Well, along that line we keep talking about 9-11 and the changes made after that, was that Congress, was that President, who decided that things would be different after 9-11?
SOMEBODY (a female)
SOMEBODY (a female)
I think Congressman Leech could…
As a national law-making body Congress does make laws in this area. There are certain discretions … to the executive branch. But I would like to stress something beyond law. We are the country, but we are a culture, a culture is bigger than government. And when it comes to immigration, for example, you have individual issues, you have family issues, you have community issues. And America is in one sense one great large community with many subsets of communities, and when it comes to immigration, it’s community that’s more important than law, over law, undergirds everything. And so how we approach things is based upon rules; these rules can be followed or not followed, but they also get subjected to how communities react. And it’s the cultural American community that’s bigger than your government or your subset of local governments. America is after all just a great big family.
It brings us to the second question that has been rolling in my head all morning… is we have national guidelines…
What parameters are there for states, counties, cities… people were talking about whether areas that need a lot more people, … areas that are heavily populated… What kind of local parameters are available? Just a question?
… you are an expert , you are the authority here…
Well, that really speaks to your questions about the short-term cost and, you know, how to approach that. I think those short-term costs vary a lot community to community based on a fundamental question of what we do about it and what immigrants do about it. Because immigration is a two-way street. That is if we welcome immigrants, immigrants also have responsibilities to integrate into the community. And there is a lot of things that local governments, the private sector, the faith-based community can do in order to facilitate that process and minimize the costs by providing English classes, by harnessing a volunteer force, by educating the popula… by holding discussions like this. And once that is instituted effectively, I can see that you can actually minimize the costs and actually impact everybody in the community, immigrant and non-immigrant, positively.
One factor that you’re focusing on here though is that: entry is a function of national policy, but effect is local. And there are, there are layers, you know, of complexity in between:
The uh need for services, the uh influence on culture, the stress on the education system. You know, that’s a local, local function. And far more of the money, especially for education, comes from the state than from the national, yet a different national policy says that a local school may be very negatively affected by test scores of a concentrated subpopulation of students, which could be affected by national entry and selective settlement. We do know that um.. immigrants don’t necessarily settle uh or distribute equally across the country. Ample, ample evidence to that. So, just because Iowa may, quote, need population, also want to be selective about that population, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be able to accomplish those effects no matter what national policy allows in the way of national entry.
There is a lot of misinformation within the immigrant community also, about how they can immigrate, how they can become legal. Some of the things, it astounds me some of the things that people come and ask me, you know, how can I make myself legal. Just recently there has been some talk about some form of amnesty and there were people coming to me and saying “How can I apply for the amnesty?” Well, you cannot apply for the amnesty, unless you have a certain skill or you have some basis for it. People who were here, they came on vacation and stayed. Ok, fine, did they want to stay here, they are here illegally, they are driving illegally, now they want to become legal. These people have to have some kind of a conduit into, you know, becoming legal, but if they make themselves known, they are gonna be arrested and deported. There needs to be more immigration information given into the communities so that they have the right information.
I, I agree with that. I think that immigration laws are so incredibly complicated at this point that people don’t even know where to start. And they can’t do it on their own anymore, if they file a piece of paper that they shouldn’t have and it gets them into trouble or if they file it a wrong time, it gets them into trouble, which is, they are so confused and so misguided on what to file, when to file, how to legalize that they end up either staying illegal or they end up filing the wrong paper and getting deported. It’s, I mean, it’s a vicious cycle is that the laws are so restrictive and are so complicated. As I stated earlier it’s enforcing the mentality “I’ll just stay illegal then.”
A number of our fellow citizens who might be, um, kind of torn about the difference between legal and illegal immigration, um, might be differently disposed toward legal immigration policy if the illegal immigration issue was handled differently, and yet they are very reluctant or very resistant to the idea of sanctioning illegal entry by providing amnesty.
Uh, is the amnesty issue a significant part of the uh the policy concern here?
