Resolved: Immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
This is part 3 of a multi-part series of essays on the above PF Debate resolution.
For part one of this series, click here
The Pro PositionAssuming you have gained some understanding of the background issues (if not, click the link above and start reading), we can begin to frame the Pro side of the debate. Any time a resolution claims U.S. policy should change, you should assume, there are harms in the status quo and the policy change will solve the harms and there is a good chance the solvency will lead to other advantages. It is in fact, very much like a classic, two-person policy debate and I am inclined to treat it that way. Having said that, we must consider the Neg position to be, there are no significant harms in the status quo that can be solved by the path to citizenship and/or the path to citizenship policy will make things worse. I think we need to be careful which harms are claimed. Border security concerns, while definitely part of the larger debate are probably going to be considered extra-topical with the possible exception of current in-country persons that are undocumented and potential security risks. In fact, in traditional PF debate fashion, it may be the only traditionally meaningful harms are economic. By that, I mean traditional PF debate tends to focus on practical, tangible issues which reach into the homes of normal, everyday citizens. As such, the harms which have the largest impacts are those which effect the day-to-lives of ordinary people. What I fear about this topic, is the perceived harms are going to be widely regional. Debaters and judges in key "gateway" states will have a completely different perspective than debaters and judges in the so-called "heartland". Likewise debaters and judges living in farm states with large migrant worker populations will have a different perception than urban locales. Nevertheless, the facts may overrule the perceptions. In reality the vast majority of immigrants people many encounter are fully documented and legal but because they may not speak English or they may be culturally different, our perceptions may be wrong. All of this amounts to a certain bias which may exist and debaters will likely face it among their peers and among their judges.
Fix and Passel 1994:
Seventy-six percent of all immigrants entering in the 1980s went to only six states: California (which itself received almost four out of every ten), New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois An even larger share (85 percent) of undocumented immigrants lives in these six states. But although the share of immigrants going to other parts of the country remains small, the large and growing numbers of immigrants overall means that less-traditional gateway states and cities are also receiving increasing numbers of immigrants and acquiring sizable foreign-born populations. Massachusetts, for example, has over one-half million foreign-born residents, close to 40 percent of whom entered between 1980 and 1990. Even such traditionally “nonimmigrant” states as Georgia, North Carolina, and Minnesota have over 100,000 foreign-born residents, about half of whom entered in the last decade.
In 2013, a report by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that concentrations may be fairly stable owing to the fact the vast majority of undocumented people live with relatives who have attained legal residency status.
Hill and Hayes 2013:
No representative national or state surveys provide an accurate direct count of undocumented (also known as illegal or unauthorized) immigrants, but the best estimates suggest that in 2010 California was home to about 2.6 million undocumented immigrants. Almost a quarter (23%) of the nation’s undocumented immigrants reside in California — by contrast, the state’s share of the nation’s overall population is only about one-eighth. In Nevada, California, and Texas, undocumented immigrants constitute about 7% of the population, the highest concentration in the United States.
The HarmsFrom the Pro point of view, regardless of the other issues inherent in immigration reform the fact there are 11 million undocumented individuals is causing problems and we need to point that out in order to give the debate significance. A good body of evidence can be found in the briefing report presented to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 2008. Numerous experts presented findings which evidence the negative impact of undocumented workers on the traditionally low-income sector of the United States work-force. While the aim of the briefing was to examine the harms to African Americans, the results are easily extrapolated to other ethic groups which contribute to the pool of unskilled labor.
USCCR (Reynolds) 2008:
Among its findings, the Commission notes that the illegal workers are estimated to account for as much as one-third of total immigrants in the United States, and that illegal immigration has tended to increase the supply of low-skilled, low-wage labor available. The Commission found also that about six in 10 adult black males have a high school diploma or less, and are disproportionately employed in the low-skilled labor market in likely competition with immigrants. Evidence for negative effects of such competition ranged from modest to significant, according to the experts who testified, but even those experts who viewed the effects as modest overall found significant effects in occupations such as meatpacking and construction.
While there is no direct evidence that any international terrorists has slipped across the border undetected, the possibility is very real and certainly the security risk of having a "culture of illegality" thriving in a U.S. economic underground cannot be ignored.
Kane & Johnson 2006:
When three out of every 100 people in America are undocumented (or, rather, documented with forged and faked papers), there is a profound security problem. Even though they pose no direct security threat, the presence of millions of undocumented migrants distorts the law, distracts resources, and effectively creates a cover for terrorists and criminals. In other words, the real problem presented by illegal immigration is security, not the supposed threat to the economy. Indeed, efforts to curtail the economic influx of migrants actually worsen the security dilemma by driving many migrant workers underground, thereby encouraging the culture of illegality.
The economic impact of illegal workers has been documented and remains a legitimate concern in the status quo. The American appetite for cheap labor and lost-cost services may actually come back to harm us in the form of higher deficits and increased taxes.
A huge issue in 2010, was the so-called DREAM act. The children of undocumented people are often thriving in American schools and poised to become productive members of society. But unless they can find a path to legality, it is a future that can have little value to our country.Undocumented immigrants work for less, are less likely to have medical insurance, and are often paid "off the books." They are a boon to employers, ranging from the neighborhood tree service to Walmart. Similarly, people of means spend less on nannies and other household help thanks to the presence of illegal alien workers. But most Americans are worse off. An analysis by Harvard economist George Borjas finds that each 1% increase in the labor force due to immigrations lowers the average wage of native-born workers by approximately 0.35%. Accordingly, illegal alien workers reduced the wages of U.S.-born workers by 1.6 percent - a loss of about $90 billion in 2005. Moreover, because illegal immigrants pay less taxes than they receive in benefits, they increase the fiscal deficits of federal, state and local governments. Eventually native workers will be called upon to finance those deficits with higher taxes. (Ed Rubenstein, Ph.D)
An estimated 65,000 undocumented students who have lived in the United States for five years or longer graduate from U.S. high schools each year. Of these, only 5-10% are estimated to go on to college (compared to about 75% of their classmates). Many of these students were brought to the U.S. as very small children and have only distant connections with their native countries; they think of themselves as Americans and would be regarded as such by anyone unaware of their lack of documentation. Like most immigrants, they are often exceptionally hard-working and high-achieving students, many of them valedictorians of their class. The barriers to their continuing their education and then to finding suitable legal employment mean a loss not only to these individuals but to the nation that is deprived of the fullest contribution of their talent and energy.
And just in case you think undocumented people are denied education, consider the following.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Plyler v Doe (1982) guaranteed the right of undocumented students to attend K-12 public schools under the equal protection clause. Current federal law does not prevent admission of undocumented students to college, but Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) prohibits states from offering any benefit (such as in-state tuition) to undocumented residents if they do not offer the same benefits to out-of-state citizens.
In part 2 of the Pro position we will examine solvency and advantages.
IMMIGRATION AND IMMIGRANTS SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT, The Urban Institute
MICHAEL FIX AND JEFFREY S. PASSEL, 1994
UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS, Public Policy Institue of California
Laura Hill and Joseph Hayes, February 2013
Unauthorized Aliens Residing in the United States: Estimates Since 1986, Congressional Research Service
Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy, December 13, 2012
The Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers
A Briefing Before The United States Commission on Civil Rights Held in Washington, DC
Gerald A. Reynolds, 2008
The Case for the DREAM Act, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
The Real Problem with Immigration... and the Real Solution, The Hertage Foundation
Tim Kane, Ph.D. and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D.
The Ethics of Immigration Policy, A Collection of Essays, Social Contract Press
John F. Rohe, Editor