Monday, November 24, 2008
In the seven full years that the federal government's T visa program has been under way to help foreign women exploited in sweatshops or sold as sex slaves in America, only 1,094 trafficking victims have obtained the visas available to those willing to help prosecute traffickers, according to a newspaper report. For the full story, click here.
Agriprocessors Inc., its former CEO, three company managers and a company human resources employee were all charged here Friday with federal immigration crimes in a 12-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court. The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth, Northern District of Iowa, and resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For the full story, click here.
Deborah Barfield Berry reports for Gannett News Service:
WASHINGTON -- Buoyed by more Democrats in the House and Senate and a Democratic president-elect, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects lawmakers next year to take on hot-button issues from immigration to health care.
The Nevada Democrat also said Congress will try early on to undo some of President George W. Bush's recent executive orders, including ones on environment policies.
Last week, Reid discussed his priorities for the next Congress.
QUESTION: What are your priorities for the first 100 days of the session?
ANSWER: We're going to have to take care of a lot of nominations. ... We have to finish our appropriations process. We have a number of issues to repeal -- presidential orders (Bush) put in in the last few weeks. ... On the environment, for example, we're looking at clean-air regulations.
Q: Will it be an easier pitch with more Democrats in Congress?
A: Yes, next year it will be much easier to do. ... I'll have a larger majority here; so will ( House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi. We'll have a new president. And I think the Republicans come from the same states we come from. They have a lot of issues they need help with.
Q: What failed efforts disappoint you?
A: I wish we would have passed the speculation bill dealing with oil. I wish we could have gotten more money for infrastructure. We got quite a bit. But ... we should have a major infrastructure development program in our country.
Q: With more Democrats in the Senate and the House and a Democrat in the White House, how do you see congressional efforts playing out on such issues as health care and immigration?
A: On immigration, there's been an agreement between (President-elect Barack) Obama and (Arizona Republican Sen. John) McCain to move forward on that. ... We'll do that. We have to get this economy stuff figured out first, so I think we'll have a shot at doing something on health care in the next Congress for sure.
Q: Will there be as much of a fight on immigration as last time?
A: We've got McCain and we've got a few others. I don't expect much of a fight at all. Now health care is going to be difficult. That's a very complicated issue. We debated at great length immigration. People understand the issues very well. We have not debated health care, so that's going to take a lot more time to do.
The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars striving to save foreign women exploited in sweatshops or sold as sex slaves in America -- yet only about half have gotten special visas for victims willing to help prosecute traffickers, according to a Houston Chronicle review.
As the economy has risen to the top of the national agenda, immigration has dropped as a voter concern. However, a new paper from the non-partisan Reform Institute illustrates how the two issues are intertwined. While the present economic crisis requires attention and action, an even greater economic challenge, posed by the aging of our society, lies directly ahead. As we seek to recover from the current recession, the onset of the aging effects may hold back our recovery, due to a mounting fiscal deficit, workforce shortages, and weakened housing demand. Old Promises and New Blood: How Immigration Reform Can Help America Prosper in the Face of Baby Boomer Retirement highlights the essential role that immigration will play in the coming decades to strengthen the resilience of America’s economy against the impending demographic tsunami. The report details how two major forces – the aging of the baby boomers and the settlement and advancement of foreign-born residents – will shape our economic future. An aging society imperils three basic promises that are at the heart of America’s economic success: a secure retirement for seniors; an ample and capable workforce for employers; and a vibrant housing market for families. The infusion of new blood that immigration represents will be critical to mitigating the harmful consequences of the three perils to long-term growth and prosperity. “While it is not currently a concern for most Americans, the rising senior ratio represents a defining challenge for the United States,” according to Dr. Dowell Myers, the author of the paper and a prominent demographer at the University of Southern California. “As the baby boomers retire, Americans will experience the effects through mounting entitlement expenditures and national debt, a depleted workforce, and a housing market saturated with houses for sale. Confronting the effects of an aging society must be a major focus of public policy, garnering at least as much attention as issues such as global warming. How we as a society deal with immigration will significantly affect the severity of the phenomenon’s consequences.” The senior ratio is the number of residents ages 65 and older divided by all persons of prime working age, 25 to 64. This ratio has remained relatively steady in recent decades and currently stands at about 24 seniors per 100 working age adults. However, with the first baby boomers set to reach age 65 in 2011, the ratio is poised to soar in the next couple of decades, reaching 41 seniors per 100 working age residents. With the leading edge of this monumental demographic shift just around the corner, it is imperative to comprehend the implications and how immigration can assuage the detrimental effects.
