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History > 2008 > USA > Immigration (I)


Abdool Habibullah, an ex-marine,

is waiting to hear about his application.

“If what I’ve done for this country

isn’t enough for me to be a citizen,

then I don’t know what is,” he said.


Illustration: Alan Zale for The New York Times


After War, New Battle to Become Citizens


















After War,

New Battle to Become Citizens


February 24, 2008
The New York Times


Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application.

About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems.

“I’ve pretty much given up on finding out where my paperwork is, what’s gone wrong, what happened to it,” said Abdool Habibullah, 27, a Guyanese immigrant who first applied for citizenship in 2005 upon returning from a tour in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Marines as a sergeant. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is.”

The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year.

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.

“Most soldiers clear the checks within 30 to 60 days, or 60 to 90 days,” said Leslie B. Lord, the Army’s liaison to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes citizenship applications. “But even the soldier with the cleanest of records, if he has a name that’s very similar to one that’s in the F.B.I. bad-boy and bad-girl list, things get delayed.”

Such explanations are why Mr. Habibullah has decided that once he does become a citizen — if he ever becomes a citizen — he will change his name.

“I figured that’s part of the reason things got delayed,” he said. “You know, that I have a Muslim name.”

Thousands of Muslim civilians have also found themselves waiting months or years for background checks, and have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Denver. But advocates for the immigrant service members said that those with pending applications are from a variety of backgrounds and that they do not suspect a pattern of discrimination against Muslims.

Some 31,200 members of the military were sworn in as citizens between October 2002 and December 2007, according to the immigration service, but a spokeswoman, Chris Rhatigan, said she could not determine how long it took for them to be naturalized since the agency does not maintain a database tracking military cases.

Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.

After hearing complaints from at least half a dozen service members over the past three months, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has drafted a bill to create a special clearinghouse to ensure that applications from active and returning members of the military are processed quickly and smoothly. A spokesman said several other lawmakers reported hearing many similar stories.

“These are men and women who are risking their lives for us,” Mr. Schumer said in a telephone interview. “They’ve met all the requirements for citizenship, they have certainly proved their commitment to our country, and yet they could lose their lives while waiting for a bureaucratic snafu to untangle.”

In interviews, immigration lawyers and military officials said that in general, the naturalization process takes service members between six months and a year, which is about half the current average wait for civilians. But some cases drag on much longer because of background-check delays or because applications are misplaced, or notices are mailed to stateside addresses after an applicant has been deployed, causing appointments to be missed.

“You try to resolve these things amicably, reaching out to the military, reaching out to immigration officials, but you hit roadblock after roadblock,” said David E. Piver, a Pennsylvania lawyer who filed at least six petitions in federal court over the past five years on behalf of service members experiencing longer than usual delays on their citizenship applications.

“It’s usually not any substantive issue that’s causing those delays,” he said. “What it boils down to are bureaucratic snafus.”

Feyad Mohammed, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who lives with his parents in Richmond Hill, Queens, was naturalized last month — four years after he filed the first of four citizenship applications, and six months after his honorable discharge from the Army as a sergeant.

Mr. Mohammed first applied in 2004, after he returned from the first of his two tours in Iraq. But the application seemed to have been lost; when he checked after a few months, he said, no one at the immigration service could tell him where it was or even if it had been received. He filed again in 2005, but missed his interview several months later; it had been scheduled in Iraq, during his second combat tour, but he was home on leave on the appointed day.

After he was discharged in July 2007, Mr. Mohammed filed another application. The paperwork was returned because he had not included a check covering the processing fee, he said, ignoring a Bush administration initiative that exempts combat veterans from application fees for up to a year after discharge. It was then that Mr. Mohammed reached out to Senator Schumer’s office, which helped him file a fourth, and final, time.

When he was sworn in Jan. 25 at the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Mohammed said, he felt “relieved.”

“I was a citizen,” he said. “I could finally move on with my life.”

