Sunday, April 29, 2007

Everyone will benefit with immigration reform, part #2

by Donna Poisl

Yesterday I listed several areas in which every person in this country will benefit when there is immigration reform which would legalize the millions of people living here illegally; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education and national security. That column only talked about our economy, this one will continue with the others, starting with Social Security and our military.

We all know the undocumented people living here have broken the law by coming in illegally or overstaying their visa and yet, something has to be done to get them registered and legalized. A majority of our citizens say we should find a way to solve this problem. This country needs them.

One reason we need these undocumented workers to become legal residents is to keep Social Security funded. Fifty or 60 years ago, when Social Security was new, it took 20 workers to keep enough tax money flowing in to keep a retired person on Social Security. Within 25 years, at the rate we are going now, there will only be two workers paying money in to cover each retiree. And in 25 years all the baby boomers will be in that group of retirees and the next generation will be getting ready to retire. Add the fact that people are living much longer than before and it’s easy to see why we need more young workers now. We also need a steady supply of young workers coming into the system. The young immigrant workers who are already here may be the answer to the Social Security funding problems of the future.

The reason most of these people came here was for work, because there is no work in their home countries that will support their families. If these millions of workers were suddenly sent back to their countries, it would cripple those economies along with hurting ours. They would be sent to the end of very long unemployment lines and never have any hope of finding work. The money they had been sending home to their families would stop and this would hurt the families and their economy.

When those young people have no job and no hope of getting one, they get angry and are perfect recruits for gangs and the political parties that are becoming increasingly anti-American. Civil unrest and economic hardship in other countries are dangerous for the residents of this country. The radical governments of some Latin American countries would love to have more people in their forces and against us. Especially since they are on our southern border and could manage to get into our country.

Some gangs that are powerful in Latin American countries have started gangs in this country, mostly involved in drugs. This is a small minority of the undocumented immigrants who are here, but it is enough to worry about, especially when they recruit members from groups who are alienated from the mainstream.

Young legal and illegal immigrants in our country, who are unable to assimilate, often because they lack English proficiency, are recruited into these gangs. These teens drop out of school, can't get jobs and are isolated from the mainstream. Gangs provide a good way to join a circle of "friends" and be accepted by others. The ones without strong families are looking for acceptance and join gangs to belong to a group.

If teens are given legal status and are encouraged to get a good education or train for better jobs, they would be very unlikely to join gangs. When they have a stake in the country and don’t have to worry constantly about being caught and deported, the majority would be law abiding members of their communities. Many would continue their education and go to college and many would join the military.

There are almost 30,000 non citizens now on active duty in the U.S. military. These service members are defending a country in which they don't have the most important of our rights, voting for the people who could send them to war.

The waiting period for citizenship for immigrants in the military has been decreased from 5 years to 3 years. In 2004, President Bush signed an order allowing active duty immigrants serving at least one year during conflict to be eligible to apply for citizenship in even less time, without many of the usual requirements. And they don't have to return home before applying.

Many immigrants place a high value on military training and the additional education available through the military. When citizenship requirements are eased for those who join the military, even more immigrants than usual sign up.

If the undocumented immigrants here now were given legal status, there would be a huge additional pool of recruits and there will be a high number who will enlist for these new citizenship benefits. This would add sufficient numbers to the regular military and possibly enable the National Guard to remain at home.

The CIA's World Factbook lists 30 countries with a negative population growth and 13 of them are our NATO allies. The U.S. population growth rate is about even, which means our military will stay about the same size. But we must make sure our population increases to a higher rate so we can keep our military numbers sufficient and make up for some of our allies who have decreasing numbers.

Another benefit to having all these additional recruits is that the pay incentives that are necessary now to reach the quotas may be able to be decreased or dropped entirely. This would save money for the government and the money saved could be used to keep equipment repaired and replaced on schedule.

These additional legal residents would help Social Security and our military and be an invaluable part of our society.

Yesterday I listed several areas we will all benefit when there is immigration reform which would legalize the millions of people living here illegally; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education and national security. The first column talked about our economy, this one was about Social Security and the military. The next one will continue with the others.

