Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants in the United States

By Aaron Terrazas, Jeanne Batalova, Velma Fan
Migration Policy Institute

October 1, 2007

The US debate over immigration policy has raised many questions about immigrants — their origins, numbers and characteristics, as well as who has settled in which states.

This Spotlight provides answers to many of these frequently asked questions by bringing together resources from the Migration Policy Institute, the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey and Decennial Census, US Departments of Homeland Security and State, and Mexico's National Population Council.

Click on the bullet points below for more information on each topic:

Current and Historical Numbers and Shares
Demographic, Educational, and Linguistic Characteristics
Workforce Characteristics
Geographic Distribution
Annual Flows
Mexican Foreign Born
Unauthorized Immigrants
Immigration Control and Enforcement
Immigrants: Naturalization Trends
Current and Historical Numbers and Shares

What are the historical numbers and shares of immigrants in the United States?

Data on the nativity of the US population was first collected in the 1850 decennial census. That year, there were 2.2 million foreign born in the United States, 9.7 percent of the total population.

See the figure Size of the Foreign-Born Population and Foreign Born as a Percentage of the Total Population (1850 to 2006) in the MPI Data Hub.

Between 1860 and 1920, the foreign born as a percentage of the total population fluctuated between 13 and 15 percent, peaking at 14.8 percent in 1890 mainly due to European immigration. By 1930, the share had dropped to 11.6 percent (14.2 million).

The share of foreign born in the US population continued to decline between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of 4.7 percent in 1970 (9.6 million individuals). However, since 1970, the percentage has risen rapidly, mainly due to large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia.

In 1980, according to the US Census Bureau, the foreign born represented 6.2 percent of the total US population (14.1 million individuals). By 1990, their share had risen to 7.9 percent (19.8 million individuals) and, by the 2000 census, they made up 11.1 percent (31.1 million individuals) of the total US population.

How many immigrants are in the United States today?

According to the US Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, there were 37,547,789 foreign born in the United States, which represents 12.5 percent of the total US population.

For background on the American Community Survey (ACS), see the ACS page on the Census Bureau website.
What were the top source countries with the largest share of immigrants in 2006 compared with those in 1960?
Mexico-born immigrants accounted for 30.7 percent of all foreign born residing in the United States in 2006, by far the largest immigrant group in the United States.

Among the remaining countries of origin, the Philippines accounted for 4.4 percent of all foreign born, followed by China (excluding Taiwan) and India with 4.1 percent and 4.0 percent of all foreign born, respectively.

These four countries — together with Vietnam (3 percent), El Salvador (2.8 percent), Korea (2.7 percent), Cuba (2.5 percent), Canada (2.3 percent), and the United Kingdom (1.8 percent) — made up 58.4 percent of all foreign born residing in the United States in 2006.

The predominance of foreign born from Mexico and Asian countries in the early 21st century starkly contrasts with the foreign born from mostly European countries in 1960. Italian-born immigrants made up 13.0 percent of all foreign born in 1960, followed by those born in Germany and Canada (accounting for 10.2 and 9.8 percent, respectively). Unlike in 2006, no single country accounted for more than 15 percent of the total immigrant population in 1960.

To view the top-10 source countries of immigrants to the United States in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2006, visit the US Historical Trends tool.


Demographic, Educational, and Linguistic Characteristics

How many immigrants have come to the United States since 2000?

Of the 37.5 million foreign born in the United States in 2006, 44.1 percent entered the country prior to 1990, 30.5 percent between 1990 and 1999, and 25.3 percent in 2000 or later.

What is the racial composition of immigrants?

Of the foreign born in the United States in 2006, 45.3 percent reported their race as white alone, 7.8 percent as black or African American alone, 23.4 percent as Asian alone, and 21.6 percent as some other race; 1.2 percent reported having two or more races.

How many immigrants are of Hispanic origin?

In 2006, 47.2 percent of the foreign born reported Hispanic or Latino origins.

What percentage of the foreign born are limited English proficient (LEP)?

In 2006, 52.4 percent of the 37.2 million foreign-born persons age 5 and older were LEP, compared with 51.0 percent of 30.7 million in 2000. Note: Those who reported speaking English less than “very well” are considered LEP.

What percentage of the foreign-born population is college educated?

In 2006, there were 30.9 million foreign born age 25 and older. Of those, 26.7 percent had a bachelor's or higher degree, while 32.0 percent lacked a high school diploma. Among native-born adults age 25 and older, 27.0 percent of 165 million were college graduates and only 12.9 percent did not have a high school diploma.

For more information on the characteristics of the foreign born in each of the 50 states, visit the 2005 ACS/Census data tool.
The 2006 data on the foreign and native born are from the American FactFinder of the US Census Bureau.
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Workforce Characteristics

What share do the foreign born compose of the total US civilian labor force?

In 2006, of the 151.1 million workers engaged in the US civilian labor force, the foreign born accounted for 15.6 percent (23.6 million). Between 1970 and 2006, the percentage of foreign-born workers in the US civilian labor force nearly tripled, from 5.3 to 15.6 percent. Over the same period, the percent of foreign born in the total population grew from 4.8 to 12.5 percent.

What kinds of jobs do the employed foreign born have?

Of the 22.2 million civilian employed foreign born age 16 and older in 2006, 27.2 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 22.5 percent in service occupations; 18.3 percent in sales and office occupations; 16.7 percent in production and transportation; and 13.5 percent in construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair occupations.
For more information on national and state-level trends regarding foreign-born workers, see the “Workforce” data sheet of the 2005 ACS/Census data tool.

The 2006 data on the foreign born are from the American FactFinder of the US Census Bureau.
How many foreign-born workers are union members?

According to the 2006 Current Population Survey (CPS), there were 19.7 million employed foreign-born wage and salary workers age 16 and older. Of those, 1.9 million (8.5 percent) were members of labor unions.

What share of all union members is foreign born? The percentage of foreign born among union members has increased from 8.9 percent in 1996 to 12.3 percent in 2006.

For more information, see the August 2007 Spotlight on Foreign-Born Wage and Salary Workers in the US Labor Force and Unions.


Geographic Distribution

What are the top five states in terms of the number of foreign born, share of foreign born in the total state population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2006?

In 2006, the top five US states by the number of foreign born were California (9,902,067), New York (4,178,962), Texas (3,740,667), Florida (3,425,634), and Illinois (1,773,600) (See Map 1).

Map 1. States with the Largest and Fastest-Growing Populations of Foreign Born

When classified by the share of foreign born in the total state population, the top five states in 2006 were California (27.2 percent), New York (21.6 percent), New Jersey (20.1 percent), Nevada (19.1 percent), and Florida (18.9 percent).

Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the foreign-born population were California (2,482,565), Texas (1,390,505), New York (1,049,862), Florida (1,010,243), Illinois (591,596), and New Jersey (512,865).

Between 2000 and 2006, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the foreign-born population were California (1,037,812), Texas (841,025), Florida (754,806), New York (310,829), and Georgia (282,317).

Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were North Carolina (288.2 percent), Georgia (247.5 percent), Nevada (206.4 percent), Arkansas (198.5 percent), and Nebraska (183.0 percent).

However, between 2000 and 2006, the five states with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were Delaware (53.1 percent), South Carolina (51.8 percent), Nevada (50.3 percent), Georgia (48.9 percent), and Tennessee (48.7 percent).

For more information on the foreign born by state, see the MPI Data Hub's State Ranking tables.

What are the top-10 US counties in terms of number of foreign born, share of foreign born in the total county population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 2000 and 2006?
In 2006, the top-10 counties by the number of foreign born (in thousands) were Los Angeles County, California (3,517); Miami-Dade County, Florida (1,209); Cook County, Illinois (1,119); Queens County, New York (1,094); Harris County, Texas (956); Kings County, New York (949); Orange County, California (915); San Diego County, California (686); Maricopa County, Arizona (656); and Santa Clara County, California (631).

When classified by the share of foreign born in the total state population, the top-10 counties in 2006 were Miami-Dade County, Florida (50.3 percent); Queens County, New York (48.5 percent); Hudson County, New Jersey (40.5 percent); Kings County, New York (37.8 percent); Santa Clara County, California (36.4 percent); San Francisco County, California (36.3 percent); Los Angeles County, California (35.4 percent); Imperial County, California (32.6 percent); San Mateo County, California (32.1 percent); and Bronx County, New York (31.8 percent).

Between 2000 and 2006, the 10 counties with the largest absolute growth (in thousands) of the foreign-born population were Maricopa County, Arizona (215); Harris County, Texas (200); Riverside County, California (174); Clark County, Nevada (139); Broward County, Florida (125); San Bernardino County, California (112); Dallas County, Texas (111); King County, Washington (95); Gwinnett County, Georgia (86); and Palm Beach County, Florida (83).