But Sergeant Frederick, a 21-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, would be awarded citizenship only posthumously, on the day of his burial. He is one of more than 90 immigrant service members to be naturalized after losing their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Sergeant Frederick’s mother, Michelle Murphy, said that he had filed his citizenship application a year before he was deployed to Iraq in 2005, but that his application was sent back to her Maryland home three times — once because of incomplete biographical information, again because he had left a box unchecked, and once more because he had not paid the fee.

Finally, Ms. Murphy said, Sergeant Frederick received a letter saying that the fingerprints he had included with his application could not be read and that he needed to submit new ones. She contacted immigration officials, who arranged for him to submit a new set of fingerprints on Oct. 19, 2005, near his base in Tikrit. On the way back from the appointment, his convoy hit a roadside bomb.

“If somebody is fighting for a country, if he’s deployed, if he’s in the middle of a war, it shouldn’t be that hard for them to become a citizen,” Ms. Murphy, 42, said in a telephone interview.

After his death, the immigration service began accepting enlistment fingerprints with service members’ citizenship applications, provided applicants authorized the military to share their files with immigration officials. A bill to make such sharing automatic has been passed by the House and is pending a final Senate vote.

In the meantime, Mr. Habibullah is working as an aircraft hydraulics mechanic in Connecticut, though he hopes to get a better-paying job in the federal government once he is naturalized. In October, Mr. Habibullah’s father and grandmother became citizens in separate ceremonies, though they applied fully two years after he did.

Mr. Habibullah has passed the citizenship test and been interviewed, and he said he does not know what to do to move his application through the backlog faster.

“Every time I ask about it, I get the same answer: it’s pending the background check,” Mr. Habibullah said as he looked over his military medals, which are displayed on a wall in the Mount Vernon, N.Y., apartment he shares with his wife and 1-month-old son. “I’m at the point right now that I’ve almost given up on it.”

After War, New Battle to Become Citizens, NYT, 24.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/us/24vets.html






U.S. says "virtual fence"

on border ready for use


Fri Feb 22, 2008
9:32pm EST
By Randall Mikkelsen


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A high-tech "virtual fence" on part of the U.S. border with Mexico is finally ready for service and the technology can fight illegal crossings all along the frontier, the Homeland Security chief said on Friday.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made the announcement during a review of border-control efforts, at which officials also unveiled higher fines for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Immigration, a highly charged political issue, has been at the forefront in this presidential election year. Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona is fighting conservative criticism he has been too soft on illegal immigration, and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accuse the Bush administration of heavy-handed tactics.

The so-called Project 28 "virtual fence" was built near Nogales, Arizona, by Boeing Co, covering a 28-mile (45-km) stretch of the border. The $20 million project of sensor towers and advanced mobile communications was supposed to be completed in mid-2007 but was delayed by software problems, drawing congressional criticism that continued on Friday.

"I have personally witnessed the value of this system, and I have spoken directly to the Border Patrol agents ... who have seen it produce actual results, in terms of identifying and allowing the apprehension of people who were illegally smuggling across the border," Chertoff said.

Clinton and Obama suggested in a debate on Thursday that high-tech surveillance could lessen the need for a planned 700-mile (1,130-km) border fence that has drawn opposition along its route.

Chertoff indicated the physical fence plans would not change, but said advanced technology would be deployed along much of the border.



The Homeland Security Department is acquiring a fourth unmanned aerial vehicle for patrols and plans to get two more, he said. It also plans to increase the number of ground-based mobile radar surveillance systems to 40 this year, from six.

"In some form or fashion, technology is going to be virtually every place on the border, but it's not necessarily going to be in the configuration of P28," Chertoff said.

President George W. Bush asked Congress this month for $775 million to build more fencing along the southern border and install high-tech surveillance equipment and other infrastructure.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who heads the House of Representatives Homeland Security committee, said the virtual fence project relied too much on contractors and that Border Patrol agents were blocked from pointing out "obvious flaws," impairing performance.

