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The Politics of Immigration

The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers

Jane Guskin
David L. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Immigration
    Book Description:

    In the spring of 2006, millions of immigrants and supporters organized in cities and small towns across the United States to defend their rights following the passage of HR4437, a bill designed to punish unauthorized immigrants. In an unprecedented show of force, tens of thousands of workers marched out of meatpacking plants, factories, restaurants, landscape businesses and stores, while students - many of them the US-born children of immigrants - staged school walkouts. Thousands also observed a one-day national consumer boycott to demonstrate the economic power of immigrant communities.The spring 2006 mobilizations - and the ensuing backlash from anti-immigrant sectors - pushed the topic of immigration to the front and center of U.S. politics. Polls show the public increasingly divided, with the debate framed as a choice between deport them all and give everyone amnesty. But dialogue is possible when we dig deeper. Why are people leaving their homes? Why are they coming here? What is the impact of our current enforcement policies? What kinds of alternatives exist?Backed with a wide range of cited sources, The Politics of Immigration tackles questions and concerns about immigration with compelling arguments and hard facts, laid out in straightforward language and an accessible question-and-answer format.For immigrants and supporters, the book is an effective tool to confront common myths and misinformation. For teachers, it provides a useful framework on the current debate, and ample opportunities for students to reach out and explore the intersecting issues.Those who believe immigrants steal jobs from citizens, drive down wages, strain public services, and threaten our culture will find such assumptions challenged here, while people who are undecided about immigration will find the solid data and clear reasoning they need to develop an informed opinion.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-405-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-10)
  3. Preface: Is the United States a Nation of Immigrants?
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. Authors’ Notes
    (pp. 13-14)
  5. 1 Who Are the Immigrants?
    (pp. 15-20)

    Immigrants are people who move from one country to another in order to settle there. U.S. government agencies distinguish between immigrants, visitors, and “non-immigrants,” including temporary workers and foreign students. But in reality, some “non-immigrants” come planning to settle down, while others plan to leave but end up staying.

    The government and many journalists use the term “alien” to cover all the different types of people who come here. Demographers—people who study populations and how they change—prefer to call them “foreign born,” because “alien” also means strange and different.

    Demographers use the term “authorized migrants” or “authorized immigrants”...

  6. 2 Why Do People Immigrate?
    (pp. 21-30)

    Some people are nomadic and don’t settle down in one place for any length of time. But most people prefer to remain in one area and build a stable community there. Sometimes people are uprooted from their homes by violence, or by economic, social, or political pressures. This “forced displacement” can push people from rural areas into cities or refugee camps, from one region to another, or across borders into other countries.

    The Irish potato famine of the mid-1800s led about one million Irish people to seek survival elsewhere; hundreds of thousands came to the United States. The first wave...

  7. 3 Does the United States Welcome Refugees?
    (pp. 31-38)

    Many people consider a refiigee to be anyone who has fled his or her country to escape unbearable circumstances. Immigrants are sometimes described as “refugees of the global economy,” to draw attention to the way economic conditions are displacing people from their homelands.

    The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees describes a refugee in much narrower terms: someone who has left their country “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion,” and whose government cannot or will not protect them. In...

  8. 4 Why Can’t They Just “Get Legal”?
    (pp. 39-50)

    “Illegality” has become one of the main cries raised by people who oppose immigration. They say they aren’t against immigrants, they are just against “illegals.” They try to convince us that the world is divided into two camps: good “legal” immigrants and bad “illegal” immigrants.

    Being without status is not a permanent condition. People who arrive legally may fall out of status. Some who were once undocumented have become U.S. citizens. Asylum seekers who are ordered deported can win asylum in the appeals courts and eventually gain permanent residency. And immigrants who have had permanent resident status for many years...

  9. 5 Is It Easy to Be “Illegal”?
    (pp. 51-62)

    Living in the United States without valid immigration status was never easy, but it has become extremely difficult over the past decade as politicians have enacted a multitude of anti-immigrant laws at the federal, state, and local level. In most states, laws block out-of-status immigrants from seeking drivers licenses. Immigrants who lack documents may have trouble finding a place to live, opening a bank account, applying for jobs, registering for school, or getting medical treatment. They must often avoid traveling, since buses, trains, and even private cars may be stopped by officers checking immigration documents.

