Growing as a Thinker

I chose my topic of immigration for two reasons: one, because there had been recent news about the topic, and two, because I knew absolutely nothing about it. Before beginning my blog, I was (and I cringe at thinking this now) one of the people who thinks about illegal immigration and pictures someone sneaking over the border in the dead of night. My only experience with immigrants was when the boss of my part-time job picked up two undocumented workers one morning, had them help us with a Christmas tree delivery, and then dropped them back off.  So, it’s safe to say that I had a rather stereotypical view of the average illegal immigrant. The biggest thing that I have learned, however, throughout this project, is that those stereotypes are completely wrong

I recently read through my first post, and it seems as though at the beginning of my blog, I relied more on powerful language rather than actual knowledge on my topic. I also think that I focused more on specific things such as in my post “Encouraging young people to DREAM” and I did not relate them back to the election or show the greater significance of the specific acts or laws in the scope of the entire issue of immigration reform. In my post about the DREAM Act, I seem to be reviewing the act, rather than analyzing the potential positive or negative benefits of the act as it relates to immigration reform as a whole. I also think that I came into this project with a particular political bias, so I could not see past what the party I supported wanted to do. This is evident in my post about the DREAM Act, when I discuss the Republican Party’s fight against “amnesty.” At the time, I wasn’t even exactly sure what amnesty entailed. I blindly agreed with more democratic platforms for immigration reform, because that was the political party that I aligned myself with. I also think that my use of links at the beginning relied mainly on government sites, such as long webpages that showed the entire versions of the House and Senate bill of the DREAM Act. I think that this was a little bit silly of me, because I did not even read the entire versions of both bills, so I don’t know why I expected the readers of my blog to do so. 

My growth as a thinker really started to develop after I completed my analysis post. This post clarified many facts and figures about Immigration that I was still unsure of, and I learned about a more complete history on my topic. I also think that while writing my analysis post, I started to develop a higher level of thinking about my topic, because I began to recognize all of the different aspects of my issue that I had not researched before. I also think that my use of links improved tremendously in this particular post, because I began to use sites such as the Pew Research Center and the CQ Online Researcher. The switch to more reliable and more useful websites helped me think about my issue on a higher level. During this post, I also examined both presidential candidates’ views/platforms on immigration, and this reflects my growth in that I did not critically analyze only the views that I supported or the views that I did not support. I attempted to show both candidates’ views in a non biased way. 

After my analysis post, I wrote two posts that I think show my further growth as thinker. These two posts describe the positive and negative impacts of immigration on the economy. I am proud of these posts in particular because I think that I made two separate, non-biased arguments using research by think tanks such as The Brookings Institute and the Cato Institute. I included a poll after the second of these posts gauge the class opinion on the issue, and I think that because of the results on the poll (mixed, although there was a slight majority for one answer), I can conclude that I presented enough evidence for both sides of the argument for each student to be able to make an informed decision on his or her own. 

Looking at posts before and after my analysis post seem like night and day to me as a blogger. I feel that my posts have a better balance between looking at the issue overall and looking at specific aspects of the issue. For example, I have two posts that examine the positive and negative impacts of immigration on the economy, but I also have a post that is quite specific and analyzes Alabama’s immigration law. I think that this balance helps make my issue more relatable to blog readers, because I analyze more broad topics, but also illustrate specific examples of locations in which immigration reform is taking place. 

The Election (Yes! It’s finally here!) and Immigration

Will immigration have a role in the election? It’s tough to say, but if it does, it will most likely be evidenced in the way that the Latino population votes. Recent research states that Latino voters represent 8.9% of the U.S. voting population, and, historically, immigration has proven itself to be a key issue in determining which way the Latino vote will swing.

It is important, however, to point out that immigration is not the only important issue to Latino voters, and Ruben Navarrette, a Latino voter himself, argues that Latino voters have lost in this election no matter who is elected. This may seem a bit extreme, but it’s an important view to consider. Navarrette argues that Latino voters are (and rightfully should be) disappointed by both candidates policies toward immigration reform, or maybe their lack thereof. Obama admitted that lack of immigration reform was one of his biggest failures, while Romney isn’t shy about his lack of support for the DREAM Act as well as policies that hint at “self-deportation,” but, if we’re being honest, immigration reform just hasn’t been a big discussion topic. 