"I would hope that they (Homeland Security officials) have learned from these mistakes," he said.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced the increase in employer fines at the news conference with Chertoff. "We are increasing civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by (an average of) 25 percent, the maximum allowed by law and the first such increase since 1999," he said.

The new maximum fine for multiple violations will rise to $16,000 per illegal hire, from $11,000 currently.

Mukasey said the Justice Department also aimed to step up criminal prosecutions against the most egregious employers. It plans to add this year 50 new attorneys and 100 deputy U.S. marshals dedicated to border enforcement.

    U.S. says "virtual fence" on border ready for use, R, 22.2.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2260893820080223







Details of high-tech border project


Fri Feb 22, 2008
4:21pm EST


(Reuters) - A newly completed high-tech "virtual fence" on part of the U.S. border with Mexico is intended as a test for technology that could be used in various configurations along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) frontier.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Friday declared the 28-mile (45-km) project near Nogales, Arizona ready for service, after months of delay caused by software problems.

The project was built by Boeing Co for $20 million, as the first phase of a broader secure border project estimated to cost $2.5 billion. Following are components of the project:

-- Nine mobile sensor towers intended to improve detection of illegal crossings.

-- Fifty vehicles equipped with rugged laptop computers capable of displaying a "common operating picture" that gives a shared, multimedia overview of the border area.

-- Three "rapid response" vehicles to more quickly take captured illegal immigrants to detention facilities.

-- Fifty satellite telephones, intended to improve communications in the barren border area.

-- Two command units.

(Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, source, Boeing Co, Editing by Eric Walsh)

    FACTBOX: Details of high-tech border project, R, 22.2.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKN2261879420080222






Major Immigrant Smuggling Ring

Is Broken in Phoenix, Police Say


February 15, 2008
The New York Times


PHOENIX — In a case highlighting this city’s prominent role in the smuggling of illegal immigrants across the border, the authorities conducted a series of raids on Thursday, arresting what they said were the leaders of a ring that helped transport hundreds of people to way stations in Phoenix.

In some ways, it was just a typical day here, where the police regularly discover houses with dozens of people held by smugglers until they can pay their passage from Mexico. In a separate operation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the Maricopa County sheriff here announced the arrests of more than 100 people suspected of being in the country illegally who were on probation for various crimes.

But the raids on Thursday morning, by a task force of state, local and federal officers, provided a glimpse behind what the authorities described as one of the more elaborate operations that bring thousands of people across the border in this state, which has more illegal crossings than any other.

At dawn, officers swarmed houses, mostly in western Phoenix, seizing ledgers, money, weaponry and people suspected of involvement in a major, lucrative cell that controlled the transportation of people from a border town, Naco, to Phoenix.

The authorities made 20 arrests, including those of two Cubans accused of directing the operation. They also detained 210 illegal immigrants and discovered 13 so-called drop houses that were way stations for smuggled immigrants, the police said. In all, the authorities planned to arrest about 75 people, they said.

Oddities abounded along the way.

At the house of one man described as a ringleader, the police found several hundred roosters bred and grown for his cockfighting hobby. Another housed a shrine with a life-size statue of Jesus and a pile of $1 and $5 bills and burning candles at his feet, apparently offerings for good fortune.

In another house, a large family photo of a suspect showed him holding a baby, the hand gripping the girl displaying four large, ostentatious rings. An antique four-poster bed filled a small bedroom.

“We often see ‘Scarface’ or ‘Godfather’ posters,” said Lt. Vince Piano of the Phoenix Police Department, a lead investigator. “That’s the mentality.”

Roger Vanderpool, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said toppling organizations like the one on Thursday was central to disrupting smuggling.

“It’s organized crime,” Mr. Vanderpool said. “Going after the head of the snake, cutting it off, is the effective way of dealing with organized crime.”

