Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Driver Licenses and Auto Insurance Are Sensible Steps for Undocumented Workers

In Illinois, Immigration on November 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm


Illinois is considering allowing special purple-colored “not for identification” driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. [1]   This is a common sense idea.

“Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, resulting in $660 million in damage, according to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition. Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims alone.  The Safety Coalition said on its website that since New Mexico made the change in 2003, the rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent.

The measure would expand to undocumented immigrants Illinois’ existing temporary visitor driver’s license, used by legal immigrants. The licenses are “visually distinct” from ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words “not valid for identification” on the front.” [1]

Undocumented workers are a fact of life in the USA.  Some get fake driver’s licenses or other documents, anyway.  For that matter, some teenaged Anglo kids obtain fake driver’s licenses to purchase beer.  Estimates range but somewhere around 11 million [2] of the nation’s 330 million people (about 3% of the population) is an undocumented person.  Be assured: some of the people who pick your fruits and vegetables, mow your lawn, clean your hotel rooms, wash dishes at your favorite restaurant, landscape your office building, and watch your kids at day care are here illegally.

Given that they’re here and driving anyway, doesn’t it make sense to have them educated about the rules of the road and road-tested for a license?  Isn’t auto insurance a good idea?   It is reminiscent of contraception: you probably don’t want your 16-year old daughter sexually active, but if she has a boyfriend and is active, anyway, would you prefer she use condoms to protect against potential diseases and pregnancy?  Or would you put your head in the sand and wish for the best?

The claim is made that offering a license is rewarding people who break the law.  If it protects the rest of the country by insuring them, the reward is as much for the populace as large. 

Also, in the cases of some young people, they broke no law.  If you were an illegal immigrant child, say age 12, when brought to the US by your parents, you did not commit a crime.  Western jurisprudence has always held that children cannot be liable for the actions of their parents.

It behooves us to take into account the fact many people commit small crimes.  Many of us violate traffic laws every day.  Is working here without the proper papers a major crime?  I would say no, it is not a big deal.  In fact, it’s really in the realm of “victimless crimes,” which is why it happens.  If an apple orchard in Washington state hires an illegal worker to pick the apples you eat, who is harmed?  No one else wanted that job and I mean that literally.

Growers mostly blame rising tensions around illegal immigration that have spooked migrant farm workers, the majority of whom are here illegally, while worker advocates say there’d be no shortage if growers were willing to pay workers more.

 “Truth be told, we’ve always had a labor shortage in this state; 75 percent of these workers aren’t authorized to be here,” said Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association.  From Wenatchee to Wapato, in orchards up the Okanogan Valley and across the Yakima Valley, apple trees hang heavy with still-ripening fruit.   At the entrances of a few farms across the region are variations of a sign: “Necesitos Piscadores” — pickers wanted.  [3] 

Labor shortages are a fact of life in the Dakotas.  I don’t buy that Americans are being denied these jobs.  If you are unemployed, are you moving to North Dakota?

When it comes to labor shortages on dairy farms, owners have few options to find the workers they need. Unlike vegetable and fruit growers, dairy farmers have no federal program they can utilize to solicit immigrant labor. If they can’t find domestic labor, their work is likely to go undone.

Dairy farmers don’t talk openly about their labor dilemma for fear of drawing unwanted attention from immigration officials in their region.

One organization, Rural Migration News (RMN), regularly summarizes and analyzes the most important migration-related issues affecting immigrant farm workers in California and the United States. Their efforts are supported by the Rosenberg, Giannini and Farm Foundations.  RMN reported in October 2011 that some Wisconsin dairy farmers believe E-Verify would “kill the dairy industry in Wisconsin.” John Rosenow of Wisconsin’s Rosenholm-Wolfe Dairy commented that, “60 percent of the milk that’s harvested is harvested by immigrants, and the vast majority are probably undocumented.” [4]

You benefit from lower apple prices.  Some argument illegal immigrants create a heavy burden with costs but the fact is that working age adults come, not elderly people who need significant medical care.  Anyone who lives here, regardless of immigration status , is contributing to the local economy by buying gasoline for their car, buying groceries and clothing, paying rent, purchasing other goods and services.

