Immigration has long been a divisive issue in American politics. Policy reform seems to come every generation and most everyone on both sides of the aisle has strong opinions about what that reform should look like. Should we be more open with our borders? More closed? And how do we as a nation deal with the over ten million folks here illegally? On this edition of the Legally Easy Podcast, we examine those issues and more with immigration expert and professor Bill Ong Hing.
00:00- Introductions. With Juli in London for the week, Charley’s joined by Rocket Lawyer staff attorney Veronica Allen. He introduces her, our guest, professor Bill Ong Hing, and our topics for the week, immigration and immigration reform.
01:22- First off, we start with the rapidly changing case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now-former head of International Monetary Fund. Veronica fills us in on the details, including the physical evidence and the defense’s hinting that they’ll provide an alibi for the embattled French politician. Charley touches on the outrage in DSK’s home country at the so-called perp walk he was given and the uniqueness of a presumptive presidential candidate being held on criminal charges in a foreign country.
05:40 – Next, we discuss President Obama’s immigration speech earlier this month and the agenda outlined therein. Charley talks about the importance of immigrants to our economy — from H1-B work visas for white collar types on down the line — the DREAM Act, and how both President George W. Bush and John McCain attempted comprehensive reform before being shouted down. Charley also brings up the DREAM Act, which will be a touchstone in our conversation with our guest, and explains its purpose.
09:45 – With that, it’s time to meet Professor Bill Ong Hing. In addition to teaching, he’s an expert in immigration policy, a practicing attorney, an author, and a contributor to PrawfsBlawg. In his most recent book, Bill argues that helping Mexico strengthen its economy will help stem the tide of illegal immigration.
11:54 -Professor Hing begins by comparing President Obama’s immigration policy to that of his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Interestingly, they are quite similar. While both men wanted more comprehensive reform, enforcement was the only portion of their agendas to really get traction. Bill laments the fact that we so often focus on the politics here while the actual immigrants are lost in debate.
15:34- Charley wonders how much the U.S. economy depends on immigrant workers. Bill notes that there’s a complimentary effect between native workers and the immigrant workforce and that many immigrant workers fulfill needed jobs, be they fruit pickers to programmers. He also teaches us that there’s serious evidence some undocumented workers actually do pay into social security, though the number — $7 million overall — is not terribly large.
17:30- So, what is the DREAM Act we mentioned above? Basically, it’s a bill which would grant amnesty to children who were brought into the states illegally, provided those children met certain preconditions (high school graduation, good moral character, and several years of either higher education or military service). The DREAM Act, however, has never escaped filibuster, coming five votes short this past December. Charley asks a question that’s often glossed over in the debate: what, in fact, is the legal path to citizenship? Professor Hing thinks it’s more difficult than most people know. There are numerical limitations per country and a member of your nuclear family needs to be a citizen. You can also get legal status if you have a special job skill of which America is currently in need.
20:44- We move to the controversial Arizona immigration law known as Arizona SB 1070. Bill says the heart of the law — the sections which cause the most backlash — are enjoined and currently not being enforced. Veronica mentions that similar measures were defeated in Utah after push back from local business and Bill agrees, adding that a whole new slate of Arizona measures were likewise defeated. No businesses want to operate in an anti-immigrant state as it’s bad for the bottom line.
26:20- Charley asks Professor Hing how he’d remake U.S. immigration policy if he had his druthers. On one hand, Bill thinks we should be open to the idea of the guest worker program. With certain safeguards, he believes some workers really would be happy to come and go and it would allow them legal status in that time. On the other hand, he believes we should look into expanding the visa system as we’re losing a competitive advantage to other nations when we bar skilled workers from getting citizenship.
30:27- Which brings us to the Rocket Docket. After Charley and Veronica touch on the portions of the conversation they found most interesting, namely the similarities between President Obama’s and President’s Bush’s reform agendas and the overall difficulty of becoming a legal citizen. The question this week is “do we need comprehensive immigration reform?” Veronica relays the fact she’s the daughter of immigrants and believes that we need reform, while understanding the frustration of those who are out of work and upset at our policies. Both she and Charley think the DREAM Act is a sensible place to start.
So what do you think? Drop us a line on Facebook or in the comments below. As always, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.
- What You Told Us About Immigration Reform (whitehouse.gov)
- Immigration Reform: The President’s Agenda (legallyeasy.rocketlawyer.com)
- States’ immigration reform efforts fizzle (cbsnews.com)