Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: Framing The Immigration Issue: Lou Dobbs and Media Messes: Prince William Are You Listening?

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Framing The Immigration Issue: Lou Dobbs and Media Messes: Prince William Are You Listening?




We are a troubled and divided land at the moment, having lost sight of simple and right and wrong, we have become confused, cynical, frustrated, feeling hopeless and helpless in the darkening forests of “situational ethics” and “relativism”, the political application of which have served for too long to excuse all manner of abuse of power and the public trust.

National institutions that should be viewed with respect have come to be held in contempt and mocked as a matter of course. We expect almost nothing of our elected leaders as we have lost all faith in them and the service they are supposed to provide.

We absorb a daily diet of criticism of, and attack upon, our institutions and leaders, and do nothing but vent our anger at the ballot box every so often. We hear our leaders calling for manner of institutions to be held “accountable” and yet we do not hold them to the same standards. We have given up and taken solace in the meanness of spirit and angry, negative public discourse that characterizes today’s public arena.

This is not healthy; it is not constructive, and such an atmosphere does not promote the solution of societal problems, rather it permits the perpetuation of a sound bite political discourse, lacking in depth, and devoid of both integrity and seriousness of any purpose beyond that of perpetuation of elected officials.

Such an angry society is in danger of becoming incapable of righting the wrongs that cause the repression, depression and feelings of impotence. It becomes easy to complain and blame, to criticize and condemn, to brush aside any feelings of tolerance, compassion and understanding and opt for attacking anything one is told is wrong, easy to swallow spoon fed half truths and lies and act upon them as if they were gospel.

The terms “negative campaigning” and “character assassination” roll off people’s lips as complacent comfortable common place conversation. Name calling, labeling, negative framing shrill dialog is common and accepted. Absent are the words, problems, issues, discussion and solutions. This must stop, and so much of this prevailing public attitude and manipulation of the public is at the heart of the real failure for this nation to come to grips constructively with its’ concerns over immigration. But let me move on to the central content of this post…

Let me start this conversation by saying that I still hold today, with the same reverence as I did when I first thought about Ms. Lazarus’ poem, the sentiment and expression of hope embodied in her words.

Like so many words expressing the ideas, hopes and philosophical under pinning of our history and heritage; I find no reason, no cause born of the passage of years and changes in the world, to either reject or abandon them.

Rather I hold we would do well to revisit the words of fore bearers, take them to heart, and act upon them in our daily lives.

I welcome all who would come to this land and add to the richness of our ever evolving cultural fabric. I welcome them to our Communities, to our schools, churches, to the work place, to our political institutions, and I welcome them to the ballot box.

I do not fear the change that new members of our society will bring, as the only constant in this world today is change.


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

While the nation was being bombarded with all the rhetoric of the November Elections Immigration was Media-Touted as an “Important” Issue. Like everyone else they were duped by the political establishment into head lining the “Issue”. When the smoke cleared the issue did not play well, had little impact, except in a few stray local situations, and then, where the “Issue” was supposed to favor Republican candidates, there were several back fires. The “BIG ISSUE” status just did not materialize as Republican strategists planned, predicted and pundit pontificated.

This is not to say that there have not been isolated local incidents of anti-immigration actions that were given media time and space. That action reflected a combination of either/and/or xenophobic expression and/or local economic expression and the ever present political campaign opportunism.

A number of those initial “shootem from the hip” actions have had serious local economic consequences in those communities who fell into the trap of the emotional appeal of the “Issue” and reaction without fore thought has brought negative wallet impact requiring a rethinking.

Candor dictates that the “Immigration Issue” WAS a fabricated campaign issue to divert some attention from the Iraq mess giving much used and abused “value voters” something to stew about and chew on through the election season.

And where is the “Immigration Issue” now? Is it on the 100 hour Pelosi agenda? Is it at the top of the media agenda? Is it a Sunday “talking heads” headline issue? The answer is a simple NO!

Where we can find it is local communities where less than intelligent, less than honest, less than well-informed local political opportunists Hell-bent on self-perpetuation and reelection rush for the ego-feeding spotlight of TV coverage to satisfy themselves in some political masturbation without regard for anyone injured in their demagoguery, individuals or their own communities in the long run…after all you can always scapegoat someone else later for those fall out problems.

I freely acknowledge that I have staked out the position that we have an “Immigration Problem”, have consistently held that it is a problem of our own making, that we have created the conditions for abuse and then turned a blind eye to the scurrying across our border because it served the desires of a Republican constituency for a near slave labor, non unionized, non-benefits labor pool. Democrats do not have clean hands on this issue either, as both parties have turned a blind or winking eye at the whole mess.

I must make it clear that I will be forced in the remainder of this discussion to use words that I abhor, i.e., “aliens” and “illegals”, as they constitute the backbone vocabulary of this debate “framed” by those who have chosen to exploit it and perpetuate it without any intent or ability to resolve the matter in any constructive manner.

The Immigration Debate has into nothing more than a self-service political tool of polarization, finger pointing racist bigotry and deliberate division. It provides a seemingly convenient enemy/villain to demonize in a public discourse of negativity.

We have touted the good life, greased the road to America, and exploited the economic plight of those who we now point the finger of righteous indignation at while bellowing “ILLEGALS” and scape goating those individuals with all manner of our pent up frustrations.

It’s nice to have someone else to blame; it has become the thing to do!

If you are going in search of the factual content of this matter you are going to have to dismiss a lot of emotional politically motivated and generated disinformation, misinformation and out right lies. But let us get at the Senate and House plans, now in some limbo, as they were fabricated for election consumption, remembering, that though there were some “token compromises” in the content, the plans were essentially Republican proposals crafted for public political consumption.

No one expected much to survive a conference consideration intact. That is probably a good thing given the fact that the focus was flawed in its’ framing and therefore destined to be flawed in the final cannibalized legislative product.

The McCain/Kennedy offering was, at best a cobble job that would have defused some of the political rhetoric and providing albeit, a weak foundation point to initiate development of a coherent and hopefully rational/humane immigration policy in this country.

It is my position, that the immigration laws of the United States are hopelessly flawed with years and volumes of laws that have long ago made the entire code useless…like a rose garden untended and long ago gone to weed.

The code and the accompanying library of immigration law books ought to be discarded and a new system built from the ground up. Currently the only people well-served by the existing structure are attorneys making outrageous money in the mud of pig pen of laws and politicians who drag the issue out to exploit the emotional dark angels of local politics, avoiding having to deal with the real needs of the American Electorate.

I have spent a great deal of time on this matter and a great deal of thought and research has gone into my advocacy position, which I found during the electoral cycle required strenuous articulation given the many who had closed their minds to anything but the campaign spin and sound bites.

But, having taken to time to do the research, I am prepared to approach this matter in full as if I were designing the campaign to resolve the matter, so let us start with how the public façade of a dialog was “framed”.

Framing an issue in today’s world often constitutes nothing more than the spin and sound bite approach at the expense of any genuine consideration of the content, merit, impact and value of exploring the totality of a problem and all of its’ contents, social, political, economic, historical, past, present and future. Simply put a campaign sales job and a serious examination/search for the truth and a meaningful solution to a problem.

The matter of framing is at the center of the recent immigration debate. Simply framing it as about “immigration” has shaped its politics, defining what count as “problems” and constraining the debate to a narrow set of issues.

The language is telling. The linguistic framing is remarkable: frames for illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, undocumented workers, undocumented immigrants, guest workers, temporary workers, amnesty, and border security.

These linguistic expressions are anything but neutral. Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and the hence constrains the solutions needed to address that problem.

The purpose of this discussion is twofold: first, an analysis of the framing used in the current public/political debate, and second, the suggestion of some alternative framing to highlight important concerns deliberately omitted in the current debate. The point is to show that the relevant issues go far beyond what is being discussed, and that acceptance of the current framing both impoverishes and poisons the current discussion.

On May 15th, in an address from the Oval Office, President Bush presented his proposal for “comprehensive immigration reform.” The term “immigration reform” evokes an issue-defining conceptual frame — The Immigration Problem Frame — a frame that imposed a limiting and prejudicial structure on the current situation, defined a set of “problems” with that situation, and circumscribed the possibility for “solutions.”

“Reform,” when used in politics, indicates there is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed — take “Medicare reform,” “lobbying reform,” “social security reform.” The noun that’s attached to reform — “immigration” — points to where the problem lies. Whatever noun is attached to “reform” becomes the locus of the problem and constrains what counts as a solution.

To illustrate, take “lobbying reform.” In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, “lobbying reform” was all the talk in the media and on Capitol Hill. The problem defined by this frame has to do with lobbyists. As a “lobbyist” problem, the solutions focused on Congressional rules regarding lobbyists.

The debate centered around compensated meals, compensated trips, access by former Congressmen (who inevitably become lobbyists) to the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, lobbying disclosure, lobbyists’ access to Congressional staff and the period of time between leaving the Congress and becoming a registered lobbyists.

Indeed, if the reform needed is “lobbying reform,” these are reasonable solutions. But, the term “Congressional ethics reform” would have framed a problem of a much different nature, a problem with Congressmen.

And it would allow very different reforms to count as solutions. After all, lobbyists are powerless if there’s nobody to accept a free meal, fly on a private plane, play a round of Golf in the Bahamas and, most importantly, accept the political contributions lobbyists raise on their behalf from special-interests with billions of dollars in business before the federal Government.

A solution could, for example, have been Full Public Financing of Elections and free Airtime for political candidates as part of the licensing of the public’s airwaves to private corporations. The “lobbying reform” framing of the issue precluded such considerations from discussion, because they don’t count as solutions to the “lobbying” problem. Issue-defining frames are powerful.

It is obvious in this instance that Congress is not interested in such comprehensive reform, either as a matter of preferential choice or instinctual predisposition to maintain some level of abuse of power and privilege which they want/need to perpetuate. It is the same with “The Immigration Issue”. The verbal lint and lies of reform is pure hypocrisy. The collective Congress does not want a change…and that is a fact.

“Immigration reform” also evokes an issue-defining frame. Bush, in his speech, pointed out the problems that this frame defines. First, the Government has “not been in complete control of its borders.” Second, millions are able to “sneak across our border” seeking to make money. Finally, once here, illegal immigrants sometimes forge documents to get work, skirting labor laws, and deceiving employers who attempt to follow the law.

They may take jobs away from legal immigrants and ordinary Americans, bear children who will be American citizens even in they are not, and use local services like schools and hospitals, which may cost a local government a great deal. This is his definition of the problem in the Immigration Reform frame. That frame is not comprehensive; it is not inclusive; it is not accurate.

That frame is directive and limiting of any final outcome should that framing dictate the final out comes of legislative action. That frame was also disingenuous. It was and is a falsehood…but it sounds good from the bellicose bully pulpit of pandering political vote seeking.

This definition of the problem focuses entirely on the immigrants and the administrative agencies charged with overseeing immigration law. The reason is that these are the only roles present in the Immigration Problem Frame.

Bush’s “comprehensive solution” entirely concerns the immigrants, citizenship laws, and the border patrol.

And, from the narrow problem identified by framing it as an “immigration problem,” Bush’s solution is comprehensive.

He has at least addressed everything that counts as a problem in the immigration frame. But the real problem with the current situation runs broader and deeper. Consider the issue of Foreign Policy Reform, which focuses on two sub-issues:

How has US foreign policy placed, or kept, in power oppressive governments which people are forced to flee?

What role have international trade agreements had in creating or exacerbating people’s urge to flee their homelands? If capital is going to freely cross borders, should people and labor be able to do so as well, going where globalization takes the jobs?

Such a framing of the problem would lead to a solution involving the Secretary of State, conversations with Mexico and other Central American countries, and a close examination of the promises of NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank to raise standards of living around the globe.

It would inject into the globalization debate a concern for the migration and displacement of people, not simply globalization’s promise for profits. This is not addressed when the issue is defined as the “immigration problem.” Bush’s “comprehensive solution” does not address any of these concerns. The immigration problem, in this light, is actually a globalization problem.

The Bush framing is narrow and designed as to be conducive to producing a set of limited political/legislative outcomes while be exploited for limited expedient political purposes. Many analysts would see this framing as being conducive to a limited political shelf life, a throw away. I am of that opinion.

Perhaps the problem might be better understood as a humanitarian crisis.

Can the mass migration and displacement of people from their homelands at a rate of 800,000 people a year be understood as anything else?

Unknown numbers of people have died trekking through the extreme conditions of the Arizona and New Mexico desert. Towns are being depopulated and ways of life lost in rural Mexico.

Fathers feel forced to leave their families in their best attempt to provide for their families. Everyday, boatloads of people arrive on our shores after miserable journeys at sea in deplorable conditions.

As a humanitarian crisis, the solution could involve The UN or the Organization of American States. But these bodies do not have roles in the immigration frame, so they have no place in an “immigration debate.” Framing this as just an “immigration problem” prevents us from penetrating deeper into the issue.

The current situation can also be seen as a civil rights problem.

The millions of people living here who crossed illegally are for most intents and purposes Americans. They work here. They pay taxes here. Their kids are in school here. They plan to raise their families here.

For the most part, they are assimilated into the American system, but are forced to live underground and in the shadows because of their legal status. They are denied ordinary civil rights. The “immigration problem” framing overlooks their basic human dignity.

Perhaps most pointedly, the “immigration problem” frame blocks an understanding of this issue as a cheap labor issue.

The undocumented immigrants allow employers to pay low wages, which in turn provide the cheap consumer goods we find at Wal-Mart and McDonalds. They are part of a move towards the cheap lifestyle, where employers and consumers find any way they can to save a dollar, regardless of the human cost.

Most of us partake in this cheap lifestyle, and as a consequence, we are all complicit in the current problematic situation.

Business, Consumers and Government have turned a blind eye to the problem for so long because our entire economy is structured around subsistence wages. Americans won’t do the work immigrants do not because they don’t want to, but because they won’t do it for such low pay.

Since Bush was elected, corporate profits have doubled but there has been no meaningful increase in wages. This is really a wage problem. The workers who are being more productive are not getting paid for their increased productivity.

A solution to the “immigration problem” will not address these concerns because they are absent from the “immigration frame.” Framing matters.

The notion of this as “an immigration problem” needing “immigration reform” is not neutral. This definition of the problem focuses entirely on the immigrants and the administrative agencies charged with overseeing immigration law. The reason is that these are the only roles present in the Immigration Problem Frame.



We now turn from conceptual framing of the current situation to the words used and surface frames those words evoke.

The Illegal Frame is perhaps the most commonly used frame within the immigration debate. Journalists frequently refer to “illegal immigrants” as if it were a neutral term. But the illegal frame is highly structured. It frames the problem as one about the illegal act of crossing the border without papers. As a consequence, it fundamentally frames the problem as a legal one.

Think for a moment of a criminal. Chances are you thought about a robber, a murderer, a rapist. a drug dealer or drug smuggler. These are prototypical criminals, people who do harm to a person or their property. And prototypical criminals are assumed to be bad/evil people.

“Illegal,” used as an adjective in “illegal immigrants and illegal aliens or simply as a noun in “illegals” defines the immigrants as criminals, as if they were inherently bad law breaking people.

In conservative doctrine, those who break laws must be punished — or all law and order will break down. Failure to punish is immoral. “Illegal alien” not only stresses criminality, but stresses otherness. As we are a nation of immigrants, we can at least empathize with immigrants, illegal or not.

“Aliens,” in popular culture suggests nonhuman beings invading from outer space — completely foreign, not one of us, intent on taking over our land and our way of life by gradually insinuating themselves among us. Along these lines, the word “invasion” is used by the Minutemen and right-wing bloggers to discuss the wave of people crossing the border. Right-wing language experts intent on keep them out suggest using the world “aliens” whenever possible.

These are NOT neutral terms. Imagine calling businessmen who once cheated on their taxes “illegal businessmen.” Imagine calling people who have driven over the speed limit “illegal drivers.” Is Tom Delay an “illegal Republican?” Is George Bush an “illegal President?”

By defining these individuals as criminal(s), one overlooks the immense contributions these immigrants subsequently make by working hard for low wages. This is work that should more than make up for crossing the border. Indeed, we should be expressing our gratitude. Immigrants who cross outside of legal channels, though, are committing offenses of a much different nature than the prototypical criminal.

Their intent is not to cause harm or to steal. More accurately, they are committing victimless technical offenses, which we normally consider “violations.” By invoking the illegal frame, the severity of their offense is inflated.

The illegal frame — particularly “illegal alien” — dehumanizes. It blocks the questions of: why are people coming to the US, often times at great personal risk? What service do they provide when they are here? Why do they feel it necessary to avoid legal channels?

It boils the entire debate down to questions of legality. And it also ignores the illegal acts of employers. The problem is not being called the Illegal Employer Problem, and employers are not called “illegals.”


The logical response to the “wave” of “illegal immigration” becomes “border security.” The Government has a responsibility to provide security for its citizens from criminals and invaders. President Bush has asked to place the National Guard on the border to provide security. Indeed, he referred to “security” six times in his immigration speech.

Additionally, Congress recently appropriated money from the so-called “war on terror” for border security with Mexico. This should outrage the American public. How could Congress conflate the — both documented and undocumented — come to live the American dream? But the conceptual move from illegal immigrant (criminal, evil), to border security to a front of the war on terror, an ever expanding war against evil in all places and all times wherever it is, is not far.

It is this understanding of the issue that also prompted the House to pass the punitive HR 4437, which includes a provision to make assisting illegal immigrants while they are here a felony. It is seen as aiding and abetting a criminal.

But how could this be a “security” issue? Security implies that there is a threat, and a threatened, and that the threatened needs protection. These immigrants are not a physical threat; they are a vital part of our economy and help America function. They don’t want to shoot us or kill us or blow us up.

They only want to weed our gardens, clean our houses, and cook our meals in search of the American Dream. They must be recognized as Americans making a vital impact and contribution. And when they are, we will cease to tolerate the substandard conditions in which they are forced to work and live.

No American — indeed, no person — should be treated so brashly.


“Amnesty” also fits the Illegal Frame. Amnesty is a pardoning of an illegal action — a show of either benevolence or mercy by a supreme power. It implies that the fault lies with the immigrants, and it is a righteous act for the US Government to pardon them.

Given recent examples of exoneration and pardons that power has be defined more as a privilege, and certainly not a righteous one at that!

This again blocks the reality that Government looks the other way, and Business has gone much further — it has been a full partner in creating the current situation.

If amnesty is to be granted, it seems that amnesty should be given to the businesses who knowingly or unknowingly hired the immigrants and to the Government for turning a blind eye.

But amnesty to these parties is not considered, because it’s an “immigration problem.” Business has no role in this frame, and Government can’t be given amnesty for not enforcing its own laws.


By comparison, the term “undocumented worker” activates a conceptual frame that seems less accusatory and more compassionate than the “illegal” frame. But a closer look reveals fundamental problems with this framing. First, the negative “undocumented” suggests that they should be documented — that there is something wrong with them if them are not.

Second, “worker” suggests that their function in America is only to work, not to be educated, have families, form communities, have lives — and vote!

This term was suggested by supporters of the immigrants as less noxious than illegal aliens, and it is, but it has serious limitations. It accepts the framing of immigrants as being here only to work.


“Undocumented workers” opened the door to Bush’s new proposal for “temporary workers,” who come to America for a short time, work for low wages, do not vote, have few rights and services, and then go home so that a new wave of workers without rights, or the possibility of citizenship and voting, can come in.

This is thoroughly undemocratic and serves the financial and electoral interests of conservatives.

This term replaced “guest worker,” which was ridiculed. Imagine inviting some to dinner as a guest and then asking him to pick the vegetables, cook the dinner, and wash the dishes!


Most of the framing initiatives have been taken by conservatives. Progressives have so far abstained. Progressives could well frame the situation as the Cheap Labor Issue or the Cheap Lifestyle Issue. Most corporations use the common economic metaphor of labor as a resource.

There are two kinds of employees — the Assets (creative people and managers) and Resources (who are relatively unskilled, fungible, interchangeable). The American economy is structured to drive down the cost of resources — that is, the wages of low-skilled, replaceable workers.

Immigration increases the supply of such workers and helps to drive down wages. Cheap labor increases “productivity” and profits for employers, and it permits a cheap lifestyle for consumers who get low prices because of cheap labor.

But these are not seen as “problems.” They are benefits. And people take these benefits for granted. They are not grateful to the immigrants who make them possible. Gratitude; the word is hardly ever spoken in the discourse over immigration.

Now consider the frame defined by the term “economic refugee.” A refugee is a person who has fled their homeland, due to political or social strife, and seeks asylum in another country. An economic refugee would extend this category (metaphorically, not legally, though it might be shifted legally in the future) to include people fleeing their homeland as a result of economic insecurity.

Refugees are worthy of compassion. We should accept them into our nation. All people are entitled to a stable political community where they have reasonable life prospects to lead a fulfilling life — this is the essence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To frame the debate this way is to advance a progressive understanding. While immigrants are here, they should be integrated into society either temporarily, if conditions improve in their home country, or permanently, if they can integrate and become productive members of our nation. It will focus solutions on US foreign policy to be about people, not profits.

The only way the migration of people from the South to the North will stop is when conditions are improved there. As long as there is a pull to the North and a push from the South, people will find their way over, no matter how big, how long or how guarded a border fence is. (As an aside, who will build that fence if all the undocumented immigrants leave?)

Increased security will force people to find ever more dangerous crossings, as has already happened, without slowing the flow of immigrants and more people will die unnecessarily.

Even if we could “protect” ourselves by sealing the border and preventing businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants by imposing hefty fines or prison sentences for violations, progressives should not be satisfied. This still leaves those yearning to flee their own countries in search of a better life in deplorable situations. The problem is not dealt with by making the United States a gated community.

While these refugees are here, they must be treated with dignity and respect. Indeed, if they cannot return home, we have a responsibility to welcome them into ours. And we must treat them as Americans, not as second-class citizens, as they are currently. If they are here, they work hard and contribute to society, they are worthy of a path to citizenship and the basic rights we are entitled to (a minimum wage, education, healthcare, a social safety net).

Currently, the undocumented immigrants living amongst us are un-enfranchised workers. They perform all the work, pay all the duties, and receive many fewer of the benefits — especially voting rights. They must be given an opportunity to come out of the shadows and lead normal lives as Americans.

The answer to this problem isn’t an “open border.” The United States cannot take on the world’s problems on its own. Other affluent countries need to extend a humanitarian arm to peoples fleeing oppressive economic circumstances as well. How many immigrants the United States should be willing to accept will ultimately be up to Congress.

In presenting these alternative frames, we want to inject humanitarian concerns based in compassion and empathy into the debate. The problem is dealing adequately with a humanitarian crisis that extends well beyond the southern border. The focus must shift from the immigrants themselves and domestic policy to a broader view of why so many people flee, and how we can help alleviate conditions in Mexico and Central America to prevent the flow in the first place.

Only by reframing of the debate can we incorporate more global considerations. Immigration crises only arise from global disparity.


The wealth of frames in this debate has made it confusing. The frames within the debate have been divisive. But the absence of frames to counter the idea of the “immigration problem” has also been divisive. Since each frame presents a different component of the problem, it’s worth noting who stresses which frames, and which problems that frame define.



Law and Order: The “illegal immigrants” are criminals, felons, and must be punished – rounded up and sent home (DEPORTED). There should be no amnesty. Otherwise all law will break down.

The Nativists: The immigrants are diluting our culture, our language, and our values.

The Profiteers: We need cheap labor to keep our profits up and our cheap lifestyle in place.

The Bean Counters: We can’t afford to have illegal immigrants using our tax dollars on health, education, and other services.

The Security Hounds: We need more border guards and a hi-tech wall to guarantee our security.



Progressivism Begins at Home: The immigrants are taking the jobs of American works and we have to protect our workers.

African-American Protectionists: Hispanic immigrants are threatening African-American jobs.

Provide a path to citizenship: The immigrants have earned citizenship with their hard work, their devotion to American values, and their contribution to our society.

Foreign Policy Reformers: We need to pay attention to the causes that drive others from their homelands.

Wage supports: Institute a serious earned income tax credit for Americans doing otherwise low-paying jobs, so that more Americans will want to do them and fewer immigrants will be drawn here.

Illegal Employers: The way to protect American workers and slow immigration of unskilled workers is to prosecute employers of unskilled workers.

We can see why this is such a complex problem and why there are so splits within both the conservative and progressive ranks.



Framing the recent problem as an “immigration problem” pre-empts many of these considerations from entering the debate. As a consequence, any reform that “solves” the immigration problem is bound to be a patchwork solution addressing bits and pieces of much larger concerns.

Bush’s comprehensive reform is comprehensive, but only for the narrow set of problems defined in the “immigration debate.” It does not address many of the questions with which progressives should be primarily concerned, issues of basic experiential well-being and political rights.

Ultimately, the way the current immigration debate is going — focusing narrowly on domestic policy, executive agencies and the immigrants — we will be faced with the same problems 10 years from now.

The same long lines of immigrants waiting for legal status will persist. Temporary workers will not return home after their visas have expired, and millions of undocumented people will live amongst us.

Only by broadening the understanding of the situation will the problem, or, rather, the multiple problems, be addressed and adequately solved.

The immigration problem does not sit in isolation from other problems, but is symptomatic of broader social and economic concerns. The framing of the “immigration problem” must not pre-empt us from debating and beginning to address these broader concerns.

The immigration system is broken. It has failed and is beyond a simple mending; replacement is required.

As you proceed through this document and sources are quoted or reproduced please note the terminology applied in those source reports. I think you will find it enlightening.





Almost every night CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" presents a distorted and blurry view of immigrants to America.

Lou Dobbs misinforms the American public by presenting biased coverage and guests on his show. In the past year, his rhetoric has moved from "broken borders" to what he now calls the "massive invasion of illegal aliens."

Within one year, Dobbs' own estimates of undocumented immigrants have skyrocketed from 10 million to 20 million. In the past year he has gone from calling groups like the National Council of La Raza and the National Immigration Forum "pro-immigrant groups" to calling them "illegal alien advocacy groups."

He is distorting the facts and his rhetoric is escalating. He is now intent on linking immigrants to terrorist movements--at times saying the two words in the same breath.

Lou Dobbs steadily beats the drum against immigrants, helping build a new wave of xenophobia in our country. Dobbs clearly does not like the changing face of America. His circle-the-wagons mentality, his cultural-nationalist views are all about maintaining the U.S. red, white, and "pure."




Regular viewers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” on CNN, might be surprised at the venue that Dobbs chose for lunch not long ago: the Grill Room of the Four Seasons, a midtown bastion of the very same political and business “élites” that he denounces daily on his television program. The Four Seasons is the enduring commissary of the Old Guard, where Henry Kissinger waves to the former Citigroup C.E.O.