I am disappointed at the lack of immigration reform discussion during the 2012 election season, but one potential reason for this could be that a recent poll shows that 73% of Latino voters support Obama. In election season, this is a huge majority, which translates to “we don’t need to discuss immigration, because Obama has the Latino vote.” This is the harsh reality of immigration reform in politics, and I would like to ask, why isn’t this topic a bigger issue for all American voters? While it may be true that some Latino voters may have a more intimate connection with the topic of immigration reform, the reality is that immigration reform has the potential impact the lives of all Americans, not just Latino voters. How? I’ve discussed the roll of immigration in the economy in previous blog posts, but that’s just one way. This is something that I encourage all of you to think about when voting (if you haven’t already) or when thinking about the roll of immigration reform in politics in the future. 

Bored with my blog? Check out these!

I understand that you all might get bored with reading about immigration and how it relates to the upcoming election. So, if you find yourself in this situation, I encourage you to check out these blogs by my classmates that discuss other important issues in the 2012 election. 

  • Common Sarcasm for the Sensible Age
    This blog is focused on the issue of marriage equality in the United States. In a focused Analysis Post, the blog provides an in depth history of the issue, examines the issue in current-day politics, and discusses the controversial debate over the role of religion in the issue. To the outside viewer, it may seem slightly silly or unfocused with its use of graphics, comedic videos, and gifs, but the blog’s posts are analytical and examine the presidential candidates’ actions and words, as well as other topics relating to marriage equality, such as adoption by same-sex couples. 
  • 2012 Election: The War on Drugs 
    I would like to suggest that you explore this blog, because it focuses on an issue that I think relates to a larger portion of the American population than we would like to admit. In one particular post, the blogger relates the issue of drug use to illegal immigration, making me an obvious fan, as the blogger explores aspects of illegal immigration that I have not explored in my blog. The blogger analyzes the debate between whether or not marijuana should be legalized, while discussing the views of politicians and celebrities. The author of this blog also relates the issue to children and teenagers and discusses the flaws of current drug prevention programs. 
  • Save the Energy:
    This blog examines the energy debate in the 2012 election, discussing key issues such as the keystone pipeline, the oil embargo of 1973, hurricane sandy, and the debate about switching to greener energy. It’s safe to say that when it comes to the debate about energy, this blog covers it all. Another important discussion provided by this blog is why energy topics have been avoided in the 2012 election, and this is critical, because who we elect as president will have a major impact on the future of American energy. This blog remains unbiased by providing explanations of both of the candidates’ views, and educates its readers on the “politics of energy.”

I encourage you to explore these blogs as well as any of the number of other blogs that I follow.

Extended Reading List

I’m sure after reading all of my blog posts, you’re still interested in immigration. Well, luckily for you, I’ve composed an extended reading list so that you can read up on the issue to your heart’s content!

  • Ten Economic Facts About Immigration: This is research on immigration done by the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy institute that is also independent. This document answers frequently raised questions about immigration and analyzes them as they relate to the economy. 
  • Immigration and Economic Growth: This journal article is published by the Cato Institute, a public policy think-tank, and the author of this article is Gordon H Hanson, an economics professor at the University of California San Diego. This article places the problem of immigration reform in the context of the economy. 
  • Obama’s Immigration Platform: This website lists Obama’s goals for immigration reform if he is elected for another term.
  • Romney’s Immigration Platform: This website lists Romney’s goals for immigration reform if he is elected for his first term. 
  • Unauthorized Immigrant Population Trends in 2010: This research was conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, which is dedicated to researching the impact of Latinos in the United States. The Pew Hispanic Center is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is a nonpartisan think tank. This research was released in 2011 and provides information on illegal immigrant population trends on both the state and national level in 2010. 
  • Illegal Immigration and the Economy: This report, by the CQ Online Researcher, provides a basic view of the conflict between whether illegal immigrants positively or negatively impact the economy. 
  • The Immigration Debate: This report, by the CQ Online Researcher, discusses the role of politicians in creating new policies to reduce illegal immigration. 
  • Immigration Conflict: This report, by the CQ Online Researcher, provides background information on and analyzes new state laws designed to reduce illegal immigrant populations. 

