The current debate surrounding immigration reform is confusing and often politically charged. Both sides know and understand that the appropriate approach could prove extremely beneficial for years and decades to come. Being able to effectively address some of the immigration issues facing this country could mean votes – in fact, an entire voting block that could remain loyal to a given party. However, the approach should not be partisan in nature, even though it seems inextricably linked to party politics. Rather, immigration reform should be rooted in law and reason, and it should take into consideration leading social factors as well. As a result, we should look to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a possible guide for more effective and practical reform.
NAFTA creates a very real base upon which immigration reform can and should be grounded (as we will see in more detail later in this article). It is a legal mechanism and vehicle that allows for the eventual movement of people, goods, services and capital across borders. For now, we see the benefits of goods being transferred between and among the current NAFTA trading partners – Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Additionally, NAFTA allows business investors and business investments to be treated equally in all three countries. But a natural progression of free trade agreements (“FTAs”) brings us to the eventual movement of people across borders for job purposes, much like we see in the European Union. As a result, NAFTA is an ideal platform upon which immigration reform can be based, at least as it pertains to Mexico and Canada.
FTAs sometimes evolve over time. The European Union began as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) just after World War II and partially in response to the Marshall Plan. It then progressed into the EEC or “European Economic Community” with the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and later became known as the European Community (EC) with the adoption of the Treaty of the European Union (entered into in Maastricht in 1992 and ratified in 1993). This created one economic union or ‘single market’ that paved the way for the eventual disintegration of trade and economic barriers, as well as the portal through which the free movement of people, goods, capital and services would flow; these are also known as the ‘four freedoms’ by some European commentators (that is, the unencumbered movement of people, goods, services and money). Once this was established, the European Union came into effect. While this brief historical overview is a simplified version of that which occurred in the evolution of the EU, there are several other elements such as a common currency (the “Euro”) and the fall of communism that come into play as well. Rather, the general concept is most important here for the purposes of our discussion and analysis. At each stage of progression, more and more barriers fall and more economic cooperation takes effect.
By way of analogy, NAFTA creates a platform or a base upon which greater economic unity can be built between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. By the same token, however, I am not a proponent of a complete economic union between the three countries in North America that rivals the EU. In some respects, the EU may have gone too far – just look at the problems associated with the current debt crisis, a common currency, political hegemony and defense-related cooperation (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, the United States, Canada and Mexico can become more integrated on some levels, not the least of which include and involve labor. The U.S. benefits from Mexican labor in the United States and Mexico prospers from the repatriation of capital that occurs as a result of some of its citizens working in the U.S. And there are many more advantages as well. Creating more freedom of labor between and among the three countries in a fully documented and legal manner can inure to everyone’s benefit.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Mexico accounted for the vast majority of new legal immigration to the United States (based on 2010 data). i. Legal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. in 2010 was 140,000 strong. This represented twice as much as China, which was in the number two spot at 70,863. India was in third position at about 69,000 legal immigrants, followed by the Philippines and Dominican Republic. The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. estimates that there are about 5.4 million legal immigrants in the U.S. from Mexico. ii. Interestingly, however, nearly two-thirds of Mexicans that are in the U.S. legally have not yet taken the step toward naturalization. The reasons noted are lack of English proficiency and the cost of the naturalization process. Also according to Pew, the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. in 2010 was 11.2 million. More than half of that number – or 58 percent – is from Mexico. Again, a significant majority of all immigration to the United States is from one country, Mexico (both legal and illegal in nature). iii.
As a result, it would be most effective and appropriate for the U.S. to deal with immigration reform by addressing Mexico first. This is the case for two important reasons: 1) Mexicans make up the majority of all immigrants in the United States (as noted above), and 2) Although not expressly, there is the base for a legal framework contained in NAFTA that provides a path toward legalizing Mexican citizens that are residing in the United States illegally and that intend to remain in the U.S. on a permanent basis (by extrapolating and extending the NAFTA agreement specifically in this area, and by using more extensive trade agreements such as the EU as a guide). There are additional economic and social factors that support this position as well, not the least of which deal with the widely accepted perception that Mexicans are a truly productive part of the American labor force and therefore have become large contributors to the overall U.S. economy. There are also countless cultural affinities between the U.S. and Mexico, not to mention geographic proximity and a shared border between the two countries – spanning nearly 2,000 miles.
