All-In Nation: a New Book Touching on U.S. Immigration Policy

All-In-NationThe left-leaning thinktank Center for American Progress has published a new book, All-In Nationasserting a vision for comprehensive immigration reform that’s worth reading.

The book’s basic concern is that the racial and ethnic makeup of our nation is rapidly changing, but increasing inequality puts at risk the ideal that America can offer a level playing field with opportunities for social and economic mobility.

Most births in the U.S. are to parents of color. Within three decades, more than half the population will be people of color. The authors see diversity as strength. Our population is graying as the bubble of Baby Boomers heads towards retirement. But unlike other countries where graying is leading to labor shortages, such as Russia, Germany, and Japan, our population is still growing due almost entirely to communities of color. The authors believe that the U.S. can accommodate diversity: “our nation historically has worked toward including those who were previously marginalized”–racial and ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians, etc.

The book is divided into chapters with policy recommendations covering infrastructure; jobs and the economy; health care and healthy communities; education and workforce development; immigration; criminal justice; and democratic participation. The immigration chapter starts with a vignette:

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa began working when he was 5 years old. Born to a poor family in Mexico, he came to the United States in 1987 as an undocumented immigrant at the age of 19. Once in the United States, he worked in a number of backbreaking jobs picking tomatoes and loading sulfur and fish lard onto railroad freight cars, but he decided that this was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Eventually, Alfredo enrolled in community college to learn English, found mentors who supported him, and earned a scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he pursued the natural sciences. After graduation, Alfredo was recruited by Harvard Medical School, and today Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa is a brain surgeon who directs the brain tumor program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

The lesson the authors would have us draw is that immigrants come to America to build a better life for themselves and, in the process, make America a better place. Immigrants are more entrepreneurial that natural-born citizens. One in every four new businesses is created by an immigrant. Cities such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston with high levels of economic growth have correspondingly large immigrant populations.

The authors’ prescriptions are pretty much in line with S.744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support but which the House has pushed back against. First, there should be a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in America. That would certainly improve their lives: persons who are legalized and naturalized earn 25% more than they do as undocumented immigrants. They would contribute more in taxes too, which is in the public interest. And immigrants are not frequently in direct economic competition with native-born American workers.

Second, smarter channels are needed for legal immigrants in order to meet the demands of global competitiveness and a highly interconnected world. The authors also caution that immigration policy should focus not just on employment-based immigration but also family-sponsored immigration. One reason is that family-sponsored immigrants who arrive in the U.S. have built-in networks available to help them navigate the system and become employed or start their own businesses.

The Center for American Progress was founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. The book’s editors are Vanessa Cardenas and Sara Treuhaft. The immigration chapter was authored by Cardenas and Jeanne Butterfield (previously Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association).

The book is downloadable in PDF format.

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