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    World & Culture

    Law professor busts myths about U.S. immigration policy

    By Christopher Palmer
    Christopher Palmer
    Published: May 25, 2010

    Denise Gilman, clinical professor from the Immigration Clinic in the School of Law, discusses the myths and truths behind the United States immigration policy. Gilman provides her perspective on migrant labor, the effectiveness of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and more.

    Read a transcript of the interview (PDF).

    • Quote 2
      bankruptcy said on Aug. 27, 2010 at 8:42 a.m.
      In order for US to be the "big brother" country (the world's super power), we need to have all these immigrants who are looking for a "better life". They give us the chance to have the diversity that a melting pot like US needs in order to compete in this tough economy. US has always strive to have competition, and competition means more innovation, and also lower prices.
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      Shewnka Wanjay said on July 29, 2010 at 12:32 a.m.
      I would like to know what y'all think about the current state of Native Americans (a.k.a. American Indians). We are consistently left out of the immigration debate, and yes, we're still here. Moreover, what do you think of the state of the Indigenous in the rest of the Americas? Does this have anything to do with immigration? When Americans want to live elsewhere, say Europe, Asia, or Africa, is it courteous to ask the native hosts if we are welcome? If we emmigrate en masse? I'm talking about current affairs- today. What about the current state of Native Americans, particularly the child welfare indicators, strikes you as the most alarming? Are we neglecting the Native American community at the expense of new immigrants? How so?
    • Quote 2
      Jerseys said on July 15, 2010 at 6:26 a.m.
      most immigrants come here to seek a better life and to contribute to society - it may take us while to get established, but eventually we do. We contribute in many ways: bringing the pricing of houses down in Austin, helping rebuild New Orleans, driving the California produce industry and some of us eventually get advanced degrees from places like UT Austin (PhD Mechanical Engineering - Physical Acoustics, 2002) and go out and work in humanitarian military operations. You see Allan, we are not really that much different than the Irish immigrants who at one point had to face discrimination such as "No Irish Need Apply" postings. Not being European however does pose a bit of a disadvantage.
    • Quote 2
      Guillermo Aldana said on July 8, 2010 at 11:08 p.m.
      Alan, Thank your for clarifying your point of view - I am of the opinion that tax-funded welfare programs are a necessity for a minority of individuals (with minority here taking the mathematical definition, not an ethnic one); for a short period of time, and should be complimented with a "work fare" program, which allows and demands the individual to contribute back to the system. Any abuse of the system is of course frowned upon. The welfare program needs reform, no doubt, but a nation has to take care of its citizens - hopefully a minority of them. I am also of the opinion that taxpayer funded public schools are a form of welfare, because some people like myself do not benefit directly from it, only indirectly, over the long haul. I am opposed to removing my Travis County Austin Community Taxes, my local school taxes from my property tax bill. Like most Austinites, I struggle to pay it, but I make do. It's OK to agree to disagree on this matter; but I am willing to bet you lunch that in the long haul, it is less taxing on society to attempt to provide inner children with after school activities, parks, free lunches, and yes welfare food stamps than not to. Should there be a ramp up and a ramp down plan, much like there is for unemployment? Yes - Obama and future administrations should look into streamlining the process. In the meantime, I will continue (like you and Suketo and Kumar) to, as I often say: "make the pilgrims look bad," or at least honor their work ethic. The United States is a hardworking nation, with a big heart. A very difficult combination to find. Best wishes, Guillermo
    • Quote 2
      Leslie Friedrich said on July 8, 2010 at 12:17 p.m.
