January 2010


In his State of the Union speech a few days ago, President Obama said, “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.” I agree with that statement. But unfortunately, Obama’s solution will just make things worse and he overlooked a real jobs program that would not cost taxpayers a penny. Many Democratic strategists and talking heads are saying the party erred by putting health care before the economy. But the real problem is not Obama’s priorities, but that his solution to every problem is more government spending.

Obama first took on jobs by wasting over a trillion dollars in his stimulus package, and then he tried to deal with health care by proposing another trillion-dollar boondoggle. The new jobs bill he outlined in the State of the Union speech was more of the same: spending money we don’t have on public sector jobs in infrastructure, education and energy.

Instead of putting future generations further into debt, we could immediately free up millions of jobs by tackling immigration reform – true immigration reform, not the imposter called amnesty. Barack Obama mentioned immigration only briefly at the end of his speech when he said, “We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

Like with the economy and health care, Obama has identified a problem but then proposes a solution that makes the problem worse. While the statements in the speech seemed innocuous and vague, the White House’s website issued talking points that explained what the line meant: The president is pleased Congress is taking steps forward on immigration reform that includes effective border security measures with a path for legalization for those who are willing to pay taxes and abide by the law. Obama is referring to a bill by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) that will gut enforcement, reduce border security, grant a blanket amnesty to illegal aliens, and massively increase legal immigration. This will cost Americans literally millions of jobs!

In last week’s column, I discussed a number of real reforms we should make to fix our immigration system. The final step I advocated was a three-year “timeout,” a moratorium on legal immigration. In light of the growing debate on job creation, I’d like to elaborate on what exactly a moratorium is and why we need to enact one immediately.

Every month our government lets in 75,000 permanent foreign workers via “green cards” and 50,000 temporary workers through numerous guest worker programs. That’s 1.5 million new foreign workers each year. Then add all the illegal aliens flooding across our open borders. Every one of those new arrivals is competing with American citizens for jobs – and contrary to the propaganda of the open borders lobby, they are not taking only “jobs Americans won’t do.”

Last month, the Census Bureau data showed one out of six people in the American workforce is foreign born. That’s the highest figure since the 1920s and over three times as high as it was in 1965, when our immigration system was overhauled by the then-junior senator from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy.

When our economy was growing, these figures were easy to ignore, but with 25 million Americans out of work, it is insane to continue these policies. Yet, few members of Congress in either party are willing to discuss reducing legal immigration to safeguard American jobs.

While I applaud immigrants who arrive legally, who want to assimilate and become Americans, our immigration policy needs to put the interest of the American economy and American citizens first. And with so many Americans out of work and millions of legal immigrants already in the work force, we need a three-year timeout on legal immigration as well as secure borders to halt illegal immigration.

In addition to freeing up jobs for American workers, a three-year moratorium will free up resources to help government immigration agencies deal with existing case backlogs and fraud investigations. A timeout on immigration will also make it easier for the legal immigrants already here to assimilate. And unlike Obama’s jobs program, a moratorium will not cost a penny and will create new private sector jobs for Americans and legal immigrants already here.

It is true that a moratorium on immigration will not solve our unemployment problem, but this is a classic case where the old axiom ought to be heeded: when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is – stop digging.

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Australia’s Christmas Island detention centre is expected to keep growing as “asylum seekers” continue to arrive

Labor in opposition called it a white elephant, the Australian of the Year has labelled it a factory for mental illness, while the federal opposition says it’s a visa factory. However it’s described, the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre is never far from the spotlight.

A group of Tamils staged a peaceful protest inside the compound this week, which included a short a hunger strike that has now ended. Refugee advocates say the Tamils are angry about a mobile phone ban and long processing times, inflamed by the fast-tracking of asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking who struck a deal with the federal government after refusing to disembark from the Australian customs boat in Indonesian waters.

Built by the former Liberal government at a cost of more than $400 million, the centre has operated only under the current federal Labor government. Tucked away on Christmas Island’s northwest point, the detention centre is holding about 1564 asylum seekers. The latest boatload arrived on the island for processing on Friday. Despite the monsoon season asylum seekers continue to arrive in Australian waters bound for Christmas Island, with one group intercepted last week just one nautical mile (less than 2km) to the north of the detention centre.

Last year Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced capacity of the centre and other facilities on the island would be doubled from 1200 to 2200, at a cost of $40 million, to cope with the expected influx of asylum seekers. A Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman said the current capacity is 1848.