Peril 1: The Entitlement Crisis and Fiscal Debt The predicament of Social Security due to the retirement of the boomers has received a great deal of attention in recent years, but a graying population will have an even deeper impact on Medicare. The explosion in entitlement expenditures due to the retirement of a significant portion of the population will produce an unsustainable strain on an already over-extended federal budget. Entitlement spending is forecast to climb from 38 percent of federal revenue in 2008 to 65 percent by 2032. The report states the situation, “Effectively, this budget outlook foresees only undesirable alternatives: curbing all government spending on necessary functions like defense, education, or transportation; engaging in ever heavier borrowing and debt repayment; or raising taxes.” Immigrants and their offspring add to the tax base and offset a significant portion of entitlement spending through payroll taxes.
Peril 2: The Workforce Crisis Baby boomers leaving the workforce en masse through retirement will cause workforce growth to virtually stagnate, which will severely hamper overall economic growth. There are simply not enough native-born workers to replace the retirees. Occupations such as nursing will be particularly hard hit. A “deep and debilitating workforce deficit” is forecast beginning in the next decade. Foreign-born workers already account for a sizeable share of workforce growth. Future U.S. workforce growth could turn negative without the continued contributions of immigrants. Even in cases where immigrants are low on education, their children, educated in the U.S., possess skills needed by the market.
Peril 3: The Coming Home Sellers Crisis Just as the U.S. recovers from the current housing quandary, it is likely to face a deeper and longer-lasting crisis owing to the mounting senior ratio. In the coming decades a glut in the housing market could arise as older Americans put up their homes for sale and there are too few younger Americans available to purchase them. Contrary to popular perception, immigrants own homes in large numbers and represent a bloc key to easing future weakness in the housing market.
The study concludes with data indicating that immigration has been declining in most states in recent years and advising that it is time for Americans to revisit common misperceptions concerning immigrants. We must consider the benefits and costs of immigration in light of the three perils associated with an aging society. Old Promises and New Blood is the latest effort on the part of the Reform Institute to inform the often heated immigration debate and fix our dysfunctional immigration system in a manner that balances security with satisfying the long-term needs of our workforce and economy. “This paper compellingly lays out the contributions that immigration can and must make to the future growth and competitiveness of our economy and its resilience in the face of colossal challenges,” stated Reform Institute Executive Director Cecilia Martinez. The paper is available on the Institute’s website at http://www.reforminstitute.org/uploads/publications/Old_Promises_New_Blood_Final_11-21-08.pdf. Information regarding the Reform Institute’s efforts on comprehensive immigration reform is also available at http://www.reforminstitute.org/Default.aspx?cid=5.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Kim Lewis reports:
The advocacy group Refugees International says the situation in Somalia is worse than ever. More than 1.3 million Somalis are now displaced within the country. Thirty-five-thousand fled Mogadishu in October and 10,000 crossed the border to Kenya in September. In the south, one in six children under five years old is malnourished.
Patrick Duplat, an advocate with Refugees International, discussed the challenges facing the displaced as well as the problems confronting humanitarian organizations as they try to help. Duplat said, “They (Somalis) are the first victims because of multiple factors, including the ongoing conflict, drought, and high food prices. Somalis have had to flee their homes and seek refuge, sometimes in other regions of Somalia, and other times have had no choice but to leave the country in the hopes of finding a more stable place to stay where they can find food. Their first concern is their survival and the care of their family.” Click here for the rest of the story.
Mandy Clark reports for Voice of America:
About 100 protesters gathered in London on Friday to call on the British government to stop the expulsion of Congolese refugees back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Britain's High Court judges are set to decide the fate of thousands of asylum-seekers living in the UK as they consider whether the war-torn DRC is safe. VOA's Mandy Clark reports from London.
A silent, shuffling protest - 100 people dressed in black, like a funeral procession, mourning the millions who have died in the fighting in the DRC. They walked towards 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's official residence, to hand deliver a petition. Click here for the rest of the story.