17 June 2012


01/27/13 Immigration Reform Update
I still remember that night, seated around the dinner table, when my parents realized what President Reagan's signature on the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 meant for my family. 

At the time, my mom was an employee of an international organization in Washington, DC, allowing my family to reside in the United States, under G-4 visas.

Of course, our continued stay was dependent on her continued employment, and on our continued schooling. When my siblings and I were done and became adults, back to the Philippines we’d have to have gone. Well, we didn’t have to go home; but we wouldn’t have been able to stay here.

Enter the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, the sweeping immigration bill that included among its reforms (wikipedia's list):
  • Requirement for employers to attest to their employees' immigration status.
  • Made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit unauthorized immigrants.
  • Granted amnesty to certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants.
  • Granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously. 

Buried deep inside this legislation, however, was the bit that would change the course of my family’s future. The law also expanded the definition of special immigrant to include people like my family. 
"Includes within the definition of special immigrant: (1) unmarried sons and daughters and surviving spouses of employees of certain international organizations; and (2) specified retirees of such organizations ('I' status) and their spouses. (SOURCE
As special immigrants, my siblings and I were now afforded the opportunity to gain permanent US residency (a green card), and later US citizenship.

It may be difficult for those who haven’t lived it to imagine what having to leave the place they consider home would feel like. 

Decades later, I have to admit that it feels more like a warm and fuzzy memory to me. But, I do remember that it was an important turning point in how my siblings and I approached the way we looked at our futures.

As an adult, I look back on that reform and see a Washington DC that worked. Through intense debate, compromise and a signature, millions of oblivious teenagers' futures were changed forever. For good.

Of passing this law, President Reagan remarked that it was the “most difficult legislative undertakings of recent memory.” 

And it passed. 
The historical experience of legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act indicates that comprehensive immigration reform would raise wages, increase consumption, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue. Even though IRCA was implemented during an economic recession characterized by high unemployment, it still helped raise wages and spurred increases in educational, home, and small-business investments by newly legalized immigrants. Taking the experience of IRCA as a starting point, we estimate that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. This is a compelling economic reason to move away from the current “vicious cycle” where enforcement-only policies perpetuate unauthorized migration and exert downward pressure on already low wages, and toward a “virtuous cycle” of worker empowerment in which legal status and labor rights exert upward pressure on wages. (SOURCE
Another assessment: 
My own research has shown that IRCA provided immediate direct benefits by successfully turning formerly clandestine workers into higher-paid employees. Other researchers have shown that IRCA provided unexpected indirect benefits to the communities where legalized immigrants resided.  After legalization, fewer of these immigrants sent money back to their home countries, and those who sent back money sent back less.  More of their earnings were spent in their communities in the United States. Research also showed that the legalized population became participating community members—nearly two out of five people who legalized under IRCA were U.S. citizens by 2001.
At this stage of the game, here and now, in 2012... no one really knows where the Republicans stand on immigration reform; except that it’s not with President Obama.

Fine. On Friday, President Obama made his move. Your turn, GOP.*

* And complaining that the president’s is a “short-term answer to a long-term problem” is an idiotic side-step to the fact that the Republican Congress is the reason the DREAM Act is not yet the law in this land.


UPDATED: 01/26/13 - Here's some good news for supporters of Immigration Reform, via the Washington Post: "Senators nearing agreement on broad immigration reform proposal."

UPDATED: 01/27/13 - Here's some more good news for supporters of Immigration Reform, via the Huffington Post/ABC's This Week: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) backs path to citizenship. Says he:

"Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we've got to understand that."
As far as those who criticize the president for the increase in deportations during his administration. My response is simply: There is nothing like enforcing laws to drive home the point that they need to be changed.