Several years ago, as border crackdowns in California and Texas funneled illegal immigrant traffic into Arizona, Phoenix supplanted Los Angeles as the prime transshipment point in the Southwest for human smuggling, federal investigators say.

The role has brought increased violence, including assaults and occasionally the killing of people unable to make full payment for their crossing, shootouts among smugglers stealing one another’s human cargo and kidnapping.

There has been a surge in the discovery of drop houses, where illegal immigrants are kept while waiting to be transported to destinations across the country, aided by an extensive freeway network here not heavily guarded by a Border Patrol focused to the south.

Where drop houses were rarely found a decade or so ago, nearly 100 were discovered last year in Phoenix and several so far this year, including one on Thursday afternoon with 35 people. This suggests that despite reports of immigrants’ leaving Arizona under pressure from the economic downturn and a crackdown by the authorities, others continue to arrive.

The group arrested on Thursday morning, the authorities said, primarily drove people who had just crossed the border at Naco to Phoenix, nearly 200 miles away. They often had their own security escort to ward off bandits known as bajadores.

The suspects were said to have worked with a smuggling ring that is based in Naco, Mexico.

The two men described as ringleaders, Jose Luis Suarez-Lemus of Peoria, Ariz., and Roel Ayala-Fernandez of Phoenix, were charged by the state attorney general’s office with several crimes, including human smuggling, money laundering, conspiracy and participating in a criminal syndicate. They may also face federal charges.

The immigrants, who were charged about $2,500 for their transit, were smuggled across the border through the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area, a remote desert site, the authorities said.

The group typically transported two to four loads of six to 10 people a day mainly using rental cars, perhaps several hundred people in all, the authorities believe. The organization made as much as $130,000 a week.

    Major Immigrant Smuggling Ring Is Broken in Phoenix, Police Say, NYT, 15.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/us/15smuggle.html






Arizona Seeing Signs of Flight

by Immigrants


February 12, 2008
The New York Times


PHOENIX — The signs of flight among Latino immigrants here are multiple: Families moving out of apartment complexes, schools reporting enrollment drops, business owners complaining about fewer clients.

While it is too early to know for certain, a consensus is developing among economists, business people and immigration groups that the weakening economy coupled with recent curbs on illegal immigration are steering Hispanic immigrants out of the state.

The Arizona economy, heavily dependent on growth and a Latino work force, has been slowing for months. Meanwhile, the state has enacted one of the country’s toughest laws to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and the county sheriff here in Phoenix has been enforcing federal immigration laws by rounding up people living here illegally.

“It is very difficult to separate the economic reality in Arizona from the effects of the laws because the economy is tanking and construction is drying up,” said Frank Pierson, lead organizer of the Arizona Interfaith Network, which advocates for immigrants’ rights and other causes. But the combination of factors creates “ a disincentive to stay in the state.”

State Representative Russell K. Pearce, a Republican from Mesa and leading advocate of the crackdown on illegal immigration, takes reports of unauthorized workers leaving as a sign of success. An estimated one in 10 workers in Arizona are Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, twice the national average.

“The desired effect was, we don’t have the red carpet out for illegal aliens,” Mr. Pearce said, adding that while “most of these are good people” they are a “tremendous burden” on public services.

On Monday, state lawmakers, concerned about shortages of workers and the failed revamping of immigration law in Congress, which was pushed by Senator John McCain of Arizona, pledged action.

Bills were announced that would create a state-run temporary worker program, though it would need Congressional authorization. And last week Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, offered to help the United States Labor Department rewrite regulations designed to streamline visas for agricultural workers, who growers say are increasingly hard to find.

While data for the last month or so are not available, there were already signs of migration out of Arizona at the end of last year. In the fourth quarter of 2007 the apartment-vacancy rate in metropolitan Phoenix rose to 11.2 percent from 9 percent in the same quarter of 2006, with much higher rates of 15 percent or more in heavily Latino neighborhoods.