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Implications

What’s going to happen if we don’t become invested in generating immigration reform? That’s a good question. I think that there are two main issues that will occur if we avoid solving the problems currently related to illegal immigration and immigration reform. 

Illegal immigration started decreasing when we entered a recession. Chances are, if our economy begins to grow and prosper again, we can expect that the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States will begin to increase from current numbers. This means that the issue we are facing now will only increase in the future if it is left unresolved. 

Another possible implication of leaving the issue unresolved is that the gap between states who chose to impose strict immigration laws and those who do not will continue to grow, thus further polarizing the issue. Currently, states such as Alabama (for more info, look at my earlier posts!) and Arizona have imposed seriously strict immigration enforcement laws, while some other states such as Virginia are rejecting laws like this and other states such as Colorado are proposing more progressive immigration reform. The last thing we need is for immigration reform to become more polarized than it already is, because as different opinions on the issue spread further and further apart, it becomes harder to compromise.

Theory Post

In order for immigration reform to happen, a few key things need to take place. One of these things is recognition of the fact that there are 11.5 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. This is a large number, and it’s people we’re talking about, which makes the issue more complex. I think that another key thing that needs to happen is a change in mentality towards dealing with these 11.5 million people. Currently, the mentality towards illegal immigrants is a conflict between letting them be and granting some of them amnesty or making them self-deportate. I think that in order to successfully deal with the problem of illegal immigrants while still maintaining humanity, we need to shift to a mentality of recognizing that they’re here, and it’s a problem, but that it is not okay to scare all of them off or to make living conditions so terrible that they all leave our nation. In order to do this, democrats, republicans, and everyone in between is going to have to make a few concessions. Bringing an end to polarized sides in this debate will be the best way to solve the issue. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have some excellent ideas on how to solve the problem of illegal immigration, but it seems highly unlikely that they would ever be willing to compromise on the stances of their individual platforms. For instance, President Obama supports developing an electronic program that would allow for companies to ensure that they are hiring employees that are legally allowed to work, and Mitt Romney supports developing a system to ensure that people do not overstay their visas, while also speeding up the process for workers waiting to receive temporary visas. All of these ideas are, in my opinion, excellent ideas that would help decrease illegal immigration while still making those who are living here illegally responsible for their actions. 

I know that hoping for compromise may sound a bit idyllic in the polarized political world that we live in today, but I honestly think that it is the best solution. Both platforms proposed by the 2012 presidential candidates have faults, but they also have really good ideas, and I argue that if these ideas are combined, we can greatly reduce the problem of illegal immigration. 

Alabama’s Immigration Law

In earlier posts, I have tip-toed around the issue of how to deal with illegal immigration, but never really addressed any specifics. In this post, I would like to discuss a new, extremely strict immigration policy that was signed into law in Alabama. This law provides one example of how a state has chosen to deal with illegal immigrants, and I’ll be interested to see what you think about it.

HB56 took effect in September of 2011 after some brushes with the court system. The law has been just what Republicans of the state of Alabama hoped it would be: devastating to the illegal immigrant population. Among many other provisions, the law requires enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of anyone who is stopped or arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” the they are in the United States illegally. The law also states that if immigrants do not carry registration papers at all times, they can be punished by 30 days of jail time for a first offense. Seems a little harsh doesn’t it? A provision of the law that was later blocked required school officials to obtain the immigration status of families’ whose children attended public school. This provision prompted a major drop in school attendance by latino children living in the state. Yet another provision makes it a felony for any illegal immigrant to engage in “any business transaction” within the state of Alabama, and this means paying for electricity, water, or sewage services. 

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Mary Bauer, who is the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama stated that thousands of people have left the state, and those who remain are “terrorized by this law.” In 2010, an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants lived in Alabama and contributed to the agriculture industry, which is now struggling due the loss of migrant workers. It seems that not all of the law’s possible effects on the state were properly analyzed. 

