President Obama is set to make a major speech on immigration reform Tuesday, one day after a bipartisan group of senators released a plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration policy. President Obama has called immigration the top legislative priority for his second term, and he’s not the only one. Republicans are also focusing on reform after losing the Latino vote by a large margin in the last election. We speak with a panel of immigration experts about this week’s events. What does the future hold for immigration policy?

Lisa Mascaro, congressional correspondent at the Tribune Washington Bureau of the Los Angeles Times
Phil Wolgin, immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As someone who is conservative in many ways, on Monday morning I literally said ‘thank you’ aloud when I heard on NPR that the four Senators, two from each party, had come together to push for immigration reform this year!!

    When I look around California where I live and and where my family has been since the 1860’s, I see wonderful American educated young children, teen agers, and young adults who were brought here as children and yet are in limbo when it comes to actually being American, I cry. This is the only country they have ever known.

    The majority of illegal’s/undocumented are hard working, tax paying people who have earned the right to become legal residents and then citizens. Those who have broken serious laws should and will be sent back to their home countries. But we need hard working people who like immigrants of past decades and centuries came here to build a better life for themselves and for us as a society.

    Those conservative who denounce this move will continue to be viewed as hard headed, mean spirited, even racist and in turn will see more Republicans in future elections continue to lose!

    • jurgispilis

      They’re not in limbo, they are citizens of other countries, in which they have family, culture, and a language – I find it really hard to believe that a child can grow up in a houshold where the parents are speaking a foreign lamguage, and then forget all knowledge of that language by the time they hit their teens. They are not Americans, they are citizens of foreign countries.

      • Jaime Mito Longoria

        Since when is forgetting our parents’ language and culture a prerequesite to Americanship? Diversity is precisely what makes America so resilient.

        • TrainedHistorian

          I agree that there is no reason for anyone to forget their native language, as long as they learn English if wanting to stay here. But your mantra about diversity is not remotely convincing.

          Diversity by itself is not inherently good, and does not inherently make any society “resilient.” Nigeria is far more diverse than the US (it does not have one majority language & majority religion as the US still is), but it’s hardly the “resilient” i.e. wealthy society that much of the world wants to immigrate to and settle in. By far the main reason people want to immigrate to US is the economic standard of living is much higher here than in much of the world, which is partly achieved by large but expensive, taxpayer-funded investments in education & infrastructure, and transfers to the elderly. Millions of people want to live in W. European countries though they are less diverse than the US. Milions would immigrate to very homogeneous Japan for the same reason (its high economic standard of living & expensive welfare state), if Japan would allow this. The problem with letting everyone who wants to come is that this suppresses wages in the bottom half, and eventually you have the lower standard of living and thin taxpayer base that you have in the poorer emigrating societies. Already it’s not possible to work full time at minimum wage here and not be in poverty. Unlimited immigration will just make this worse for those of us in the bottom half.

  • jurgispilis

    I hope Obama crafts a broad approach to immigration reform, for while we may have some problems with our system, it is far and away the most generous in the world as attested to by virtue of the vast numbers we accept, as many as all other countries combined. Has there ever been a federal commission on US population and immigration? Oh, yeah, the was that Barbara Jordan Commission during the Clinton years, and the findings were suppressed because, guess what? they recommended less immigration! Less immigration! What a novel, intriging concept!

  • jurgispilis

    Will the following features be in the new immigration bill? Ending birth tourism, ending chain migration, repealing the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, banning sanctuary cities, and implementing eVerify nationally.

    Because, if they’re not, aren’t we just kicking the can down the road?

    • guest

      Absolutely agree. But also, for environmental reasons (population vs. resources, urban vs. open space, climate change, plant and animal extinction), reduce the numbers and prioritize immigration for the politically/socially oppressed, not the economically disadvantaged. Repeal the ability of the wealthy immigrants to purchase their entry into the path to citizenship. Repeal the tax deductions for what are essentially lifestyle choices and that includes having children. Tax according to resources used.

      • Bob Fry

        I’d allow two children as deductions. And quit paying welfare mothers more for more kids.

      • Sanfordia113

        Just allow anybody to pay a tax of $20,000 and in exchange give them a 10-year greencard. For those who are here illegally, give them a reprieve for 1 year that if they apply under this program and pay the tax, they will be forgiven for their law-breaking ways. If they don’t pay, or fail to come forward, then they will face deportation if and when captured, and banned for re-entry for 10 years.

  • fchurch66

    Ah, 3 guests and no hispanics? And this is the left coast?? Makes me wonder about NPR–they seem to really dislike free exchange of ideas. Michael Parenti has never been a guest on this show and he lives in San Francisco!

  • Ani Williams

    When I hear Marco Rubio talking about offering immigrants the opportunity to legalize and one of his points is to get in line behind those who already have petitioned for legalization, I cringe. Has anyone checked the many years people have to wait for their “priority” to come up? The wait can be 5, 10, 20 years. It is ridiculous! The bureaucracy of the immigration paper pushing monster also needs to be overhauled!

