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Megan Alexander A Nation of Immigrants Issue: July 2014 | NSIDE Business
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Immigration is one of the most heated political issues facing our nation today. Political strategists Dan Corbett and Tommy Calvert Jr. discuss the ins and outs of the ongoing debate.



NSIDE Publications:

President Obama announced plans this past June to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that 1.39 million undocumented immigrants, including about 170,000 right here in Texas, would be eligible under the new policy.

Obviously, this does not address every undocumented individual’s situation and leaves unanswered questions no matter which side of the debate one happens to be on. What policies would you propose to address the nation’s immigration problems?

Dan Corbett: If individuals are here illegally, they should not be placed on the path to citizenship ahead of those who are here “legally.” That would be unfair to those who have properly applied for citizenship under the law. But we should allow those who are here illegally the opportunity to earn their citizenship by either serving in the U.S. military or earning a college degree.

Either situation would be an appropriate way to earn citizenship since we are a nation of immigrants. I posed the immigration question to a handful of citizens to gauge their perspective on this issue, as well:

Michael Mendez (businessman): First, enforce the law. Don’t employ undocumented immigrants, don’t give them free benefits and humanely deport them post-haste. Second, there is a legal, constitutional process to immigrate to the United States – improve it. We need immigrants, we need individuals that can “contribute” to the economy, but we don’t need to import a welfare class.

Amadeo Ortiz (Bexar County sheriff): My advice on immigration is to seal all borders, not only the one between Mexico and the United States. Give the illegal immigrants who have been here for five years without engaging in criminal activity the opportunity to come forward and apply for citizenship, including those that have served honorably in the military.

Jerry Patterson (Texas land commissioner): At its recent state convention in Fort Worth, the Republican Party of Texas adopted a platform calling on the federal government to establish a guest worker program. To be eligible, each applicant would pass a criminal background check and would only be allowed to work for employers who withheld taxes and Social Security and provided health insurance. This would be real reform, not just a band-aid by a presidential executive order.

Brian Lawson (electrical engineer): Provided they need no public assistance and have no criminal record, these individuals should be afforded the opportunity to become U.S. citizens following the proper legal channels. I also believe their continued citizenship status should remain contingent upon being a law-abiding citizen and free of public assistance.

David Noble (retired military): I understand the children may not have had a choice of coming or not, and perhaps something should be done for them and others with the same circumstances, but it should be done through the congress and not by the president during an election year. I also believe that any president picking which laws he/she will enforce is a gross violation of the oath they took to uphold the constitution and the laws of the nation, and they should be held accountable.

Corrinna Corbett (teacher): I am in complete agreement with President Obama’s Dream Act. The young people who the Dream Act would apply to are natural born citizens of the United States. Most have lived in America their whole lives and therefore have never been to the country that they may be deported to, nor do they speak the language of that country. The Dream Act applies to “contributing members of American society,” which they will have to continue to be in order to remain. And so they will either serve in our military or continue with school – something that any American parent, documented or undocumented, wants for their children.

Frank Castro (electronics technician): What about all the people trying to get into this country that follow the rules and prescribed pathway toward citizenship? They file the proper paperwork, pay their fees and wait years for their turn to come to the United States as citizens legally. Why should people who break U.S. laws be rewarded with citizenship? As an American citizen, if you were to enter any country in the world illegally, you would end up in jail. Doesn’t the United States have the right to control its borders? A government that can’t control its borders doesn’t really have any control.

David Goodman (television engineer): I realize that deportation would disrupt many families. However, if a U.S. citizen committed several federal crimes (as every illegal immigrant has done), then they would be put in prison, which also disrupts their family. That’s a fact. In light of this, I believe the only fair solution is to deport those that are found to be here illegally, but give them a chance to re-enter the country legally.

Lalla Phillips (business systems analyst): We are a nation of immigrants, and at this point, it would be inopportune to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico. So our only option is to make these illegal immigrants legal. There must not be any ramifications to the individuals. But if these individuals want to live here, then they need to be citizens who pay taxes and participate in our democratic society.

Tamara Frymoyer (businesswoman): I believe that illegal immigrants should be able to get a work permit to support themselves. They should be able to apply for citizenship, as well. If they pass the screening and want to become a citizen, then they should be given the opportunity to do so.

Charles Johanson (minister): I’m for showing compassion and coming up with solutions for those who have been here for years and who have children and grandchildren born in the States. Amnesty across the board is not prudent because it promotes lawlessness and sends the wrong message for all people wanting to come to this country.

