamics of the issue haven't changed. You still have a national party that would like very much to pass reform, and individual members of that party in the House of Representatives who have nothing to gain, and much to lose, by signing on to any reform that would be acceptable to Democrats and thus have a chance of passing the Senate and being signed by the President. So it isn't going to happen.

The Mythical Monolith

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The "Infiltrators"—Israel's Unwanted Asylum Seekers

As Sudanese and Eritreans marched on Jerusalem earlier this week, it became harder for the government to ignore its refugee issue.

Gershom Gorenberg

They simply left.

As soon as they got the chance, the refugees from Darfur and other parts of Sudan and from Eritrea walked out of the guarded camp in the Negev desert and marched north in bitter winter weather toward Jerusalem. There they stood Tuesday afternoon, on an icy sidewalk facing the Knesset, holding up brown cardboard signs with handwritten slogans, chanting in eerily subdued voices halfway between determination and desperation, until they were arrested, manhandled onto buses and sent back to the desert.

The Immigration-Reform Movement Grows Weary

Gabriel Arana/The American Prospect

On March 21 2012, José Gutiérrez—41-years-old and undocumented—was deported to Mexico. A successful film engineer in Los Angeles with two young children—a two-year-old son and a four-month-old daughter who was in the hospital at the time—Gutiérrez had lived in the United States since childhood. Nine days later, he risked crossing the border illegally at the San Luis Port of Entry in Arizona to reunite with his family. The next his wife Shena, a United States citizen, heard of him, he was in a coma.

Be Our Guest Worker

A look at the uncertain existence of the legal migrant farmworkers that the agricultural industry relies on for cheap labor. 

AP Images/Eric Risberg

Luis Perez sits up on the edge of his bed, a stiff cot mattress resting on a flimsy metal bedframe a few inches above the concrete floor.

He’s in the 120-square-foot cinder block walled room that he shares with a fellow migrant worker in Angier, North Carolina.

“The television and coffee maker, that’s all his,” Perez says, pointing toward a corner where a mini-refrigerator sits. A half-empty bag of rice slouches on top.

“I know he’ll take those back to Mexico, but I don’t want to carry stuff like that with me. Or waste my money at Wal-Mart.”

He smiles broadly and laughs. With the door closed, that smile seems to be the only light in the room.

The Hidden Indentured Class

Sex trafficking isn't our only problem—forced labor accounts for a significant number of the estimated 20,000 victims of human trafficking who enter the U.S. each year.

 

AP Images/New Mexico Attorney General's Office

Anna and her husband were supposed to be in the U.S. on their honeymoon. They arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in the spring of 2007 and found Daniel waiting for them with a sign bearing their names. Daniel was an acquaintance, someone Anna’s father-in-law—who lived in Houston—knew through church. He had offered to show them parts of Southern California before they continued on to Texas. It was an attractive detour for a Southeast Asian couple in the U.S. for the first time.

Continuing the Republican Civil War with Immigration Reform

Flickr/Elvert Barnes

Even before the shutdown crisis was over, President Obama was already making it clear that his next priority was going to be immigration reform. So can it actually happen? Right after the 2012 election, one Republican after another was saying that if reform didn't pass, their party was all but doomed, since they'd be blamed for stopping it, and the country's largest minority group would be driven even further away from them. You might think that after the political disaster of the shutdown, Republicans would be even more eager to find something, anything that would improve their party's image.

But maybe not. Over the weekend, Marco Rubio said that Republicans wouldn't allow immigration reform to pass because Obama was super-mean during the shutdown. "The president has undermined this effort, absolutely, because of the way he has behaved over the last three weeks." Rubio's not the only one with hurt feelings. "It's not going to happen this year," said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). "After the way the president acted over the last two or three weeks where he would refuse to talk to the Speaker of the House ... they're not going to get immigration reform. That's done."

OK then. The thing is, even if Obama were sure there was next to no chance of succeeding in passing reform, there are few things he could spend time talking about over the next few months that would do more damage to his opponents.

Myth Buster: Latinos Are Not "Natural Conservatives"

Flickr/Obama for America

Latinos, the conventional wisdom on the right goes, are ripe for conservatives' electoral picking. A majority are Catholic, family-oriented, and hardworking. If only Republicans could change their thinking on immigration—turning away from the Mitt Romney "self-deportation" approach—this constituency would naturally flock to the party of Reagan. But a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirms what data geeks have been saying for years: The Latinos-are-conservatives-at-heart idea is little more than Republican myth-making. Not only does this constituency strongly identify with Democrats on the key social issues that matter to movement conservatives—abortion and same-sex marriage—they are more liberal than most Americans. And hardworking or not, Latinos are concerned with rising inequality and favor public investment in the economy. All this is bad news for those who think the GOP is a rebrand away from cashing in on a Latino giveaway. “Republicans clearly have a serious brand and issue platform problem among Hispanics,” says PRRI CEO Robert Jones.

