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Fixing America: Immigration reform

As a candidate, President Obama promised to tackle comprehensive immigration reform in his first term as president. But as that term winds down and the campaign starts in earnest, it’s seems very unlikely that any major reform will be accomplished this year. And despite today’s announcement that some younger undocumented immigrants will be granted immunity from deportations, comprehensive immigration reform will most likely be left waiting for the next president. Reforming immigration – both legal and illegal – has always been a divisive and thorny issue and is particularly acute now as the economy struggles to recover. What should be done with the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.? Do we need more visas for highly-skilled workers? And who should immigration benefit?

As part of its “Fixing America” series, Need to Know’s Ray Suarez hosts a panel discussion on how to fix immigration reform. The panel includes: Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer for the Service Employees International Union leading the union’s efforts on immigration reform; Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank and the publisher of the news site Colorlines; Linda Chavez, a former Reagan Administration official and chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity; and Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization that advocates for lower levels of immigration.

Want more? Listen to the whole, unedited conversation here:

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  • citizen

    They’re are alot of americians who work in chicken processing plants. I work for one and most of the people I work with were born here. Those who were not are legal citizens. I don’t agree with the comment that you could be paying people $19.00 an hour and can’t find legal citizens to work for those wages. I work in the same feild and make a lot less than that.

  • Lois Franco

    Thank you for your show today. Maybe you can have another show on the National Visa Center. See below.
    We need immigration reform. The people who are here legally or illegally are here for personal reasons. Those who are here illegally are not going to leave of their own will. We can spend money that we don’t have to find them and deport them or we can give them an opportunity to stay here to work and support our country.
    Another way to lessen the number of illegal immigrants is to actually give out visas to the untold number of people who have been approved for change of status by the USCIS and whose petitions were sent to the National Visa Center ten or more years ago.
    If you look at the Visa Bulletin, you will see that they are only up to January of 2001 for sibling sponsorship for “green cards”. Why must this take so long? I do not believe that this is because of the quota system. I believe that the government has slowed down the process and has not put people to work at the Visa Center.
    The negative reactioin to immigration scares me. The tempers are flaring. The states are creating hateful laws against people. These same people call this a “Christian country”, but they are doing everything they can against God’s people.
    Lois M. Franco

  • Rod Schultz

    If you have a panel of four people wouldn’t two on each side of the issue seem fair.  Three to one does not seem fair or offer a complete view.  

  • Anonymous

    As compared to having no genuine opponents of illegal immigration, a situation that is extremely common, this was great. Mr. Krikorian is quite used to being outnumbered. The reality is that among the elites that get to talk on the media, most aren’t bothered by illegal immigration. The division aren’t really between conservative and liberal, but lie more between the elites and those who aren’t. Of course the people who produce these shows are aware of this. Unfortunately many of them feel no obligation to actually have representatives of the large proportion of the population that is against illegal immigration. And it isn’t possible for the country to have an honest debate on the issue if they are denied the opportunity to hear arguments that they might find persuasive.

  • Jerry Hoppe

    Nothing like a bias group of minority liberals. Your discussion on recent immigration changes by President Obama is total hog wash. This is the kind of changes that are making our country go to hell in a Mexican handbasket. Other president’s have pulled this same stunt that they have no authority to do. Always and only for political benefits. Period!

  • DoodlesWeaver

         Barrack (Bin Laden) Obama introduce this idea, which is not new, to possibly get the votes of legal immigrants trying to protect or help their illegal family and friends.
         I believe we must adopt a stronger laws such as: If they are contract employed by a company and the company is responsible for them and follows the laws to the letter.  If they have a skill that’s are needed by a business and the country.  They have to be a high school grade with a grade point of 3 or higher and can prove it thru test.  They can speak “good” English and swear an oath to this country.
          I also belive that if you go to prison on the 3 strike method that if you were an immagrant you needed to be deported to you previous country and not be able to return.  We should follow some of Australia’s laws….

  • JonThomas

     Exactly…well said!

  • JonThomas

    In her first comment, Linda Chavez gave no specifics as to what the empty, supposedly un-fillable jobs positions were, the
    company involved, where,.. or any other information needed to support her interruption and challenge to Mr. Krikorian’s points.

