October 2006 Archives

On Efficiency and Immigrant Labor

By Andy Urban, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty

A recent article in the Economist [link] attempts to complicate the current debate surrounding immigration by reiterating the point that undocumented immigrants typically do not compete with native-born Americans for the same jobs. The article focuses on Jim Pederson, a Democratic candidate for senator from Arizona. Pederson has been touting a guest worker program as a “sensible? alternative to the impossible task of securing and closing-off the border with Mexico. In part, the Economist article draws from a scholarly report recently published in Foreign Affairs by Tamar Jacoby [link], a member of the conservative Manhattan Institute think-tank. Jacoby critiques the arguments of her conservative counterparts seeking to restrict immigration by asserting that, “The market mechanisms that connect U.S. demand with foreign supply, particularly from Latin America, are surprisingly efficient.? Essentially Jacoby promotes a free market approach to immigration, whereby a cheap labor supply from abroad will provide construction and service sectors with a labor supply that they cannot attract from the native-born American population.

By Andy Urban, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty

Although such numbers are completely arbitrary as exact measurements, this week the 300 millionth American will be enumerated. For nearly 40 years, Robert Ken Woo Jr. has held the honor of being designated the 200 millionth American. As this article in the Pioneer Press notes ("Quiet reign of 200 millionth American about to end"), his lifetime achievements, such as graduating from Harvard Law School and becoming the first Asian American partner at a prestigious Atlanta law firm, have been documented and shared as public information. Despite Woo’s Asian-American background, his birth in 1967 was celebrated, President Lyndon Johnson was on hand for his entrance into the world, and his accomplishments have generally been feted. If someone is actually declared the 300 millionth American they will not likely be embraced with the same celebratory attitude. Since immigration will likely produce the 300 millionth American, and with widespread concerns that immigrants are weakening the nation’s culture and heritage, as the Pioneer Press notes, “the fraught politics of immigration and population growth may explain why, unlike LBJ, President Bush has no plans to be standing in front of the Population Clock when 300 million rolls into view.?

By Louis Mendoza, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty.

This week’s immigration news was dominated by proclamations either celebrating or condemning President Bush’s signing into law a new homeland security bill that includes a 1.2 billion dollar appropriation for building 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem unauthorized immigration.

Gimmicks and Games

By Andy Urban, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty

As the November election approaches, immigration remains a key topic of debate. It can be a bit disconcerting how decisions and policy changes that will potentially affect millions of humans, seem to be implemented with an immediacy that belies months of inaction. There is nothing quite like the fear of losing office to get politicians to act; unfortunately, campaign politics do not always display the type of nuance that would best serve such important decisions.

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