Sandy Weill, there is limo-lock at the side door, and the regulars have their checks sent to the office. Dobbs’s Town Car left him at the door, on East Fifty-second Street, and the restaurant’s co-owner, Julian Nicolini, embraced him that day as warmly as when he welcomed, among others, Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and C.E.O. of the Blackstone Group; Nelson Peltz, the C.E.O. of Trian Partners; Edgar Bronfman, Sr., the former chairman and C.E.O. of Seagram; and Mortimer Zuckerman, the real-estate developer and publisher of the News.

Nicolini led Dobbs to one of five choice banquettes, and Dobbs settled in, looking very much at home.

Dobbs is sixty-one, and his chubby face has a rosy glow. His blond hair is lacquered in place, his black wing tips are impeccably buffed. Other club members having lunch that day—the Nobel Prize winner James Watson, Bronfman, Peltz, the movie producer Harvey Weinstein—stopped at the table to say hello. I

t is the kind of welcome that one might have expected for an earlier incarnation of Lou Dobbs—the Harvard-educated anchor of CNN’s “Moneyline,” which in the nineteen-nineties served as a sort of video clubhouse for corporate America.

But, in the past four years or so, Dobbs has been reborn as a populist—a full-throated champion of “the little guy,” an evangelical opponent of liberal immigration laws.

His hour-long program, which airs at six, features Dobbs in a role that combines Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan. On the air, he boomingly assails the upper management of corporate America for its “outrageous” greed, pay packages, and corruption, its opposition to increasing the minimum wage, its hiring of “illegal aliens,” its ties to “Communist China,” and its eagerness to send American jobs overseas.

The new Lou Dobbs often surprises those who recall the old Lou Dobbs of “Moneyline.”

Daniel Henninger, the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote, “Old admirers are aghast. It’s as if whatever made Linda Blair’s head spin around in ‘The Exorcist’ had invaded the body of Lou Dobbs and left him with the brain of George Bush or possession by Dick Cheney.

After an angry altercation on the show with James Glassman, a former New Republic publisher and current conservative supply-sider, Glassman said of Dobbs, “How did he transform from a business sycophant to a raving populist?”

Glassman’s answer was that Dobbs had begun to “demagogue these issues.” (In questioning Glassman’s economic theories on his program, Dobbs accused him of talking “like a cult member.”) As if to answer such critics, Dobbs has recently published a book whose title is almost as long as the menu at the Grill Room: “War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and HOW TO FIGHT BACK.”

On the cover, Dobbs is standing—hands in pockets, feet apart—like a sentry protecting the boundaries of decency and the nation. At CNN, alone among the cable network’s anchors, he is allowed to express his opinions without borders. “I’m never neutral on any issue that affects the common good, our national interest, and working men and women of this country,” he writes.

In many ways, Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, who in 2003 wrote a book entitled “Who’s Looking Out for You?,” are kindred spirits. Dobbs, who lives on a three-hundred-acre farm in a prosperous part of New Jersey, admires his own capacity for compassion and self-effacement.

His audience, he writes, knows that he cares “more about them and their lives than about being invited to the White House or playing golf with C.E.O.s and celebrities.”

For most of its first half hour, “Lou Dobbs Tonight” contains more domestic and international news than does each of the three major network’s broadcasts, and Dobbs fills the role of the well-informed anchorman. Yet he also teases his audience, with headlines from stories that run in the second half hour, which is dominated by what Dobbs’s executive producer, Jim McGinnis, refers to as “brands”—segments with names like “Broken Borders,” “Homeland Insecurity,” “War on the Middle Class,” “Exporting America,” and “The Best Government Money Can Buy.”

“It’s very different from any program you’ll see on TV, by intention,” Dobbs said, as we ordered the fifty-six-dollar Dover sole. “What you won’t see on our broadcast is ‘fair and balanced journalism.’ You will not see ‘objective journalism.’ The truth is not ‘fair and balanced.’ There is a nonpartisan, independent reality that doesn’t give a damn, frankly, what two Democrats and two Republicans think about anything or say about anything.”

The cable-news universe is relatively small. About eight hundred thousand people watch “Lou Dobbs Tonight” (about nine million watch the “Nightly News,” on NBC), and in its time slot it lags behind Brit Hume’s show, on Fox, which has about a million and a half viewers.

But Dobbs is narrowing the gap, and his news program is one of the handful on cable whose audiences are growing, rather than shrinking. The highest-rated cable news program is “The O’Reilly Factor,” on Fox, which averages about two million viewers, and Fox continues to lead CNN in the ratings, with MSNBC a distant third.

A program’s ranking is affected by the length of time that viewers stay with it, and news shows that do best tend to have opinionated anchors, like Fox’s O’Reilly and Sean Hannity; MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, whose audience has increased by two-thirds in the past year; and Dobbs, whose broadcast has drawn twenty-two per cent more viewers in the past twelve months. In October, the network announced that “Lou Dobbs Tonight” would expand from five nights to seven, and Dobbs was named one of CNN’s four Election Night anchors.

Dobbs has been with CNN since Ted Turner launched the cable network from Atlanta, in 1980, and both Dobbs and CNN have changed in the intervening years. Turner once liked to contrast CNN with the broadcast networks by saying that “news was the star” and that CNN expunged opinions from its news. Today, CNN heavily promotes its star anchors—particularly Dobbs, Larry King, whose show airs at nine, and Anderson Cooper, who comes on at ten. Cooper regularly travels to trouble spots and shares with viewers his personal responses to situations, and one longtime CNN employee said of his show, “It’s almost a fact-free zone. It’s a feeling zone.”

Unlike Fox, whose identity among its core viewers is often described as a celebration of conservatives, CNN seems to have adopted a “We’re on your side” stance as a way to boost ratings.

It was encouraged by Dobbs, but also by Cooper, who expressed his outrage at the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and by Jack Cafferty, in cranky commentaries on Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.”

For nine nights in October, CNN ran a series called “Broken Government,” as well as two hour-long Dobbs town-hall meetings—the first on the “forgotten middle class,” the second on illegal immigration. CNN’s ratings improved dramatically, particularly among the most desirable demographic, twenty-five- to fifty-four-year-olds.

Jon Klein, the president of CNN in the United States, told me that when he arrived at the cable network, soon after the 2004 election, there was a perception that CNN would become more like Fox and that news, as he put it, “had to be glitzy and a diversion”—a series of tabloid narratives with constant updates. “No one wanted to cover Natalee Holloway, but they thought they had to,” Klein says, referring to the teen-ager who disappeared in Aruba. “That’s not said from some moral high ground.

It’s business. If everyone else on television is doing it, don’t you want to do something else?” With its excitable coverage of these stories, Klein believed that CNN “was alienating its audience,” and damaging its credibility. From the digital world, where he once worked and where he could chart what people watched and when interest waned, he “learned that people get tired of stories easily.”

Although CNN hardly ignores the more diverting stories, Klein wanted people at the network to “decide for ourselves what is important,” and CNN to distinguish itself through what he called “differentiation.”

Klein, who is forty-eight, spent nearly two decades in various capacities at CBS News, where he produced both serious work (overseeing “60 Minutes” and winning a Peabody Award for “48 Hours,” which is emphasized in his official biography) and less-serious news (the softening of “48 Hours,” which goes unmentioned). In 1999, after leaving CBS, he founded a broadband video company, the Feed Room, which tells companies how to use video on the Internet.

With a worldwide staff of four thousand, CNN had more reporting resources than any of its competitors. When the tsunami struck Southeast Asia in December of 2004, Klein says, he worked with his CNN international counterpart, and “We gang-tackled the story. We asked correspondents not to do standups but to find real human stories, to do storytelling.”

He says that he quickly took note of Anderson Cooper’s talent for displaying empathy (Cooper replaced Aaron Brown in November 2005), and also decided that Dobbs’s program was fine as it was. “I committed ‘benign neglect’ on Lou,” Klein told me.

For some years, CNN has billed itself as “The most trusted name in news.” (A recent Pew poll, however, suggested that there is little difference in credibility among the cable news networks; the poll also noted that the number of Americans who said they believed “all or most” of what CNN reported has fallen from forty-two per cent to twenty-eight per cent since 1998.)

Under Klein, CNN has, once again, placed greater emphasis on its chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, and given more airtime to John King, the chief national correspondent. After largely abandoning documentaries in recent years, the network plans to produce twenty-four hours in 2007; among the topics that the scheduled programs will cover are Iraq and the environment.

After it became clear that CBS would choose Katie Couric to replace Dan Rather as anchor, Klein hired the CBS White House correspondent John Roberts, who had once been in contention for Rather’s job.

He recruited Time’s Baghdad bureau chief, Michael Ware, as well as senior broadcast network-news producers: David Doss, formerly of ABC and NBC, to executive-produce Anderson Cooper; and Victor Neufeld, a veteran of CBS and ABC, to executive-produce Paula Zahn, who anchors the news at 8 P.M. He also replaced “Inside Politics” and the shouting match “Crossfire” with the more news-oriented “Situation Room.”

The showman in Klein competes with the newsman and, in the atmosphere of cable news, the showman often wins the contest. “There’s no question that Jon Klein wants more edge,” a senior CNN employee told me. “Klein is the most personality-driven manager we’ve had.”

This employee respects Klein “as a leader” for returning the network to its news roots but worries that Klein is drawing the wrong conclusion from Dobbs’s improved ratings. “When we did the ‘Broken Government’ series,” the senior employee said, “in the first conference call he said, ‘I don’t want preconceived solutions, but, when you reach a conclusion, don’t be afraid to express it. I don’t want ‘He said, she said.’ ”

CNN’s news coverage coexists uneasily with its Dobbs-led populism.

Among the viewers who are less than happy with the network’s current direction is Ted Turner, who told me, “CNN in the U.S. is quite a bit different than it was.

They’ve gone more into emphasizing personality, and to some degree, particularly in the case of Lou Dobbs, they’ve encouraged him to promote himself and his own ideas to create a cult of personality to increase the ratings.” Turner paused for a moment before adding that Lou Dobbs is “a very talented newscaster, and he’s personally a friend of mine. Having said that, I personally think he’s gone too far inserting his opinions, for my taste.”

Dobbs often describes himself as “a kid who grew up poor” in rural Texas. He was the younger of two sons, born in September, 1945, in Childress (pop. 6,000), not far from Amarillo. His father was a partner in a small propane business, and his mother was a bookkeeper.

When Lou was twelve, the propane business collapsed and the family, in search of a better livelihood, moved to a farm in Rupert, Idaho, where Lou attended public schools. His teachers encouraged him to apply to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1967, with a degree in economics.

His first job was working in federal anti-poverty programs in Boston and Washington, D.C. Dobbs recalls, “I decided to go out and make some money.

I decided I wasn’t changing the world.” He then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a cash-management specialist for Union Bank, earning what was then an excellent salary of thirty thousand dollars a year to come up with ways for companies to manage their capital more efficiently.

In 1969, he married a former high-school sweetheart; in 1970, the first of their two sons was born. But Dobbs grew restless at the bank, particularly after spending time with two friends who were journalists, and who, he says, “seemed to be having so much fun.” He had been saving money, and moved his family to Yuma, Arizona, where he’d heard about a job as a police and fire reporter for a radio station.

His imposing physical presence and booming voice had been quickly noticed, and he soon began working with the affiliated television station. “I found what I really loved to do,” he says. His starting salary was seventy-five dollars a week. In the mid-seventies, he was hired as a television anchor-reporter, first in Phoenix and then in Seattle.

At the end of 1979, a recruiter called to ask if he would be interested in the all-news cable network that Ted Turner was starting. Dobbs liked the idea of challenging the three broadcast networks, and Turner hired him to anchor a half-hour business newscast.

On the Chicken Noodle Network, as CNN was sometimes called then, Dobbs was the youngest anchor. He is the only one from that period who is still with CNN.

Dobbs soon became a member of the network’s executive committee, and eventually supervised a staff of more than three hundred, overseeing all of CNN’s business coverage. He was also put in charge of business news on, and became the president of CNNfn, a business cable network.

His main job, however, was to anchor the half-hour “Moneyline” program, which in 1984 moved to New York. In 1998, it was given an additional half hour, and renamed the “Moneyline News Hour with Lou Dobbs,” allowing Dobbs to offer a wider range of reports.

Dobbs’s personal life had undergone a few changes during these years. In 1981, he divorced his wife.

The following year, he married Debi Lee Segura, a sports anchor and a reporter for CNN; in 1988, Segura gave birth to twin girls. Dobbs bought his farm in Sussex, New Jersey, a ninety-minute commute to CNN’s studios in Manhattan, where he raised and rode horses, joined a country club, and collected guns. (His two sons, both businessmen, live in nearby Sparta; his daughters were recently accepted at Harvard.)

On the air, Dobbs celebrated capitalism and helped conjure the Internet bubble of the nineties. In the 2000 book “The Fortune Tellers,” Howard Kurtz wrote that “Moneyline,” like CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and much of the financial press, sought “a nonstop flow of tips, touts, picks, and pans to lure consumers with the idea that they just might get in on the Next Big Thing.” CNN billed “Moneyline” as the business-news program watched “by more C.E.O.’s than any other,” and its audience was so demographically desirable that CNN was able to charge advertisers some of the steepest cost-per-thousand rates in television.

Dobbs flew on a private plane and befriended the well-to-do—among them Henry Kravis, the billionaire and leverage-buyout specialist. He accepted speaking fees to appear at corporate retreats.

He was paid to do promotional videos for Shearson Lehman Brothers, Paine Webber, and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, and when these relationships became public and Dobbs was asked if this wasn’t a conflict of interest, he said, “That is a silly, silly question. Would I do it if I thought I were compromising anything?”

Nevertheless, Dobbs said that he would return the money, and insists that his practice today is to donate such fees to charity. Tom Johnson, the chairman and C.E.O. of CNN News Group, expressed full confidence in Dobbs.

Inside CNN, Dobbs was known for his intelligence as well as for having a nasty streak.

There were stories of how he verbally abused people, including the time, reported by Howard Kurtz, that he was said to have ordered a short producer to stand on a chair so that he—Dobbs is six-feet-two—could scream at him standing eyeball to eyeball. “It’s absolute bullshit,” Dobbs says. “It never happened,” although he concedes that he was “a very tough editorial manager.”

Dobbs met his volatile match in Rick Kaplan, who became CNN’s U.S. president in 1997, and by 1999 the two were barely speaking. Dobbs was leery of Kaplan, who had been a news producer at CBS and the executive producer of both “World News Tonight” and “Nightline,” at ABC, but who also happened to be a friend of President Clinton’s. “I didn’t agree with the journalism he was doing,” Dobbs said. “In my judgment, he was clearly partisan.

He was pushing Clinton stories.” Kaplan responded by saying that most of CNN’s Clinton stories were negative. He thought that Dobbs was a prima donna—“just a very difficult person to deal with.” He added, “Lou doesn’t think he’s opinionated. He just thinks he’s stating the truth.”

Their final clash came in May of 1999, while Dobbs was anchoring “Moneyline.” CNN, like Fox and MSNBC, had planned to cover a speech that Clinton was giving in Littleton, Colorado, after the shootings at Columbine High School, where two teen-age gunmen killed twelve students and a teacher, and then committed suicide.

Clinton’s speech fell in the middle of Dobbs’s program, and the broadcast cut away to Colorado. Kaplan was watching at home and heard Clinton say to the families, “There’s something you all can do,” and then the President was cut off and CNN returned to “Moneyline.” Dobbs says that he considered the President’s speech a staged event, and ordered his producer to return to the studio.

Kaplan told me, “Tell me what journalistic reason there was not to cover the President at Columbine soon after the shootings? Everyone else was covering it. . . . There are two sides to almost every story in the world, but not to that one.” Kaplan countermanded Dobbs’s order, and Dobbs, at that point, looked into the camera and told his audience, “CNN President Rick Kaplan wants us to return to Littleton.”

Several days later, Dobbs announced that he was leaving CNN to start a Web site,, devoted to collecting news about space: technology, astronomy, NASA missions, and more; a co-investor in this effort was Venrock Associates, the venture-capital firm affiliated with the Rockefeller family. “I’d had it,” Dobbs says. “I just couldn’t take the hassle.

I was not having fun.” There was another, unspoken reason for his departure: Dobbs wanted to stay on the air at CNN while also investing in, and CNN officials believed that this would entail a clear conflict of interest.

How could he objectively cover the dot-com world when he had a stake in its success? Ted Turner could not persuade Dobbs to back down, and he quit.

Dobbs had other reasons to be unhappy: CNBC, the NBC business cable network, was building an audience throughout the day, and by evening it often had more viewers than “Moneyline.” Many C.E.O.s now appeared first on CNBC. Maria Bartiromo, a reporter whom Dobbs had declined to make a correspondent, and who had been given her own show on CNBC, was drawing a large audience.

Dobbs was annoyed that Time Warner, CNN’s corporate parent, had refused to invest more in CNNfn. Dobbs became the C.E.O. of, and soon signed on with NBC to produce a financial newsletter, host an NBC radio program, and become a “guest” financial commentator on both NBC and CNBC, apparently allowing him to skirt a non-competitive clause in his severance agreement. At CNN, meanwhile, “Moneyline” continued, but it was slowly losing viewers.

By April, 2001, the dot-com bubble had burst and Rick Kaplan had left CNN. That month, Dobbs announced that he was ending his association with NBC, stepping down as the C.E.O. of, and returning to CNN to be the anchor and managing editor of “Moneyline.” Dobbs says, “I never dreamed I’d miss news.

I watched the 2000 coverage of the Presidential campaign, and it drove me nuts not to be able to report that story. CNN approached my agent to bring me back.” Jeff Gralnick, the executive producer whom Dobbs had recruited to “Moneyline,” in 1999, had a somewhat different version of events.

In Electronic Media in May of 2001, Gralnick wrote that because of new competition from CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, and Bloomberg News, Dobbs’s comeback “is dicey, and achieving success has to be seen as problematic. . . . So why would Dobbs abandon what appeared to be his growing relationship with CNBC and NBC?”

Gralnick mentioned the temptation of a high salary, but his conclusion was that “anyone who knows Dobbs or has competed against him or crossed him knows there has to be more to this than just the dollars.

Dobbs’ return to CNN in the role of ‘savior’ is the ultimate gotcha.” (Today, Dobbs is paid about six million dollars a year by CNN for his TV work and a weekly column that he writes for never became an Internet triumph, but it remains alive. Gralnick has since become a consultant for NBC News, among others, on new media.)

At first, the impact of Dobbs’s return on the program was slight. The ratings for “Moneyline” went up only slightly.

Dobbs says that his new, more aggressive tone was prompted by a series of events: corporate scandals (Enron, M.C.I., Adelphi, Tyco); tax cuts that Dobbs felt benefitted the rich at the expense of the middle class, and also generated enormous budget deficits; and, above all, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After September 11th, Dobbs began wearing a flag pin on his lapel; other changes came gradually.

Dobbs and his producers agreed that the C.E.O. interviews were too soft. “We were doing—I don’t want to say puff pieces—but we were just scratching the surface,”

Jim McGinnis, who has worked with Dobbs for two decades, says. They noticed that their e-mails spiked every time they did pieces on jobs going overseas or on illegal immigration. They began talking about adding more edge to the program. “I was determined to drive the broadcast very hard on issues that affect the quality of life of most Americans,” Dobbs says.

As the managing editor, he already enjoyed editorial control. He decided that he also needed more freedom to express his views, and says that he went to Jim Walton, the president of CNN Worldwide, who agreed to relax the network’s no-opinion strictures. “Take it as far as you want,” he says that Walton told him, although viewers had to be informed at the beginning of the program that it would include opinion. Walton confirms this conversation. Opinion is fine, he told me, “if it’s clearly labelled.

One of the things our critics said years ago was that CNN is the same”—boring. What Dobbs is doing demonstrates that “CNN is not the same.”

Five correspondents work for Dobbs, and during the second half hour they usually report on a story that Dobbs treats as a scandal, and that he invariably describes as “outrageous,” “alarming,” “idiotic,” “disgusting,” or “sickening.” On the air, Dobbs’s reporters appear deferential.

On August 16th, Christine Romans filed a report describing how the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, “decided to fight illegal immigration itself” by fining landlords a thousand dollars a day for knowingly renting to illegal aliens and by denying business permits to companies that hire them.

In an interview with an A.C.L.U. official who opposed the law, she allowed him a single on-camera sentence; the mayor, who supported the measure, had seven lines and the last word. In a colloquy with Romans in the studio, Dobbs was told that the A.C.L.U. said that if voters were unhappy with federal laws they could always vote for new members of Congress.

“Why doesn’t that apply, then, to the local community,” Dobbs asked, “and why are they interfering there, I wonder?”

“That’s a very good point, Lou,” Romans said.
On September 12th, Lisa Sylvester reported from rural Taneytown, Maryland, where the town council was debating whether to legislate English as the official language.

Two people who favored the proposal were interviewed, and only one opponent. Dobbs, betraying impatience with those who were opposed to such legislation, said, with a smirk, “As we can often say on this broadcast with seemingly greater frequency, ‘Only in America.’”

On October 2nd, the correspondent Casey Wian began his report from California, “Lou, there are an estimated seven million illegal aliens now working in the United States. Neither they nor their employers have much to worry about in Congress’s latest efforts to secure the border.”

Wian interviewed two critics of corporations who hire illegal aliens and said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “refused to provide” a rebuttal, but its Web site says that new regulations would unduly burden employers and would either be “unworkable or cost too much money.”

Dobbs thanked Wian and concluded the segment by saying that most lobbyists in Washington try to keep everyone from being “overly burdened; that is, everyone except working men and women and their families in this country.”

CNN’s regular correspondents often appear during the first half hour, but not always comfortably. Two days after the midterm elections, at the conclusion of a report from John King, Dobbs looked into the camera and said that he hoped the public had finally “had a bellyful of wedge issues.”

“We can hope, John, can’t we?” Dobbs said.

“We sure can, Lou,” King said, looking uneasy.

The changed emphasis of the program was probably brought about by a mixture of conviction and commerce.

With so many choices, McGinnis observes, “there’s a blur out there. If you don’t stand for something and people don’t see what you are, you’re passed by. . . . It’s a business.”

By May, 2002, the anniversary of Dobbs’s return, the “Moneyline” ratings had doubled. A year later, the title of the program was changed to “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” When he was asked to describe his ratings success, Dobbs, anticipating skepticism, said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I don’t pay a lot of attention to the numbers. I can tell you the trend is up.”

Dobbs’s actual politics are not easily categorized, and his book, like his nightly program, contains opinions that are both satisfying and infuriating to the right and the left.

On Dobbs’s office wall is a framed drawing with a note from Kurt Vonnegut: “You, as the only big-time television personality capable of not only feeling but experiencing sorrow for American working stiffs, are our hero.” The left, to which Vonnegut belongs, can embrace Dobbs for his opposition to big corporations and his support for a higher minimum wage, national health insurance, and abortion rights.

The right likes him for his views on immigration, political correctness, gun control, the United Nations, and all efforts to limit American sovereignty.

Dobbs believes that the middle class, which he has described as being composed of two hundred and fifty million Americans, is taken for granted, an argument that could be challenged by those who point to the growth of middle-class entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, or to the unwillingness of elected officials to offend this constituency by curbing entitlements.

Although Dobbs opposes gun control and supports a woman’s right to an abortion, he calls these fake “wedge issues” designed “to excite a certain base.” He opposes holidays that celebrate a group rather than a nation, and on his program last spring, when a Hispanic-rights activist defended the displaying of the Mexican flag as an expression of ethnic pride, like that exhibited on St. Patrick’s Day, he told her, “Let’s be clear. I don’t think there should be a St. Patrick’s Day.”

Dobbs sometimes seems oddly formal; he does not roll up his sleeves, and he puts on a jacket when he leaves his office area.

In conversation, he does not harbor much doubt. One day, in his fifth-floor office at CNN’s Columbus Circle headquarters, I mentioned that Henry Kissinger has said that many of the decisions he made as Secretary of State were sixty-forty choices, meaning that the opposing argument could claim forty per cent of the truth. Did the “rock hard” truths that Dobbs once told me he believed in exclude the possibility that the other side could claim twenty per cent, or even forty per cent, of the truth?

“In free trade?” he said. “In illegal immigration? In education? No. Everything I believe, I believe unequivocally.”

Bill Tucker, a correspondent, has worked with Dobbs for twenty-three years. “There are a lot of dumb bastards in the world,” Tucker told me. “Lou is one of the smart ones. There’s a big difference working for someone who is smart and engaged.” On some issues, Dobbs’s program has taken strong positions, Tucker acknowledged, adding that the reporters who work for Dobbs “are expected to file reports within that editorial point of view.

The opinions are left to Lou.” The correspondents try to get all sides, Tucker went on, but on many of the stories “the quote unquote other side often makes it difficult, because they don’t want to coöperate if they know I’m with Dobbs.”

One of Jon Klein’s stated aims has been to persuade the producers of CNN’s various programs to widen their vision (he speaks of them climbing out of their “silos”)—to make sure that, say, when Anderson Cooper travelled to Africa other CNN programs, from “The Situation Room” to Paula Zahn’s broadcast, would welcome his reports.

Yet the dispatches filed by Dobbs’s correspondents are rarely welcomed. The senior CNN employee says that “other shows are not comfortable with them,” because too many of these reports are on Dobbs’s pet subjects and the reporters are widely perceived to be Dobbs’s acolytes, feeding him the alarming news that he wants.

“I think he’s the most influential political reporter of the time, certainly over the last year,” Klein told me. “He’s someone politicians ignore at their peril.”

Klein cited Dobbs’s response to the Dubai ports deal: for fifteen evenings, Dobbs spoke about “the outrage” of allowing a Middle Eastern country “with ties to the September 11 terrorists” to operate six American ports.

Dobbs certainly was not the only person to raise questions, but the resulting furor eventually prompted Dubai to abandon the plan. Slate recently wrote that Dobbs’s brand of economic nationalism had been reinforced by the results of the midterm elections, in which many Democrats expressed Dobbsian viewpoints.

As for the “illegal immigration” story, Dobbs provided a nightly stage for like-minded members of Congress to express their opinions, an exposure that he believes helped to shift Congress’s agenda. Dobbs became so closely identified with the issue that it prompted the humorist Andy Borowitz to offer this fake news story:

In his toughest stand yet against illegal immigration, President George W. Bush today announced that he would move CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs to the United States’ border with Mexico. For Mr. Bush, who one day earlier had announced that he was moving 10,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, the decision to dispatch Mr. Dobbs means that the deployment of Guard troops was no longer necessary.