The face of the nation has changed dramatically in recent years and many cities in the United States have a distinct Latino/Hispanic identity. Spanish is truly becoming a second language, officially or unofficially. Just look at packaging and signs around the country, particularly in the southeastern and southwestern United States. Turn on a television in any hotel room and find various Spanish language networks, ranging from Telemundo to ESPN (and many others). Hispanic culture – namely Mexican culture – has become inextricably linked to our identity as a nation. Being that we are a country of immigrants, this is highly relevant demographically and otherwise. It is also important when considering family unification, religious affiliation, eating habits, and the contribution of this community to the very fabric of the American cultural makeup.
Our nation has 53 million Hispanics and they represent 17% of the total population of the country. The Pew Hispanic Center says that “Hispanics will account for 40% of the growth in the eligible electorate in the U.S. between now and 2030, at which time 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, up from 23.7 million now.” Needless to say, this has become a divisive and highly charged political issue with profound political implications and impact; these are elements that can and probably will reverberate over time. Also consider the following data from the Pew Hispanic Center:
If the national exit poll’s estimate proves correct that 10% of all voters this year were Hispanic, it would mean that as many as 12.5 million Hispanics cast ballots. But perhaps a more illuminating way to analyze the distinctive characteristics of the Hispanic electorate—current and future—is to parse the more than 40 million Hispanics in the United States who did not vote or were not eligible to vote in 2012.iv
So here are some practical steps that can be taken to resolve a portion of the immigration challenge in the short-term.
- Facilitate Naturalization for Mexicans Living in the U.S. Legally: Facilitate the naturalization of Mexican citizens in the United States that legally reside in the U.S. but have not yet filed for naturalization. Create a “fast track” process upon which this can be based, simplify the procedure and reduce the cost. This applies to nearly 3.5 million Mexicans currently living in the United States (according to Pew Research).
- Fast Track for Mexican Citizens in the U.S. without a Valid Visa: Create a separate “fast track” toward permanent residency for Mexicans living in the United States continuously for at least fifteen (15) years, have a method and mode to support their families financially, but are without a currently valid visa. As per the Pew Hispanic Research center, these people are considered “unauthorized migrants,” that is, they are citizens ‘of another country who live in the U.S. without a currently valid visa.’v This will allow us to legally register another 6.5 million Mexicans living in the United States. As stated above, we will need to reduce the cost and simplify the procedure.
- Create a Preference for Mexican Citizens Living in the U.S. with Children who are Citizens of the United States: Arrange for a quicker and more efficient naturalization process for Mexicans who are ‘undocumented’ but whose children were born in the United States. It is socially justifiable – at least arguably – to show some degree of preference to Mexicans living in the United States for at least ten (10) years and whose children were born in the United States; so, their children are already U.S. citizens. In certain ways, this intersects with number 2 above, except for the continuous residency requirement and the fact that it establishes a legal preference for Mexican citizens whose children were born in the United States (thereby already possessing a permanent nexus with the U.S. through their children). This is where ‘social justice’ comes into play as well. There is a natural order to this and it promotes the unification of families over time, as well as the ability for families to provide financially. This, in turn, continues to contribute to the fabric of the nation via elements associated with stability and continuity. It also allows for the education of future generations of Mexicans.