    I think she either made it up (I will continue to believe that until she supplies actual facts,) or is greatly exaggerating.

    If it was a slaughter industry job, the burn out, and turn over rates, are very high in those industries in any regard.

    Without anything to back up her statements, they seem to be along the
    same direction as the rest of her comments…simply statements to shut
    down another of the panelists, Mark Krikorian. They were obviously at
    odds during this discussion and most probably have been in the past.

    Watch her face as he is commenting in the frames in which they are both
    shown on screen at the same time. Her face shows her disdain for either
    him, his ideals, or his comments.

    I don’t believe her when she said Americans wouldn’t accept jobs if they paid a living wage.

    Americans, and American businesses, will have to come to terms with at least 2 truths if this issue is actually to be solved.

    1. The cost of products, including food, will need to rise in order to
    bring wages high enough to support an American family or provide
    incentive for those who need jobs.

    2. If your business model cannot survive without illegal workers, or
    with substandard pay, then your business model is not one with a rational
    foundation. Your business does not deserve to exist and any arguments appearing to
    give you the right to operate are not valid.

    If you can operate overseas, as M(r)s. Chavez suggested, then go,
    operate there, that is a rational business model…just don’t be
    surprised if we want to raise our tariffs or keep our health protections

    I am not against immigration, but if people with the arguments that
    M(r)s Chavez held, want to help immigrants, then let them work to better the living conditions in the
    countries from which those immigrants came. M(r)s. Chavez made the claim
    that we “need” immigrants. This is not true. While many of us are not
    against immigration, we do want reasonable solutions. Those solutions
    will only come if rational arguments are put forth…her’s were not
    rational. We don’t “NEED” immigrants! What we need is understanding of
    why Americans aren’t doing those jobs. Her obfuscations were impeding
    that understanding, and on that basis she disqualified all her
    potentially valid points.

    The workers who make profits possible, need to share in wealth creation at a level that shows regard and respect for life on this planet…often known as “a living wage.” In this country all citizens have a right to pursue happiness. If that translates to pursuing profits for business and investors, then it also must follow for workers whose labor, time, and effort make those profits possible!

    The impetus to migrate for work is the problem at the core of this
    discussion. I haven’t heard anyone complain about immigration on grounds
    involving those seeking asylum from physical harm.

  • Olsonclo2000

    The United States of America already has a Law for illegal immigration!!! They,  our country needs to inforce the LAW.” END of STORY.”

  • L.A. City Employee Advocate

    When “You Need To Know” one must include amongst its elite panel someone who “knows”. The most valuable resource is always someone who has seen and experienced the pros and cons. Not to mention it is just good journalism. To that point, as a career manager of staffing firms who supply light industrial employees to American and Multi-National Fortune 500 Companies, I have experienced [first hand] the pros and cons of both illegal and legal Latin immigrant workers. Latino immigrants including South Americans have made a valuable contribution to the American Workforce and, unfortunately,  to a large degree this contribution has also made a detrimental impact on the minority workforce at large. This detrimental impact is fueled by explotation, racism and the ever-increasing pressure on middle management to decrease the percentage of the final cost of the end product that is attributed to wages, wage taxes and benefit costs. The cost of a product is surprisingly marginal to the actual cost of the labor to produce, transport and sell it!  Wages and work environments are largely based on the simple law of supply and demand. However, admitedly when you sell 10 million widgets saving ten cents a widget does add-up. I believe Americans would tolerate ten cents to ensure a fair, humane and equitable working society…with more jobs and better pay. Some companies have stated that they only want Mexican workers because they do not complain, some employers will not hire both Mexican Workers and South American Workers and the greatest tragedy is the absence of African American workers in many light industrial enviroments. Yes, there is some truth in that African Americans and Caucasian workers do not want these jobs. The unemployment rate for lower skilled African American men is alarming and many would welcome a job unloading trailers, working assembly lines and/or agriculture. But years of rejection; the simple expectation of human respect and a non-deplorable working environment has systematically excluded these minorities from obtaining the jobs others claim only illegal immigrants will take. We need and respect the Latin workforce, but somehow we are ignoring the White Elephant in the room. Take a look at most factories “Why is “every” worker Latin?” Rethink, re-engage and look to a handful of great companies who really implement their mission statements. Another solution another day: Felons (disproportiantly minority) have a very, very difficult time finding a job – illegal immigrant workers seem to win out over American Citizens with a blot on their permanent file.