UK majority favour 'pathway into citizenship' for illegal immigrants

This report shows that the illegal immigrant issues in England are the same as here and that a similar number (66%) of their citizens think law abiding, hard working immigrants should be allowed to stay and be legalized. DP

Independent Catholic News Two out of three (66%) British people believe undocumented migrants who have been in the UK for more than four years and who work and pay taxes should be allowed to stay and not be called illegal.

Two-thirds (67%) also believe asylum seekers should be allowed to work.

The findings come in an ORB poll commissioned by Strangers into Citizens, a broad-based campaign by the country's largest alliance of civic institutions, the Citizen Organising Foundation.

66% of those polled believe that those who work and pay taxes should be allowed to stay. 67% said those who have been here for more than four years and who work should be allowed to stay. The same percentage believe asylum-seekers should be allowed to work.

The poll showed that only 21% think the Government is doing a good job in handling immigration. It also showed that the British people favour a crackdown on benefit cheats, but view asylum seekers and overstayers favourably as long as they work and pay taxes.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Everyone will benefit with immigration reform

by Donna Poisl

Immigration reform is back in the news, and there’s a slight chance something can be done about it before fall.

Everyone in this country will benefit if a good plan is put into place. This even includes the people who are so completely against doing anything about the issue. The people who say all illegal immigrants and undocumented workers should be "rounded up and sent back where they came from" will benefit just as much as those who say we should find a way to keep them here. Almost every aspect of our lives will be affected positively.

If the President, Senate and House are able to put a comprehensive immigration reform package together, it will almost certainly include a way for most of the people in the country illegally to stay and receive legal status. President Bush, when he was in Yuma Arizona recently, said the idea of finding and deporting all illegal immigrants might sound good, "But it won't happen."

Everyone agrees that people should not be in this country illegally. Everyone agrees that the people here illegally have broken our laws just by being here. Everyone agrees that we have to document the people coming into and leaving our country. Most people admit that we are all responsible: whether we hire the workers; buy what they produce; vote for the people who passed the laws that allowed it to get this far or if we didn’t vote at all. And since we are responsible for the problem, we should be responsible and try to fix it.

Even all the polls and surveys lately are showing that the public is between 59% and 78% in favor of giving undocumented immigrants legal status after they meet certain requirements.

The people who are against this should consider that legalizing these people will benefit the whole country; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education, even our national security.

The most immediate benefit would be to business. Our unemployment rate now is below 4.5%. This means that almost everyone who can and wants to work is working. This includes the fact that there are millions of undocumented workers, or about 10% of our work force. What would happen if these people were suddenly sent away and left the jobs they have now? With so few people out of work now, there would not be enough workers to replace them and many businesses would close.

Every time there is a town hall style meeting, farmers stand up and say that they can’t plant part of their crops this year because they know they can't get workers to harvest them. They say the numbers here now are not even enough. Many farmers are struggling (and failing) to find enough workers even with the legal migrant workers (66,000 H-2B visas a year) and it would be a disaster for them if the undocumented workers were not available.

Farmers would have to sell out and we might have food shortages. We would definitely have much higher food prices. Instead of the present amount of our food coming in from other countries, most of it would. This also brings in to play the problems with contamination and unsanitary conditions that have happened recently with foods from developing countries.

Hotels and motels, restaurants, landscape companies and many other companies that use low skilled workers would have to close because they would have no workers. We hear complaints all the time that these immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans, but there aren't enough Americans to do those jobs. Our birthrate is low, our population is aging and the workforce is shrinking.

We need these workers to fill the jobs or companies will close. The companies who can, will go overseas to get the work done. I guess the workers from all the companies that close could find work with the farmers and harvest the crops, but I doubt that would happen.

Some towns are making it uncomfortable for immigrants to live in them, so the immigrants move and take their labor and buying power with them. Then when these towns want to create new businesses, to replace the ones that closed when all these workers left, they don’t have an available work force. It is definitely a vicious cycle.

