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May 16, 2011 1:23 pm

Thoughts on Immigration from a Liberal With Sanity

avatar by Ed Koch

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Sign just north of the USA-Mexico border. Photo: Kevin Walsh.

Those who support amnesty for illegal aliens and want to provide them with “a path to citizenship” are engaged in a new effort to make those goals a reality before the next election.  President Obama is leading the way.  He deserves credit for keeping his word to support programs that would safeguard our borders, while making clear he intends to resume the battle to legalize the status of the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens now in the U.S.  He calls his program, as did his predecessor President Bush before him, comprehensive immigration reform.

According to The New York Times of May 10, one of the programs that President Bush started and President Obama continued “has been a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts.”  It is known as the Secure Communities program. Under that program, described by The Times of May 10, “the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local or county jail are automatically sent to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in the agency’s databases.  If officials discover that a suspect is in the country illegally, or is a non-citizen immigrant with a criminal record, they may seek to deport the person.”

Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn recently stated he no longer wants to participate in the program.  Governor Paterson in 2010 put New York State in the program and 24 of New York’s 62 counties signed on to be part of it.  The City of New York did not join in the program.  A group of 38 New York state lawmakers recently sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, urging him to opt out of the program.  Nineteen members of the New York City Council had already sent a similar letter.

When I was Mayor, I issued three executive orders which all three mayors after me reissued.  They were, one, that illegal immigrants could safely go to New York City Health and Hospitals facilities if in need of medical care without fear of the agency turning their names over to immigration authorities.  Two, that illegal aliens could safely send their children to public school with the same assurance; and third, that if an illegal alien was the victim of a crime, he or she could report it to the police, and unless the illegal alien was guilty of some crime other than being in the U.S. illegally, he or she could similarly bank on that same assurance.

I did it because it was the exercise of common sense.  It also protected the public at large from disease, while providing a humanitarian response, and protected the public from the criminals preying on illegal aliens.  The criminals assumed illegal aliens wouldn’t report crimes, giving them additional security and allowing them to prey on others as well. With respect to school, the United States Supreme Court had ruled long ago that all children, including those illegally in the country, had a right to attend public school.

What I did is what a liberal with sanity should do.  However, I do not believe in our country having open borders.  I believe in expanding legal immigration in the numbers allowed to enter the U.S. as permanent residents encouraged to apply for U.S. citizenship.  The current number entering the U.S. legally each year is about one million, made up of 750,000 permanent immigrants and 250,000 refugees.

Those who advocate the legalization of the illegal aliens now in the country would have our fellow Americans believe that we who oppose amnesty are anti-immigration.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are anti-illegal-immigration.  I know of no country, including Mexico on our southern border, which has open borders.  The European Union has open borders between members of that alliance.  If the President wants to offer legislation to allow the countries of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. making up NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) to end all immigration barriers, it should be seriously discussed.  For one thing, how would Mexico and Canada react to such a proposal?

The advocates of illegal aliens conjure up visions of those defending our borders wanting to put illegal aliens on box cars in trains to ship them home.  Again, no one advocates that.  Many such as myself advocate punishing severely the American employer who willfully hires an illegal alien – not doing the checks that are available to validate job applicants.  Those employers who willfully violate the law should be prosecuted and, if convicted, sent to prison.  I believe giving a mandatory six months in jail for a second conviction, the first being subject to substantial monetary fines, will quickly end the employer abuse.  If no jobs are available to illegal aliens, they will go home on their own.  It is estimated that one million illegal aliens did go home as a result of the recent Great Recession.  Indeed, I suggest we offer to pay their way home.

I am not for any city or state becoming a sanctuary as some cities proclaimed they were during the Vietnam War – I was opposed to our being involved in that war.  As a member of Congress from the Silk Stocking district in Manhattan, I went to Canada and interviewed American draft dodgers and deserters, came back and advocated amnesty for them which was hooted at by many, but was provided by President Carter by executive order six months later.

I do not advocate amnesty for illegal aliens because that will simply encourage more illegal aliens to seek to violate the law and cross our borders.  We granted amnesty in 1986 under the Simpson-Mazzoli law. That did not stop an increase in illegal immigration.

Again, I am for increasing legal immigration.  We should double or triple it if the facts so warrant.  It will keep our nation young and vibrant.

These are the thoughts of a liberal with sanity.

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  • SusanR

    IF is so nice to have reguirments for those illegals you want to give amnesty to.
    What no one discusses is what is to be done with all the criminal illegals,and those who refuse to pay back taxes, fines and learn English. And what is to be done to prevent more illegals to come.

  • We need to close our borders before any action is taken, it is the only way that we can find sanity in an insane system.
    Democrats should not look at Latino’s as a voting block but as people that have needs. They should look at legal citizens the same way. Amnesty has been tried and it did not work.
    Close the borders, treat people like people and not political chips and then we can make progress! This business that we can’t close the borders is an absolute lie, it has been done more then once and certainly can be done again! Obama needs to show some backbone!

