General Information

Saturday, April 29, 2006
I found some general information on immigration that answers a few basic questions. It seems sometimes that the more political an issue becomes the more difficult it is to get real information and facts.

Hasn't the U.S. substantially increased border surveillance? Why hasn't illegal immigration slowed?

There are many reasons.

It is true that the budget and staff of the Border Patrol has increased significantly, nearly tripling since 1990. A major effort has been particularly made in the El Paso area (Operation Hold-the-Line) and in San Diego (Operation Gatekeeper). The number of deportable aliens located has significantly increased but this is more a reflection of the greater numbers of people who are attempting to immigrate.

These changes have stopped many illegal crossings - in those areas. They have increased the charges that "coyote" smugglers charge to assist aliens who cross the border at more isolated areas. The charge used to be about $300. Now it often exceeds $1000. Because of severe climate conditions at some of the frequent crossing areas, almost 1500 deaths have occurred since 1995. They have also had the effect of keeping immigrants from returning to Mexico because of the difficulty in returning to the U.S. again. But they have not kept new immigrants from coming.

About half of the undocumented immigrant workers do not cross the border surreptitiously. Instead, they pose as tourists or temporary visitors (often improperly using temporary border crossing cards issued to local border residents). These crossings have not been affected by increased border surveillance.

Studies have shown that the volume of illegal immigrants is directly related to economic conditions in Mexico. Mexico has long had more people of working age than jobs and unemployment there is about 20%. As Mexico's economy continues to grow and its birth rate slows, it is likely that illegal immigration will decline significantly even if additional enforcement measures are not taken.

There is also information regarding the basics of legal immigration and ctizenship as well as a list of pros and cons on immigration.


Amnesty and guest worker programs

In January 2004, the Bush Administration proposed a solution to the undocumented problem in the form of a new guest worker program. In order to qualify under this plan, the workers must have a job offer and the employer must show no Americans wanted the job. Under the plan, undocumented workers who gained temporary-worker status would enjoy the rights and protections of legal workers. They could also apply for green cards, which convey permanent residency and, potentially, citizenship. The workers must return to their home countries at the end of the term. Dependents of the temporary workers would be allowed in the US if the workers could prove they could support their family. The workers would be allowed to move freely back and forth between the US and their home country. The proposal has rekindled the immigration debate by pitting employers and many Hispanics who support the proposal against some elements of organized labor and many conservative "America First" citizens who oppose it. The proposal does not have broad public support.


I heard on Fox news the other night that up to 80% of the agricultural workers in California are undocumented workers. I have heard and read similar numbers for Oregon. It would seem to me that the guest worker program would work for these kinds of workers. When Bush says there are jobs Americans do not want to do he is ridiculed by some conservatives, but like it or not he is right.

I don't think Americans will like high food prices anymore than they do high gas prices, and they would like food shortages even less.

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