Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Immigration Reality Check

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Immigration Reality Check

Article excerpt

It's clear that President Barack Obama didn't make good on his threat to take executive action on immigration reform because he was convinced it would hurt his party in next month's elections, giving Republicans control of the Senate.

The president's demurral may have been in vain. The GOP may win control of the Senate anyway, according to recent polls. What's worse: He gave up an historic opportunity to focus the public's attention on who these "illegals" are and why immigration reform is in America's best interest. That's the real tragedy.

Consider the latest data on the "unauthorized immigrant population," published in September by the Pew Research Center.

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, Pew researchers found that the unauthorized immigrant population rose steadily from 1990 to 2007, as the economy boomed, took a dip "as the U.S. economy faltered and border enforcement tightened," and has remained pretty much steady at 11.3 million since 2009.

The president could have made this a teaching moment, explaining that the number of unauthorized immigrants has always been the result of economic forces. When immigrant workers are needed, they come; when they are not, they cease to come and many even go back to their native countries. Yes, the number of unauthorized immigrants tripled between 1990 and 2008, but this tracked pretty closely with the booming U.S. economy, which grew from $5.9 trillion in nominal gross domestic product in 1990 to $14.7 trillion in 2008.

Another common canard the president could have addressed is the claim that immigrant workers sneak over the border to steal jobs from Americans and slink back across the border as soon as the jobs run dry.

In fact, most recent immigrants, legal and illegal alike, come here - as the Irish, Italians, and East European Jews came before them - in the hopes of making America their permanent home. …

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