IMMIGRATION POSITION PAPER
SERNA FOR CONGRESS
Over the last two centuries, our country has welcomed millions of newcomers from across the world. Many of them have traveled thousands of miles to escape poverty and brutal violence. Some have traveled to escape religious persecution, others simply to find a better life. The vast majority of these immigrants have become productive members of our society. They have paid their taxes, been involved in community affairs and enriched our communities. Many of our greatest scientists, entrepreneurs and political leaders made their homes in the United States by way of immigration. In fact, all six US science Nobel prize winners this year are immigrants. The previous year, all six US Nobel prize winners were also immigrants. Our country is famous for being the melting pot of the world.
As in the past, immigration is one of the most divisive issues facing our nation. Over the last decade, we have heard politicians call for the need of “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” Yet the reality is that very little has been done to resolve an issue that our country has struggled with since the 1800s.
HISTORY OF IMMIGRATION IN THE UNITED STATES:
Immigration in the United States totaled 8,385 in 1820, increasing to 23,322 in 1830, and quadrupled to 599,000 between 1830–1840. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe extended US citizenship to approximately 60,000 Mexican residents of the New Mexico Territory and 10,000 living in California. In 1849, the California Gold Rush attracted 100,000 would-be miners from across the globe. Between 1850 and 1930 nearly 25 million Europeans immigrated to the United States, including 2.5 to 4 million Jews. From 1941 to 1950, 1,035,000 immigrated to the US including 226,000 from Germany, 139,000 from the UK, 171,000 from Canada, 60,000 from Mexico and 57,000 from Italy. From 1950–1960 the US had 2,515,000 new immigrants with 477,000 arriving from Germany, 185,000 from Italy, 52,000 from the Netherlands, 203,000 from the UK, 46,000 from Japan and 300,000 from Mexico. With the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA ) in 1986, legal immigration of family members totaled 2,198,000 in 1980, 4,289,000 in 1990 and 7,841,000 in 2000. It is estimated that 80% of these individuals were from Mexico.
Throughout the history of the United States, there have been anti-immigrant campaigns that spread the belief that immigration poses a danger to the nation’s health and security. In 1843 the Know-Nothing Party originated by opposing Catholics from entering the US. The belief was that Catholics did not share our values and were controlled by the Pope in Rome. After the Civil War, individual states started to pass anti-immigration laws.
Under this backdrop, we are informed as to why several of the below immigration laws have been passed over the last one hundred forty-four years, including:
- 1882 – Chinese Exclusion Act, excluding Chinese workers from entering the country.
- 1891 – Immigration Act of 1891, established Commissioner of Immigration.
- 1894 – Canadian Agreement of 1894, extended immigration restrictions to Canadian ports.
- 1917 – Congress passed a literacy requirement to curb low skilled immigrants from entering the country.
- 1921 – Emergency Quota Act, banned all immigration from Asia and set quotas for the Eastern Hemisphere.
- 1921 – National Origins Formula Act, excluded the Western Hemisphere from the quota system.
- 1934 – Equal Nationality Act, allowed foreign-born children of American Mothers and alien fathers to apply for American citizenship.
- 1940 – Nationality Act, made the 1934 Act retroactive for all citizens.
- 1945 – War Brides Act, allowed foreign-born wives of US Citizens who served in the armed services to apply for immigration.
- 1946 – Luce – Cellar Act, extended the right to become naturalized citizens for citizens from the Philippines and to Asian Indians.
- 1948 The Displaced Persons Act, allowed the displaced people of WW 11 to start immigrating.
- 1950 – The Internal Security Act, barred admission of Communists into the US.
- 1952 – Immigration and Nationality Act, limited total annual immigration to one‑sixth of one percent of the population of the US in 1920, or 175,455.
- 1954 – “Operation Wetback” forced the return of thousands of illegal immigrants to Mexico.
- 1959 – Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave permanent residence status to Cubans physically present in the US for at least one year if they entered after 1/01/59.
- 1965 – Immigration and Nationality Act replaced quota with preferential categories based upon family relationships and job skills.
- 1986 – Immigration Reform and Control Act, imposed fines – for the first time – on employers who employed undocumented immigrants. It also proposed amnesty to over 1,000,000 undocumented immigrants who were working in the US.
- 1990 Immigration Act of 1990, increased immigration to the US by 40%.
- 1996 – Illegal Immigration & Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, restructured the process for admitting or removing undocumented immigrants.
- 1996 – Welfare Reform Act defined public welfare eligibility requirements.
Today, there is an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants (as of 2015) in the country and an estimated 13.7 million legal permanent residents. That would equal 3.3% to 3.7% of the total US population in 2016.
With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, immigrants have been demonized and have become the focal point of an administration that fails to follow basic human rights when addressing immigration laws. While Obama used his power of executive order to provide individuals with unlawful presence in the US after being brought to the country as children with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Trump has used his power of executive order to exclude foreign-nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. Another of Trump’s executive orders called for the immediate construction of a wall across the US‑Mexican border. Likely, the most abhorrent of Trump’s actions as President of the United States was an executive order that ushered in a zero‑tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants that actively separated children from their parents—to date, there are still children who have not been reunified with their parents.
After the United Nations formally renounced the zero-tolerance policy, the Trump administration suspended the policy. In addition, the Trump administration has ordered federal courts to no longer grant citizenship for young children illegally brought into the country by their parents. As of today, the Trump administration continues to follow an approach to illegal immigration and comprehensive immigration reform that builds walls and not bridges.
CONSEQUENCES OF IMMIGRATION:
The history of immigration in the United States is checkered with xenophobia and the fear of the unknown. Starting with the Know-Nothing Party opposing Catholics from entering the country, we have a long history of demonizing immigrants and keeping ethnic groups from entering our country. From excluding Chinese workers in 1893 and all Asians in 1921 to the “Operation Wetback” for Mexicans in 1954, history has not treated us kindly as it relates to our immigration policies.