Proponents of the law such as Mickey Hammon, the leader of the Alabama House of Representatives’ Republican majority, argue that “This bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves.” And yes, that is a direct quote from Hammon. Senator Scott Beason argued that the bill was created to protect jobs in Alabama. 

There’s no denying that this is a strict, unforgiving law for the illegal immigrants who are living in Alabama. For me, it brings morals into question. Is it okay to make conditions so, for lack of better word, unlivable, in order to crack down on illegal immigration? Some argue that this law encourages racial profiling of latinos, because it allows for law enforcement officers to ask for immigration papers if they have any suspicion that a person might be here illegally. Proponents of the law such as Hammon and Beason think that it’s okay to encourage self-deportation or force people out of living in a state, but I don’t. However, Hammon and Beason have proven that they know a way to decrease the illegal immigrant population in their state. In a nation where immigration reform is a big issue, I wonder if soon more states will be following in the footsteps of Alabama.

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Do you think that laws like this are an acceptable, effective strategy for removing illegal immigrants?

Immigration and the Economy: The Negatives

In my last post, I discussed potential positive benefits that immigrants bring to the U.S. economy. In this post, I would like to share some potential negatives so that you all can see both sides of the issue.

            Low-skilled workers who have not graduated high school are the biggest category of Americans whose job security is impacted by immigration. About 30% of immigrants have not graduated from high school, compared to about 8% of Americans. This means that almost a third of the immigrants coming to the U.S. are competing for the low-skill jobs that this 8% of Americans holds. In my last post, I stated that immigrants increase the average wages as whole for the labor population in the U.S. While this remains true, when examining specific labor brackets, estimates show that immigrants may decrease the wages of U.S. born workers without high school degrees by as much as 8%. So, while immigrants may be helping the other 92% of the work force, they are potentially hurting this labor bracket.

             Another key point to keep in mind is the amount of money the federal government spends on border security and trying to prevent illegal immigration. This can be seen as a negative impact on the economy because from 2003 to 2007, even though the federal government increased spending from $11 billion to spending $15 billion on immigration enforcement, the amount of illegal immigrants in the United States continued to increase, and only began to decrease at the start of the recession in 2007.

            And last, but most certainly not least, according to recent studies, low-skilled immigrants cause a negative net fiscal impact. That’s a lot of economic terms, but basically it means that illegal immigrants cost the federal government about $12 billion a year due to their use of health services and public education. However, even though this is a large amount of money, eliminating the illegal immigrant population would require more enforcement within the U.S. and along the border, possibly leading to increased costs.

So, you’ve seen the good and the bad, and now it’s time for you to make a decision. 

 

Immigration and the Economy: The Positives

A big concern about immigration is how new immigrants to the United States will affect the economy. In an earlier post, I stated that immigrants could bring positive changes to the economy, and in this post, I would like to elaborate on that idea. According to recent research by the Brookings Institute, immigrants raise the living standards of most Americans. How do they do this? One way is by increasing wages. Immigrants increase average wages as whole for the labor population in the U.S. Some may not believe this, but economists argue that as a whole, wages increase due to immigrant labor. The reason for this is that immigrants typically don’t compete for the same jobs as other workers in the United States. More immigrant workers allows for the expansion of the agriculture and carpentry industries, and this expansion boosts the U.S. economy. 

Typically immigrants (in the context of the economy) are divided into two different groups of people: low-skill level immigrants and high-skill level immigrants. One of these groups is clearly favored over the other. Obama recently discussed the importance of attracting high skill-level immigrants to the United States because they bring innovative ideas and create businesses. It seems that low-skill immigrants, however, aren’t exactly receiving the same welcome. Low-skill immigrants have a bad reputation because some people stereotype them as illegal immigrants who don’t pay taxes and create crime. However, as a recent report indicates, people do not appreciate just how much these low-skill workers improve the productivity of the U.S. economy. Low-skill laborers provide inexpensive services and are often willing to be much more mobile than low-skilled workers who were born in the U.S. This helps bridge gaps in the economy and create economic boosts in specific areas (the areas where low-skilled immigrants move). 

In this post, I have only talked about the positive impacts of immigration in the economy, but don’t worry, I’m not completely ignoring the negatives. Look forward to more information about potential negative impacts on the economy in future posts.