Senator Steve Fielding and opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison visited the island last week to inspect the detention facilities, which also include alternate accommodation for children and women, along with traumatised asylum seekers. Senator Fielding likened the accommodation for most as ‘akin to a motel’. He said Australians did not need to be concerned about how detainees were being looked after other than those who are living in tents erected to provide further capacity at the centre. ‘It’s very good accommodation, I think people are well fed, they’re well looked after, I think the only concern is the tent city and quite frankly they are at capacity and bursting at the seams and that just can’t continue,’ he told AAP.

Senator Fielding said both he and Mr Morrison were kept away from the protesting Tamils who were sitting outside under a shaded area near the centre’s oval. ‘We were kept well away from there, in one way it would have been nice to go and chat to them about their concerns but they were very concerned about making the situation worse,’ he said. ‘They’re basically saying they are going to remain on a hunger strike until they’re treated as human beings. ‘The conditions here are quite good so I’m not so sure exactly what they are complaining about.’ Mr Morrison said some of the detainees had been living in tents for 28 days. [How sad!] The federal government had to realise it had a problem and the real issue was to halt the number of boats arriving, he said.

The hunger strike had been triggered by the fact asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking had been given a special deal to fast track their cases that others had not, Mr Morrison said. ‘I don’t think they have a claim frankly when it comes to their treatment, I think their treatment here is outstanding,’ he said.

Reports of interviews with detainees showed people smugglers were selling a good product to asylum seekers bound for Christmas Island, which was essentially a ‘visa factory’, Mr Morrison said. He said detainees reported people smugglers were saying the only country to come to was Australia. ‘They never said that about Australia when the coalition was in government.’

Boats will continue to arrive, both Mr Morrison and Senator Fielding say. And with the boats come the immigration workers, the police, customs staff, health workers and security guards needed to run the detention centre. The remote island, 2600km northwest of Perth, is closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland.

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CIS Staffer Hosts Ongoing Law Enforcement Series

The latest government data show that over one-fifth of incarcerated criminals in America are foreign-born. A large share of these individuals may have violated immigration laws and could be subject to deportation. Immigration status may be relevant to investigations of criminal activity, so officers in every police and sheriff’s department need a basic understanding of immigration issues and policies and how they intersect with public safety matters.

The Center for Immigration Studies and Law Enforcement and Public Safety TV (LEAPS.TV) announce the release of the first in a year-long series of webinars, entitled ‘Immigration Policy for State and Local Law Enforcement.’ The series is designed to provide useful information on immigration issues and assist state and local agencies in developing appropriate policies to deal with criminal aliens and crime problems associated with illegal immigration. The first program is an introduction to the issues and is presented by Jessica Vaughan, CIS Director of Policy Studies. Future programs will feature subject matter experts from a mix of federal and local law enforcement agencies.

The webinar is available here

The above is a press release dated Jan. 28 from the Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: center@cis.org. Contact: Bryan Griffith, press@cis.org, (202) 466-8185

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has stirred up controversy during an inspection of Christmas Island, saying that protesting asylum seekers have nothing to complain about.

Mr Morrison has been visiting the island’s detention centre with Independent Senator Steve Fielding to speak with detainees and inspect the facilities.

His description of the island as a ‘visa factory’ and Mr Fielding’s comment that the island’s facilities are too attractive have drawn the ire of Labor MP Michael Danby, who nicknamed the pair “Laurel and Hardy” and accused them of fear mongering.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans says he has been told 130 Sri Lankans are staging a peaceful protest, including a hunger strike. But Mr Morrison says the facilities are first class and the protest is a cry for attention. “I think Australians can rest easy about the treatment of asylum seekers on Christmas Island,” he said.

“I think this is more of a cry for attention rather at this stage rather than anything of any great seriousness, and frankly they have nothing to complain about in terms of the facilities or the services, or the treatment that they’re receiving on this island. “I think we have a lot to be proud of in the way that people are being looked after here. I thought the standard of facilities at least met that standard, if not better in some cases.”

Activist groups say more than 350 detainees are staging a peaceful protest and hunger strikes against the time it is taking to process their claims. Earlier, Senator Evans said the protest would do little to help the detainees’ cause. “I want to make it very clear to them and to the community … we’re not going to be responding to this,” he said. “What we are going to do is ensure proper process is followed – that is people have to have had their health, identity and security checks and then they have to have been successful in their application for protection.”

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As I noted yesterday, the chances of getting an immigration-reform bill passed this year dimmed dramatically in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election. Last night President Obama’s SOTU speech pretty much snuffed out any remaining possibility. He waited until roughly word 6,300 of a 7,000-word speech to address the issue. He devoted all of one sentence to it (“And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system,” etc. etc.). And he offered no specifics for a potential measure or timeline to get it done. That fleeting reference was “a crumb that was placed on the domestic-policy-agenda table to really satisfy the hunger of the immigrant and Latino communities,” says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which has pushed for a reform package. “It was the death knell of immigration reform in 2010.”