- Creation of a New Visa Category for Seasonal Workers from Mexico: At this point, USCIS allows for seasonal workers to enter the United States with H-2B visa status. H-2B is a “non-immigrant classification” for non-agricultural workers. However, there is a strict quota or “cap” established in this regard. Some analysts have also noted that the process for obtaining a H-2B visa is cumbersome and difficult. As a result, a less onerous scenario could apply to seasonal workers from Mexico without a quota or a cap. This can be done be easing the constraints of the H-2B visa and/or by creating a new visa category for these seasonal workers. Likewise, simplification and easing of the H-2A visa application process can also be employed for agricultural workers from Mexico (with preference to Mexicans and using NAFTA as the primary reason for the preference). Here, too, the process can and should be made less complicated and easier to obtain for qualifying agricultural workers from Mexico.
Justification for steps 2 and 3 above would be NAFTA. Again, a legal framework already exists whereby Mexican citizens have the ability to register for valid visas and eventual permanent residency. It is important to understand that this approach promotes legality and works within a structure that is already established (NAFTA). As a result, new and extensive legislation is not necessarily required. An expansion of the current NAFTA agreement is sufficient to open the door and move in a more pronounced and amplified manner toward legalization. Also, this methodology clearly documents all people in the United States that are currently in the country and do not possess valid visas or permission to remain in the U.S. At the same time, creating a simplified process to fully register Mexicans in the United States has tremendous and far-reaching societal and economic benefits. After all, the Federal Government and IRS stand to gain too. Not only do tax rolls increase (at least conceivably) but the cost of border patrol is reduced dramatically. By the same token, billion dollar industries involving the illegal trafficking of human beings across the Rio Grande could come to a screeching halt. No longer will we be preoccupied with building a 2,000-mile security zone, some of which could rival the wall found between Israel and Palestine.
Having said all of this, a friendlier and more cooperative relationship is thereby established between the United States and Mexico if we make moves of this nature and magnitude. After all, we are each other’s most significant trading partners (along with Canada), and we already have a trade agreement in place. Furthermore, we share a large common border and Mexican culture is already largely integrated into American culture. Dealing with Mexican immigration in a more productive and efficient way will help all parties involved. It also helps us to better coordinate with Mexican authorities to more effectively – and humanely – deal with the border issue. From my perspective and assuming implementation takes place properly and effectively, making moves of this nature increases security between the governments of Mexico and the United States.
As you we are coming to understand, immigration reform is no longer just a peripheral issue; rather, it is front and center. It is highly relevant and the victor stands to profit politically in years to come. However and despite the partisan struggles attached to it, we need to view this matter outside of the context of politics. Rather, we are dealing with real people and real lives. As a result, the solution should transcend politics. It is really a matter of social justice and legality, and a legal framework already exists. We need to address this matter head-on, with care and attention to detail, as well as to law. We also need to provide certain and select immigrants with a real solution. One such solution favors Mexican immigration through an already approved and ratified treaty, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
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Generally speaking, a free trade agreement provides a path for the free movement of four basic principles: people, goods, capital and services. These are sometimes referred to as the primary “pillars” (or “freedoms”) of an agreement of this nature and magnitude. When ratified by the U.S. Senate, these agreements receive full recognition domestically and internationally (with respect to the countries that are signatories to the agreement). According to the United States International Trade Administration, free trade agreements (or “FTAs”) are characterized as follows:
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have proved to be one of the best ways to open up foreign markets to U.S. exporters. Trade Agreements reduce barriers to U.S. exports, and protect U.S. interests and enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country. The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets. Forty-one percent of U.S. goods exports went to FTA partner countries in 2010, with exports to those countries growing at a faster rate than exports to the rest of the world from 2009 to 2010, 23% vs. 20%. (See www.trade.gov).
Linking over 450 million people and generating over $17 trillion in the exchange of goods and services (as measured in 2010), NAFTA is the world’s largest free trade area.1 It is an agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. When considering investors and investor status, U.S. investors are basically treated as domestic investors in Canada and Mexico. So, for the purpose of business investment, Canadian, U.S. and Mexican investors are guaranteed the same basic freedoms and rights – they are guaranteed “equal treatment.”2 Technically, there are very few border-related barriers that pertain to business investors and the like. Some immigration attorneys may argue this point by citing the need for investor visas such as E-1/E-2, EB-5 and TN visas (whereby TNs seem principally directed toward Canadians). By the same token and in large part, investors are free to invest within and among the NAFTA countries. Additionally, Article 1 of the treaty, dealing with labor issues, states that the three signatory countries “pursue cooperative labor-related activities on the basis of mutual benefit.”3 Like many other elements associated with treaties, this is open to a degree of interpretation.