    Rubio just wants to get his name out there… yeah! his last name is hispanic. Big deal!

    Ah! kertialfad, just get over it, your past generations probably (unless you are native american) had to get processed through immigration they were not Americans either according to your rethoric. You need to learn your history and stop bashing immigrants!

    • jurgispilis

      I don’t bash immigrants, only illegal aliens.

  • Demographer

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The incompetents in our government performed this same charade in 1986: granted a “path to citizenship” to millions of illegals in exchange for slightly beefed up border enforcement and workplace verification and it got millions more illegals for the obvious reason that if you make rewards for illegal immigration more immediate and secure than rewards for legal immigration, you just get more illegal immigration.. We also got stagnant and declining wages for those in the bottom half of the income ladder for the obvious reason that the illegals were disproportionately low-skilled, and if you increase labor supply of those with low or medium skills, you depress wages for that group. If this so-called “reform” includes a path to citizenship I confidently predict that you will get millions more illegals,and the whole cycle will repeat, including stagnant wages for those in the bottom.half.

    • Guest

      I totally agree with this comment.

  • Bob Fry

    I’m all in favor of legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants…but why citizenship? If they came over as adults, they broke the law. Why not just permanent residency? Their children who came with them as minors should be granted citizenship.

  • Guest

    Michael, I just don’t understand. Many of the guests on programs of this topic that you have had in the past have called the illegals as undocumented workers. Why not call it like it is illegal aliens? It seems to be a euphemism to use the undocumented term which is technically incorrect.

  • Guest

    The congressmen who have in the past hired illegals as housekeepers and not paid their social security can generally be seem as a typical reason that Congress does not more on this illegal alien problem.

    • jurgispilis

      Sen Menendez hired an unlawful alien as intern.

  • What would you have to say to someone like my mother who immigrated from Eastern Europe LEGALLY and put in an incredible amount of work and paid huge sums of money in legal fees to get a green card?

    It does not seem fair in the least to offer a path to citizenship to people who broke our laws in the first place.

  • Jaime Mito Longoria

    My mother and many of my aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends came to the US from Mexico without documentation. Most of them are US citizens now. I’m very proud to have inherited the beautiful culture they brought with them. I’m now a first generation college graduate, Marine veteran and future attorney. I believe immigration reform is the best thing for our nation. However, Latinos have been waiting for a path to cultural acceptance for over a century. The attitude of some Americans, which has apparently been adopted by the Republican Party, is that Latinos will never be considered as “true” Americans so long as they maintain their cultural identity and fail to assimilate. Legislation would be too superficial to remedy that problem.

    • jurgispilis

      I think thats the atitude of the vast majority of Americans, as well as the whole foundation of immigration syetem – assimilation. The act of naturalization requires taking an Oath of Allegiance whereby the candidate forever revokes any and all previous citizenships.

  • Guest

    When I went to public school in Chicago. My parents were required to provide a birth certificate to enter school. How are these illegal children getting into the public schools without birth certificates? Here again this is something that I don’t understand.

    • wandagb

      Plyler v. Doe, Supreme Court ruled that states MUST provide education to all children, even those illegally in the country. While this may be justifiable it is just one of many reasons why failure to enforce our borders in the first instance leads to a cascade of problems later – education costs, health costs, etc. etc.

  • Guest

    Michael, Could some of your guest explain how other countries handle illegals? Like Japan or other countries in the Americas. I thought that most countries just lock them up and throw away the key.

  • Demographer

    If the Obama adminstration (or the administration before him) had been significantly enforcing immigration laws, as the spokesperson claims, we would not have millions of illegals. And if the last so-called “immigration reform” were such a success, we would not have gotten millions more illegals and stagnant wages in the bottom half of the income ladder. And if unlimited amounts of low-skilled labor were not harmful to lower-income residents as Wogin claims, then we would not have had stagnant or declining wages for those in the bottom half for the last thirty years.

  • Mary

    Your talker assumes that the farmers want to pay low wages to their employees. As a farmer, let me assure you that this is not true. When you have a large part of society, that wants and has to get food as cheap as it can, what are farmers to do? We would like to pay fair wages, heck we would like to make fair wages as the farmers! Also, as a farmer, there are few Americans that I have encountered who do want to work 9 hour long days, 6 days a week, bending over in a field, doing agricultural work.