People who complain about these low skilled and low wage workers insist they have brought wages down for the rest of us, but this is not the main cause of low wages. U.S. companies have to be competitive to get and keep business. Prices of products and services have to be low or customers go overseas to fill their orders. The only way U.S. companies can compete for the business is if they use low wage workers here or outsource the work to other countries.

Look at all the U.S. companies that are using customer service, technical support and data entry workers in India and the Philippines and Mexico. Those workers are higher skilled and still make much less than comparable workers here. People complain about the work going overseas but would not accept higher prices to pay for the work to be done here. They have to understand that they can’t have it both ways.

We are all better off when these companies use low wage workers here than we would be if they go off shore to get the workers. We are certainly better off than if they had to close. Every job that is kept here, even if it is a lower wage job, creates more jobs. A manufacturing job creates 3 or more additional jobs in our economy, service jobs create at lease one more. The workers are spending their paychecks to feed, clothe and shelter their families. They are buying things and helping to keep factories, stores and restaurants open. And don't forget, they are paying taxes.

Almost all people working illegally pay taxes. Some file income taxes using Tax ID numbers and many more are using false Social Security numbers. This means the taxes they are paying are going into the system but will never go back to those workers when they retire or are disabled. Even the people using Tax ID numbers won’t collect that money when they retire.

If fewer people pay taxes, everyone else will have to pay more taxes to keep the country and military operating. This alone should be a good reason for everyone to want more workers in this country.

At the beginning of this column, I listed several areas in which we will all benefit when there is immigration reform which would legalize the millions of people living here illegally; the military, Social Security, our economy, our future economy, education and national security. This column only talked about our economy, tomorrow’s will continue with the others.

More Immigrants Means More Jobs

Commentary, David Alff

New America Media EDITOR’S NOTE: Often lost in the bitter immigration debate is the role of immigrants as a whole in developing the U.S. economy. Here’s a reminder. David Alff is an outreach associate with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that connects immigrants with economic opportunities in the region. IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of the nation's leading immigrant rights advocates. PHILADELPHIA -- Many Americans believe that immigrants take jobs from native-born U.S. citizens. These people might be surprised to know that immigrant entrepreneurs frequently start companies which actually create jobs for native and foreign-born workers.

In the midst of a national debate over immigration, few U.S. citizens recognize the reality that immigrant-founded companies currently employ millions of Americans, and that many of us owe our jobs to those born in other countries.

Consider the example of Raza Bokhari, a Pakistani immigrant whose medical diagnostics firm, Lakewood Pathology Associates, is among the fastest growing companies in the region. Based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania Lakewood Pathology currently employs a staff of 80, and has plans to hire an additional 120 workers over the next three years in order to expand its services nationwide. Last December, Dr. Bokhari donated $1 million to Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute so that future entrepreneurs have guidance to develop new businesses.

Lakewood Pathology Associates is not a unique example. A study recently conducted by Duke University found that one quarter of technology companies that were started in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder. These companies hired 450,000 workers and produced $52 billion in sales. In Silicon Valley, the epicenter of America’s recent tech boom, over half of start-ups were founded by immigrants.

The Duke study indicates that immigrants have been instrumental in launching companies which produce job opportunities for both native and foreign-born Americans. Despite all this, Philadelphia has sometimes been reluctant to integrate foreigners into its economy. In 1751, Benjamin Franklin described German immigrants as “boors,” who “will never adopt our language or customs.” Brilliant as he was, Franklin could not look far enough into the future to see the positive contributions immigrants would make to Philadelphia.

Franklin probably wasn’t picturing German immigrants like Otto Röhm, a chemist who co-founded the Rohm and Haas Company in 1909 on Front Street. Today, Rohm and Haas is a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturer and one of Philadelphia’s leading employers.

From Otto Röhm to Raza Bokhari, immigrant business owners have been an important part of Philadelphia’s history. Just think what immigrant-founded companies can do for themselves and others in the next hundred years if given the chance. The city’s prosperity and your future paycheck may depend on it.