Later in Article 11 of the NAFTA agreement, there is a laundry list of areas of joint cooperation on labor-related matters including, but not limited to, the following:
… forms of cooperation among workers, management and government;
the provision of technical assistance, at the request of a Party, for the development of its labor standards; and
such other matters as the Parties may agree.4
More importantly, perhaps, the NAFTA allows, permits and even encourages the three signatory countries to “promote cooperative activities between the Parties … [in] such other matters as the Parties may agree.”5 In fact, the article uses the enforceable language of “shall” in this section. So, it says that the countries “shall promote cooperative activities between the Parties.”6 As most legal commentators will tell you, the word “shall” comes with certain definitive characteristics attached. Namely, it is a demand or a specific request in legalize.
In the Article 49 Definitions provision, NAFTA employs interesting language pertaining to the protection of migrant workers as well.7 In Annex One of the agreement, it specifically states the following:
11. Protection of migrant workers
Providing migrant workers in a Party’s territory with the same legal protection as the Party’s nationals in respect of working conditions.
Granted, this is with respect to “working conditions,” but those conditions can be applied to a number of scenarios and circumstances. When combining these sections with the general notion that free trade agreements are designed to enhance the economic climate and environment of the trading partners, then a great deal of progress can be made with respect to issues such as immigration. Consider once again the FTA language noted above (as listed on the USTA’s website):
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have proved to be one of the best ways to open up foreign markets to U.S. exporters. Trade Agreements reduce barriers to U.S. exports, and protect U.S. interests and enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country.
The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.
Although NAFTA does not specifically provide for the free movement of people between the borders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, it does create a base and a context for such types of immigration. It is also a very real platform upon which a legal instrument has been established. That legal instrument – the FTA – has full effect and impact domestically and internationally. When ratified, it becomes the “law of the land,” analogous – although not equal to – the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, it is law and it is supreme insofar as it is federal law. So, the states may not abrogate this law, nor may they pass laws that interfere with or supersede such a law. It is binding in almost all respects.
i. U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Inflow of New Legal Permanent Residents, Top Five Sending Countries, 2010
*Source: US Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics
ii. Pew Research Center Data
Two-thirds of Legal Mexican Immigrants are not U.S. Citizens
The Path Not Taken
Nearly two-thirds of the 5.4 million legal immigrants from Mexico who are eligible to become citizens of the United States have not yet taken that step. Their naturalization rate—36%—is only half that of legal immigrants from all other countries combined, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of federal government data. A nationwide survey of Hispanic immigrants by the Center finds that nearly all (93%) who have not yet naturalized say they would if they could. But barriers such as a lack of English proficiency and the financial cost of naturalization are identified as reasons why many legal immigrants have not yet done so.
iii. Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010
by Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn
As of March 2010, 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, virtually unchanged from a year earlier, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009 that was the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth.
The number of unauthorized immigrants in the nation’s workforce, 8 million in March 2010, also did not differ from the Pew Hispanic Center estimate for 2009. As with the population total, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the labor force had decreased in 2009 from its peak of 8.4 million in 2007. They made up 5.2% of the labor force in 2010.
