'Breathe, focus, release' found at https://flic.kr/p/nLqmD2 by Andreas Øverland (https://flickr.com/people/andreasoverland) used under Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
'Breathe, focus, release' found at https://flic.kr/p/nLqmD2 by Andreas Øverland (https://flickr.com/people/andreasoverland) used under Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
'Breathe, focus, release' found at https://flic.kr/p/nLqmD2 by Andreas Øverland (https://flickr.com/people/andreasoverland) used under Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
This morning, I had the privilege of appearing on New Hampshire Public Radio's daily call-in show "The Exchange with Laura Knoy".  Every weekday, Laura and her producers pick a topic and convene one or more guests to discuss it.  Laura fires the questions and fields the listeners' calls, effectively keeping things civil, substantive, and on-topic.  The show's format does not allow for much direct guest-to-guest interaction, so - for better and for worse - The Exchange does not veer off into the realm of political debates or the high-volume shoutfests so prevalent on cable news and other talk radio networks.  As a listener, I very much appreciate how The Exchange fosters a reasonable discourse about important issues.  As a guest, though, there have been times that I have wanted to jump up and explain that another guest or caller is citing inaccurate information, or basing his/her opinion on faulty premises.

This morning, I was joined by a reporter for Politico, and a researcher for the inaptly named "Center for Immigration Studies" (CIS, not to be confused with USCIS , sometimes called by the same acronym).  The reporter kept her answers factual, primarily addressing the workings of the White House and Capitol Hill which have led us to our current immigration state.  Most of my questions were about the way immigration law actually works in practice.  I sought to answer Laura's questions directly, concretely, and clearly.  The policy researcher, however, based much of her case on misinformation, false equivalencies, red herrings, scare tactics, and other logical fallacies.  Since it was not possible to address much of that content head-on, below is a sampling of points meriting further discussion and specific, reliable information:
  • CLAIM: The President has suffered significant political damage since his November 20, 2015 Executive Announcement
  • REALITY: President Obama's approval ratings have reached an 18-month high, hitting 50% during the period of January 23-25, 2015.  While the upswing is surely due to multiple factors, Gallup polls show an 8-point increase since November 17-19, 2014, the days before the President's immigration speech.
  • CLAIM: President Obama's Executive Action is a "de facto amnesty"
  • REALITY: "Amnesty" is a word often used to drum up misgivings and discontent.  As the name of the centerpiece of Executive Action indicates, allowing certain undocumented people to remain in the United States is a "deferral" of their removal for a period of up to three (3) years.  Forcing people to register, pay filing fees, pass background checks, and prove that they do not owe taxes is not amnesty, especially when their status may be terminated at the end of the deferral period.  The last actual immigration amnesty (passed by Congress) was signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1986.
  • CLAIM: We must first secure the borders before we can discuss comprehensive immigration reform
  • REALITY: The Obama administration has deported people at unprecedented rates, peaking with a record 438,421 removals/deportations in FY 2013, according to the Pew Research Center.  "Border security" is a moving target which seems always defined as something more than the current reality.  It's worth noting that many immigration enforcement/border control initiatives involve highly-touted - and provocatively-named - bills calling for action which Congress never funds.
  • CLAIM: H-1B Visas depress wages and displace U.S. workers
  • REALITY: There has been some anecdotal reporting of this phenomenon, but we cannot locate any reliable research to support the claim.  We know what our clients tell us: that if they could find a domestic candidate with the required skill set, avoid immigration processing delays and filing fees, and not have to pay attorneys' fees, they would hire the U.S. worker in an instant
As Laura Knoy herself has often pointed out, many of these single questions could form the basis for an entire show - or a multi-day conference, in some cases - but time is always limited.

We encourage anyone interested in this issue to read broadly, seek out real-life immigration stories, and - perhaps most importantly - ask themselves the following question when considering a source:

      Is this source providing me with information and encouraging me to make up my own mind, or are they telling me how - and what - to think?

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for additional discussions of the ongoing national discourse about whether, when, and how we will reform our immigration system.

-Ron Abramson