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Everything you think you know about immigration reform is wrong


© Lalo Alcaraz

It is amazing how much misinformation is being thrown around concerning immigration reform, especially the new law in Arizona that makes it illegal to not carry proof of citizenship. First of all, I don’t know about you, but I don’t walk around with my passport, birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship, but I guess I’m just lucky because I don’t look like an “illegal immigrant” (and just guess what an illegal immigrant looks like!) The whole thing reminds me of all those WWII movies where the evil Nazis were always demanding innocent people “show their papers”. It was racist then and it is racist now.

Second, I keep seeing the media repeat the Republican talking point that Arizona was forced to do something about illegal immigration because the federal government has failed to do so. Bull crap! Illegal immigration in Arizona is actually down 18%. And why? It’s the economy stupid. No jobs for illegal immigrants means no illegal immigrants. It is that simple. So why was Arizona “forced” to take action now?

I’ve seen people claim that action against illegal immigrants is required now because jobs are scarce, and illegal immigrants are taking jobs from our citizens. More crap. Immigrants actually create new jobs. In the last 25 years, virtually all new jobs were created by startups. That’s about 40 million jobs. And roughly 25% of all successful high-tech startups in the last 10 years were started by (you guessed it) immigrants. So while anti-immigrant fear mongers rail about job numbers in the hundreds of thousands, immigrants contributed around 10 million new jobs.

And most importantly, Arizona already has laws on the books making it illegal to employ people without checking their citizenship. But they don’t enforce those laws. If Arizona started arresting employers for hiring illegal immigrants and putting them in jail, you can bet that the illegal immigration problem would go away overnight. But instead, Arizona blames the problem on the victims, and whines that they were “forced” to become a police state to solve a problem that has an easy solution, and has been going down anyway.

UPDATE: Seth Myers on SNL talks about the new law:

This week, Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country which will allow police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying “Show me your papers?” There’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line “show me your papers.” It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says “show me your papers,” Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up, Arizona; that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.

UPDATE 2:

© Keith Tucker

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12 Comments

  1. Dan wrote:

    Good summary, points taken.

    However, the immigrants who created 25% of the new startups: were they illegal?

    I realize that authoritarian measures like in AZ have a general effect on immigration, but isn’t that a distinction worth making?

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink
  2. Pat wrote:

    I liked the reference to WWII Germany. It is about race, not about the economy or what ever else people are saying. These immigration laws will change over the years due to the shrinking white population and the booming Hispanic one.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    Dan – after the ICE started doing neighborhood raids, several of the local businesses shut down in my neighborhood. In addition, we have newly boarded up homes and several families split up. Latino immigrants in particular were responsible for bringing back dying commercial districts in urban areas and small towns all around the country. If you are interested, you should read Magical Urbanism by Mike Davis.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  4. Jonah wrote:

    This law is clearly misguided and is probably going to have serious economic repercussions in the state. However three points

    1) Illegal immigration is a serious problem because of the terrorist problem. We have to stop people crossing the border illegally. I don’t think anyone can argue against that.
    2) If illegal immigration is down 18%, thanking the FED for that is, well, questionable unless you are saying that the Fed intentionally caused the recession to force illegals to leave. So the Fed has to get off their butts and start doing something. Thing is this is bigger government so lets see what the Tea party has to say to that.
    3) While immigrants have created a lot of jobs most of the jobs must have been created from immigrants coming here to study or on an h1-B visa’s and who then launch startups. Namely high tech immigrants and not illegal immigrants.

    I am curious why the state has not imposed harsher penalties on companies hiring illegals. I would appreciate anyone being able to add color on that.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Dan and Jonah, I’ve known aliens who were here on student visas who overstayed their visas and eventually launched startups. Besides, the new law in Arizona doesn’t just affect illegal immigrants, it harasses anyone who sounds or looks like an immigrant. Starluna makes an excellent point.

    And Jonah, I was not thanking the Fed for making illegal immigration go down, I was just pointing out that there is no pressing reason why Arizona had to act now, other than political.

    And I’m sure the Tea Party is going to be all for this Arizona law, once Fox News tells them to be for it.

