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Hoff: Immigration Is Not a Solution to Declining Birthrate

Derek S. Hoff, a former Miller Center National Fellow, an associate professor of history at Kansas State University and the author of The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in U.S. History, has published an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times countering arguments from across the political spectrum that the United States needs immigration to make up for its declining birthrate. Unlike other wealthy nations that will see their populations stabilize or decline, the United States is actually projected to grow. According to Hoff:  

Conservatives and liberals alike generally assume that population growth drives economic growth. But until the triumph of the new laissez-faire economics in the 1970s and 1980s, most economists agreed that what mattered was not the size of a population but its human capital and its savings, investment and consumption practices. Indeed, many mainstream economists argued that a smaller but more productive population would enhance growth and lead to a more just society. It is strange that we talk on one hand about an innovation- and knowledge-based economy while still thinking about economic growth in terms of sheer body count. Moderate levels of immigration can help us maintain a highly skilled work force, but so, too, can investing more in educating our young.

Immigration Federalism: Why It Matters for National Reform

In the wake of the 2012 election, immigration reform is one of the seemingly most critical priorities for both Republicans and the Obama administration. Yet, immigration remains one of the most divisive issues in politics today. Given the partisan differences over approaches to immigration reform and ongoing divisions within both parties, it is unclear what, if any, major federal reforms can actually be achieved in Barack Obama’s second term. While the nation waits for a breakthrough on immigration reform, states and local governments have increasingly taken on responsibilities pertaining to immigration in response to the failure of the federal government to act. Last week, the Miller Center hosted a GAGE colloquium featuring Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, who discussed immigration federalism and the prospects for policy innovation and change as a result of state and local involvement. Swain argued that “state invention can be a positive force for change because it offers new possibilities for innovative policy solutions” and that “state action can become the needed boost that Congress needs to stop kicking the can down the road and begin to exercise its power under the Supremacy Clause to reform the policy.”

Swain argued that the rise in state action on immigration has been the result of a growing incentive to be involved as states respond to the necessity of local enforcement, the lack of federal enforcement, and the need to integrate new immigrants into their societies. According to Swain, changes in immigration patterns have brought noncitizens into new regions of the country and the cost of unauthorized immigration has fallen unevenly across levels of government. Furthermore, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government has increasingly relied on states to assist with immigration law enforcement.

Miller Center Panel: Immigration Reform Needed if U.S. to Compete in Global Battle for Talent, Ideas

Caplin Conference Keynote Roundtable: “High Skilled Immigration: Pathways to Progress”

On December 7, the Miller Center convened the 2012 Mortimer Caplin Conference on the World Economy at our offices in Washington, DC and at the National Press Club. Representatives from the academy, the government, and the private sector engaged in serious discussions about the true impact of current immigration provisions on American competitiveness, how proposals for high-skilled admissions can meet the needs of the U.S. economy, what effect such proposals might have on other policy goals (such as encouraging U.S. students to enter STEM fields), how those trade-offs should be managed, and the extent to which specific proposals serve national interests or instead primarily benefit particular industries or employers. 

The concluding panel at the National Press Club featured University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, United States Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and Founder and former CEO of AOL Steve Case. The panel was moderated by Alan Murray, Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor of The Wall Street Journal online edition and President of Pew Research Center (beginning January 2013). As Murray noted in his introduction, immigration is one issue that changed on the national landscape in the wake of the election. The outcome of the election has shaken up the politics and created the possibility for some movement on immigration legislation.

Steve Case noted that it is worth remembering that the nation was once a start-up. We didn’t become the leading economy by accident. It was the work of entrepreneurs who created companies and built the economy. In the history of the nation, the work of the risk-taking, pioneering entrepreneurs to help build this country is often overlooked. Case said the good news is that the U.S. is still the world’s most entrepreneurial nation. The bad news is that other nations have figured out that “the secret sauce” to a successful economy is an entrepreneurial economy. Other countries have modified their policies to become more entrepreneurial. Australia, for example, allows ten times more entrepreneurial visas. We are engaged in a global battle for talent, capital and ideas. Detroit rose on an idea propelled by entrepreneurs and fell when it lost its way. As a country, if we don’t change course, we will also fall. The issue of talent is central – as the old truism goes, an organization is only as good as it’s people. Case expressed frustration that we’ve been talking about high skilled reform for at least a decade. We have to do something quickly. Immigration should be less of a debate about a problem and more of a debate about opportunity.

