This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 21

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Week Ended August 21

This week in immigration reform: We highlight new resources out this week; Migration Policy Institute releases a report on the most recent unauthorized immigration trends; The Pew Charitable Trusts examines states issuing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants; The Center for American Progress determines how much it would cost to deport all 11.3 unauthorized individuals. NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in Politico, NBC News, CNN, and La Opinión.

Migration Policy Institute releases report on unauthorized immigration trends: This week, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released a new report entitledAn Analysis of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States by Country and Region of Birth.” The report, looking at unauthorized immigration as a whole, found that unauthorized immigrants have shown more diffuse settlement trends in the past decade, as 41 states now have a “significant” population of unauthorized immigrants. Mexico is still the largest originating nation with 6.1 million unauthorized immigrants, followed by Guatemala (704,000), El Salvador (436,000), and Honduras (317,000). However, the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has only increased by 29 percent since 2000, down from 136 percent growth during the 1990’s. MPI also notes that over 80 percent of unauthorized immigrants originating from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras who were immediately eligible for DACA have applied for enrollment, which is attributed to strong outreach by consulates and extensive Spanish-language media and services. A new report looks at DACA’s economic benefit to Illinois and the critical role that service providers play in the success of the implementation of DACA.

Pew report looks at how states are handling driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants:  A new report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts examines the different policies and procedures of the ten states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. In their report, Pew identifies four key areas for consideration for policymakers to decide whether and how to issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants: scope, eligibility standards, issuance procedures, and outreach and education. Pew also found that 37 percent of all unauthorized immigrants live in a state which allows them to obtain driver’s licenses.

The Center for American Progress puts price tag on deporting all unauthorized immigrants at $114 billion: Using an average cost of $10,070 per person, analysis by the Center for American Progress estimates that a mass deportation strategy for all 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants would be $114 billion. This includes costs to find each individual, detain individuals while waiting for removal, processing these individuals through the immigration courts, and transportation costs. Factoring in the cost to the overall economy, however, and that number swells to between $420 billion and $620 billion over the span, according to the American Action Fund (AAF).

The Bipartisan Policy Center calculates that deporting all 11.3 unauthorized immigrants would shrink the labor force by over 6 percent during those 20 years, and the AAF estimates that the US GDP would shrink by $1.6 trillion.

First Recommendations for Integrating New Americans Issued

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This week, the Task Force on New Americans issued its first report to President Obama, recommending ways that the federal government can more effectively support the successful integration of new Americans. As part of the president’s executive actions announced last November to address the nation’s broken immigration system, the Task Force was formed to recommend federal strategies that will strengthen communities and maximize the contributions of immigrants, who today represent nearly one-fifth of the U.S. labor force.

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States experienced a massive and unprecedented wave of immigration that, in relative terms, has yet to be equaled. According to the Migration Policy Institute, from 1860 to 1920 immigrants composed 13–15% of the U.S. population. Starting in 2013, for the first time in a century, the immigrant share of the U.S. population once again approached historic highs.

As with previous waves of immigrants, these new Americans face a number of obstacles. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that nearly half of the legal immigrants arriving annually to the U.S. lack full proficiency in English, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that over two-thirds of the foreign-born population do not have a postsecondary degree. This is troubling, since 19 of the 30 fastest-growing occupations require some form of higher education or additional training.

Marlene-SeptThe response toward these new arrivals has been lackluster compared to previous generations. The successful incorporation of millions of newcomers into the fabric of our society a century ago is one of our country’s signature achievements. These immigrants did not do it on their own; rather, they received significant help from all levels of government and charitable institutions. Today, as success requires higher levels of educational attainment and English language proficiency, our nation has moved away from providing a coordinated government response to help immigrants integrate into American life. The work of the Task Force on New Americans implicitly acknowledges that more must be done.