Dobbs’s program also features letters that usually echo his views, as well as poll questions that appear to be slanted, such as “Do you believe illegal aliens who have anchor babies in the United States should be immune from deportation?” In August, ninety-three per cent of those who were asked this question opposed granting immunity.

When two U.S. border agents were convicted for shooting at an unarmed man who was smuggling more than seven hundred pounds of marijuana across the Mexican border, Dobbs was incensed. (A jury had found the agents guilty of various counts of assault, among other charges, for firing fifteen shots at the man.)

Dobbs returned to this story in many broadcasts. He solicited contributions for the agents. In an August 16th report, he entertained the possibility that “somebody is paying off the government of Mexico” to protect the drug smuggler.

He pressed the president of the National Border Patrol Council by asking, “Why isn’t there more of a show of support from your members and for other Border Patrol officers?” He inserted the issue into his poll, asking, How many viewers thought this was “a travesty of American justice?” Ninety-six per cent of Dobbs’s viewers agreed that it was an outrage.

Dobbs’s rabidness provokes his critics. Not long ago, the Times columnist Thomas Friedman told a law-school audience, “And then you have a blithering idiot like Lou Dobbs, in my view, who’s using the platform of CNN in a news frame. . . . This is not news.

And so we have a political class not making sense of the world for people and that’s why the public . . . is so agitated.” The Economist said that one might expect “CNN’s flagship business-news program to strive for economic literacy,” but, instead, Dobbs greets “every announcement of lost jobs as akin to a terrorist assault”; The Nation accused him of “hysteria and jingoism”; the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Dobbs “failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism” in his reports on anti-immigration groups like the Minutemen; one Hispanic group urged Time Warner to take Dobbs off the air.

In his new book, Dobbs says of Friedman, “His name calling would bother me more if he were anything more than a tool of international corporatism and a card-carrying member of his own Flat Earth Society.” In a weekly column for, Dobbs wrote:

I will tell you it does make a fellow think when attacked so energetically and so personally. But in none of the attacks on my position on outsourcing has a single columnist or news organization seen fit to deal with the facts.

Number one: We’re not creating new jobs in the private sector, and that’s never happened before in our history. . . . Number two: We haven’t had a trade surplus in this country in more than two decades, and our trade deficit continues to soar. Number three: We’ve lost three million jobs in this country over the last three years. . . . That seems to me, at least, to be more than sufficient evidence for all of us.

Some journalists at CNN worry that Dobbs harms the network’s credibility. John King says that he likes Dobbs and admires his talent, but adds, “Lou clearly has strongly held beliefs, and he’s decided to share these beliefs. In doing that, does it sometimes cause concern in the company? Yes.” Klein admits that he wants to “increase the audience’s intensity,” but not in the way he believes that Fox has.

“They have a clear brand identity,” he says of Fox, “which does not afford them as many places to go when their viewership dips. They have a definite right-of-center view of the world. Most of their hard-core viewers are older; sixty-five-plus is their median age”—CNN’s median age is about sixty-one. “When you define yourself that way, it’s very hard to move to the center without alienating the core audience.

I’d rather be playing our hand now. By focusing on news, there is much more we can do.” In response to Klein’s remarks, a senior Fox executive called him hypocritical for saying that he was pushing serious news, when, according to the executive, he was still running soft news and taking CNN “on a hard tack to the left.” The executive said of Dobbs, “He has tapped into strong opinion. He’d be good on Fox.”

Klein’s immediate goals include boosting the ratings of CNN’s “American Morning,” which has gained viewers but badly trails “Fox and Friends.” (CNN’s morning program attracts about half a million viewers; NBC’s “Today,” the leader among the broadcast networks, reaches six million.)

And Klein must give some thought to a replacement for Larry King, who is seventy-three, when King retires. “There isn’t going to be another Larry King,” Klein says. “And it’s not clear that we’ll have another interview show.”

There has been published speculation that he might make a bid for Diane Sawyer, the co-anchor of “Good Morning America,” who is eager to escape morning television and seems now to be blocked from an anchor chair at ABC, CBS, or NBC. Klein appears interested; they worked together at CBS. “She has a lot of attributes that would help her fit into CNN,” he says. She also has a salary of about twelve million dollars, which CNN could not easily justify for a program whose audience is so much smaller.

CNN’s challenge is how to balance its credibility with the emotive direction of cable news. “If you’re going to fill 24/7, you have to look for other angles after the basic facts,” Rick Kaplan, who, until June, was the president of MSNBC, said. Ted Turner takes a different view.

He believes that traditional television news, like print media, is at risk. “We’re moving into a ‘Brave New World,’ like Huxley,” Turner says, with “a dramatic reliance on wireless.” Turner believes that “somebody has to gather the news,” and that CNN has held “the high ground.” He remembers that, when he started CNN, it was said that the public didn’t want twenty-four-hour cable news. “I certainly hope they are able to maintain its position as the world’s most important and trusted network,” he told me. “That’s a hell of an important position to have.

If CNN does keep its quality image above all the temptations to become more ‘edgy,’ I think they have a very bright future. If they go over the line too far, they risk losing their pole position.”

Turner recently criticized journalists who fail to convey a sense of “covering the news from an unbiased” perspective. Turner didn’t single anyone out, but Dobbs is sure that he was referring to him.

Dobbs says that his old friend and former boss “is an American citizen, and he has a right to say what he thinks,” but he rejects the journalistic “neutrality” advocated by Turner. According to Dobbs, viewers expect him to take positions, and like his program because he draws attention to issues that are often ignored by the mainstream press. “I hope that every time the government lies, our broadcast grabs them by the scruff of the neck,” he says.

Lou Dobbs Watch

The “Lou Dobbs Tonight” show on CNN long ago ceased to be a serious news program and has become a nightly screed against free trade, immigration, and a competitive, market economy. The opinions expressed by Lou Dobbs, his “correspondents,” and the large majority of his guests are typically based on questionable and selective facts that miss the real story.

Consider a “Lou Dobbs Tonight” segment the other night on how a “flood” of imports into the United States has caused “the incredible deterioration of the manufacturing industry.” The program’s anchor that night, Kitty Pilgrim, blamed the development on “the commitment of successive administrations to so-called free trade policies.”

The segment featured two biased CNN correspondents plus three guests who are all professional critics of trade: Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, an organization of generally declining, protectionists industries; Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-union backed research group; and Bob Baugh of the AFL-CIO, the largest union umbrella organization.

As for the facts, nowhere in the segment was it mentioned that American factories are producing more goods than ever as measured by inflation-adjusted volume. U.S. manufacturing capacity and production have actually increased by 50 percent, in real terms, since the early 1990s, when such important trade agreements as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round Agreements Act went into effect. Domestic output of automobiles and parts, a special focus of the CNN segment, is also much higher than in the earlier, pre-NAFTA, pre-WTO days.

As Cato research has shown, imports of manufactured goods and domestic output of manufactured goods tend to rise and fall together along with the overall health of the U.S. economy. When we prosper, we trade; when we trade, we prosper.

Apparently the “Lou Dobbs Tonight” program won’t let a few basic facts get in the way of a sensationalized story. Perhaps CNN should change its name to the Cable Opinion Network, or CON for short.

Not Good

Nightly Nativism
Daphne Eviatar_The Nation
On May 1 the nationwide boycott billed as "A Day Without Immigrants" was all over the evening news. ABC's World News Tonight reported that "more than a million people took to the streets in thirty cities," part of "a new wave of protests against legislation that would increase the penalties for being in the US illegally." On CBS, "they left their jobs and took to the streets to show us what America would be like without millions of immigrant workers." On Fox, "illegal immigrants and their allies took to streets across an effort to show their economic importance to the country."

But on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, it was a different story. "Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens and their supporters today failed in their attempt to shut down most of our cities to support amnesty for all illegal aliens," the network's 6 pm news anchor reported that evening. Dobbs elaborated in his online column: "It is no accident that they chose May 1 as their day of demonstration and boycott.

It is the worldwide day of commemorative demonstrations by various socialist, communist and even anarchic organizations.... No matter which flag demonstrators and protesters carry today, their leadership is showing its true colors to all who will see."

You might expect that sort of McCarthyesque description from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or some other famously right-wing provocateur on Fox or talk-radio. But Lou Dobbs, on CNN? These days, the network once pilloried by conservatives as a leading voice of the "liberal media" is offering an expansive platform to the nation's leading spokesman for anti-immigration hardliners.

Night after night, under the rousing headline "Broken Borders," the distinguished-looking 61-year-old instructs his growing audience that illegal immigrants import deadly diseases, rampant crime and international terrorism; they live off welfare, destroy public schools and burden hospitals; what's more, most haven't even learned to speak English.

Add that they're foot soldiers sent by the Mexican government to "reconquer" the Southwest, and by the end of the hour, we have seen the enemy--and he's a Spanish-speaking immigrant. Despite the grave threat, Dobbs declares, our lawmakers are doing nothing about it. Thus Dobbs branded the recent bipartisan Senate reform bill, designed to allow more immigrants to work here legally while also securing the borders, "The Amnesty Agenda"--a "pathetic sham" that would make a "mockery" of the American people.

Dobbs's hysteria and jingoism are now notorious. He's been ridiculed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show for calling for the abolition of "ethnocentric" holidays that involve waving other nations' flags (thus eliminating St. Patrick's Day); by Andy Borowitz, who wrote in Newsweek that President Bush had decided to move Dobbs to the Mexican border instead of 6,000 National Guard troops; and by the hosts of a Los Angeles radio show, who recently offered a cash prize to the first illegal immigrant mother to name her baby Lou Dobbs.

If the anchor's antics make for good comedy, they also have a sinister side: Many Americans take him seriously. "Outside of elected officials he's undoubtedly the most influential spokesman for the anti-immigration movement," says Wayne Cornelius, a political science professor and director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. "I think he's actually putting real pressure on elected officials by riling up a significant portion of their base."

As if to underscore that influence, Dobbs conducts a poll that works something like a viewer comprehension test. During one "Broken Borders" segment in May, for example, Dobbs reported on the Senate's immigration reform bill, part of what Dobbs later called "the absolute abdication of responsibility by this government to provide for the safety of the American people." He then reported on a rally in Washington of "illegal aliens and their supporters again trying to pressure Congress into granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens in this country."
That led into the evening's poll question: "Do you believe US senators and representatives are more concerned with meeting the demands of illegal aliens marching in the streets than they are with their constituents?" The results? Surprise! 96 percent of viewers said yes. (As reported on the show, Dobbs's viewers generally back him up in his polls between 95 and 99 percent of the time.)

Slightly more scientific polls are almost as conclusive. A recent CNN survey revealed that more people trust Dobbs than the President on the issue of illegal immigration. As Jack in California wrote, in one of the many adulatory letters Dobbs reads during every broadcast, "Lou Dobbs for President. Impeach Vicente Fox!"

Dobbs began turning his longtime financial-news show, CNN's Moneyline, into an opinion rant about five years ago, capitalizing on the issue of outsourcing. Attacking free-trade policies and the companies that take advantage of them in a series of segments called "Exporting America," Dobbs increasingly cast himself as a quixotic champion of an American middle class ignored by politicians in the interests of big business.
Although his privately sold newsletter still recommended investing in some of the companies outsourcing the most jobs, as reported by the Columbia Journalism Review, publicly Dobbs became the Harvard-educated spokesman for the little guy. The little American, that is. Over time, Dobbs's anger that foreigners overseas were getting formerly American jobs was transformed into fury at the foreigners taking the low-paid jobs that are still here. "Broken Borders" was born.

By vilifying immigrants, Dobbs is following in a long line of illustrious, and notorious, Americans who have played pivotal roles in the nation's periodic outbreaks of nativism [see Daniel Tichenor, page 25]. "Whenever we've had a great wave of immigration, there's been a backlash," says Wayne Cornelius. But there's a difference this time. "In previous waves, the reaction can be attributed in part to economics. Now, unemployment is down to 4 percent; there's no reason to target them."

Still, Dobbs, who abandoned the financial-news pretense when he renamed his show Lou Dobbs Tonight in 2003, has taken an increasingly hard-line, restrictionist view. He champions Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner's bill in the US House (HR 4437), which would make assisting any undocumented immigrant a felony. He supports sending tens of thousands of troops to militarize the US-Mexico border, and favors building a fence along its entire length. And although he's never acknowledged it, his constant call for enforcing US immigration law would mean deporting some 12 million people.

As the stakes grow higher and Dobbs's tone more shrill, his popularity has soared. In the second quarter of this year his show had the largest total viewer growth of any on CNN, with more than 800,000 viewers each night. While that's still only half of O'Reilly's top-rated cable-news audience, Dobbs is catching up, and CNN is giving its star more and more airtime.

Now, in addition to five hours a week on his own show, Dobbs is regularly featured as an immigration expert on CNN's other evening news programs. (CNN says Dobbs is a legitimate immigration specialist deserving of extra airtime: "Anytime you can have somebody bring that level of expertise to a subject, you'd want to have that knowledge on the air," says network spokeswoman Christa Robinson.)

Not everyone inside CNN feels that way. Although the network keeps a tight rein on what even former staff can say (former anchor Aaron Brown, for example, needed permission from CNN to speak to me, which was denied), one senior former Dobbs staffer told me, on condition of anonymity: "Lou went from straddling the line between journalist and pundit to becoming a full-blown pundit, shifting the debate very, very far to the right. People don't get it. They trust that CNN is a reputable organization, so they trust that he's a respected journalist. They think he won't put anyone on who's a right-wing nut. But he does."

Another former CNN news staffer from an overseas bureau said (also on condition of anonymity) that whenever Dobbs's producers contacted the bureau for stories, "they would request stories that would fit their agenda.... We wanted to provide a balanced view. But people on Dobbs's show would look at the script and ask for changes. If we gave too much of a balanced view, they would kill the story."

As for why the network tolerated this, both current and former CNN staff, although not privy to executive-level discussions, said their understanding was that Dobbs had autonomy based on finances. "His show brought in a lot of revenue," one former senior Dobbs staffer said.

As another former CNN newsperson put it: "Lou was one of the originals at CNN, and when he left, they really suffered. (Dobbs left CNN in 2000, reportedly after a dispute with management, and returned a year later.) Now Lou is his own island; he dictates to them what he does."

According to several former staffers, many at CNN find Dobbs's views deeply offensive. But over time, many have become jaded. "At first people said, 'How can they let him keep beating this dead horse? There's no even-handedness; it's outrageous,'" one former senior news staffer told me.

"But now, people have become so desensitized to it all. Then again, if you want to stand on your soapbox about journalistic integrity, where are you going to go?" (CNN president Jonathan Klein refused The Nation's requests for an interview, but he has told the New York Times that "Lou's show is not a harbinger of things to come at CNN.")

Crass commercialism isn't a new motive for TV news, of course. But in this case, the impact may be profound. Dobbs's show "has become the pipeline for nativists and nationalists to move their views from the margins into the mainstream," says Devin Burghart, a director at the Center for New Community, which monitors anti-immigrant groups. "Many of the most hard-core anti-immigrant activists have appeared on his program--people like Joe McCutchen, one-time member of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the largest white nationalist organization in the country. He appeared on the program without any attempt [by Dobbs] to expose his involvement with those organizations."

Indeed, Dobbs often features and quotes activists with links to extremist and even openly racist groups, as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, reported last year. Yet Dobbs consistently fails to mention those connections--even when he or his reporters interview the founder and leader of a hate group. Glenn Spencer, for example, who heads the nativist American Patrol, deemed a hate group by both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League, was portrayed as a hero for running a "shadow border patrol" with "a handful of committed friends" using technology that rivals the federal government's.

The reporter didn't mention that Spencer has also predicted a war with Mexico; his popular website, which often quotes Dobbs and links to his show, spreads rumors that immigrants are plotting to overthrow the Southwest United States.

There's also Protect Arizona Now (PAN), which successfully pressed a ballot initiative that denies state services to illegal aliens and requires state employees to report them. Dobbs ran glowing features on the group and its campaign, never mentioning what many news outlets had reported: that Virginia Abernethy, a self-described "white separatist" and former editorial adviser to the white-supremacist CCC, headed PAN's national advisory board.

Dobbs has used material directly from the CCC--in the process spreading and adding legitimacy to some of that group's more bizarre views. In an almost surreal segment in May, Dobbs reporter Casey Wian described the US visit of Mexican President Vicente Fox as a "Mexican military incursion."

As Wian spoke, a full-screen graphic appeared, with seven Southwestern states in darker color, portrayed as a map of "Aztlan," a mythical nation of the Aztec people comprising part of the territory Mexico lost to the United States 150 years ago. According to Wian's report, Mexico and "militant Latino activists" secretly aim to take it back. The map was provided by the CCC, which has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity" and warned that immigration is turning the US population into a "slimy brown mass of glop."

Earlier this year, Lou Dobbs Tonight covered a local protest in California against Home Depot's efforts to hire Spanish-speaking workers. Dobbs aired a clip of California Coalition for Immigration Reform spokeswoman Barbara Coe--identified merely as a protester--saying Home Depot had "betray[ed] the American people." Dobbs didn't mention that Coe's coalition is considered a hate group, or that she is a CCC member who's referred to Mexicans as "savages" and, in a speech last year, called undocumented workers "illegal barbarians who are cutting off heads and appendages of blind, white, disabled gringos."

"They're not willing to tell the truth about these groups," says Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report. Two years ago Potok alerted Dobbs and his staff to the backgrounds of their extremist guests. In response, Dobbs sent five producers and reporters to Montgomery, Alabama, for all-day meetings with the SPLC's hate monitors. "As they left they were promising to do a series on extremism and racism," says Potok. "They never did anything."

Instead, Dobbs's show continued to showcase extremists--many of whom now hail the anchor as their champion. The Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which describes itself as animated by a "low-immigration vision" and whose leaders are frequent guests on Dobbs's show, gave Dobbs its Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration in 2004. CIS executive director Mark Krikorian praises Dobbs for his "unusual voice among the elite that expresses the widespread public concern over immigration," adding that Dobbs's "conventional business background gives him even more credibility with the general public." Asked if CIS feeds Dobbs material for his show, Krikorian responded: "We used to send him stuff, but since he decided to really take up the issue, he started calling us." (Dobbs himself refused repeated requests for comment.)

Dobbs's Home Depot story exemplified another specialty--showcasing otherwise insignificant anti-immigrant protests to make a particular Dobbsian point. On his nightly newscasts, the small-town border sheriff and his volunteer posse take on the status of war heroes. The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps [see Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse, page 29] becomes a vigorous volunteer border patrol. The woman whose Social Security number was stolen becomes the sympathetic face of hardworking Americans victimized by cheating and conniving immigrants. And right-wing groups calling for a "tourism boycott of Massachusetts" to protest the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill--or, as Dobbs puts it, "Kennedy's stance on amnesty"--get instant publicity.

These small stories of xenophobic Americans are transformed into vivid, storybook illustrations of Dobbs's own worldview. Former senior staffers at Dobbs's show told me the anchor specifically searches for local stories to support his positions. "He approaches stories with a partisan ax to grind," one former employee told me, asking not to be named out of fear of reprisal. "He runs the place as a tin-horn dictator. He's assembled correspondents who feel beholden to him. They are given the line on the story and told how to assemble it in his partisan manner before they're sent out to do the story." (A second former senior Dobbs staffer, who also declined to speak on the record, confirmed the accuracy of this description.)

That's led to blatant distortions of key facts.

Dobbs searches high and low for statistics showing the negative impact of immigration on the US economy, and he conveniently leaves out contradictory information.

In 2003, for example, a reporter on Dobbs's show announced that the National Academy of Sciences had reported that immigrants cost American taxpayers $20 billion a year.

But the group's study actually concluded that immigrants add between $1 billion and $10 billion to the annual US gross domestic product. (Dobbs later debated the point on his show with Peter Hart, from the watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, who had noted the distortion; Dobbs insisted he was just reading the data differently.)

* Since that time it has been ascertained that that the immigrants in question contribute billions of dollars in Federal, State and Local Income Taxes that they cannot and do not ever recover a single cent in tax refunds; so take that argument that these people do not contribute to the coffers of America but only take from them, and excuse me please, shove that framed up argument where the sun doesn’t shine. The Congress knows this now. The President knows this now. The IRS has known it for years!

More recently, Dobbs reported that the much-debated Senate bill would increase immigration by 100 million people over the next twenty years, costing taxpayers some $54 billion, citing a Heritage Foundation report.

But Dobbs didn't mention that the report has been attacked by independent analysts as wildly overstating the numbers.

In another broadcast he cited the right-wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) for the statistic that "the net cost of illegal immigration to our economy, including social services, is now roughly $45 billion annually." Less partisan experts, such as Wayne Cornelius, say that's "grossly inaccurate."

In truth, the evidence is mixed on the impact of illegal immigration on American workers.

While there's evidence that large numbers of illegal immigrants exert a slight downward pressure on wages in the lowest-paying industries, it's also clear that the influx of immigrants has expanded the national economy, creating many new jobs.

Dobbs is correct that working-class wages have stagnated in recent decades, but most economists blame new technology and the loss of manufacturing jobs, not illegal immigration.

As more than 500 independent economists, including five Nobel laureates, declared in an open letter to President Bush and Congress in June, "the gains from immigration outweigh the losses."

Such reasoned analysis and nuance are not Dobbs's forte. Dobbs does invite guests he disagrees with on his show--the better to ramp up the drama. But he quickly derides their arguments, scoffs at their data and interrupts their answers. When Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, tried explaining how making English the official language of the United States could endanger non-English speakers during a crisis, Dobbs ignored the point and commented: "Implicit in what Janet just said is some suggestion that this is not a warm or welcoming country."

He dismissed that notion by saying that the United States is "littered with languages [that are] not English."

Not surprisingly, after such treatment, many "guests" have refused to appear on his show a second time. Former employees told me that Dobbs's producers are frequently turned down by reputable experts. One immigration expert I interviewed, who asked not to be named so as to avoid a public feud, said he refused to appear on CNN at all because of Dobbs.

Cornelius was on the show once, but he says he was "hoodwinked" and won't do it again. "The only part of the interview they used was me saying, 'Yes, enforcement has collapsed since the early 1990s, and there's no objective risk of an undocumented immigrant being apprehended at the workplace.'

They left out that the reason is primarily because of the economic disruption it would cause.

It's not just a matter of incompetence; the costs of enforcing the immigration laws to the economy and society generally are too high." Cornelius had added that strict enforcement wouldn't eliminate illegal employment, just drive it further underground. But that was all edited out, he says. "It made me look as if I were just another soldier in Lou's army."

Angelo Amador, immigration expert for the US Chamber of Commerce, has had similar experiences and now refuses to appear on taped segments. "When it's taped they use what they want to," he says. "After I said no, the producer called me back and said they couldn't get any business groups to go on the show. I wasn't surprised."

Still, CNN showcases its popular anchor at every opportunity. In May, when President Bush gave his national speech on immigration reform, CNN watchers heard more from Dobbs than from the President--first on his own show, then on The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer, and later on Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360.

"It's time to cut through the nonsense here," Dobbs announced on The Situation Room, assuming the grave-yet-contemptuous look he reserves for this issue. "We have a border that is the source of the principal amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth coming into this country," he proclaimed. "Six thousand National Guardsmen in an adjunct support role is pure cotton-candy nonsense....

We should also be holding the government of Mexico accountable....

They are exporting poverty.

They are overcrowding the major schools in Los Angeles.

They are creating a crime wave in point of fact in certain parts of the country." (According to experts like Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson, the opposite is true:

The nationwide decline in violent crime throughout the 1990s was correlated with a sharp increase in immigration; others have shown that immigrants appear to be less violent than non-immigrants and have the lowest rates of incarceration.)

Dobbs's concerns go far beyond illegal immigration.

When he accepted the Katz Award from CIS--after a glowing introduction from Congressman Tom Tancredo, the leading anti-immigration extremist in Washington and a frequent Dobbs guest--he explained that illegal immigration "spans a broad range of fundamental issues that should be of concern to all Americans who are worried about the direction of this country."

After noting that the US population has doubled in forty years, Dobbs warned his audience, "We are importing the population growth of other countries, whether it's China or Mexico or any country in the world."

Dobbs's fears about the cultural impact of immigration on the United States apply to Latino American immigrants across the board, legal or illegal.

That some sang the national anthem in Spanish while protesting the Sensenbrenner bill this spring, for example, seemed to hit at the heart of his concerns: What will this nation look like, and sound like, in the future?

That anxiety, fueled in part by demographic studies showing that white Americans will be a minority within the next two decades, may well explain why Dobbs connects with such a large and loyal audience. The anchor takes care not to discuss immigration issues in explicitly racial terms. But he schedules guests on his show to make the demographic point.

After Diane West, a columnist for the conservative Washington Times, wrote that the United States would "cease to be a nation" if the Senate's immigration reform bill passed, Dobbs invited her on his show and gave her ample time to elaborate.

Projected immigration "has the effect of a demographic tsunami, and it will be mainly Hispanic," West said. "It will be mainly Mexican. And so, what the question becomes is, Do we want to become a northern section of Latin America?

Do we cease to become literally an English-speaking people, become bilingual, and/or Spanish-speaking? And with these questions, you really begin to get at the heart of the matter ... a new demographic."

Dobbs prudently eased away from West's "demographic" concern. But not completely. "The issue of multiculturalism, however, and the issue of multi-language," he said. "That becomes a very serious issue, doesn't it?"

For the hundreds of thousands who tune in faithfully to watch Lou Dobbs, securing our "broken borders" may be as much about preserving white American culture as about security or economics. It's a cause white nationalists have long advanced. But it's a new role for television news.

As the dollar continues its steady fall, many Americans have begun to fear a permanent downward spiral of the entire economy. According to this Yale Herald opinion, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs blames outsourcing and illegal immigration for this trend.

For over a year, Dobbs has dedicated a permanent segment on his daily news show to those two subjects, speaking to a willing audience of middle-class Americans.

Yet Dobbs' agenda is ultimately racist and self-defeatist, writes the author. In the current state of global economy, claiming that US workers have a moral right to certain job markets is not only close-minded – it's unrealistic.

Industry leaders and policymakers should cultivate competitiveness in the US workforce, The Herald commentator concludes, rising to the challenge of a global era, instead of propagating protectionist fears. –YaleGlobal


Evelyn Shih
The Yale Herald, 18 April 2005

"Tonight," announced Lou Dobbs at the top of his show on Mon., Mar. 21, "illegal alien invasion."

Should we, and Lou's half-a-million daily viewers, pull out our machetes and join the Minutemen project, patrolling the Arizona border for cold-blooded illegal aliens?