I think it’s a matter of allocation of resources. I see the government allocating a lot of resources on the enforcement side. I mean, you read every day about uh tearing the family apart, and at the back of my mind I am thinking “So, you’ve got a US attorney, his staff tied up in this sending one student home” versus maybe if that money was allocated on the educational side to teach people how to become legal, maybe you might just get more of the benefit.
Well, there are not a lot of ways to become legal. If you are here illegally and you do not have a close family member who is a US citizen or resident – well, resident doesn’t do it – citizen, or if you do not have an employer who is willing to sponsor you for residency, then there is really very little that you can do. I think that immigration policies has to change… have to change, the immigration law has to change and address the needs of people who are already here. I have a client, a Mexican couple who came here as farm workers… they came here as… they were obtaining temporary residency. And their daughter is valedictorian and they do not know how to read and write. I mean it’s that kind of stories that really illustrate the plight of these immigrant children and young people who are here, who came here when they were two years old, and they have no papers. They graduate from high school and they cannot continue their education. We are losing this generation of very bright people, very well educated, with a strong moral values, because there is no way for them to continue to go to school.
Mathematics are gonna make the point that we are the country of laws. And that really struck me the way he said that, and there is that sense that we should expect folks to follow and obey the law, and so there is a part of me that says ‘If you haven’t followed and obeyed the law, and therefore, you shouldn’t be able to gain entry.’ On the other hand, it appears that our approaches have failed in terms of our ability to enforce the law. That it may be one of those embarrassing times that you kind of say “Well, let’s just start over again.” And try a fresh approach. And maybe an amnesty, maybe an approach that help us to be able to get the step to move on to something that will work. So, in that sense…
Yeah, I definitely agree we are a country of laws … and the reason why America is a country where the rule of law is paramount is because our laws got through a democratic process make sense. Or they can be changed to make sense. And right now the current system that we have is broken is really is antiquated is not consistent with reality and also with who we are as a nation in terms with our values. And in 1986 Ronald Reagan confronted head on the problem of illegal immigration and instituted an amnesty. What happened at that point is that it gave eh legal status to undocumented immigrants in the country, but did not address the issue of future flow of people. Especially relatives of those people that were granted amnesty in 1986. So, since 1986 undocumented immigration has actually doubled. So, I am actually very optimistic at where we are right now in terms of legislative reform, because we are identifying that it needs to be a two-pronged solution that takes into account a legalization for those immigrants who are here undocumented, of course, after it will be determined what type of civil penalties they would have to go through, but also is taking into account the future flow of immigrants by instituting those legal channels at the border, so that people can come and have their legal venue and right now, as I was saying previously, the illegal activity would be greatly reduced. I mean the fact that people will have a legal option, and any immigrant you talk to… they would, by God, want to follow the legal option.
So that amnesty, actually, just uh dramatically increased the pressure on the family sponsored portion of legal immigration because it created that many more potential sponsors, legal sponsors…(MALE VOICE: for family) for family immigration.
And I think that … really … I think people can sponsor mother, father – if you are a citizen – you can sponsor children. I think perhaps some of those categories, like, for instance, a US citizen can sponsor a brother or sister. I think some of those categories perhaps we should get rid of and allocate those to families that are young families that are apart like, add those numbers to spouses of permanent residents and children under 18, who right now have to wait between 5, 7 and nine years to get here.
Well part of the opposition from some our fellow citizens to opening the doors wider to people to who are seeking to improve their lives is the perception that there’s a negative affect on people here who are also seeking to improve their lives. Um that the negative affect is greatest on existing low wage earners. Poorly educated. The reduction in fact of the minimum wage.
I’m hearing at least some acknowledgment that that’s a credible concern.