Immigrants write NYC`s history

New York City celebrates its immigrant history, the names coming into Ellis Island in the early 1900s included many Hispanic names. DP

EDITORIAL They were men and women with surnames like Rodriguez, Gonzalez and Rivera, and they came from cities like Puerto Plata, Guayaquil and La Habana, many to settle in New York.

These hispanic surnames are among the thousands that appear in the Ellis Island database. While people who entered through Ellis Island are typically presented as only European, a closer glance reveals a significant immigration of Latinos in the early 1900`s, even of Puerto Ricans, who were made U.S. citizens in 1917.

This week, as the city celebrates immigrant history, we contemplate the footprints of those Latino pioneers and honor generations of immigrants who have made New York a global capital.

In the early 20th century, Caribbean tabaqueros, for example, brought traditions of empowering workers. They would pay lectores to read novels and political literature to them as they worked. Leaders and organizers emerged out of these traditions to serve in labor movements in New York City.

El Barrio Latino, which would later be simply known as "El Barrio," became an early center for political organizing and the arts. Pioneers there broke ground for the waves of Latino immigrants and migrants that would arrive in subsequent decades.

Those waves sustained the manufacturing sector in the city. Caribbean and Latin American immigrants also sustained neighborhoods throughout a city dealing with the outflight of native residents.

These are just a couple of examples of how immigrants have made the Big Apple great. And that`s why New York loves immigrants.

Also, anyone who believes that Immigrant History Week is about how nifty it is that you hear different languages on the No. 7 train is missing a bigger point.

That point is that New York`s history continues to be written by immigrants.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Divided States Of America

This Business Week article shows how states and counties are reacting differently to the same situation. Some are making it easier for immigrants and others are trying to make them leave. DP

States and municipalities are responding in wildly different ways to undocumented workers Gustavo Torres is a popular guy these days. As he walks into the storefront worker center he runs, the Hispanic men and women who fill the waiting room wave and call out "buenos días." Torres' nonprofit has been hired by Montgomery County, Md., to provide employment services to these immigrants, about 60% of whom are in the country illegally.

The county pays Torres' group, casa of Maryland Inc., about $700,000 a year to provide hiring halls, English language classes, and legal help in employment disputes. What's more, the county doesn't care what the federal government thinks of its welcoming attitude. "The local government says they are not going to cooperate with [U.S.] Immigration & Customs Enforcement," says Torres.

It's a different world just three hours away in Hazelton, Pa. The local government there is trying to push through ordinances meant to drive illegal immigrants out of town and punish employers who hire them. "Illegal immigration is destroying the quality of life," says Hazelton Mayor Louis J. Barletta.

This stark contrast is repeated again and again across the country, confounding businesses with local rules designed to deal with an undocumented population estimated at 12 million nationwide. The federal government's often haphazard enforcement of immigration laws and the absence of a comprehensive immigration policy only adds to the confusion. "This is like a Bermuda Triangle," says Di Ann Sanchez, vice-president of human resources at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poll: California Voters Favor Legalizing Status Of Illegal Immigrants Already In Country

This certainly is the best solution; Do something to make the borders more secure to stop the illegal entries and allow the ones already here to get legal status if they can qualify.

Voters Also Want More Border Security SAN FRANCISCO -- A Field Poll released Tuesday says more than 80 percent of California registered voters support legalizing the status of illegal immigrants already in the country, but also want tougher measures to reduce the flow of immigrants into the United States.

Taken in late March, the survey questioned voters on many of the proposals that were part of the immigration overhaul plan described this week by President Bush.

The poll shows about 83 percent favor programs that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for several years. Voters said they want immigrants to be employed, learn English and pay any back taxes.

Two-thirds want the government to create temporary worker programs so immigrants can enter the country to work legally. About the same percentage -- 63 percent -- favor stiffer penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Voters also want more federal agents posted along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Friday, April 06, 2007

English doesn’t have to be our “official” language

By Donna Poisl

In many parts of this country it’s very common to see foreign language newspapers and magazines in the stores next to English language publications. I used to live in an apartment in Chicago and we could hear four or five different languages in the elevator every day.