SCOTUS Immigration Ruling and the Hispanic Vote

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 in the wake of SB 1070.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 in the wake of SB 1070, to discuss immigration and border security issues. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Arizona vs. United States, the 2010 Arizona immigration law (S.B. 1070). With a 5-3 vote, the Court upheld the most hotly contested provision of the law – the so-called “show me your papers” provision – but blocked other provisions on the grounds that they preempted the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said:

“Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

The majority emphasized two points regarding the federal-state dividing line over immigration law authority. First, it is “fundamental” that foreign countries be able to communicate with a “single sovereign,” the federal government, about immigration issues. Second, the federal government should have “broad discretion” in deciding whether and how to enforce immigration laws.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with the majority that “show me your papers” provision was not preempted by federal law and could go into effect. However, they dissented from the majority on other provisions. In his dissent from the majority opinion, Justice Scalia argued that the states should have the right to make immigration policy if the federal government is not enforcing its own policies.

The presidential candidates’ responses to the ruling made clear a partisan divide over how authority to set immigration law should be divided between the federal, state and local governments. President Obama said that the ruling demonstrates that Congress must enact comprehensive immigration reform. According to President Obama, “A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.” President Obama also agreed with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status:

“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.”

The Obama administration also announced that it will not assist Arizona's efforts to arrest undocumented people unless those immigrants meet federal government criteria. Furthermore, it is rescinding agreements that allow some Arizona law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

In response to the ruling Mitt Romney said that America’s immigration laws have “become a muddle.” At a campaign fundraiser in Arizona that raised $2 million yesterday, Romney told donors:

“I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law.”

Romney did not endorse the Arizona law during the primaries and has attempted to soften his position on immigration to appeal to Hispanic voters. But yesterday, he called the Arizona law “a model” and said that “the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.”

So what impact will the Court’s ruling have in the presidential election?

Friday Roundup

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, photo by Gage Skidmore

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, S.B. 1070. Media reports suggested the Court, based on their questions, appeared to be rediscovering federalism and might be inclined to uphold a controversial part of the law. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy, and conversations from the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program examined the historical relationship between immigration and the economy. 

Economic Effects on Immigration

The Bracero Program

In 1942, the first Mexican workers arrive in Los Angeles, California, as part of the Bracero Program.

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law, which allows local police to inquire about the immigration status of people—stopped for any reason—whom they suspect are in the country illegally. One of the core issues at the heart of the Supreme Court decision is which level of government should address immigration policy. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy.

S.B. 1070 and other state laws also raise important questions regarding the link between the economy and immigration. Historically, debates over national immigration policy have included two arguments. The first is the claim that immigrants do work that Americans do not want to do. On the other hand is the concern that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

“These People are Taking Our Jobs”

Click "listen," then "play" above to hear the clip. Launch full screen player.

As the Supreme Court gears up to hear the Arizona immigration case, take a trip back to 1964 as President Lyndon Johnson discusses the Bracero Agreement, a controversial work program for Mexican farm laborers.

In this clip, President Johnson calls James Farmer, a vocal opponent of the program, to relay his conversation with President Adolfo Lopez Mateos of Mexico about ending the Bracero Agreement. Farmer had long been concerned that the program was taking jobs from American workers, and in this recording LBJ notes that Lopez Mateos did not object to ending the program. As hinted by LBJ in this recording, the labor arrangement did not last much longer into 1964.

Immigration Policy: Whose Line Is it Anyway?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 .

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer with President Obama, discussing immigration and border security issues in the wake of SB1070.

Today's guest post is from Anna O. Law, associate professor of political science at DePaul University and the author of The Immigration Battle in American Courts (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

The Supreme Court will this week hear oral argument in a case about Arizona's controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. While the national debate over immigration has become reduced to campaign trail sound bites and a general holding pattern within the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court has the potential with this ruling in the Arizona case to make an important contribution in improving immigration policy.