“You have many people moving out, but they are not all illegal,” said Terry Feinberg, president of the Arizona Multihousing Alliance, a trade group for the apartment and rental housing industry. “A lot of people moving are citizens, or legal, but because someone in their family or social network is not, and they are having a hard time keeping or finding a job, they all move.”

Elizabeth Leon, a legal immigrant and day care worker, said the families of two of her charges abruptly left, forcing the state to take custody of the children. Ms. Leon’s brother, a construction worker who is not authorized to be in the country, plans to leave, unable to find steady work; families at the neighborhood school have pulled children out, Ms. Leon said, fearful of sheriff’s deputies.

“It is like a panic here,” she said. “This is all having an effect on the community, mostly emotional.”

Juan Jose Araujo, 44, is here legally. His wife, however, is not and is pressing for the family to return to Mexico because of the difficulty in finding a job and what the family considers a growing anti-immigrant climate.

Although prosecutors in the state do not plan to begin enforcing the sanctions against employers until next month, several employers have reportedly already dismissed workers whose legal authorization to work could not be proved, as required by the law.

“We don’t have family or anything in Mexico,” said Mr. Araujo, who has lived in the United States for 24 years. “I wouldn’t have anywhere to go there, but we have to consider it.”

Property managers report that families have uprooted overnight, with little or no notice. Carlos Flores Vizcarra, the Mexican consul general in Phoenix, said while he could not tie the phenomenon to a single factor, the consulate had experienced an “unusual” five-fold increase in parents applying for Mexican birth certificates for their children and other documents that often are a prelude to moving.

Several school districts in heavily Latino areas have reported sudden drops in enrollment. Official explanations are elusive because school officials have not been able to interview families about why they left, but, anecdotally, people point to the sour economy and the immigration crackdown among other factors.

The Cartwright Elementary School District in west Phoenix, for instance, reported a loss of 525 students this school year (dropping the enrollment to 19,845), while in previous years enrollment had grown or remained stable among its 23 schools. Meri Simmons, a spokeswoman for the district, said word of mouth suggested that the economy and sanctions on employers played a role.

“We know we have a lot of empty houses,” Ms. Simmons said.

Jobs in the construction industry, a major employer of immigrants, are growing scarce, declining 8.6 percent in December compared with the previous year.

Juan Leon, a construction subcontractor and the husband of Elizabeth Leon, the day care worker, said illegal immigrants had made it harder for legal residents like him to find work. Companies that employ them can bid much lower on projects than he can because they pay workers much less, Mr. Leon said.

“I hate to see families torn apart,” he said of the current flight, “but there is no money to be made sometimes because some contractors who employ illegal workers can do the job dirt cheap.”

Dawn McLaren, an economist at Arizona State University in Tempe who studies the state’s economic and migration trends, said it was likely that lack of work is forcing people to move, probably to nearby states. But Ms. McLaren also theorized that the slowing economy had caused a reduction in the flow of new immigrants over the border.

Analyzing data back to the early 1990s, she said, a drop in Border Patrol arrests — they have been steadily declining the last couple of years — typically preceded an economic downturn or slowing.

“It’s a highly networked community,” she said of border crossers. “It costs a lot to get here, and they generally have a job lined up here. People say, ‘We need people on the crew.’ And they tell friends and relatives to come over.”

A persistent decline in the immigrant population could damage the overall Arizona economy, Ms. McLaren said. A study by the Pew Hispanic Center released in January said illegal workers made up close to 11 percent of the state’s work force of 2.9 million people in 2006, double the national estimate.

“What it looks like now is that a little bump in the economic road, especially with the sanctions law, is looking like it might last a year or more,” she said.

Even as the economy slows and people leave, the matter of the state’s sanctions on employers is not settled.

The legal fight over the law, which a federal judge upheld Thursday, is headed for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The law punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by suspending their business license for 10 days on the first offense and revoking it for a second infraction.

