Esta semana le tocó a la migra. Mi vecino de columna en UWeekly se dedicó a sembrar pánico: los inmigrantes ilegales te van a robar la indentidad. Por mi parte, opté por destacar algunos datos que pocas personas conocen.
OPINION: La migra:Battling a good thing?
By Gabino Iglesias
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as la migra, is the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security. They're in charge of enforcing a wide array of laws, including those intended to keep our borders secure and free of drug smuggling.
In order to make sure the border stays safe, ICE has joined forces with other federal, state and local law enforcement institutions to create the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST). (It says a lot that they chose to leave the F out of their too-good acronym. I guess BESTF doesn't pack the same punch.)
Our nation's attention, thanks in great part to the way our media manages the issue, has been focused on our southern border. All we hear is that drugs are coming into the U.S. - no one tells you that the stuff comes here simply because it's a great market. We also hear that the border has experienced a dramatic surge in cross-border crime and an increase in violence in recent years, due to the antics and battles between uber-dangerous Mexican drug cartels and other, usually unnamed, dope smuggling organizations.
All this "southern drug fiends" "discourse" grants bigots the opportunity to claim that undocumented immigrants are bad for this country and bring nothing but criminal activity. The arguments are easy to swallow when you see la migra cracking down on shady-looking immigrants while wearing their full ass-whooping, freedom-protecting regalia. Unfortunately, ICE has done little to mitigate the negative effects of their actions; they have never stated the fact that the percentage of immigrants involved in trafficking is very small. You would have to visit their webpage to know that only 5,200 criminal arrests have been made since BEST was created. In any case, at least they're honest, and their job is commendable: they try hard to keep the drugs and the criminals out. But what about the ICE?
ICE has remained quiet about a series of facts that would put in jeopardy the blind support they receive from many Americans. According to the Immigration Policy Center, immigrant unemployment rates are lower than the national average in the U.S. That means that immigrants have regular jobs and contribute to the economy. It also means that most immigrant families have a positive net fiscal impact on the U.S., annually adding "$88,000 more in tax revenues than they consume in services," according to an IPC report. The same report claims that Social Security payroll taxes paid by "improperly identified" (that means "undocumented") workers "have led to a $463 billion funding surplus." Not bad, huh?
Okay, so the immigrants are not sucking all the money out of the U.S. and sending it back home, but they are a burden on our welfare system, right? Wrong. Immigrants are far from being the welfare queens that restrictionists would have you believe.
Let's go back to the IPC report's title, Giving Facts a Fighting Chance: Answers to the Toughest Immigration Questions. "The truth is that unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for most public benefits, and even legal immigrants are limited in what they can receive," says the reports. "Most legal immigrants cannot receive federal Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or food stamps during their first five years or longer in the United States - regardless of how long they have worked or how much they have paid in taxes. Even when they are eligible for certain programs, experts say that low-income immigrants are less likely to receive public benefits than are U.S. citizens."
Get the point yet? La migra and the media have you believing that immigration equals drugs and crime. The truth is another thing. Federal efforts to "clean" the country are far removed from real solutions that embrace openness. Our imaginary and physical walls achieve nothing constructive, and simultaneously undermine potential for cultural and financial growth. The ICE needs to keep their business close to the border and the "immigration is bad" discourse needs to give facts a chance to force the open, historically contextualized immigration reform that we so badly require.