The number of children born to at least one unauthorized-immigrant parent in 2009 was 350,000 and they made up 8% of all U.S. births, essentially the same as a year earlier. An analysis of the year of entry of unauthorized immigrants who became parents in 2009 indicates that 61% arrived in the U.S. before 2004, 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and 9% arrived from 2008 to 2010.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, unauthorized immigrants made up 3.7% of the nation’s population and 5.2% of its labor force in March 2010. Births to unauthorized immigrant parents accounted for 8% of newborns from March 2009 to March 2010, according to the center’s estimates, which are based mainly on data from the government’s Current Population Survey.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, unauthorized immigrants made up 3.7% of the nation’s population and 5.2% of its labor force in March 2010. Births to unauthorized immigrant parents accounted for 8% of newborns from March 2009 to March 2010, according to the center’s estimates, which are based mainly on data from the government’s Current Population Survey.
The decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants from its peak in 2007 appears due mainly to a decrease in the number from Mexico, which went down to 6.5 million in 2010 from 7 million in 2007. Mexicans remain the largest group of unauthorized immigrants, accounting for 58% of the total.
iv. Aging, Naturalization et. al.
Aging, Naturalization and Immigration Will Drive Growth
An Awakened Giant: The Hispanic Electorate is Likely to Double by 2030
by Paul Taylor, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, Jeffrey Passel and Mark Hugo Lopez
The record number1 of Latinos who cast ballots for president this year are the leading edge of an ascendant ethnic voting bloc that is likely to double in size within a generation, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis based on U.S. Census Bureau data, Election Day exit polls and a new nationwide survey of Hispanic immigrants.
The nation’s 53 million Hispanics comprise 17% of the total U.S. population but just 10% of all voters this year, according to the national exit poll. To borrow a boxing metaphor, they still “punch below their weight.”
However, their share of the electorate will rise quickly for several reasons. The most important is that Hispanics are by far the nation’s youngest ethnic group. Their median age is 27 years—and just 18 years among native-born Hispanics—compared with 42 years for that of white non-Hispanics. In the coming decades, their share of the age-eligible electorate will rise markedly through generational replacement alone.
According to Pew Hispanic Center projections, Hispanics will account for 40% of the growth in the eligible electorate in the U.S. between now and 2030, at which time 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, up from 23.7 million now.2
Moreover, if Hispanics’ relatively low voter participation rates and naturalization rates were to increase to the levels of other groups, the number of votes that Hispanics actually cast in future elections could double within two decades.
If the national exit poll’s estimate proves correct that 10% of all voters this year were Hispanic, it would mean that as many as 12.5 million Hispanics cast ballots. But perhaps a more illuminating way to analyze the distinctive characteristics of the Hispanic electorate—current and future—is to parse the more than 40 million Hispanics in the United States who did not vote or were not eligible to vote in 2012. That universe can be broken down as follows:
- 11.2 million are adults who were eligible to vote but chose not to. The estimated 44% to 53% turnout rate of eligible Hispanic voters in 2012 is in the same range as the 50% who turned out in 2008. But it still likely lags well below the turnout rate of whites and blacks this year.3
- b. 5.4 million are adult legal permanent residents (LPRs) who could not vote because they have not yet become naturalized U.S. citizens. The naturalization rate among legal immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean trails that of other legal immigrants by a sizable margin—49% versus 72%, according to a Pew Hispanic analysis of the 2011 March Current Population Survey (CPS). The new Pew Hispanic survey finds that a major reason Hispanic immigrants naturalize is to gain civil and legal rights, including the right to vote. The flexing of electoral muscle by Hispanic voters this year conceivably could encourage more legal immigrants to become naturalized citizens.
- 7.1 million are adult unauthorized immigrants and would become eligible to vote only if Congress were to pass a law creating a pathway to citizenship for them. Judging by the immediate post-election comments of leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers, the long-dormant prospects for passage of such legislation appear to have been revived by Latinos’ strong showing at the polls.
- d. 17.6 million are under the age of 18 and thus too young to vote—for now. That vast majority (93%) of Latino youths are U.S-born citizens and thus will automatically become eligible to vote once they turn 18. Today, some 800,000 Latinos turn 18 each year; by 2030, this number could grow to 1 million per year, adding a potential electorate of more than 16 million new Latino voters to the rolls by 2030.