  • Norski

    Richard – Replace what aging population?

    According to the US Census Bureau there were 307 million people living in the USA in 2009. Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009 there were:

    People age 65 and over = 38 million
    People age 45 to 64 = 79 million (Baby Boomers)
    People age 25 to 44 = 81 million
    People age 16 to 24 = 38 million
    People age 0 to 15 = 71 million

    Note that since there are 109 million people in the USA age 24 and younger that means for People age 5 to 24 a good estimate of the number of people in this age group is 91 million people. Thus for each 20 year age group YOUNGER than the Baby Boomers there already are MILLIONS more people than there is in the Baby Boom generation. More retirees – yes, fewer workers – no.

    Even if EVERY ONE of the estimated 11 million Illegal Immigrants in the USA were under the age of 20 and we deported them all we would still have more young folks in that age group as we have retiring. So there is no “aging workforce” that needs to be “replaced” by Illegal Immigration.

  • Richard;You are completely insane,just like all the other progressive idiots. You obviously have your logic completely reversed. Solve the problem- no jobs and they all return to where they came from. Your so called “facts” are as false as O’Duma saying the border is now secure. Little does he know when he speaks English, all the independent voters hear him, and will remember well on Nov. 12, 2012. Does he forget Whites in the US outnumber Browns 3 to 1? You and he are complete morons. Do you understand? I doubt it!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • Ivan

    No human is illegal! If we go on Nazi-like deportation/show me the papers spree, we should start by deporting the progeny of the murderous and thieving Puritans who came here and killed the native Americans.
    The rest is racism and the last stand of angry old white Billy Bob. Remember, Billy Bob, you are on the wrong side of both history and demographics, you just don’t know it yet! Tick tock!

    • Pjt

      I like reading comments from people who never show racism themselves, but know when they see it in those white people. “murderous and thieving Puritans” “angry old white Billy Bob” no, no racism here!

    • Ugly American

      There is nothing wrong with being asked for ID. Police do it to citizens and legal visitors all the time.
      All nations have immigration laws, mostly to protect their demographics.
      Every nation has a right and a responsibility to know who is in the country. America has a right to have her own and they apply to everyone from everywhere.
      What is racist is to demand that exceptions be made to the law for any one race or nation.
      As far as calling America names, it seems there was a war and a settlement about 163 years ago and it’s connection to the Marines Hymn you should check into.

    • Norski

      Webster’s definition of Racism: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. You were saying about White People…?

  • Norski

    Now that Richard has listed all the reasons we like LEGAL Immigrants let’s look at reasons why ILLEGAL Immigration has been a problem.

    1. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Report of May 6, 2011:

    Construction and extraction occupations = 17.1% Unemployment
    Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations = 19.3% Unemployment
    Production occupations = 11.7% Unemployment
    Transportation, material moving occupations = 12.0% Unemployment
    Service occupations = 9.6% Unemployment

    Pew Center estimates indicate 7.5 million Illegal Immigrants work in the USA with the majority employed in agriculture, office and house cleaning, construction, and food preparation. These professions are where the worst unemployment is for us Americans. And of you consider that the above unemployment rates exclude “Persons who want a job but have not looked for employment in the last four weeks” the real unemployment rates for the occupations above are actually 44% larger.

    Meanwhile Management, professional, and related occupations where few Illegal Immigrants work have a 4.0% Unemployment rate. The claim that the US needs Illegal Immigrant Workers does match reality.

    2. Farm Workers top the Pew Center list of occupations most affected by Illegal Immigration. Per Pew data, as much as 25% of this workforce is made up of Illegal Immigrants. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Farm Workers earn a median wage of $8.64 per hour. Construction Laborers who work equally hard with comparable skills but they earn median wages between $11.23 and $13.19 per hour. The lowest skilled Loggers earn a median wage of $14.66 per hour. Even Parking Lot Attendants have higher median wages than Farm Laborers at $9.04 per hour.

    This is a great example of the devastation Illegal Immigration has wrought on wages. The sad part is even if farm wages were to increase to the level of Laborers and Loggers, to a median wage of $13.50 per hour, the cost of farm labor is only 7% of the cost of food. The result would be a 4.5% increase in food prices. Inflation is often greater.

    3. There are 20 million unemployed Americans (per U.S. Gov. Statistics) versus 7 million working Illegal Immigrants (per U.S. Gov. Statistics). According to Pew Center and U.S. Gov. Statistics cited above the vast majority of the unemployed Americans are unemployed from jobs that most Illegal Immigrants now hold. Per U.S. Gov. Statistics unemployment pays the equivalent of $7.00 to $13.00 per hour depending on State ($14,000 and $26,000 per year). Add in an average of about $2,700 welfare payments to the unemployed, multiply by 7 million, then assume that only two thirds of the unemployed actually get this and the net cost is $100 billion per year (or $700 per year to each working American) in taxes. And this does not include other costs associated with Illegal Immigration.

