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Immigration Overview. Rogelio Saenz Texas A&M University Introduction. The U.S. has long been a country of immigrants Waves of immigration associated with flows from different parts of the world Movement of capital and products across international borders NAFTA

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Immigration Overview

Rogelio Saenz

Texas A&M University


  • The U.S. has long been a country of immigrants

  • Waves of immigration associated with flows from different parts of the world

  • Movement of capital and products across international borders

    • NAFTA

  • Movement of people across international borders


Globalization is a process by which money, labor, goods, and services move easily across international boundaries. Globalization requires that goods and services be produced where costs are lowest, and then sold wherever profits are highest. Capitalists and workers alike should be free to produce a product (or increase the value of their labor) wherever they can. They should then be free to sell this product (or their labor) where it can bring them the greatest profit. NAFTA allows the free movement of goods and capital, but obstructs the free movement of labor. This deviation helps create the problem of undocumented immigration.

Source: Chad Richardson, University of Texas at Pan American.


Nationalism is an ideology which holds that individuals owe loyalty to their nation and that each nation should give preference to its citizens. Nationalism promotes a strong sense of belonging based on a shared national culture, glorifying myths, core values, and a common identity. It is a glue that holds a people together. But it also inspires many to act out against “outsiders,” or those considered different. Today we see nationalism used to attack “illegal aliens” and to argue that immigrants are ruining “our way of life” (American culture).

Source: Chad Richardson, University of Texas at Pan American

Increasing Globalization and Nationalism

Globalization is dramatically increasing. Free trade creates major market changes. To stay competitive, employers seek for ever cheaper labor. This leads them to take jobs overseas or to draw immigrants to the U.S. While some U.S. jobs are eliminated (or replaced by immigrant labor), new jobs are created at increasingly higher levels of skill and education.

Nationalism is also increasing. The changes brought by globalization (job loss and new waves of immigrant labor) lead to fears and resentment against “outsiders.” These fears are being exploited by politicians and media outlets who promote immigrant bashing and alarmist legislation.

Source: Chad Richardson, University of Texas at Pan American

The Current Environment

  • Militarization of the Border

  • Walls and Fences

  • Worksite Raids

  • Detentions and Deportations

  • Hate and Violence









ICE Raid Litigations







The T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center


Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Texas (Photo by Jay Johnson-Castro)




Southern Poverty Law Center

14 Hate Groups Against Immigrants


“Inmigrante Mexicano Golpeado a Muerte en Pennsylvania”


Effects of Globalization vs. Nationalism on the US-Mexico Borderlands [Source: Chad Richardson]




Maximizing the Good—and Minimizing the Pain of this Conflict

  • Globalization produces both winners and losers

  • Globalization pushes Mexican workers off “ejidos” and pulls them to the U.S. where they can earn money for their families;

  • Globalization takes away some U.S. jobs. But many jobs are also created for those with the needed education & skills.

  • Immigration also produces winners and losers

  • Though some workers are displaced by immigrants, evidence strongly suggests that they create more jobs than they displace;

  • Immigrants can also keep many U.S. industries competitive and keep some companies from taking jobs outside the U.S.

  • Source: Chad Richardson, University of Texas at Pan American.

Current Trends

Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn. Trends in Unauthorized Immigration: Undocumented Inflow Now Trails Legal Inflow. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, October 2008.

Estimates of the Undocumented Immigrant Population in the U.S., 2000-2008

Key Trends

  • Decline in the undocumented population since 2007

  • The 2005-2008 period has seen the slowest growth in the undocumented population during the decade

    • Average of 800,000/yr. in 2000-2004

    • Average of 500,000/yr. in 2005-2008

  • In 2005-2008, legal permanent residents outnumber undocumented immigrants, a reversal of a trend that started a decade ago

  • Still, undocumented immigrant population has increased more than 40% since 2000

  • Undocumented immigrants account for 4% of total U.S. population

Possible Reasons for Changes

  • Slowdown in U.S. economy

  • Stabilization of Mexican and Latin American economies

  • Heightened enforcement and security of the border and beyond

Percentage Distribution of U.S. Undocumented Immigrant Population by Region and Country of Birth, 2008Source: Pew Hispanic Center estimates based on March supplements of Current Population Survey.

Other Key Findings

  • Undocumented immigrants account for 30% of nation’s foreign-born population of more than 39 million.

  • 2 of every 5 undocumented immigrants have arrived since 2000

  • 4 of 5 undocumented from Latin America (9.6 million with 7 million coming from Mexico alone)

Rakesh Kochhar. Sharp Decline in Income for Non-Citizen Immigrant Households, 2006-2007. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, October 2008.

Mark Hugo Lopez and Susan Minushkin. Hispanics See Their Situation in U.S. Deteriorating; Oppose Key Immigration Enforcement Measures. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, September 2008.

Workplace Raids

“High-profile workplace raids to detain immigrants who are working without authorization have become more common in recent years (Bazar 2008). Some of the largest raids this year include that of Pilgrim’s Pride in which over 300 immigrants were detained in five states, AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa, where more than 300 immigrants were detained, and Howard Industries of Laurel, Miss. in which nearly 600 were detained.”

Source: Lopez and Minushkin (2008).

Prosecuting Employers

“Employment-based immigration violations involve two parties, the employee who is not authorized to work in the United States and the employer who is not permitted to hire undocumented workers. The federal government has stepped up its actions against employers in recent years (Pew Hispanic Center 2007). Some recent enforcement actions couple workplace raids with the criminal prosecution of employers who are alleged to have knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. Among the high-profile actions of this sort are the filing of charges this year against the owners and managers of AgriProcessors, a meatpacker based in Postville, Iowa, and in 2006 against the managers of IFCO Systems, a wood pallet maker with corporate headquarters in Houston.”

