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Monday, June 30, 2008

Democrats Vote to Increase Homeland Security Budget

Democrats Vote to Increase Homeland Security Budget Each year the Bush administration submits a Department of Homeland Security budget that’s substantially larger than the previous year.
The president’s 2009 budget calls for a 6% increase in DHS spending including a 19% spending increase for immigration enforcement and border security. For the past couple of years the Democratic leadership in Congress sent back to the president DHS spending bills that were billions of dollars higher than the president’s own proposed DHS budget.
Rather than putting the breaks on Homeland Security spending on the immigration crackdown, the Democrats in the appropriations and homeland security committees of the House and Senate routinely increase DHS funding beyond the annual rasies proposed by the Bush administration.
This year the Democrats, eager to show their credentials as hardliners in border security and immigration enforcement will be sending back to President Bush a DHS budget for 2009 that will be at least a couple of billion dollars more than he requested.
“We plan to send the president a bill that exceeds his request, and I hope that he again has the wisdom to sign it,” said Appropriations Chairman Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia (Politico, June 17).
The House Appropriations Committee has approved a DHS budget that adds about $2.3 billion to the president’s request, while its counterpart in the Senate approved a $2.46 addition to the president’s 2009 proposed budget.
With the Democratic leadership on the appropriations and homeland securities behind the increases – and with no opposition from the Republicans – it’s likely that the entire House and Senate memberships will approve a multibillion dollar increase in the DHS budget when it comes up for a vote later this summer.
Both in the House and the Senate, Democrats were adamant that the DHS needed more funding to pursue “criminal aliens.”
Cong. David Price (D-NC), head of the House’s homeland security spending panel, has been a leading proponent for increased DHS attention to criminal aliens. "The department should be as zealous in deporting criminals as it is in disrupting immigrant employment," Price says. "In fact, it should be more zealous."
North Carolina is beset with anti-immigrant fever. County governments have lined up to sign 287(g) agreements with Homeland Security; and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a major supporter of involving local police in immigration enforcement, is stoking anti-immigrant fever in her hate-filled election campaign. She is betting that anti-immigrant sentiment will boost her chances against Kay Hagan, a strong Democratic challenger.
The target of Dole’s first television ad was illegal immigrants. North Carolina is home to the restrictionist Americans for Legal Immigration.
North Carolina’s Cong. David Price was also successful last year in raising Homeland Security funding for programs that target criminal immigrants, such as the Fugitive Operations Teams, Criminal Alien Program, and 287(g) agreements between DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local governments.
“Criminal aliens” are an easy target for politicians wanting to increase their standing among constituencies that are applauding the intensifying immigration crackdown. ICE dragnets for criminal aliens are so wide that citizens, legal residents, and many hard-working immigrants are being swept up in supposedly targeted crackdowns.
Homeland Security is increasingly criminalizing all unauthorized immigrants by indicting and sentencing immigrants for what were formerly considered misdemeanors or administrative violations. So those Democrats and Republicans eager to increase the DHS budget under the rationale that they are simply targeting criminal immigrants are just another factor in ramping up the immigrant crackdown.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, a member of the Senate's Homeland Security committee, has a particular responsibility to speak out against the mounting war on immigrants that is being fought under the cover of homeland security.
Photo: North Carolina's Cong. David Price

Friday, June 27, 2008

Benefits of Legalization

Spending on immigration enforcement has been rapidly rising since 1986, when Congress passed the Immigration Control and Reform Act (IRCA). In 1985 Congress appropriated $1 billion for enforcement operations. Today, the federal government – mainly the Department of Homeland Security but also the Justice Department –spends about $13 billion in immigration enforcement and border control. (See my Paying the Price of the Immigration Crackdown.) Rather than attempt to integrate the population of 12-13 million illegal immigrants, the government, following the lead of the immigration restrictionists, has stepped up enforcement in a war of attrition against the immigrant community. Human rights and church activists have long warned of the heavy moral and humanitarian cost of an immigration policy that seeks the removal of this large community of mostly hard-working residents. But the ever-increasing price tag of the administration’s enforcement-only immigration policy should raise new questions about the strictly financial costs and benefits of an immigration policy that focuses exclusively on detention and removal. What is the alternative? Wouldn’t legalization of the unauthorized population result in increased government expenditures, especially in social services such a public health care, social security, food stamps, and Medicare? According to the Congressional Budget Office, the comprehensive reform package considered by the Senate in 2007 that included a pathway toward legalization would cost the country $27.7 billion over ten years in federal expenditures for entitlement programs. But the CBO pointed out that new revenue would also be flowing into the U.S. Treasury since regularized and legalized workers would become more integrated into the U.S. economy. What are now illegal aliens would if legalized begin paying more taxes and would often receive higher wages – adding up to an estimated $48.3 billion in new revenues from immigrants. “The combined effect of the increases in entitlement spending and revenues is to reduce the [federal government’s] deficit over the next ten years by $25.6 billion,” concluded the CBO. In the case of Social Security, legalization would increase expenditures by only $1.2 million over the next ten years because of the relative youth of the undocumented population. In the long run, expenditures would increase as these workers age. But during the ten years after legalization, newly legal workers would contribute $57.1 billion to Social Security. The CBO concluded: “Enactment of the Senate immigration legislation [authorizing a legalization process] is likely to modestly improve the outlook for Social Security trust funds and the ability of Social Security to provide promised benefits to current citizens.”
Photo: Agriprocessors workers arrested by ICE in Postville, Iowa/Postville Register