Who are the illegals?  Perhaps one million of America’s undocumented aliens are from Asia. [5]  I knew an Irishman who overstayed his student Visa and stayed to marry an American.  Any rational discussion of illegal immigrants must consider those from the Ukraine, Philippines, Poland and other places who overstay tourist or student Visas.

In recent years it is estimated that about half of all illegal aliens in the United States enter through the US-Mexico Southern sector. Among those who ‘enter without inspection’, the great majority are Mexicans and Central Americans (Gonzalez Baker et al., 1998). The other half is ‘visa over stayer’. They typically fly into US international airports with proper documents and overstay their permits, This is an extremely heterogeneous population. Most U.S. citizens would find it surprising that today Canadians constitute an important group of illegal immigrants in the USA.” [6] According to Pew, just 58% of illegal aliens are from Mexico. [2]

If you’re a Republican and still disagree, you may wish to reconsider in light of the politics.  Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election solely on Latino votes, which went 71% for Obama. [7]  Asian-Americans, despite being America’s wealthiest ethnic category, voted even more strongly for Obama.  Many middle-class and upper class Asian-Americans and Latinos voted against their economic interests and perceived unfriendliness on immigration.  The Latino voting population will double in by 2030. [8]

If the GOP wants to be more than just a debate club, it would behoove the party to focus on more important conservative issues, anyway, like entitlement spending, taxes and the role of government in health care.  Trying to stop a few percent of the population from obtaining driver’s licenses and auto insurance is a fool’s errand.



[3]    See also






Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.

Immigrants More Likely Entreprenuers than the Rest of Us

In Illinois, Immigration, Job Creation on June 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Famous Mi Tierra Restaurant, San Antonio, Texas (photo by author)

“Immigrants are more inclined to own small businesses than native-born Americans,” says today’s excellent Wall Street Journal article “Migrants Keep Small-Business Faith” by Miriam Jordan.  [1] The article is free, not behind the Journal’s paywall.

Highlights include 4.7 million people were employed by immigrant owned businesses in 2010 and generated nearly a trillion dollars in revenue.

I quote a vignette from the article about an immigrant entrepreneur near where I live.  This one of countless stories of newcomers who spoke no English but quickly adapted to American culture, learned English and started thriving businesses.  They employ many and enrich our culture.


Delfino Bello emigrated from Mexico unable to speak English. Now, he runs three popular Mexican restaurants about 40 miles from Chicago.


In 1995, Mr. Bello opened his first eatery, called “El Faro,” in a shopping strip in Bartlett, Ill., that had fallen on hard times. As the taqueria flourished, it attracted other businesses. A few years later, he opened restaurants in Elgin and East Dundee, serving a clientele that includes both immigrants and Americans.


“I had nothing, nothing when I arrived in this country,” said Mr. Bello, 55 years old. If the economy continues to recover, he says he plans to open a fourth restaurant.

Immigrant businesses have enlivened otherwise dead cities and suburban areas.  One of Mr. Bello’s restaurants is in Elgin, an old industrial city near Chicago.  If you’ve been to Elgin or the very similar industrial city of Aurora, located on the same Fox River, you’ve seen the importance of immigrant businesses.  Both cities’ downtowns have very few national retailers or restaurant chains.  But they have many immigrant businesses.  If you travel Broadway in downtown Aurora, you see many immigrant businesses.

The country benefits from immigrant entrepreneurs.

Latin American products, San Antonio, Texas

Latin American products, San Antonio, Texas.  (photo by author)




Pictures of Mi Tierra (San Antonio) and Latin American products at market stalls in San Antonio by author.  Picture of 26th Street in Little Village neighborhood of Chicago from Wikipedia Commons.


MexicUSA: What the Merger of Mexico and the United States Would Mean For English

In Immigration, Mexico, Political Rhetoric, Spanish Language on January 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

Let us consider the merger of the United States and Mexico!  Welcome MexicUSA!

I sometimes hear we need to limit immigration or else Spanish will someday overtake English in the United States.  Is that possible?  What would a hypothetical US-Mexican country be like demographically?

First, let me say this is a wildly hypothetical example.  Mexico is a proud country and a merger with the United States is as unthinkable to most Mexicans as it is to most Americans as well.