  • VivaLaMigra

     Why shouldn’t those “Latino” workers be “making a contribution” to their OWN countries, instead of jumping our border?  Or, are we to presume that Hispanics are out-breeding the carrying capacity of their homelands, creating human bodies their societies can’t possibly employ?

  • chip

    KCMO CARPENTOR  6/19/12                                                                                                              i the 80′s i moved to Dallas, TX. making 20-20 per hr. 5yrs later. The Latino(legal & illegals) came to Dallas & started working for 5-8 per hr. doing the same job as me.Then the contractor came to me and tells me that i had to start working for less. So I moved to Las vegas .That’s when there was about 5,000 people moving to Las vegas a month.Back to 20-25 per hr. Six years later,the Latino immigrants made it to Las vegas. Back to 10.00 per hr. Moved again.(Portland,or.) Same old story.They can work for a lot less .because 15 live in a 1 bedroom house.So that’s what they did for me & my family                                                                                                                                                                              

  • SHA457

    you are so incorrect….i don’t like illegal immigration and i don’t care if you are purple from outer space…if you are here illegally you are illegal and you have broken the laws, white, black, brown, green, purple orange, red clay, are all beautiful colors, but your behavior of breaking the law is against the laws that Americans put in place for good reason, and that is we do not want illegal aliens here.  Plain as the nose on your face, can be said any simpler.  As far as big business, well here we go…first you shouldn’t be here wanting low wages to get a job and then complain that you are making low wages…how dumb can you be!

  • SHA457

    If we can learn anything from another country everyone should look to Canada on this issue and how they resolved the problem.

  • SHA457

    If you are against illegal immigration I hope you are a member of and FAIR.

  • SHA457

    keep your eyes on what is happening in Europe on the issue, then you will see it happen here within two years time; it will scare you

  • SHA457

    Furthermore, why is it bad to come here as an illegal alien?  First, you become a criminal for breaking the law; not a good way to begin a new life.  Second and more importantly, you burden our system of government and you overburden taxpayers who pay for you to be here.  As a law breaker using our resources that makes you unintentionally a thief.  Often those that come here illegally have not been vaccinated, they bring diseases unintentionally; you expect special treatment because you refuse to speak and learn our language.  One of my biggest critics is that the Latino Males learn to speak English just enough to get by, but the wife never learns English and when in public you only speak Spanish.  Don’t you think that is RUDE!  You say you want to be citizens but you demand it instead of earning it…you overburden our medical and educations systems and yet you think we should embrace you.  Additionally, your culture is nothing like American culture and frankly there are some Americans that behave our of my idea of proper.  You don’t bother to get a drivers license or car insurance and therefore cause hardship or even death to Americans because of your lack of basic respect for others, yet you demand we give you respect and should embrace you.  The old saying, WHEN IN ROME DO AS THE ROMANS DO IF  YOU WANT TO BE ACCEPTED AND EMBRACED.  This doesn’t mean you should do all the above AGAINST AMERICANS and then expect us to want you here.  YOU SHOULD OBEY THE LAWS AND BECOME LEGAL IN THRU THE PROPER CHANNELS. 

  • SHA457

    Lastly, Americans help all other nations on this earth even when they hate us.  There is never a country that I know of that has asked our help that we didn’t come to their aid.  Stay in your own country and ask for our help, you have no right to be here illegally, uninvited, and you have not right to our taxpayer money and our resources.  America immigration laws and processes need to be fixed, but granting amnesty IS NOT the channel of the majority.  We should fix our system much alike Canada.  Europe is fed up as well with this issue and they are having same problem.
    Several years ago I read an article by a professor at a elite university on illegal immigration and comparing USA to Europe.  He broken the illegal process into five categories, the last of which was civil war.  No one wants war, but illegals are perpetuating us in that direction.  Stop being arrogant and making demands and learn how to become an American through the proper legal channels.

