On the Anchor Baby Trail | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

On the Anchor Baby Trail


Ulises Hernandez Rincon, 21, listened furtively to the cries of outrage and angry applause from people in the community center's bleachers, his eyes darting around the room like two dragonflies trying to settle on a lily pad. Rincon, whose parents are Mexican, was born in the United States and is just as much as citizen as any of the U.S.-born speakers railing against immigrants on the stage.

"Our nation is in peril, and you have decided to stand up on behalf of our nation," conservative African American radio host Kim Wade told a crowd of about 200 white faces filling the Madison Community Center on a hot July night.

Political candidate Bill Marcy, also black, told the crowd that its opposition to illegal immigration is akin to defending your home against a burglar.

"My grandfather told me something: He said, ‘Bill, as a southerner, when somebody comes to your front door you are required by southern tradition to welcome them in and offer them a drink,'" said Marcy, who is running against congressional Democratic titan U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson in the upcoming Second Congressional District election.

Marcy seemed to be trying to embrace a down-homey kind of vibe as he slammed immigrants. "But Granddaddy also said that if someone sneaks through your back window in the middle of the night when you are asleep, then that person is going to have to talk to your dog and your gun."

"This is what we're talking about," Marcy declared after the cheering eventually died down. "Thirteen million people have sneaked through the back window, and now they're starting to come into your living room and telling you that they actually own the house."

Rincon and Marcy and Wade actually grew up in the same culture. They probably laugh at the same television shows. They might all cringe at Cialis commercials. In fact, the only distinction could be Rincon's slightly larger bilingual vocabulary and the fact that Marcy's and Wade's mothers were U.S. citizens impregnated by two other U.S. citizens.

But that's all the difference the folks on stage need, by the sound of it. To many in this crowd, Rincon is an anchor baby, supposedly intentionally born here so that he can deviously forge his 39-year-old Mexican mother's path to U.S. citizenship.

Living In Fear
Rincon feared signing his real name to the attendance clipboard at the Madison tea party gathering, saying he was unsure if any one of the members would do something nasty to him at a later time. He may have had a point. Anchor babies, such as himself, are the current brunt of increasingly vicious rhetoric. A July 13 Clarion-Ledger article cited Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant claiming that immigrant children are a drain on Mississippi hospitals: "You have some that have babies—anchor babies—and don't pay for it," Bryant said.

The young man, who is an organizer for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, laughs bitterly when asked about his mystical anchor-baby power to grant citizenship.

"It's easier for my mother to try to get permanent residence through victim status than for me to petition on her behalf," he said.

At the Madison forum, Bryant targeted the organization for which Rincon works, the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance.

"Well, they broke a federal law. Who is going to enforce that? If I am conspiring or encouraging or counseling illegal aliens to continue working in the U.S. or assisting them in completing their application, I'm committing a federal violation."

Not exactly. Rincon said federal law does spell out that it is a federal violation for anyone who "encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be a violation of law ..."

The expected candidate for governor leaves out, however, that federal law established the process MIRA uses to help non-citizens achieve citizenship and that—so far—a non-citizen has no supplemental process through which to achieve citizenship. The federal government is still the only way to go, and MIRA must use it.

Drug War Victims
U.S. authorities deported Rincon's father back to San Francisco, Michoacán, Mexico two years ago, ending the man's profitable construction career in the U.S. and returning him to an area dominated by drug cartels.

Rincon's father's well-being isn't top of mind for the Madison crowd, however; they are focused on keeping immigrants out and adopting laws that would actually require documented immigrants, and even U.S. citizens such as Rincon, to prove their citizenship.

At the Madison gathering, Brookhaven Rep. Becky Currie vowed to submit to the state Legislature a bill mirroring the controversial bill Arizona legislators passed requiring law enforcement officials to check drivers' or residential documents. The federal government has already challenged the Arizona law, on the grounds that it is the federal government's job to enforce immigration issues, while other opponents argue that the Arizona law gives police the ability to pull people over—including U.S. citizens—based upon physical appearance.