Between 2000 and 2006, the 10 counties with the largest percent growth of the foreign-born population were St. Clair County, Alabama (421.5 percent); Wright County, Minnesota (302.1 percent); St. Croix County, Wisconsin (235.5 percent); Henry County, Georgia (234.1 percent); Frederick County, Virginia (208.5 percent); Forsyth County, Georgia (203.1 percent); Kendall County, Illinois (201.9 percent); Scott County, Minnesota (199.2 percent); Loudon County, Virginia (194.9 percent); and St. Landry Parish, Louisiana (194.5 percent).

Note: The above county-level data are from the 2006 estimates of the American Community Survey, which, for confidentiality reasons, reports information only for 782 out of 3,141 US counties. It is possible that the county rankings would be different if information on all counties were available.


Annual Flows

How many permanent immigrants (in all categories) came to the United States in 2006, and where are they from?
In 2006, 1,266,264 foreign nationals obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status according to the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006. The total number represents a 12.8 percent increase from 2005 (1,122,373), and a 50.6 percent increase from 2000 (841,002).

Of the nearly 1.3 million new LPRs, 45.8 percent were an immediate relative of a US citizen, 17.5 percent came through a family-sponsored preference, and 12.6 percent through an employment-based preference. Another 17.1 percent adjusted from a refugee or asylee status, and 3.5 percent were diversity-lottery winners.

Disaggregated by country of birth, 13.7 percent came from Mexico. The top five countries of birth — Mexico, China, the Philippines, India, and Cuba — accounted for 35.0 percent of all persons who received LPR status in 2006.

Nationals of the next five countries — Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Vietnam, and Jamaica — made up another 13.3 percent of all LPRs, so that the top-10 countries of birth made up almost 50 percent of the total.

View the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006.

For more background information, see the August 2006 Spotlight on Legal Immigration to the United States and the MPI publication Annual Immigration to the United States: The Real Numbers.

What was the total number of nonimmigrant admissions to the United States in 2006?

Temporary admissions of nonimmigrants to the United States increased by 3.5 times, from 9.5 million in 1985 to 33.7 million (not including certain Mexicans and Canadians) in 2006.

Note: Nonimmigrant admissions represent the number of arrivals, not the number of individuals, admitted to the United States.

Similar to the past, temporary visitors accounted for an overwhelming majority of all arrivals. In 2006, they represented 89 percent (29.9 million) of all admissions to the United States. Of those, 24.8 million were tourist admissions and 5.0 million were business-traveler admissions.

Temporary workers and trainees, including H-1B "specialty occupation" workers, registered nurses, temporary agricultural workers, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional workers, treaty traders, and intracompany transferees, among others, accounted for 1,709,953 arrivals (5.1 percent of total admissions); this figure includes spouses and children of temporary workers.

Students who came to study at an academic or vocational institute, together with their family members, made up 3.5 percent (1,168,020) of total admissions.

For more background information on temporary admissions, see the September 2006 Spotlight on Temporary Admissions of Nonimmigrants to the United States.

How many foreign nationals came on nonimmigrant visas in 2006?

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in 2006, 25.8 million foreign nationals entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas. Of those, 4.4 million entered the United States more than once. These numbers, however, exclude the majority of short-term visitors from Canada and Mexico.

DHS does not provide a breakdown of the 25.8 million nonimmigrants by the type of admission visa under which they came.

How many visas did the Department of State issue in 2006?

The US Department of State (DOS) reports the number of visas issued to foreign nationals who wish to come to the United States for the purposes of traveling, conducting business, working, studying, and other reasons.

In 2006, DOS issued 5,836,718 nonimmigrant visas. The majority (52.3 percent) were temporary business and tourist visas (B-1 and B-2 visas), followed by J-1 exchange visitors (5.3 percent), and F-1 and F-2 academic student and family of academic student visas (5.0 percent).

Disaggregated by region of origin, the majority of temporary visas were issued in 2006 to foreigners from Asia (38.4 percent) and North America (23.0 percent), followed by Europe (18.4 percent), South America (14.9 percent), Africa (4.4 percent), and Oceania (0.8 percent).

Note: The number of visas issued does not necessarily match the number of foreign nationals who came to the United States in the same year.

For more information, see Table 18 of the DOS publication Report of the Visa Office 2006.

How many foreign born came as refugees and asylees?

In 2006, 41,150 individuals were admitted to the United States as refugees. This figure represented a 23.4 percent decrease compared to the number of admissions in 2005 (53,738). Of the refugees admitted in 2006, 25.2 percent were from Somalia, 14.6 percent from Russia, and 7.6 percent from Cuba.

The number of foreign born who were granted asylum in 2006 was 26,113. This represented a 3.7 percent increase compared to the number of admissions in 2005 (25,160). The top three countries of origin for persons granted asylum in 2006 were China (21.3 percent), Haiti (11.5 percent), and Colombia (11.4 percent). These countries accounted for the origins of nearly half of all asylees.

For more information, see the August 2006 Spotlight on Refugees and Asylees in the United States.


Mexican Foreign Born

From which areas/regions do Mexican migrants residing in the United States come?
The Mexican National Population Council (Consejo Nacional de Población, CONAPO), tracks the number of Mexican-born US residents according to their state of birth in Mexico.

In 2003, one-third of migrants to the United States from Mexico originated from just three states: Jalisco (13.7 percent), Michoacán (10.7 percent), and Guanajuato (9.3 percent) (see Map 2). In 1990, these three states accounted for 34.7 percent of Mexican migrants to the United States (16.8 percent from Jalisco, 10.5 percent from Michoacán, and 7.4 percent from Guanajuato).

Map 2. State of Birth of Mexican-Born Population Residing in the United States, 2003

In which US states do the Mexican born tend to live?

In 2006, there were 11.5 million foreign born from Mexico residing in the United States. These immigrants were overwhelmingly concentrated in the West and Southwest (see Map 3).

In New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Idaho, the Mexican born represented 72.8, 65.5, 62.5, and 57.6 percent of each state's foreign-born population, respectively.

By contrast, Mexican-born individuals accounted for only 1.4 percent of the foreign-born population of Hawaii and less than 1 percent of Vermont's foreign-born population.

Map 3. Mexican Born as a Percentage of the Total Foreign-Born Population by State, 2006

View a map of the Mexican born as a percentage of the total foreign-born population by county in 2000 on the MPI Data Hub.

How many Mexican-born workers are in the US labor force?

According to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute, 9.4 percent of all persons born in Mexico lived in the United States in 2005. In the same year, 14 percent of all Mexican workers were engaged in the US labor force, as compared to 2.5 percent of all Canadian workers.

For more information about Mexican-born workers engaged in the US labor force, see the MPI Fact Sheet Mexican-Born Persons in the US Civilian Labor Force.


Unauthorized Immigrants

How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States (adults, children, mixed-status families)?
In January 2006, there were approximately 29.1 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States who entered the country between 1980 and 2005. About 16.3 million (56 percent) of them were legally resident (including lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees), about 1.3 million (4 percent) had temporary or other immigrant status, and approximately 11.6 million (40 percent) were unauthorized. The unauthorized population was estimated to be growing at 515,000 people per year in 2006.

Approximately 6.6 million of the unauthorized in January 2006 were from Mexico (57 percent), 510,000 were from El Salvador (4 percent), 430,000 were from Guatemala (4 percent), 280,000 were from the Philippines (2 percent), and 280,000 were from Honduras (2 percent).

In terms of the highest rates of unauthorized population growth between 2000 and 2006, India is first (125 percent), followed by Brazil (110 percent) and Honduras (75 percent).

For more background information on the unauthorized population in the United States, see the September 2005 article Unauthorized Migrants Living in the United States: A Mid-Decade Portrait.

How many people were apprehended or deported in 2005?

The total number of alien apprehensions reported by the US Department of Homeland Security steadily increased during the 1990s, from 1,169,939 apprehensions in 1990 to 1,814,729 apprehensions in 2000. In 2003, the number of apprehensions had declined to 1,046,422 before climbing again slightly to 1,291,142 in 2005.

Note: Apprehensions are events, not individuals. In other words, the same individual can be apprehended more than once.

The total number of aliens deported follows a similar trend, rising from 1,052,572 in 1990 to 1,862,218 in 2000 before declining to 1,078,265 in 2003 and rising again to 1,174,059 in 2005. However, the number of formal removals (forced deportations) rose throughout the period, from 30,039 in 1990 to 208,521 in 2005.

By contrast, voluntary departures declined over the period, from 1,022,533 in 1990 to 965,538 in 2005.
See the Migration Information Source's March 2007 Spotlight on Immigration Enforcement in the United States.
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Immigration Control and Enforcement

How much does the government spend on immigration control and enforcement?

Between 1986 and 2002, funding for the US Border Patrol, then part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the Department of Justice, increased 519 percent, from $268 million in 1986 to $1.6 billion in 2002. The Border Patrol is responsible for enforcing 8,000 miles of US land and water boundaries between legal ports of entry (designated points where immigration officials can regulate entry).

