California Public Policy on Immigration Law

With the much publicized and much debated provisions on Arizona’s Immigration law (Newsweek, “Judge Puts the Brakes on Arizona Immigration Law”), it brought to my attention how the State of California, and probably even other states for that matter, has a major problem in the policy field of immigration. With about 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, 10 percent, or about 2.7 million of which resides in California, it is a must to have an effective immigration law (Hill, et al., “Immigrant Legalization” p.1). Though there are many facets and issues surrounding migrants and immigration laws, I choose to focus my discussion on illegal or undocumented migrants who came to the United States in search of work opportunities. Thus, I believe that the State of California should be firm in implementing a temporary work program that would be beneficent to both the country and the economy

How Serious a Problem is Illegal Immigrants?

On a survey done by The Field Poll in 2007, for most Californians, the problem with illegal immigration is a serious problem with 49 percent seeing it as a serious problem while only 28 percent consider it somewhat serious. However, 83 percent of these California voters believed that a solution to this problem is through a creation of a program for undocumented immigrants (who have been living in the US for a number of years) that will give them the opportunity to stay here legally by applying citizenship, learning English, and paying back taxes (Hill, et al., “Immigrant Legalization” pp. 3-4). This is in hopes that the government would be able to change the influx of illegal migrants to legal migrant workers with minimal negative impact to the economy. On another side of the immigration law debate, another option was presented to California voters on what they think of building a wall/fence along the Mexico and Canada border; 59 percent of California voters were opposed while 71 percent agree on increasing border patrols (Hill, et al., “Immigrant Legalization” p.1). Though this option might work for stopping the flow of illegal migrants entering the country, it does not address the concerns of illegal migrants already inside the United States.

The Need to Revise Immigration Law

One major contention regarding the expansion/ revision of immigration law is the risk that if the country will allow more skilled foreign workers to enter, the impoverished strata of the economy will increase, “importing poverty” that could cause social breakdown of economy and security. Though this may sound like a valid concern, it is not supported by economic and social trends by means of increase in poverty rates, higher welfare expenditure of the government and increase crime rate (Griswold “As Immigrants Move In, Americans Move Up”). By adjusting the immigration laws to the current situations, the country could and would be able to convert the illegal flow of migrants to a legal flow of workers (Griswold, “Immigration Law Should Reflect Our Dynamic Labor Market”).

For the past 15 years, the number of legal and undocumented immigrants in the US ballooned and is steadily rising but the volume of the underprivileged has not. On the contrary, the proportion of economically deprived Americans is on a long-term decline despite the steady flow of immigrants coming in. The influx of minimum or low-leveled skills workers even plays a positive effect in pushing the general American populace up the skills and income ladder (Griswold “As Immigrants Move In, Americans Move Up”).

Temporary Work Program

Thus, the best way of handling illegal migrants with fairness to everyone involved, particularly to native citizens, is the one proposed by former President George Bush—the Temporary Work Program. Under the Temporary Work Program, migrant workers will be granted legal status for three years. After which, they could renew their contract and continue working legally in the US, if not, they have to go back to their country. If they opt to do so, there is an incentive scheme that they could avail. Through this scheme, the government will reduce the risk of turning legal migrant workers into illegal migrants through compensating them. This would prove very appealing because they get rewarded for coming home to their family. Through this method, Bush is in high hope that the illegal influx of migrants who come to America for a job will be able to do so while at the same time protecting the interests of its citizen (Bush pp. 554-558).

Not only will the Temporary Work Program aimed at addressing the concerns with illegal immigration, but it would also help the country’s economy by giving jobs to skilled workers that native Americans would not take, creating new industries that further increase job opportunities, and increase in tax collection.

Conclusion

Despite the aforementioned economic benefits, there should be laws that are effective enough to make sure that the government is still able to control the influx of workers to protect the interests of the American citizens. The hard-working immigrants who are searching for a greener pasture in the country to help their families had driven many to enter the United States through illegal means. These undocumented migrants have helped the economy in such significant effects that it is but just logical to make immigration laws flexible, dynamic, and appropriate to the current economic conditions. By making the laws work for the demands of the economy, the government will be able to transform the illegal flow of migrant workers to legal migrants. In terms of social impact, there would be little or no change at all since California and the US actually, had been home for various waves of migrants who seek greener pasture. Furthermore, I believe it would lessen the cases of human trafficking and abuse as migrants would also have the privilege to enjoy the protection and privileges—i.e. health care, public education, that California government offers to its residents.

In line with this, I believe that issues with regards to immigration laws should be addressed to the California State government officials, particularly to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; US Senator Dianne Feinstein; and Congressman Jim Costa and members of California Congressional Delegation.  I believe that these officials are the most capable and are the appropriate officials to address this issue. The California governor because he could directly lobby with the California Senate and Congress representatives to address the pressing matter in terms of amending California immigration law.

References

Bush, George. Illegal Immigrant Workers should be granted Legal Status. 17 January 2004. pp. 554-559.

Griswold, Daniel. As Immigrants Move In, Americans Move Up. 21 July 2009. Center for Trade Policy Studies. 05 August 2010. <http://www.freetrade.org/pubs/FTBs/FTB-038.html>.

______. Immigration law should reflect our dynamic labor market. 27 April 2008. Dallas News. 06 August 2010. <http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/points/stories/DNgriswold_27edi.ART.State.Edition1.46527e0.html>.

Hill, L., Lofstrom, M., & Hayes, J. Immigrant Legalization. Assessing the Labor Market Effects. Public Policy Institute of California (ISBN 978-1-58213-137-5). 2010. pp. 1-19.

Newsweek. Judge Puts the Brakes on Arizona Immigration Law. The Spectrum. 29 July 2010. Web.09 August 2010. <http://www.newsweek.com/spectrum/2010/07/29/judge-puts-the-brakes-on-arizona-immigration-law.html>.

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