If passed during the next legislative session, a mimic of the Arizona law would not be the first stab at the cold heart of unregulated immigration in Mississippi. In 2008, the state Legislature passed the Mississippi Employment Protection Act, which requires employers operating in the Magnolia state to "hire only employees who are legal citizens of the United States of America or are legal aliens."

That law, which proponents describe as a hard ruler rap on the knuckles of unscrupulous employers, is a hard boot to the testicles of undocumented immigrants.

Any employer violating the law runs the risk of getting state or public contracts canceled for up to three years. Employers also risks losing any license, permit or certification granted by any state agency, department or government entity for a year.

If a worker gets nabbed in the same bust that cost his employer his state contract, he or she gets a felony charge that, upon conviction, can lead to up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 as well as an alert to ICE, which could end with deportation.

‘Some Kind of Enemy'
After an hour and a half of non-stop disparagement from Wade, Bryant and others—cross stereotyping words ultimately aimed at his mother—Rincon left the Madison building in low spirits.

"I thought I would come here and learn something from these people," he said afterward. "I was hoping I could find a way to communicate with them on some level. I thought: ‘We're the same people. We're Americans. I just need to find something we can all relate to.'"

Rincon shook his head for a moment, his frustrated gaze cutting off into the distance. "I couldn't find that here. There's no way into their heads. I don't think they're interested in trying to communicate with me. I think they see me as some kind of enemy."

The young man had cause to leave feeling discouraged. There was no voice amid the anger to counter any of the sloppy assessments or to correct untruths, intentional or not.

Russ Latino, a tea partier and a white former Jackson resident who fled to the Jackson suburbs, railed that immigrants were anathema to American comfort: "Illegal immigrants drive down wages, because they take the unfair wages that Americans would do if they we being paid a decent wage."

Professor Jorge Borjas, a Robert Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, summed up the issue for NPR during a 2006 Q&A with Reporter Adam Davidson.

"The most respected recent studies show that most Americans would notice little difference in their paychecks if illegal immigrants suddenly disappeared from the United States. That's because most Americans don't directly compete with illegal immigrants for jobs," Borjas stated.

The professor pointed out that illegal immigrants often take some of the country's nastiest jobs, like the ones in the meat-packing and agriculture industries. The chicken plants of Mississippi's Scott County inadvertently began building an immigrant population in the communities of Morton and Forest years ago when they hired contractors to troll Latin America for potential chicken-pluckers.

Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Executive Director Bill Chandler said the companies were in need of stable labor throughout the 1990s to keep the price of chicken products down, and recruited a new league of un-unionized workers. It only worked for a while. Chandler's Union Associates began organizing the new labor force throughout the 2000s, and today the area hosts one of MIRA's strongest union presences.

But that presence has limited power.

Hating Castro and Communists
Aaron and Adrien Moreno are two adorably obnoxious kids who insisted on chatting to me incessantly about Skittles while I trailed along after Rincon on one of his organizational efforts in Morton last month. Their grandfather, a Cuban immigrant in the U.S. for 10 years who works at a local hatchery, lives in a company-owned mobile home that's seen much better days.

"He says he'd rather die than go back to Cuba," Rincon later says of the kids' grandfather as we're driving away. I glance backward in the car mirror at the two kids waving at our departure with their battered badminton rackets. "He really hates Castro," Rincon adds.

I then see Grandpa's broken-down trailer home careening into the mirror's view as the car pulls out of the gravel driveway and wonder if a mobile home qualifies for "hoopty" status as long as it has wheels.

"Yep. He must really, really hate communists," I say.

Despite the organized might of the food-processors union, a bag of leg quarters in the state still costs about $5, thanks to immigrant work averaging a fraction over minimum wage. But even at $10 an hour, there appear to be few takers for chicken-processing jobs, at least not for long.

Chandler says American-born workers typically endure the industry for a short time before finding something else and moving on. That's not what a boss looks for, however. They want longevity, and somebody whose temporary visa depends on continued employment is typically willing to stick with the job through miles of chicken guts.