Following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, the Border Patrol became part of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service within DHS. In 2005, the total budget for CBP was $5.3 billion. CBP is responsible for regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, enforcing US trade laws, apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband, protecting US agricultural and economic interests from pests and diseases, and protecting American businesses from intellectual property theft.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the investigative branch of DHS and is responsible for the enforcement of US immigration law. Between 2003 and 2006, ICE's budget grew 53 percent to $3.6 billion.

More recently, in February 2007, President Bush requested about $13 billion for border controls and internal enforcement of immigration laws in fiscal year (FY) 2008. This represents an approximately $3 billion increase from FY 2007.

For background information on border-enforcement spending, read the MPI Fact Sheet Immigration Enforcement Spending Since IRCA and the February 2006 article From Horseback to High-Tech: US Border Enforcement.

To read more about immigration enforcement spending in 2008, see the February 2007 Policy Beat.

To read more about the responsibilities of the various DHS agencies, read Who Does What in US Immigration.


Immigrants: Naturalization Trends

How many foreign born are naturalized citizens?

Of the 37.5 million foreign born in the United States in 2006, 15.7 million (41.9 percent) were naturalized citizens, according to 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates.

In 2006, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalized 702,589 lawful permanent residents, or about 1.8 percent of the total foreign-born population.

From a historical perspective, the number of naturalizations increased dramatically between 1976 and 2000. From 1976 to 1980, 846,218 foreign-born individuals naturalized as US citizens according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006.

By contrast, between 1996 and 2000, 3,834,706 foreign-born individuals naturalized as US citizens, partially due to the number of permanent residents who became eligible for naturalization after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave them lawful permanent resident status. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of naturalizations totaled 3,489,137.

View the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2006.
For more background information on naturalization trends, see the September 2006 Spotlight on Naturalization Trends.



How many visa applications for permanent immigration (green cards) and naturalization applications are backlogged?
Two types of backlogs impact immigrant admissions (i.e., issuance of green cards). The first is due to visa availability. For example, the government caps employment-based visas for foreign workers and their families at 140,000 per year. Also, no country can receive more than 7 percent of the total number of annual worldwide visas (approximately 25,600 visas).

The second type is due to processing delays of applicants' documents, which is related to the government's lack of financial and human resources as well as increased scrutiny.

Once the State Department grants a visa to an immigrant, US Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) conducts background checks.

As of October 2007, USCIS was processing some family-related visa applications filed as far back as 1985, and it was still processing some employment-related visa applications from 2001.

According to Table 1, a US citizen wishing to sponsor an unmarried adult child from Mexico has to wait for more than 15 years before the application will be processed. Legal permanent residents applying to bring their immediate family members (spouses and children) can expect to wait at least five years, regardless of country of origin.
Table 1. Date of Submission of Lawful Permanent Residence Applications Processed October 2007

Mainland China India Mexico Philippines All other countries
1st Unmarried Adult Children of Citizens Nov. 8, 2001 Nov. 8, 2001 May 1, 1992 Jun. 15, 1992 Nov. 8, 2001
2A Spouses/Minor Children of LPRs Nov. 15, 2002 Nov. 15, 2002 May 1, 2002 Nov. 15, 2002 Nov. 15, 2002
2B Unmarried Adult Children of LPRs Aug. 15, 1998 Aug. 15, 1998 Mar. 15, 1992 Dec. 8, 1996 Aug. 15, 1998
3rd Married Adult Children of Citizens Feb. 15, 2000 Feb. 15, 2000 May 1, 1992 Feb. 22, 1991 Feb. 15, 2000
4th Siblings of US Citizens Aug. 15, 1996 May 8, 1996 Jul. 22, 1994 Jul. 8, 1985 Apr. 15, 1997
1st Workers/Persons with Extraordinary Ability Current Current Current Current Current
2nd Professionals with Advanced Degrees/Persons with Exceptional Ability Jan. 1, 2006 Apr. 1, 2004 Current Current Current
3rd Skilled or Professional Workers Sept. 1, 2001 Apr. 22, 2001 Apr. 22, 2001 Aug. 1, 2002 Aug. 1, 2002
3rd Other Workers Oct. 1, 2001 Oct. 1, 2001 Oct. 1, 2001 Oct. 1, 2001 Oct. 1, 2001

4th Certain Special Immigrants Current Current Current Current Current

Certain Religious Workers Current Current Current Current Current

5th Employment Creation Current Current Current Current Current

Target Employment Areas/Regional Centers Current Current Current Current Current

Source: Department of State Visa Bulletin October 2007. Available online.

How many naturalization applications are backlogged?

As of September 2005, USCIS reported a backlog of 2.6 million naturalization applications.

However, in September 2006, USCIS announced it had eliminated the backlog of naturalization applications as the average processing time for a naturalization application fell from a peak of 14 months in February 2004 to five months. A processing time of under six months is considered normal.

Read the September 15, 2006 USCIS press release for more on the elimination of naturalization backlogs.


Copyright @ 2007 Migration Policy Institute. All rights reserved.

Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions

I wanted to share with everyone a few links that might be of interest given comments last Tuesday that immigrants to the U.S. do not pay taxes. Actually, they do. They pay sales taxes as we all do when we make purchases and also when they own property, they pay property taxes, too. In states (not Texas, but most other states) that also require folks to pay state taxes, they do so there as well if they're on a payroll (that is, payroll taxes) with an employer.

In fact, check out this article which not only demonstrates that immigrants contribute to our economy, but that they may also save the U.S.'s social security system itself.

Dra. Valenzuela


April 5, 2005
Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions


Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez -- who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana -- contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

While it has been evident for years that illegal immigrants pay a variety of taxes, the extent of their contributions to Social Security is striking: the money added up to about 10 percent of last year's surplus -- the difference between what the system currently receives in payroll taxes and what it doles out in pension benefits. Moreover, the money paid by illegal workers and their employers is factored into all the Social Security Administration's projections.

Illegal immigration, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, noted sardonically, could provide ''the fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security.''

It is impossible to know exactly how many illegal immigrant workers pay taxes. But according to specialists, most of them do. Since 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act set penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, most such workers have been forced to buy fake ID's to get a job.

Currently available for about $150 on street corners in just about any immigrant neighborhood in California, a typical fake ID package includes a green card and a Social Security card. It provides cover for employers, who, if asked, can plausibly assert that they believe all their workers are legal. It also means that workers must be paid by the book -- with payroll tax deductions.

IRCA, as the immigration act is known, did little to deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants or to discourage them from working. But for Social Security's finances, it was a great piece of legislation.

Starting in the late 1980's, the Social Security Administration received a flood of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect -- sometimes simply fictitious -- Social Security numbers. It stashed them in what it calls the ''earnings suspense file'' in the hope that someday it would figure out whom they belonged to.

The file has been mushrooming ever since: $189 billion worth of wages ended up recorded in the suspense file over the 1990's, two and a half times the amount of the 1980's.

In the current decade, the file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year, generating $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security tax revenue and about $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes.

In 2002 alone, the last year with figures released by the Social Security Administration, nine million W-2's with incorrect Social Security numbers landed in the suspense file, accounting for $56 billion in earnings, or about 1.5 percent of total reported wages.

Social Security officials do not know what fraction of the suspense file corresponds to the earnings of illegal immigrants. But they suspect that the portion is significant.

''Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes,'' said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for illegal immigration.

Other researchers say illegal immigrants are the main contributors to the suspense file. ''Illegal immigrants account for the vast majority of the suspense file,'' said Nick Theodore, the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. ''Especially its growth over the 1990's, as more and more undocumented immigrants entered the work force.''

Using data from the Census Bureau's current population survey, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group in Washington that favors more limits on immigration, estimated that 3.8 million households headed by illegal immigrants generated $6.4 billion in Social Security taxes in 2002.

A comparative handful of former illegal immigrant workers who have obtained legal residence have been able to accredit their previous earnings to their new legal Social Security numbers. Mr. Camarota is among those opposed to granting a broad amnesty to illegal immigrants, arguing that, among other things, they might claim Social Security benefits and put further financial stress on the system.

The mismatched W-2's fit like a glove on illegal immigrants' known geographic distribution and the patchwork of jobs they typically hold. An audit found that more than half of the 100 employers filing the most earnings reports with false Social Security numbers from 1997 through 2001 came from just three states: California, Texas and Illinois. According to an analysis by the Government Accountability Office, about 17 percent of the businesses with inaccurate W-2's were restaurants, 10 percent were construction companies and 7 percent were farm operations.

Most immigration helps Social Security's finances, because new immigrants tend to be of working age and contribute more than they take from the system. A simulation by Social Security's actuaries found that if net immigration ran at 1.3 million a year instead of the 900,000 in their central assumption, the system's 75-year funding gap would narrow to 1.67 percent of total payroll, from 1.92 percent -- savings that come out to half a trillion dollars, valued in today's money.

Illegal immigrants help even more because they will never collect benefits. According to Mr. Goss, without the flow of payroll taxes from wages in the suspense file, the system's long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.