Opponents call it an unconstitutional intrusion by the state on federal immigration authority but the federal judge, Neil V. Wake, disagreed.

At the same time, signatures are being gathered for two ballot initiatives, one that would toughen the law and another meant to soften it. If both end up on the November ballot, the one with the most votes would prevail.

Ms. McLaren, the economist, said that in the end history showed it was difficult to stop illegal immigration so long as jobs paid better in the United States than at home. An economic rebound would probably draw people back here, no matter the laws.

“They will find a way to adjust,” she said.

    Arizona Seeing Signs of Flight by Immigrants, NYT, 12.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/us/12arizona.html






Study Foresees

the Fall of an Immigration Record

That Has Lasted a Century


February 12, 2008
The New York Times


If present trends continue, within two decades the nation’s foreign-born population will surpass the historic 19th-century peak of nearly 15 percent of all residents, according to projections released Monday.

Further, because a vast wave of baby boomers will be swelling the ranks of the elderly, the so-called dependency ratio — the number of people below 18 and above 64 compared with the number of those in the prime working years —will rise to 72 per 100 by 2050 from about 59 per 100 in 2005, according to the projections, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The ratio will be even higher if immigration subsides, the report found.

What such an outcome could portend, other analysts have said, is a nation riven politically between older, whiter, voting retirees who are increasingly supported by a younger, darker, working population that, as immigrants, may be disproportionately ineligible to vote.

“A higher number of elderly or children relative to the number of workers translates into higher costs per worker to pay for all government programs, including those targeted at the young and old such as schools and Social Security,” said the new analysis, based on fertility and death rates and immigration trends.

The center projects that the foreign-born share of the work force will increase to 23 percent by 2050 from 15 percent in 2005; the Hispanic share will more than double, to 31 percent.

Sometime from 2020 to 2025, the center estimates, the foreign-born will account for 15 percent of the nation’s people. Immigrants were about 12 percent of the population in 2005, an estimated 14.7 percent in 1910 and just under 15 percent in the late 19th century.

The analysis, by Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, projects that 19 percent of Americans will be foreign-born in 2050 (about the same share as in Australia and Canada today); that the share of Hispanic residents will have more than doubled, to 29 percent from 14 percent in 2005; and that the share of Asian-Americans will have almost doubled, to 9 percent from 5 percent.

Immigration, the study says, will account for 82 percent of the increase in the nation’s population, which will be an estimated 438 million in 2050. That 82 percent translates into 117 million people: 67 million new immigrants and 50 million of their children and grandchildren.

But because births to Hispanic and Asian immigrants will play a growing role in population increase, a smaller share of both groups will be foreign-born in 2050 than today, the analysis found. The native-born Hispanic population, already about 60 percent of all Hispanic residents, will rise to 67 percent by 2050.

The report projects a higher rate of immigration than do a number of federal agencies but concludes, as they do, that the share of black residents will be about the same as now in 2050, roughly 13 percent, and that the proportion of non-Hispanic whites will shrink below half, to 47 percent.

The authors did not delineate the impact of illegal immigrants, who now make up about 30 percent of the foreign-born. Nor did they try to quantify possible changes in immigration policies or how people will identify themselves ethnically and racially in coming decades.

They cautioned that their projections were subject to unforeseen events, but wrote that they “offer a starting point for understanding and analyzing the parameters of future demographic change.”

    Study Foresees the Fall of an Immigration Record That Has Lasted a Century, NYT, 12.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/us/12immig.html






In 2020,

1 in 7 People in U.S.

May Be Foreign-Born


February 11, 2008
The New York Times


If present trends continue, within two decades the proportion of immigrants in the United States will surpass the peak reached more than a century ago, a new analysis concludes.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, estimates that sometime between 2020 and 2025, the foreign-born will account for 15 percent of the American population, or more than 1 in 7 residents. They represented about 12 percent of the population in 2005, 14.7 percent in 1910 and about 15 percent in the late 19th century.