But in most of the United States, this is new and many of our residents are not dealing with it very well. They think immigrants should learn English before they get here or at least as soon as they arrive. They don't understand how hard it is to learn a new language. They don't realize how many hours it takes to sit in class, especially how hard it is after working a 10 hour day or a second job with a family waiting at home. They don’t realize that it takes years to become fluent in another language.

It seems that most of this interest in making English our official language is rooted in the issue of illegal immigration. Many people assume that anyone who does not speak English fluently is here illegally but very few legal immigrans are fluent in English when they come here. All have to learn our language and customs.

Several cities and states are trying to make English their official language and some are passing laws. Others have decided it is unnecessary.

I agree with the ones who find it unnecessary. English is our national language, everyone in the world knows that. The importance of speaking English as the best way to succeed and achieve a better life here is already something that is understood by nearly every immigrant in the country. Learning English and American customs are needed for so many things, including employment, opening bank accounts, explaining problems to a doctor or the police and being able to buy things.

Some proposed laws state simply that "all communications shall be in English". If these laws pass and it is declared as the official language, that might make it illegal to use any other language. Period.

Would this mean that immigrants who want to take ESL classes couldn't speak their language in that class to translate and learn English? Would it mean that people who have to report an emergency couldn't do it unless they spoke English? Would foreign business people here looking to invest or build a factory have to speak English? Would all foreign tourists have to speak English while visiting here?

These examples might be extreme, but most of the proposed laws are so broad and so vague that they could be open to almost any interpretation. They might not do much more than cause hundreds of lawsuits that test the limits of the laws and cause more backlogs in the courts.

Our language has evolved from the King’s English of the pilgrims into what we speak today. Some British people resent that we even call our language English. There are so many words that different groups of our immigrants have added that our American English is not much like the original and is very different than British English now. Add to that the different regional accents and words and you can see how our language is changing all the time.

If foreign words were not allowed here years ago, we wouldn’t have a large portion of our language. Just imagine our language without boulevards, bouquets, quays, queues and especially foods like spaghetti, tamales, burritos, quiche, feta, curry, rissoto or chow mein.

This country is an immigrant nation and the progression of English has stayed the same since it’s beginning. First generation immigrants are only about 4% English dominant, the second generation is almost 100% fluent in English while speaking their parents’ language at home. By the third generation, all are fluent in English and only about 22% are bilingual anymore. Many of this generation wish their parents had taught them their language, since, as we all know, knowledge of another language helps in many parts of our lives.

If these cities want to encourage people to learn English, there are better methods than declaring it the official language. If we make it easier for people to learn English, it would help tremendously.

There was a bill proposed last year for the government to provide $500 vouchers for legal immigrants to pay for English classes. This would certainly be a step in the right direction.

More classes have to be set up to teach them too, though. Vouchers won’t help much if there aren’t classes. Some immigrants are waiting months to get into public classes to learn English, some states have a waiting list as long as two years.

English has never been threatened as the dominant language of the United States. The languages that immigrants bring with them to the U.S. are the ones that are threatened. After a few generations, all those languages are gone. It is not necessary to legislate English as our official language.

Even illegal immigrants in U.S. pay taxes

This goes against all the people who insist the people here illegally do not pay any taxes. DP

By Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal LOS ANGELES - On a recent Sunday afternoon, construction workers, car washers, truck drivers and students crowded into Petra Castillo's one-room tax-preparation office in this city's South Central neighborhood. Most of those inside what was once the home of El Jefe Tacos shared something besides their need to beat this year's April 17 filing deadline: They are illegal immigrants.

"They are undocumented, but they want to do everything right," says Castillo, 50 years old, who has a no-nonsense demeanor as she juggles phone calls and customers, mainly speaking in Spanish.

Politicians and activists campaigning for a crackdown on illegal immigration frequently complain that the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented residents violate U.S. law by not paying taxes, as well as by being in the U.S. without permission. But . Castillo's booming business shows how some of the workers who are here in defiance of one arm of the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security - are filing federal tax returns with the aggressive encouragement of another - the Internal Revenue Service.

