Immigration Reflection

In 23 years as a certified Spanish interpreter for federal courts, Erik Camayd-Freixas has spoken up in criminal trials many times, but the words he uttered were rarely his own. In a 14-page essay he circulated among two dozen other interpreters who worked here, Professor Camayd-Freixas wrote that the immigrant defendants whose words he translated, most of them villagers from Guatemala, did not fully understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived. The essay has provoked new questions about the Agriprocessors proceedings, which had been criticized by criminal defense and immigration lawyers as failing to uphold the immigrants’ right to due process. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said she would hold a hearing on the prosecutions and call Professor Camayd-Freixas as a witness.

Jose Antonio Vargas, an award-winning multimedia storyteller, is the founder of Define American, a campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration. Born in the Philippines, Vargas immigrated to the United States at age12. At age 16, he found out he’d been brought to the United States illegally as a child Jose Vargas is voicing the helplessness in which people who were brought here as children against their will are in at the moment unable to “fix” their legal status, unless they go through the very few options there actually exist such as marriage to a citizen and/or family petitions. He making it clear that these people only know this country as their own, and going back to a foreign land to “get in line” is an inconceivable option for a majority of them, one being the language barrier primarily, also the huge cultural gap between the American society that they have always know and a third world country. He is advocating for these young “Americans” that without will of their own and by force ended up here without proper paperwork, not adult immigrants who chose to force their way in.   Vargas confessed he had plenty of documents… Fraudulent documents to get a license, his first job.He applied for his learner’s driving permit at age 16, that his green card was a fake, a fact his grandfather later confirmed. Vargas decided to hide his true identity in order to avoid deportation, until he felt compelled to write the Times article. 

Chapter 5 of textbook presents the following myths and facts:

Immigrants don’t pay taxes: a range of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay income taxes as well, as evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file”

Immigrants come here to take welfare:  In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits

Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries: While it is true that immigrants remit billions of dollars a year to their home countries, this is one of the most targeted and effective forms of direct foreign investment.

Immigrants take jobs and opportunity away from Americans: Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. and foreign workers, and foreign-born students allow many U.S. graduate programs to keep their doors open. In Silicon Valley, companies begun by Chinese and Indian immigrants generated more than $19.5 billion in sales and nearly 73,000 jobs in 2000.

Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy: The net benefit of immigration to the U.S. is nearly $10 billion annually. As Alan Greenspan points out, 70% of immigrants arrive in prime working age. That means we haven’t spent a penny on their education, yet they are transplanted into our workforce and will contribute $500 billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years.

Immigrants don’t want to learn English or become Americans: Within ten years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well.The number of immigrants naturalizing spiked sharply after two events: enactment of immigration and welfare reform laws in 1996, and the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Today’s immigrants are different than those of 100 years ago: The percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign-born now stands at 11.5%; in the early 20th century it was approximately 15%. If we view history objectively, we remember that every new wave of immigrants has been met with suspicion and doubt and yet, ultimately, every past wave of immigrants has been vindicated and saluted

Most immigrants cross the border illegally: Around 75% of today’s immigrants have legal permanent (immigrant) visas; of the 25% that are undocumented, 40% overstayed temporary (non-immigrant) visas.

Weak U.S. border enforcement has led to high undocumented immigration: Despite the border petrolling, the undocumented immigrant population doubled in that timeframe, to 8 million-despite the legalization of nearly 3 million immigrants after the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986.

The war on terrorism can be won through immigration restrictions: No security expert since September 11th, 2001 has said that restrictive immigration measures would have prevented the terrorist attacks-instead, the key is effective use of good intelligence. In fact, several of these measures could have the opposite effect and actually make us less safe, as targeted communities of immigrants are afraid to come forward with information.


The article by Dr. Camayd-Freixas, “Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in U.S. History”

“Actions are Illegal, Never People” lecture from Jose Antonio Vargas

The myths and facts about immigration presented in Chapter 5 of your textbook