This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Immigration Reform at the Local Level

An editorial in the New York Times a couple of days ago pulled together a very nice map showing all of the states that have introduced anti-immigration legislation, largely on the rationale that the federal government has failed at immigration reform.

The zeal to crack down locally is based on several fallacies. One is that the federal government hasn’t enforced immigration laws, even though it has greatly expanded border security in the last decade and the Obama administration is deporting immigrants at a record clip. Another is that illegal immigration is soaring, when it has ebbed in the last few years.
The final myth is that voters really want unrelenting harshness. In fact, polls show broad support for a comprehensive federal solution with tougher border and workplace enforcement, but also a path to legalization for the undocumented and a streamlined process for new legal immigrants.

The editorial misses a major point, however, which is that the federal government has not, in fact, addressed immigration reform. It has only tried to strengthen border controls. The fact that the polls show a desire on the part of Americans for there to be a path to legalization suggests that the problem with migrants is not them, per se, but their legal status. Yet, no one is willing to stand up and challenge the premise of the current immigration laws that overwhelming favor family members as legal immigrants, rather than favoring workers. Until we deal with this issue, migration will continue to be "broken," and local areas will continue to try to figure out ways to "fix" it--often with clearly racist undertones.

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