Noe Rivera Garcia and Irma Alvarez are hard-working undocumented immigrants in Alabama, the state once known to have the harshest immigration legislation in the country. Noe is under threat of deportation, and Irma is an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, volunteering with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and pressing legislators to reform immigration law. Noe and Irma continue their fight to keep their family of five in the community they now call home.
Fast Facts about Undocumented Immigrants:
- In 2014, there were 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., accounting for 3.5% of the U.S. population and 5% of the U.S. labor force.[i]
- Today, there are more people returning to Mexico than illegally crossing the border into the U.S.[ii]
- The U.S. spends more on border control than on all other forms of federal criminal law enforcement combined. In 2014, the government spent over $18 billion enforcing immigration laws—nearly double the expenditure of the previous decade.[iii]
- Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, do not compete for most jobs, and do not qualify for most public services in the U.S.[iv] Furthermore, 72% of Americans believe that undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the U.S. if they meet some legal requirements.[v]
- Alabama’s harsh immigration law banned landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and required police to arrest suspected violators among other punitive measures designed to force the immigrants to “self-deport.” These measures backfired when enforcing the punitive law overwhelmed the poor state’s limited resources. Similar legislation in Riverside, New Jersey, resulted in immigrants leaving the city, which had significant economic impact on the city.[vi]
- Despite President Obama’s support of the DREAM Act, which sought to temporarily suspend the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came into the U.S. illegally as children and who have demonstrated their ties to the U.S. through education or military service, he has also deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history.[vii]
Discussion Questions about Undocumented Immigrants:
- In the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump declared support for building a wall along the southern U.S. border and deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Why is immigration a central topic in the 2016 presidential election?
- Silicon Valley technology corporations are pushing hard for immigration reform to increase the number of H-1B visas for immigrants with advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees. Recent research from the Economic Policy Institute is showing, however, that some corporations are laying off employees, then hiring H-1B guestworkers and paying them vastly lower wages. How can immigration reform policies be designed so they protect all workers?
- According to the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), there are now more refugees globally than at any other time since records have been kept. Nearly 60 million, or one out of every 122 human beings, half of whom are children, are now displaced and seeking refuge.[viii] The International Red Cross says there are even more “climate refugees,” who are fleeing environmental devastation brought on by global warming, than war refugees.[ix] Who should take responsibility for these refugees, and how can immigration policy adapt to the burgeoning refugee crisis?
- What are the biggest obstacles that are preventing immigration reform legislation from getting through Congress? In our current divisive political climate, should the President use executive action and bypass Congress to push for immigration reform?
- Do you know any undocumented immigrants? What are their stories? How can we support them in our communities and encourage acceptance and integration?