The Heat: Immigration reform unlikely this year

The Heat

With 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, immigration reform is perhaps one of the most emotional issues in American politics.

President Obama has promised repeatedly to deal with the complex problem, but with important Congressional elections coming up in November, the White House has now put off any action until the end of the year.

The Heat’s guests today delve into questions about amnesty, citizenship and deportation.

Julio Salgado, a California artist who is an undocumented immigrant, has lived in the United States since he was 11 years old. Salgado is able to remain in the United States due to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy by the Department of Homeland Security that temporarily allows those that came to the United States as children who meet certain guidelines to be eligible for work authorization and request deferred action from removal for two years.

“I went to college and paid for it myself… I couldn’t get a driver’s license.. and there’s this huge fear of getting deported and not knowing what would happen.” Salgado said.

To pay for college, he washed dishes, worked in construction, and used his artistic talent to sell caricatures, he said. Today he uses art to share the experiences of the undocumented.

“I truly believe that in order to change policy we need to change culture. A lot of the things we see out there about immigrants a lot of times are negative… We don’t see three dimensional stories about ourselves… I have the opportunity to collaborate with others and use art to tell our stories about what is it like to be an undocumented immigrant in the United States.”

Grace Flores-Hughes, is an expert on immigration policy who has served in three U.S Administrations. She said immigration reform should punish the undocumented migrants that are already in the United States.

“The Republicans have an agenda and the democrats have another. Republicans are concerned a lot about border security, and democrats are concerned about the humanitarian crisis… Those two different agendas don’t seem to come together at any point,” Flores-Hughes said.

Mark Krikorian, the Executive Director at the Center for Immigration Studies said illegal immigration must be limited and enforced. On Twitter: @MarkSKrikorian

“There are billions of people that would like to have a better life in the United States.. but we have to say this is the limit and we’re enforcing this limit,” Krikorian said.

Krikorian said that the notion that undocumented migrants in the United States are doing jobs that natural born Americans refuse to do is false.

“There is no such thing as ‘jobs that Americans won’t do’. We looked at the Census Bureau data and found only a few categories where immigrants made up more than half of the workers. For instance with janitors, 70 percent of the people that do those jobs are native-born Americans. You can’t say that is a job Americans won’t do, this is just an excuse by corporate lobbyists,” Krikorian said.

But Flores-Hughes said that the data may not be complete.

“Remember that it’s against the law to hire immigrants without documents… There are a lot of problems with this data. Whether they are or aren’t taking jobs away, the point is that they’re adding to this economy a lot,” Flores-Hughes said.

Krikorian added that he does not expect that Congress will pass any immigration reform law until the next presidential administration.

“We’ll have to wait until 2017 before Congress is willing to re-engage the issue in a serious way,” Krikorian said.

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