This is no surprise. Given that much of last year was squandered on a health-care debate that has yet to produce an agreement, and given that Americans are clamoring for the administration to focus on jobs and the economy, immigration has fallen far down the priority list, for both the president and Congress. “I don’t think there’s been a diminution in the desire to do it,” says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, which has also pressed for an overhaul. “But there’s a greater recognition that the pipeline got backed up in 2009.” The top two priorities now, he says, are a jobs bill and financial-services reform. “If those get done, and Washington is working better, then I think other things will be possible this year.” Even, perhaps, immigration reform, though he says it may well get pushed to 2011.

The pro-reform forces, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and advocacy organizations, are mostly striking a measured and realistic tone. They realize that Obama has his hands full, that he’s rightly focused on jobs, and that it’s perhaps time to regroup on the immigration front. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who introduced a reform proposal in the House in December and has often expressed impatience with the administration’s handling of the issue, had mostly supportive words for Obama in a blog posting this morning. Though he lamented the president’s cursory mention of immigration in last night’s speech, he argued that ultimately it was up to Congress to seize the reins. Lawmakers “cannot wait for the President to lay out our timeline for comprehensive reform,” he wrote.

For now, Hispanic voters appear to be cutting Obama some slack. “From the perspective of the Latino community, the most pressing issue is the economy and job creation,” says Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza, just as it is for Americans generally. Even in good economic times, immigration usually ranks as only a midlevel concern for Hispanic voters. The problem, however, is if they perceive that the president has betrayed them on the issue. At this point, that’s not the prevailing sentiment. “We know that he’s committed, that he’s opened the door to make progress on the issue,” says Martinez. But there’s “definitely an expectation that there will be movement [on an immigration overhaul], and there will be disappointment if that doesn’t happen.” My guess is he’s safe not dealing with it this year. But if he waits beyond 2011, Hispanics’ patience may wear out.

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Chronically ill foreign workers and their families, including those with HIV-AIDS, will be allowed to settle in Australia for the first time as the Immigration Department loosens its stringent health rules to alleviate the skills shortage. The department is widening a loophole that lets it waive the health requirement for some sick dependants of Australian citizens.

Taxpayers will spend nearly $60 million on healthcare for 288 migrants granted special clearance last financial year to live in Australia, despite failing health exams. These included 59 cases of HIV infection, 10 of cancer and 26 of intellectual impairment. Most of the waivers were granted to the foreign partners of Australian citizens.

Now the federal government wants to widen the health loophole in a bid to lure skilled immigrants who otherwise would be turned away on the grounds of illness, mental health or chronically ill family members.

But NSW — the strongest magnet for new migrants — has so far refused to sign the change, which requires state and territory agreement because of the potential drain on their hospital systems. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s treatment of disabled migrants, the Immigration Department warns that removing health restrictions could strain health services already in short supply, such as organ transplants or dialysis. “Additional migration, particularly if current health restrictions were to be removed, could lead to increased pressure on healthcare systems,” it says. “Any significant change to the current health requirement would need to be considered in the context of potential impacts on health and welfare expenditure . . . particularly in terms of prejudice to the access of . . . citizens and permanent residents to healthcare and community services.”

Departmental data reveals that 42 health waivers were granted to foreign workers on temporary skilled visas during 2008-09. The department plans to extend the waivers to workers seeking permanent residency, and those who have set up businesses in Australia.

Health bans were lifted last financial year for 138 temporary immigrants seeking to remain in Australia — at a total cost to taxpayers of $19.5m in health and community services. Another 150 immigrants who applied offshore were granted waivers, at an estimated cost of $38.2m. HIV was the most common health condition, involving 59 cases at a cost of $14m, with 26 cases of intellectual impairment at a cost of $1.2m, and 10 cases of cancer, at a cost of $751,500. The department knocked back applications from another 1586 would-be migrants who failed health tests — at an estimated saving to taxpayers of $70m.

Federal parliament’s migration committee began inquiring into Australia’s treatment of disabled migrants after Immigration Minister Chris Evans intervened in 2008 to grant permanent residency to a German doctor whose son had Down syndrome.

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Florida voters don’t want immigration laws waived to make it easier for Haitians to stay in the United States or immigrate into the country, a new poll shows.

Fifty-one percent of 1,618 registered Florida voters surveyed by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University said they wanted immigration laws enforced compared to 43 percent opposed to them being waived in the wake of the deadly Haitian earthquake Jan. 12.

Voters were opposed, 50 percent to 46 percent, to a decision by the Obama Administration to grant temporary legal status for 18 months to Haitians living in the U.S. when the earthquake hit and divided on allowing more immigrants into the country. Quinnipiac said the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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