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fear & Loathing in Anti-Immigration Movement

Immigration restrictionists, pumped up by their long string of victories at all levels of government, are pushing their “attrition through enforcement” with increasing vengeance. Having seen the pro-immigration forces swept aside in the anti-immigration onslaught, restrictionist groups have sharpened their rhetoric and escalated their demands.
Moving beyond their security-first, enforcement-first agenda, restrictionists now insist that all government agencies join together in a mounting a pyschological warfare against immigrants. NumbersUSA, whose influence has soared since its key role in mobilizing grassroots anti-immigration activists against the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill last year, has spearheaded the “Attrition Though Enforcement” agenda that now unifies the restrictionist forces.
It’s also an agenda that the Senate’s new Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus (see June 24 blog post) has taken up as part of the Republican offensive, led by Sen. Elizabeth Dole and other southern senators, to broaden and intensify the going immigrant crackdown.
Illustrative of the new fear-mongering language used by even the most established restrictionists, Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, says: “To be effective at discouraging future illegal immigration, enforcement cannot be limited to tracking and deporting violent criminal illegal aliens. All illegal aliens, no matter how well-behaved they are, must fear detection and arrest if enforcement is to be a deterrent to illegal immigration.”
Restrictionists have no problem with big and bigger government when it comes to the immigration crackdown. They call for ever-larger increases in the Department of Homeland Security’s budget and demand that Congress appropriate enough funds to underwrite immigration enforcement by local police. “Dozens of law enforcement agencies are blocked from cracking down on illegal immigration because Congress in the past failed to appropriate enough money,” says Beck.
While the main restrictionist organizations have until recently focused almost exclusively on illegal immigrants, the anti-immigrant ideology that underlies their restrictionism is becoming increasingly evident. With the crackdown on illegal immigrants well underway, they are now urging Americans to reconsider their openness to legal immigrants as well.
Mark Krikorian, easily the most frequently quoted restrictionist in the media, has published a new book, The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal, in which he lays out his case that America should shut the door to all immigrants.
According to Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, “Obviously, different kinds of immigrants will have diff erent impacts; an illegal alien, for instance, undermines the rule of law but places less of a burden on government ser vices than an otherwise similar legal immigrant.
“Likewise, a skilled immigrant does not have trouble learning and speaking English, but he may be more susceptible than his low- skilled counterpart to a politics of ethnic grievance and be more able to pursue dual citizenship and a transnational lifestyle.”
Heaven forbid, a transnational lifestyle.
Photo: Detained immigrants in Val Verde County Jail.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Movement's Legal Arm