Many studies have been conducted over the years regarding the social, economic and political aspects of immigration. Recent studies suggest that immigration is beneficial to the worldwide economy. With few exceptions, the evidence suggests that on average, immigration has positive economic impacts on the native population. Research also finds that migration leads to greater trade in goods and services.
In terms of the United States, the Rand Corporation issued an economic analysis which showed that immigrants contribute as much as $10 billion to the economy. It also showed that there is no strong statistical support for the notion that immigration has an adverse effect on native-born workers. Research also suggests that diversity and immigration have a net positive effect on productivity and economic prosperity. The elimination of barriers to immigration would have profound effects on world GDP, with estimates of gains ranging between 67–147.3% in the scenarios where billions of people move from developing countries.
An internal study by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump Administration, which was suppressed and not shown to the public, found that refugees to the United States brought in $63 billion more in government revenues than cost the government. A 2017 study of Mexican immigrant households in the United States found that by virtue of moving to the United States, the households increase their incomes more than fivefold immediately.
The strongest argument for proponents of immigration are studies that show that immigrants are responsible for greater invention and innovation in our country. Immigrants have started more than half of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more and are key members of management and/or product development teams in over 70% of these companies. More profound is the fact that for two years running, all US science Nobel prize winners were immigrants. Lastly, immigrant workers hold a disproportionate share of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math.
President Trump has tried to justify his immigration policies based on the perceived threats of terrorism and crime. In terms of terrorism, there is little statistical evidence that supports a link between immigration and terrorism. The vast majority of terrorism-based crimes in the United States has been caused by native white nationalists. Ironically, when President Trump tried to block nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States he neglected to include the one country in which the vast majority of 911 terrorists came from—Saudi Arabia. In terms of crime, the vast majority of studies show that immigrants have lower crime rates than natives in the United States. Of the 50,000 people held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2019, 64% had no criminal record. Of those who had criminal records, many of the convictions were for crimes that were nonviolent, such as traffic citations and immigration violations.
In conclusion, the overwhelming majority of research proves that immigration has a positive effect on our country. Problems do exist but the overall benefit to our country is clear.
IMMIGRATION IN NEW MEXICO:
A number of studies have been conducted to judge the impact of immigration in New Mexico. These studies from the American Immigration Council, 40 Fair, and Ballotpedia paint a comprehensive picture of immigrants in our state:
- Nearly one in 10 New Mexican residents is an immigrant, while 1 in 9 residents is a native-born US citizen with at least one immigrant parent.
- More than a third of all immigrants in New Mexico are naturalized U.S. citizens.
- Almost one in six adult immigrants have a college degree or more in 2015, while nearly half have less than a high-school diploma.
- More than 50,000 US citizens in New Mexico live with at least one family member who is undocumented.
- As of 2016, approximately 6,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients live in New Mexico.
- Immigrants in New Mexico contribute over a billion dollars in yearly taxes.
- Undocumented immigrants in New Mexico paid an estimated $67.7 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
- DACA recipients in New Mexico paid an estimated $18.8 million in state and local taxes in 2016.
- Immigrant entrepreneurs represent more than one in seven business owners in New Mexico.
- 15,224 immigrant business owners accounted for 15% of all self-employed New Mexico residents in 2015 and generated $375.1 million in business income.
- As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.
Although the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration, New Mexico and other states have adopted policies of not cooperating with federal law enforcement. Over 300 jurisdictions have been identified as sanctuary cities. Within the 3rd Congressional district in New Mexico, the following jurisdictions were reported as sanctuary cities:
- Rio Arriba County
- Taos County
- San Miguel County
- Santa Fe County
- Bernalillo County
New Mexico has taken a proactive approach to immigration by:
- Allowing individuals residing in the state without legal permission to access in‑state tuition rates and state financial aid.
- Allow lawfully residing children and pregnant women to enroll in Medicaid.
- Permits drivers licenses to be issued to individuals residing in the country without legal permission.
- Not requiring employers to use the E-Verify system when hiring employees.
Looking back over the last 200 years, it is clear that immigration is an issue that needs to be solved. To accomplish this task, we need to have a bipartisan approach that considers the benefits and pitfalls associated with comprehensive immigration reform. Above all else, we need to understand that the world is shrinking and that we live in a global community.
When elected to Congress, I will work diligently for the following policy initiatives:
- I support a moratorium on deportations until an audit on immigration policies can be reviewed and be the basis for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
- I support sanctuary cities and funding of facilities to hold families in a humane and caring environment.
- I support the repeal of section 1325 of the US Immigration law which criminalizes illegal entry into the United States. I believe that it should be a civil and not a criminal offense.
- I support creating a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in fear of deportation.
- I believe that DREAMERS and people with Temporary Protected Status must have a pathway to citizenship. Specifically, I support the Dream and Promise Act that was introduced in Congress last year.
- In terms of ICE, we need to streamline the bureaucracy and make it more responsive to the backlog for family-based visas that have kept families apart.
- I support granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants nationwide.
- I support providing health care to everyone, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented.
- I support reversing the travel ban that President Trump imposed that continues to block individuals from seven countries from entering the US.
- I support increasing the cap on refugee admissions from President Trump’s low of 18,000 to the Obama era refugee cap of 110,000.
- In order to protect workers from labor law violations, I support offering immigrant workers whistleblower protection if they speak up about workplace abuses.
In terms of my philosophy, I believe in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” There are many challenges facing our Country, but I believe that we will rise up to the challenge and show the world that we are still the melting pot of the world and the land of opportunity.