Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on May 20, Angela Maria Kelley, VP for Immigration Policy and Advocacy
EOH: Were you at the meeting with the President?
AMK: My boss John Podesta, former Chief of Staff to former President Clinton, was at the meeting, and has been working closely with the white house on the discussion. Schumer and Graham came up with an outline last year in the last congress, but they elected a new congress and the process starts all over and has not yet been introduced. We believe there will be an immigration battle on the house side starting this summer, but that’s going to be focused on only enforcement. I think the President is trying to lift the conversation to something outside the beltway, depolarize it and try to make it about what the issues are, which is fundamentally how do we ensure that our borders are secure and people who are coming here come legally and we do something about the folks that are here without status.
EOH: Your opinion, is this a political move to appeal to the Hispanic voters or is it a genuine concern on the part of the President
AMK: I think its both. It would be naive to think that the election is not at the forefront of his mind. The Latino vote is the fastest growing voting block. It was key to his victory in states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. I also believe the President does want comprehensive reform. That is something he can’t control and he is trying to focus on the substance of the issues with practical solution orientation. They came out with a lengthy blue print on what the President believes our immigration system should look like and operate in the nation’s interest and be humane. He is in charge of the Department of Homeland Security, has been pursuing an aggressive enforcement regimen. He is on track to deport more people than President Bush did during his administration. Not the big large scale raids, but aggressive with joining forces with local police. There is a lot of criticism in the Latino community of the president because they’re seeing increased enforcement, and there is increased fear in the communities, and they hold him responsible. It’s not fair to hold him responsible for that because I think its many Republicans dragging their feet. It’s a tough issue and one I expect we’re going to hear a lot more about between now and the election.
EOH: How do you respond to the argument that comprehensive reform rewards those that come into the country illegally, and takes jobs from American workers?
AMK: There are about 11 million people here not authorized to be here. About 40% entered legally but overstayed their visa; 60% came in across the boarder, about 48% of which come with a partner and minor child. We now need to decide what to do about that. We can try to deport them all, and it would cost about $285 billion over five years to round up, detain and deport every single person. About 4 million U.S. citizen children have one or two undocumented parents. The proposal we put forward is to push these people to get right with the law. Require them to register, pay taxes, show a clean record in a background check, and make sure that they learn English. We want to make sure employers who have been paying them under the table get right with the law. I would rather our security efforts go to keeping out those who mean to do us harm.
EOH: Are you satisfied that the Democratic party is putting its might and muscle with full court press to get comprehensive immigration reform?
AMK: The economic question is a good one. The cost of mass deportation would be about $285 billion. My organization also looked at the question of what happens if we implement our policy proposal and require them to register and pay taxes, get them in the system and make sure employers are doing the same. At the national level, if you legalize people, you recognize a benefit to our GDP of $1.5 trillion over 10 years. It means that every one is paying taxes and they are all in the system and we are maximizing their economic contributions. If you legalize the people in just Arizona, you would be increasing tax revenue by $1.68 billion, you would increase employment by 7%, you would add jobs If you deport everybody in Arizona, you would decrease employment by 17% and reduce tax revenue,
EOH: Unskilled jobs are a problem, are illegal immigrants taking these jobs away from American citizens?
AMK: I believe it is a function of a broken immigration system, because we did not have sufficient controls on who was coming to this country, and how many were coming to this country. When our economy was humming, there were half a million people entering illegally every year. They come in illegally because in the low skilled category there are only 5,000 visas given out every year. Because of the recession, the number of people coming in illegally has virtually stopped. We need a smart, flexible number of visas, and for employers to be held accountable for who they hire. Now would be the perfect time to solve this problem so we don’t have people competing for a smaller share of the economic pie.
EOH: Will this session of Congress pass a reform Bill?
AMK: Will have a debate but no bill signing.