Trends farther ahead are typically harder to predict. Still, the Pew Center projects that in 2050, 19 percent of Americans will be foreign-born; that the share of Hispanic residents will more than double to 29 percent from 14 percent in 2005; and that the proportion of Asians will almost double, from 5 percent to 9 percent.

The center estimates that the total population will grow to 438 million in 2050, with immigrants accounting for 82 percent, or 117 million, of the increase. But because births in the United States to Hispanic and Asian immigrant parents will play a progressively greater role in population growth, according to the analysis, by 2050 a smaller proportion of both groups will be foreign born in than is the case today.

The native-born Hispanic population, already about 60 percent of all Hispanic residents, would rise to 67 percent in 2050. In 2005, about 58 percent of Asians were foreign born, but by 2050, only 47 percent would be.

The analysis, by Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, projects a higher rate of immigration than a number of federal agencies do. But it concludes, as the federal agencies have, that the share of blacks in the population will remain roughly steady — about 13 percent in 2050, compared with 12 percent in 2005 — while the proportion of non-Hispanic whites will shrink below half the population, to 47 percent.

Because the vast wave of baby boomers will be joining the ranks of the elderly, the number of young and elderly compared to the number of working people — the so-called dependency ratio — would rise to 72 per 100 in 2050, compared with 59 per 100 in 2005. The ratio would be even higher in the future, according to the projections, if the rate of immigration slows.

The authors caution that their projections are subject to changes in behavior, legislation and other events, but that they “offer a starting point for understanding and analyzing the parameters of future demographic change.”

    In 2020, 1 in 7 People in U.S. May Be Foreign-Born, NYT, 11.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/11/us/11cnd-immig.html






In Texas,

Weighing Life With a Border Fence


January 13, 2008
The New York Times


GRANJENO, Tex. — Rafael Garza, a former mayor of this small border city, stood steps from the back door of his simple brick house and chopped the air with a hand. “This is where the actual fence would be,” he said.

And the federal property line, he said, would be at his shower.

Mr. Garza, 36, a Hidalgo County sheriff’s sergeant who traces his family here to 1767, was imagining what life would be like in the shadow of the Proposed Tactical Infrastructure — the wall, to many outraged South Texans — that the Department of Homeland Security has committed to build by the end of the year.

Although federal officials say its location and design are still in flux, official maps of the Texas third of the 370-mile intermittent pedestrian barrier from Brownsville to California have provoked widespread alarm among property owners fearful of being cut off from parts of their own land or access to the Rio Grande for livestock and crops.

In the Rio Grande Valley last week, yards were plastered with signs demanding “No border wall,” raising the prospect of a protracted legal, if not physical, standoff, although Congress has recently taken steps to review the original plan. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is under fire from some fellow Republicans for amendments to a financing bill last month that they say scale back the fence.

At the same time, local concern was heightened by letters in December from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to property owners in the Southwest — 71 of them in Texas — who had refused access to their land for up to a year of survey work and were given 30 days to comply or face a federal lawsuit.

One was Dr. Eloisa G. Tamez, a nursing director at the University of Texas, Brownsville, at Texas Southmost College, who owns three acres in El Calaboz, the remnant of a 12,000-acre land grant to her ancestors in 1747 by the King of Spain. The barrier would rise within feet of her backyard, as well.

“It’s all I have,” said Dr. Tamez, 72, a widow who served for years as a chief nurse in medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Who do they think we are down here? Somebody sitting under a cactus with a sombrero taking a nap?”

Her deadline expired last Monday with no legal action.

But Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said Friday, “We will begin that process as early as next week.”

Ms. Keehner said that of 135 letters sent seeking access for surveys, 30 local landowners had so far agreed. “They recognize that a fence will help fight drug trafficking and human trafficking,” she said.