There’s… For me there is some confusion too about the responsibility of business and corporate society too in terms of hiring, and we see, especially in Iowa with agricultural need for hiring… of more workers, migrant labor, but also hiring of illegal immigrants – so, is the corporation company responsible for being sure that they are approaching things legally? And then to me they have some responsibility at hand too, but I don’t really see how they become penalized, so it becomes so complicated, they obviously know that they are hiring illegal workers, I think it must be pretty plain, and yet when we do… there is so many situations that we see that are so inhumane, you know, we see people who try to come up here in box cars, and you know they’ve died, you know, from… heat… and there is just so many contradictory policies and contradictory approaches that bothers me, and the effect on people is really what bothers me, you know. For everyone.
I think there’s a real sense that our approach to illegal immigration has been really escalated human tragedy in the process of trying to illegally immigrate, I think that ya know that’s a big concern. But your comment also I think gives us a transition to the third approach in the material we looked at , which is essentially say, ya know let’s just get honest about this, it’s an economic matter. Let’s treat it economically. Lets’s just talk about the economics of it and establish our priorities in economic terms.
And the people who take that position say, ya know, say we need to reduce, we need to screen, ehm, we need to eh screen so that we can focus on skilled workers and keep out unskilled workers competing for low paying jobs and so that we can target assistance to communities and states where immigrants really settle. It’s an interesting position, it’s an interesting, ehm, kind of, point of advocacy.
I think that we are spending too much money on the borders and not in heartland, and as I indicated at the beginning I was in a facility where there was a raid and there were undocumented workers, within a month a… a good percentage of those were back working, and they did not… you know, they flew in, they did not come through the border, so that that… I don’t think that we’re putting our resources in the correct place, and I think we also, what we said about employers, although I also have worked for an organization that required a green card and had several people tell me “Well, I have to have fifty dollars before I can get the green card,” this would not have been a legal green card, so that… there are a lot of economic problems that we’re facing. I think that we need these workers, the question is how to have them in this country in a humane way and not hurt the people that are presently here and working, that’s a real dilemma…
We have some tendency to think that we can and should be able to work on all fronts simultaneously so the allocation of resources is an interesting issue. You kind of cited a ratio I think earlier that said that we have tripled the investment in border security and illegal immigration doubled. What we don’t know is if we only doubled the investment, would illegal immigration have tripled? (LAUGHTER) You know, we don’t know the dynamics of how that works or how it might work with a different allocation of resources.
Is anyone saying here that we should uh simply give up on the issue of border control and illegal immigration …when we are concerned about terrorism, we are concerned about uh a number of other things?
I think that that the money that are allocated toward the borders, it just gives more impetus for the illegal immigrants, for undocumented immigrants, to get here, to be more creative about how they are gonna get here. But it also makes them more victims. She cited the the people that died inside the train car. You know, in this country once you are here, as we said earlier, there is not legal avenue for you to go through to become legal. Why not put the money there, you know, take off the border guards, because they are just gonna get through, they are gonna say “hey if I can’t go this way, I am gonna sneak out in this way” But once they are here, they NEED the venue, put the money there, put the money toward the teaching of the language, towards the legal avenues of, of… you know, making them citizens or green card holders. And giving them a place to stay and a place, you know, to fit in.
I might add to that is instead of dealing with one individual at a time … make it put the money towards families. And the subject of families has come up many times, the whole sense of community. Instead of bringing just one person at a time, be it an unskilled worker or a highly skilled worker. I would advocate for the option – and I am not skilled in public policy and immigration law, so don’t … all those things aside, strictly from a I guess an employer and a humanitarian point of view – promote the family, a family that the skilled worker that comes over or unskilled family comes over, but I think they want the same things that everyone else has, and that is to, to come here, have an education, get a decent job, raise their children. The, the first generation, the ones that we… that may have less of a chance to fully assimilate into the, into our culture to me are visionaries. I see these people as having a vision. They may never even be around to experience it, but I think they have a vision that their family… their culture will be just a little bit better off here, than what it was in their homeland, and I cannot even imagine the emotional thought process that they must have had to go through to have to come to those terms. I think that’s quite remarkable.