Dobbs has been using his soapbox on CNN, Lou Dobbs Tonight, to sow sensless paranoia in the viewing public. Whether he's reporting on outsourcing—the "assault on the American middle class"—or the issue of illegal immigration from Latin America—the "illegal alien invasion"—Dobbs seeks to isolate the United States from menacing "them." "Feel violated," he drones into the nation's airwaves every weekday evening. Feel angry, mistreated, and afraid.

He is winning national awards for his work. Among other accolades, Dobbs received the 2004 Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration and the Man of the Year Award from The Organization for the Rights of American Workers. True, no one can fail to give Dobbs credit for bringing two important issues into national political discussion. By single-mindedly pursuing two topics and making them permanent segments on his news show, Dobbs has amassed a remarkable collection of coverage on the subjects. But something seems amiss when the "Broken Borders" series begins to blame every single problem plaguing American society—from terrorism to education—on illegal immigrants. As recently as the Tues., Mar. 29 show, Dobbs claimed that the public school systems are "losing their battles" because they have been "inundated with illegal immigration."

In between the dry segments of news and peppered rhetoric, Lou Dobbs peddles a latent racist agenda that is an easy trap in today's global economy. A typical debate on Dobbs' show is as follows: "A few generations ago, you'd be talking about the Irish flooding our schools and breaking down the educational standard," said Dobbs' guest Cesar Perales, president and general counsel for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Dobbs replied: "Too many people, it seems to me, are coming to this as a racial issue rather than as a social or an American issue that's fundamental to understanding of what is in our national interest."

Lou Dobbs is in a serious state of denial. His rhetoric is filled with antagonistic sound-bytes about "alien invasions" and "inundations." How could anyone have the "temerity" to speak out in defense of "porous borders"? How could banks offer aliens home loans and how could realtors sell them houses as if they had a right to even breathe American air? Why, this is simply "madness."

On an international level, the gap between rich and poor nations has become devastatingly wide. The United States is not the only country seeing a large influx of illegal immigration; Western Europe is also facing a similar dilemma. The economic elite need cheap manual labor but turn their noses at the idea of naturalizing the inferior masses as citizens. Those aliens want to be Americans? Like us? In our neighborhoods, our supermarkets, our very workplaces?

With the arrival of the so-called outsourcing dilemma, foreigners no longer only threaten to infiltrate American markets, but also to terrorize our livelihoods.

If Dobbs is correct, they will soon make our skills irrelevant and Americans will go hungry.

Like our nose-diving currency, we are under assault from people who don't understand our way of life and who are fundamentally different.

What should bother us—not only as Americans, but as human beings—is that Dobbs implies that there are people who have a right to certain work, and there are others who do not.

If you are not born American, then you were born a have-not. Aliens don't deserve something that is fundamentally American.

In this day and age, globalization has made that nationalistic claim obsolete. There is no group of people who can claim exclusive rights to any sort of mass-scale, multi-national work. As the world gets smaller, the American dream of self-betterment no longer belongs exclusively to Americans.

As a Taiwanese-American who lived for several years in Taiwan, I have witnessed firsthand the fierce competition between nations within the global economy. Taiwan developed into an Asian tiger economy long before China became the world's rising economic star. But when we entered the new millennium, the manufacturing of cheap goods became an increasingly irrelevant industry in Taiwan. Even the high-tech industry wasn't safe from the ravenous Chinese job market. Paranoia ensued: What are we to do? Are we going to starve? Are we going to be swallowed whole by the mainland?

Taiwan's financial difficulties are far from over, but the attitude in Taiwan is slowly switching from hysteria to pragmatism. Industry leaders have begun to seek niches in high-tech research, development, and creative design. The semiconductor manufacturing companies responsible for Taiwan's quick rise have moved swiftly to diversify their services.

The Chinese may be political enemies to some in Taiwan and economic enemies to some in America, but in the end, they just do some things better and cheaper. So does India—Dobb's other scapegoat for the "assault" on the American middle class. Instead of pointing fingers, America's best and brightest should be looking for new ways to shine. And if the American middle class is not hopelessly complacent and incompetent, as Dobbs seems to believe, it will also reinvent itself. I have faith that American society can reassert its resilience, just like the Taiwanese have.

Competition between people of different races, cultures, and nationalities is a natural result of globalization. It is a challenge, not a menace. I hope America will rise to meet this challenge instead of piling accolades at the feet of those, like Lou Dobbs, who make their living by blaming bad economic times on the mysterious "other."

Evelyn Shih at Yale University.
Source:The Yale Herald Rights:© 2005 The Yale Herald

Dobbs' Choice
CNN host picks immigration as his ax to grind
By Peter Hart

With all the attention paid to the near-overt partisanship of the Fox News Channel, it's important to remember that skewed reporting wasn't invented by Rupert Murdoch's cable operation.

In the last few months of 2003, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight devoted abundant broadcast time to what anchor Dobbs described as an influx of "illegal aliens who not only threaten our economy and security, but also our health and well-being. Millions of aliens crossing our borders."

The selection of topics, the slanted sourcing and the occasionally inaccurate or incomplete information conveyed on the program all seemed calculated to convince the viewer that the U.S. is in the midst of a crisis that is, according to Dobbs, "changing the very nature of this country" (9/30/03). The title of a series on immigration, "Broken Borders," conveyed Dobbs' political position; immigrants were also routinely featured on his show's regular "Great American Giveaway" segment.

Grim concerns

Dobbs' immigration reports--which tended to blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigration (see sidebar)--covered a grim array of concerns. Segment after segment was devoted to "illegal aliens" who are getting free medical care (10/1/03), putting their children in schools (10/2/03), committing sex crimes (10/30/03), getting breaks on college tuition (10/22/03), clogging up the federal prison system (11/4/03) and "flooding across our borders in some cases carrying dangerous diseases" (11/20/03).

Dobbs' tone throughout was one of high alarm. "Illegal alien smugglers and drug traffickers are on the verge of ruining some of our national treasures," he warned in one show (11/19/03). In another segment (11/20/03) he complained that "700,000 illegal aliens enter this country every year, some carrying deadly diseases."

Dobbs infused his own comments with a political urgency he found lacking elsewhere: "There are an estimated 10 million illegal aliens in the United States, and federal agencies are doing little to investigate and apprehend them" Dobbs explained (11/18/03). "Ten million illegal aliens live in this country," according to the anchor (11/17/03). "But many politicians--in fact, most--business leaders and union leaders are silent about this critically important issue."

Dobbs praised the bravery of those who called for tougher U.S. immigration policies. Interviewing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) about a proposal to eliminate a foreign workers' visa program, Dobbs said she was "showing considerable political courage in even taking up this issue.... When one talks about this issue, and confronts it directly, they're accused of being xenophobic, they're accused of being racist.... But the facts are incontrovertible."

Another of the show's reports focused on illegal immigrants convicted of sex offenses who, after serving time for their offenses, "subsequently disappear from U.S. law enforcement officials." In a discussion after the report, Dobbs praised government officials for finally dealing with the problem publicly "because they have been scared to death of the political correctness issues in this instance." Does Dobbs really believe it requires a unique kind of political bravery to crack down on illegal immigrant sex offenders?

Skewed guest list

The soundbites and long-format interviews on Dobbs' program were skewed in favor of the most passionate immigration critics. Viewers were less likely to see analysts who would either defend immigrants or emphasize the relative benefits of immigration.

On the October 31 broadcast, for example, one report featured comments from only two sources, both representatives of anti-immigration groups: Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies and Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. (Interestingly, both groups were founded with the help of John Tanton, an anti-immigrant funder with ties to the white supremacist movement--Intelligence Report, Summer/02.)

That interview was followed by a one-on-one with Arizona State Rep. Russell Pearce, a Republican leading an initiative called Protect Arizona Now, which would make proof of citizenship a requirement for receiving government benefits. Dobbs described the effort this way: "Citizens of Arizona, faced with the growing numbers of illegal aliens in their state, are now taking aggressive action to protect their public services and their state budget."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform's Stein appeared on Dobbs' show five times in the month of October, along with five appearances by representatives of the Center for Immigration Studies. Immigrant advocacy groups, by comparison, made a total of four appearances in the month, along with two guests from the Cato Institute, which takes a libertarian position on immigration.

Dubious stats

A lopsided guest list wasn't the only problem. In a report (10/30/03) on the economic impact of immigration, CNN correspondent Lisa Sylvester claimed that "researchers at the National Academy of Science concluded that while the gains to the U.S. economy due to immigration could be as high as $10 billion, the cost is higher--as much as $20 billion." Host Dobbs added that "the economics are beginning to look somewhat convincing, don't you think?" Sylvester's response: "Clearly, the costs seem to be outweighing benefits in this case."

But that's not what the 1997 NAS study found. The researchers estimated that immigration provided a net gain for the U.S. gross domestic product of between $1 billion and $10 billion (see New York Times, 5/18/97)--in other words, that the benefits outweighed the costs. The $20 billion "cost" factoid was advanced by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (press release, 5/19/97), which extrapolated on a set of annual estimates in the NAS report, arguing there is "a total cost to those taxpayers of $15 to $20 billion dollars, much higher than the economic benefits."

Dobbs is best known as a business reporter; his show was, until recently, called Moneyline. So it might make sense that he would focus on the economic impact of immigration: "The real losers are the hard-working millions of Americans each day who are watching their wages depressed in many cases," he declared on one show (11/17/03). (Dobbs' sympathy for labor is not particularly consistent. Discussing workers at Wal-Mart--11/22/02--he commented: "They're not unionized, so the union must not have a terrific story either. . . . End of story as far as the markets are concerned. That's what counts.")

A more cautious conclusion comes from that same NAS report misused by Dobbs to demonstrate the fiscal burden of immigration. Workers without high-school diplomas, according to the study, have seen their wages drop, in part due to competition from immigrant workers, while workers who were not in direct competition with immigrant workers may have benefited from their presence in the domestic economy.

This nuanced view of immigration policy as having winners and losers points to the vital need for a broad debate on the costs and benefits of immigration. Clearly, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight is not the best place to look for one.


Terms of Debate

CNN's Lou Dobbs is disgusted by the way some people talk about immigration: "We've got nearly approximately 700,000 illegal aliens crossing our borders every single year," he lectured one guest (9/30/03). "It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror.

We have not been deporting illegal aliens. As a matter of fact, you just used the expression 'undocumented worker.' They're illegal aliens. The niceties of language--it's sort of interesting to hear how there's been this language shift, from 'illegal alien' to 'undocumented worker' to 'guest without status.' I mean, where does the nonsense end?"

In one debate (11/19/03), Dobbs the moderator took a moment to express his frustration with the terms a guest was using: "You've added the word 'immigrant' rather than 'illegal alien,' which is the point we're talking about. And, really, there's quite a major, important distinction, do you not agree?" In fact, there's not much distinction in definition between "alien" and "immigrant"--aside from the fact that "alien" is generally considered to be pejorative and "immigrant" more neutral.

As for the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, Dobbs has blurred that line himself, as when he previewed a report about the federal prison population (11/4/03): "Coming up, we're going to take a further look at the impact of illegal aliens. And it is an expensive proposition, particularly in our nation's prisons. Illegal aliens, those noncitizens taking up a third of the cells in our federal penitentiaries."

Minutes later, CNN correspondent Bill Tucker said of incarcerated noncitizens: "And while they were in prison, you'd think we'd identify which ones are illegal aliens. We don't." Tucker added that "one-third of the people in federal prisons are not United States citizens. Incredibly, there's no system currently in place to identify how many of those prisoners are also illegal aliens." He finished his report that night by telling Dobbs that there was "no way to know whether they're illegal or not." In other words, Dobbs' claim that one-third of federal prisoners were "illegal aliens" was made up out of thin air.

In another segment (9/23/03), Dobbs was outraged over a cross-country "freedom ride" campaign for immigrant and workers' rights. "Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, this next story will amaze you," Dobbs explained. "People who have not respected immigration laws in this country are now demanding equal treatment under the law. They have begun a cross-country demonstration for those rights, in fact."

Responding to a viewer's letter a week later (9/30/03), Dobbs commented, "I should point out, not all of the people on those buses are illegal. Although we are told that some of them are, according to organizers of the group."--P.H.

Action Alert
CNN's Immigration ProblemIs Dobbs the exception—or the rule?
CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has been a high-profile voice in the immigration debate, using his show to rail against the country's "broken borders" virtually every evening on Lou Dobbs Tonight. His openly crusading advocacy journalism has raised eyebrows and put CNN president Jonathan Klein on the defensive; as Klein told the New York Times (3/29/06), "Lou's show is not a harbinger of things to come at CNN. He is sui generis, one of a kind." But a closer look at CNN programming indicates that Dobbs' slanted journalism is not as unusual at the network as Klein suggests.

As FAIR has noted in the past, Dobbs' tone on immigration is consistently alarmist; he warns his viewers (3/31/06) of Mexican immigrants who see themselves as an "army of invaders" intent upon reannexing parts of the Southwestern U.S. to Mexico, announces (11/19/03) that "illegal alien smugglers and drug traffickers are on the verge of ruining some of our national treasures," and declares (4/14/05) that "the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans" through "deadly imports" of diseases like leprosy and malaria. And Dobbs makes no effort to provide a nuanced or balanced picture of the issue; as he told CNN Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz (4/2/06): "I'm not interested—are you interested in six or seven views, or are you interested in the truth? Because that's what I'm interested in; that's what my viewers are interested in."

But Dobbs isn't the only CNN personality uninterested in nuance or immigrants' rights perspectives. Longtime CNN anchor Jack Cafferty provides daily commentary on the afternoon show The Situation Room, where he has attacked and belittled immigrants' rights protesters while ignoring or dismissing their concerns several times in recent weeks. The day of the massive immigrants' rights rallies across the country, he launched into a scornful tirade that seemed to even threaten violence against the peaceful protesters (4/10/06):

Once again, the streets of our country were taken over today by people who don't belong here…. Taxpayers who have surrendered highways, parks, sidewalks and a lot of television news time on all these cable news networks to mobs of illegal aliens are not happy about it…. America's illegal aliens are becoming ever bolder. March through our streets and demand your rights.
Excuse me? You have no rights here, and that includes the right to tie up our towns and cities and block our streets.
At some point this could all turn very violent as Americans become fed up with the failure of their government to address the most pressing domestic issue of our time.

Cafferty went on to suggest that the government "pull the buses up and start asking these people to show their green cards.... And the ones that don't have them, put them on the buses and send them home." It's troubling that Cafferty seems entirely ignorant of the fact that under the U.S. Constitution, everyone in this country, whether documented or not, does indeed have rights—or that illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year.
(When the Wall Street Journal—4/13/06—surveyed economists on whether illegal immigration provided a net gain to the U.S. economy, 44 of 46 said that it did.)In another commentary on immigration (3/31/06), Cafferty chastised students who missed school to attend a pro-immigrant protest: "Maybe it would be a good idea if they went back into the classrooms and tried to get that diploma instead of, you know, spending their day out and marching around, jumping up and down and being silly."
He similarly ridiculed (4/10/06) a D.C.-area school district's policy of giving students community service credit for attending rallies: "What service are you doing for your community by running around through the streets carrying Mexican flags and advocating on behalf of people who are breaking this nation's laws?"
Recent CNN Headline News hire Glenn Beck promises to add another xenophobic voice to the CNN family's chorus when he begins hosting his own program in May. As Media Matters for America documented (3/27/06), Beck recently slurred Mexican immigrants on his radio show (3/27/06), saying Mexico "is a country that has been overtaken by lawbreakers from the bottom to the top.
And now, what you're protesting for is to have lawbreakers come here."

Even some of CNN's generally more restrained journalists have slanted the immigration issue. Reliable Sources host Kurtz described the rallies (4/16/06) as "drawing heavy media coverage that served as a megaphone for their stand against tougher border control and enforcement against those who broke the law in coming to America."

Of course, while Kurtz follows Dobbs in summarizing the protests as being opposed to border control and law enforcement, few if any of the organizers of the demonstrations would frame their issue in that way.

In fact, many protesters say they support border control as part of comprehensive immigration reform; their primary protest, never accurately explained by Dobbs or Kurtz, is against HR 4437, the draconian House bill that not only would make all undocumented workers felons, but would even appear to make felons of anyone giving humanitarian assistance to an immigrant without inquiring about that person's legal status.

Kurtz continued on the same tack, asking conservative guest Jonah Goldberg, "Has the media coverage of this issue glossed over the fact that, by the way, these people are breaking the law?"
Kurtz went on to tell an approving Goldberg that "you have to admit that these immigrants got awfully sympathetic coverage with these demonstrations...with comparisons to the civil rights movement. But 84 percent in an L.A. Times poll say they believe illegal immigration is a serious problem." In fact, that's not what the Times reported (4/13/06): "Although 84 percent of poll respondents agreed that illegal immigration was a problem, 31 percent identified it as one of the country's major problems." The poll also showed 66 percent of respondents favoring some kind of amnesty—the same position taken by the protesters.

CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield also skewed the immigration debate in his attempt (The Situation Room, 4/13/06) to explain how both sides use loaded language in the "name game." Greenfield noted the negative connotations associated with the word "alien" and explained the argument that labeling people "illegal" suggests that "illegality governs their lives"—arguments that several journalists' associations have also made (National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Turning then to "undocumented worker," he argued:

Undocumented, that suggests the problem here is some kind of bureaucratic snafu that could happen to anyone, showing up at the DMV without the right paperwork or trying to return something to a department store. It doesn't suggest anything about the act of getting into this country in the first place, by breaking the law and by surreptitiously crossing the border.
But as many as 50 percent of immigrants in the U.S. illegally did not break the law or "surreptitiously cross the border" to enter the country; they overstayed their visas after entering legally (, 5/21/04). So the fact that the term "undocumented" doesn't "suggest anything about...surreptitiously crossing the border" is actually a point in its favor.
Greenfield went on:

Worker, that's one of the most evocative words in our whole political vocabulary. It implies a host of admirable notions, hardworking, working families. And remember Bill Clinton's constant references to people who work hard and play by the rules? There's almost a hint here of the idea that, if you work hard, you must be playing by the rules, even if you broke those rules to get here.

If the term "undocumented worker" implies that such people are hard workers, then it is a generally accurate term. The fact is that the vast majority of people who come or stay here illegally do so for the express purpose of working, often doing demanding physical labor. As economist James K. Galbraith argued (Guardian, 4/13/06), "The fact that their presence may be illegal is a problem not with the people but with the law…. These marches are, mainly, about work. They are about the right to work, and to live from work, in simple dignity, independence and freedom."Greenfield's stretch to find balance in the "name game" echoes a segment from Dobbs' program a few days earlier (4/10/06), in which Dobbs declared that "the illegal alien lobby is manipulating the language of these protests and demonstrations for much wider and often hidden political purposes."
He went on to explain:

Illegal aliens and their supporters say they are marching today in support of what they call immigrant rights. They say they are celebrating the rich immigrant tradition of this country. But they fail to distinguish in their fight for illegal immigration this country's rich tradition of legal, not illegal, immigration.

Actually, until the Civil War, the United States had no immigration laws to speak of—so there's no real distinction between legal and illegal immigration for almost the first century of U.S. history (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Overview of INS History").
Federal immigration law began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and immigration policy was explicitly directed toward keeping out undesirable nationalities until 1965—a legacy that is hard to describe as a "rich tradition."Dobbs turned to correspondent Bill Tucker, who agreed that "language blurs the issue": Referring to the website from an anti-HR 4437 group, he said that "a viewer would think that immigrants and immigrant communities in America are under attack. The website...demands that Congress grant immigrants full rights under the law.
Legal immigrants already have those protections." In fact, under an April 29, 2003 court ruling, legal immigrants do not have the same due process rights as citizens. "Congress may make rules as to aliens that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens," then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist declared in the ruling.
Tucker concluded that "the language is important, because democracies thrive on truth and discussion."
Dobbs responded that on his broadcast, "we certainly intend to use language appropriate to the meaning we intend."That much is clear. In the very same program, correspondent Casey Wian reported that the April 10 protesters "may wear white to symbolize peace, but they smell blood now that Congress has failed to pass border security or immigration reform legislation."
Language is indeed important in the immigration debate—which makes it all the more troubling that CNN gives so much space to slanted stories on immigration.ACTION:

Ask CNN how it plans to balance its outspoken anti-immigration voices.
CONTACT:CNN PresidentJonathan KleinPhone: (404) 827-1500Web:
See FAIR's Archives for more on: Time Warner/CNNImmigrationRace and Racism

U.S. policy on immigration is a tragic joke

By Lou DobbsSpecial for "The Republic"Aug. 28, 2005 12:00 AM

There is a common front in our illegal-alien crisis, the war on drugs and the global war on terror. That front line is easily defined as our nation's borders, airports and seaports. And Arizonans know only too well the pain and problems of living and working on the front line of our border with Mexico.

South of that border is a corrupt and ineffective government run by President Vicente Fox, who has no apparent incentive to control the flow of drugs being shipped from Mexico into the United States and every incentive to continue the exportation of illegal aliens into this country. This year, in fact, remittances back to Mexico from the estimated 20 million Mexican citizens living in the United States, most of them illegally, surpassed oil as Mexico's No. 1 source of foreign revenue.

In the United States, an obscene alliance of corporate supremacists, desperate labor unions, certain ethnocentric Latino activist organizations and a majority of our elected officials in Washington works diligently to keep our borders open, wages suppressed and the American people all but helpless to resist the crushing financial and economic burden created by the millions of illegal aliens who crash our borders each year.

They work just as hard to deny the truth to the American public. That's why almost every evening on my CNN broadcast we report on this country's "Broken Borders." The truth is that U.S. immigration policy is a tragic joke at the expense of hard-working middle-class Americans.
What has been the response of the Bush administration? It proposed a guest-worker program giving legal status to millions of illegal aliens. But national opinion polls reveal an overwhelming majority of Americans are contemptuous of such cynical proposals.
The latest Zogby poll shows only 35 percent of those surveyed support the president's approach. The American people want our borders secure, want our immigration laws enforced and want those who hire illegal aliens both punished and held liable for the economic and social costs of breaking our laws. We are a nation of immigrants, and there is no more diverse and welcoming society than ours. But we are first a nation of laws, and upholding those laws and our national values makes this great country of ours possible.
Arizonans are to be commended for passing Proposition 200 and creating the political will that led to last week's declaration of the state of emergency by Gov. Janet Napolitano. Neither act is sufficient to solve our illegal-immigration crisis, but both acts constitute a beginning in resolving what may well be the most critical issue facing the United States. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he wanted to "stabilize" our borders and create more detainee beds and expedite more deportations.
Stabilizing our borders is not enough. If we do not take control of our borders, deportations amount to little more than inconvenience to illegal aliens and whomever else wants to enter our country. Failure to secure our borders means that we will continue to lose the war on drugs and lose a generation of Americans to those drugs. It also means the crushing burden of our failed immigration and homeland security policies will continue to fall exclusively on the shoulders of working men and women.
Not only do illegal aliens and those who employ them cost the nation tens of billions of dollars in social services, principally in health care and education, they also depress wages for American citizens by an estimated $200 billion a year. The most reasonable response I have seen to this illegal-immigration crisis is legislation introduced by one of your state's distinguished senators, Jon Kyl, who co-sponsored a bill with Sen. John Cornyn. That bill seeks 10,000 new Border Patrol agents and detention beds, fraud-resistant Social Security cards, increased penalties for employers and current illegal aliens would have to leave the United States to apply for permanent citizenship.
Reform begins with the truth. And our elected officials must begin to recognize the reality that a war on terror and war on drugs can be won only by securing our borders and that any reform of our immigration policies must begin first at the front line of the crisis: our border with Mexico. Anything less is just another sad joke, and we know at whose expense.Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight."

Broken Record

Lou Dobbs' daily 'Broken Borders' CNN segment has focused on immigration for years. But there's one issue Dobbs just won't take on.By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok
Lou Dobbs is a genial sort, a pleasant-faced CNN anchorman who regularly presents himself as standing up for American working men and women against those who would injure them. Hosting "Lou Dobbs Tonight" for a prime-time hour every weekday, he is also well known and powerful. So when Dobbs focuses on an issue, millions of Americans learn just what it is that Dobbs thinks they should know.

For more than two years now, Dobbs has served up a populist approach to immigration on nightly segments of his newscast entitled "Broken Borders." He has relentlessly covered the issue, although hardly from a traditional news perspective -- Dobbs favors clamping down on illegal immigration, and his "reporting" never fails to make that clear. He has covered the same issues, and the same anti-immigration leaders, time after time after time. In recent months, Dobbs has run countless upbeat reports on the "citizen border patrols" that have sprung up around the country since last April's Minuteman Project, a paramilitary effort to seal the Arizona border.

But there's one thing Lou Dobbs won't do. No matter what others report about the movement, Dobbs has failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism in anti-immigration groups and citizen border patrols.

It's not that Dobbs hasn't allowed a pro-immigration activist or two to complain about efforts like the Minuteman Project ("vigilantes," according to President Bush), or even that he has made racist statements on his show. What the anchorman has done is repeatedly decline to present the evidence that links these groups to racism, calling the very idea "mind-boggling." On his July 29 show, he called the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he said he liked in other ways, "despicable" and "reprehensible" for saying otherwise.

Consider some of what Dobbs has failed to report, despite the fact that in almost every case these developments were reported widely elsewhere:

GLENN SPENCER, head of the anti-immigration American Patrol, has been interviewed at least twice on the show, on Jan. 7 and June 4, 2004. Spencer's Web site is jammed with anti-Mexican vitriol and he pushes the idea that the Mexican government is involved in a secret plot to take over the Southwest -- facts never mentioned on Dobbs' show. Spencer's group is regarded as a hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Spencer has spoken at least twice to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity," and once to American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.

Dobbs has never reported those ties, or mentioned Spencer's more wild-eyed contentions, such as his prediction that "thousands will die" in a supposedly forthcoming Mexican invasion. His CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer, on the hand, featured Spencer on his own show but reported Mexico's official response and SPLC's hate group designation.

In late 2004, it was revealed that the new head of a national advisory board to Protect Arizona Now, an anti-immigration organization, was a long-time white supremacist who was also an editorial adviser to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens. Although VIRGINIA ABERNETHY's controversial selection was reported prominently in virtually every Arizona paper -- and despite the fact that Dobbs heavily covered the anti-immigration referendum that Protect Arizona Now was advocating -- Dobbs never mentioned the affair at all.