      I am curious about Mr. Shah's comments that "I still face a losing battle to secure my permanent residency forget about citizenship." While it may take two years to get citizenship, I believe that is certainly open to all, especially if you have a master's degree from a prestigious university in the U.S. I could not tell from your e-mail if you had more than one master's degree. I don't know that you need a lawyer to become a citizen. Over the years I have worked with many naturalized citizens (from Cuba, various countries in Europe, India, Canada, Taiwan and Mexico) who became citizens because it was much easier than getting a green card. I'm not aware that INS is denying citizenship to anyone who wants to be a citizen. I believe the goal is to shorten the process to six months, also. I also think Tom McClintock (Rep. Calif., 4th district) gave a great speech "E Pluribus Unum" about the fact that the U.S. welcomes immigrants. I wish you the best of luck in becoming a citizen in less than two years--and our antiquated immigration laws don't seem to discourage the many naturalized citizens in my neighborhood.
    • Quote 2
      Suketu Shah said on June 23, 2010 at 4:40 p.m.
      Guillermo makes some excellent point. Being an Asian myself on a specialty work visa for the past 5 years and having master’s degrees from prestigious universities in the US, I am still face a losing battle even to secure my permanent residency forget about citizenship. I am extremely frustrated with the tardiness and the bureaucratic immigration system of the US, so much so that I am planning to take my skills talent and investments to other countries like the UK Australia Singapore or Canada which have very progressive immigration policies for highly qualified individuals as they are aware that this talent is what is going propel their countries in this competitive global environment. It seems that the US is going to lose out on top global talent if it doesn't reform its policies. Furthermore, this discourages highly qualified talent (usually highly paid too) to make any investments in the economy here especially the housing or stock market, since there is always a fear of being kicked out of this country. Also there is this perception that the US government is stealing from the work visa holder in form of social security, Medicare and other FICA taxes as they are not eligible to receive a single dime of it in case of need, if I am not mistaken. Furthermore, if industry wants more liberal immigration policies why isn’t the congress listening, is it because of the strong immigration lawyer lobby that seems to collecting exorbitant amount of fees so that the employers and individuals can navigate through the antiquated immigration laws. Not sure what others think about that.
    • Quote 2
      Alan McKendree said on June 23, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.
      Guillermo, check my earlier comment. I don't deny that immigrants -- legal or illegal -- can and usually do become productive citizens. As I said, I'm in favor of open immigration *if* we do away with tax-funded welfare, health care, and schools for *everyone*, not just illegals. Do I "find it in [my] heart to be kind to a child"? Certainly; what I oppose is the government deciding when, where, and how much time and money I'll spend to do it. And still, no one has ventured a peep about my earlier question: why is Mexico (for example) such an economic disaster area, and what can be done about it?
    • Quote 2
      West Cosgrove said on June 22, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
      Excellent, to the point and greatly appreciated comments by Dr. Gilman. I live in El Paso, on the border with Mexico, and I am afraid of the ever escalating violence on the border. We need intelligent voices to speak the truth about what is really going on along the border. Thank you.
    • Quote 2
      Kumar Mishra said on June 16, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.
      I had to agree with Guillermo for many of the wonderful points he has put forth and that it is correct that once stabilized, many of illegal immigrants do contribute to the American society. The very people who are looked down initially work for less money and make the employers live a lavish life. However the base of this debate is who is making laws for whom. Most of the present day citizens have roots in Europe and so the laws are kind towards Europeans, less kind for Hispanics, absolutely horrible for Africans and less advantageous for Asians. Most of the immigration officers themselves are very less educated to actually know that this nation is made of immigrants. I strongly feel that making expensive borders and walls and stringent security measures are being put forth mostly to discourage immigrants from the rest of the world and favoring stealthily the European immigrants. As Denise said that around 2% of people immigrate all over the world. Disregarding the fact that most of the immigrants coming to this country are either terrorists, prostitutes and drunkards, immigrants do come here for the simple reason that this country offers better life and economy. Past year records show that, bad economy has not really attracted many. Then how is the spending on walls justified. Infact an immigration based on connected family member is justified. It is disheartening to see that family members are required to be waiting for 10 years. Many people around the world possess skills that may be lacking here. If they couldn't afford to pay for immigration, should they be disallowed to come in the country of immigrants. Who decides who is an illegal immigrant to this country?
    • Quote 2
      Guillermo said on June 15, 2010 at 9:59 p.m.
