Khoulish featured in WalletHub article about immigration reform
By Richie Bernardo
January 30, 2018
Immigration, and how to handle it, continues to be a contentious topic in the United States in 2018. Recent issues include court battles over the Trump administration’s travel ban on certain countries, along with the possible upcoming end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But political differences aside, there’s no question that immigration as a whole affects the economy.
In light of recent developments in U.S. immigration policy, WalletHub compared the economic impact of foreign-born populations on the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We determined which states benefit the most — and least — from immigration using 19 key indicators. Our data set ranges from median household income of foreign-born population to jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses as a share of total jobs. Read on for our findings, additional commentary from a panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Ask the Experts
With immigration reform continuing to hold a prominent place in 2018’s political climate, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
1. Do you think the immigration plan proposed by the Trump administration will be effective in reducing undocumented immigration?
2. Recent estimates suggest that net migration from Mexico to the U.S. is below zero in recent years — that is, more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than entering. Do you think this trend will continue?
3. What is the best way to enforce the immigration law without breaking families apart?
4. Should the U.S. tighten its legal-immigration policies?
5. Are immigrants an economic benefit or an economic drain to states?
6. What recourse, if any, does the Trump administration have to punish sanctuary cities that will not cooperate with federal immigration agents?
Director of MLaw Programs in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Joel J. Feller Research Professor at the University of Maryland
What recourse, if any, does the Trump administration have to punish sanctuary cities who will not cooperate with federal immigration agents?
The question infers that the federal government has the right to ask local law enforcement to break their own laws, which it does not. It also interferes with fundamental local autonomy and the Tenth Amendment policing concerns. The term Sanctuary Cities is itself problematic and somewhat meaningless. It comes down to whether or not local authorities agree to enforce federal immigration laws at their own risk and cost. Cooperating with ICE or CBP to raid workplaces or residences destroys trust, along with valuable resources. It is simply not in the interest of local law enforcement to lose the trust of the communities they serve. A lack of trust in policing contributes to severe public safety and public health concerns. Crimes, fires, domestic abuse, illnesses are likely to go unreported to authorities, which likely places both victimes and the larger community at risk.
Because it can be counterproductive for local police and governments to cooperate with ICE, many police departments and sheriff offices, along with local governments simply refuse to cooperate with ICE. When that refusal goes public, the jurisdiction is labeled a sanctuary city. Sanctuary Cities are actually a pro-police and pro-law enforcement stance. It respects the professionalism and mission of local police, as well as limited government resources. It also safeguards law enforcement from engaging in illegal activity. Detaining individuals without probable cause, charges or valid sentence is against the law. Complying with ICE detainers also raises constitutional questions.
The presumption that the Administration should punish cities thus seems both counterintuitive and counterproductive. It is urging local law enforcement to subver the law, not enforce it. And yet, on January 25, 2017, the Trump Administration issued an executive order #13768 on interior immigration enforcement that threatened to withhold federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities. As several courts have ruled, the ERO helps to subvert the mission of local law enforcement. In my opinion it would be preferable for the Administration to respect the challenges that confront local law enforcement instead of compounding them by forcing local authorities to enforce immigration laws that cut against local interests and constitutional rights.
Do you think the immigration plan proposed by the Trump administration will be effective in reducing illegal immigration?
The Trump plan to reduce undocumented immigrants seems remarkably nonstrategic. Rather, the Administrative approach seems impractical, and somewhat hypocritical. When viewing the effectiveness of a Trump plan, it is important to view events during the past year through the frame of Trump’s rhetoric and executive orders issued during the first days of the Administration.
The message is clear: it is open season on undocumented immigrants. The president has focused his words on immigrants of color, portraying them as terrorists, criminals, rapists. He has described a variety of immigrant-sending countries in disturbingly pejorative terms. John Kelly, Chief of Staff and former Secretary of DHS has instructed agencies to manipulate data to exaggerate immigrant criminality. And local ICE and CBP officials have been unleashed to apprehend immigrants in food stores, shopping malls, on courtroom steps and Greyhound buses. Of course, war-like scenarios are likely to discourage undocumented immigrants, but this is hardly an effective or sustainable plan.
