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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "immigrant rights"

Right-Wing Think Tank's Racist Report Distorts Prospects for Immigrants' Future

May 16, 2013 ·

A study by the Heritage Foundation maintained that Hispanic immigrants are deficient in I.Q. and thus disposed to rely on "government handouts."

Jason Richwine, who just resigned from the Heritage Foundation.In 2007 the Heritage Foundation played a major role in derailing immigration reform. This year it tried to replicate its success by publishing a study claiming that unlawful immigration and amnesty would cost U.S. tax payers approximately $6.3 trillion dollars. However, their ploy to sabotage immigration reform failed in dramatic fashion. Not only were their exaggerated estimates on the cost of amnesty resoundingly refuted by both conservative and liberal groups, but their entire report appeared to hinge on a premise that reeked of racism.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s study, one of the primary reasons immigration reform would cost so much is that a typical undocumented immigrant lacks adequate education. And poorly educated individuals, according to the study, “are net tax consumers: the benefits they receive exceed the taxes they pay.”

This notion of the undocumented being “poorly educated” comes directly from Jason Richwine, one of the coauthors of the study. Richwine got his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University, where he wrote a dissertation titled IQ and Immigration Policy. In it he claims that Hispanics have on average lower IQs than their Caucasian counterparts. Moreover, he writes, “[n]o one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” In other words, Hispanics will probably never be as smart as white people.

Richwine goes on to say that the IQ disparity between the two races explains why Hispanics have never been able to fully assimilate into American culture and why they are more likely to accept government handouts: “When given the choice between a paycheck from a low-paying job and a welfare check, most intelligent people would realize that the welfare check offers them no potential for advancement. Low-IQ people do not internalize that fact nearly as well.”

There you have it: Hispanics are dumb. Dumb people rely more on government handouts. Therefore, Hispanics will use more government handouts than the average citizen and as a result they will drain the government of its resources. Keep them out!

To the Heritage Foundation’s credit, it is a straightforward argument.

Nevertheless, the argument is horribly flawed. This year Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college at higher rates than whites. There is a substantial income gap between whites and Hispanics, but each successive generation of Hispanics continues to narrow this gap. No to mention the fact that Hispanics have served in almost every U.S. war and have received 44 Medals of Honor, the third most for any ethnic group. Not bad for a people who failed to “assimilate.”

Despite the fact that the Heritage Foundation’s study is faulty at best and racist at worst, it’s still hugely informative. The study offers a genuine glimpse of what many, especially on the right, think about Hispanics. Many Hispanics, including this writer, have generally felt that opposition to immigration reform does not stem from some intellectual argument, but from visceral emotions driven by xenophobia. The study produced by the Heritage Foundation has proven this point to be correct.

Luckily, the Heritage Foundation is in the minority. According to a CNN/ORC international survey, 84% percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

America is known as the melting pot of the world. Immigrants from across the globe call this place their home. The notion pushed by the Heritage Foundation that Hispanic immigrants need to assimilate is not only paradoxical but also deeply offensive. America is a country that embraces immigrants and all the diversity that comes with them; it doesn’t assimilate them into a homogenous stew. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. Most Americans seem to understand this, even if the Heritage Foundation does not.

Javier Rojo is the New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Driving Immigrants Underground

July 22, 2011 ·

Should undocumented immigrants have the right to obtain driver's licenses or government-issued ID cards? This question often dominates the immigration debate at the local level.

States have the authority to follow their own guidelines for issuing driver's licenses and ID cards that don't have to preclude undocumented immigrants from obtaining them.

But exercising that right can prove politically toxic. The issue was a thorn on Gov. Gray Davis’ side when he was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It also tripped up Hillary Clinton, who tried to avert New York’s debate on the issue when she sought to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee in 2008.

New Mexico is bringing the license question back into the spotlight. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has ordered the state's Motor Vehicle Department to send letters to 10,000 random undocumented immigrants who have obtained state driver's licenses to prove they still live in New Mexico. Martinez’s Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla made a national security argument for this move:

"They're leaving New Mexico with a government-issued ID, that gives them access to federal buildings and the ability to get on an airplane," said Padilla.

Washington State recently revoked the license of Jose Antonio Vargas, who came out last month as an undocumented immigrant after a successful writing career in publications like The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and the Huffington Post. From the Seattle Times:

Brad Benfield, a Washington state Department of Licensing spokesman, said officials canceled the card earlier this week. It means that if Vargas's license is checked by law enforcement or anyone else, he will show up as not having a license at all.

It's not an uncommon step for the department to take.

Benfield said the department has canceled 187 licenses so far this year based on fraud that was discovered through use of facial-recognition technology. In most cases, the drivers had more than one record in the system.

What should undocumented immigrants do? States like New Mexico and Washington see a surge of applications by people without social security numbers precisely because immigrants travel there to seek opportunities not currently granted to them in their state of residence.

Immigration reform is a game of societal benefits and responsibilities. Driver's licenses make immigrants more productive and can facilitate their integration into U.S. society. Taking away their driver's licenses is unlikely to deter immigrants who need the mobility to work or drive their kids to school. It will, however, make it more likely for such immigrants to be captured and deported by the authorities if they roll by a stop sign or have a broken taillight.

As Eddie Garcia and Sandra Khalifa show at Campus Progress, the Obama administration deported almost 100,000 people between March and June. About 55 percent of the immigrants the government deportede weren't criminals. More deportations break up families, and that’s bad for both the United States and the countries immigrants come from.

Most importantly, the worst way to make the immigration debate more constructive and more likely to lead to a rational shift in national policy is to dwell on issues like driver's licenses. It doesn't address the root causes of undocumented immigration and it simply makes it harder for entrepreneurial undocumented immigrants to get ahead.