I bring up a US-Mexican merger simply to show what it would be like demographically, as an extreme case, since it helps address whether there are linguistic or cultural challenges to the United States from a half million or million immigrants.  Let us not talk small ball but instead consider welcoming all of Mexico as immigrants all at once!

Mexico has 112.4 million residents. [1]  The USA has 312.9 million residents. [3]  In our new MexicUSA, the old Mexico will account for just 26% of the new US population.

But what of the future?  Isn’t Mexico growing faster?  Even in 2050, the old Mexico population is projected to be 132.3 million [4], compared to 402 million in the old USA [4], meaning old Mexico would actually drop a fraction to be just 25% of MexicUSA.

That certainly does not suggest Mexico would dominate the MexicUSA.

Most Mexican elites learn English.  Many study in the United States.  The last three Mexican presidents (Felipe Calderon, Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo) all had degrees from top US universities.  I have been unable to find an exact statistic on what proportion of Mexicans, whether elite or general population, speak English, I did find this quote: “As far as second languages go, a relatively large number of educated Mexicans (and those with little or no education who have immigrated to the US and returned) have different degrees of fluency in English.” [5]   Also, “on an every-day basis most Mexicans listen to contemporary music such as pop, rock, etc. in both English and Spanish.” [1] 

Evidence of the popularity of American English culture can be found on the Mexican music charts.  In 2012, through May, the #1 spots are dominated by English language albums from non-Mexican artists (Adele, Madonna, & One Direction).  Contrast that with the almost exclusively English language pop charts in the United States.  The Mexican chart’s top Spanish language album is from Yuridia, who lived in Arizona for nine years and speaks English. [2]

It is well-known that Mexican elites in business, politics and culture generally speak English.  This is, of course, common for elites worldwide.  In MexicUSA, the political, business and cultural leaders from the former Mexico will be able to conduct themselves in English. 

An interesting piece of immigration assimilation is intermarriage.  It has long been extremely high amongst Asians and Hispanics.  “Among all newlyweds in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.” [6]  Twenty-six percent, of course, means one out of four.  I know many Hispanics who are married to Anglos.  Their children are as “American” as anyone else and always speak English. 

Some argue Hispanic immigrants in the USA, whether from Mexico or elsewhere, do not speak English.  That is simply untrue over time.  Hispanic immigrants learn English and their children speak it better.  By the third generation, many solely speak English.

Twice I had Latina girlfriends, both of whom spoke English.  One was an immigrant from Mexico and the other, born here, had virtually no accent and hardly knew more Spanish than me!  I have had many Hispanic friends and co-workers and invariably they speak English, usually fluently.

“Among second-generation Hispanics, 92 percent speak English well or very well, even though 85 percent speak at least some Spanish at home. Eleven percent of Mexican second-generation children speak only English at home, compared to five percent in the first generation.” [7]

English-only is the predominant pattern by the third generation. These children speak only English at home, making it highly unlikely they will be bilingual as adults… The level of English monolingualism is lower among Hispanics, but, at 72 percent, it is still a clear majority.  71 percent of third-generation Mexicans speak only English.” [7]

The evidence is clear.  Even in the extraordinarily unlikely instance the United States absorbed its Mexican neighbor to the South, the “old” USA would still comprise 75% of the combined population.  Mexican elites already speak English and often attend US universities.  Many Mexicans listen to American pop music and otherwise follow American culture.  Mexican-Americans in the USA learn English over time with second generation children speaking English.  By the third generation, almost 3/4 of Mexican-Americans speak only English.  Intermarriage rates remain quite high so that millions of 2050 Americans will be of mixed Hispanic-other ancestry. 

A half million or million more – or even ten million more – immigrants will never swamp English as a language, no more than your own ancestors’ Yiddish, Polish, Greek, Dutch, Tagalog, German, Italian, Cantonese, Lithuanian, Ukranian, Czech or Swedish held you back from learning English.  Do you even speak your ancestors’ native tongues?  Probably not.

Topography of the United Mexican States

[1] retrieved 1/27/12.  Technically, Mexico is called the United States of Mexico.

[2] retrieved 5/17/12.

[3] retrieved 1/27/12.


[5] retrieved 1/27/12.


[7]  Emphasis in the original.

Pictures (flags, Yuridia, Mexico maps) from Wikipedia Commons.