A man named JOE MCCUTCHEN was quoted last April as part of a feature on the Minuteman Project, described by Dobbs as "a terrific group of concerned, caring Americans." No mention was made of the fact that McCutchen, who heads up an anti-immigration group called Protect Arkansas Now, had written a whole series of anti-Semitic letters to the editor and given a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens -- facts revealed the prior January by SPLC, causing Arkansas' Republican governor to denounce McCutchen's group.

This August, BILL PARMLEY, a Minuteman leader in Goliad County, Texas, quit the group because of what he described as widespread racism. Similarly, in September, newspapers reported that another Texas Minuteman, Janet Ahrens, had resigned because members "wanted to shoot the taco meat." Dobbs never mentioned either of these people, who were featured prominently elsewhere.

On Oct. 4, Dobbs had PAUL STREITZ, a co-founder of Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control, as a guest on his show. Streitz denounced Mayor John DeStefano Jr. for "turning New Haven into a banana republic" by favoring identification cards for undocumented workers. Two days later, newspapers revealed that two of the group's other founders had just quit, saying Streitz had led it in a racially charged direction. Dobbs has never reported this.

BARBARA COE, leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, was quoted on a show last March bitterly attacking Home Depot for "betray[ing] Americans," apparently because Hispanic day laborers often gather in front of the store looking for work. Not mentioned were her group, listed by the SPLC as a hate group, or the fact that she routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages." Coe recently described herself as a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a "white pride" group formed from the remnants of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s that were once described by Thurgood Marshal as "the uptown Klan." She also told The Denver Post in November that she had given a speech to the group.

CHRIS SIMCOX, co-founder of the Minuteman Project and a top national anti-immigration leader, was arrested in 2003 by federal park rangers for carrying a weapon illegally while tracking border-crossers on federal parkland. While Simcox has been repeatedly interviewed on his show, Dobbs has failed to mention that arrest or bigoted anti-Hispanic comments Simcox made to the Intelligence Report several years ago.

Although Dobbs has steered clear of the racist comments that some of his guests have made elsewhere, he has warned of "illegal aliens who not only threaten our economy and security, but also our health and well-being," according to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media monitor. In 2003, FAIR added, a reporter on Dobbs' show grossly mischaracterized a National Academy of Sciences report. The report found that immigrants provided a net gain of $1 billion to $10 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, but the CNN reporter said the report had found the economic impact of immigrants worked out to a net loss of up to $10 billion.

Dobbs is revered in anti-immigration quarters and on the far right generally.

He is the winner of the 2004 Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration, given by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). CIS claims to be a "nonpartisan research institute," but in fact is a thinly disguised anti-immigration organization. The 2005 Katz Award went to the immigration beat reporter for The Washington Times, a hard-right newspaper based in Washington, D.C.

In general, Lou Dobbs has declined to report salient negative facts about anti-immigration leaders he approves of, or simply avoided mentioning certain of their views -- notably the conspiracy theories propounded by people like Spencer.

Still, Dobbs is hardly immune to the lure of the weird.

Last September, he offered up Idaho meteorologist Scott Stevens as a guest on his show. Stevens had just left an Idaho television news program immediately after telling viewers of a bizarre theory that Hurricane Katrina was caused by unknown evildoers. "Terrorists were engaging in a type of eco-terrorism where they could alter the climate, set off earthquakes and volcanoes," he told Dobbs. Stevens said they were using "scalar waves," invented by the Japanese, to attack America with Category 5 storms.

"Intriguing assertion," Dobbs concluded at the end of the interview. Much the same might be said, and in the same spirit, about the news "reporting" that Dobbs presents as he doggedly explores and supports the anti-immigration movement.
Intelligence Report

Dobbs's immigration reporting marked by misinformation, extreme rhetoric, attacks on Mexican president, and data from organization linked to white supremacists

Summary: On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Lou Dobbs claimed that the Senate immigration bill, which includes numerous provisions targeting illegal immigration, does "absolutely nothing for border security." On the same show, correspondent Casey Wian characterized Mexican President Vicente Fox's trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, as a "Mexican military incursion," and claimed that "[y]ou could call" Fox's trip to the United States "the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour" -- drawing a baseless link between Fox and the reconquista movement, which maintains that portions of the American Southwest belong to Mexico.

(06-21) 04:00 PST San Diego -- LOU DOBBS was spoiling for a fight. I know, because he wanted to fight with me.

It's not every day that I'm face to face with the person that many Americans trust on the immigration issue. According to a recent poll published in the Washington Post, 37 percent of Americans trust Dobbs on immigration while 31 percent trust President Bush. The rest were undecided.

The 37 percent in Dobbs' corner probably don't include many of the Latino journalists who came together last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the 24th annual conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). As the nation's largest gathering of print and broadcast journalists, the conference drew more than 1,200 people. That's not a bad showing, considering that there are so few Latinos in the business.

According to a survey released in April by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, there were, in 2005, just 2,474 Latinos working in the nation's newsrooms. That's 4.51 percent of the total workforce.

For his part, Dobbs has carved out a niche as a critic of illegal immigration. And so the leaders of NAHJ invited him to be part of a panel discussion of the issue that included New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda.

It was a controversial decision. Judging from the dozen or so conversations I had with conference participants, there is a concern that "people like Lou Dobbs" have seized on the issue of illegal immigration and used it to grow their fame and fortune.

Either way, Dobbs' ratings are up since he started talking incessantly about "broken borders." His show on CNN, "Lou Dobbs, Tonight," now averages 813,000 viewers. That puts him just behind the No. 1 show in its time period: Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume," which has 1.2 million viewers.

I have no problem with fame and fortune. What concerns me is the path one takes to get there.

Before the discussion, I approached Dobbs, introduced myself and thanked him for having me on his show several times in the last couple of years.

"Yes," he said, "I read your column and I like it -- except the ones that call me a racist and a xenophobe."

It went downhill from there.

"Actually, Lou," I said, "What I've written is that you pander to racists and xenophobes. You seem like a pretty good guy, but some of your viewers are certifiable."

"You really think so?" he asked, "I think I have one of the most intelligent audiences on television."

"Well," I said, "Racism and intelligence aren't qualities that are mutually exclusive."

He had this look on his face that suggested he was trying to process what I had just said, until an NAHJ official interceded and said it was time for Dobbs to get ready to go onstage.

"Come back on the show," he said.

Sure. But I enjoyed this format. No sound bites or commercials. Just two guys getting in each other's face.

The panel went pretty well for Dobbs. He got applause for his jabs at employers who exploit illegal immigrant labor and the Mexican elite who are indifferent to the plight of their countrymen. He also made clear that he opposed making illegal immigrants criminals, let alone rounding them up and deporting them.

It helped that he stayed away from the material that might have elicited boos and snickers. He didn't explain something that he often talks about: how he's sure that, if you crack down on employers, illegal immigrants will self-deport.

Or why he believes it's appropriate -- on his show -- to couple immigration stories with segments about language and culture. Mixing these things illustrates a contradiction: Dobbs has said repeatedly that the only thing that concerns him is "illegal" immigration.

But on his show he sounded the alarm bells when the Heritage Foundation put out a report warning that offering illegal immigrants a path to legalization could mean taking in as much as 100 million more legal immigrants.

If you're sincere about one, why freak out over the other? Unless, of course, you're not as pro-legal immigration as you pretend to be. Unless, of course, what concerns you -- or those you're trying to pander to -- isn't just that people are coming illegally, but that they change the language and cultural landscape of the country once they arrive.

There are words to describe that sort of thing. Unfortunately for those who have trouble accepting the truth about what this debate is really about -- and what it's been about for more than 200 years -- the words all end in "-ism."

On the May 23 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed that a Senate immigration bill, which includes numerous provisions targeting illegal immigration, does "absolutely nothing for border security."

Later, during the same broadcast, CNN correspondent Casey Wian characterized Mexican President Vicente Fox's trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, as a "Mexican military incursion," and claimed that "[y]ou could call" Fox's trip to the United States "the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour" -- drawing a baseless link between Fox and the reconquista movement, which maintains that portions of the American Southwest (territory referred to by supporters of the theory as "Aztlan") belong to Mexico. During Wian's report, CNN featured a graphic of "Aztlan" that was sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) -- an organization linked to white supremacists.

Reporting on the Senate immigration bill, Dobbs said: "Still ahead here, as the Senate moves closer to voting for a bill that would give amnesty to illegal aliens and do absolutely nothing for border security, one of the legislation's leading critics joins me, Senator Jeff Sessions [R-AL]. Senator Sessions says the Senate should be ashamed of itself."

As Media Matters for America has noted, however, the proposed immigration legislation included numerous provisions to increase border security. On March 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an immigration bill based on the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act" -- sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and co-sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). A fact sheet provided by Kennedy stated that, in addition to providing a guest worker program and a path for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, the bill that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee would:

Double the strength of the Border Patrol by add[ing] 12,000 new agents (2,400 each year for the next 5 years)

Double interior enforcement by adding "1,000 investigators per year for next 5 years"

Create a "[n]ew [s]ecurity [p]erimeter" by "add[ing] new technology at the border to create [a] 'virtual fence' "

"Tighten[] [c]ontrols" by "expand[ing] exit-entry security system at all land borders and airports"

Call for the "[c]onstruction of [b]arriers" by "mandat[ing] new roads and vehicle barriers at borders"

Call for the "[c]onstruction of [f]ences" by "provid[ing] additional border fences at specific vulnerable sectors"

"[A]uthorize new permanent highway checkpoints near border"

Demand a "[c]omprehensive [s]urveillance [p]lan" that would "mandate[] new land and water surveillance plan[s]"

"Create new crime for construction, financing, and use of unlawful tunnels."

Reporting on Fox's Utah trip, Wian said: "This Mexican military incursion was fully authorized. A Mexican air force jet carrying President Vicente Fox was not just invited to Utah, but encouraged to visit by Governor [Jon] Huntsman [Jr.]." Wian was likely alluding to a January 17 Washington Times article, which reported: "The U.S. Border Patrol has warned agents in Arizona of incursions into the United States by Mexican soldiers 'trained to escape, evade and counterambush' if detected -- a scenario Mexico denied yesterday." Wian went on to report:
WIAN: It's estimated Utah has about 100,000 illegal aliens, and the number is growing rapidly. Utah is also a part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the Southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico.

As Wian was speaking, CNN showed a graphic of "Aztlan" sourced to the CCC.

As Media Matters has previously noted, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC), the CCC "has described blacks as 'a retrograde species of humanity,' compared singer Michael Jackson to an ape, and promoted neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial materials."

According an Anti-Defamation League report, the CCC was "[e]stablished by former activists in the segregationist White Citizens' Councils," and "[a]lthough the group claims not to be racist, its leaders traffic with other white supremacist groups and its publications, Web sites and meetings all promote the purportedly innate superiority of whites."

Wian then linked Fox to the concept of "Aztlan," reporting:

WIAN: You could call this the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour, since the three states he'll visit -- Utah, Washington, and California -- are all part of some radical group's vision of the mythical indigenous homeland.

Alex Roosemblat, Virginia Cavalier Daily Columnist

The Virginia House of Delegates of the Commonwealth announced that it had passed a bill mandating that illegal immigrants will pay out-of-state tuition even if they reside in the Commonwealth.

This comes from efforts to limit the education of illegal immigrants. However, many illegal immigrants pay taxes to the Commonwealth of Virginia just like legal residents do. Illegal immigrants should retain their in-state status if they are paying taxes to the Commonwealth.

The House of Delegates initiative to make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition is unfair and discriminatory toward illegal aliens.

These immigrants are here in the United States to try to improve their lives. They should be applauded for putting forth the effort and succeeding in what may be tough circumstances.

The House of Delegates wants to make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition to increase revenues coming to public universities, particularly in light of the recent budgetary troubles.

Illegal immigrants make an easy target to try to squeeze more money into the system since their living inside the country itself is suspect and, of course, "illegal."

This however, is not the best way to acquire additional revenues, as many illegal aliens come from financially disadvantaged homes. Instead of increasing revenues, this bill will simply make immigrants unable to afford attending a state university.

Additionally, the House of Delegates may be acting on pressures to let more in-state applicants in following the proposal of James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr. (R- Fairfax) to the General Assembly in 2000, which asked for a lowered percentage of out-of-state applicants admitted.

If illegal immigrants were forced to pay as much as out-of-state students, this would cut down on the number of illegal immigrants who would be able to attend college, as many such immigrants are of meager means.

The Commonwealth wants to make illegal immigrants pay full tuition to keep them out of state schools and make sure that spots are reserved for legal residents.

As Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, who was pushing the bill, stated: "It is outrageous that, in these tough economic times… those who are breaking our laws are receiving taxpayer funds and potentially taking a spot away from a Virginia student,"("Bill denies illegals in-state tuition rate" Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 30).

If illegal immigrants make it into a state college, the admissions committee of that college has granted them the opportunity to enroll and gain an education.

They are not taking anybody's spot, because the college is allowed to admit whomever it wishes. Although there may potentially be more applicants because of the added students who are illegal immigrants, those additional applications could potentially have come from a variety of other sources. It is illogical to believe that illegal aliens will flood the applicant pool and exclude other Virginia citizens from being admitted to state universities.

Most importantly, illegal immigrants pay taxes to the Commonwealth just like anyone else that resides within the state. One of the benefits that supposedly comes from paying those taxes is the opportunity to go to in-state colleges and receive an education. Only if an illegal immigrant is not paying taxes should he be forced to pay out-of-state tuition.

In the same vein, anyone who doesn't pay taxes should not be afforded in-state tuition. Paying reduced tuition for the education we receive is a privilege granted by our hard-earned tax money.

Because the legislation would cover all immigrants, tax-paying or not, the Virginia government is unjustly ripping off the illegal immigrants as they are paying taxes and not getting the benefits.

This legislation is wrong, and The House of Delegates should make as much effort as possible to ensure the introduction of another bill nullifying the one that was recently passed.

Requiring illegal immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition would make it very difficult for many low-income individuals to attend college and help themselves rise above their current situations.

This legislation curtails the dreams of many minority immigrants, and penalizes those who have to put the greatest amount of effort into attaining a collegiate education. Even with in-state tuition, college can be expensive for illegal immigrants. If this law is enacted, it would make college a near impossibility for these people.

If illegal immigrants should not be in the United States and residing in the Commonwealth in the first place, that is an issue for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to resolve.

The state government should not force tax-paying state residents to pay out-of-state tuition, even if they are illegal immigrants.

(Alex Rosemblat's column usually appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at Other Articles by Alex Roosemblat

MISCONCEPTIONS As the Senate continues to grapple with immigration reform, it's time to clear the air of some broad misconceptions in the current debate. Since writing about this topic over the last few weeks, my inbox has been flooded with e-mails raising questions.

Some critics seem especially rankled by my arguments that many illegal aliens are "otherwise law-abiding" members of their communities. Most detractors point out that illegal aliens can't pay taxes since they aren't entitled to work. But that's only half right. Confusion and ignorance on the immigration issue abound, so, here are a few facts worth considering.

First, illegal aliens are not currently criminals. They have committed a misdemeanor civil offense under current law by entering or remaining in the United States once their visas expire, but the House-passed immigration bill would automatically make these offenses criminal felonies.

Second, illegal aliens, by definition, broke the law to enter the country, but the way they got here doesn't differ all that much from the way most immigrants came in previous eras. Until the success of the immigration restriction movement in the 1920s, people who wanted to immigrate simply showed up at U.S. ports, or in the case of Mexicans and Canadians, just walked across the border.

There were laws in place governing naturalization, which varied over time from requiring that an immigrant live here as little as two years to as long as 14 years before being eligible for citizenship. Indeed, laws requiring registration of immigrants were set up to ensure that immigrants met the naturalization residency requirements.

Unless they were from Asia (Chinese and, later, other Asian immigrants were barred or severely limited from immigrating between 1862 and 1952), immigrants had merely to show themselves to be free of "loathsome or contagious diseases"; demonstrate that they were not likely to become dependent on public assistance (still required to gain admission today); attest that they were not polygamists, convicts or prostitutes; and, later, pay a small fee. These requirements were met after the immigrants were already on U.S. soil — in fact, the huge numbers of people immigrating in the early 20th century led to the creation of Ellis Island off Manhattan to process the entrants.

Today's legal immigrants face a lengthy, sometimes decades-long, process, must have close relatives already living in the U.S. to stand any realistic chance of being admitted, or must possess unusual skills much in demand and have an employer ready to hire them.
Third, the overwhelming majority of illegal aliens pay taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and property taxes, not to mention sales taxes. The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration estimates that three-fourths of all illegal aliens have Social Security (and Medicare) taxes deducted from their wages. How? It's simple.

Since it is illegal to hire someone who does not present a Social Security number (and show other documentation of legal residence), many illegal aliens use phony numbers or cards to get jobs. In 2002 alone, the Social Security Administration reported it had collected $7 billion in payroll taxes and $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes from workers who could not be matched with valid Social Security numbers.

In addition, illegal aliens pay property taxes just like everyone else, either directly, if they own homes (and surprising numbers of illegal aliens do), or indirectly through their landlords' property taxes in the form of rent. Most illegal aliens pay income taxes — since these, too, are automatically deducted — but they fail to claim any refunds since they are fearful of drawing attention to their illegal status.

Do these facts mean we ought to ignore the problem of 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States? Of course not. It's bad for all of us when laws are so wantonly flouted. Those who have entered the country should pay some price for having violated the law — a heavy fine, for example, which is the usual penalty for misdemeanor offenses.

The more difficult question is how to stop more people from coming here illegally — and the best way to do that is to increase border security and change our current, inflexible laws to make it possible for more people to come here legally.



Just the Facts—UPDATED

According to the search service Technorati, at least 130 weblogs have recently posted 10 "facts" about immigration, allegedly coming from the L.A. Times. As Readers' Representative Jamie Gold has pointed out, this list, which is being forwarded around the world at lightning speed, is a hoax.

We combed our archives to see whether the paper has indeed written anything like these facts, and found just one Op-ed column — by leading anti-immigration figure Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) — that comes close to stating what the e-mail hoax claims. Meanwhile, we've tried to assess the veracity of the various statistics from online sources as well as representatives of federal, state, county, and city officials. We'll continue to post more details as we receive them. Here are the results:

"Fact" 1: 40% of all workers in L.A. County (L.A. County has 10 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This was because they are predominantly illegal immigrants, working without a green card.LAT citations: None.

Factual basis: The Economic Roundtable, a research outfit affiliated with the Los Angeles County government, concluded in a December 2005 report [PDF] that the low-end estimate for LA County workers working for cash is 322,400 and the high end is 972,500 in 2000. From this, the Economic Roundtable paper extrapolates a mid-range 2004 estimate of 679,000, or 15% of the workforce. (Note that the total workforce of Los Angeles County is about 4.5 million, while the total population is closer to 10 million.)

"Fact" 2: 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.LAT citations: May 15, 2005 — "According to Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, 95% of the hundreds of outstanding homicide warrants (and 60% of outstanding felony warrants) in L.A. are for illegal immigrants."Similar citations: January 19, 2004

Factual basis: An outstanding warrant is quite a different beast than a regular warrant, so this "fact" left out the key word. We did some more checking on the outstanding warrants point itself. MacDonald stated this in a 2004 City Journal article, and in testimony before the House of Representatives in spring 2005, noting that this came to 1,200-1,500 warrants. One LAPD officer cited the same factoid in the National Review earlier this year, saying that it's specific to "the first half of 2004". But Jane Robison, press secretary for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, told us that the D.A. does not keep track of this number; a representative with Detective Headquarters said the same.

"Fact" 3: 75% of people on the Most Wanted List in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
LAT citations: None.

Factual basis: We can't locate such a fact anywhere. The Los Angeles Police Department's most wanted list contains a number of people with unknown or obscured identities, suggesting that tallying the legal status of everyone on the list would be very difficult if not impossible. Ditto for the FBI's most-wanted list.

"Fact" 4: Over 2/3's of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal whose births were paid for by taxpayers.

LAT citations: Jan. 15, 1999 — "As many as 70,000 illegal immigrants a year use state-funded prenatal services." (Similar citations: Jan. 14, 1999, June 12, 1998, March 6, 1998, Jan. 30, 1998, Jan. 4, 1998, Dec. 18, 1997, Aug. 26, 1997, July 10, 1997, Feb. 6, 1997, Nov. 13, 1996, Nov. 5, 1996, Nov. 2, 1996, OCt. 24, 1996, Oct. 17, 1996)
Feb. 14, 1999 — "Two-thirds of all births here are to foreign-born mothers." (Similar citation: July 25, 2004 — "40% of the births in California are to foreign-born women.")
July 7, 1998 — "[Rep. Elton] Gallegly [(R-Simi Valley)] cited a 1990-91 Los Angeles County study that showed that two-thirds of the women giving birth in public hospitals were undocumented." (Similar citations: Oct. 2, 1995, July 19, 1995, June 11, 1995, Jan. 27, 1995, Nov. 21, 1993, Sept. 13, 1993, Aug. 17, 1993, Aug. 1, 1993, May 28, 1992, Apr. 2, 1992, Oct. 26, 1991, Oct. 24, 1991)

Factual basis: None of these citations establishes the "fact" above. According to the California Department of Health Services, 158,782 babies were born in L.A. County in 2001 (these are the most recent statistics available online). Of these, 99,089 were to Hispanic mothers. That's just under 2/3 — 62.4% for all Hispanic moms, which would include legal and undocumented mothers from Mexico as well as other countries.

"Fact" 5: Nearly 25% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.

LAT citations: May 1, 2005, in an op-ed by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) — "More than 10% of the inmates in U.S. jails and prisons are illegal aliens, and in California it is more than 20%."
July 11, 2004 — "Each year, the [Los Angeles] County Jail system processes about 170,000 inmates, and federal officials estimate that a fourth of them are illegal immigrants. But with just a fraction of the foreign-born being questioned, officials say it is impossible to know exactly how many illegal immigrants are in the system and how much the county should receive in federal compensation." (Similar citations for Riverside County, Apr. 12, 2006; Anaheim city, Nov. 5, 1997, June 27, 1996; Los Angeles County, Jan. 25, 1996, Jan. 15, 1996, July 10, 1995, May 23, 1995; state and county, Nov. 27, 1993, June 1, 1993, Oct. 19, 1992, Oct. 6, 1992, Aug. 4, 1992, Aug. 18, 1991, Dec. 16, 1990, Dec. 4, 1985)

Factual basis: The 25% figure could be approximately correct for state and federal prisons in California, or correct for county, at least as of 2004. But "detention centers" is an extremely broad term that could include all juvenile detention facilities, federal prisons, state prisons, and county jails in California's 58 counties — making this figure very tough to come by. The San Francisco Chronicle offered a lower figure for state prisons on May 4: "Of the nearly 171,000 inmates crowding state prisons, 22,478, or about 13 percent as of March 31, are undocumented immigrants or are suspected of being undocumented." The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group in favor of reducing immigration, offers a lower figure for L.A. County jails: "Deportable aliens comprise 11% of the Los Angeles County jail population costing the county an estimated $75 million a year."

"Fact" 6: Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages

.LAT citations: Jan. 31, 1994 — "As many as 100,000 families in Los Angeles County are believed to be living in bootlegged apartments or illegally converted garages."
May 24, 1987 — "A systematic survey by The Times indicates that about 42,000 garages are sheltering about 200,000 people in Los Angeles County." (Similar citations: Apr. 3, 1989)
Factual basis: None of these estimates makes clear who among those taking shelter in garages are in the country illegally. No comment so far from county offices. One City of Los Angeles representative said that the last tally was done over five years ago, and found 50,000 to 70,000 illegally converted units in the city of Los Angeles, out of about 800,000 residences.

"Fact" 7: The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.

LAT citations: May 15, 2005, in an op-ed by attorney Carol Platt Liebau — "Of the membership of the notorious 18th Street gang, estimated at 20,000, fully 60% are illegal aliens, according to a 1995 report by the state Department of Justice." (Similar citations: Jan. 19, 2004, March 25, 2000, June 11, 1997, Dec. 17, 1996, Nov. 21, 1996, Nov. 17, 1996)
Factual basis: Heather MacDonald of Manhattan Institute stated that "No one knows for certain the percentage of illegals in gangs, thanks in large part to sanctuary laws themselves." She does offer some statistics in the City Journal:

A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. [...]

The leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002, says former assistant U.S. attorney Luis Li.

Even if you accept the 18th Street Gang estimates, which would be notoriously difficult to determine with accuracy, that's just one gang in a city where several prominent gangs — including the Crips, Bloods and Aryan Nation — are not largely comprised of immigrants, at least not from "south of the border."

"Fact" 8: Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
LAT citations: None.
Factual basis: No comment yet from HUD, and the only statistic we found online is at FAIR, and it is for only the state of California:

The state Housing and Community Development department has prepared new screening rules based on the welfare reform legislation adopted by Congress in 1996 that would ban illegal aliens from public housing programs. The HCD estimates that as many as 5 percent of 25,000 housing units could be affected.

"Fact" 9: 21 radio stations in L.A. are Spanish speaking.
LAT citations: None in the last 10 years.
Factual basis: Estimates vary by source: one website lists 15 Spanish stations out of 78, another lists 18 out of 83.

"Fact" 10: In L.A. County, 5.1 million people speak English. 3.9 million speak Spanish (10.2 million people in L.A.County).

LAT citations: None.Factual basis: The Census reports that as of the year 2004, 3.9 million people in L.A. County speak only English at home; 3.7 million speak primarily Spanish at home.

Right winger Pundits and xenophobes are nearly comical and they almost sound coherent; They almost sound convincing as if they actually know what they are talking about.

The funny thing is they sound so sure of themselves, and have a simple black and white view of the world. Everything is easily explained and other complex interpretations of reality are unwelcome.

Take the minutemen and Jimmy Valentine on the 530 AM radio, for example. Talk about people who talk too much and not what they speak about. Anybody can spew garbage and excrement from their lying tongues, that takes no talent. You only need ignorance, racism, confusion, and distorted double standard principles and bastardized morality.

The truth is, none of the lame tired old whines, which the racist anti-immigrant monolingual neanderthals accuse the undocumented people of doing, or being guilty of, can be proven with verifiable and conclusive evidence. In fact quite the contrary is easily proven about all of the things the racists cry about, such as, living off the government, not paying taxes, stealing jobs, depressing wages, hurting the economy, crowding the schools, blah, blah, whine, whine.... it is all lies, just like the WMD's in Iraq.

Being that the right wingers are into fantasy, like WMD's, Santa Claus, and lies about immigrants, maybe they should take up reading comics, or get a life. This is America. Speak Spanish! We are not leaving

Everyone who believes illegal immigrants from Mexico should be rounded up and deported should be conscripted by this government to take over the work in the fields that feeds this nation.