  • Lizzy

    Immigrationis a very touching topic. people migrate to a country for various reasons. it can be personal like marriage ties or family disaster/crisis such as flood,war, earthquake, tornado, it could be on health grounds or job or schooling. Whatever brought an immigrant here, they desire and wish to live here. When the renewing of papers becomes difficult due to the difficultlty inimmigration procedure then even the people than came to America legally becomes illegals. Until peple are educated, they always feel immigrant are all out to cheat. When Medical doctors, nurses, engineers, attorney, professors, computer anaylist, lecturers, journalist, priests/clergy, construction workers etc cannot reew their immigraton papers they all become illegals. it is  easier said than done. How will all the tuittion fees be paid if they dont have documents to work with. What happens to many immigramts that bought house with bank loans and cant pay because they cant renew their papers, can work and there is somuch foreclosure. We are all complaining about the economic, we all need each other. it is time that a comprehensive immigration for 2012. Accumulation of these problems affect every sector of the country, it is time to act.

  • Lizzy

    Immigrationis a very touching topic. people migrate to a country for various reasons. it can be personal like marriage ties or family disaster/crisis such as flood,war, earthquake, tornado, it could be on health grounds or job or schooling. Whatever brought an immigrant here, they desire and wish to live here. When the renewing of papers becomes difficult due to the difficultlty inimmigration procedure then even the people than came to America legally becomes illegals. Until peple are educated, they always feel immigrant are all out to cheat. When Medical doctors, nurses, engineers, attorney, professors, computer anaylist, lecturers, journalist, priests/clergy, construction workers etc cannot reew their immigraton papers they all become illegals. it is  easier said than done. How will all the tuittion fees be paid if they dont have documents to work with. What happens to many immigramts that bought house with bank loans and cant pay because they cant renew their papers, can work and there is somuch foreclosure. We are all complaining about the economic, we all need each other. it is time that a comprehensive immigration for 2012. Accumulation of these problems affect every sector of the country, it is time to act.

  • Betty

    Absolutely true.
     When graduate students who borrowed money to pay their tuition fee are deported, who pays the bill. They got the education here and we send them out? that is what is called BRAIN-DRAIN.  As people  benefit from the country’s  education, health services, welfare or other services, that is ok. It is time they give  back to the nation that enrich them, but if they can’t work this is a real disadvantage/deficit to the economy.

  • Eli

    The democratic and republicans have so much to gain with a Comprehension reform. To make the campaign more interesting, which party has  the best offer or package for a good immigration reform that will increase more productivity in the economy and creat more job.

  • SHA457

    The fact of the matter is this with immigrants and education.  They are welcomed to get an education SO THEY CAN GO BACK TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY AND MAKE THEIR COUNTRY BETTER!  HOWEVER, they like it here so much THEY DON’T LEAVE, AND THEREFORE OVER STAY THEIR VISA THUS MAKING THEM AN ILLEGAL ALIEN.

  • SHA457


  • Anonymous

    Facts are facts, and this panel is not telling Obama’s own facts.

    1) Immigration Statistics can be found at Department of Homeland Security website

    Year 2009 – 10,750,000 illegal aliens in USA (Obama’s DHS says so…DHS d=o=t gov)
    Obama’s 1st year – Estimates of the Unauthorized Population report for the USA was listed on page 3, Table 1, and still accessible at the above website

    Year 2010 -10,790,000 illegal aliens in USA (Obama’s DHS says so…)
    (Source: Again, page 3, Table 1, “Estimates of Unauthorized Population”, above website, immigration statistics)

    Year 2011 – 11,510,000 illegal aliens in USA
    (Source: Again, page 3, Table 1, see above)

    2) If Obama was doing “record enforcement” or “record deportations”, and the flow of illegal aliens into the USA allegedlly stopped under Obama, then how is it that the number of illegal aliens in the USA increased by almost 1 million from 2009 to 2011?

    The media keeps saying that Obama deported 1 million illegal aliens, then why didn’t the total illegal aliens in the USA go down by 1 million from 2009 to 2011? That likely means that 2 million illegal aliens entered the USA from 2009 to 2011, for a net increase of almost 1 million.

    During a period of time when the USA did not create a net increase of 2 million jobs, but instead lost some 7+ million jobs. How are these illegal aliens feeding themselves? Jobs?