Maybe that's good. If no undocumented workers were available for those kinds of jobs, Borjas said that employers would likely invest in new technology, replacing workers with automation. The professor added that his modest-impact argument even holds true in places like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, three cities where more than one-third of all undocumented workers in the U.S. reside.

Borjas said last week that he had not updated his 2006 opinion, and that the impact of immigration upon U.S. jobs remained minimal, according to his research.

In any case, Mississippi has a comparatively small Hispanic population. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the state of Mississippi had only 57,000 Latinos in 2008, with native-born Hispanics like Rincon comprising about 52 percent of that population. Any impact they have upon wages here in minimally Mexican Mississippi stands to be considerably less than the relative bang coming out of New York or Los Angeles.

Stealing Jobs?
Nothing commands attention like the idea of a foreigner snatching away your job in a down economy, and the talking heads at the Madison get-together beat that drum faster than Newt Gingrich can find a new wife.

Rep. Currie is a comely blonde with a southern twang thick enough to drive most northerners to grab great grampa's old Civil War Union-issue smoothbore musket and take aim at the stage. She told the cheering audience flatly that her job is "not to make economic opportunities for illegal immigrants."

If only the country's economic hardship could be solved with a massive deportation. Nothing's that simple, though, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The California economy is likely to be one of the first to feel whatever pain it has coming to it from the inflow of a new population, and the Federal Reserve Bank could conceivably develop a cautious attitude toward the new inhabitants, both documented and undocumented. But the organization's conclusion is somewhat surprising.

"Statistical analysis of state-level data shows that immigrants expand the economy's productive capacity by stimulating investment and promoting specialization," wrote FRBSF visiting scholar Giovanni Peri in August. "This produces efficiency gains and boosts income per worker. At the same time, evidence is scant that immigrants diminish the employment opportunities of U.S.-born workers."

The report studies the effects of immigration on the "total output and income of the U.S. economy by comparing per worker output and employment in states with large immigrant populations" against data from states that have an inflow of relatively few foreign-born workers.

Using those statistics, the report finds no evidence that immigrants both documented and undocumented "crowd out U.S.-born workers, either in the short or long run: "Data on U.S.-born worker employment imply small effects, with estimates never statistically different from zero. The impact on hours per worker is similar. We observe insignificant effects in the short run and a small but significant positive effect in the long run."

The report goes on to delineate that the positive long-term effect on income per U.S.-born worker accrues over time: "Over the long run … a net inflow of immigrants equal to 1 percent of employment increases income per worker by 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent," Peri's report states.

The report also indicates an increase of income per worker as a third long-term benefit of heavy immigration, arising "mainly due to increases in the efficiency and productivity of state economies." This effect becomes more detectable in the medium to long run as the gradual response of productivity triggers "a gradual response of capital intensity."

"While in the short run, physical capital per unit of output is decreased by net immigration, in the medium to long run, businesses expand their equipment and physical plant proportionally to their increase in production," the report says.

Immigrants v. Blacks
Some immigration opponents, such as Wade, warn other African Americans that immigration can make life worse in the U.S. for them. Wade made an attempt to sever the immigrants' rights issue from the civil rights issues of the 1960s and 1950s by opining that immigrants compete with African Americans for jobs, leaving blacks with the "short end of the stick."

"When those people race across the border looking for jobs, they ain't coming to Bully's Soul Food Shack to get a job," Wade told the Jackson Free Press in August.

"They're being employed by white people. And after they get their amnesty and their voting privileges they're going to vote for their people, just like blacks did and whites did and everybody else, and you'll see the Hispanics siding with the white majority to provide the damn jobs, and blacks will be out looking crazy talking about ‘How come we don't have any jobs.' Well, that's because you gave your damn positions to the Hispanics."

To this bold statement, the unemployment figures valiantly proclaim: "meh."

