IMMIGRATION: 1996 Restrictions Fade with Strong Economy
In a point-counterpoint on immigration in today's USA Today, an editorial praises the fading of the "90s political lynching of immigrants," noting that a strong economy has diluted public anxiety on the issue. Additionally, a surge in voting among immigrants has produced a backlash against lawmakers who "played the anti-immigration card." Just five years ago, the editorial notes, California Republicans "championed" Proposition 187. Since then, however, immigrants have been given a reprieve, as Congress has permitted refugees seeking asylum to stay in the U.S., doubled the number of visas for foreigners with desirable skills and is considering a "guest worker" program for the agricultural laborers. The editorial concludes: "[M]indless anti-immigrant laws such as those adopted both nationally and at the state and local levels earlier in the 90s are an embarrassment to a nation made strong by immigrants and their offspring" (7/6).
Spoke Too Soon
In the "Opposing View" column, Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, reveals that cautionary sentiment toward immigration is not quite dead. Stein lauds the late Barbara Jordan, a Texas Democrat who chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform in 1995, who "tried to inject vision and foresight into the immigration debate" -- a debate that "has been on autopilot" even as 1 million immigrants flood America each year. Stein notes that the Census Bureau predicts the current U.S. population of 270 million will jump to 400 million by 2050, with 90% of the increase caused by immigrants and their descendants. He concludes: "By avoiding a serious national discussion about whether a million immigrants a year is wise or whether a population of 400 million by mid-century is good for our future, our political leaders are courting disaster" (7/6).
Leaning on Uncle Sam
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Stein writes that a study conducted by the Urban Institute reveals that "one-third of [immigrant] households have income levels of less than 125% of the official poverty rate," and in Los Angeles, "immigrant households constitute 59% of those classified as poor." A General Accounting Office Report analysis of 927,000 citizens who were naturalized during 1996 and 1997 reveals that "their dependence on government assistance programs was, in some cases, triple that of the rest of the population" and in California, "23.7% of newly naturalized citizens are receiving Medicaid benefits, compared with 8.2% of Californians as a whole" -- a dependency that cost the nation $735 million during that period. Stein notes that "the Republican leadership erroneously believed in 1996 that they could 'fix' the immigration problem by denying immigrants public assistance ... [t]he alarming poverty rates among immigrants in general and the cost of providing public assistance to newly naturalized citizens have proved that approach to be a failure. In 1999, the only way to fix the immigration problem is to fix the broken immigration policy" (Stein, 7/6).