How are law and policy made? A look at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) is instructive on both counts. The institute is the legal branch of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the oldest restrictionist institute in Washington, DC. FAIR’s president Dan Stein previously was executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute. ILRI made national news recently with its anti-racketeering lawsuit filed against a property-management company that leases apartments to illegal immigrants. Also this week a story in the Los Angeles Times took note of the institute’s role in shaping anti-immigrant bills that are being passed by a bevy of state legislatures. IRLI says it “seeks to defend the rule of law.” It does this through lawsuits that seek to add an anti-immigrant bias to current laws and by encouraging state governments to institute new anti-immigrant laws. IRLI boasts that it is “America's only public interest law organization working exclusively to protect the legal rights, privileges, and property of U.S. citizens and their communities from injuries and damages caused by unlawful immigration.” It contends that the “injuries caused by illegal aliens in your community have become a growing crisis in communities nationwide.” The new federal lawsuit filed by ILRI challenges the right of landlords to rent to illegal immigrants. In the suit against a Connolly Properties in Plainfield, NJ, the institute seeks to establish a legal precedent that cities can use to punish landlords who have undocumented tenants. ILRI contends that the company’s practice of leasing to illegal immigrants is tantamount to unlawful harboring and should be considering a criminal enterprise – thus the use of federal racketeering law. ILRI has previously worked with town officials in Hazelton, Pa. and Riverside, N.J. to support ordinances that aimed to penalize landlords who rented to illegal immigrants. A judged ruled the Hazelton ordinance unconstitutional, and Riverside officials rescinded the ordinance. Michael Hethmon, IRLI’s general counsel and director, said his group decided to take the case as part of its strategy of “attrition through enforcement,” or urging illegal immigrants to leave the country by making it more difficult for them to find employment and housing. “We have felt for a long time that the racketeering statute would be useful in dealing with situations where businesses and commercial enterprises were heavily involved with illegal immigration,” Mr. Hethmon said. “We’ve also felt that individual citizens, communities, neighborhoods and law-abiding small businesses have always needed tools with which they can defend themselves against the harmful effects of illegal immigration.” Outside the courtroom ILRI is working with a growing number of state governments in designing anti-immigrant laws that hold up to legal challenges. “Since 2001, state and local governments have played a growing role in the struggle of American citizens against illegal immigration,” ILRI explains. “IRLI lawyers have specialized expertise in the development and drafting of immigration enforcement and relief measures being considered by state legislatures and local governments.” In the last year and a half, ILRI has assisted Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and other states in shaping anti-immigrant measures. “We see this state and local activity as not only effective in itself . . . but there's also the long effect as, one by one, these states line up," Hethmon said. "As these jurisdictions confront this issue, it builds up a positive and helpful kind of pressure on Congress."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Immigration Restrictionists Caucus in U.S. Senate

The House has its restrictionist Immigration Reform Caucus, and its counterpart in the Senate is the recently formed Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus.
According to its mission statement: “The Caucus is a platform to let Americans know that some in the U. S. Senate are continuing to make sure that the laws already on the books will be enforced, act as the voice of those concerned citizens who have expressed their opinions time and time again for interior enforcement and border security, push for stronger boarder security and interior enforcement legislation, and work together in the U.S. Senate to defeat future legislation that may be considered amnesty.”
Headed up by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the caucus is calling for “full Senate consideration” of 15 restrictionist bills, many of them sponsored by Sessions. One bill spearheaded by Sessions calls for a “mandatory minimum” sentence for those who illegally enter the United States ranging from 10 days for a first-time violation to 20 years for “felons and repeat offenders.” The caucus says that each bill in the “enforcement-focused package represents a specific step toward: securing America’s borders; increasing enforcement at the workplace; and ultimately, restoring law and order to our nation’s broken immigration system.” The bills are described as “achievable, bite-sized steps that the Republican coalition believes a bi-partisan Congress should be able to accomplish between now and November.”
The Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus has adopted the "attrition through enforcement" strategy favored by restrictionionist groups such as Numbers USA, Center for Immigration Studies, and Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Copying the language found on NumbersUSA website, the caucus says: “The principal mission of the Caucus is to promote a true, achievable alternative: attrition through enforcement. Living illegally in the United States will become more difficult and less satisfying over time when the government – at ALL LEVELS – enforces all of the laws already on the books.”
Explaining why he joined the Caucus, Sen. Isakson elevate border security as the number one concern of Americans. “There’s no greater domestic issue in this country,” he said, “than the problems on our southern border with Mexico, and it is time that Congress makes a commitment to make border security a reality…America is too important, and this issue is too critical to the American people.”
Photo: Sen. Sessions presenting his anti-immigration bills at caucus press conference.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Maquila Industry Symptom of Mexico’s Dependent Development