Among the report’s recommendations from NCLR and other stakeholders, it calls for the creation of a Welcoming Communities Challenge. Inspired by an NCLR recommendation, this competitive funding opportunity would encourage communities to create tailored plans to meet immigrants’ needs in addressing civic, linguistic, and economic integration. While the details are still under review, this challenge would encourage recipients to design programs for local conditions that could provide innovative models for scalable, replicable projects in the future. Without being overly prescriptive, the Welcoming Communities Challenge would highlight best practices that coordinate the three pillars of integration. Immigrants and communities alike would benefit from the inclusion of civic, linguistic, and economic integration in a cohesive policy.

We know too well that questions about who, and how many, should be allowed to enter the country will always be controversial, but there should be no debate about our shared interest in rapidly and fully integrating Americans-in-waiting. Our future economic prosperity, national security, and social cohesion rest in part on how well we meet this challenge.

GOP Supports Immigration Executive Action Redux

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR  

DACA_anniversaryblog_pic1This week we’re taking a trip down memory lane and celebrating how two years ago, young people across the country came forward and began applying for work permits and temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA has allowed young people who meet certain criteria to come forward and continue the contributions they have been making to the country they call home. As a new report from the Migration Policy Institute states, more than 587,000 people have received DACA.

If we continued our trip down memory lane, we would see that there was a time when some Republicans in the House of Representatives weren’t attacking DREAMers and trying to take away their temporary relief. In 1999, Congressman Lamar Smith (R–Texas) and others were urging Attorney General Reno to use prosecutorial discretion and to intervene on behalf of immigrants who were facing deportation. Brian Beutler describes those times in The New Republic today. In the article, Beutler links to a letter (below) from Smith and concludes that Smith’s argument could be applied today and that “you could use the same language to push the Obama administration to initiate or expand a program like DACA.”

Lamar Smith Janet Reno letter by The New Republic

Attorneys, law school professors, and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, among others, have stated recently that the president has the ability to act to protect people from deportations. In an op-ed this week, immigration attorney David Leopold wrote, “Critics like to say that the availability of employment authorization or the use of forms and fees pushes the DACA process or its expansion over the blurry line from lawful discretion to executive lawlessness. But they conveniently forget (or are not aware) that the president’s authority to authorize employment of immigrants is long-standing and already well-established in the law.”

As we have learned from DACA, allowing individuals who have been in the United States, contributing and removing the daily fear of deportation from their lives, is a transformative experience. More than half a million young people are now able to obtain work permits, allowing them to earn and contribute more than before, and they are able to get drivers licenses and state IDs that allow them to feel as though they are finally being recognized. Given that House Republican leadership has failed to provide a needed solution that the American public supports, President Obama must act to provide relief. As he said, the American people don’t want him twiddling his thumbs, and doing nothing is untenable. Reform is imperative and it can be achieved partly by means other than legislation.

Carlos Rosario International Public School Recognized for Adult Education Programs

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Kudos to the Carlos Rosario International Public School, a member of the national NCLR Affiliate Network in Washington, DC! The school won an award for its outstanding adult education programs from the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. MPI recently announced that Carlos Rosario was one of four winners of its 2013 E Pluribus Unum Prizes for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives. As an award recipient, the school will receive a $50,000 grant.

“This is terrific news. The Carlos Rosario International Public School is a culturally vibrant learning center that has helped thousands of immigrants gain the work skills they need to find good jobs and build stable lives in Washington, DC,” said Sonia Pérez, NCLR Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives.  Continue reading

The Gang of Eight vs. the Gang of Nay

By Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director, Civic Engagement and Immigration, NCLR

MartinezdeCastro_uploadThis week, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed for Politico on why he is voting no on the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill.  Sen. Paul is one of a group of senators who profess to want immigration reform yet never managed to support anything close to it.  With his new rationale, he joins the “Gang of Nay,” the hard-core opponents of reform, including Senators Sessions (R-Ala.), Cornyn (R-Texas), Cruz (R-Texas), and Vitter (R-La.), all of whom contend that there isn’t enough in the bill to secure the border.

Not enough?  Someone who has not followed the immigration issue would believe this was all being done because our country has ignored border enforcement.  And to hear the border-obsessed senators talk, you would think that they are the first people to come up with the idea of doing something about the border.  There’s just one problem with this line of thinking:  it flies completely in the face of the facts.

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