Immigration Policy Roundup

7.9.13 | Last month, the Senate passed S.744, the much-awaited and much-debated comprehensive immigration reform bill. This week, it moves onto the House and, if passed, would mean unprecedented change for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. Along with many other adjustments and additions to the current system, the Senate bill provides undocumented immigrants with a 13-year path to citizenship.

There’s an abundance of excellent research and writing on the bill’s effects and what happens next. As the bill meanders forward through the House, here’s a breakdown from three stellar sources on immigration reform: 

1. The Brookings Institute has a weekly rundown of what’s happening in immigration reform. Last week’s post describes the challenges the bill faces squeezing through the House, if it’s even considered in its current state at all.

2. The Urban Institute’s Metro Trends blog summarizes exactly what the Senate’s immigration bill includes. “Should some form of this bill somehow survive the House and make it to the president’s desk, it will be far more conservative and limited than it is now,” notes the post’s writer, Erwin de Leon.

Also check out the Urban Institute’s articles and infographic analyzing immigration demographics in metros.

3. The stakes for immigration reform are especially high in California, where nearly 9 percent of the workforce is undocumented. This infographic, created with data from network members Manuel Pastor and John Mollenkopf, explores immigration reform’s numerous benefits to California’s economy. But the same is true of metro areas nationwide; immigration reform broadens the tax base, allows for immigrants to start new small businesses, and adds to the labor force.

4. Pastor and Mollenkopf also explore how regions integrate newcomers in their recent paper, “Struggling over Strangers or Receiving with Resilience? The Metropolitics of Immigrant Integration.” The paper describes how and why every region absorbs the “shock” of immigration differently and what that means for developing national reform.

For example, Pastor and Mollenkopf point out how Arizona’s infamous “Papers, please” law sets the state in stark contrast to areas like Chicago or San Jose, California, which have “nationally notable immigration programs” and have made broad, policy-driven efforts to support and integrate immigrants.

The paper investigates what factors make certain areas more resilient and receptive to large numbers of immigrants, something federal lawmakers should take into account when developing immigration reform. One of the factors that aids resilience in a region is earlier waves of immigrants who have “mainstreamed,” becoming voters who “support a more positive attitude.” Meanwhile, political entrepreneurs who exploit resentments about fiscal costs only make resilience and receptivity more challenging.

Also noted is the increasing number of immigrants moving directly to suburbs, skipping large, coastal cities which historically have been a first landing place. (This Governing post describes the diversity of metro areas immigrants now reside in.) As immigration patterns continue to shift to areas that are less urban and less accustomed to incorporating newcomers, metros are an ideal model for those working to improve social service delivery, support systems, and integration efforts.

“After all, while the federal government has the formal responsibility for determining how many immigrants come into the country and for preventing those who lack permission from entering, it falls to local and regional jurisdictions to frame the living experience of immigrants and local and regional coalitions of civil leaders often set the political tone for either welcoming or resisting their presence,” Pastor and Mollenkopf write.

However, while local governments have more immediate control over direct support systems, the authors contend that the federal government should also look to metro areas’ best practices for systems to integrate immigrants. Cities have historically been the gateway for immigrants beginning new lives, and have therefore had to form systems of service delivery long before comprehensive reform was on the table. As lawmakers continue to debate historic measures, it’s imperative they consider the success of many American cities in forming effective infrastructure and united communities. As the authors explain:

The federal government, in particular US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), should develop programs to support and expand the welcoming and forward-looking civic leadership best practices profiled in our case study regions. It should not leave the receptivity of a region purely to its preexisting combination of immigrant-friendly business leaders, opportunity-seeking politicians, or legacies of regional collaboration.

Photo/ Nwardez

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