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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's talk future flows

The most common explanation that comes from the right for the current failure of the immigration system is of course lack of enforcement. They claim the problem would be easily solved if only we spent more time, money, and effort locking up or deporting unauthorized immigrants, or patrolling thousands of miles of border to keep them out. They couple this with an argument against providing a normalization of status for 12 million undocumented immigrants based the failure of the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

They have taken these two ideas and tied them into nice package to form the foundation of their narrative in opposition to immigration reform. A narrative that essentially says; "You can't reform immigration unless the borders are totally secure...and you can't have an 'amnesty' because we tried that before and it only opened the floodgates to more 'illegal' immigration by rewarding lawbreakers."

This simple narrative has allowed them dominate debate and set the parameters of how CIR has been crafted in all past attempts, with a heavy reliance on enforcement and border security, restrictive guest worker programs, and in return, some limited normalization of status for some the undocumented population.

We see it's influence even in the framing used by Democrats when addressing the issue. Such as President Obama's statement in the SOTU:

"And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

The problem for reformers is that, although based on faulty logic and misinformation, the narrative is compelling, easily understood, and unfortunately accepted by not only large swaths of the American public, but by those on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

It doesn't matter that border security and enforcement measures have grown exponentially since the mid nineties with no resulting decline in unauthorized entry, and that enforcement expenditures today are at their highest level in history. Or that deportations and detentions are at record levels. Or that it was not until the recent economic meltdown that we saw any decline in unauthorized migration.

It also doesn't matter that the true reason for the failure of IRCA was that it made absolutely no provisions or plans on how to address "future flow" ... it had no systems or mechanism in place to determine, regulate, or control, the future level of immigration going forward.

The determination of the number of the immigrants that are legally allowed to enter the country each year was left to politicians (and their lobbyist friends) who set quotas, and to low-level bureaucrats who administer them. Once enacted, these quotas were rarely revisited or adjusted in the last 24 years to reflect economic realities or other needs.

The result of this lack of foresight, and unwillingness to address the issue of regulating future flow, led to a defacto "free market" for immigrant labor with flows determined by market forces and greed.

It has left millions of needed workers, who should have had a legal path to entry if the system was in fact responsive to economic needs, in a state of limbo whereby they are easily exploited and marginalized.

But at the present time the opposition narrative still trumps the truth ... it makes for better sound bites and is easily digested without the need for too much thought or analysis.

But, if we are to enact truly meaningful and lasting reform we must find a way to offer up solutions and narratives that can be just as easily packaged and resonate not only with the left and in pro-migrant circles...but also with the middle.

We must offer up an alternate solution that is not only humane and practical, but also "common sense."

The key to both fixing to our broken system, and creating a narrative by which to win support for reform, lies in formulating an effective and practical plan for addressing future flow. One that truly addresses both domestic labor needs and the global forces that drive migration. One that is responsive to real world situations and events with enough flexibility to be adjusted to changing circumstances.

Such a plan would allow us to not only insure that our reform measures would in fact have long lasting positive effects, but also supply us with an alternative narrative base on sound principles, and built on foundation of factual realities, that could counter the opposition's enforcement only positions.

We must be able to offer up a plan to the American people that says we have a practical solution that will guarantee that our immigration system will be responsive to our economic and social needs. It will supply needed workers when economic conditions warrant, it will keep families together, it will supply ample opportunity for innovation and education to keep us competitive in a global economy, and provide refuge to those most in need.

But most of all it will flexible and fluid, able to respond to shifting needs and circumstances. It will not be based on the wants or needs of special interests or those wishing to exploit the system, but rather on what is in the best interest of the American people and those looking to make a better life.

We must be able to assure the American people that a functioning and responsive immigration system will end the cycle of unregulated and uncontrolled migration.

It will end the inequities and injustice inherent in "market driven," Laissez-faire, systems that look only to make profits at the expense of people. That controlling the flow of immigration based on rational needs is far more effective than trying to control it through tough enforcement of the rules of an already dysfunctional system.

Currently, labor and big business are in the process of hashing out a compromise on just how they would like to see future flows handled:

.... The AFL-CIO's Ramirez indicated that she and other labor leaders are trying to reach a compromise with business representatives on a complicated section of the bill that would set guidelines to regulate the use of migrant workers on either a temporary or permanent basis. Labor organizations have supported a plan for a new Presidential commission to help establish criteria and calculate labor needs. Business groups have said that they would not accept a commission that could be politicized and not suitably responsive to "market forces." This issue may seem esoteric, but as legislative efforts to enact immigration reform move haltingly along, the ability of labor and business to agree on the fundamentals of migrant worker programs could make the difference between a viable bill and yet another failed effort to fix the broken system. ...

Labor's Ramirez suggested that the commission proposal would not be a deal breaker. "In terms of creating a system--let's put the word 'commission' aside--that contemplates economic need and makes decisions on visas based on demonstrated need, that's attractive to us both [business and labor]. So I think there is lots of agreement on how to move forward." Ramirez said that labor would want to insist that migrant workers involved in "future flows" be assured worker protections and rights. Labor is also pushing to make sure that recruiters who bring in foreign workers are better regulated. But she made it clear that the commission idea was more of a subject for negotiation than a key demand. "It's about crafting a system," she said, "not calling it a 'commission.'"

Jeffrey Kaye-HuffingtonPost


We can only hope that as labor and business leaders meet behind close doors to decide the fate of millions and the future of our immigration system and economic security, they can go beyond their usual partisanship and parochial concerns, and instead carefully craft a system that takes into account what will ultimately be best for those most effected....and what is best for all our futures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you all break into our house and say because you helped clean up now you can bring unlimited more! You DEMAND DEMAND DEMAND - while millions around the world WAIT THEIR TURN, get in line, apply to enter LEGALLY!
I am a legal immigrant, my family APPLIED AND WAITED 7 very long years to enter USA legally.
I am sure you will not allow my response to stay here - you try to say "We are here, now you can't tear apart our families!" You separate your own families by sneaking into America.