      Alan, allow me to share from personal experience: I am one of those illegal immigrants who got in through the amnesty law. I have benefited from many of the services that you are quoting - I went to public school, which is funded through taxpayers money, my lunches were probably subsidized by the state. Once I went to a free clinic, because I had an infectious cough and needed some antibiotics. Today things have changed for me - quite a bit actually.... You see, most immigrants come here to seek a better life and to contribute to society - it may take us while to get established, but eventually we do. We contribute in many ways: bringing the pricing of houses down in Austin, helping rebuild New Orleans, driving the California produce industry and some of us eventually get advanced degrees from places like UT Austin (PhD Mechanical Engineering - Physical Acoustics,2002) and go out and work in humanitarian military operations. You see Allan, we are not really that much different than the Irish immigrants who at one point had to face discrimination such as "No Irish Need Apply" postings. Not being European however does pose a bit of a disadvantage, as the ties between Europe and the U.S are historically strong; and not speaking the language or having any of the required skills in today society, does add a bit of a challenge to our career options. We are not here to exploit the US taxpayer - from time to time, yes our children will get sick and I hope you find it in your heart to be kind to a child or elderly regardless of his native origin. That child if given a chance, will succeed. If kept out of the education system that child will more than likely become a burden to society. I am now a taxpayer, with no kids, and I am VERY glad (and happy to contribute) that some of my hard earned money is going towards the local school district to educate the next generations of Americans as well as contributing to the social security funds for our elderly. Education is the great equalizer. Providing the parents a stable working environment, fair wages, and opportunities will minimize the amount of time the immigrant family is fully absorbed into our society. Thank you for posting some of your concerns and hope that you find my posting of value. Guillermo
    • Quote 2
      Mike said on June 15, 2010 at 1:50 p.m.
      The one thing I'm not hearing from Denise, or many others, is anything about the sense of entitlement that so many illegal aliens have. When they crossed the border, they broke the law. They seem to believe that it is their right to be here and that immigration law is just an inconvenient formality. As an American who has lived about 10 years of my life overseas(Europe), I am shocked at the response I see by the people who broke the law to come here. This is typical over the top American PC garbage. Most other countries, including Mexico, would NEVER engage in this type of discussion. The people would just be departed. Our so-called touchy feely approach will be this country's undoing. You cannot have the degree of illegal immigration going on to the extent that it is, including the huge accompanying shift in racial demographics as a result, and not have problems. Also, Denise correctly states that an anchor baby cannot apply for the parents to get a green card before the child turns 21. However, she doesn't address that this has never been to real issue. The issue is an attempt to gain sympathy from the authorities, not wanting to force the parents to return, if caught, without their child, who is now a US citizen, by virtue of a law passed to allow former slaves to vote. That law was never intended, in my opinion, to provide an incentive for people to break the law. I guess I'm in a minority here in Austin. I see so little attention being given to the fact that these people have broken the law. Did they do it for a reason? Sure. Would I have done the same thing? Probably. So are we to give amnesty just like we did the last time?
    • Quote 2
      UTLaw Magazine | Video: Clinical Professor Denise Gilman discusses myths about U.S. immigration policy, on UT’s Know online magazine said on June 10, 2010 at 2:36 p.m.
      [...] In this video from UT’s Know online magazine, Denise Gilman, clinical professor from the Law School’s Immigration Clinic, discusses the myths and truths behind the United States’s immigration policy. Gilman provides her perspective on migrant labor, the effectiveness of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and more. [...]
    • Quote 2
      Alan McKendree said on June 8, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.
      "Persecution" is driving Mexicans into the U.S.? Persecution for what? How about investigating why Mexico is such an economic and social hellhole that its citizens are driven to take these risks, and what can be done to change that? I'm all for open immigration. What I'm against is providing free services to anyone, including illegal immigrants. If we would stop requiring emergency rooms to provide unreimbursed care, stop the welfare state, and stop tax-supported public schooling, I'd say bring in the immigrants, the more the merrier. Until then, illegal immigrants as a whole cost me directly in tax-supported services. Also, if "[having an "anchor baby" is] not 
immigrating", presumably Ms. Gilman wouldn't object to changing the law so that children of illegal immigrants are not automatically US citizens. That would eliminate the whole "anchor baby" debate.