Yet to immigrants, the lack of retirement benefits is just part of the package of hardship they took on when they decided to make the trek north. Tying vines in a vineyard some 30 miles north of Stockton, Florencio Tapia, 20, from Guerrero, along Mexico's Pacific coast, has no idea what the money being withheld from his paycheck is for. ''I haven't asked,'' Mr. Tapia said.

For illegal immigrants, Social Security numbers are simply a tool needed to work on this side of the border. Retirement does not enter the picture.

''There will be a moment when I won't be able to continue working,'' Mr. Martínez acknowledges. ''But that's many years off.''

Mario Avalos, a naturalized Nicaraguan immigrant who prepares income tax returns for many workers in the area, including immigrants without legal papers, observes that many older workers return home to Mexico. ''Among my clients,'' he said, ''I can't recall anybody over 60 without papers.''

No doubt most illegal immigrants would prefer to avoid Social Security altogether. As part of its efforts to properly assign the growing pile of unassigned wages, Social Security sends about 130,000 letters a year to employers with large numbers of mismatched pay statements.

Though not an intended consequence of these so-called no-match letters, in many cases employers who get them dismiss the workers affected. Or the workers -- fearing that immigration authorities might be on their trail -- just leave.

Last February, for instance, discrepancies in Social Security numbers put an end to the job of Minerva Ortega, 25, from Zacatecas, in northern Mexico, who worked in the cheese department at a warehouse for Mike Campbell & Associates, a distributor for Trader Joe's, a popular discount food retailer with a large operation in California.

The company asked dozens of workers to prove that they had cleared up or were in the process of clearing up the ''discrepancy between the information on our payroll related to your employment and the S.S.A.'s records.'' Most could not.

Ms. Ortega said about 150 workers lost their jobs. In a statement, Mike Campbell said that it did not fire any of the workers, but Robert Camarena, a company official, acknowledged that many left.

Ms. Ortega is now looking for work again. She does not want to go back to the fields, so she is holding out for a better-paid factory job. Whatever work she finds, though, she intends to go on the payroll with the same Social Security number she has now, a number that will not jibe with federal records.

With this number, she will continue paying taxes. Last year she paid about $1,200 in Social Security taxes, matched by her employer, on an income of $19,000.

She will never see the money again, she realizes, but at least she will have a job in the United States.

''I don't pay much attention,'' Ms. Ortega said. ''I know I don't get any benefit.''

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Monday, October 29, 2007

Toward a World Without Borders

Another very interesting piece today that questions the very legitimacy of the U.S.-Mexico border.
-Dra. Valenzuela

Toward a World Without Borders
By Onto Aporia
From the October 29, 2007 issue | Posted in International | Email this article
What is a border? First off, it’s war. Literally, the border is a relic of the Mexican-American War of 1848, when America “bought” half of Mexico’s territory (about 500,000- square miles) at gunpoint. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo still stands, marking the Rio Grande as the “line” which “separates” us from them. The border is a monument without a museum, doused with techno-media and military machines in order to revive its symbolism with a vengeance. Yet the war never really ended, only moving underground, in shadows, in stealth. Bodies still pile up at the edges, and governments still negotiate new treaties (trade agreements) all the time.

Through such agreements, the border becomes a form of property. It is enclosure, forming the body proper of the country, its outline, its image in the sand. Once this illusion becomes solidified in the minds of the citizens, its defense becomes unquestionable. Who wouldn’t want to defend their property? The border becomes the consensual hallucination of an imagined community of “citizens” who share nothing but a relationship to what’s “outside.” We’re not them, they say, those are ‘aliens’. If to be an alien means to embody the subversion of their entire system of property, then by all means indict us! Property does not make the border possible, but on the contrary, the border makes all property possible. And with that, capital as well.

Property, we know, is theft. And theft, capture and control are the main functions of any state. Besides cops, prisons, and government buildings, the border is the closest thing you’ll get to the material manifestation of the state in all its naked force. The collusion between capitalists, militarists, racist libertarians and “pluralist” democrats to “contain the state of emergency”, i.e., the loss of their profit, is blatant at every border site. Every “border zone” is chaos, and so the state tries to covers it up with a thousand bureaucracies, rules and technologies. The state tries to organize the chaos from above, but we all know how that goes: more resistance from below.

To contain resistance, the border becomes a prison. With 17 federal detention centers, hundreds of county ones and thousands of private ones, the border escapes its geography and encroaches inland. By the fall of 2007 the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) will spend an estimated $1 billion per year to detain more than 27,500 immigrants. ICE operates eight Service Processing Centers and seven contract detention facilities. Additionally, immigration detainees are being held in local jails and private prisons across the United States.

To guard this mobile prison, they need police. But how can the border also be a police force? By militarizing itself, and distributing the mindset of militarization to everyone it can. Everyone becomes a border guard, with ICE being just the last step in the long chain of control. Neighbors, colleagues, workers, friends — no one is safe. With a little help from the fear-mongering media, the virus of the bordermind sets in and spreads. Migrants — living in hiding, working in backrooms — are killed coming in and killed getting out.


How do we escape from this long border war? Where they have ideology, we must have Imagination. In some sense, we know the border is an imagined act, albeit an enforced one. To overcome this, we must imagine as well, and we must enforce our imaginations too. A world without borders is not a dream, it is how you live. Some say that migrants are the most victimized social class in the world. Others say that the global movement of migrants is the largest social movement in the world. Both are exaggerations, yet both are somewhat true.

Resistance doesn’t begin at the fence because the border doesn’t begin there either. Borders are massive investments, they are literally their own economies, and every economy, in the end, is based on debt, credit and the faith that everything will be paid back in full. Resisting the border means breaking that faith, that credit in the ideology of exclusion. This resistance is as layered as the border itself, and hence is inconsistent, contradictory and unpredictable.

From underground railroads to class solidarity, lobbying to strikes, boycotts to riots, childcare to legal defense, noborder camps to farmworker rights, the resistance is as open as the air. There is no “resistance” itself, only resistances which could link up to tear down, break away and immunize the border regime wherever it emerges.

This article was excerpted from a longer version published in the New York Rat, Issue #8, May 2007.


Shift Is Afoot on Mexican Border

This piece in the Wall Street Journal documents how undocumented migration into the U.S. is down but also how one of the unintended consequences is making smuggling an attractive new market for professional drug gangs with ties to Mexican drug cartels with ties to the U.S.

It's frightening that this immigration-drug-cartel overlap means that many are paying for their trip by carrying drugs for traffickers—frequently heavy loads through the desert.

Immigrants also follow drug-smuggling routes for a fee, risking their own personal safety. Increased drug seizures are believed to mean that there's been an increase in drug smuggling into the U.S.

-Dra. Valenzuela

October 25, 2007

Shift Is Afoot on Mexican Border
Security Crackdown
Cuts Illegal Crossing
But Aids Smugglers

October 25, 2007; Page A8

EL PASO, Texas -- A security crackdown on the Mexican border is believed to have reduced the number of people trying to cross illegally into the U.S. while increasing business for professional smugglers with ties to the drug trade.

Data to be released next week by the Department of Homeland Security are expected to show the number of illegal border crossers caught fell to less than one million for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the first time that has occurred since 2003. Through the end of August, barely 800,000 apprehensions were recorded along the U.S.-Mexico border, a drop of more than 20% from the previous fiscal year.

The decline -- thought to show that fewer migrants are attempting to cross -- will add weight to claims by U.S. officials that heavier law enforcement is making it more difficult for migrants to sneak across the 2,000-mile border. With politicians deadlocked over how to deal with illegal immigration, trying to seal the border to catch and deter illegal immigrants has become the main policy tool.

But the crackdown also appears to be affecting the markets for smuggling people and drugs in Mexico. As tighter security makes crossing the border trickier and more hazardous, the traditional mom-and-pop operations in Mexico that used to ferry people across have been replaced by larger, more-professional criminal gangs, often with ties to the illegal-drug trade.

Read rest of story here.

Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What Part of 'Illegal' Don't You Understand?

On the topic of language--"illegals" versus "undocumented" or "unauthorized." No mention of the term "alien," by the way, which makes immigrants sound like they are from another planet. -Dra. Valenzuela

Editorial Observer, New York Times
What Part of 'Illegal' Don't You Understand?