Thus, generational replacement alone will push the age- and citizen-eligible Latino electorate to about 40 million within two decades. If the turnout rate of this electorate over time converges with that of whites and blacks in recent elections (66% and 65%, respectively, in 2008), that would mean twice as many Latino voters could be casting ballots in 2032 as did in 2012.
This turnout could rise even more if naturalization rates among the 5.4 million adult Hispanic legal permanent residents were to increase over time—and/or if Congress were to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that creates a pathway to citizenship for the more than 7 million unauthorized Hispanic immigrants already living in the U.S.
The Pew Hispanic Center survey finds that more than nine-in-ten (93%) Hispanic immigrants who have not yet naturalized say they would if they could. Of those who haven’t, many cite administrative costs and barriers, a lack of English proficiency and a lack of initiative. For example, according to the survey, only 30% of Hispanic immigrants who are LPRs say they speak English “pretty well” or “very well.”
In addition to all these factors, there is the as-yet-unknowable size and impact of future immigration. About 24 million Hispanic immigrants have come to U.S. in the past four decades—in absolute numbers, the largest concentrated wave of arrivals among any ethnic or racial group in U.S. history. Some 45% arrived in the U.S. legally, and 55% arrived illegally.4
Assuming Hispanic immigration continues into the future —even at the significantly reduced levels of recent years—the Hispanic electorate will expand beyond the numbers dictated by the growth among Hispanics already living in the U.S. And because immigrants tend to have more children than the native born, the demographic ripple effect of future immigration on the makeup of the electorate will be felt for generations.
In 2008, the Pew Research Center projected that the Hispanic share of the total U.S. population would be 29% by 2050 (Passel and Cohn, 2008). Since that projection was made, the annual level of Hispanic immigration has declined sharply (Passel, Cohn and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012). Because of this decline, the share of Hispanics in 2050 now appears unlikely to reach 29%. However, the 2008 projection also included a “low immigration scenario” that showed the Hispanic share of the U.S. population would be 26% by mid-century (Passel and Cohn, 2008)—still much higher than today’s 17%.
Who Naturalizes and Who Doesn’t
A record 15.5 million legal immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Census Bureau data. In addition, the share of the nation’s legal immigrants who have become U.S. citizens has reached its highest level in three decades—56%. However, naturalization rates among legal immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean (49%), especially Mexican legal immigrants (36%), remain below those of other immigrants (72%).
In the new Pew Hispanic Center survey, when asked in an open-ended question why they decided to naturalize, almost one-in-five (18%) naturalized Hispanic immigrants said that acquiring civil and legal rights—including the right to vote—was the main reason. This response was closely followed by an interest in having access to the benefits and opportunities derived from U.S. citizenship (16%) and family-related reasons (15%). Other reasons included viewing the U.S. as home (12%) and wanting to become American (6%).
The Pew Hispanic survey also explored the reasons Hispanic immigrants who are legal permanent residents haven’t yet tried to become citizens. According to the survey, when asked in an open-ended question why they had not naturalized thus far, 45% identified either personal barriers (26%), such as a lack of English proficiency, or administrative barriers (18%), such as the financial cost of naturalization.
About this Report
This report explores the growing size of the Hispanic electorate and the reasons Hispanic immigrants give for naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen—and for not naturalizing.
The report uses several data sources. Latino vote shares are based on the National Election Pool national exit poll as reported on November 6, 2012, by CNN’s Election 2012 website. Data on Latino immigrants’ views of naturalization are based on the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2012 National Survey of Latinos (NSL). The NSL survey was conducted from September 7 through October 4, 2012, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia among a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 1,765 Latino adults, 899 of whom were foreign born. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish on cellular as well as landline telephones. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The margin of error for the foreign-born sample is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Interviews were conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS).