    • Quote 2
      Rosaura Estrada said on June 5, 2010 at 7:47 p.m.
      I admire her logical way of saying the truth. As a daughter of parents who came out of poverty, I feel it is my duty to not only give back to my parent's community, but also, to help it get out of extreme poverty. I think it's our duty to change the world for the better wherever we are and wherever we hear of need from us. Give hope to communities so the men don't have to leave their families in search of money and a better life for them and their families. Give hope so people are empowered to better their communities and not leave them. It takes people to better lives of people. It takes ideas and initiatives. It takes inclusion and acceptance. As for the kids who didnt have a say on where to call home,laws like THE DREAM ACT need to be put in place; laws that will allow for people to make a living in their own home. It takes people to better lives of people.
    • Quote 2
      Amanda said on June 5, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.
      All cute analysis and viewed through emotional retoric. If you want to see the truth about whether we have the ability to support illegal immigration, watch this video. It's less than 10 minutes, and it's the hard facts. In the end, it really doesn't even matter what we *want* to do--it's what we *can* do. And we won't win this fight if we stay on this path.
    • Quote 2
      Melissa Martinez said on June 3, 2010 at 3:39 p.m.
      Very informative! More people need to hear these facts.
    • Quote 2
      John Christian said on June 2, 2010 at 9:43 a.m.
      Well written essay. I grew up as an American in Mexico and the laws of immigration of Mexico were strict then as they are now. I became a legal resident which allowed me to work, but there were and are still legal restrictions -- I was not a citizen and had no right to vote, etc. I could not cross the border, both ways, without the proper papers. Mexico is as strict and formal as we are. I do not think that most Mexicans are persecuted in their own county as are others in the world. The world has increased immensely in population -- Mexico, alone, will gain over 20 million and here in the US we will gain ca. 170 million more. No one seems to speak about this and what a drain it will be on many resources and what kind of problems and hardships this will create or what new injustices or conflicts. Mexico is hard on anyone in their country who does not have legal papers, etc. Also, Mexico is harder now on foreigners. There are not all the civic organizations which are there like ACLU, et al., who champion the rights of foreigners [documented or not]. I am not an anti-immigrants. I was one in Mexico. I grew up there and my life, in large part, has been dedicated to it, but legal is much better. On its southern border, very much smaller than ours, Mexico is very harsh and no one seems to know or say anything. In fact, per Amnesty International has stated that 6 out of every 10 women migrating through Mexico enroute to the US border are violated in one way or another by Govt. authorities like the police or army. What of the innocent children who are kidnapped in the US and taken across the border to Mexico who are also violated or even murdered, thrown by the roadside. Who speaks for them? Where are the civic leaders and organizations who raise their voices. What of all those peoples, not only Mexicans, who wait or have waited in line. It seems that we do them injustice. We have changed the definitions of many words. Not that the US has been or is an angel, but what of the other side. It was President Benito Juarez [of Mexico, a contemporary of Lincoln] whose words were often quoted in the past, but which have now been buried in a mountain of expedient politics. He was also somewhat of a legal scholar and teacher. He said something like, 'Respect for the laws of one's neighbor is Justice.' Perhaps, I have not said it correctly, but its very close.
    • Quote 2
      Salvador Favela said on June 1, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.
      Awesome! Short and sweet and to the point. Thank you for providing such a clear message. Hook em Horns =)
    • Quote 2
      Gabriela Polit said on May 27, 2010 at 8:26 a.m.
      This is a very good interview. We (UT) should try to reach more people from the community to inform and engage them on topics as relevant and (most of the time) unknown as this one.
    • Quote 2
      P. Kirby said on May 27, 2010 at 8:08 a.m.
      You rock, Denise Gilman.
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