Dan Corbett is a local history teacher and Republican political strategist. He was named the most influential educator in San Antonio by Scene in SA Monthly magazine in 2007. Corbett is also president of the British Heritage Association of San Antonio & Bexar County. For more information, you may contact him at

Tommy Calvert Jr.: Those of us in the press tend to analyze events and policy like TV episodes rather than as a TV series with broader context, events and history.

Today, as in our recent historical past, the nexus of contentious battles over immigration resides in conservative Anglo-Saxon concern that a new minority (Hispanics) will override its political and economic interests.

Polling indicates that 32 percent of Latinos call themselves Democrats and 11 percent say they are Republicans. The biggest group classify themselves as independents, but 52 percent lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 23 percent who lean Republican. 

America has had similar political fights that give us a window into how this debate will end up.

Between 1830 and 1860, Protestant men of British heritage had conflicts (sometimes violent ones) with large numbers of Irish and German immigrants, many of whom were Catholic, like many Hispanics today. The early Anglo fears centered on a conspiratorial belief that the Irish and Germans were puppets of the Pope and possessed political leanings contrary to their own “American” interests.

The secret anti-Catholic British Protestant men created societies called the “Order of United Americans” and became known as the “Know-Nothing Party.” When members were asked about their activities, they were supposed to reply that they “knew nothing,” hence the nickname.

When the anti-immigrant “Know-Nothing Party” won elections, a political coalition forged against them and eventually beat back their victories, and talk of the Irish, German and Chinese invasion of America receded.

However, America still faced ebbs and flows of racial and nationality quotas up until 1965 with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Until 1965, American immigration law excluded Asians and Africans and preferred Northern and Western Europeans above Southern and Eastern ones.

The 1965 act abolished the national origins quota, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants’ skills and family relationships with citizens or U.S. residents.

As a result of these changes in legal immigration, coupled with economic desires from illegal immigrants, America is expected to have less than 50 percent non-Hispanic whites in the total population by the year 2042.

Oddly enough, in the South, where social tensions around immigration rise to their highest levels with oppressive bills like Arizona’s SB 1070, immigration helped stimulate the Sunbelt’s economic boom. 

However, political leaders in places like Alabama raise questions of whether mainly Hispanic immigrants are truly integrating into American culture by learning English and “getting off of social welfare programs.”

Unfortunately, most Americans see immigrants as frozen in time like “Peter Pan” and don’t see immigrant lives over the long run as they truly evolve. In Arizona, for example, after 18 years of being in the United States, 67 percent of Latino immigrants were homeowners, 59 percent spoke English proficiently and 58 percent were not low wage income earners. What is lost on current conservative leaders is that immigrants want to learn English in order to make higher wages.

At the time SB 1070 was passed, FBI crime statistics showed that crime was reaching its lowest rates in a decade, and many immigration experts argue that providing an opportunity for illegals to come out of the shadows would increase economic benefits to America.

The Immigration Policy Center finds that comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables a future flow of legal workers would result in a cumulative $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. The method proposed by Mitt Romney, a deportation-only policy, would result in a loss of $2.6 trillion in GDP over 10 years.

A report by the conservative libertarian Cato Institute came to startlingly similar conclusions. Legalization would boost the incomes of U.S. households by $180 billion in 2019. Cato also concluded that tighter restrictions and a reduction in less-skilled immigration would impose large costs on native-born Americans by shrinking the overall economy and lowering worker productivity.

Comprehensive immigration reform, as previously described, brings higher earning power of newly legalized workers; provides increased tax revenues of $4.5 to $5.4 billion in the first three years; and brings between 750,000 and 900,000 new jobs to the United States as a result of more consumer spending because of higher wages.

If racist voting laws don’t prevail, it’s only a matter of time before the recent political fear mongering by conservative leaders will cease. The Texas Republican Party has already changed its platform to mirror Democratic proposals for comprehensive immigration reform.

In the next 10 years, the “browning” of America will awaken an era of less propaganda and more understanding of the rising Hispanic majority and how America, like in the past, will retain her great heritage and ideals with new united leadership.


Tommy Calvert Jr. is a public relations and public affairs strategist with CIC, is the former head of the American Anti-Slavery Group and serves as the general manager of San Antonio Community Radio, KROV 91.7-HD2 FM. For more information, visit or contact Calvert at or 210-785-9257.

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