HING : It's actually a term that I borrowed from another academic named George Lakoff . He coined the phrase. But, I think he's absolutely right. People who are coming from Mexico are trying to feed their families. They're not coming here to commit crimes. They're not coming here to rip off the welfare system. They are coming here to find work for the reasons that I outlined at the beginning; because of the economic pressures that have been put on them to migrate. To me, it's very much akin to political pressures of people who are fleeing communism, fleeing repression in other forms. Those folks are labeled refugees. I believe the same thing is happening in Mexico. Because of those economic pressures, people want to flee in order to put money in their pockets and food on the tables of their families. To me, it's very, very analogous to being a refugee. And these folks are economic refugees.
DEBORAH : Those who would say that we need to decrease the number of immigrants in the United States, not just illegal, but legal as well, say that's not our problem. What Mexicans are experiencing in Mexico, or any other race of people is experiencing in their home countries, is not our problem and we can't take on everybody else's issues. But, when you look at what's really happening and how America is infused with our neighbors south of the border, what do you think the real issue is with those who say, "go home"' to the Mexicans? What is the real issue with a North American Union and with the free flowing of migrants throughout the 3 countries?
HING : Let's be honest. The people who tout the anti-immigrant line, they are made up of a diverse group of individuals. Some of them are mislead by the economic arguments. They think that immigrants hurt the economy. All major empirical studies demonstrate that the economic argument doesn't hold. In fact, immigrants help our economy. Even today, in the bad economic decline, there are still many, many jobs that Americans don't take that only low-wage immigrant workers will take. A lot of people who are on that anti-immigrant side, they believe people come here and don't want to learn English. Again, that's not true. Community colleges have long waiting lists of people who want to learn English. I wish people would talk more to immigrants. When you interview immigrants, you find out that they want to learn English. They want their children to do well in school. They want their children to learn English, of course. So, that just doesn't hold. Unfortunately, there's an element in the anti-immigrant community--let's face it--that doesn't like the race of the folks that are coming here. And I'm talking about legal and undocumented immigrants. There are some folks who continue to look at America through a white western, northern, European lense. That's what they think America has been and should continue to be. They don't really believe the United States is a land of immigrants beyond western and northern Europe. To those folks, I say it's inevitable, unfortunately for them. Things are gonna change through legal immigration and through refugee policy. It's already started. We waste a lot of money through enforcement. We waste a lot of time and effort bickering through all this and what we ought to be doing is embracing the change and working with immigrants so we can work on inculcating them on the values we call American values and work with them about integrating into our society. That's how we really should spend our time.
DEBORAH : But why can't they simply come to America--legally--like any other immigrant before them?
HING : When people ask me that question, "Why are they all undocumented?", what you don't realize is there are numerical limitations, backlogs, and there are quotas that are very difficult to satisfy. The waiting list for many categories such as for siblings and for sons and daughters--those backlogs--run anywhere from 5 to 25 years in some cases. Some of the categories from Mexico and the Philippians are 15 to 20 years. So, it's just not that simple to fill in the forms and become an immigrant overnight.
DEBORAH : So what do we do? We know that reform has been discussed and talked about, but we don't have it yet. Every president has promised it. Obama promised it within his first year. That first year is gone. He said OK, first term. He's got two years left. What do we do about immigration to work within the laws that we have to rectify this problem we have with illegal immigrants, now?
HING : What I'm proposing of course is that we sit down and look at a long-term solution with respect to Mexico and its economy. But, that's not gonna solve the problem overnight. Unfortunately, there's nothing that's gonna solve the problem overnight. I think that every year--even under this administration, the Obama administration and especially under the George Bush administration--there have been billions and billions of dollars expended and appropriated for interior enforcement and border enforcement and it hasn't done anything to slow the flow of undocumented folks coming into the United States. That's why states are doing what they're doing trying to keep people out of the states. But most of that is gonna be thrown out as unconstitutional. The answer to your question is in order for something to get done in the next couple of years, people are gonna have to wake up and realize that what we've done in the past isn't solving the problem. Let's roll up our sleeves and figure out how to open the Visa system a little bit more to let in the workers that we need. But, in my opinion, even that isn't gonna be enough. We really are gonna have to sit down and work on helping to create jobs on both sides of the border and get Canada involved; Canada is very interested in this proposal. Get them involved to once and for all address the root causes of immigration pressures.
Deborah Robinson is co-editor and publisher of Legal Minds on Immigration Reform from 25 of the Top Legal Minds in the Country.
Watch this interview on www.YouTube/DeborahInterviews.
Read more about Deborah and Professor Bill Ong Hing at www.25LegalBriefs.com.