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The Media Doesn’t Get 9 Basics About Immigration
Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert
Washington, DC
Thursday, March 25, 2021


The Media Doesn't Get 9 Basics About Immigration

By Margaret Orchowski

Immigration is a hot, emotional topic right now. It's about who can legally come into the country, stay and become a citizen, who can't, and how that all is to be enforced. Immigration is complicated. But it's not nuclear science.


Unfortunately most journalists don't include even the basics of immigration that would help calm the debate. For instance most reporters and editors ignore the universal differences between migrants, immigrants, refugees and asylees, as well as distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrant workers and residents. By ignoring these facts, the media has fostered misinformation and misunderstandings that have spiked the toxicity of immigration into a highly partisan issue


I have covered immigration and higher education in Washington DC as a credentialed journalist for the Hispanic Outlook magazine the past 15 years and have written two books about immigration.  I was married to an immigrant, have lived ten years abroad and speak four languages. Here are nine basic facts about U.S. immigration that the press doesn't cover.


1) In U.S. law there are three completely different categories of immigrants (who are migrants who come to stay, not visitors or people passing through):  permanent legal resident, temporary non-immigrant, illegal alien.


2) Immigration is not a human right nor a civil right. The UN Charter on Human Rights states that migrants have the right to leave their own countries and to return. But they have no right to just go to another country, work, stay and become a citizen without legal authorization from that country. 


3) Every sovereign nation state has immigration laws. Think of them like college admission policies.  Think of the United States as hugely desirable college where tens of thousands of applicants – most of them more than qualified - dream of going there. They are sure their lives will be changed forever by getting in; they will give so much and get so much.  They apply. But they don't get admitted. There are too many applicants. To keep the integrity of the college the administration's board of trustees limits the number. The rejected students cannot storm the dorms, sit in the classes and demand a degree.  They have to find another alternative.  That college at that time is not their destiny


4) Immigration is about work.  The purpose of almost all wanna-be immigrants is to better their lives – to get a good paying job and have the opportunity to raise their families in freedom and stability under the rule of law. The majority of immigrants do not intend to become U.S. citizens.


The reason most nation states want immigrants is to develop a national work force that will make the country prosper. In addition, almost all immigrant-host nations reserve some immigrant spots for refugees. But the nation states gets to choose how many and who.


5) Most countries do not have many temporary nor illegal immigrant workers as the U.S. does. That is because most especially European countries have strong unions to protect high wages and working conditions for their citizens.  Most also have digitalized national identity cards used for everything.


6) In most countries illegal immigration is a felony. But it is only a misdemeanor in the United States to cross into the border illegally the first time (it becomes a felony after that). It's only a civil offense to overstay a temporary non-immigration permit that are given out by the millions (there are over 1 million foreign students in the U.S.) – the largest source now of illegal immigration


6) Immigration laws have two basic, contentious roles: a)to bring in usually good enthusiastic, fresh immigrant workers and entrepreneurs; b) to protect the conditions of labor in the U.S. for American citizens and legal immigrants. 


7) Illegal immigration undercuts immigration laws and the duty of nation states (and strong national unions) to protect their working citizens and legal immigrants from unauthorized workers willing to work for less


8) Many Democratic liberals seem to consider immigration as a means of social justice: a human and civil right, not about work. Liberals hype deportation as a crime against humanity, not a common immigration enforcement measure. Libertarians (Cato Institute) - many of whom are Republican - share that open borders idea with liberals because they believe there should be as few laws as possible to inhibit commercial profit (such as hiring (cheap) immigrant labor).


9) The President does not have the authority to make immigration law. He heads only one of the three branches of government – the executive branch. He only can issue executive memos that determine how agencies use their budgets to carry out and enforce (or not) immigration laws while he is in office.


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“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been”. Vice President of the Brookings Institution Darrell West wrote in recommending Peggy Sands Orchowski’s books   "The Law That Changed The Face of America: The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965" and  "Immigration and the American Dream: Battling the Political Hype and Hysteria" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 and 2008 respectively).  Peggy is a credentialed Senior Congressional journalist in Washington DC. She is available for interviews, article assignments and speaking engagements about immigration   porchowski@hotmail.com

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Name: Peggy Sands Orchowski
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Dateline: Washington, DC United States
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