Speaking Out On Immigration Reform

BOSTON (CBS) — All this week, WBZ Reports presents an in-depth look at the immigration debate in Massachusetts.

In her final report on Immigration: The American Dream, WBZ News Radio’s Mary Blake looks at who is speaking out on the subject of immigration.

“Renata”, in this country illegally for 15 years, has come out of the shadows.

She is pushing for passage of the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

The Dream Act died in the U.S. Senate in September.

Renata had hoped to persuade Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown to support it.

Former Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Dukakis has and continues to speak out on immigrant rights.

Dukakis says, “I don’t understand how a United States Senator from Massachusetts can vote against the Dream Act. I just don’t get it.”

While Senator Brown declined a request to be interviewed for this series, he did make a comment Friday.

Brown told the Associated Press he wants to work with Senate Democrats on possible federal immigration reform, as long as it’s not “fluff.”

The Republican says he plans to meet with leaders of both parties about options for reforms. But he said any effort should be focused on improving the economy.

Despite repeated requests for an interview, none of state senators who voted against the bill this past spring that barred illegal immigrants from receiving state services responded.

Methuen Senator Stephen Baddour, re-elected to another two year term last week, was a democrat who voted yes.

According to Baddour, “It sends the right message that if you are here illegally; you are not going to benefit from the system.”

Another democrat who will speak out is New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang.

His city still bears the scars of the March 2007 Michael Bianco factory raid.

Three years later, Lang says the raid itself was, in his view, a “political statement.”

More than 350 Bianco factory workers, all illegals, were rounded up by ICE agents.

Applauded as long overdue by some, ICE was also criticized by immigrant rights groups and New Bedford Mayor Lang.  Lang said “Lives were immediately disrupted, and that has consequences in a community.”

Luis’ mother was one of the workers. She was taken to prison, and they were going to transfer her to another jail in Texas.  Luis said, “It makes you feel really helpless.”  Luis’ mother was released after two months. She now has her green card, but nearly half of the cases are still in limbo.

Mayor Lang also laments the ultimate loss of 500 city jobs in the wake of the raid.

All work that had been done at that factory has now been shifted to Puerto Rico.

Ironically, all sides in immigration debate agree on one thing.   They all want action.

The Reverent Cheng Imm Tan, who heads up the Office of New Bostonians, wants the positive impact of immigrants better highlighted.

She says, “Immigrants as a whole earn about 4 billion dollars annually, just in the city of Boston.  That means a contribution of 1.2 billion dollars in state and federal taxes.  It also translates into jobs for 29 thousand people.”

Illegal immigrants argue they do, in fact, pay taxes.

“David” from Brazil says, “You don’t just pay taxes through your pay check; you pay taxes every time you pay rent, every time you buy something.”

On the other side of the debate is “FAIR”, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, based in Washington D.C.

FAIR’s Ira Mehlman has also compiled statistics, concluding that if amnesty or a guest worker program is adopted for illegals, the cost to Massachusetts, in this fiscal year, is 992 million dollars.

According to Mehlman, “This gives people a ballpark cost of how much it is really costing them on a day-to-day basis to subsidize the low wage workers for businesses who don’t want to pay American wages.”

New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang believes if you take away the extremes on both sides of the debate, automatic citizenship and deportation, you should reach agreement pretty quickly.

Boston deportation attorney Joshua Goldstein says if you want to see what a real immigration problem looks like, go to Europe.

Goldstein says, “In Europe, they have immigrants that don’t integrate into their societies.  They have immigrants who are estranged and set cars on fire in France.  Or in Germany, they lack immigration, and because of their demographics, Germany is going to have a real shortage of workers.”

Senator John Kerry is in a position to act. He says, “We need reasonableness… a path to citizenship that requires strict requirements.  But you also have to tighten up the borders and have enforcement against the companies that hire people illegally.”

Kerry says if you have border security and enforcement, then things will begin to happen. He predicts reform will happen next year.

 WBZ’s Mary Blake has more on the politics of immigration reform.

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