This is a Republican manufactured problem from the Reagan era of union busting and of policy intended to saturate this country with cheap labor. Coupled with the stagnation of wages and the increase of necessary basic living costs, people are feeling the financial squeeze and are looking for a scapegoat.

What amazes me is the most rabid on this issue are those who either enjoy taxpayer sponsored retirements with health benefits, or those who have benefited from cheap labor to enhance their own financial security. The fight is between Republican factions over who is going to pay for necessary services, like health care.

Well, let the rats eat the rats on this one. It's your fight, because you are just about the only ones left with any money to fight over. Racism, myths, BS and outright lies is what is fueling this, along with right wing nut case political commentators.

We have a documented history in this country of this kind of racist behavior, from the Chinese, to European Immigrants, to Blacks in the old south, to now the Mexican immigrant. Building walls is not new, the original idea comes from wanting to build a wall between Arizona and California to keep migrants of the Dust Bowl era out of California.

The worry then was a shift in political control and power by the railroad barons, and its the same worry now by the current new movers and shakers, from the same old family and political ties. And those were American citizens. I welcome new blood into this country, it keeps the population from evolving genetically into the equivelent of European royalty.

Uneducated immigrants do the work that is the dirtiest, hardest and for damn little compensation. Illegal or not legal is a phony argument that can be cured with a stroke of a pen. What that won't cure however is greed. The problem is not working people or any residency status. It's McKinley era economics and the same old race baiting that has been going on for hundreds of years in this country by the same old faction.

Bottom line is reality. There are 280 million people in this country that need to eat every day. What is your plan to feed the masses? If it doesn't include YOU working in the fields then it is not a plan.

We can't wash away the racism inherent in some, but we can reduce the everyday pressure on working people by recognizing that allowing employers to exploit and underpay their employees requires that someone else subsidize those low wages via emergency room health care, food banks, soup kitchens, ect. Tell the ag industry and Chamber of Commerce of get out the way of a raise in minimum wage with a COLA to keep working afloat,tell the health care and insurance industry to get their snouts out of trough, and tell corporate employers (and that's what big ag is)that for once they are going to have to pony up some money like the rest of us.

Then figure out how many low wage workers it takes to create just one taxpayer sponsored retirement check for those like Michael White who have no clue what it's like to be poor and sick at the same time and don't enjoy reduced food costs through the Commissary. Immigrants are here to work and chase the old American Dream. They are honest, decent people. I welcome them, and wish their families well.

Links We Like
· Pew Hispanic Center
· National Immigration Forum
· National Council of La Raza
· Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Home Page
· Manhattan Institute
· Federation for American Immigration Reform
· Center for Immigration Studies


Yes, they do pay sales tax, along with income tax as well. They do not get it back. Whether or not they are working under a false social security number has nothing to do with it - the money still comes out of their checks and the government gets to keep it in their pockets. People are only saying that they don't pay income tax because they only want to be able to complain a little more about them. Those people should find out the truth before they attempt to discuss something they are clueless about.

Illegal Immigrants are Paying a Lot More Taxes Than You ThinkEight million illegals pay Social Security, Medicare, and income taxesBy Shikha Dalmia
Denying public services to people who pay their taxes is an affront to America's bedrock belief in fairness. But many "pull-up-the-drawbridge" politicians want to do just that when it comes to illegal immigrants.

The fact that illegal immigrants pay taxes at all will come as news to many Americans. A stunning two-thirds of illegal immigrants pay Medicare, Social Security and personal income taxes. Yet, nativists like Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., have popularized the notion that illegal aliens are a colossal drain on the nation's hospitals, schools and welfare programs — consuming services that they don't pay for.

In reality, the 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified illegal immigrants from nearly all means-tested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization. The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education.

Nevertheless, Tancredo and his ilk pushed a bill through the House criminalizing all aid to illegal aliens — even private acts of charity by priests, nurses and social workers. Potentially, any soup kitchen that offers so much as a free lunch to an illegal could face up to five years in prison and seizure of assets.

The Senate bill that recently collapsed would have tempered these draconian measures against private aid. But no one — Democrat or Republican — seems to oppose the idea of withholding public services. Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that requires everyone who gets Medicaid — the government-funded health care program for the poor — to offer proof of U.S. citizenship so we can avoid "theft of these benefits by illegal aliens," as Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., puts it.

But, immigrants aren't flocking to the United States to mooch off the government. According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don't have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS' scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers. No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows.

What's more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they'll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security Administration stashes in the “earnings suspense file” — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus. The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year.

Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children. The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume.

Yes, many illegal migrants impose a strain on border communities on whose doorstep they first arrive, broke and unemployed. To solve this problem equitably, these communities ought to receive the surplus taxes that federal government collects from immigrants. But the real reason border communities are strained is the lack of a guest worker program. Such a program would match willing workers with willing employers in advance so that they wouldn't be stuck for long periods where they disembark while searching for jobs.

The cost of undocumented aliens is an issue that immigrant bashers have created to whip up indignation against people they don't want here in the first place. With the Senate having just returned from yet another vacation and promising to revisit the stalled immigration bill, politicians ought to set the record straight: Illegals are not milking the government. If anything, it is the other way around.

Economics 101 on Illegal Immigrants-Standard and Poor’s

S&P offers a novel perspective on immigration reform, taking into account the workers' contributions and impact on taxes, growth, and spending

With heated political rhetoric and large demonstrations in the news, illegal immigration is now Topic A in the U.S. The focus: The debate now in Congress about what action should be taken to control the steady inflow of undocumented workers.
The need to secure the nation's borders as part of the war on terror has led to renewed concern in the U.S. about the scope and cost of illegal immigration.While Standard & Poor's Ratings Services believes that elements of these two issues -- national security and illegal immigration -- overlap, they're essentially separate problems with their own dynamics.
With the issue raising controversy nationwide, S&P has attempted to answer some of the crucial questions involved in the illegal-immigration debate, and its costs and benefits in the most affected states and municipalities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
What is the scope of undocumented immigration in the U.S.?According to most estimates, about 11 million undocumented immigrants are now in the U.S., with about 56% coming from Mexico and 22% from other Latin American countries. Many Latino immigrants end up settling or working in California, Texas, and Arizona, although noticeable numbers now reside in the South, Midwest, Northeast, and Rocky Mountain states.
Approximately two-thirds have been in the U.S. for 10 years or fewer. Recent statistics from the Pew Hispanic Research Center indicate that undocumented immigrants account for about 4.9% of the civilian labor force, or 7.2 million workers out of a total U.S. labor force of 148 million.
What are the strategies for dealing with the influx of undocumented immigrants?

The approach spearheaded by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wisc.), and approved by the House of Representatives in December, 2005, is considered "too harsh" among its strongest critics. Its provisions include subjecting anyone who aided undocumented immigrants to federal prosecution and jail terms of up to five years, criminalizing current undocumented immigrants, expediting procedures for deporting them, and militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border with added guards and a 700-mile-long high-tech fence.
The House bill also contains no provision for guest-worker status.In the Senate, a more moderate version of immigration reform proposed by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) calls for guest-worker approval for 400,000 people, modifies the stiffest penalties for aiding illegal immigrants, and sets a path for them to eventually become citizens. This Senate version also contains less-dramatic provisions to boost border security.
However, the Kennedy-McCain bill failed to garner enough support within the Senate to survive.In an effort to achieve a compromise, Senate Republicans reached an agreement on Apr. 6 on a proposed bill that would still include an eventual path to guaranteed citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years.
In addition, the bill would grant temporary working visas to those who have been in the country for two to five years. These workers would be allowed to apply for citizenship, but would have no guarantee of obtaining it. Finally, undocumented immigrants who have been in the country would be required to leave and could apply for worker status, but would not be guaranteed to obtain it.We believe that the House bill's get-tough approach is unlikely to survive in its present form.
While the Apr. 6 Senate compromise is a step forward in the approval of immigration reform, the bill will face an uphill battle as the Senate and the House hash out significant differences in their approaches to the proposed worker program and an eventual path to citizenship.What are the costs of undocumented immigration in the U.S.?There are real costs for some states and municipalities, especially for health care and education.
But Standard & Poor's believes that a serious misallocation of these costs among various levels of government is at least as much of a problem as their overall magnitude.Each year, for example, the U.S. Social Security Administration maintains roughly $6 billion to $7 billion of Social Security contributions in an "earnings suspense file" -- an account for W-2 tax forms that cannot be matched to the correct Social Security number.
The vast majority of these numbers are attributable to undocumented workers who will never claim their benefits.If those funds could be earmarked for local support, they would make a sizable dent in education costs. Local school districts are estimated to educate 1.8 million undocumented children.
At an average annual cost of $7,500 (averages vary by jurisdiction) per student, the cost of providing education to these children is about $11.2 billion. That means roughly half of the education costs for undocumented immigrant children could be met if these Social Security funds could be redirected.While this specific reallocation of funds may never occur, the principle, in our opinion, remains valid: Taxes from the spending of undocumented workers can help offset the costs those workers generate.
Past studies have shown that even in a state like California, which has the highest number of undocumented immigrants, those immigrants generate approximately one-third to one-half of their estimated costs to the state through sales taxes and other assorted fees. In short, these costs are real, but they could also be more manageable. What are the credit implications for the states and municipalities most affected by illegal immigration?

Standard & Poor's has yet to see a direct effect on states' and localities' credit quality as a result of undocumented immigration costs. The impact is difficult to evaluate because no clear correlation exists between the two. Many localities that attract high numbers of undocumented immigrants, such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York, also enjoy relatively low unemployment rates, healthy income growth, and increasing property values, all of which contribute to stable financial performance.
A more complete analysis must also consider these workers' contributions beyond payroll and income taxes. Undocumented immigrants are consumers who contribute to both the economy's overall growth with their purchases and to state and local sales taxes. Many undocumented immigrants also pay real estate taxes, either directly as homeowners or indirectly as renters.
Those taxes are a prime source of funding for state and local governments.What might the consequences be if illegal immigration was severely restricted and guest worker status made more difficult to achieve?We believe that the first and most noticeable effect would be on the business sectors that most heavily employ these workers -- among homebuilders, where undocumented workers provide much of the semiskilled labor, and in agriculture, where unskilled workers frequently work quite cheaply.
Nursing home and some health-care workers might also be affected. (Some employers in these fields now shield themselves from penalties for using undocumented immigrants by doing their hiring through middlemen and subcontractors who are willing to take the risk -- and often a sizable chunk of the immigrants' pay to make it worth their while.)
We would expect to see costs for employers in these industries to gradually rise as the pool of cheap labor diminished. Those higher costs would likely be passed along to consumers, resulting in pricier homes, produce, and medical care, although the inflationary impact would likely be small. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments against large numbers of undocumented workers is that although they serve to keep prices down in the industries where they work, they do so by depressing wages.
Would a more lenient immigration law increase stable immigration patterns? Or would it make the situation more volatile by attracting even higher numbers of immigrants?
This is a central question in the current debate. No one can yet know if a program that points undocumented workers toward citizenship will serve to boost the number of immigrants coming to the U.S. What we do know, however, is that part of the answer to that question will depend on how well the Mexican economy fares. If it can create enough jobs to meet the demands of its burgeoning population, immigration policy made in Washington may become a far less contentious issue than it is now.


The April 15 tax deadline to file taxes causes most Americans stress and anguish. But for the millions of people living and working illegally in the United States, filing taxes can be an opportunity to prove their economic contribution and document their residence here. The IRS allows them to file using a special number. But some immigration critics don't like the idea of a federal agency accommodating illegal immigrants

The IRS has created an absurd situation, where it is working against the goals of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.- Marti Dinerstein, Center for Immigration Studies

He's lived in the states for five years, but he's never filed taxes. He says he needs to start filing to get right with the Internal Revenue Service and immigration authorities if he wants to build a future here.

But the laws here are harder to navigate than these suburban streets.

"U.S. law says that illegals have no business being here," he says. "The tax laws say it doesn't matter that you're illegal -- you have to pay. It's not fair is it. If I'm going to be here I'm going to pay and follow the rules, so I say they should give me a chance to work."

Aniceto used a fake Social Security number when he got his job with the janitorial service. Illegal immigrants cannot legally get a Social Security number. They either buy one on the black market, use someone else's, or -- in Aniceto's case -- make one up. Some employers don't verify that the Social Security number is real or belongs to their employee.

Now that Aniceto is self-employed and wants to report his cash income, he needs a way to file his taxes. The janitorial service Aniceto works for withholds taxes from his paycheck. But Aniceto does not declare income from his day job.

Nine years ago, the IRS created the Individual Tax Identification Number. The idea then was to collect taxes from rich foreigners with investments in the United States. The IRS soon realized it could also use the number to tap into the untaxed cash economy where many illegal immigrants work.

Aniceto fears being deported. You might think that he would fear filing his taxes and calling attention to himself. But he says he knows that revenue and immigration authorities in the United States don't talk to each other. He knows that as long as he keeps working and stays out of trouble, he'll be safe. It's the IRS's tradition of privacy that allows people like Aniceto to join in the American ritual of filing taxes and -- at the same time -- stay under the radar of immigration authorities.

The state of Minnesota accepts the special filing numbers to process state income taxes, and expects illegal immigrants like Aniceto to use it. State law requires illegal immigrants to file just like everyone else if they have enough income.

The state typically doesn't count how many people file their taxes using these numbers. One study released last year showed that nearly 8,000 Minnesota residents used the numbers.

Carole Wald, the assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Revenue Department, says it's not the agency's job to worry about the legal status of people like Aniceto.

"It's not in our bailiwick to determine whether they're residents or not, or whether they've gone through all of the work that it takes to be a citizen," Wald says. "We know none of that. As far as we're concerned they worked here. They have something that proves they worked here. Then they had taxable income."

In fact, revenue authorities have kept illegal immigrants' taxes so private that immigration officials don't even know they can file them.

When contacted by Minnesota Public Radio, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied that illegal immigrants could even get a tax-filing number.

But, after checking the IRS Web site, he conceded that the IRS must have changed its policy. He claims it was a recent change. However, illegal immigrants have been filing their taxes with the special filing number for nearly a decade.

The immigration official said that he didn't see a contradiction between his agency's mission and IRS practice. He said each agency is just doing its job. Still, policy analyst Marti Dinerstein says that immigration and revenue authorities should get on the same page when it comes to illegal immigrants.

Dinerstein is a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C. think tank that favors stricter limits on immigration.

She says that people like Aniceto are probably harmless and just want to work. But the fact that the IRS has made it easy for him to file his taxes "institutionalizes" illegal immigration.

"The IRS has created an absurd situation, where it is working against the goals of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security," Dinerstein says. "It likes the tax revenue. But by refusing to cooperate with the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security by sharing knowledge, it is really aiding and abetting illegal immigration in the United States."

Last month, Aniceto Flores joined about a dozen other people looking for answers at a tax workshop.

Two women who led the workshop spoke about their experiences filing taxes as illegal immigrants. They told the audience they should file their taxes. They claimed that as long as they're honest, filing will help them more than it will hurt them.

"It's important to pay taxes because we need to think of the future," Adriana Ramirez said. "The only way to show that we've been here, that we're doing things right, is to pay taxes. It's the only way."

Aniceto still has doubts. He says he wants to do the right thing, but the rules are fuzzy and that worries him. Like most Americans, he's afraid of the IRS and getting audited. But for him, if he files his taxes and makes a mistake, he could draw the attention of authorities and could get thrown out of the country.

THE CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.
It is the Center's mission to expand the base of public knowledge and understanding of the need for an immigration policy that gives first concern to the broad national interest. The Center is animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.


Packages of false papers allow illegal immigrants to get employment and pay taxes, enriching the Social Security fund for other employees


STOCKTON, Calif. - Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

While it has been evident for years that illegal immigrants pay a variety of taxes, the extent of their contributions to Social Security is striking: the money added up to about 10 percent of last year's surplus - the difference between what the system currently receives in payroll taxes and what it doles out in pension benefits. Moreover, the money paid by illegal workers and their employers is factored into all the Social Security Administration's projections.

Illegal immigration, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, noted sardonically, could provide "the fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security."

It is impossible to know exactly how many illegal immigrant workers pay taxes. But according to specialists, most of them do. Since 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act set penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, most such workers have been forced to buy fake ID's to get a job.

Currently available for about $150 on street corners in just about any immigrant neighborhood in California, a typical fake ID package includes a green card and a Social Security card. It provides cover for employers, who, if asked, can plausibly assert that they believe all their workers are legal. It also means that workers must be paid by the book - with payroll tax deductions.

IRCA, as the immigration act is known, did little to deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants or to discourage them from working. But for Social Security's finances, it was a great piece of legislation.

Starting in the late 1980's, the Social Security Administration received a flood of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect - sometimes simply fictitious - Social Security numbers. It stashed them in what it calls the "earnings suspense file" in the hope that someday it would figure out whom they belonged to.

The file has been mushrooming ever since: $189 billion worth of wages ended up recorded in the suspense file over the 1990's, two and a half times the amount of the 1980's.

In the current decade, the file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year, generating $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security tax revenue and about $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes.

In 2002 alone, the last year with figures released by the Social Security Administration, nine million W-2's with incorrect Social Security numbers landed in the suspense file, accounting for $56 billion in earnings, or about 1.5 percent of total reported wages.

Social Security officials do not know what fraction of the suspense file corresponds to the earnings of illegal immigrants. But they suspect that the portion is significant.

"Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes," said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for illegal immigration.

Other researchers say illegal immigrants are the main contributors to the suspense file. "Illegal immigrants account for the vast majority of the suspense file," said Nick Theodore, the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Especially its growth over the 1990's, as more and more undocumented immigrants entered the work force."

Using data from the Census Bureau's current population survey, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group in Washington that favors more limits on immigration, estimated that 3.8 million households headed by illegal immigrants generated $6.4 billion in Social Security taxes in 2002.

A comparative handful of former illegal immigrant workers who have obtained legal residence have been able to accredit their previous earnings to their new legal Social Security numbers. Mr. Camarota is among those opposed to granting a broad amnesty to illegal immigrants, arguing that, among other things, they might claim Social Security benefits and put further financial stress on the system.

The mismatched W-2's fit like a glove on illegal immigrants' known geographic distribution and the patchwork of jobs they typically hold. An audit found that more than half of the 100 employers filing the most earnings reports with false Social Security numbers from 1997 through 2001 came from just three states: California, Texas and Illinois. According to an analysis by the Government Accountability Office, about 17 percent of the businesses with inaccurate W-2's were restaurants, 10 percent were construction companies and 7 percent were farm operations.

Most immigration helps Social Security's finances, because new immigrants tend to be of working age and contribute more than they take from the system. A simulation by Social Security's actuaries found that if net immigration ran at 1.3 million a year instead of the 900,000 in their central assumption, the system's 75-year funding gap would narrow to 1.67 percent of total payroll, from 1.92 percent - savings that come out to half a trillion dollars, valued in today's money.

Illegal immigrants help even more because they will never collect benefits. According to Mr. Goss, without the flow of payroll taxes from wages in the suspense file, the system's long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.

Yet to immigrants, the lack of retirement benefits is just part of the package of hardship they took on when they decided to make the trek north. Tying vines in a vineyard some 30 miles north of Stockton, Florencio Tapia, 20, from Guerrero, along Mexico's Pacific coast, has no idea what the money being withheld from his paycheck is for. "I haven't asked," Mr. Tapia said.

For illegal immigrants, Social Security numbers are simply a tool needed to work on this side of the border. Retirement does not enter the picture.

"There will be a moment when I won't be able to continue working," Mr. Martínez acknowledges. "But that's many years off."

Mario Avalos, a naturalized Nicaraguan immigrant who prepares income tax returns for many workers in the area, including immigrants without legal papers, observes that many older workers return home to Mexico. "Among my clients," he said, "I can't recall anybody over 60 without papers."

No doubt most illegal immigrants would prefer to avoid Social Security altogether. As part of its efforts to properly assign the growing pile of unassigned wages, Social Security sends about 130,000 letters a year to employers with large numbers of mismatched pay statements.

Though not an intended consequence of these so-called no-match letters, in many cases employers who get them dismiss the workers affected. Or the workers - fearing that immigration authorities might be on their trail - just leave.

Last February, for instance, discrepancies in Social Security numbers put an end to the job of Minerva Ortega, 25, from Zacatecas, in northern Mexico, who worked in the cheese department at a warehouse for Mike Campbell & Associates, a distributor for Trader Joe's, a popular discount food retailer with a large operation in California.

The company asked dozens of workers to prove that they had cleared up or were in the process of clearing up the "discrepancy between the information on our payroll related to your employment and the S.S.A.'s records." Most could not.

Ms. Ortega said about 150 workers lost their jobs. In a statement, Mike Campbell said that it did not fire any of the workers, but Robert Camarena, a company official, acknowledged that many left.

Ms. Ortega is now looking for work again. She does not want to go back to the fields, so she is holding out for a better-paid factory job. Whatever work she finds, though, she intends to go on the payroll with the same Social Security number she has now, a number that will not jibe with federal records.

With this number, she will continue paying taxes. Last year she paid about $1,200 in Social Security taxes, matched by her employer, on an income of $19,000.

She will never see the money again, she realizes, but at least she will have a job in the United States.

"I don't pay much attention," Ms. Ortega said. "I know I don't get any benefit."


Through its issuance of Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) appears to be blind or indifferent to the reality that it has:

created an official U.S. tax number that illegal aliens are using as identification, thereby making it easier for them to meld unnoticed into our society;

endangered homeland security by issuing ITINs to illegal aliens, without adequately ensuring that they are denied to terrorists, criminals on the FBI database, and those under deportation notices;

exceeded its traditional role as a tax receiver and processor by marketing the ITIN to illegal immigrant communities;

failed to provide adequate safeguards to prevent illegal aliens from receiving tax benefits to which they are not entitled;

subverted U.S. immigration laws by withholding information from the INS and SSA about fraudulent activity of illegal aliens;

provided an ID vehicle that advocates hope will be used to "regularize" illegal aliens; and
withheld from public review data that is relevant to determining the economic contribution of illegal aliens to U.S. society.

The events of September 11, 2001, were a wake-up call to the American people that something must be done to protect our core identity documents. They were shocked to learn that 18 of the 19 terrorists possessed either state-issued or counterfeit driver’s licenses or ID cards and all 19 had obtained Social Security numbers (SSNs) — some real, some fake. The hijackers simply tapped into an enormous market for fraudulent documents that exists because nine million people have successfully breached our borders and now reside here illegally. Their presence has spawned widespread document and identity fraud that threatens our ability to distinguish illegal aliens from U.S. citizens and legal foreign residents.

This realization jolted Congress, many state legislatures, state motor vehicle departments, and the Social Security Administration into taking a variety of steps to protect the integrity of driver’s licenses and Social Security cards — the two most widely used identity documents in the United States — from misappropriation by illegal residents. Much remains to be done, but real progress has been made.

Ironically, however, the IRS, a division of the Treasury Department, is simultaneously working to provide illegal aliens with a U.S. government-issued identity number that obviates the need for a Social Security number. It is called the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Very little public information about these numbers has been made available, even though the IRS began issuing them in July 1996, and over 5,500,000 of them have been issued.


Employers are required by law to verify that an employee has a valid SSN. The Social Security Administration has long been aware that millions of people living illegally in the United States have obtained SSNs fraudulently using a variety of means. It has systematically taken steps to limit the purposes for which an SSN can be issued and to better validate the underlying "breeder" documents presented to obtain a SSN. In May 2002, SSA announced a new initiative, a beneficial by-product of which has been to identify people working illegally in the United States. The program’s purpose is to reduce the size and growth of what is known as the Earnings Suspense File (ESF).

When employers file annual withholding tax reports, SSA matches the report from the employer to the name, address, and SSN provided by an employee. So-called "mismatches" are posted to the ESF, which contains information on $327 billion in wages accrued between tax years 1937 and 1999. In 1999 alone, the ESF grew by 8.3 million W-2s and $39.4 billion in wages. A recent SSA report indicated that 96 per cent of ESF wages had been posted since 1970, about the time that an unprecedented number of illegal immigrants began arriving in the United States.1

This year SSA sent out over 750,000 letters to employers of approximately seven million workers whose names did not match the SSN provided.2 Employees who cannot provide a credible reason for the mismatch either voluntarily seek employment elsewhere or are terminated. Unfortunately, the SSA has no legal authority to levy fines and penalties against either employees who fraudulently obtain a SSN or against employers who repeatedly submit large numbers of wage reports with incorrect SSNs. They must rely on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to do so, and audits have revealed this rarely happens.3

The IRS Provides "Official" Identification to Illegal AliensThe IRS’s seeming lack of interest in protecting the integrity of the Social Security number from fraudulent use pales to insignificance, however, when faced with the reality that it is responsible for providing a backdoor way for millions of illegal aliens to receive a U.S. government-issued identity number. And it is doing so despite the fact that in 1999 the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration said the decision by the IRS to issue these Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to illegal aliens "seems counter-productive to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) mission to identify illegal aliens and prevent unlawful entry."4

Genesis of ITINs. The audit report referenced above said that a 1994 IRS investigation uncovered significant compliance problems "with the $80 billion annual nonresident alien U.S. investment income." In response, the IRS created an ITIN for non-resident aliens in order to match information documents showing dividend, interest and other income earned by individuals to the tax returns they file. The IRS began issuing ITINs in July 1996.

Either at the program’s inception or shortly thereafter, the IRS seems to have expanded the initial purpose of the ITIN by making a policy decision to issue it to resident aliens, including individuals residing illegally in the United States. The audit report referenced above questioned this policy to "legalize" illegal aliens.

Significant portions of the report were deemed to be so sensitive they were redacted from the public document, in part because it is felt that some information could be used to facilitate fraud by illegal aliens. Once an IRS report has been redacted, it stays that way. Therefore, the full text of the 1999 Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report on ITINs is still not available for public review. No follow-up report was issued.

Illegals get undeserved tax benefits. The 1999 report appears to include extensive commentary on the ITIN applications of 340,000 illegal aliens, but most of it was redacted. The IRS’s objective may be to collect tax revenue from the broadest base possible — a laudable goal. Ironically, however, this has resulted in the IRS ignoring illegals’ presence in the United States. One of the reasons why illegals are issued ITINs is that IRS regulations determine resident alien status based on "substantial presence" in the United States, not legal residence. Thus, illegal aliens who file tax returns are treated in the same way as legal foreign residents and receive the same tax benefits, such as spousal exemptions, child and education tax credits. The one exception seems to be the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to legal permanent residents but which the IRS decided would not be available to illegal aliens.