Source: Lopez and Minushkin (2008).

A Demographic Profile of Latinos in the South (Excluding Texas) from the 2007 American Community Survey

Age-Sex Pyramid of the Latino Population in the South, 2007

Age-Sex Pyramid of the White Population in the South, 2007

Age-Sex Pyramid of the Black Population in the South, 2007

Percentage of Population Foreign-Born in the South by Race, 2007


Whites 2.6%

Blacks 5.6%

Occupations Where Higher Percentages of Foreign-Born Latinos Work Compared to Other Selected Groups, 2007


OccupationLatino Latino White Black


Food Preparation & Service 7.8% 7.3% 5.3% 7.6%

Bldg. & Grounds Cleaning & Maint. 11.7% 4.5% 3.1% 6.3%

Farming, Fisheries, and Forestry 3.4% 0.7% 0.6% 0.5%

Construction 21.2% 6.7% 6.4% 4.7%

Production 10.0% 5.1% 6.0% 8.5%


State Variations in the Foreign-Born Latino Population in the South

(Excluding Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia)

Percentage of Latinos Who are Foreign-Born in Selected States in the South, 2007

Sex Ratios for Foreign-Born Latinos in Selected States in the South, 2007

Median Year in Which Foreign-Born Latinos Immigrated to the U.S. in Selected States in the South, 2007

Percentage of Foreign-Born Latinos Who Speak Only Spanish in Selected States in the South, 2007

Median Hourly Wages of Foreign-Born Latino Males in Selected States in the South, 2006

Percentage of Foreign-Born Latinos in Poverty in Selected States in the South, 2006

Combating Some Common Misperceptions in the Anti-Immigrant Backlash

[Source: Chad Richardson, University of Texas at Pan American]

Misconception 1: “They Only want welfare and we simply can’t afford it.”

Francisco Rivera-Batiz: Survey research showed that most undocumented workers do not come here seeking welfare payments, health care, or other government handouts. They come to work to earn money that they can then use to supplement their meager incomes in Mexico.[Journal of International Affairs 53, no. 2 (Spring 2000): 485-501]

A University of Illinois at Chicago study of 1,653 documented and undocumented immigrants in metro Chicago found that only a very small number of them were receiving government benefits. Conclusion: Undocumented immigrants support thousands of other workers in the local economy, pay taxes, and demonstrate little reliance on government benefits. [Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Chicago's Undocumented Immigrants: (2002): iv]

At the national level, almost no evidence indicates that immigrants impose net burdens on taxpayers at the federal level. In fact, Espenshade shows that immigrants provide a substantial fiscal surplus (e.g., $30 Billion “surplus” account of the Social Security Administration.[Thomas J. Espenshade, “Unauthorized immigration to the United States, Annual Review of Sociology, 21, (1995): 195]

A Look at Public Expenditures for the Undocumented in Texas

Comptroller of Public Accounts in Texas, 2005

The Comptroller’s office estimates the absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our Gross State Product of $17.7 billion.

Also, the Comptroller’s office estimates that state revenues collected from undocumented immigrants exceed what the state spent on services, with the difference being $424.7 million.

The Comptroller estimates that undocumented immigrants paid more than $513 million in fiscal 2005 in local taxes, including city, county and special district sales and property taxes.

While state revenues exceed state expenditures for undocumented immigrants, local governments and hospitals experience the opposite, with outlays exceeding tax revenues in 2005.


Misconception 2: “They Commit More Crimes”

Rebecca Clark and Scott Anderson found that almost half (47 percent) of illegal alien federal prisoners are in prison for an offense that only applies to them (unlawfully entering the United States). This “crime” is generally seen as an administrative, not a criminal, violation.

Source: Rebecca L. Clark and Scott A. Anderson, Urban Institute, (June 30, 2000): 3

Crime by Aliens in Texas

  • Only 7.5% of TDCJ inmates are foreign born (11,514 out of 151,852), though foreign born are estimated to be 14% of total Texas population.

Source: Undocumented Immigrants in Texas, December 2006. Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Section V. Incarceration

Misconception 3: “They steal our jobs”

An extensive body of research shows that while the undocumented do take some jobs desired by U.S. workers, they also create many jobs.

A University of Illinois at Chicago study, for example, found that undocumented workers spend almost $3 billion a year in the Chicago region as consumers, which provides jobs to those who provide these goods or services.

The contribution of all Latino immigrants, of course, is much greater. In 2004 the Inter-American Development Bank, based on survey and census data, reported that Latin American immigrants (legal and undocumented) in 2004 contributed an estimated $450 billion to the U.S. economy, often doing jobs spurned by others.

[Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Chicago's Undocumented Immigrants: An Analysis of Wages, Working Conditions, and Economic Contributions”, (2002): iv]


  • Immigration from Latin American to the U.S. has a long history, particularly in the case of Mexico

  • NAFTA solidified the interdependent relationship between Mexico and the U.S.

  • Human migration is part of the forces of globalization

  • Rise of nationalism and its negative impact on Latino immigrants and native-born alike

  • Mexico, Latin America, and the U.S. have gained from immigration

  • Latino immigrants represent a net benefit for the U.S.

  • Investment in Latino immigrants reaps even more benefits

    • The Dalton, Georgia story

El Fin

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