Should the U.S. tighten its legal immigration policies?
The Administration would like to reduce legal immigration, even though there is no real reason to do so. Indeed, the Administration's approach to legal immigration is problematic for two reasons. First, the Administration proposes to dramatically decrease the number of visas that it issues annually. It seeks to reframe legal immigration that balances a humane concern for family reunification against a merit-based approach that is intended to benefit the economy, into one that relies solely on using immigrants for transactional purposes.
This return on investment approach sacrifices an important part of American national identity that recognizes a country of immigrants. In its place is an “America First” approach that would like to issue visas solely on the predicted value-added by the immigrants to the economy, and perhaps also on the predicted decrease in visas issued to people of color. This second point appeals to the President's political base as much as it denigrates the constitutional ideals that have made many see the U.S. as exceptional.
Second, the President’s proposals fail on their own terms. America First is supposed to strengthen the U.S. economy. Instead, the potential reforms are likely to decrease global competitiveness. Efforts to revamp the H-1B visa program for skilled foreign workers, for example, is likely to have a detrimental effect on Silicon Valley, and perhaps deter the founders of the next generation of Google, Apple and PwC from incubating their ideas in this country. Already the DOJ and DHS are subjecting the H-1B to greater scrutiny, impeding the welcome for talented innovators already seeking to take their skills and ideas to more hospitable destinations.
Illegal immigration can be a plus or a minus for the economy. The consensus is that over time, undocumented immigrants are a net plus on the economy. They are economic engines, they create jobs, deposit into social security and don’t withdraw, and add jobs to firms that currently rely on their labor. Over time, there have been studies on both sides of this issue, and quite frankly, I believe the reader can find a study that confirms their opinion. With that said, for me it makes most sense to argue that economic sirens play an important role in undocumented immigration. Undocumented workers are generally here for jobs. Rather than wrestling jobs from U.S. citizens, firms solicit and then welcome their labor because paying undocumented workers is less costly than paying citizens, and they offer jobs that otherwise would go unfilled -- crops wouldn’t get picked, roads wouldn’t be paved and dishes wouldn’t get washed, especially in nonunion shops.
If undocumented immigrants were to disappear, important segments of the economy would be destroyed in agriculture, construction and in service and hospitality industries. A recent Center for American progress study concludes that these industries would see workforce reductions almost as high as 20 percent. The scholar Giovanni Peri has found that undocumented immigrants increase the organizational complexity of forms, adding jobs and higher-status positions for U.S. citizens. In my own state of Maryland, like it or not, I enjoy my summer crab feasts because of the hard, yet hardly noticeable work of undocumented crabbers and crab pickers. Most Marylanders would be sorry if they weren’t here.
What is the best way to enforce the immigration law without breaking families apart?
The best way to enforce immigration laws without breaking families apart is to have immigration laws that do not needlessly break families apart. I come from an academic tradition in law and society that suggests effective laws are those that are responsive to their communities. As applied to immigration, this school suggests immigration law should be responsive, not punitive, especially given that immigration law is civil law, not criminal law. Keep in mind -- entering the country without papers is a misdemeanor, no more serious than loitering or jay-walking.
My argument covers three issues: first, studies show that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are economic engines over time that add more to the economy than they take from it. Breaking apart families makes little economic sense. Second, breaking families apart violates fundamental human rights norms that commit the government to disrespecting human dignity. Third, my research on immigration risk suggests that most immigrants who are detained and removed from the country are not very risky. They are neither dangerous criminals, nor do they pose much of a public safety risk.
The act of breaking families apart is a violent response to a nonviolent offense. My point is that immigration law enforcement should be proportional to the seriousness of the offense, and the risk it represents. In most instances, breaking families apart is disproportionately harsh and serves no valid public interest.