Tracking the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform

Back in May, Francisco Lopez-Flores, a UCLA alumni, pitched the project “DACAMENT ME” to potential investors. The goal of DACAMENT ME is to track the economic benefits of immigration reform following 2012’s Executive Order by President Obama to implement DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). While DACAMENT ME has been gaining attention from beneficiaries of DACA as well as investors, one potential investor chalked Lopez-Flores’ project to a mere hobby telling him and his team to not waste their time with it.

However, for many students and young adults like Francisco, DACAMENT ME is far from a mere hobby. It is very personal. The executive order allows those individuals to acquire important documentation to obtain jobs, bank accounts and licenses in certain states. Needless to say, it was and still is met with heavy opposition and that is where DACAMENT ME hopes to help. A new member of the DACAMENT ME team, Kayleen Ports, explained the goal and use case of the project very well when she said that while activists have already attempted to make the emotional argument for immigration reform, a data driven argument is also needed.

The idea for DACAMENT ME came to Lopez-Flores when he noticed that after the implementation of DACA, his own wages increased since he no longer had to be paid under the table and was able to apply for steadier, higher paying jobs. After surveying over 200 students who benefited from DACA, Lopez-Flores and fellow UCLA students Stephanie Ramirez and Rudy Morales traveled to the White House where they presented their findings and analysis of DACA’s economic impact to key policymakers. By expanding their initial project for their Chicana/o studies class, Lopez-Flores and his team are hoping to use DACAMENT ME as a way to survey and track DACA recipients over a long period of time to show the positive effects that the policy has on the U.S. economy. Part of their findings demonstrated how recipients of DACA saw an average wage increase of nearly 100%. The research also showed that if the trend continues, it would add nearly $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Currently, DACAMENT ME is growing their team and working on a platform to turn DACAMENT ME into an official program at UCLA so that future students can continue participating. In May, apart from presenting the project to potential investors, the team won first place at the Latin@ Coder Summit hosted by Stanford University. The $1,000 price is being used to acquire the tools necessary to build the DACAMENT ME computer platform over the summer.

How Canada’s Immigration Policy Differs From the United States’

Abogado Aly Canada's Immigration PolicyThe new immigration policy of the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II caused there to be a dramatic decrease in immigration to Canada and the United States. After World War II, legislation allowed refugees and displaced persons from the war to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Both countries’ ideologies began to shift more towards egalitarian ideas such as welfare state and multiculturalism which implemented more tolerance towards people of different races and lead the charge against racial discrimination.[1] During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement lead to an increasing interest group for racial acceptance which fostered the new immigration policies implemented by the United States and Canada. (Talk about Great Society coalition of Jews, Catholics and Liberals as described in Mills) It was with these policies in which Canada decided to take a different route than that of the United States’.

Whereas Canada’s immigration policy of today is geared towards a completely economical public policy stand point, the United States’ policy makers adhered to a more humanitarian approach. According to Borjas with regards to Canada, “According to Borjas, “the point system attempts to match immigrant skills with labor market needs and reduces the fiscal burden that immigration would place on Canada’s generous system of public assistance”[1]. This is then a clear cut way that Canada is trying to economically find a solution to the immigration debate. According to Borjas with regards to the United States, “At some point in the debate over any social policy, the facts have to be let out of their moral vacuum. And the facts have to be interpreted in the context of a set of beliefs, values, and a vision of what the United States is about”[2]. When talking about the immigration policy in the United States, Borjas describes the U.S. immigration policy as not just done for the quantitative, numeric, economic gains and losses, but there is also a moral context in which the policy adheres to. The United States is known as the land of opportunity and a country of immigrants. The United States is one of the most wealthy countries in our nation, so helping people who are less fortunate than them has become part of the moral fabric in the United States’ immigration debate. According to an article in the Economist, “in the United States, you rarely hear somebody advocate for immigration on the grounds that it adds to the social fabric of the country. When the normative argument arises here, it has a humanitarian dimension. I would posit that in the United States, identity is a right, not a value”[3]. This is the clear distinction between the way in which policy makers in the United States look at immigration and how policy makers in Canada look at immigration. The United States sees immigration to their country as a right to the immigrant whereas Canada looks at immigration as a value to their own country. According to Borjas the United States’ main immigration objective is to maximize the economic well-being of the native-born population[4].  If the United States really wanted to increase the economic efficiency of their immigration policy, wouldn’t they just follow Canada’s point system?  Borjas mentioned in an earlier talk about the immigration of “high-skilled” labor from Russian mathematicians in 1992 that lead to basically a replacement of high skilled US mathematicians for only about 400 Russian mathematicians that ended up comprising of about 10% of the mathematics papers written in the United States at this time. However, Borjas’ conclusion, using a future regression model, was that if the Russians had not come at all, we would have had about the same amount of mathematics papers as we do today. So with the influx of low skilled labor and high skilled labor, these immigrations really have not done much for the economy at this point.


Immigration Law Post World War II

Abogado Aly immigration law reform

Abogado Aly Immigration Law

The passage of the Walter-McCarran Act in 1952 was the next major piece of immigration legislation. This act implemented a quota not on the origins of the U.S. population, but extended the quota to people with high skilled labor that the United States felt like they needed in their labor force. It also set up preferences towards relatives of U.S. residents. This was a fundamental change, implemented by the Truman administration, in immigration policy from national origins to family unification and labor needs. Finally, in 1965, President Kennedy amended the 1952 act as part of the civil rights legislation to completely eliminate the inherent racism in the old immigration policy. This new policy completely eliminated the national origins quota and granted  complete priority to family members of American citizens and other immigrants that had complete U.S. residence. This immigration policy was on a first come first serve basis, and annually allowed no more than 20,000 immigrants per country with a global limit of 290,000 immigrants. Eighty percent of the 290,000 limit were saved for close relatives of American citizens or residents, so it is obvious that family unification was the driving force for the 1965 immigration policy. This preference in family unification caused a decrease in the number of European immigrants and an increase in the number of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. This immigration policy is the policy that the United States has today, and this immigration policy is unique compared to other countries such as Canada, England and Japan.

In Canada, the early history of immigration policy is similar to that of the United States. In the mid to late 19th century, immigration policy in Canada was fairly open only restricting criminals and other extreme undesirables. There were not many immigrants coming to Canada before 1896, so Canada was actively seeking immigrants to tend to their large amounts of land. The Dominion Land Act was then established in 1872 which gave land in northwestern regions of Canada to any male over the age of 18 who in return had to promise to cultivate and take care of that land. At the turn of the century, Canada was trying to obtain low skilled labor to enter their vast agricultural sector in the Northwest region. Frank Oliver, a Canadian politician who represented a vast majority of the Northwest region, implemented the Canadian Immigration Act of 1910 that gave more power to the federal government and prohibited the entry “of immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada.” This new immigration policy became even more strict during and after the First World War.  Just like the United States, Canada’s immigration policy at the beginning of the 1920s became increasingly race oriented because of the rising world tensions. Canada’s immigration policy was split up into two groups: the preferred and the non-preferred. Since not many immigrants found incentives to immigrate to Canada, Canada implemented policies to incentivize immigration from England, America, and Western Europe. On the other hand, Canada also implemented numerous policies to keep the so-called “undesirable races,” in the eyes of the Canadians, out of their country.