    Arizona doesn’t impose harsher penalties on companies hiring illegals, because much of their economy depends on being able to hire cheap illegal labor. They know this new law won’t reduce illegal immigration, it will just allow them to claim they are doing something about illegal immigration. Another cynical attempt to pander to voters without actually doing anything.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    Jonah – history has shown that few to none of the international terrorists that have been involved in successful attacks or have been stopped before attempting anything were unlawful entrants (e.g. those who have “cross the border” illegally). The vast majority are lawful entrants, in roughly equal proportions of visa overstayers, current visa holders, and legal permanent residents (e.g. green card holders).

    I do an exercise in my law and crime and law and social justice classes where I ask students to prove to me that they are U.S. citizens. The fact is, I don’t have to believe that the birth certificate, passport, or any other form of ID you show me is in fact yours. I can choose to believe that you bought them on the black market. Some of my colleagues at my university’s law school are working on a number of cases of U.S. citizens who have been illegally detained by ICE and are waiting for someone (no one is exactly sure who) to believe that their “papers” are in fact theirs.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  7. starluna – the exact same thing happened in Prince William County, Virginia in 2007. They tried passing an ordinance virtually identical to the new law in Arizona, and it wasn’t until several local businesses shut down, property values fell, and Prince William County became the #1 county in VA in foreclosures that public backlash shifted to rescinding the law. They ended up with a compromise law that limited the police’s authority’s to ask for proof of citizenship only from people who’ve already been arrested for another crime, not just anyone on the street (which wasn’t an ideal solution, but the best one they could muster politically). There’s a whole documentary on it, made by a couple of friends of mine – it’s called, ’9500 Liberty’.

    Iron Knee – i have a feeling the Tea Party and Fox News are going to treat this the same they’ve treated traditional culture war issues. you get a lot of strongly-worded language from moralistic diatribes about it, and just as with other culture war issues, the GOP leadership takes them along for the ride while the only people the party leaders actually listening to are the business/investor elites, who don’t feel any one way strongly on this issue. eventually, the issue dies down a bit, but come election time, it’s easy enough to resurrect.

    Daniel Habtemariam

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sure enough, the Tea Party supports the big-government police state. In fact, the sponsor of the bill is a Tea Party supporter. See http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/04/tea_parties_backing_the_arizon.html and http://thinkprogress.org/2010/04/27/arizona-tea-parties/

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Jonah wrote:

    LOL at the tea party supporting this. The republicans are probably stuck between a rock and a hard place. They will gain the support of the fringe element of the tea party and lose the support of ALL immigrants and probably centrists with common sense. In fact the fringe element of the tea party is the best thing that could have happened to the Democrats. A seemingly sane republican party with deficit reduction as a goal would probably be a shoe-in. Thanks to the fringe element centrists are probably thinking twice. The immigrant vote IMO is firmly Democratic in November.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  10. Benedikt wrote:

    I really enjoy your blog, but this entry is a sad example for the cruel distortion some comparisons do to history.
    “but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying ‘Show me your papers?’”
    No, we most definitely can’t. Sadly, a lot of things “more Nazi” come to my mind. My suggestion would be to call the new law racist and not to compare it to a scenario in which the people with the wrong parents got murdered.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Benedikt, you’re quoting Seth Myers, not me. If you read what I said about that (in the first paragraph), I said that the new law reminded me of WWII movies where Nazis demanded that people show their papers. But I did not call the new law Nazi, I called it racist, just like you requested.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  12. starluna wrote:

    Benedikt – just so you know, at least 110 people have died in ICE custody between October 2003 and March 2010. And those are the only ones that they will admit to because journalists, lawyers, and families members are making these cases public. These numbers do not include the deaths that occurred in police custody while waiting for transfer to ICE detention centers. There are at least a dozen such cases being investigated right now on in the northeast.

    You are right that this isn’t the same as Nazi death camps. ICE and the private contractors managing these detention centers are not nearly as organized or systematic in their recordkeeping. But if you knew anything about the treatment of detainees, you might see some uncomfortable parallels.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:43 am | Permalink