Entries Tagged as 'Hispanics'

Heed McCain’s Warning on Immigration

January 5th, 2012 at 1:32 pm 31 Comments

Someone should listen to John McCain. Asked by First Read whether he thought Arizona was in play this election cycle, help McCain reportedly responded “I think that if not this election cycle, the demographics are that Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, even Texas will all be in play.” The Senator then added, “We have to fix our problems with the Hispanics.”

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Amnesty Debate Drowns Out Education Talk

April 21st, 2011 at 4:20 pm 10 Comments

On Wednesday, the Brookings Institute hosted a panel on the poor educational attainment of immigrant children entitled “Immigrant Children Falling Behind: Implications and Policy Prescriptions.” Although there was some discussion on the challenges facing immigrant children, the discussion sadly devolved into a debate over the merits and disadvantages of the DREAM Act.

The event started off on a good enough note, to be sure. “If immigrant kids have a problem, then the nation has a problem,” said Ron Haskins, the co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families.

The importance of immigration children to the country’s well-being is made plain through demographics, argued several of the panelists. The American population is aging, and immigration is the only thing that can keep the labor force growing, they said.

“At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were 10 children for every senior,” said Brookings demographer Audrey Singer. “By 2030, there will be only 1.2 children for every senior.”

“If it weren’t for immigrant women, children would be even a smaller share of the U.S. population today,” added Marta Tienda of Princeton University. “[Immigration] is the dynamic of growth, it is the reason that the United States, U.K., Canada and Australia are not declining in population like Spain and Italy and Japan.”

Singer also pointed out that the immigrants are making up a larger and larger segment of the child population. In fact, she says, even if immigration were to stop completely today, the United States would have a minority-majority child population by 2050.

The problem is that immigrant children are performing poorly in educational attainment. “Immigrants are overrepresented [in the less than high school education] category,” said Haskins, and education is correlated with income – something that has no doubt contributed to the fact that wages for first and second generation immigrants have been declining since the 1940s.

The key is to invest in these immigrant children – something that could lead to a real economic benefit for the country, argued Marta Tienda.

So what kinds of investments are being proposed to increase the educational well-being of immigrant children, and, arguably, the economic well-being of the country? Haskins and Tienda had recently outlined three suggestions in a policy brief: expand pre-school programs to boost the readiness of immigrant children for public school; improve programs for those learning English as a second language so that they can master it by the second grade; and pass the DREAM Act to boost educational opportunities for undocumented immigrant youth.

But although the event was meant to address a massive social problem, it quickly turned into a debate about whether the DREAM Act should be enacted.

“If you take an investment perspective, rather than, ‘Did you come here legally or not, or were you dragged across when you were three’… anyone who beats the odds and outperforms individuals who have had all the benefits of citizenship throughout their life – there’s something there that we might not be able to measure, but we certainly want to bottle it and capitalize on it,” Tienda said.

Jena McNeill, a homeland security policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, saw it differently. She pointed out that the U.S. had passed a bill granting amnesty to certain illegal immigrants in the hopes that this, combined with better border enforcement, would reduce illegal immigration.

The illegal immigrant population in the United States has risen four-fold since then, she pointed out. In fact, with the lessons she drew from 1986 in mind, McNeill opposes the DREAM act as merely incentivizing more illegal immigration. “Whether it’s a piecemeal amnesty like the DREAM Act or something like a larger earned legalization under a comprehensive bill, it all to me has the impact of encouraging more illegal immigration to the United States,” she said.

Discussion on the DREAM Act is of course interesting and important, but the topic of conversation was disappointing considering that the panel was billed as one that would try and tackle one of society’s most urgent problems.

The parochial focus on a piece of legislation as opposed to the larger problem of immigrant children and their educational attainment is telling – if those who are best positioned to have debates about the immigration system and education are not having the broader discussions, how can the rest of us talk about it intelligently?

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