View Full Version : Proponents alter immigration bill in face of tough economic climate

11-23-2009, 06:42 AM
By Jared Allen - 11/23/09 06:00 AM ET

House Democrats are making changes to their immigration legislation to reflect the nation’s high unemployment rate.

The move comes as recognition that the 10.2 percent jobless rate – which is expected to rise and remain in double-digits for much of 2010 -- has altered the political landscape for an immigration bill.

“Each bill is reflective of a time. And with unemployment over 10 percent I think we need to have language that is very carefully tailored,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

Some supporters of reforming U.S. immigration laws to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants acknowledge the tough economic times create a difficult climate for legislation.

“There are some things that will make it harder [than in past years],” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has co-sponsored legislation on immigration with Gutierrez.

“People will look at the unemployment numbers and say; ‘Well, why are we focusing on this?’ So, yeah, I think the hill’s a little steeper.”

The nation’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent when legislation sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2007 stalemated in the Senate. Michigan, with 7.1 percent unemployment, was the state with the highest jobless rate at the time.

At the end of last month, 22 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and dozens of metropolitan areas had average unemployment rates above 9 percent. Michigan’s rate is above 15 percent. California’s is 12.2 percent.

Gutierrez said he hopes to keep as much of the framework of the 2007 legislation as possible, but some aspects will clearly have to change.

For example, the 2007 legislation created a “New Worker” program as an early step toward earned citizenship, but allowed the Secretary of Labor to reject new worker visas in areas where the unemployment rate rose above 9 percent.

Gutierrez said his latest bill will have to have much higher unemployment thresholds, and he said the dozen of Democrats he has included in an early immigration reform working group are looking at different policy options.

“We believe that every American should always have first crack at every job,” Gutierrez said. “Having said that, where the opportunities exist, we need to sustain our economy. And so we need workers. Even in this very unstable economic situation we find ourselves in, there are still crabs that need to be picked, there are still onions going un-harvested. It’s just true.”


11-23-2009, 08:56 AM
Democrats have until November 2010 and then the clock runs out. They will try to push something, knowing full well that the votes will no longer be there if they hesistate.

11-23-2009, 12:07 PM
Recession Causing Major Shifts In U.S. Immigration Trends
Source: The Brookings Institute Posted on: 22nd November 2009

With U.S. unemployment at a 26-year high Americans will be feeling the economic downturn for some time.

Immigration experts are seeing global signs of the recession in major shifts in U.S. immigration trends, especially at the high and low ends of the skills spectrum. Here are the most significant changes.

You know the U.S. is in a recession when…

Mexicans are sending money to relatives in the United States.

In 2007, Mexicans living in the U.S. sent about $26 billion to relatives living in Mexico. The amount of remittances dropped to $25 billion in 2008, the first decline since the Central Bank of Mexico started keeping track 14 years ago. In the first nine months of 2009, the Bank reports that only $16.4 billion has been sent south, a 13 percent decline from 2008.

Now, there are some signs of an increase in “reverse remittances,” in which residents of Mexico wire money to their relatives north of the border to help them through tough times. While still a small fraction of the north-to-south remittance flow, which provides Mexico with its second largest source of foreign income (after oil exports), an uptick in reverse remittances is a striking example of the ripple effects of U.S. job loss.

H1-B visas are still available.

In fiscal year 2009, the H1-B visa program that links high-skilled immigrants with sponsoring U.S. employers had all 65,000 application slots filled in one day. In FY08, it took two days, and in FY07, 56 days. But things have changed. After 211 days into the 2010 fiscal year, there were almost twenty thousand slots still available. With high unemployment and shrinking budgets many corporations are unable to hire from abroad as they did in recent years.

What’s more, companies that receive federal bailout funds must hire U.S. workers or demonstrate they are cannot find them if they do. Technology firms for years have pressured Congress to increase the number of H1-B visas. This may be a break for domestic tech workers who have often been on the other side of the argument.

Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border are down.

If arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border are an indication of illegal crossing activity, the fact that the number has dropped by more than 23 percent during the past year probably indicates a reduction in persons attempting to make the trip.

Precipitously declining economic opportunity combined with beefed-up enforcement have been factors in the recent drop in the number of immigration arrests at the border over the past few years. The number recorded for FY 2009 represents a 34-year low point. At the same time the border patrol budget has risen to nearly $11 billion, up from $6 billion in 2004.

More Americans are looking for jobs overseas.

USAToday reports that more Americans are seeking work abroad than in the past. Although “the trend reverses a longtime pattern of far more foreign workers seeking jobs in the U.S.” sounds like an overstatement, there are signs that Americans are more willing to consider working abroad. The country’s largest staffing company, Manpower, says it has 500 clients seeking overseas work, compared a few dozen six months ago. And a recent survey of executives in the U.S. revealed that 54 percent would be likely to take a job in another country, compared to 37 percent in 2005. The top prospects? India, China, Brazil, Dubai, and Singapore.

Immigration slows.

When the Census Bureau released data from its 2008 American Community Survey this September, immigrant numbers made headlines, as they often do, but this time the stories were about the numbers’ leveling off rather than climbing up. After years of fast-paced growth, the size of the foreign-born population in the U.S. was statistically unchanged from the year before. While some of the reduction could be due to stepped-up enforcement actions – at the border, worksites, and by local law enforcement – fewer jobs, especially in immigrant-heavy industries like construction, technology, and manufacturing, make for a weaker pull on migrants.

It is unclear how long these twists in U.S. immigration trends will last. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a speech on Friday announced that the Obama administration is moving ahead with immigration reform noting that this administration had achieved a “fundamental change” (no doubt aided by the recession’s impacts) in border security and enforcement against employers hiring illegal immigrants.

She elaborated by saying that the diminished inflow along with better enforcement outcomes opened up the prospects for federal reform, including an earned legalization program to bring unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows. Let’s hope she’s right.