Intended or not, it is clear that a significant number of illegal aliens are receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is talked about quite openly by their advocates. Moreover, in its publications the IRS is signaling that this is a problem. One of three bullet points at the top of Form W-7 used to apply for an ITIN reads: "Receipt of an ITIN does not make you eligible to claim the earned income credit (EIC)."5

Further, a section describing the Earned Income Tax Credit on the IRS web site lists six rules that must be followed. "Rule 1. You Must Have a Valid Social Security Number (SSN). . .You cannot get the EIC if, instead of an SSN, you (or your spouse if filing a joint return) have an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). ITINs are issued by the Internal Revenue Service to noncitizens who cannot get an SSN."6

It is an unfortunate fact of life that U.S. citizens routinely claim tax deductions and credits to which they are not entitled. It is a cat and mouse game that presumably the IRS wins more often than not. However, there was language in the Inspector General’s 1999 report implying that both "revenue protection issues" and "operational problems during the implementation" period resulted in the ITIN being vulnerable to fraud. It is possible that the IRS system was programmed in a way that makes it very difficult to prevent payment of the Earned Income Credit if a resident alien unauthorized to work in the United States claims it.

IRS shields illegals from INS. This same audit report said that issuing ITINs to illegal aliens may take on greater significance if the IRS were to come under the scrutiny of Congress. "Illegal alien presence in the United States is a congressional concern which is addressed by legislation in the Welfare Reform Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996."7

The Inspector General’s audit also pointed out that the IRS has a policy of shielding illegal immigrants from exposure to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which appears to be in contravention of the express wishes of Congress. "The IRS provides disclosure protection to illegal alien applicants. The Congress has clearly stated how the federal government is to communicate between agencies concerning illegal aliens. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 . . . states that information concerning illegal alien status should be provided to the INS notwithstanding any other law." Subsequent exposition revealed that IRS management believed its own regulations guaranteed the confidentiality of tax return information and did not intend to share any returns with the INS.8

If that is still the position of the IRS, it is even more untenable today. The USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed overwhelmingly by Congress in response to the terrorist attacks on America, explicitly calls for greater information sharing among government agencies, law enforcement and the intelligence community.9

It is not clear if the IRS regulations regarding confidentiality relate specifically to divulging tax information, such as income, number of dependents, etc., or if they also forbid the IRS from sharing even the taxpayer’s name and identification number with another government agency.

It also is unclear if copies (redacted or not) of the Inspector General’s 1999 report were shared with Congressional committees responsible for oversight of the IRS. The report was addressed to the IRS Commissioner and noted that copies also were being sent to IRS managers affected by the report’s recommendations. This distribution approach differs from that followed by the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, who also addresses his reports to the Commissioner while simultaneously distributing copies to a long list of members of Congress whose committees presumably have oversight over SSA.

IRS ignores fraudulent use of SSNs. Illegal aliens have been warned by advocates not to use the ITIN when applying for employment, as it would expose their illegal status. All publications from both the IRS and the SSA say that an individual can have either an ITIN or an SSN, but not both. But since employees suffer no penalty for using fraudulent SSNs, they continue to do so. Similarly, since employers benefiting from cheap labor also suffer no penalty, they continue to hire illegal aliens without checking the validity of their SSNs. Once someone is hired, employers begin to withhold taxes.

It is believed that far more ITINs have been issued than annual tax returns filed and that illegal residents who file returns do so to claim refunds. If so, presumably they use the ITIN provided by the IRS as their identifier on the 1040 Form, attaching the W-2 form provided by their employer. The catch is that their fraudulently obtained SSNs appear on the W-2 forms. Illegal aliens can obtain a SSN in a variety of ways. They can make up a number, steal or borrow someone else’s, buy a counterfeit Social Security card, or obtain a valid Social Security card fraudulently.10 What is abundantly clear is that they are not entitled to it.

Knowing that the ITIN would not be necessary if the SSN were legitimate, apparently the IRS has been processing the returns anyway — ignoring this clear violation of its own rules. It could not be determined if there is a penalty attached to using both numbers simultaneously or if the IRS notifies the SSA about the possibility of a fraudulently obtained SSN. If the IRS does not do so, it would appear that the agency is undermining the integrity of Social Security numbers and U.S. immigration law and could be endangering homeland security.


One of three bullet points in the "Before you begin" section on the W-7 form to apply for an ITIN is the following message: "This number is for tax purposes only." That seems fairly straightforward. Yet, it is clear that advocates for illegal immigrants are aggressively pushing use of the ITIN as identification for many other purposes. The website of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), contains a section titled "How Can the ITIN be Used to Show Identity?": "There has been growing interest among immigrants and their advocates in using the ITIN as an alternative to the SSN. Indeed, many immigrant groups are successfully advocating for the use of identity documents other than a SSN in order to obtain drivers’ licenses and consumer benefits." NELP goes into extensive detail explaining how illegal immigrants can get around using Social Security numbers.11

Numerous newspaper articles describe how the ITIN is being used to open banking accounts and, in some states, obtain driver’s licenses.12, 13, 14

The most astonishing example is a news release from Fifth Third Bank, headquartered in Ohio. Announcing an initiative to better serve the unique needs of the Hispanic community, Bradlee F. Stamper, President and Chief Executive Officer proudly boasts: "Our first step — and it’s a crucial one — is to start accepting new means of ID for persons otherwise shut out of the U.S. banking system. Starting now, Fifth Third will honor the Matricula Consular Card issued by the Government of Mexico and the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Identification Number as legal identification for immigrants who lack proper identification to open savings and checking accounts."15

Matricula consular. Most media stories link the ITIN to the burgeoning use of the matricula consular, a photo ID being issued by the Mexican government to its citizens living illegally in the United States. The Mexican government has been lobbying state and local governments as well as banks to accept the matricula as official identification. But banks need an official U.S. tax number in order to open an interest-bearing account and, by definition, illegal aliens are not legally entitled to a Social Security number. So the Mexican government is pushing the ITIN as an acceptable alternative and, apparently, the IRS has raised no objection.

Other than noting on its own publications that the ITIN is "for tax purposes only," the IRS seemingly has made no effort to contact banks or their regulators or state motor vehicle departments to let them know that the ITIN is not being authenticated in a way that makes it safe as identification. This omission endangers homeland security.


Media stories and immigrant advocates contend that the IRS has embarked on an aggressive marketing effort to achieve widespread distribution of the ITIN within illegal immigrant communities.16

The Chicago Tribune reported on April 15, 2002, that the "IRS issued more than one million tax IDs last year, up 20 percent from 2000. The agency has issued 4.9 million IDs since it adopted the policy in 1996. [NOTE: As of October 2002, the IRS had issued over 5.5 million ITINs.] Officials presume that most have been issued to illegal aliens, although other people use the IDs as well, such as foreign businessmen working in the United States on short-term projects or foreign relatives still awaiting Social Security numbers. . . .This year, the Chicago IRS office and volunteers have issued thousands of ID numbers through workshops and office visits. Almost 300 immigrants, mainly from Mexico but also from the Middle East and Eastern Europe, pack a typical workshop. The agency is also increasing the number of tax preparers and banks authorized to process ID applications."17

Departure from traditional role. This activism seems a strange departure from the IRS’s traditional passive role of receiver and processor of income tax returns. It is one thing for the IRS to interpret its regulations in a way that results in issuing ITINs to illegal aliens. But it is quite another matter to seek them out and cater to them, thereby making a mockery of U.S. immigration laws. It raises the question as to who authorized this policy and at what level it was approved.

The IRS has designated "acceptance agents" who are authorized to assist applicants in obtaining ITINs. IRS’s website describes acceptance agencies as entities, such as colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, etc. The "etc." is important because it is believed that some acceptance agents are touting the fact that the IRS will not share information with the INS.

This development was anticipated in the 1999 Inspector General’s ITIN audit report, which recommended that: "The IRS needs to include Privacy Act notification on the Form W-7 application form. The Privacy Act notification provides the warning that information can be provided to the Department of Justice within the parameters set by IRC 6103." IRS’s management response to this recommendation was clear cut and affirmative. "A Privacy Act Notice will be added to Form W-7."18 The estimated implementation date was August 31, 1999. As of September 2002, there was no Privacy Act notice on Form W-7.

The Chicago Tribune reported: "Despite growth in the tax IDs, experts say many immigrants will get the IDs only after assurances that immigration authorities will not be involved. . . . 'They think they will get deported,' said Salvador Gonzalez, director of the Midwest Tax Clinic, a Chicago non-profit agency that helps immigrants obtain the IDs. ‘But now people are losing their fear, and I am very, very happy about this.'"19

Groups that advise advocacy organizations on legal issues also convey the same message, although more carefully couched. In a paragraph titled "What are the risks in applying for and using the ITIN?" the National Employment Law Project gives the following advice: "It is not in the IRS’s tax collection interest to disclose information to the INS. Thus far, advocates have not learned of any specific situations where the IRS has shared information with the INS. However, there is no guarantee that IRS or a state agency would not share this information with the INS."20

The Inspector General’s report also warned that the IRS had put itself into a bind by permitting acceptance agents to function in a dual role, acting on the IRS’s behalf as well as the illegal immigrant’s. It said that the implementation of the acceptance agents program had gone beyond its regulatory purpose and their role in facilitating the ITIN application process should be re-examined.21 The current IRS application procedures for becoming an acceptance agent indicate there are two categories — acceptance agents and certifying acceptance agents.

The regulations say: "The role of an acceptance agent is to facilitate the application process and issuance of TINs to alien individuals and foreign persons. An acceptance agent performs this duty by forwarding the completed Form W-7 (together with required documentary evidence) to the IRS."22

This contrasts with the significant authority delegated to a "certifying acceptance agent." "A certifying acceptance agent is a person that is authorized under the agreement with the IRS to submit a Form W-7 to the IRS on behalf of an applicant, without having to furnish supporting documentary evidence. Instead, when submitting a Form W-7 to the IRS, a certifying acceptance agent certifies to the IRS that it has reviewed the appropriate documentation evidencing the ITIN applicant’s identity and alien status, and that it is maintaining a record of such documentation."23 This situation seems somewhat akin to our embassy in Saudi Arabia delegating responsibility for visa interviews and document review to local travel agencies — a much-decried practice that has since been discontinued.

Higher stakes. Since the events of 9/11, the Social Security Administration has limited the purposes for which it will issue an SSN and has built more safeguards into authenticating the documents presented to obtain one. Over at the IRS, however, very little public information exists as to how carefully the agency or its acceptance agents authenticate the documents presented to obtain an ITIN. Perhaps they do not feel it is necessary to do so, because the IRS knowingly gives them to illegal aliens.

But the attacks of September 11th, coupled with evidence that Taxpayer Identification Numbers are being used as IDs to obtain driver’s licenses and open bank accounts, raise the stakes considerably. Issues relating to benefit fraud pale beside those surrounding homeland security. It is not known if ITINs are easily available to citizens of countries that harbor terrorists or to resident aliens appearing on the FBI’s criminal database or to the more than 300,000 aliens who absconded after being served with deportation notices.

Other agencies that provide ID documents, specifically the INS and SSA, have been operating in the glare of Congressional hearings to assure those documents are available only to citizens and legal aliens. It is difficult to understand why the IRS, the only agency that is knowingly offering an official government ID to illegal aliens, has escaped scrutiny.


Advocates contend that illegal immigrants work hard in jobs Americans will not take, pay taxes, contribute to society, and thus should be able to earn their way to legal status. This concept, euphemistically called "earned regularization," would create opportunities for illegal aliens to receive lawful permanent resident status by earning "credits" in a number of ways, including by paying taxes.

The withholding of taxes is involuntary. Federal, state, and local income taxes and Social Security taxes are withheld from paychecks by employers. Workers have no say in the matter. But taxes withheld are not necessarily taxes paid. The United States has a progressive income tax that applies very low tax rates to low-income households. In fact, millions of households pay no federal tax at all. It is believed that the vast majority of illegal residents who file a tax return using an ITIN get full or partial tax refunds because of the low level of their earnings. Indeed, some erroneously receive the Earned Income Credit, intended to supplement the income of the working poor. Thus, ironically, by issuing ITINs the IRS may actually be reducing the tax revenue received from illegal aliens.

Providing an amnesty of some sort to illegal aliens is opposed by a majority of Americans.24 There has been little support to do so in the current session of Congress. However, the concept is still being pushed by illegal immigrant advocates, by the Mexican government and by elected officials eager for political support from the large Hispanic community living in the United States.

The principal argument these advocates make on behalf of an amnesty is that illegal aliens pay taxes. It is true that taxes are withheld for many illegal aliens, but it is involuntary. Census data show that a high percentage of Hispanics earn very low wages. If illegal aliens were to be "regularized" and authorized to work in the United States, it is highly likely that they would pay little or no income tax. The IRS has important data relating to how many illegal aliens have been issued ITINs, how many have filed tax returns, and the net amount of tax that was paid after exemptions, credits, and refunds. This aggregated information needs to be made available to the public, so that if Congress ever debates the merits of another amnesty for illegal aliens, it can do so based on facts, not platitudes.


It appears that in 1996 the IRS decided to treat illegals as "resident aliens" based on their "substantial presence" in the U.S. That decision made illegal aliens eligible for ITINs. Presumably the IRS’s goal was to maximize tax revenues, and it assumed — mistakenly — that the ITIN would be used for tax purposes only. Due to start-up operational problems and subsequent poor administration of the ITIN program, the IRS sustained self-inflicted wounds related to benefit fraud. But, inexplicably, the IRS seems not to have altered its ITIN policies in any meaningful way.

There are many ITIN-related problems that need to be addressed by IRS management and by the Congressional committees with oversight of tax and immigration matters. By far the most urgent issue relates to homeland security. It could be fixed overnight. It is essential that the use of ITINs be strictly limited to tax purposes only. The IRS, or perhaps the Treasury Department of which it is a part, should immediately issue a directive to that effect and widely disseminate it to other federal agencies, state and local governments and their associations, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, financial institutions’ regulators and trade associations, and any other entities that are known to be accepting the ITIN as a form of identification.

September 11 taught us just how important it is to be able to distinguish American citizens and legal foreign residents and visitors from those who have no legal right to be in our country. No security measure is foolproof, but safer is safer. The American people have a right to expect that their government is systematically shutting down any impediments that threaten the integrity of our identity documents.
End Notes
1 Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration. "Recent Efforts to Reduce the Size and Growth of the Social Security Administration's Earnings Suspense File," p. 2. May 2002.

2 AILA Backgrounder on Social Security and Immigration. "Posted on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 38IP2004 (Aug. 9, 2002)."

3 "Recent Efforts to Reduce the Size and Growth of the Social Security Administration's Earnings Suspense File," op. cit., p. 7.

4 Office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration. "The Internal Revenue Service's Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Program Was Not Implemented in Accordance with Internal Revenue Code Regulations," September 1999.

5 Form W-7. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. "Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number."


7 "The Internal Revenue Service's Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Program Was Not Implemented in Accordance with Internal Revenue Code Regulations," op. cit.

8 Ibid., p. 4.

9 Jenks, Rosemary. "The USA Patriot Act of 2001: A Summary of the Anti-Terrorism Law's Immigration Related Provisions," CIS Backgrounder, December 2001.

10 Dinerstein, Marti. "America’s Identity Crisis: Document Fraud is Pervasive and Pernicious," CIS Backgrounder, April 2002.

11 "Immigrants and the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN): How Can the ITIN be Used to Show Identity?" p. 1. National Employment Law Project and National Immigration Law Center, revised May 2002.

12 Avila, Oscar. "Tax ID numbers open door wider for illegal immigrants," Chicago Tribune, April 15, 2002.

13 Brewington, Kelly. "Banks' New Services Target Mexican Customers," The Sun Sentinel, July 8, 2002.

14 Ingram, Carl. "Davis: Let migrants drive. Policy: He supports licenses for work related travel while also safeguarding public security," Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2002.



17 "Tax ID numbers open door wider for illegal immigrants", op. cit.

18 "The Internal Revenue Service's Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Program Was Not Implemented in Accordance with Internal Revenue Code Regulations," op. cit., p. 39.

19 "Tax ID numbers open door wider for illegal immigrants," op. cit.

20 "Immigrants and the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN): How Can the ITIN be Used to Show Identity?", op. cit., p. 3.

21 "The Internal Revenue Service's Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Program Was Not Implemented in Accordance with Internal Revenue Code Regulations," op. cit., pp. 3, 10-12.

22 Revenue Procedure 96-52, sec. 4.01.

23 Revenue Procedure 96-52, sec. 6.01, op cit.

24 "Attitudes Toward Amnesty: Zogby Poll Examines Support Among Different Constituencies." CIS Backgrounder, September 4, 2001. See also: Saad, Lydia. "Americans Clearly Oppose Amnesty for Illegal Mexican Immigrants." Gallup News Service, Poll Analyses, September 6, 2001; and "New Poll Finds That a Majority of Americans Oppose Illegal Amnesty and Favor Immigration Enforcement." Federation for American Immigration Reform, August 30, 2001.

Marti Dinerstein is President of Immigration Matters, a public policy analysis firm in New York and is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. She is the author of America's Identity Crisis: Document Fraud is Pervasive and Pernicious, CIS
The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001A Summary of the Anti-Terrorism Law's Immigration-Related Provisions
December 2001
By Rosemary Jenks
Download the .pdf version

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act), signed into law on October 26, represents the U.S. government’s primary legislative response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Patterned after a proposal developed by the Department of Justice, this new law (Public Law No. 107-56) focuses mainly on reinforcing the arsenal of tools available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and federal prosecutors for identifying and disabling terrorist networks operating both within and outside the United States.

Despite the fact that U.S. immigration policy clearly is responsible for allowing foreign terrorists to enter the United States and conduct terrorist activities, the USA PATRIOT Act treats immigration policy almost as an afterthought.
The immigration provisions included in this law reflect two persistent — and increasingly problematic — perceptions shared by many of our elected representatives and Justice Department officials: first, that the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s primary function is the admission of aliens into the United States, rather than the enforcement of the laws regulating such admissions; and second, that immigration policy is a political quagmire better left untouched.

The first of these perceptions is reflected by the USA PATRIOT Act’s failure to recognize that enforcement of existing immigration laws is just as important in the war on terrorism as better foreign intelligence and more diligent prosecution of those with terrorist ties, and its failure to hold the INS accountable for such enforcement. The second perception is reflected throughout the immigration-related portions of the Act: Rather than requiring immediate action by the INS and the State Department, many provisions simply require studies of potential future actions. Instead of demanding that INS immediately implement certain programs enacted by Congress in 1996, the law requires progress reports.

Undoubtedly, the USA PATRIOT Act contains a number of immigration provisions that will improve our ability to identify and either exclude or prosecute aliens with terrorist ties. It is equally clear, however, that this new law represents only a first step in the immigration-policy reforms that are necessary to combat terrorism effectively and to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks. A detailed summary of the law’s immigration-related provisions follows. The complete text of the law:

Title I – Domestic SecuritySection 102 expresses the Sense of Congress condemning discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans.

Title II – Surveillance

Section 203 grants authority for grand jury and electronic, wire and oral interception information to be shared with immigration officials when a matter of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is involved.

Title III – Money Laundering

Section 326 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a system by which banks can verify the identity of account holders and match their names against a list of known terrorists and terrorist organizations to prevent money laundering.

Title IV – Protecting the Border

Subtitle A – Protecting the Northern BorderSection 402 authorizes a tripling of the number of Border Patrol personnel, Customs personnel, and immigration inspectors along the Northern Border and an additional $50 million each for Customs and INS to improve monitoring technology along the Northern Border.

Section 403 grants INS and State Department personnel access to the FBI’s NCIC-III and the Wanted Persons File for the purpose of checking the criminal history of a visa applicant. INS and State would have access only to extracts from the actual databases, and would have to submit the visa applicant’s fingerprints in order to get the full criminal history. This section also instructs the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to develop and certify within two years of enactment a technology standard that can be used to verify the identity of visa applicants and that can be used as the basis of an integrated system that will verify identity at ports of entry and share information with other law enforcement agencies.

Section 404 removes the existing restrictions on overtime pay for INS personnel.

Section 405 requires the Attorney General to report to Congress on the feasibility of expanding the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) to include visa applicants and visa holders wanted in connection with a criminal investigation, so they may be denied a visa or identified upon entry into or exit from the United States.

Subtitle B – Enhanced Immigration Provisions

Section 411 broadens the grounds for excluding terrorists and aliens with ties to terrorist organizations. It authorizes the exclusion of the spouses and children of aliens who have committed acts linking them to terrorist organizations within the past five years and makes inadmissible any alien determined by the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to have been associated with a terrorist organization and who intends to commit terrorists acts in while in the United States. (Such aliens already are excludable under current law, since they are entering with the intent to engage in "unlawful activity.")

Section 412 directs the Attorney General to detain any alien certified to be engaged in terrorist activities. It authorizes the Attorney General to certify any alien as a terrorist where there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is affiliated with a designated terrorist organization or engaged in terrorist activities. It requires the Attorney General to place such aliens in removal proceedings, charge them with a criminal offense or release them within seven days of taking them into custody.
It authorizes the Attorney General to detain certified terrorists for additional periods of up to six months if their removal is unlikely in the near future and if the alien’s release will threaten national security or public safety. It limits judicial review of such detention to habeus corpus proceedings. Finally, it requires the Attorney General to report to Congress every six months on the number of certified aliens, the grounds for certification, their nationalities, the length of their detention, and the disposition of their cases.

Section 413 authorizes the Secretary of State to share information in State’s visa-lookout database and, under certain circumstances, information on individual aliens with foreign governments in order to combat terrorism and trafficking in controlled substances, persons, or weapons.

Section 414 expresses the Sense of Congress regarding the need to expedite implementation of the integrated entry and exit data system enacted in Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996. It requests that the Attorney General fully implement this system at airports, seaports, and land border ports "with all deliberate speed and as expeditiously as practicable." It directs the Attorney General to focus on the use of biometric technology and the development of tamper-resistant, machine-readable documents during the development stage of the entry and exit system.
It requires that the resulting system be interfaced with law enforcement databases used by federal agencies to identify and detain individuals who pose a threat to U.S. security. Finally, it requires the Office of Homeland Security to report to Congress within 12 months on "the information that is needed from any United States agency to effectively screen visa applicants and applicants for admission to the United States to identify" terrorists and other dangerous aliens.

Section 415 directs the Office of Homeland Security to participate in the development of the entry and exit system.

Section 416 directs the Attorney General to implement fully and to expand the foreign student tracking system enacted in the 1996 IIRAIRA. It requires the student database to include information on the date and port of entry and it authorizes the Attorney General to permit flight schools, language training schools, and vocational schools to participate in the expanded program.

Section 417 requires the Secretary of State annually to audit the implementation of the requirement that visa waiver countries issue machine-readable passports to their citizens. It advances the deadline by which countries must issue machine-readable passports in order to participate in the visa waiver program from 2007 to 2003, and it authorizes the Secretary of State to waive this requirement for countries that are "making progress toward" issuing machine-readable passports and have "taken appropriate measures to protect against misuse of current passports.

Section 418 directs the Secretary of State to determine whether consular shopping – the practice of traveling to a third country to apply for a visa to the United States, in order to avoid tighter security practices in the Consulate in one’s home country – is a problem and to address it if it is.

Subtitle C – Preservation of Immigration Benefits for Victims of Terrorism
Section 421 authorizes the Attorney General to grant special immigrant status (a category of legal permanent residence) to any alien for whom a petition for family- or employment-based legal permanent residence was filed and revoked because the petitioner, applicant, or alien beneficiary was killed or lost his or her job as a result of terrorist activities. It also authorizes special immigrant status for any alien who is the grandparent of a child, both of whose parents died as a result of terrorist activity, if either parent was a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident of the United States on September 10, 2001.

Section 422 automatically extends by up to one year the authorized period of stay for nonimmigrants who were disabled by the terrorist attacks, along with their spouses and children. It extends the authorized period of stay for nonimmigrants who were prevented from entering the United States because of the terrorist attacks and permits FY 2001 diversity lottery winners who were prevented from entering the United States by the terrorist attacks to enter during the first six months of FY 2002, but to be counted against the quotas for FY 2001.

It also grants legal permanent residence to the spouse and children of any FY 2001 diversity lottery winner who died as a result of the terrorist attacks. Finally, it extends the grant of parole for any parolee who was out of the country and unable to return before his or her parole expired on or after September 11, 2001, and it extends for 30 days any period for voluntary departure that expired between September 11 and October 11, 2001.

Section 423 permits aliens who entered the country as the spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens to retain immediate relative status, even though the citizen-sponsor died as a result of the terrorist attacks. It permits the spouses, children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, for whom immigration petitions have been filed, to retain their status as valid petitioners, even though the resident-alien petitioner died as a result of the terrorist attacks.

It permits those spouses, children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents for whom no petition was filed to file a petition on their own behalf for lawful permanent residence. It allows any alien who is the spouse or child of an alien killed in the terrorist attacks and who had applied for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence to have the application adjudicated as if the death had not occurred. Finally, it waives the public charge grounds for inadmissibility for all aliens granted benefits under this section.

Section 424 authorizes any alien whose 21st birthday occurred in September 2001 to be considered a minor child for an additional 90 days for purposes of adjudicating a petition or application for immigration benefits, and any alien whose 21st birthday occurs after September 2001 to be considered a minor child for an additional 45 days for purposes of adjudicating a petition or application for immigration benefits.

Section 425 authorizes the Attorney General to provide "temporary administrative relief" to any alien who was here legally on September 10, is the relative of an individual who died or was disabled by the terrorist attacks, and is not otherwise entitled to relief under this subtitle.

Section 426 requires the Attorney General to establish standards of evidence for proving that any death, disability, or loss of employment due to physical damage to a business is the result of the terrorist attacks, for purposes of applying for the benefits under this subtitle.

Section 427 prohibits any benefits under this subtitle from being granted to terrorists or their family members.

Title V – Investigating Terrorism
Section 504 authorizes federal foreign intelligence officers who conduct surveillance and physical searches to consult with federal law enforcement officers to coordinate efforts to investigate or protect against foreign attack, sabotage, terrorism, or clandestine intelligence activities by foreign powers.

Section 507 authorizes the Attorney General to seek an ex parte court order requiring an educational institution to turn over education records that are relevant to an investigation or prosecution of terrorism.

Title X – Miscellaneous
Section 1002 expresses the Sense of Congress condemning violence against Sikh-Americans.

Section 1006 makes inadmissible to the United States any alien believed to be engaged, or seeking to engage, in money laundering. (Such aliens already are excludable under current law since they are entering to engage in "unlawful activity.") It also requires the Secretary of State to develop a money laundering watchlist to identify individuals who are known or suspected money launderers.