    3) Bureau of labor statistics says (at their website) that less than 2% of all jobs in Alabama are in Agriculture. Pew Hispanic, DHS and Department of Labor list at their websites that of all illegal aliens in the USA, that only about 700,000 illegal aliens in the USA work in agriculture. Do the math, that is about 6% of illegal aliens. And we are told that only about 1 million illegal aliens are under 30 years old in the USA, which means that only 8.6% of all illegal aliens in the USA are under 30 years of age.

    91.4 % of illegal aliens in the USA are older than 30 years in age, according to Obama’s latest executive order of mid-June 2012. 94% of illegal aliens in the USA do NOT work on farms, or chicken processing plants in Texas as Mrs. Chavez states, or tomato fields, or fruit trees, or vegetable fields, or dairy cows, etc. those are all agriculture.

    H-2A is a guest worker visa program for foreign naitonals to legally work in the USA to pick tomatoes. Why did the panel skip that too?

  • raidr64

    you know i have an idea why dont we enforce the exsisting laws we have now and maybe that might work , i dont know maybe just maybe that might work , every country has immigration laws and enforce them including mexico but  america has them but refuses to enfore them and before you liberals start throwing the sympathy card . we live in a society of laws thats it get over yourselves , what about all the american familys that are divide and separated by the law and social services everyday now it ok to enforce the law on them and dont hear no sympathy for them and its justified but its not fair to or just to enforce the law on illegal immigrant familys and not take there food stamps priviliages away but its ok to take it away from american familys that should have these priviliages now i wish these liberal democrats can explain this to me and especially these american familys that should get it before any illegal immigrants or any AMERICAN family that needs the help period.

  • raidr64

    oh dont get me started on the illegal taking all the work i get a kick when all these democrats , republicans who say : well they only get the jobs nobody else want , what a bunch of croak and they really believe that crap and im an american who is hispanic descent and the mexicans are so bias its a joke when they talk about discrimination there no one to talk , i love my country and are laws and i will defend her til the death and i dont care who dont like it , and these people who dont care for america then leave you know the borders are easily open if you want to leave .GOD BLESS AMERICA   

  • JeannieBalenger

    Papi, it’s nice to hear someone who cares about humanity. Latinos are people it should not matter where you come frome if anything this is more their native land then any European mixed American ( witch is what I am) remember the southwest was once a part of Mexico not even that long ago. It’s not like anyone wants to leave their family and home to come to a place where they have to live in the shadows and work 70 hours a week just to make what most Americans can make in 30 hours. Any American can get a job if they really need to they just use immigrants taking their jobs as a excuse not to work.

  • Unsustainability

    Chavez illustrates why it is that not just people but governments are incapable of real rational thought. Government thinking is determined by money/power; individuals thinking is determined by decisions they have made or by influence from their past.We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others.Reason, thus, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn.So if you want to change people’s minds, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to what determines their thinking: the underlying moral intuitions Chavez thinks she is defending.

  • Unsustainability

    jskdn provides good analysis. But doesn’t touch on fact that illegal immigration is supported by a system that is run by moneyed interests that think unlimited growth is possible and that access to cheap labor is necessary to pursue it. Thus laws are ignored, and rewards are provided for an unsustainable millions of illegal and legal immigrants to come her per year. We live in a system that does not understand unsustainability, and the consequences will soon be apparent and devastating. That is why Obama and the Chamber of Commerce are on the same page, and why business interests support the organizations promoting unlimited immigration. That is why Obamas “comprehensive reform” is essentially just legalization of illegal immigration while boosting significantly legal immigration.

  • unsustainability

    A lot of American citizens are now unemployed, and any job for some is welcome. But the employers can maintain a significantly low wage by hiring ever-cheaper illegal immigrant labor. Look at what occurred in meat-packing plants in Midwest.

  • Anonymous

    Papi is clearly a racist who makes declarative statements that he stupidly (non-factually) assumes are true. If Americans were entering Mexico in the numbers of Mexicans and others are entering the U.S. stringent immigration laws would be applied limiting it. As an example look at what happens to Guatamalans entering and trying to stay in Mexico illegally. All kinds of measures are applied to limit it, including violence.

  • Anonymous

    Jeannie–Apparently you don’t know anyone who is unemployed and has been submitting resumes for years now. Amazing, given the millions now in that category.

  • go

    If an American breaks the law and don’t pay taxes they go to jail.
    If an illegal breaks the law and don’t pay taxes they get citizenship.