Immigration Reform's Make-or-Break Moment?

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Earlier this week, top advocates of immigration reform met at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Democrat Network (NDN), a center-left think tank, to discuss the prospects of getting a bill through Congress by year's end. "The fundamentals are stronger than at any time during the last ten years," Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, told the audience. "[Immigration reform] is a plane on the runway ready to take off." Skeptics might counter that the jet has been sitting on the tarmac for months. In early June, House Speaker John Boehner said immigration reform was set to see the president’s desk by the end of the summer. The White House said the same thing. The Senate passed an omnibus bill in July, but August recess came and went without legislation getting through the House. Now, with the looming budget battle soaking up the Beltway’s oxygen, it seems House Republicans intend to slow-walk the bill to death.

What Happens If Immigration Reform Fails?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

House Republicans' latest excuse for not passing immigration reform—that the congressional calendar is too stuffed with shutdowns and Syria dilemmas—is pretty silly. First, the debt ceiling hasn’t dropped into the fall session unceremoniously from the sky—this is an annual responsibility they knew would return since the last hellish time they raised our borrowing limit. Second, there’s absolutely nothing stopping the House from passing immigration reform ASAP. In a single day, Republican legislators could bring the Senate immigration bill for a floor vote in the House, where conventional wisdom says it has the votes to pass. "This is no longer a debate about policy. We've had ten years of debate," says Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Every element of the policy discussion has been held and held repeatedly."

Dangerous Deportations

AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

The Mexican state of Tamaulipas sits across the border from Texas, and it can be a scary place. With one of the largest ports of entry to the United States, Tamaulipas is a coveted drug-trafficking corridor disputed by the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas, and an outside gang called Sinaloa. The spiral into violence began in 2006 when the Mexican government started an all-out-war against these criminal organizations. At the height of conflict, newsrooms got attacked, battles would often involve grenades, and gruesome mass killings rose, even as the military patrolled the streets. Drug-trafficking organizations are not only into smuggling these days; they engage in theft, piracy, extortion, and, more recently, kidnapping.

Ted Cruz, 100 Percent American

A young lady expresses her support for Ted Cruz. (Flickr/Nimalan Tharmalingam)

I've decided, after many painful hours of reflection, to come out of the closet. I hope when I've told you my secret you won't think less of me, and remember that our shared humanity provides us with bonds that should be secure enough to overcome the repulsion you might feel at learning who I really am. Here goes: Like future presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz, I too was born in Canada to an American mother. Whew! Feels great to get that off my chest.

I've lived in the States (that's what they call America up there) since I was 2, unlike that highly suspicious Cruz, who waited all the way until he was 4 to depart for the U.S. of A. What was he doing during those years? Training as some sort of spy for the maple syrup cartel? Acquiring goods and services with currency stamped with a picture of a foreign monarch? For the love of George Washington, was he playing hockey?

The Road Forward on Immigration Reform

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

It was like watching the Grinch's heart grow three sizes on Christmas. Representative Bob Goodlatte was talking about giving citizenship to "Dreamers," young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. "These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States," the Virginia Republican said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing shortly before August recess. It was a sharp about-face: Three weeks earlier, Goodlatte and other Republicans on the committee had voted to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama administration’s initiative to stop the steady deportation of Dreamers. Now he and his colleagues were talking about making these youngsters, people who had known no country but the United States, citizens.

L.A. Story

The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy: a new model for American liberalism?

flickr/AlphaProject

Take a left as you exit the Long Beach Airport, and you’ll pass three acres of greenery named “Rosie the Riveter Park.” The park stands at the southeast corner of what had once been the mammoth Douglas Aircraft factory, where DC-3s, -4s, -5s, all the way up to -10s, were once manufactured, and where, during World War II, 43,000 workers, half of them women, built the B-17 bombers and C-47 transports that flew missions over Europe and the Pacific.

World War II and then the Cold War remade Long Beach. Federal dollars funded the Douglas factory, a new naval shipyard, and numerous defense firms. An entire city—the working-class community of Lakewood, which borders Long Beach on the north—was built to house the sudden influx of defense workers. Long Beach became and remains the second-largest city in Los Angeles County.

The new jobs paid well; powerful unions represented the workers in the factories and on the docks. Military spending, though, began to decline after the Vietnam War, and when the Cold War ended, Long Beach and the broader Los Angeles economy took a hit from which neither has recovered. The naval shipyard closed in 1997. Douglas, Lockheed, and North American Aviation—the aircraft manufacturers that had been the region’s largest private-sector employers—downsized and eventually shuttered almost all their Southern California plants.

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