    Such restrictions force many out-of-status...

  10. 6 Are Immigrants Hurting Our Economy?
    (pp. 63-72)

    When they first come to the United States, some immigrants may get more out of the system than they put in. This is because they tend to be younger than the population as a whole; like most younger working people, they make less money and pay less taxes at the same time that they are raising children—most of them U.S.-born citizens—who go to school and benefit from public health services.

    The National Academy of Sciences calculated in 1997 that households headed by immigrants were costing households headed by native-born citizens some $166 to $226 a year, mostly in...

  11. 7 Is Immigration Bad for Our Health, Environment, or Culture?
    (pp. 73-82)

    The myth that immigrants endanger public health is mostly based on the idea that dangerous infectious diseases are brought here by immigrants from impoverished “third world” countries. In fact, the main threats to life and health in the United States—heart disease, cancer, injuries, and diabetes, to name a few—aren’t communicable diseases, and their root causes are right here at home.

    As for the kind of diseases that we may associate with poorer countries, immigrants aren’t any more likely to bring them here than are U.S. citizens who travel abroad and return. (U.S. authorities don’t routinely screen people for...

  12. 8 Are Immigrants a Threat?
    (pp. 83-94)

    “Few stereotypes of immigrants are as enduring, or have been proven so categorically false over literally decades of research, as the notion that immigrants are disproportionately likely to engage in criminal activity,” stated a 1997 paper jointly sponsored by two Washington-based nonpartisan research organizations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Urban Institute. In fact, the results of these decades of research “are surprisingly unambiguous: immigrants are disproportionately unlikely to be criminal.”¹

    A 1998 study analyzed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports and Census Bureau data from several dozen U.S. metropolitan areas and confirmed that recent immigrants...

  13. 9 Enforcement: Is It a Solution?
    (pp. 95-108)

    It’s not at all clear that immigration—even unauthorized immigration—is a problem. But enforcement is certainly not a solution. Drug enforcement has not helped to curb addiction (which unlike immigration, has a negative impact on society).¹ Enforcement tactics waste taxpayer money, violate people’s human rights, and generate greater profits for those involved in the trafficking underworld. Drug enforcement makes drug smugglers rich, and immigration enforcement makes people smugglers rich. When one trafficker is jailed, others step in to take the customers and the profits. And there are always corrupt government agents willing to help the trade prosper.

    Enforcement creates...

  14. 10 What About “Guest Worker” and Amnesty Programs?
    (pp. 109-120)

    The debate over immigration “reform” in the United States has included a lot of talk about expanding temporary worker or “guest worker” programs. These programs allow people to come here for temporary or seasonal jobs, and require them to go home when the job is done.

    Temporary worker programs do nothing to resolve the status of millions of immigrants who have already established their lives here and want to stay. Such programs also create a sub-class of workers who are effectively unable to defend their rights. Some critics compare these programs to a modern form of slavery, because workers are...

  15. 11 Why Do We Jail and Deport Immigrants?
    (pp. 121-132)

    Two 1996 immigration laws—the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act—made deportation mandatory for many immigrants, stripping judges of their authority to determine whether someone should be allowed to stay in the United States. The new laws led to a dramatic increase in the number of people getting deported, from 69,680 in fiscal year 1996 to a high of 202,842 in fiscal year 2004. From fiscal years 1996 through 2006, more than 1.8 million immigrants were deported. While many are deported shortly after they arrive, at least a quarter of...

  16. 12 Can We Open Our Borders?
    (pp. 133-142)

    The term “open borders” can mean different things to different people, and it is often viewed in a negative light. But what we’re talking about is freedom of movement—a basic human right.

    Open borders usually mean the unrestricted movement of people between nations, but can also sometimes mean the free passage of material goods. Borders still exist, and each country has its own laws, government, and sovereignty. In some cases, no immigration or customs controls exist. In other cases, controls remain, but people are allowed to travel freely from one country to another.

    Open borders can also mean a...

  17. Resources
    (pp. 143-146)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 147-169)
  19. Index
    (pp. 170-176)