The 2009 report "Immigration and Native-Born Unemployment Across Racial/Ethnic Groups" is Part 2 in a three-part series produced by the Immigration Policy Center, using unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "States and metropolitan areas with the highest shares of recent immigrants in the labor force do not necessarily have the highest unemployment rates among native-born blacks, whites, Hispanics or Asians," the report states.

Unemployment rates in a particular area among African Americans, or any other major native-born racial/ethnic group, provide no indication of how many recent immigrants work there."

The report concludes that the 10 states with the highest shares of recent immigrants in the labor force enjoy an average unemployment rate of about 4 percentage points less than in the 10 states with the lowest shares of recent immigrants among native-born blacks.

Also, consider a comparison between Tracy Chapman's Cleveland and Ricky Martin's Miami. Recent immigrants comprise 17 percent of the labor force in Miami, but only 3 percent of the labor force in Cleveland.

Still, the unemployment rate for native-born African Americans in Cleveland is double that of native-born blacks in Miami, according to the report.

Fuzzy Math
Not that real numbers have much of an effect on the "anti" side of the argument in Mississippi.

At the Madison shindig, Bryant referenced a report he released in 2006, back when he was the state auditor and gearing up for a run for lieutenant governor. His baby, "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Mississippi: Costs and Population Trends," tries to nail down the costs undocumented workers impose upon Mississippi's economy, but makes the attempt with only some of the numbers.

His report quickly classifies "illegal immigrants" as a general pain-in-the-ass by describing them as having an overall negative financial effect on the state's economy. The document, although a constant reference point at political rallies, starts off with foggy numbers made foggier by the sheer lack of information—starting with the absence of a solid figure on exactly how many immigrants are supposed to be populating the state in the first place.

Bryant admits in his report that the numbers vary in degree from the modest 8,000 figure he estimated as the Census Bureau's figure on undocumented Latinos and up to 100,000 undocumented Latinos suggested by "pro-illegal immigrant advocates" like MIRA. Acknowledging the disparity, Bryant settles upon a mid-point between the two estimates, and creatively determines that 49,000 "illegals" added about $44.2 million to the state in income and sales tax.

But the same report estimates that they send some $135 million home to family members, which represents slightly more than $10.3 million in sales tax lost to the state. He concludes that undocumented immigrants cost the state about $25 million per year.

But Bryant makes no account of ad valorem taxes the state and municipalities collect as a result of immigrant residency. Total ad valorem assessment for all Mississippi counties in 2008, according to information from the Mississippi Tax Commission, was slightly more than $25 billion.

Immigrants are a largely employed population. (Unlike non-citizens, your teen-ager doesn't have to leave the country if he refuses to find work.) This makes the immigrant population potentially a major component of the ad valorem tax base. After all, immigrants still have to pay rent like anybody else, and they usually have to have a car. Also, a non-citizen has every reason to make sure his car tag is up to date, since he wouldn't want a 2008 tag attracting the attention of local police.

Using a percentage calculator, 1.7 percent of the state's population (Bryant's mid-level undocumented immigrant population of 49,000 individuals compared to the state's entire population of 2,844,658, based on Census 2000 numbers) could potentially contribute an average of $275 million to the state's $25,059,150,565 total ad valorem revenue for 2008. Push that figure up to MIRA's higher non-registered immigrant population estimate of 100,000 (about 3.5 percent of the state's total population of 2,844,658), and "illegals" could potentially be contributing an average of $877 million in ad valorem taxes.

Ironically, there's nothing about Bryant's estimated $135 million in mailed-off money that can't be erased through simple citizenship. Think about it: How many people have an immigrant grandmother who's still sending money back home to Poland? Not many. Immigrant money, these days, only goes back home because "home," technically, isn't here. Move "home" here, and the money stays here at home—just like it did with Grandma.

‘Just the Way It Is'
Rincon's mother has been bleeding heavily for more than a month now; she has irregular (read: cancerous) cells in her uterus.

"We need to get her an operation, but because of her residential status, they're going to make us pay for her ($12,000) operation up front before they do anything" Rincon's voice then trails off into painful speculation for a long minute. "But, but that's just the way it is," he finishes.