Published: October 28, 2007
I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegal parker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched or broken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. The offenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments - penalties and fines - and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me the chance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader, and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whose crimes exceeded mine.
Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It's the crime you can't make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.
America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word "illegal." It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.
"Illegal" is accurate insofar as it describes a person's immigration status. About 60 percent of the people it applies to entered the country unlawfully. The rest are those who entered legally but did not leave when they were supposed to. The statutory penalties associated with their misdeeds are not insignificant, but neither are they criminal. You get caught, you get sent home.
Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far. It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its target diminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class. People are often surprised to learn that illegal immigrants have rights. Really? Constitutional rights? But aren't they illegal? Of course they have rights: they have the presumption of innocence and the civil liberties that the Constitution wisely bestows on all people, not just citizens.
Many people object to the alternate word "undocumented" as a politically correct euphemism, and they have a point. Someone who sneaked over the border and faked a Social Security number has little right to say: "Oops, I'm undocumented. I'm sure I have my papers here somewhere."
But at least "undocumented" - and an even better word, "unauthorized" - contain the possibility of reparation and atonement, and allow for a sensible reaction proportional to the offense. The paralysis in Congress and the country over fixing our immigration laws stems from our inability to get our heads around the wrenching change involved in making an illegal person legal. Think of doing that with a crime, like cocaine dealing or arson. Unthinkable!
So people who want to enact sensible immigration policies to help everybody - to make the roads safer, as Gov. Eliot Spitzer would with his driver's license plan, or to allow immigrants' children to go to college or serve in the military - face the inevitable incredulity and outrage. How dare you! They're illegal.
Meanwhile, out on the edges of the debate - edges that are coming closer to the mainstream every day - bigots pour all their loathing of Spanish-speaking people into the word. Rant about "illegals" - call them congenital criminals, lepers, thieves, unclean - and people will nod and applaud. They will send money to your Web site and heed your calls to deluge lawmakers with phone calls and faxes. Your TV ratings will go way up.
This is not only ugly, it is counterproductive, paralyzing any effort toward immigration reform. Comprehensive legislation in Congress and sensible policies at the state and local level have all been stymied and will be forever, as long as anything positive can be branded as "amnesty for illegals."

We are stuck with a bogus, deceptive strategy - a 700-mile fence on a 2,000-mile border to stop a fraction of border crossers who are only 60 percent of the problem anyway, and scattershot raids to capture a few thousand members of a group of 12 million.
None of those enforcement policies have a trace of honesty or realism. At least they don't reward illegals, and that, for now, is all this country wants.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Glare of Fires Pulls Migrants From Shadows

Professor Wayne Cornelius is correct in saying: “San Diego likes its illegal migrants as invisible as possible,” “So whenever something happens that calls attention to their presence, it is fodder for the local anti-immigration forces.”


October 27, 2007

Glare of Fires Pulls Migrants From Shadows


SAN DIEGO, Oct. 26 — Out of the burning brush, from behind canyon rocks, several immigrants bolted toward a group of firefighters, chased not by the border police but by the onrush of flames from one of the biggest wildfires this week.

Their appearance startled the firefighters, who let them into their vehicles. But with the discovery of four charred bodies in an area of heavy illegal immigration, concern is growing that others may not have survived.

“Their hands were burned, and they were clearly tired and grateful,” Capt. Mike Parkes of the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported on what his firefighting team saw.

Immigrants from south of the border, many illegal, provide the backbone of menial labor in San Diego, picking fruit, cleaning hotel rooms, sweeping walks and mowing lawns.

The wildfires, one of the biggest disasters to strike the county, exposed their often-invisible existence in ways that were sometimes deadly.

The four bodies were found in a burned area in southeastern San Diego County, a region known for intense illegal immigration. It is near Tecate, where a chain securing an evacuated border crossing was cut and people were seen flowing into the United States until the Border Patrol arrived, said Michael J. Fisher, the chief patrol agent in San Diego.

As firefighting continued on Friday, makeshift camps for immigrants in the northern part of the county stood largely abandoned. Some immigrants were said to be hiding in even more remote terrain. Others sought help from churches.

“I was pretty scared. We had to leave in the middle of the night, and we went to the church,” said Juan Santiago, a immigrant worker in the Rancho Peñasquitos neighborhood, just south of the hard-hit Rancho Bernardo area.

Terri Trujillo, who helps the immigrants, checked on those in the canyons, urging them to leave, too, when she left her house in Rancho Peñasquitos ahead of the fires.

Ms. Trujillo and others who help the immigrants said they saw several out in the fields as the fires approached and ash fell on them. She said many were afraid to lose their jobs.

“There were Mercedeses and Jaguars pulling out, people evacuating, and the migrants were still working,” said Enrique Morones, who takes food and blankets to the immigrants’ camps. “It’s outrageous.”

Some of the illegal workers who sought help from the authorities were arrested and deported. Opponents of illegal immigration, including civilian border watch groups, seized on news that immigrants had been detained at the Qualcomm Stadium evacuation center as evidence of trouble that illegal immigrants cause.

The Border Patrol also arrested scores of illegal immigrants made visible by the fires. Agent Fisher of the Border Patrol said 100 had been arrested since the fires started Sunday.

He said that the agency never abandoned enforcing the border and that agents helped with removals and rescues. Fire blocked some access points to border areas, but Agent Fisher said, “We were very conscious in making sure our border security mission was met.”

Some people have speculated, including on the Web, that immigrants might have set some of the fires, as has occurred with campfires lighted in fields.

The authorities have not given any causes linked to immigration.

Two men, one in San Diego County and the other in Los Angeles, who were arrested on arson charges, accused of setting small fires this week, are believed to be deportable, a federal immigration official said.

The San Diego police detained people suspected of stealing at Qualcomm Stadium. Six were handed over to the immigration authorities when it became apparent that they might be in the United States illegally.

The Border Patrol said the six, and at the group’s request, an American juvenile with them, were returned to Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it had received reports that people had been denied help at shelters because they lacked proper identification. Officials have been checking identification to prevent people not affected by the fires from taking advantage of the free food, clothes and other services.

The concerns of the rights group drew a rebuke from Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a Republican who represents areas along the border.

“People are dying because we can’t control our border,” Mr. Bilbray said. “That’s what they should be screaming about. Anyone who knows the land and the illegal activity in that rugged terrain knows there was no way we would avoid deaths in this.”

Wayne A. Cornelius, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who studies border questions, said that if the past was a guide there would be more friction over the fires and their effects on illegal immigrants.

“San Diego likes its illegal migrants as invisible as possible,” Mr. Cornelius said. “So whenever something happens that calls attention to their presence, it is fodder for the local anti-immigration forces.”

In one sign of cooperation, a Mexican firefighting team from Baja California helped American firefighters with a major blaze along the border early in the week.

For the immigrants, the fires may have dried up some work. But some speculate on strong work prospects like cleanups. By early afternoon near a heavily damaged neighborhood in the Rancho Bernardo area, four men stood on a corner, waiting for work offers.

“It is a shame what happened,” said a man who gave just his first name, Miguelito. “But we think there will be jobs to clean or build.”

Dan Frosch contributed reporting from Denver, and Carolyn Marshall from San Francisco.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Friday, October 26, 2007

The Unseen Victims of California's Wildfires

The Unseen Victims of California's Wildfires
New America Media, News Report, Amanda Martinez, Posted: Oct 26, 2007

Editor's Note: Undocumented immigrants who have survived for years living along San Diego’s hillsides and canyons now find themselves left out of relief efforts in the Southern California fires, writes NAM contributor Amanda Martinez.

The relief efforts in the Southern California fires have been praised as effective, but they’ve missed a population that has long been in the shadows: undocumented workers living along San Diego’s hillsides and canyons. These men, who represent some of the most essential workers in one of the biggest local industries, have slipped through the cracks in the county’s relief and evacuation efforts – so much so that Mexican government officials are filling in the gaps.

“The Mexican Consulate are the ones who have led the relief effort to the farm workers in the canyons,” says Eddie Preciado, director of La Posada de Guadalupe, the only homeless shelter for male farm workers in San Diego County. He says the consulate has organized partnerships with groups like his in order to conduct searches and provide supplies to the canyon dwellers.

Immigrant advocacy groups are uncertain how these workers are surviving. They say the fires have left the workers scattered and unaccounted for. Evacuation orders have closed off access to these communities, making it very difficult for support teams to assess the population’s needs and nearly impossible to determine how many living quarters have been destroyed in the fires.

The farm workers are hard to reach physically, living in the remote areas of the canyon, but they are also linguistically isolated. Many are members of Mexico’s indigenous Mixtec and Zapotec communities and do not speak English or Spanish.

“Indigenous Mexicans who speak languages such as Mixteco are at high risk of being in danger because they don’t understand warnings being given in English or Spanish and they are not likely to trust people unless they are approached speaking their language,” says photojournalist David Bacon, who has documented farm worker communities in rural California.

It has been estimated that there are more than 1,600 agricultural workers and day laborers living in the area in makeshift settlements, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless in San Diego. This is probably a low estimate of those affected by the fires because it is impossible to know exactly how many workers live this way. Described as “rural homeless,” they scrape by without electricity, a water supply, or sanitation systems in order to be close to the farms where they work.

These workers make up an essential agricultural labor force in San Diego County, which is one of the top agricultural producers in California and ranks second in the nation in its number of farms, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

Yet despite the industry’s reliance on these laborers, they could be left out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s relief aid because, without papers, they have very limited access to FEMA funds.

Konane Martinez of the National Latino Research Center anticipates that documentation will be a requirement for most federal government agencies providing relief in the area. As a result, Martinez is collaborating with 18 different organizations to collect money and resources for displaced farm workers looking for aid once the fires subside.