    • Demographer

      You ignored FAIR’s point that only about 10% of the cost of due to labor cost, You could increase what laborers are paid, and not raise the price of produce much. As for the poor consumers: I can assure you, as a low-income American, that the cost of labor-intensive food like produce is an ABSOLUTELY MINISCULE part of my expenses, compared to things like housing which has been increasing at an exorbitant pace because of increased demand from population growth. I could easily pay two or three times more for what I spend on lettuce in a year, without any dent in my well-being. But even incremental rises in housing prices, which is what massive population increase through immigration causes, devastates my living standard.,

      And of course Americans don’t want to do stoop labor, 54 hours a week for around minimum wage! But the reason “guest workers” will do this is not because they’re more virtuous,than Americans or legal residents but because those low wages buy their families a lot more in their home countries where prices are much much lower than it does for Americans & permanent residents who would have to stretch those very low wages over high American prices. In effect, farmers pay migrant workers much higher real wages than they pay Americans & permanent residents..And legalizing the current crop of low-paid “guestworkers”, and not enforcing limits against further “guestworkers” will only cause them to move into physically easier work (say construction or retail), and the farmers will replace them with another crop of low-paid “guestworkers” . If you pay people very low wages for stoop labor in an expensive country, of course you wont get natives and permanent residents to stay in such work for long..

  • Carrie Anne Arreola

    If americans did the jobs immigrants hold and got paid what the wanted, don’t you think that business would pass on the higher cost to consumers? Are we ready to pay more fo goods & services?

    • jurgispilis

      But we already pay the social costs associated with illegal immigration. I believe hiring American will actually make things cheaper – certainly rents.

  • Ellis

    Dear Michael,

    How is it possible to discuss immigration of particularly from
    Mexico without putting it in the context of NAFTA? This issue must be
    discussed in the larger context of our very damaging trade polices.
    NAFTA was an equal trade deal for the US and Canada, but was
    completely unfair and unbalanced between Mexico on one side and the
    US and Canada on the other. This agreement virtually destroyed small
    farmers and small and even medium sized businesses in Mexico.
    Surprise, surprise that these displaced populations migrate to the US
    in response. NAFA has done tremendous damage to the Mexican Economy
    and accelerated the offshoring of US Manufacturing jobs and helped
    depressed American wages.

    Until we address these predatory trade polices that only benefit
    the investor class to the detriment of workers and small farmers and
    businesses; we will continue to have this problem.

    • Bob Fry

      It’s not just NAFTA, it’s all trade agreements between hugely disparate parties. It’s not “fair” trade when one party has no labor protections, no environmental protection, no nothing, and the other one does. Just more corporate greed running the world.

    • jurgispilis

      Also these trade treaties are unconstitutional since they never got the required 2/3rds majority in the Senate.

  • disqus_XxBGPunKs2

    People who say that immigrants shouldn’t be here, why do they hiring them for cheaper wages? You can’t say one thing and do something very different because you are saving some money!

    • jurgispilis

      Because many times you will not know that they are illegal, either because they will be on the crew of a reputable contractor, or they will produced fake documents that appear to be legitimate.

    • Demographer

      The people who say immigrants shouldn’t be here ILLEGALLY, (you forgot to add that and so proved your profound misunderstanding of the issue) are not the ones paying illegals cheap wages. The ones hiring illegals at cheap wages are some unscrupulous business and land owners, including farmers, as well as some unscrupulous upper and upper middle class professionals who want to get away with paying their “help” as little as possible, even if they can easily afford to pay an American a living wage & benefits. (Meg Whitman, and US Cabinet secretaries could certainly afford to pay an American domestic a living wage with benefits, but have been accused of doing ,otherwise).

  • disqus_XxBGPunKs2

    When i came to US in 2000, I was international student for many years. I finished in two years, but I had to keep taking classes to keep my visa. I didn’t have money to go to university (I had to work and go to school, since my family couldn’t help me with money). I couldn’t afford paying thousand of dollars for community collage any longer, so I had to let go of my visa. Its hard to know how much money I spend on school, taking many classes I won’t ever use and still have no degree, and have no visa.

  • mountain_webbie

    I was happy to hear from the caller describing the problem in the
    computer industry regarding H1B visas being used to flood the market
    with workers from India and China who take job opportunities from older,
    experienced workers in the software industry, who have kept up with
    technology, by the way. This is a serious problem that is affecting many
    of us who built the industry in Silicon Valley and now find our jobs
    outsourced in our own country. And to make it more ironic, the only jobs
    available are contractor positions with staffing agencies, most of them Indian-owned, taking a cut of our wages and offering no
    benefits. The job market is complex, but I wish we would put American
    workers first as they do all around the world.

    • Bob Fry

      I’m an engineer for the State of California…in my group, the majority are foreign born engineers. Why not create some incentives for Americans to study math and science?

  • wandagb

    Called Congressman George Miller’s office. Damien, the office’s expert on immigration said, “The U.S. is not a Fascist state and can’t require employers to use E-Verify.”
    With that kind of intelligence we can be assured that the Feds will NOT enforce future laws any more than they have in the past.

    Queue up for “Amnesty/Dream/Comprehensive Reform 2018” coming to a Congressional Office near you.

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