Hernandez sold the Jackson store last week, which will give the family an influx of about $5,000 to add to the cause. But if she doesn't get her operation soon, emergency room staff will inevitably have to deal with what could be a malignant tumor. By the time cancer is getting emergency-room treatment, there's a good chance bits of it are already streaming through your arteries, planting equally deadly cancerous growths throughout your physiology.

Bryant's July 13 anchor-baby quote stems from a statement on undocumented immigrants' emergency room costs. His report also made a point to reference health-care costs when writing on the immigration issue in Mississippi. "The increase of the illegal immigrant population in the United States has very serious hidden medical costs," Bryant wrote in his 2006 report.

His evidence was supposedly a study by research and analysis non-profits the RAND Corp., which found that 68 percent of the undocumented immigrant adults they studied had no health insurance. Bryant then applied that 68 percent to the Mississippi Hospital Association's estimate that state hospitals provided $504.6 million in uninsured health-care services in 2004.

"Of the $504,618,583, (the Office of State Auditor) estimates that about $35,011,580 may be attributed to illegal immigrant costs, not including other governmental-backed medical benefits they may receive," Bryant declared.

These are dangerously dodgy numbers, and Bryant knew it. That's why he added the disclaimer: "However, because no data regarding immigration status is collected, it is difficult to determine the accuracy of this estimate, especially since Mississippi has a large number of uninsured and under-insured people."

But his proviso doesn't pardon him, especially since he referenced a source for more stable numbers on the very same page of his report, with this statement: "While these costs are continuously increasing, the federal government is trying to assist states with the financial costs of caring for uninsured immigrants."

The funding he's referencing comes from the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Section 1011 of the bill was funded in 2005. This fund provides federal reimbursement of emergency health services furnished to undocumented aliens. The program provided $250 million per year for hospitals and ambulance providers during the years 2005-2008 to recover the costs of providing uncompensated emergency medical care to undocumented immigrants.

Emergency-room care is among the many government services the anti-immigrant clan frequently reference when describing the costs of the undocumented presence in the state. But the truth is that many illegal immigrants do not regularly visit a doctor, so—like under-employed and uninsured citizens—they typically limit their health-care upkeep to desperate emergency room trips when that nagging pain in their abdomen blossoms into an abdominal tumor, just like Rincon's mom may be doing in the next few months if she can't raise $12,000.

The immigrant's predilection for last-minute emergency room visits are what make Section 1011 a more accurate determiner for immigrant medical expenditures than the RAND Corp. estimates. The federal government doles out the money according to the state's immigrant population, and gave Mississippi an average of $190,772 a year to spend on emergency-room immigrant care between 2005 and 2008.

So far, the state has yet to spend it all. The latest figures from the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009 show that the state had not yet exhausted the remaining $70,488.57 by the time of the federal government's latest account of the money in May. Figures for fiscal year 2007 reveal that the state spent a total of $190,968.08 of Section 1011 money on uninsured immigrants—not $35 million.

But those facts do not help build an anti-immigrant political platform.

‘Attitude Born of Hate'
The impact of new arrivals on the local economy marks an incredible change from the way the city of Jackson and the surrounding suburbs have been interacting for years. MIRA reports a large and expanding immigrant population in the city, particularly in the north Jackson area. Law requires immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to put their children in school, and today there are more Hispanic faces in the Chastain Middle School yearbook than in the past.

But a large percentage of the immigrants living in Jackson actually work outside the city. They commute to work from jobs within a 50-mile radius of the city, and they do manual labor for contractors doing work all over the metro area, including the rapidly developing areas in the city's exploding suburbs.

Many stay with friends outside the city during the week as they work for the state and private industry, but they live in Jackson on the weekends and they bring their money back to the city of Jackson in the form of rent, gasoline and various other purchases.

This is a complete reversal of the trend for the last few decades, as suburbanites commute to Jackson, use city resources like water and streets to get their jobs done, and then rush home to complain in the afternoon about the city of Jackson—while dumping their Jackson-financed property and sales taxes into their suburban communities.