There’s nothing wrong with seeking to spur national development through increased integration with the global economy. More than most developing countries, Mexico has had plenty of time to develop a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization. More than four decades after the maquila sector started in Mexico – with the Twin Plant program in Juárez-El Paso in 1965 – maquilas remain mostly an enclave industry with few productive ties to the national economy. Rather than shaping the maquila sector with forward-looking development policy that would increase industry inputs and use maquila as a base for a less dependent industrial sector, Mexico has been satisfied with the low-wage employment provided by the maquilas. Downturns in U.S. consumption reverberate directly through the country’s maquilas, which started 2008 employing 2.4 million workers. César Castro, president of the National Maquila Industry Council, now predicts zero growth in maquila exports in 2008. But that’s an optimistic projection. In January 2008 Castro was predicting that the 5-6% growth rate in 2007 would hold in 2008, despite a stagnating U.S. economy. It’s likely that by year’s end, however, the maquila sector will be severely shaken by the deepening U.S. recession. Going Back Home As the U.S. economy stagnates and the automobile industry nosedives, the maquila sector is suffering. In Juárez, 18,443 workers have lost their jobs already this year as maquilas shut down or pull back. Tens of thousands of other maquila workers in this border city with El Paso have agreed to cutbacks so as to maintain their jobs. While maquila exports to the EU are increasing – up 15-20% in the last year – because of the attractive peso-Euro exchange rate, the recessionary market in the U.S. is taking its toll throughout Mexico. Hardest hit thus far are the automobile parts assembly plants, especially those that export parts for gas-guzzling brands produced by Ford and GM. Pharmaceuticals, electronics, and airplane parts are expected to weather the U.S. downturn, but most other sectors, such as homebuilding supplies, will be feeling the pain. In the past, maquila workers would often leave their jobs to migrate to the United States. But the immigration crackdown and hard times in the U.S. – particularly in hard-hit industries like construction that employ immigrants – have dissuaded Mexicans from making the trip north. Alan Tello, director of the Center for Economic and Social Information (CIES), said that 80% of the laid-off maquila workers in Juárez are heading back to their home communities. Indicative of reduced incentives to emigrate, Jesús José Díaz Monarrez, secretary general of the CTM’s Northern Workers Federation, pointed to only three options for laid-off maquila workers: “enter the subterranean economy [informal sector], return to you place of origin, or aggravate the public safety problem.” Rather than admitting its time to leave behind its dependent development strategy, the Mexican government has collaborated with the maquila sector in extending the export industry into the country’s interior – selling poverty-stricken rural areas as a “mini-China.” After the last U.S. recession in 2001-2002 when maquila employment dropped 21% with many plants relocating in China, Mexico increased its promotion of rural Mexico as an attractive option for businesses looking for wage levels lower than found in the border cities. Some maquila owners agreed. “You do not even need to go to South Mexico to get to ‘little China,’” said Doug Donahue, a partner in a San Antonio-based maquila investment firm, which owns a maquila in Durango. “Durango, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas are all within eight hours of the border and all have very competitive labor rates that can compete with China.” Mexico has also given special tax exemptions and tax breaks to the maquila sector. The government has temporarily exempted (until 2012) most of the industry from the recent IETU tax with the so-called “maquila decree.” Even so the maquila sector representatives are warning that maquilas will leave the country in mass if maquilas are not permanently exempt from the tax. The PAN government under Vicente Fox also agreed to the liberalization of NAFTA “rules of origin,” allowing an even higher percentage of maquila inputs to come from outside North America. The maquila sector is a dependency runs through the country’s economic core – accounting for 84% of the country’s manufactured exports and 49% of the country’s imports (as inputs for the assembled exports). Already, before the worst has hit, forecasts of Mexico’s economic growth are being calculated downward – dropping from 3.3% in 2007 to 1.9% in 2008. Perfect Storm There’s the oft-quoted saying about Mexico catching a cold when the U.S. sneezes. But Mexico faces more than a bad cold. What’s more worrisome is that a perfect storm may be forming: declining growth, sharp decreases in remittances, looming credit card crisis, frightening state of the country’s petroleum sector, highly vulnerable maquila sector, and the spreading drug violence. Certainly, the U.S. economy can be rightly blamed for the recent drop in immigrant remittances and rise in maquila unemployment. And drug consumption patterns and illegal arms trade fuel the drug wars. But Mexico’s own development model – or lack thereof –should be a focus of reflection about its economic ills. Mexico has had more than four decades to build an export sector that fosters endogenous industry, but industry in Mexico has become increasingly an extension of foreign, mainly U.S., companies that are only indirectly integrated in the national economy. The maquila industry, initially designed to employ the migrant population accumulating on the northern border (many of whom were returned from the U.S. after the end of the Bracero program), was in its early years an aberration from Mexico’s import-substitution, state-directed economy. But over the last couple of decades it has become the embodiment of Mexico’s dependent, heartless, and ruthless economic policy. Across Mexico, but especially along the border, government officials and business associations are downplaying the maquila layoffs. But as a June 23 editorial in the Juárez’s El Diario warns the government: “If you don’t provide a community with employment, and rather you began to lose jobs, any crisis – like the [drug] violence that confronts the state – is likely to worsen, since the affected areas become yet more vulnerable when besides other social problems unemployment surges.”