Section 1008 directs the Attorney General to conduct a study on the feasibility of using a biometric identifier scanning system, with access to the FBI’s Integrated Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), at consular offices abroad and at ports of entry into the United States to identify aliens wanted in connection with criminal or terrorist investigations and to report his findings to Congress within 90 days.

Section 1009 directs the FBI to study and report to Congress on the feasibility of giving airlines direct access to the names of individuals suspected of terrorist activities.

Section 1012 prohibits any state from issuing a license to any individual to operate a vehicle transporting hazardous materials unless the Secretary of Transportation has first determined that the individual does not pose a security risk.

Rosemary Jenks is Director of Governmental Relations at


This study is one of the first to estimate the total impact of illegal immigration on the federal budget. Most previous studies have focused on the state and local level and have examined only costs or tax payments, but not both. Based on Census Bureau data, this study finds that, when all taxes paid (direct and indirect) and all costs are considered, illegal households created a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion in 2002. We also estimate that, if there was an amnesty for illegal aliens, the net fiscal deficit would grow to nearly $29 billion.Among the findings:

· Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

· Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

· With nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lacking a high school degree, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments, not their legal status or heavy use of most social services.

· On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.

· Many of the costs associated with illegals are due to their American-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth. Thus, greater efforts at barring illegals from federal programs will not reduce costs because their citizen children can continue to access them.

· If illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.

· Costs increase dramatically because unskilled immigrants with legal status -- what most illegal aliens would become -- can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments.

· Although legalization would increase average tax payments by 77 percent, average costs would rise by 118 percent.

· The fact that legal immigrants with few years of schooling are a large fiscal drain does not mean that legal immigrants overall are a net drain -- many legal immigrants are highly skilled.

· The vast majority of illegals hold jobs. Thus the fiscal deficit they create for the federal government is not the result of an unwillingness to work.

· The results of this study are consistent with a 1997 study by the National Research Council, which also found that immigrants' education level is a key determinant of their fiscal impact.


Welfare use. Our findings show that many of the preconceived notions about the fiscal impact of illegal households turn out to be inaccurate.

In terms of welfare use, receipt of cash assistance programs tends to be very low, while Medicaid use, though significant, is still less than for other households.
Only use of food assistance programs is significantly higher than that of the rest of the population.
Also, contrary to the perceptions that illegal aliens don't pay payroll taxes, we estimate that more than half of illegals work "on the books." On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Unfortunately, they impose costs of $6,950 per household.

Social Security and Medicare.
Although we find that the net effect of illegal households is negative at the federal level, the same is not true for Social Security and Medicare. We estimate that illegal households create a combined net benefit for these two programs in excess of $7 billion a year, accounting for about 4 percent of the total annual surplus in these two programs.
However, they create a net deficit of $17.4 billion in the rest of the budget, for a total net loss of $10.4 billion. Nonetheless, their impact on Social Security and Medicare is unambiguously positive. Of course, if the Social Security totalization agreement with Mexico signed in June goes into effect, allowing illegals to collect Social Security, these calculations would change.
The Impact of Amnesty.
Finally, our estimates show that amnesty would significantly increase tax revenue. Because both their income and tax compliance would rise, we estimate that under the most likely scenario the average illegal alien household would pay 77 percent ($3,200) more a year in federal taxes once legalized. While not enough to offset the 118 percent ($8,200) per household increase in costs that would come with legalization, amnesty would significantly increase both the average income and tax payments of illegal aliens.
What's Different About Today's Immigration.
Many native-born Americans observe that their ancestors came to America and did not place great demands on government services. Perhaps this is true, but the size and scope of government were dramatically smaller during the last great wave of immigration. Not just means-tested programs, but expenditures on everything from public schools to roads were only a fraction of what they are today. Thus, the arrival of unskilled immigrants in the past did not have the negative fiscal implications that it does today.

Moreover, the American economy has changed profoundly since the last great wave of immigration, with education now the key determinant of economic success. The costs that unskilled immigrants impose simply reflect the nature of the modern American economy and welfare state. It is doubtful that the fiscal costs can be avoided if our immigration policies remain unchanged.

The negative impact on the federal budget need not be the only or even the primary consideration when deciding what to do about illegal immigration. But assuming that the fiscal status quo is unacceptable, there are three main changes in policy that might reduce or eliminate the fiscal costs of illegal immigration.
One set of options is to allow illegal aliens to remain in the country, but attempt to reduce the costs they impose.
A second set of options would be to grant them legal status as a way of increasing the taxes they pay.
A third option would be to enforce the law and reduce the size of the illegal population and with it the costs of illegal immigration.
Reducing the Cost Side of the Equation. Reducing the costs illegals impose would probably be the most difficult of the three options because illegal households already impose only about 46 percent as much in costs on the federal government as other households. Thus, the amount of money that can be saved by curtailing their use of public services even further is probably quite limited.

Moreover, the fact that benefits are often received on behalf of their U.S.-citizen children means that it is very difficult to prevent illegal households from accessing the programs they do. And many of the programs illegals use most extensively are likely to be politically very difficult to cut, such as the Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. Other costs, such as incarcerating illegals who have been convicted of crimes are unavoidable. It seems almost certain that if illegals are allowed to remain in the country, the fiscal deficit will persist. Increasing Tax Revenue by Granting Amnesty. As discussed above, our research shows that granting illegal aliens amnesty would dramatically increase tax revenue.

Unfortunately, we find that costs would increase even more. Costs would rise dramatically because illegals would be able to access many programs that are currently off limits to them. Moreover, even if legalized illegal aliens continued to be barred from using some means-tested programs, they would still be much more likely to sign their U.S.-citizen children up for them because they would lose whatever fear they had of the government.

We know this because immigrants with legal status, who have the same education levels and resulting low incomes as illegal aliens, sign their U.S.-citizen children up for programs like Medicaid at higher rates than illegal aliens with U.S.-citizen children. In addition, direct costs for programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit would also grow dramatically with legalization. Right now, illegals need a Social Security number and have to file a tax return to get the credit. As a result, relatively few actually get it. We estimate that once legalized, payments to illegals under this program would grow more than ten-fold.

From a purely fiscal point of view, the main problem with legalization is that illegals would, for the most part, become unskilled legal immigrants. And unskilled legal immigrants create much larger fiscal costs than unskilled illegal aliens. Legalization will not change the low education levels of illegal aliens or the fact that the American labor market offers very limited opportunities to such workers, whatever their legal status.

Nor will it change the basic fact that the United States, like all industrialized democracies, has a well-developed welfare state that provides assistance to low-income workers. Large fiscal costs are simply an unavoidable outcome of unskilled immigration given the economic and fiscal realities of America today.

Enforcing Immigration Laws. If we are serious about avoiding the fiscal costs of illegal immigration, the only real option is to enforce the law and reduce the number of illegal aliens in the country. First, this would entail much greater efforts to police the nation's land and sea borders.

At present, less than 2,000 agents are on duty at any one time on the Mexican and Canadian borders.

Second, much greater effort must be made to ensure that those allowed into the country on a temporary basis, such as tourists and guest workers, are not likely to stay in the country permanently.

Third, the centerpiece of any enforcement effort would be to enforce the ban on hiring illegal aliens. At present, the law is completely unenforced. Enforcement would require using existing databases to ensure that all new hires are authorized to work in the United States and levying heavy fines on businesses that knowingly employ illegal aliens.

Finally, a clear message from policymakers, especially senior members of the administration, that enforcement of the law is valued and vitally important to the nation, would dramatically increase the extremely low morale of those who enforce immigration laws.

Policing the border, enforcing the ban on hiring illegal aliens, denying temporary visas to those likely to remain permanently, and all the other things necessary to reduce illegal immigration will take time and cost money. However, since the cost of illegal immigration to the federal government alone is estimated at over $10 billion a year, significant resources could be devoted to enforcement efforts and still leave taxpayers with significant net savings.

Enforcement not only has the advantage of reducing the costs of illegal immigration, it also is very popular with the general public.

Nonetheless, policymakers can expect strong opposition from special interest groups, especially ethnic advocacy groups and those elements of the business community that do not want to invest in labor-saving devices and techniques or pay better salaries, but instead want access to large numbers of cheap, unskilled workers.

If we choose to continue to not enforce the law or to grant illegals amnesty, both the public and policymakers have to understand that there will be significant long-term costs for taxpayers.

Overall Approach. To estimate the impact of households headed by illegal aliens, we rely heavily on the National Research Council's (NRC) 1997 study, "The New Americans." Like that study, we use the March Current Population Survey (CPS) and the decennial Census, both collected by the Census Bureau. We use the March 2003 CPS, which asks questions about income, household structure, and use of public services in the calendar year prior to the survey. We control total federal expenditures and tax receipts by category to reflect actual expenditures and tax payments.

Like the NRC, we assume that immigrants have no impact on defense-related expenditures and therefore assign those costs only to native-headed households. Like the NRC, we define a household as persons living together who are related. Individuals living alone or with persons to whom they are unrelated are treated as their own households.

As the NRC study points out, a "household is the primary unit through which public services are consumed and taxes paid." Following the NRC's example of using households, many of which include U.S.-citizen children, as the unit of analysis makes sense because the presence of these children and the costs they create are a direct result of their parents having been allowed to enter and remain in country. Thus, counting services used by these children allows for a full accounting of the costs of illegal immigration.

Identifying Illegal Aliens in Census Bureau Data.
While the CPS does not ask respondents if they are illegal aliens, the Urban Institute, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the Census Bureau have used socio-demographic characteristics in the data to estimate the size and characteristics of the illegal population. To identify illegal aliens in the survey, we used citizenship status, year of arrival in the United States, age, country of birth, educational attainment, sex, receipt of welfare programs, receipt of Social Security, veteran status, and marital status.

This method is based on some very well-established facts about the characteristics of the illegal population. In some cases, we assume that individuals have zero chance of being an illegal alien, such as naturalized citizens, veterans, and individuals who report that they personally receive Social Security benefits or cash assistance from a welfare program or those who are enrolled in Medicaid.

However, other members of a household, mainly the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens, can and do receive these programs. We estimate that there were 8.7 million illegal aliens included in the March 2003 CPS. By design, our estimates for the size and characteristics of the illegal population are very similar to those prepared by the Census Bureau, the INS, and the Urban Institute.

Estimating the Impact of Amnesty. We assume that any amnesty that passes Congress will have Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) as a component. Even though the President's amnesty proposal in January seems to envision "temporary" worker status, every major legalization bill in Congress, including those sponsored by Republican legislators, provides illegal aliens with LPR status at some point in the process.

To estimate the likely impact of legalization, we run two different simulations. In our first simulation, we assume that legalized illegal aliens would use services and pay taxes like all households headed by legal immigrants with the same characteristics. In this simulation, we control for the education level of the household head and whether the head is from Mexico.

The first simulation shows that the net fiscal deficit grows from about $2,700 to more than $6,000 per household. In the second simulation, we again control for education and whether the household head is Mexican and also assume that illegals would become like post-1986 legal immigrants, excluding refugees.
Because illegals are much more like recently arrived non-refugees than legal immigrants in general, the second simulation is the more plausible. The second simulation shows that the net fiscal deficit per household would climb to $7,700.

Results Similar to Other Studies. Our overall conclusion that education level is the primary determinant of tax payments made and services used is very similar to the conclusion of the 1997 National Research Council report, "The New Americans." The results of our study also closely match the findings of a 1998 Urban Institute study, which examined tax payments by illegal aliens in New York State.

In order to test our results we ran separate estimates for federal taxes and found that, when adjusted for inflation, our estimated federal taxes are almost identical to those of the Urban Institute. The results of this study are also buttressed by an analysis of illegal alien tax returns done by the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Treasury in 2004, which found that about half of illegals had no federal income tax liability, very similar to our finding of 45 percent.

Democrats May Proceed With Caution on Immigration

Explosive Issue Not A Top Priority For Incoming Leaders

By Darryl Fears and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff WritersMonday, November 13, 2006; Page A03

When election results started rolling in Tuesday, Cecilia Muñoz said that she and other immigration advocates were "holding our breath." One by one, Republicans who had fought tooth and nail for stricter immigration laws fell, turning control of Congress over to the Democrats.

By morning, a 700-mile Mexican border fence passed by Republicans in a pre-election gambit had fallen flat with voters. A sharply worded GOP bill that targeted illegal immigrants and spurred marches by millions of Latinos in the spring appeared likely to fade into memory.

"I think this is the best environment we've had on the issue in quite some time," said Cassandra Q. Butts, a senior vice president for the pro-immigration Center for American Progress.

But when it comes to immigration, things are never easy. In the days after the election, Democratic leaders surprised pro-immigration groups by not including the issue on their list of immediate priorities. Experts said the issue is so complicated, so sensitive and so explosive that it could easily blow up in the Democrats' faces and give control of Congress back to Republicans in the next election two years from now. And a number of Democrats who took a hard line on illegal immigration were also elected to Congress.

"It's not without its challenges, for sure," said Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "You've got opposition in both parties. You still have restrictionists in the Republican Party. You have Democrats who've been reluctant to move on any kind of worker program."

Butterfield predicted that lobbyists and Democrats have less than a year to move legislation that could put some 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to legal residency, before the looming 2008 elections make a deal politically impossible. And analysts say the fate of President Bush's proposal to create a temporary worker program for 200,000 immigrants is in doubt, with labor's allies in charge.

In recent days, advocates have been burning up the phone lines talking to one another and to try to determine whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the presumed speaker of the next Congress, will appoint to key committees, and how the new Democratically controlled Congress will approach the issue.

Major challenges lay ahead. The Mexican border remains a sieve where an estimated 100,000 immigrants sneak into the country every year. Conservatives in the House, and some Democrats, want the border sealed with manpower, fencing and technological gadgets before they will even consider guest workers.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes increased immigration, said Democrats should implement an enforcement program first. Anything else might be political suicide.

"The Democrats need to get their majority reelected in the next two years," Krikorian said. "My sense is that the Democrats have grown up enough to know they can't get reelected trying to get everything they want."

Immigration experts are on the lookout for the kind of compromises that led to the flawed immigration reform laws of 1986 and 1996. In those years, a White House and Congress split between the two parties passed watered-down laws requiring employers to check the legal status of new hires to satisfy businesses and immigration advocates. They also failed to give enforcement agencies the money, staff, technology or practical ability to do the job.

The miscues paved the way for an explosion of illegal immigration.

The question is, will this just be another split-the-baby approach, such as we saw in 1986," said Robert Bonner, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 2003 to 2005, "or are we actually going to do something that is going to seriously achieve the objectives of controlling the border?"

At the White House Friday, the Bush administration struck a bipartisan chord, trumpeting both border enforcement and a guest worker initiative. "The President believes a temporary guest worker program, where you will know if you're in or you're out, is going to relieve pressure on the border and also reduce the incentive for people to travel from Central America through Mexico in search of such jobs," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

The question is, will this just be another split-the-baby approach, such as we saw in 1986," said Robert Bonner, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 2003 to 2005, "or are we actually going to do something that is going to seriously achieve the objectives of controlling the border?"

At the White House Friday, the Bush administration struck a bipartisan chord, trumpeting both border enforcement and a guest worker initiative. "The President believes a temporary guest worker program, where you will know if you're in or you're out, is going to relieve pressure on the border and also reduce the incentive for people to travel from Central America through Mexico in search of such jobs," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Bush supports a proposal by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to allow foreign nationals currently outside the country to work in the United States temporarily. Illegal immigrants now in the country could work too, but only if they pay a $2,000 penalty for breaking the law, pay back taxes, undergo a criminal check, learn English, take civics lessons, go to the back of the employment line and then work six years with no legal problems.

The McCain-Kennedy bill would also strengthen the border and create a computerized system to check the legal status of workers. The Senate bill would authorize spending $400 million to expand a pilot program used by 5,000 employers to cover new hires by more than 8 million U.S. companies within 18 months.

But some experts are skeptical. The non-partisan Migration Policy Institute has said that the pilot system is flawed, will take at least three years to implement, and will fail unless it is made much more accurate. The MPI panel, co-chaired by former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) and former senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) also said other steps are needed, such as producing tamper-proof Social Security or other employment ID card based on fingerprints or other unique identifying features.

Others say thousands of immigration investigators are needed to verify legal workers and track down those who remain in the country illegally.

James W. Ziglar, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said if Congress does take up an overhaul, "the recognition that enforcement has to be of equal stature is something that will occur this time, because the lessons learned from the 1986 act are still burning very brightly in the minds of people on both sides of the debate."

Muñoz, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights group, said Democrats should move carefully ahead with a plan that satisfies both sides.

"This notion that it's dangerous to vote to support comprehensive immigration reform I believe to be false," she said. In Arizona, she said, voters rejected anti-immigration Republicans Randy Graf and Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

But, to show how complicated the issue is, Arizona voters also approved three referenda to make life tougher for illegal immigrants.

Anti-immigration Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who was distraught after the election, believing a guest worker program was inevitable under the Democrats, now says he's changed his mind.
"It seemed to me that it was not going to be as easy for them as I had anticipated or feared," Tancredo said. "They're not putting it out there as their number one, out-of-the-box issue."

The more he thought about the issue, the more cloudy the future seemed.

"I don't know," he said. A temporary guest worker program "could certainly happen. I may be just skipping past the graveyard."

Bush Signs Bill Authorizing 700-Mile Fence for Border
By Michael A. Fletcher and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff WritersFriday, October 27, 2006; Page A04

WARREN, Mich., Oct. 26 -- President Bush signed a measure Thursday authorizing the construction of a fence along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, an action that conflicts with his own stated vision of immigration reform but one championed by many Republicans facing reelection in November.

Speaking at a White House ceremony before a day of campaigning for GOP candidates in Iowa and Michigan, Bush said the barrier will help the United States plug the porous Southwest border.

"Unfortunately, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders for decades and, therefore, illegal immigration has been on the rise," Bush said. "We have a responsibility to address these challenges. We have a responsibility to enforce our laws. We have a responsibility to secure our borders. We take this responsibility seriously."

Bush portrayed the measure as a key step toward comprehensive immigration reform, but the fence bill passed by the GOP-controlled Congress put him in a tight squeeze with international allies and his own immigration principles on one side, and the electoral needs of his party on the other.

Bush has said that immigration reform would work only if stepped-up enforcement is accompanied by a guest-worker program that would create a legal path for large numbers of low-skill workers to enter the United States. The president has also endorsed providing the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States a chance at citizenship, saying such a humane vision of immigration is in keeping with the nation's history and traditions.

But those positions were rejected by congressional Republicans, who advocated tougher enforcement to slow the flood of illegal immigration that is overwhelming many communities, particularly in the West and Southwest. They passed legislation that would do as much.

"Today marks another step forward in making America safer and in stemming the tide of illegal immigration," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. "The American people demand border security, and this Republican Congress and President are committed to achieving operational control of the border through an enforcement-first approach."

The government of Mexican President Vicente Fox made it clear that he wanted the bill vetoed. A statement by Mexico, and signed by 27 other Organization of American States members on Wednesday, expressed concern about the bill, calling it "a unilateral measure that goes against the spirit of understanding that should characterize how shared problems between neighboring countries are handled and that affects cooperation in the hemisphere."

Such concerns were outweighed by the pleadings of congressional Republicans eager to back up their tough talk on border security with a legislative accomplishment. The president's signing ceremony was followed by a blizzard of statements from GOP lawmakers hailing the law.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) called it "a major victory in Republicans' efforts to make a real difference in securing our borders."

The fence bill is a far cry from the comprehensive measure that cleared the Senate, which would have paired tough border security provisions with new paths to lawful work and citizenship for foreign workers and the nation's illegal immigrants. It is a small piece of the more modest House bill that included a fence and measures to crack down on the hiring of undocumented workers.

Democrats dismissed the legislation as pointless. Only a fraction of the billions needed to finance the fence has been appropriated, and much of the construction might not be feasible. In swaths of Arizona, the fence would have to climb steep, desert crags and plunge into deep ravines.

Without border agents to patrol the barrier, smugglers would blast holes in remote stretches, some critics have said. "The bill the president signed today represents the worst in election-year politics," said Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.). "It is an empty gesture for the sole purpose of sending a false message about the security of our nation."

Though he signed the measure into law, Bush emphasized that other immigration changes are needed. "We have more to do," he said. ". . . We must reduce pressure on our border by creating a temporary-worker plan. Willing workers ought to be matched with willing employers."

Though the new law authorizes the construction of a 700-mile fence, it remains far from clear how much fencing will be built.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke declined to say if the department is committed to building a 700-mile barrier. Instead, he cited the DHS commitment to test by next year a $67 million, 28-mile "virtual fence" that includes physical walls, vehicle barriers and remote monitoring south of Tucson.

Analysts, meanwhile, debate the effectiveness of a fence.

Since the United States began building a 66-mile barrier in San Diego in 1990, illegal immigration has been rerouted to more remote areas, with many migrants now being funneled through the treacherous desert south of Arizona.


Immigrant Processors Fall Behind
System Overwhelmed Even Without 'Amnesty,' Guest Workers
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff WriterThursday, January 4, 2007; Page A03

As the White House and Congress prepare to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, U.S. officials have concluded that they lack the technology and resources to handle the millions of applications for legal residency that could result from the changes and that several efforts to modernize computers have gone astray.

Immigration officials have said for years that it is critical to update an antiquated, paper-based application process before the government grants a new path to citizenship for as many as 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States or creates a temporary-worker program, as senators and the Bush administration propose.

U.S. unable to handle immigration floodBy UPI StaffUnited Press InternationalJanuary 5, 2007

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- U.S. officials say proposed immigration law changes would leave them without the technology and resources to deal with an expected flood of applicants.
Immigration officials repeatedly have said it was critical to first update an antiquated application process, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Congress and the Bush administration want an overhaul of the laws for citizenship for as many as 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States through amnesty or a temporary guest-worker program.

Meanwhile, a project to replace the nationwide computer network has run out of money and is on hold.

Copyright 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Paper-based process slows US immigration department
Submitted by aftababedin on Thu, 2007-01-04 12:57. International

New York, Jan 4 (IANS) An antiquated paper-based application process prevents the US immigration department from effectively handling millions of applications it receives for permanent residency in the country, an official said.

A report by US Homeland security inspector general Richard L. Skinner said that several efforts to modernise the computer network of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have gone astray.

A project to replace the USCIS' nationwide computer network was halted because the agency lacks $72 million to complete it. A staff reorganisation was also frozen.

This has also hindered the day-to day IT operation of the agency, said the report.

Consequently, many legal immigrants are made to wait for years to get their green cards, often a first step towards obtaining US citizenship.

Another 100,000 names submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for background checks have been on hold for a year or more. Congressional auditors recently reported that 14 immigration offices had lost track of 111,000 files as of July, according to the Washington Post.

"Congress needs to step up and provide the funding to ensure that USCIS is able to build a functioning infrastructure, regardless of the fate of immigration reform," said Crystal Williams, deputy director of programmes for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In August, USCIS announced that it has awarded a five-year $150 million contract to convert 55 million files into electronic form.

Highlights of the House and Senate and border security measures



• Authorizes 370 miles of new triple-layer fencing plus 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. (1)

• Authorizes hiring an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents this year, for a total of 3,000 more agents this year. (2)

• Authorizes an additional 14,000 Border Patrol agents by 2011 to the current force of 11,300 agents. (3)

• Authorizes additional detention facilities for apprehended illegal immigrants. (4)
• Limits National Guard tours of duty on the U.S.-Mexico border to 21 days. (5)


• Requires employers and subcontractors to use within 18 months an electronic system to verify that new hires are legal. Increases the maximum fine on employers for hiring illegal workers to $20,000 for each worker and imposes jail time for repeat offenders. (6)

• Declares English the country's national language (7)


• Allows illegal immigrants who have been in the country five years or more to remain, continue working, and eventually become legal permanent residents and citizens after paying at least $3,250 in fines and fees, paying back taxes, and learning English.(8)

• Requires illegal immigrants in the United States between two and five years to go to a point of entry at the border and file an application to return. (9)

• Requires those in the country less than two years to leave. (10)

• Illegal immigrants convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors would be deported no matter how long they have been in the United States. (11)

• Creates a special guest-worker program for an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers, who could also earn legal permanent residency. (12)

• Increases the number of H1-B visas for skilled workers from 65,000 to 115,000 annually, beginning in 2007. Immigrants with certain advanced degrees would not be subject to the caps, which could rise by 20 percent depending on labor market demands. (13)

• Provides 200,000 new temporary guest-worker visas a year. (14)


Border enforcement

• Requires building double-layer fencing along 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the United States. (1)

• Requires mandatory detention for all non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested at ports of entry or at land and sea borders. (15)

• Establishes mandatory sentences for smuggling illegal immigrants and for re-entering the United States illegally after deportation. (16)

Policy affecting those interacting with immigrants

• Makes it a felony to assist, encourage, direct or induce a person to enter or attempt to enter or remain in the United States illegally. (17)

• Beginning in six years, all employers would have to use a database to verify the Social Security numbers of all employees. (18)

• Increases the maximum fine for employers of illegal workers from the current $10,000 to $40,000 per violation; establishes prison sentences of up to 30 years for repeat offenders. (19)

Policy affecting immigrants

• Makes illegal presence in the country a felony and increases penalties for first-time illegal entry to the United States. (20)

• Makes a drunken driving conviction a deportable offense (21)

But let’s look at just a few of them; to expose the silliness inherent through out.

(1) It has already been determined and admitted that “The Fence” will probably never be built as insufficient funds were authorized. In fact no one wants to own up to where the figures came from. They fall into the “Once Upon A Time Category”.

(2) There is simply no money budgeted for this one. It is a sounds good, feels good provision. If Congress ever gets back to being serious about all this, and they will have to as the Immigration Department continues to collapse, look for the administration to lump this need in their proposal for “Universal Involuntary National Service”, the comprehensive Draft/Non Draft ever conceived in the US.

(3) A big ditto of (2)

(4) A Starbucks morning Coffee laugher. If we can’t afford increased Border Patrol personnel, and we can’t keep up with the costs of Iraq and our other International adventures, and we can’t keep up with prison construction; how are we going to construct new “Illegals” detention Centers. Did I here Concentration Camps by another name?

(5) Oh this one plays right into the scenario being created for national “Conscription Service” just at the moment when everyone is being soften up by the line that we are going to have to send more troops to Iraq and recycle more of the Guard. Bottom line; this will not happen! Let’s recap here: no money, no fence, no new patrol, guard needed elsewhere and insufficient in number, and everyone is unhappy. Wow good outlook…not!


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