The government would have to pay for any private land acquired or condemned for the fence, at a price set by federal evaluators. But landowners would not be compensated for allowing surveys, except for cases of damage.

Not all residents vowed resistance. Juan Hernandez, 43, a poultry farmer in Los Indios, sounded resigned. “I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but they’re going to do it,” said Mr. Hernandez, who complained about rampant drug trafficking.

He said, “if it helps my kids” he could go along with a fence. “I’m probably having to move,” he said, “but if they pay for it, O.K. ”

Valley officials and residents who denounced the fence said they were not soft on illegal immigration or blind to the dangers of drug smuggling and terrorism. “Who doesn’t want security?” said Mayor Richard Cortez of McAllen. “Our fight with the government is not over their goals, it’s how they go about them.”

“You can go over, under and around a fence,” he said, “and it can’t make an apprehension.”

Instead, he said, the government should deepen the river, clear the land for better surveillance and create a legal Mexican worker program.

Up and down the border, his fellow mayors agree, banding together in the Texas Border Coalition with rare unanimity to oppose the fence, calling instead for increased electronic measures like sensors and more Border Patrol agents.

Stirring particular concern was the plan to run the fence north of the levees built decades ago to hold back the Rio Grande, now flowing in many places a mile or more to the south. So the fence would in effect cut off swaths of American soil — including range and farmlands — between the barrier and the international boundary of the river.

To build the fence as originally conceived, in two parallel rows with a road for the Border Patrol between them, some local officials were told, the government would need to acquire a strip of land at least 150 feet from the levee. That would take it into the backyards of Mr. Garza in Granjeno, Dr. Tamez in El Calaboz and other property owners.

But Ms. Keehner of the Homeland Security Department said the agency was reviewing its options. “That’s why we need the surveys,” she said.

Local officials have been told that there would be some kind of gates through the fence, but what kind and where have yet to be specified.

The last maps also show wide gaps between segments of fence, setting the barrier in more developed areas where the risk was greater that illegal immigrants could more easily melt into the population, and leaving open desolate tracts that could be more easily monitored.

But that raised other concerns for residents like Aida Leach of River Bend Resort, a golf community outside Brownsville that the maps show getting partly fenced.

“The wall stops at part of the houses and starts again,” leaving her house exposed, Ms. Leach told a meeting of concerned property owners that was convened Wednesday night at the San Ignacio de Loyola Roman Catholic Church in El Ranchito by lawyers from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. “So I guess they’ll be coming to our house.”

“Good question,” said Corinne Spenser-Scheurich, one of the lawyers. Ms. Spenser-Scheurich said landowners should not feel intimidated by the government’s requests to survey. “To sign or not is a personal choice,” she said.

Another landowner, H. R. Jaime, attending with his 90-year-old mother, Frances Wagner Quiñones, whose forebears settled nearby Landrum, asked, “What happens to water rights, if we can’t get to the water and pump it out?”

Emily Rickers, another of the lawyers, said the government might have to compensate him for that as well.

At the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge to Reynosa, Mexico, George Ramon, the bridge director for McAllen, questioned the value of a border fence considering how brazenly the fences at the heavily patrolled crossing were regularly breached, aided by “spotters” who hang around the bridge communicating with cellphones and hand signals like baseball coaches.

“They form a human pyramid and leap the fence,” Mr. Ramon said. “I’ve seen them pay a guy who helps them over.” Others, known as “port runners” just make a dash for it past the toll takers and agents and melt into the crowd. “It’s a constant, daily occurrence” he said.

He kept five police cars lined alongside the fence as a deterrent, but they proved worthless, he said, “as soon as they figured out no one was in them.”

He stopped at a hole in a chain-link fence, where cars were lining up to enter the United States. “Well,” he said, “it’s cut again.”


Dan Barry’s column, “This Land,”

will return on Monday, Jan. 21.

In Texas, Weighing Life With a Border Fence, NYT, 13.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/us/13border.html




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