“I don’t think anyone will be turned away from immediate assistance,” says Dorothy Johnson, an attorney with California Legal Rural Assistance, which provides farm workers with legal support. And though no one has reported being denied help, many undocumented immigrants are not seeking aid because they do not know which rescue workers they can trust. Many see the risk of deportation as more dangerous than the fires themselves.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they avoided firefighters,” says Bacon, adding that many undocumented workers are wary of law enforcement for fear of being detained or deported.

“Many of these workers have experienced intense situations of danger just to get into the United States,” and earn money to send to their families back home, explains Bacon. They are willing to endure very harsh conditions, he says, to avoid being caught by Border Patrol or ICE agents.

The Spanish-language publication Enlace, in San Diego, reported on Monday that some farm workers have chosen to remain in the canyons despite warnings to evacuate because they do not want to leave.

Meanwhile some who do are not being allowed to leave. “Some farmers are not following evacuation orders and have kept workers in the fields despite orders being given to evacuate,” says Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee.

But if they stay they should know that, as Ramirez explains, “the atmosphere conditions are not safe to be working in.” His organization has been sending volunteers into the fields to supply farm workers with eye drops, facemasks and goggles.

Apparently unconcerned that the use of Border Patrol agents might discourage undocumented residents from seeking help, the San Diego County Office of Emergency Management called on the U.S. Border Patrol to help with the emergency relief efforts. Matthew Johnson says about 300 agents are now “watching for looters, monitoring affected neighborhoods and safety control” during the fire relief efforts.

Some agents were working alongside local police when six undocumented immigrants were arrested Wednesday outside of Qualcomm Stadium, one of the main fire relief sites.

Those arrested were reportedly seen stealing relief supplies consisting of fold-up cots and bottles of water from Qualcomm. Police Sgt. Jesse Cesena told the San Diego Union-Tribune that "they were stealing from the people in need." The police turned the immigrants over to Border Patrol agents.

Although they are busy with local relief efforts, Johnson says the Border Patrol is still watching the border. Since the start of the fires, he says, they have apprehended 200 immigrants trying to cross into the United States.

Ironically, Dr. Leo Estrada, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, believes the undocumented workers shouldn’t worry. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) won’t be conducting raids anytime soon, he says.

In fact, he predicts, immigrant workers will be needed in reconstruction efforts after the fire. More than 410,000 acres of land have burned, and clean-up efforts will be critical. “With more than 1000 homes being demolished,” he notes, “contractors will be looking to immigrant labor forces to demolish, cart away, and rebuild houses.”

“We saw it New Orleans,” says Estrada. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America were among the largest groups employed in rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina.

“At the time of reconstruction, nobody bothered them. It will be interesting to see,” says Estrada. “They will be bringing back a labor force they have been trying to get rid of.”

Photographs by David Bacon

To contribute to the Farm Worker Relief Fund, contact Konane Martinez at the Farmworker CARE Coalition.


Attachment of Latino Immigrants to Their Native Country

The Pew Hispanic Center today released a first-of-its-kind report that analyzes data from a national sample of Latinos to determine how much contact Hispanic immigrants have with their native country. The attachment of Latino immigrants to their native country, or "transnationalism," is measured by levels of remittance-sending, phone calls, and return visits. Just one-in-ten Latino immigrants engages in all three of these behaviors on a regular basis, the report finds. It also finds that immigrants' transnational behavior is related to the years immigrants have been in this country; the age they were when they first arrived; and their country of origin. And it is correlated, as well, with their attitudes toward the U.S.

The report is available at the Pew Hispanic Center's website, www.pewhispanic.org.

The Pew Hispanic Center is a non-partisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

New York Times Slideshow of Mexican immigrants from a Northern Mexican Town

The New York Times has a recent slideshow of Mexican immigrants in a northern Mexican town that is experiencing difficulties making it both in Mexico and the U.S.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Billionaires Up, America Down

Students, we spoke in class this week about individualism and unearned privileges. It's sad that there is such extreme wealth and such extreme poverty in our nations.

These disparities are growing and neoliberalism is an individualistic ideology of unbridled capitalism that threatens the planet by turning it into a market without any regard for social justice for those without means. Most of the planet is not even in a league to compete against these guys--mostly men, for sure.

For the rest? You can easily guess.

-Dra. Valenzuela

Monday, October 22, 2007
Billionaires Up, America Down
by Holly Sklar

by CommonDreams.org

When it comes to producing billionaires, America is doing great.

Until 2005, multimillionaires could still make the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. In 2006, the Forbes 400 went billionaires only.

This year, you'd need a Forbes 482 to fit all the billionaires.

A billion dollars is a lot of dough. Queen Elizabeth II, British monarch for five decades, would have to add $400 million to her $600 million fortune to reach $1 billion. And she'd need another $300 million to reach the Forbes 400 minimum of $1.3 billion. The average Forbes 400 member has $3.8 billion.

When the Forbes 400 began in 1982, it was dominated by oil and manufacturing fortunes. Today, says Forbes, "Wall Street is king."

Nearly half the 45 new members, says Forbes, "made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity. Money manager John Paulson joins the list after pocketing more than $1 billion short-selling subprime credit this summer."

The 25th anniversary of the Forbes 400 isn't party time for America.

We have a record 482 billionaires - and record foreclosures.

We have a record 482 billionaires - and a record 47 million people without any health insurance.

Since 2000, we have added 184 billionaires - and 5 million more people living below the poverty line.

The official poverty threshold for one person was a ridiculously low $10,294 in 2006. That won't get you two pounds of caviar ($9,800) and 25 cigars ($730) on the Forbes Cost of Living Extremely Well Index. The $20,614 family-of-four poverty threshold is lower than the cost of three months of home flower arrangements ($24,525).

Wealth is being redistributed from poorer to richer.

Between 1983 and 2004, the average wealth of the top 1 percent of households grew by 78 percent, reports Edward Wolff, professor of economics at New York University. The bottom 40 percent lost 59 percent.

In 2004, one out of six households had zero or negative net worth. Nearly one out of three households had less than $10,000 in net worth, including home equity. That's before the mortgage crisis hit.

In 1982, when the Forbes 400 had just 13 billionaires, the highest paid CEO made $108 million and the average full-time worker made $34,199, adjusted for inflation in $2006. Last year, the highest paid hedge fund manager hauled in $1.7 billion, the highest paid CEO made $647 million, and the average worker made $34,861, with vanishing health and pension coverage.
The Forbes 400 is even more of a rich men's club than when it began. The number of women has dropped from 75 in 1982 to 39 today.

The 400 richest Americans have a conservatively estimated $1.54 trillion in combined wealth. That amount is more than 11 percent of our $13.8 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the total annual value of goods and services produced by our nation of 303 million people. In 1982, Forbes 400 wealth measured less than 3 percent of U.S. GDP.

And the rich, notes Fortune magazine, "give away a smaller share of their income than the rest of us."

Thanks to mega-tax cuts, the rich can afford more mega-yachts, accessorized with helicopters and mini-submarines. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of bridges, levees, mass transit, parks and other public assets inherited from earlier generations of taxpayers crumbles from neglect, and the holes in the safety net are growing.

The top 1 percent of households - average income $1.5 million - will save a collective $79.5 billion on their 2008 taxes, reports Citizens for Tax Justice. That's more than the combined budgets of the Transportation Department, Small Business Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Tax cuts will save the top 1 percent a projected $715 billion between 2001 and 2010. And cost us $715 billion in mounting national debt plus interest.

The children and grandchildren of today's underpaid workers will pay for the partying of today's plutocrats and their retinue of lobbyists.

It's time for Congress to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and close the loophole letting billionaire hedge fund speculators pay taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries.

Inequality has roared back to 1920s levels. It was bad for our nation then. It's bad for our nation now.

Holly Sklar is co-author of "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All of Us" and "A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future." She can be reached at hsklar@aol.com.

Blackwater's run for the border

Students, something else is brewing that's significant. This is a mercenary group that has been outsourced in Iraq by the U.S. Government to fight its war. Check out this chilling video on Blackwater on Youtube.

According to Wikipedia News, Blackwater mercenaries used in New Orleans, they were also contracted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans "to secure petrochemical facilities and provide security services for the federal government."

This is part of a more general privatization of the U.S.-Mexican border that should concern us all.

-Dra. Valenzuela

October 23, 2007

Blackwater's run for the border

The notorious security contractor has plans for a
military-style complex near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Critics worry the firm's "mercenary soldiers" could
join the U.S. Border Patrol.

By Eilene Zimmerman

There are signs that Blackwater USA, the private
security firm that came under intense scrutiny after
its employees killed 17 civilians in Iraq in September,
is positioning itself for direct involvement in U.S.
border security. The company is poised to construct a
major new training facility in California, just eight
miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. While contracts for
U.S. war efforts overseas may no longer be a growth
industry for the company, Blackwater executives have
lobbied the U.S. government since at least 2005 to help
train and even deploy manpower for patrolling America's

Blackwater is planning to build an 824-acre military-
style training complex in Potrero, Calif., a rural
hamlet 45 miles east of San Diego. The company's
proposal, which was approved last December by the
Potrero Community Planning Group and has drawn protest
from within the Potrero community, will turn a former
chicken ranch into "Blackwater West," the company's
second-largest facility in the country. It will include
a multitude of weapons firing ranges, a tactical
driving track, a helipad, a 33,000-square-foot urban
simulation training area, an armory for storing guns
and ammunition, and dorms and classrooms. And it will
be located in the heart one of the most active regions
in the United States for illegal border crossings.

