10 November 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Letting the Right People Into San Francisco

The City of San Francisco has certainly been in the news lately for the power struggle between Mayor Newsom and the Board of Supervisors on the sanctuary city policy. I testified at the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission hearing yesterday where officials were gathered to hear recommendations on what role San Francisco should play in the immigration reform arena.

Stanford Law professor and entrepreneur, F. Daniel Siciliano, gave an enlightening keynote on how immigrants are net contributors to the United States. Praising immigrants for risk-taking and innovation, Siciliano urged people to focus on economic analysis rather than getting distracted by the fiscal side of the immigration debate. Everyone is a net user of resources and the irony is that immigrants consume fewer resources IF they are allowed to integrate fully into society.

Siciliano pointed out the fact that immigrants, regardless of status, were responsible for 25% of publicly traded companies and the same disproportion was apparent in the start-up of small businesses, which often employ American citizens. The heightened mobility of migrant labor also means that immigrants can move out of places with low demand for jobs into places with higher demand. Siciliano also claimed that 91% of Americans enjoy enhanced earnings due to immigration and even if one is a bad person who hates immigrants, s/he still stands to gain financially from immigration.

Letting the right people in helped the country more than keeping the wrong people out, although Siciliano did stress that the ‘right people’ constituted a broad and dynamic spectrum.

Thereafter, panelists and members of the community shared personal narratives, along with advocacy efforts and recommendations for the Commission. Active engagement with the federal government and immigrant communities was a popular theme among most panelists. Melanie Nathan, an attorney and member of the Marin Human Rights Commission, pressed San Francisco to “stand up to its LGBTQI icon status” and pressure Congress to include the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in any comprehensive immigration reform bill. Latest reports indicate that including UAFA is unpopular among immigrant rights advocates, especially with faith-based groups.

The highlight of the night came from UC Davis Law professor, Bill O’ Hing, who sounded alarm bells about the upcoming proposals for immigration reform that could do more harm than good. He pointed to the efforts in 2007 to erase the sibling (F4) and adult unmarried child of LPR (2B) categories, which rendered thousands of families without reunification options, noting that these empty proposals would likely make a comeback. O’Hing favors the family-unification options under the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill of 2006, and lamented at the loss of leadership in the Senate:

“Unfortunately, Senator Kennedy died. And then Senator McCain died too.”

He remained skeptically optimistic about immigration reform next year, but concluded that it might be a bitter pill to swallow.

Representative Gutierrez is expected to introduce a bill for immigration reform in early December.

(Photo Credit: ParaFlyer Flickr Photostream / CC Attribute)

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