City Club Presents Diverse Opinions on Immigration Reform


Illegal Immigration. To Deport or Allow?  

med_Pamelas_Mug_copy55One of the most taxing and divisive issues in this country is illegal immigration and three speakers, each with intimate knowledge of the challenges, debated the subject at a recent City Club forum. While each had a different view on possible solutions, all agreed that the U.S. immigration system is deeply flawed.

First at the podium was Jim Ludwick, founder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR).  Ludwick is very frank about his advocacy for stricter regulations and enforcement of immigration laws.  In fact, he advocates that we “build a wall at the border and enforce our current laws including immediate deportation of aliens.” He reported that “illegal immigrants are undermining our trade and we’re loosing $190 billion a year to illegal immigration.”

While Ludwick believes immediate deportation is part of the solution, it’s not quite that simple.  The law itself is conflicted on the issue of deportation.  While federal law defines what constitutes “illegal” immigration status, Oregon statute 181.850 states, “No law enforcement agency of the State of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state shall use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

U.S. Immigration Attorney, Dan Larsson of Bend was born in Sweden in 1962 and now a citizen of the U.S.  As an immigration attorney he oftentimes guides immigrants, like himself, to a path of citizenship.  His practice focuses largely on immigration issues and advocates that people should be given an identify paper to legally work in this country. Larsson does not agree with Ludwick that jobs being taken by Mexican illegals are jobs that Americans particularly want.

The subject of illegals taking American jobs is hotly debated. Nearly 12 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States. The vast majority work in low-skill, low-wage jobs. More than half work in construction, manufacturing or leisure and hospitality. Supporters of more forceful deportation argue that the U.S. economy would benefit if illegal immigrants were not allowed to work in this country, because U.S. employers would be forced to raise wages to attract American workers. Critics of this approach say the loss of illegal immigrants would damage the U.S. economy, suggesting undocumented workers do many jobs few Americans will do, even during a challenging economy.
According to economists generally believe that when averaged over the whole economy, the effect of illegal immigrants is a small net positive. Do immigrants take American jobs? It’s a common refrain among those who want to tighten limits on legal immigration and deny a “path to citizenship” — which they call “amnesty” — to the millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
But most economists and other experts say there’s little to support the claim. Study after study has shown that immigrants grow the economy, expanding demand for goods and services that the foreign-born workers and their families consume, and thereby creating jobs. There is even broad agreement among economists that while immigrants may push down wages for some, the overall effect is to increase average wages for American-born workers.
But the immigration issue is not just about jobs. The final speaker, Betsy Lamb with Immigrant Family Advocates, passionately expressed concerns about the way local law enforcement is treating undocumented immigrants.   Lamb reminded us that Oregon supports the opinion that being here without authorization does not, by itself, justify prosecution or deportation.  
She said that Deschutes County deputies regularly turn over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) undocumented immigrants detained as the result of traffic stop and/or minor infractions, which she notes, “is done even though they are not required to do so by either state or federal law and even though there is no benefit to local public safety.”
Lamb’s particular concern is the impact immediate deportation has on family members when children are abruptly deprived of their parents. Understandably, until a comprehensive overhaul of federal immigration policy is achieved, local jurisdictions are challenged between deportation and turning a blind eye.
The City Club forum was eye opening, but unfortunately, like the rest of the country, no consensus could be made as to exactly what measures should be taken. And if it’s anything like the current stalemate in Congress nothing will be done.
Which suggests to this editor that perhaps a local policy could be formed to secure the safety of residents via the deportation of unsavory and potentially dangerous characters coupled with a compassionate approach to undocumented immigrant families? PHA


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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