    The estimated annual total tax contribution of all Illegal Immigrants residing in the USA is $11 billion according to a recent ITEP/IPC Study. You cannot make the case that the above costs are off-set by the taxes that Illegal Immigrants pay.

    In a CNN article published in late 2008 the Dept. of Homeland Security estimated that the cost of enforcement for apprehending 12 million Illegal Immigrants would be about $100 billion. You cannot make the case that deportation is a waste of tax dollars when the cost of deportation versus the savings in the cost of unemployment paid to out of work Americans has a net breakeven in only 13 months.

    4. From “Illegal Immigrants Are Voting in American Elections” by Hans A. von Spakovsky, August 4th 2008:

    “On the benefit side of the equation, a voter registration card is an easily obtainable document—they are routinely issued without any checking of identification—that an illegal alien can use for many different purposes, including obtaining a driver’s license, qualifying for a job, and even voting. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, for example, requires employers to verify that all newly hired employees present documentation verifying their identity and legal authorization to work in the United States. In essence, this means that new employees have to present evidence that they are either U.S. citizens or legal aliens with a work permit. The federal I-9 form that employers must com­plete for all new employees provides a list of documentation that can be used to establish identity—including a voter registration card.
    How aliens view the importance of this benefit was illustrated by the work of a federal grand jury in 1984 that found large numbers of aliens regis­tered to vote in Chicago. As the grand jury reported, many aliens “register to vote so that they can obtain documents identifying them as U.S. citizens” and have “used their voters’ cards to obtain a myriad of benefits, from social security to jobs with the Defense Department.” The U.S. Attorney at the time estimated that there were at least 80,000 illegal aliens registered to vote in Chicago, and dozens were indicted and convicted for registering and voting.”
    “The grand jury’s report resulted in a limited cleanup of the voter registration rolls in Chicago, but just one year later, INS District Director A. D. Moyer testified before a state legislative task force that 25,000 illegal and 40,000 legal aliens remained on the rolls in Chicago. Moyer told the Illinois Senate that non-citizens registered so they could get a voter registration card for identification, adding that the card was “a quick ticket into the unemployment compensation system.” An alien from Belize, for example, testified that he and his two sisters were able to register easily because they were not asked for any identification or proof of citizenship and lied about where they were born. After securing registration, he voted in Chicago.”

  • Richard

    MYTH: Immigrants take jobs from Americans.
    FACT: Immigrants create new jobs, and complement the skills of the
    U.S. native workforce.

    MYTH: Immigrants drive down the wages of American workers.
    FACT: Immigrants increase overall economic productivity and have no
    significant effect on overall wages for American workers.

    MYTH: Immigrants will cause massive, unnecessary population growth
    in the United States.
    FACT: As the baby boomer generation begins to retire and the U.S.
    fertility rate declines, it will be necessary to replace our aging
    workforce with immigrants to maintain economic growth.

    MYTH: Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes.
    FACT: Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes
    each year, often for services they will never receive.

    MYTH: Immigrants come to the United States for welfare benefits.
    FACT: The law forbids immigrants from using welfare services.

    MYTH: The Government should just enforce the law to solve our
    immigration problems.
    FACT: Enforcement alone will not solve our immigration problems. The
    cost would be prohibitive, it would have a detrimental effect on
    the U.S. economy, and it would simply push certain immigrants
    further into the underground economy.

    MYTH: Immigrants are not assimilating.
    FACT: Immigrants are assimilating at much the same rate as past
    waves of immigrants.

    MYTH: Immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than
    U.S. natives.
    FACT: Immigrants have a much lower incarceration rate than
    U.S. natives.

    MYTH: Workers that come to the United States as temporary workers
    will stay in the country once their visas expire.
    FACT: Historically, migrants from Mexico worked in the United
    States for a few months or years, but then returned home.
    Border enforcement has made that pattern much more

    • Pjt

      Where do your facts come from?

    • Ugly American

      Those things may be true of immigrants. However, the people in question are not immigrants.
      Immigrants usually receive permission to be in the country and the government is aware of their presence.
      “Illegal Aliens” are not immigrants. They are foreign nationals who have entered the country by stealth and remain here without permission by concealing themselves from the authorities.
      These are the citizens of other nations who have decided US laws don’t apply to them. Coming into the country is only the first law they break.

    • Charley

      Now how about doing a similar analysis about ILLEGAL ALIENS? They are a different category than immigrants, who enter this country legally and are screened and monitored. ILLEGAL ALIENS contribute little, if anything, to the US. But they take MUCH more than they give. And please cite the source of your alleged myths and alleged facts.

    • fedup american

      you must be living in a dream world. whenthe opposite of everything you say is your real name obama???