The Latino economic footprint is potentially massive. When U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement conducted the largest single-workplace immigration raid in 2008 at Howard Industries' transformer plant in Laurel, the round up of about 600 individuals reached as far away as the capital city. Many of those young faces in the Chastain yearbook vanished for a few weeks after the raids, some never to return to the school again.

"There were people affected all over, but here, too. I imagine some of those children (at Chastain) went home with their parents to countries they'd never seen their entire lives," Rincon said. "Who knows?"

City leaders in Jackson appear to be aware of the value of their new population. The Jackson City Council's Planning Committee made a strong decision to ensure that the growing immigrant population remains unmolested. On Sept. 8, the committee passed a new ordinance restricting city police from inquiring about residential status at traffic stops or during routine interaction with the public.

Bryant—another suburbanite who draws his paycheck from a Jackson office, then takes the money home to Rankin County—was furious at the committee's decision, and mailed a letter of warning to the council. "[A]n effort by the city council to discourage city employees from verifying the legal status of applicants for public benefits or from cooperating in enforcing federal immigration law would appear to violate state law," Bryant said.

Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, an advocate of the new ordinance, thumbed his nose at Bryant's interpretation last month, and referred to Bryant's opinion as "an attitude born of hate."

In Madison, Wade accused Democrats like the councilman of trying to appeal to the Hispanic population in an effort to scour Latinos for votes. "If it's all about compassion, why don't (immigrants) step up and say ‘we just want to work. We don't want voting rights.' Do it like that. If those who come to this country say that, they'll find that they won't have the supporters they thought they had," said Wade, who suggested to the JFP in an earlier interview that Hispanics should forfeit the right to vote in the U.S., not exactly dispelling the idea that anti-immigrant hysteria is about keeping the political status quo intact.

Russ Latino reinforced the argument pigeon-holing immigrant defenders as opportunists pulling for new votes at the Madison forum, when he told the crowd he believed both Republicans and Democrats on the federal level had ignored "their constitutional duty to defend the border," for political benefit.

"This is a deliberate act," Latino said at the forum. "What they see is a potential voting bloc of 13 million people ... and instead of being driven by principle and the rule of law, they are driven by electoral greed."

In those arguments could sit one of the biggest unstated facts behind the tea party's dislike for Hispanics. It is no secret that it is mostly Republican whites who lead the state's efforts to lock the doors on immigration. White legislators are primarily the only politicians who appear to champion the volley of Mississippi bills seeking to enforce English as the only officially recognized language in the state or refusing public education or health-care services to undocumented residents.

So far, it is white Republican legislators like Currie who are backing a Mississippi version of the Arizona law. African Americans like Wade and Marcy appear to be among the few blacks joining the effort to discourage the Latino presence in America, and both tend to cater to white conservatives for an audience.

The MIRA executive director said the issue sinks further than politics, and comes down to the more fundamental level of race and ethnicity.

"I think a lot of the animosity you see against immigrants comes from the fear of a race of people other than white people becoming a majority, as projected for the country by the year 2050," Chandler said. Think of all the violence and burning and lynching of blacks in the South (and it comes) down to the same thing. They want to terrorize people of color and drive them out. In some ways, things haven't changed."

I traveled with Rincon door-to-door in Forest. Together, we searched local apartment buildings for signs of Latino culture.

"You want to know what profiling is? This here is profiling," he told me while casting about at the vehicles in the apartment parking lot. Quite frankly, we were searching for indications of Catholicism, pictures of the Virgin Mary, or rosary beads on vehicle dashboards or hanging from rear-view mirrors. We also searched for bumper stickers advocating for South American sports teams. Occasionally, we would snag a Latino face making his or her way to the apartment door. First came the look of suspicion—perhaps a questioning look at me—then Rincon would kick in with a litany of Spanish beginning with the word "hola" (hello), and the tension evaporated.

Together we heard tales of law enforcement setting up police checkpoints between the poultry plants and one or more of the main roads.