While some residents of Potrero have welcomed the plan,
others have raised fears about encroachment on
protected lands and what they see as an intimidating
force of mercenaries coming into their backyard. The
specter of Blackwater West and the rising interest in
privatizing border security have also alarmed
Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, whose congressional
district includes Potrero. Filner says he believes it's
a good possibility that Blackwater is positioning
itself for border security contracts and is opposed to
the new complex. "You have to be very wary of mercenary
soldiers in a democracy, which is more fragile than
people think," Rep. Filner told Salon. "You don't want
armies around who will sell out to the highest bidder.
We already have vigilantes on the border, the
Minutemen, and this would just add to [the problem],"
Filner said, referring to the Minuteman Project, a
conservative group that has organized civilian posses
to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in the past. Filner is
backing legislation to block establishment of what he
calls "mercenary training centers" anywhere in the U.S.
outside of military bases. "The border is a sensitive
area," he said, "and if Blackwater operates the way
they do in Iraq -- shoot first and ask questions later
-- my constituents are at risk."

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
denied there are any specific plans to work directly
with Blackwater. And Blackwater officials say the
complex would be used only for training active-duty
military and law enforcement officials, work for which
the company has contracted with the U.S. government.

But statements and lobbying activity by Blackwater
officials, and the location for the new complex,
strongly suggest plans to get involved in border
security, with potential contracts worth hundreds of
millions of dollars. Moreover, Blackwater enjoys
support from powerful Republican congressmen who
advocate hard-line border policies, including calls for
deploying private agents to beef up the ranks of the
U.S. Border Patrol. Lawmakers supporting Blackwater
include California Rep. and presidential candidate
Duncan Hunter -- who met last year with company
officials seeking his advice on the proposal for
Blackwater West -- and Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who
is sponsoring a bill to allow private contractors such
as Blackwater to help secure U.S. borders.

When questioned at a public hearing with the Potrero
planning group on Sept. 13 about Blackwater West, Brian
Bonfiglio, a Blackwater spokesman, said, "I don't think
there's anyone in this room who wouldn't like to see
the border tightened up." Blackwater currently had no
contracts to help with border security, Bonfiglio said,
but he emphasized that "we would entertain any approach
from our government to help secure either border,
absolutely." Bonfiglio was responding to questions from
Raymond Lutz, a local organizer who opposes the new
complex. (Lutz recorded the exchange and posted video
of it on Oct. 12 at CitizensOversight.org.) Lutz also
asked Bonfiglio if Blackwater West would be used as a
base for deployment of Border Patrol agents. "Actually,
we've offered it up as a substation to Border Patrol
and U.S. Customs right now," Bonfiglio replied. "We'd
love to see them there."

Ramon Rivera, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and
Border Protection in Washington, denied Bonfiglio's
claim that the agency is entertaining an offer to use
Blackwater West as a substation. "I think that's just
Blackwater trying to sell themselves," Rivera said.

In fact, Blackwater has been selling itself for direct
involvement in border security at least since May 2005,
when the company's then president, Gary Jackson,
testified before a House subcommittee. Jackson's
testimony focused on Blackwater's helping to train U.S.
Border Patrol agents and included discussion of
contracts theoretically worth $80 million to $200
million, for thousands of personnel. Asked by one
lawmaker if his company saw a market opportunity in
border security, Jackson replied: "I can put as many
men together as you need, trained and on the borders."

The company has turned to powerful allies on Capitol
Hill for support, including Hunter, the ranking
Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a
longtime proponent of tougher border security. Joe
Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter, confirmed to Salon that
Blackwater officials sought guidance from Hunter on
getting Blackwater West approved for Potrero. Hunter
met with Blackwater officials in May 2006, at which
time Hunter recommended the firm contact Dianne Jacob,
the county supervisor responsible for Potrero and one
of five supervisors who would vote on countywide
approval for Blackwater West. Blackwater officials then
met with Jacob in May, and in June the company
submitted its proposal to the county, where it now must
go through an approval process.

Rep. Filner says Potrero residents have complained to
him that Hunter also brought pressure locally for
Blackwater West. "People in the area told me he called
the landowner [of the proposed site] to urge him to
sell [to Blackwater]. I don't know that he did, but it
wouldn't surprise me," says Filner. "That's what people
in the area are saying." (Hunter has ties to Potrero,
which used to be part of his congressional district;
after a redestricting in 2001, Potrero became part of
Filner's district, which borders Hunter's district.)

Spokesman Kasper denied that Hunter called the
landowner, whose identity remains unclear. But Kasper
also said that Hunter "supports Blackwater and other
private security contractors in Iraq, and he supports
the training facility in Potrero."

One specific concern Potrero residents have raised with
relation to Blackwater West is the high risk of
wildfires in their part of the county -- a danger on
display the last two days as Potrero has been ravaged
by fire along with other parts of Southern California.
Blackwater has in fact pushed as a selling point that
the complex would be a "defensible location" during
wildfires. But opponents, including Jan Hedlun, the
only member of the Potrero Planning Group opposed to
Blackwater West, foresee danger rather than a safe
haven. As Hedlun wrote in a recent editorial in the San
Diego Union-Tribune, "residents state they would not
flee to a box canyon with one access point and an
armory filled with ammunition and/or explosives."

Ever since illegal immigration became a top issue for
the Bush administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill,
there have been growing calls for the U.S. to bring
private security companies into border enforcement. In
September 2006, the conservative Heritage Foundation in
Washington released a policy paper titled "Better,
Faster, and Cheaper Border Security," which urged
Congress and the president to beef up forces as fast as
possible. "In particular," the report said, "private
contractors could play an important role in recruiting
and training Border Patrol agents and providing
personnel to secure the border." Late last month, one
of the report's authors hosted a symposium in
Washington for an updated discussion on the topic, for
which Rep. Rogers -- a proponent of both Blackwater and
DynCorp International, another private security
contractor with personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan --
was the keynote speaker.

On June 19 of this year, during a House subcommittee
meeting titled "Ensuring We Have Well-Trained Boots on
the Ground at the Border," Rep. Christopher Carney, a
Democrat from Pennsylvania, acknowledged "it's no
secret that CPB [Customs and Border Protection] as a
whole lacks the manpower to fulfill its crucial
mission." Robert B. Rosenkranz, president of the
government services division of DynCorp, presented a
plan for putting 1,000 DynCorp employees at the border
in 13 months, at a cost of $197 million.

In May 2006, the Bush administration had called for a
sharp increase in manpower, at least with the existing
federal force. President Bush then signed a bill into
law on Oct. 4, 2006, to boost the number of U.S.
Customs and Border Patrol agents on the ground by
nearly 50 percent, from approximately 12,300 to
approximately 18,300, by the end of 2008.

But even such an ambitious increase would do little to
stop the flow of illegal immigrants, says T.J. Bonner,
president of the National Border Patrol Council, which
represents most U.S. Border Patrol agents. Bonner,
himself a field agent in east San Diego County, told
the House subcommittee in June, "Realistically, there
is no magic number of Border Patrol agents required to
secure our borders and even if there were, it would
certainly be much higher than the 18,000 proposed by
the administration."

Scott Borgerson, a fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations who specializes in homeland security, says it
makes sense that U.S. companies would try to position
themselves to fill gaps in national security with
lucrative private-sector solutions. "If I was running a
company doing private security, it's definitely what I
would do," he says of Blackwater's plan to locate near
the border.

In an Oct. 15 article in the Wall Street Journal,
Blackwater CEO Erik Prince said that the company now
sees the market diminishing for the kind of security
work its employees have done in Iraq. He said that
going forward the company's focus "is going to be more
of a full spectrum," ranging from delivering
humanitarian aid to responding to natural disasters.
But priorities for the Bush administration, including
immigration and border security, could also figure into
Blackwater's plans -- as Salon reported recently, the
company's skyrocketing revenues during Bush's
presidency are accompanied by the firm's close ties
with influential Republicans and top Bush officials.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said that the
notion of Blackwater vying for lucrative border
security contracts is "merely speculation," and noted
that the location for Blackwater West is close to San
Diego's military bases, a major training market for the
company. "But hypothetically," Tyrrell added, "if the
government came to us and needed assistance with border
security, we'd be honored."

Borgerson says there is a role for private contractors
in helping keep the United States safe. "But certain
jobs belong to trained U.S. government officials -- men
and women in uniform who have a flag on their sleeves,"
says Borgerson, who was a Coast Guard officer for 10
years. "You recite an oath that says you will defend --
not Congress, not the president, not even the people --
but the Constitution. You don't sign that oath when you
go to work for Blackwater."