For data on the legal status of immigrants, Pew Hispanic Center estimates use data mainly from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 55,000 households conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. It is best known as the source for monthly unemployment statistics. Each March, the CPS sample size and questionnaire are expanded to produce additional data on the foreign-born population and other topics. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates make adjustments to the government data to compensate for undercounting of some groups, and therefore its population totals differ somewhat from the ones the government uses. Estimates of the number of immigrants by legal status for any given year are based on a March reference date. For more details, see Passel and Cohn (2010).
This report was written by Director Paul Taylor, Research Associate Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, Senior Demographer Jeffrey S. Passel and Associate Director Mark Hugo Lopez. Ana Gonzalez-Barrera took the lead in developing the survey questionnaire’s naturalization section. Passel and D’Vera Cohn provided comments on earlier drafts of the report. The authors also thank Scott Keeter, Leah Christian, Cohn, Richard Fry, Cary Funk, Rakesh Kochhar, Rich Morin, Seth Motel, Kim Parker, Passel, Eileen Patten and Antonio Rodriguez for guidance on the development of the survey instrument. Motel provided excellent research assistance. Fry, Morin and Patten number-checked the report text and topline. Marcia Kramer was the copy editor.
A Note on Terminology
The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report.
“Foreign born” refers to persons born outside of the United States, Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories to parents neither of whom was a U.S. citizen.
The following terms are used to describe immigrants and their status in the U.S. In some cases, they differ from official government definitions because of limitations in the available survey data.
Legal permanent resident, legal permanent resident alien, legal immigrant, authorized migrant: A citizen of another country who has been granted a visa that allows work and permanent residence in the U.S. For the analyses in this report, legal permanent residents include persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum.
Naturalized citizen: Legal permanent resident who has fulfilled the length of stay and other requirements to become a U.S. citizen and who has taken the oath of citizenship.
Unauthorized migrant: Citizen of another country who lives in the U.S. without a currently valid visa.
Eligible immigrant: In this report, a legal permanent resident who meets the length of stay qualifications to file a petition to become a citizen but has not yet naturalized.
Legal temporary migrant: A citizen of another country who has been granted a temporary visa that may or may not allow work and temporary residence in the U.S.
- According to the National Election Pool national exit poll, 10% of all voters in 2012 were Hispanic. And according to media reports and election turnout experts, an estimated 125 million votes were cast in 2012. However, the resulting estimate of 12.5 million Hispanics voters should be treated with caution. If history is a guide, it will likely differ—possibly substantially—with the demographic breakdown of the vote that will be reported next spring based on data drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 November Current Population Survey (CPS), conducted after the presidential election. For example, in 2008, according to the National Exit Pool national exit poll, 9% of voters were Hispanic. But according to the 2008 November CPS, 7.4% of voters were Hispanic (Lopez and Taylor, 2009). If the gap in the Hispanic share between the National Exit Pool national exit poll and the CPS is as large as in 2012 as it was in 2008, the number of Hispanic voters could range from a low of 10.5 million to a high of 12.5 million. ↩
b. This projection is based on assumptions about future levels of fertility, mortality, and immigration. The projections subdivide the population by age, sex, race/Hispanic origin and generation (foreign-born, U.S.-born with immigrant parent(s) and U.S.-born with native parents). See Passel and Cohn (2008) for details on methodology and assumptions. The figures cited here are from the “middle” projection which assumes slight increases in immigration levels through 2030. The future voting-eligible population includes the U.S.-born population ages 18 and older plus the foreign-born population ages 18 and over who have become U.S. citizens by naturalization. The estimates of naturalized citizens in the future are based on extrapolation of trends in naturalization rates by race/Hispanic origin observed for 1995-2010. ↩
- In 2008, according the Census Bureau’s November CPS, 50% of age- and citizen-eligible Hispanics voted, compared with 65% of blacks and 66% of whites (Lopez and Taylor, 2009). ↩
Some of those who arrived as unauthorized immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s subsequently became legal immigrants (and some naturalized) as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
v. Ibid. See also Unauthorized migrant: Citizen of another country who lives in the U.S. without a currently valid visa.