"The rules of this country say that everyone must file taxes," says Pablo Espinoza, a welder. "I am complying with the rules." The Mexican immigrant and his wife, Martha, who works in a chicken-processing plant, earned about $42,000 last year. Mr. Espinoza acknowledges that he and his wife are here illegally. But in every other respect, he says, they are law-abiding residents. "We work hard. We have a clean record. We file our taxes," he says.
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Monday, April 02, 2007

Fleeing Darfur, finding Indiana

These refugees from the fighting in Darfur have made new homes in Indiana. They found the big cities on the east coast too big and busy and enjoy the slower pace. DP

Refugees skip coasts for lives in Midwest

By Susan Saulny, New York Times News Service FT. WAYNE, Ind. -- Looking at old photos taken in the desert sand in the Darfur region of Sudan, Fawzia Suliman pointed to one after the other: mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, cousin and so on.

"Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead," she said. "All dead."

The last place that Suliman called home was a grass-topped hut that janjaweed militiamen burned to the ground. She offers the scars on her feet as testament to how fast she ran to escape them almost two years ago, the beginning of an unlikely journey that led to an apartment here on the north side of town.

"If I talk to people from Darfur, I say come here," said Suliman, 24, who works in a plastics factory. "It's too nice. Everybody knows New York City. But my God, all this is America too."

Up to 300 people originally from Darfur are living in Ft. Wayne, with others scattered across small Indiana towns like Elkhart, South Bend and Goshen. Together, they form one of the largest concentrations of Darfuri in the United States.
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A ‘willingness’ to learn English

Children learn English in one class and the parents are learning in another class at the same time. This is certainly the best way for all of them to learn. DP

Many parents of immigrant students were eager to attend expanded classes

By Allison Graber May Mon, a seven-year Burmese refugee living in Fort Wayne, wakes up Saturday mornings with one goal in mind.

She dresses her two children and goes to the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Minority Immigrant Literacy Program. Instead of waiting for her children to finish the class like she used to, she learns English in a separate room for adults.

The IPFW literacy program, formerly known as the Burmese Literacy Program, offers classes to students ages 5 to 12 who do not speak English as a native language. Kyaw T. Soe, program founder, organized the program for children in 2003 with his own money when he saw that Burmese students were falling behind in school. In January the program, open to minority immigrants of all nationalities, offered a new opportunity for the students’ parents.

On the upstairs floor, above the bustling activities in the students’ room, adults learn English.
“We need to learn to speak English very well, and then we can read, and then we can write a letter,” Mon, 35, said.
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Embracing English, keeping Spanish

No other country has absorbed as many languages as ours. People are learning English at the same rate as they always have, but more are also keeping their native language. Being bilingual is the best choice. DP

Immigrants' kids appear to retain fluency

By Jane Meredith Adams, Special to the Tribune SAN FRANCISCO -- Verb by verb, 26 immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina and elsewhere are hacking their way through the rules, and the exceptions to the rules, of the English language on the third floor of a converted warehouse in the Mission District. In spelling past tense verbs, "stop" becomes "stopped," explained City College of San Francisco professor Barbara Shaw, but "fix" never becomes "fixxed."

"The verbs," said a sighing Gertrudis Gonzalez, 58, who is struggling to learn English 36 years after arriving from her native El Salvador.

"They understand what I am saying," said Argentine immigrant Cintia Godoy, 29, of her co-workers at a catering company, "but I know I say it wrong."

As they have for generations, Spanish-speaking immigrants have flooded the Mission District, where stores post abierto signs when they are open, the billboards advertise telenovelas on Spanish-language television stations and the tellers at the Bank of America branch converse en Espanol. The district represents the kind of Spanish-language enclave that has provoked controversy nationwide, notably in Hazleton, Pa., the site of the most recent uproar in the ongoing debate about immigrants, the English language and the 28 million people in the U.S. who, according to Census Bureau statistics, speak Spanish in their homes.
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