Bonner, of the U.S. Border Patrol, remains skeptical
about Blackwater getting involved, and he says others
in the upper ranks of the Border Patrol are opposed to
private contractors working alongside them. He sees
potential problems with both training and patrolling.
The much higher pay likely offered to private agents,
for example, would threaten an already difficult-to-
retain federal force. "It will entice people to jump
over to the other side," he says, "especially if they
don't have a long-term career in mind." Bonner also
says it is crucial to have a single training
curriculum, and a single chain of command, to help
ensure effective and lawful operations. "This is a bad
idea from so many perspectives," he says of potentially
privatizing the force.

The issue may be linked to broader problems the U.S. is
currently facing with national security. "If we weren't
allocating a tremendous amount of our resources in
Iraq, we wouldn't have to outsource to companies like
Blackwater," Borgerson says. While securing the U.S.
borders is an important priority, he adds, "I feel we
shouldn't outsource our sovereignty."
"Connecting the Dots...Making a Difference"
(830)768-0768 (when in Del Rio)
(830734-8636 (cell-when on the road)
Please read my column: Inside the Checkpoints http://www.riograndeguardian.com/columns3.asp


Bill for Immigrant Students Fails Test Vote in Senate

Though the outcome was not favorable to our immigrant youth, I do like the spin at the end of this article. It really is great and significant that the proposed legislation got this far. This is still a sign of the exanding and powerful influence of the pro-immigration lobby. There is hope. Nunca se logran los derechos de los inmigrantes facilmente.
Continuamos entonces luchando. Siempre hay esperanza!

-Dra. Valenzuela

October 25, 2007
Bill for Immigrant Students Fails Test Vote in Senate

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 — A bill to grant legal status to illegal immigrants who are high school graduates was defeated Wednesday in a test vote in the Senate, significantly dimming the prospects for any major immigration legislation this year.

By a vote of 52 to 44, the bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed to proceed to a debate on the Senate floor. The bill, sponsored by Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, would have given provisional legal status to illegal immigrant students who completed high school if they either attended college or served in the military for two years.

Lawmakers said Mr. Durbin’s bill was a litmus test for the immigration issue because it was the most politically palatable piece of the broad immigration legislation backed by President Bush that failed last summer in the Senate.

Mr. Durbin’s measure, called the Dream Act by its supporters, was tailored to benefit young, successful students whose immigration status was the result of decisions by their parents to come to the United States illegally, in many cases when the children were small.

Republican sponsors of the bill included Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana.

The vote showed that Republican opposition remained resolute to any effort to give legal status to illegal immigrants. It also eroded the support of some Democrats for other immigration measures under discussion. Those include a bill known as AgJobs that would give legal status to illegal immigrant farmworkers and overhaul a guest worker program for agriculture. Employers are also asking Congress to expand and streamline visa programs to bring in highly skilled legal immigrant workers.

“They’ll all be hard, every one of them,” Mr. Durbin said of the other immigration initiatives after the vote on his bill. He expressed frustration that business groups backing the other measures had not rallied behind the student bill.

Conservative Republicans voted against the bill on the same ground that they opposed the legislation in June, maintaining that it rewarded immigrant lawbreakers. But negative votes also came from Republicans and some Democrats who were reluctant to reopen the bitterly divisive debate over immigration for what they called a narrow piece of legislation.

The White House rejected Mr. Durbin’s bill in a statement just before the vote, saying it should not be adopted without strong enforcement measures against illegal immigration. The administration said the bill would open a path to citizenship for such students that other immigrants, including many here legally, would not enjoy.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who strongly supported the broader immigration legislation, voted no, saying the stand-alone Durbin measure “weakens our position to get a comprehensive bill.”

By scheduling the vote for Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, fulfilled a promise he made last month after Republicans blocked Mr. Durbin from attaching his bill to Defense Department spending legislation. But Mr. Reid appeared pessimistic about the student measure’s chances, since he called the vote on short notice.

Mr. Durbin said he had pruned the bill to reduce its beneficiaries. To be eligible for legal status, illegal immigrant students would have had to arrive in the United States before they were 16 years old, have lived in this country for at least five years and be under 30 on the date of passage. Still, conservatives called the measure a “backdoor amnesty,” saying it could benefit more than one million illegal immigrants.

Eleven Republicans voted for the bill. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who was a strong supporter, did not vote because he was recovering at home from surgery on a blocked artery.

Among the least disappointed in the vote were several immigrant students who would have benefited under the bill, who met in Mr. Durbin’s office after the vote.

“We’re still really hopeful, and maybe even more excited even though this might have been a temporary block in the road,” said Tam Tran, a 24-year-old immigrant born in Germany to Vietnamese parents, who recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

“We’re excited that it’s gotten this far,” said Ms. Tran, who is here on a temporary legal status. She said knowing of the possibility of the measure had motivated her to finish college.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Okay, here is the latest on the DREAM Act. Sad news. -Dra. Valenzuela

Marie Watteau
Cecilia Muñoz
(202) 785-1670
Oct 24, 2007


Washington, DC – The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., today expressed profound disappointment over the U.S. Senate's failure to move ahead with debate on the "DREAM Act."

"Senators who voted against the 'DREAM Act' today are in effect telling thousands of young people that they should give up their hopes and dreams," said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. "These are our nation's best and brightest and without action from Congress they will have no future. NCLR refuses to watch from the sidelines as the educational opportunities for these students waste away."

The "DREAM Act" was derailed today by a 52-44 procedural vote. The Senate required 60 votes to move forward to full debate on this legislation.

"It is unconscionable that senators who are steadfastly opposed to any immigration reform used a procedural maneuver to kill this legislation," continued Murguía. "I am particularly disappointed that the White House opposed this legislation. But the American people should take heart in the fact that the majority of the Senate continues to support the 'DREAM Act'."

Polls consistently show that the American people want Congress to fix our broken immigration system. The "DREAM Act" represents a commonsense policy response for a small group of children who have grown up in the U.S. and have known no other country. It has received bipartisan support from the majority of senators since it was introduced six years ago. Yet, thousands of young people continue to live in a legal limbo due to Congress's inaction.

"Congress has had enough time to debate this legislation on the merits. The time to pass the 'DREAM Act' is now," concluded Murguía. "NCLR applauds Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) for being such a champion on behalf of these children and it is our hope that through his leadership the 'DREAM Act' will be approved by this Congress soon."

All Content © 2007 NCLR. All Rights Reserved

A Chance to Dream

Here is the latest news on this proposed legislation called THE DREAM Act from immigration rights leaders in Texas: "The vote happened this afternoon; however, sadly we DID NOT GET the 60 votes we needed - Senator Hutchison spoke eloquently in favor but Senator Cornyn voted against. The final tally was 54 in favor of DREAM and 44 against the motion to bring it to discussion in the Senate floor. I am told that Senator Durbin (DREAM Act Author) is negotiating to get
the other six and we will see results after lunch, but this is all we know.

Although I've not seen the latest version of this legislation, my understanding is that it applies to undocumented immigrant youth who entered the country at age 15 or younger, have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and who are of good moral standing, that is, no police record. After graduating from high school, these youth would receive conditional legal status for six years. During this time frame, this person would have to spend at least two years enrolled in a four-year or community college. Another option is serving in a branch of the U.S. military also for two years. Upon meeting all these requirements, this would put these young people in a situation where they could successfully apply to become legal permanent residents.

This has been a long, hard-fought battle and it's very unsure right now. I applaud the New York Times editorial board for supporting this.

-Dra. Valenzuela

October 24, 2007
A Chance to Dream

The Senate has a chance today to pluck a small gem from the ashes of the immigration debate. A critical procedural vote is scheduled on the Dream Act, a bill to open opportunities for college and military service to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Roughly 65,000 children graduate each year from high school into a constrained future because they cannot work legally or qualify for most college aid. These are the overlooked bystanders to the ferocious bickering over immigration. They did not ask to be brought here, have worked hard in school and could, given the chance, hone their talents and become members of the homegrown, high-skilled American work force.

The bill is one of the least controversial immigration proposals that have been offered in the last five years. But that doesn’t mean much. Like everything else not directly involving border barricades and punishment, it has been branded as “amnesty,” and has languished.

But this bill is different, starting with its broad, bipartisan support, from its original sponsor, the Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, to its current champion, Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. Repeated defeats have forced Mr. Durbin to pare away at the bill’s ambitions. It focuses now on a narrow sliver of a worthy group: children who entered the country before age 16, lived here continuously for at least five years and can show good moral character and a high school diploma. They would receive conditional legal status for six years, during which they could work, go to college and serve in the military. If they completed at least two years of college or military service, they would be eligible for legalization.

These young people — their numbers are estimated at anywhere from a million to fewer than 100,000 — are in many ways fully American, but their immigration status puts a lock on their potential right after high school. They face the prospect of living in the shadows as their parents do, fearing deportation to countries they do not know, yearning to educate themselves in a country that ignores their aspirations.

The Dream Act rejects that unacceptable waste of young talent. The opportunity is there, provided the votes are there in the Senate.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company