A Realistic Approach
At present, the U.S. immigration system is burdened both by policy and implementation challenges. It is barely able to meet the commitments required by law and policy and is ill-prepared to address new challenges and mandates. Agreement that the system is broken may be the only point of consensus among many diverse stakeholders. The Task Force believes that immigration laws and policies are broken in four ways: .
There is an increasing disconnection between law and reality that undermines the rule of law, breeds disrespect for American values and institutions, and makes it more difficult to garner domestic support for immigration and advance U.S. values overseas. .
Some immigration policies hamper rather than encourage economic growth, impeding responses to global economic changes and cyclical industry needs. .
Immigration policies have not adequately addressed threats to national security. .
Immigration integration policy is nearly nonexistent, especially at the federal level, leaving state and local governments to absorb the consequences of federally established immigration policy. According to Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, immigrants long have been part of the American landscape, reflecting our country's values and traditions. During the last decade the Midwest has seen a resurgence of its long-established tradition of immigration. Nine of twelve Midwest states had foreign-born populations that grew faster than the national average during the 1990s. These immigrants are preventing population decline, reinvigorating economic growth, and contributing to cultural diversity.
Unfortunately, most immigration discussions tend to overlook the heartland of the country and our long and continuing experience with immigrants. Some in the Midwest believe that immigration here, important in itself, also is a microcosm for what is occurring across the country. They thus believe that observations, conclusions, and recommendations resonate nationwide. As I found on www.dallasfed.org, meat packing drew thousands of immigrants to the Midwest, and poultry processing did the same in the South Atlantic states. Jobs in these two industries exemplify the type of jobs new immigrants commonly filllow-skill, blue-collar jobs. This is because a large percentage of immigrants have less than a high school education. About 33 percent of immigrants have not finished high school, compared with 13 percent of native. Immigrants overwhelmingly filled blue-collar jobs (operators, fabricators and laborers) but also accounted for as much as half the growth in categories such as administrative support and services. According to Julian Samora Research Institute, the migration of Hispanics to the Midwest has been shown to be directly related to the labor needs of agriculture and manufacturing in the region. Much less, however, is known about how Hispanics have fared economically in this major industrial setting. Manufacturing in the Midwest has likewise benefitted from the supply of Mexican labor and has contributed to the growth of the Hispanic population. The need for industrial labor during both World War I and II as well as during strike activities in the steel industry in 1919 and the meat packing industry in 1921 assured the continued migration of Chicanos to the Midwest. Moreover, as the decline in migrant farm workers accelerated in the late sixties and early seventies as a result of agricultural mechanization, manufacturing--especially the auto-related industries--tapped former migrant workers for work. One study of Chicanos in Michigan viewed the period in the early seventies as a transition for Chicanos from field workers to factory workers. .
A proposed amnesty for more than 3 million undocumented Mexican workers and their families might help all Latinos in the United States, particularly those in rural communities, where they...