It's a fretful existence, and it'll stay that way, by the look of it. Just last week, a scare went out in the Latin community in Pearl. MIRA reported incidents of Pearl police officers knocking on apartment doors, looking to check terrified residents for proof of residency.

Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers told the JFP that Pearl school officials were randomly picking apartments and visiting with a police officer in tow, checking for a utility bill or other proof of actual residency, not citizenship.

Not to sound soft on undocumented workers, Rogers immediately added that Pearl police were still doing due diligence and checking residential status at checkpoints and during traffic stops.

"If they're here illegally, and we have them on a traffic stop, then, of course, we're going to deal with them properly," Rogers said.

"Illegal" People?
People often misuse the term "illegal" when it comes to the immigration debate. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists defines the use of the word "illegal" and "illegal aliens" as a means to describe undocumented immigrants as "grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed.

"Under current U.S. immigration law, being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a civil violation. Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of all undocumented people living in the U.S. are visa over-stayers, meaning they did not illegally cross the U.S. border," NAHJ wrote in a September statement.

Previous Comments


I'm surprised this amazing article by Adam this week hasn't gotten any comments, considering how much activity immigration threads usually draw. I have noticed that the stories that are filled with actual facts don't draw as many from the anti-"illegals" crowd; is it because they don't want to draw attention to the truth? Speaking of, I just ran into this great info sheet on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' website. Please take a read. It begins: “I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home.” —Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, April 2008 ... Distortions in the Immigration Debate Too often, discussions surrounding illegal immigration are reduced to distortions about who undocumented immigrants are and what they want. Some people say that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes. In fact, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dol- lars in sales, income, and property taxes each year—directly if they own, and indirectly if they rent. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), undocumented workers pay as much as $7 billion in Social Security and Medicare taxes each year and have contributed as much as a half-trillion dollars since 1984. Others say that immigrants don’t want to learn English. In fact, while first-generation, non–English-speaking immigrants predictably have lower rates of English proficiency than native speakers, 91% of second-generation immigrants are fluent or near-fluent English speakers. By the third generation, 97% speak English fluently or near-fluently. Still others conclude that we need to close our borders to prevent another catastrophe like 9/11. In fact, seventeen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists were in the country legally on student visas—only two had overstayed their visas. By legalizing the undocumented population and by creating more visas for work- ers to enter legally, we can better know who is in the country and who is coming, thus making us safer as a nation. To learn more about the USCCB’s policy positions on issues related to immigration, please visit www.usccb.org/mrs/ policypositions.shtml.


here's some interesting immigration reading http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2010/sep/mexico-asks-u-s-stop-deporting-serious-criminals


First, Bill, I assume you understand the history of Judicial Watch? Second, what is your point? You're not implying that the majority of Mexican immigrants are criminals, are you? And if not, I'm not sure I see the relevance to this conversation. I don't know if you know it, but (and I'm whispering here) people of all backgrounds and ethnicities commit violent crimes.


Thank goodness the folks at Judicial Watch have turned their attention to immigration reform. Given their heroic fight against the "murder" of Terri Shiavo and their tireless investigation of John Kerry's war records, we can expect thoughtful and constructive input from them on this issue as well. We would expect nothing less from a group funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.

Brian C Johnson

No, I was just trying to shed a little light on the complicity of the Mexican govt in this whole mess called immigration reform. Do you not think that Mexico could do more on it's side of the border?


Do you not think that Mexico could do more on it's side of the border? First, Bill, we tell reporters not to ever begin a question with "Do you not think ..." -- it's a telltale sign that the questioner knows the answer they want. ("Do you think" is almost as bad.) It seems quite clear that Mexico "could do more on its side of the border" -- that could probably be stipulated. But I'm still not sure of your point; it looked a little like you were try to fuel the sensationalistic fire about all dem violent Mexicans. Hopefully not: That would be blatant bigotry, so we'll assume that wasn't your motive.


Support our reporting -- Follow the MFP.