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1. Office of the United States Trade Representative (trade.gov)
As of January 1, 2008, all tariffs and quotas were eliminated on U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA created the world’s largest free trade area, which links 454 million people producing over $17.2 trillion worth of goods and services in 2010. The dismantling of trade barriers and the opening of markets has led to economic growth and rising prosperity in all three countries.
Total merchandise trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico reached $944.6 billion in 2010, an increase of 218% since 1993. Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest merchandise trading partners, accounting for 32.3 percent of U.S. exports to the world in 2010.
The NAFTA provides coverage to services with the exception of aviation transport, maritime, and basic telecommunications. The agreement also provides intellectual property rights protection in a variety of areas including patent, trademark, and copyrighted material. The government procurement provisions of the NAFTA apply not only to goods but to contracts for services and construction at the federal level. Additionally, U.S. investors are guaranteed equal treatment to domestic investors in Mexico and Canada. Overall investment from the United States to Canada and Mexico reached $628 billion in 2009, growing 75 percent since 2003.
3. North American Free Trade Agreement (Final Text)
Article 1: Objectives
The objectives of this Agreement are to:
- improve working conditions and living standards in each Party’s territory;
- promote, to the maximum extent possible, the labor principles set out in Annex 1;
- encourage cooperation to promote innovation and rising levels of productivity and quality;
- encourage publication and exchange of information, data development and coordination, and joint studies to enhance mutually beneficial understanding of the laws and institutions governing labor in each Party’s territory;
- pursue cooperative labor-related activities on the basis of mutual benefit;
- promote compliance with, and effective enforcement by each Party of, its labor law; and
- foster transparency in the administration of labor law.
4. North American Free Trade Agreement (Final Text)
Article 11: Cooperative Activities
1. The Council shall promote cooperative activities between the Parties, as appropriate, regarding:
- occupational safety and health;
- child labor;
- migrant workers of the Parties;
- human resource development;
- labor statistics;
- work benefits;
- social programs for workers and their families;
- programs, methodologies and experiences regarding productivity improvement;
- labor-management relations and collective bargaining procedures;
- employment standards and their implementation;
- compensation for work-related injury or illness;
- legislation relating to the formation and operation of unions, collective bargaining and the resolution of labor disputes, and its implementation;
- the equality of women and men in the workplace;
- forms of cooperation among workers, management and government;
- the provision of technical assistance, at the request of a Party, for the development of its labor standards; and
- such other matters as the Parties may agree.
2. In carrying out the activities referred to in paragraph 1, the Parties may, commensurate with the availability of resources in each Party, cooperate through:
- seminars, training sessions, working groups and conferences;
- joint research projects, including sectoral studies;
- technical assistance; and
- such other means as the Parties may agree.
3. The Parties shall carry out the cooperative activities referred to in paragraph 1 with due regard for the economic, social, cultural and legislative differences between them.
7. North American Free Trade Agreement (Final Text)
Article 49: Definitions
1. For purposes of this Agreement:
A Party has not failed to “effectively enforce its occupational safety and health, child labor or minimum wage technical labor standards” or comply with Article 3(1) in a particular case where the action or inaction by agencies or officials of that Party:
aa. reflects a reasonable exercise of the agency’s or the official’s discretion with respect to investigatory, prosecutorial, regulatory or compliance matters; or
bb. results from bona fide decisions to allocate resources to enforcement in respect of other labor matters determined to have higher priorities;
“labor law” means laws and regulations, or provisions thereof, that are directly related to:
- freedom of association and protection of the right to organize;
- the right to bargain collectively;
- the right to strike;
- prohibition of forced labor;
- labor protections for children and young persons;
- minimum employment standards, such as minimum wages and overtime pay, covering wage earners, including those not covered by collective agreements;
- elimination of employment discrimination on the basis of grounds such as race, religion, age, sex, or other grounds as determined by each Party’s domestic laws;
- equal pay for men and women;
- prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses;
- compensation in cases of occupational injuries and illnesses;
- protection of migrant workers;