Father of Seattle 'Dreamer' charged with Immigration crime

Father of Seattle 'Dreamer' charged with Immigration crime
Father of Seattle 'Dreamer' charged with Immigration crime


SEATTLE –  The father of a Seattle-area man arrested by immigration agents despite his participation in a federal program to protect people brought to the U.S. illegally as children have been charged with an Immigration crime in Seattle federal court.

KING-TV reports Antonio Ramirez Polendo was charged Tuesday with illegal re-entry into the United States.

He is the father of 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, who was arrested along with his father Feb. 10 in a raid by Immigration agents at his father's house.

Charging documents obtained by the television station say Polendo has been captured seven times since 2000 after illegally entering the United States. In those instances, documents say he has either been deported or voluntarily escorted to Mexico.

He has a 2004 felony conviction in King County Superior Court for drug trafficking.

The question is: Who are you rooting for? Two economists, two views on Immigration

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
U.S. Citizenshio and Immigration Service

I will spare you the vulgar name-calling, and also the sprinkling of atta-boys.

I got plenty of both on Sunday — and everything in between — for my column on L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez, who believes deportation is too strong a penalty for a man who was arrested in 2013 for driving under the influence.

Aside from the specifics of that case, many readers demanded to know why I don’t write more about the cost of illegal immigration to native-born workers and taxpayers.

“Mr. Lopez, go out and meet some hurting middle-class folks,” said a reader named Dennis, and show a little concern “for tax-paying citizens who have lost everything and are hurting.”

Actually, in 42 years as a journalist, that’s a story I’ve written a few hundred times, give or take. But I don’t see a strong connection between illegal immigration and a U.S. economy marked by obscene income inequality.

Manufacturing jobs used to send kids to college and up the ladder, but that got buried under a pile of bricks, and the service economy has been a pale replacement. Global realities such as automation, the spread of technology and the endless corporate quest for cheap labor are powerful forces, and pulling back on trade could hurt more than help. I could be wrong, but I don’t think any president who promises higher wages, along with lower taxes and healthcare costs, can be trusted. Even if 11 million people get deported.

But I’m not an economist. So I called up two professors who are. Just like readers, the two scholars don’t see eye to eye. That’s actually why I chose them.

Giovanni Peri of UC Davis sees illegal immigration as a positive force in the American economy. George Borjas, of Harvard University, sees it as a drain.

Peri argues, first of all, that unauthorized workers have a far higher employment rate than native-born residents and rely much less on handouts. “They don’t have access to a lot of programs, like food stamps and unemployment,” he said.

Well, OK, but if they have a higher employment rate than native-born residents, is it because they have pushed citizens out of jobs and driven wages down?

Generally, no, said Peri. Not only do low-skilled Immigrants tend to go after different jobs than natives do, but to the extent, there’s overlap in the manual labor pool, the presence of Immigrants drives native-born workers into higher-paying jobs where they have the competitive advantage of citizenship and language skills.

Yes, he acknowledged, those who do not make that leap can be adversely affected by illegal immigration in some regions and some work sectors. But Peri argued that without the undocumented labor force in construction, agriculture, hospitality and other fields, the gross national product would take a 3 to 4% hit. And he said those workers pay sales taxes, property taxes as part of their rent, and, often, Social Security taxes they can never collect in retirement.

immigration at USA
immigration at USA

OK, but what about the public cost of educating and providing healthcare for this population?

That’s an investment in future taxpayers, Peri said, and over time, the entire country will benefit.

“Wishful thinking,” said Professor Borjas, a Cuban-born Immigrant who taught at UC San Diego before Harvard, and says his time in California helped shape his views on immigration.

“I lived in Del Mar, in a gated community with like 30 to 40 homes. It was very middle class and I’ll never forget neighborhood parties. … Everybody had kids, and we were the only house in the entire neighborhood that did not hire at least one illegal Immigrant,” Borjas said. “We never did that. On one side of the street you had all the Americans drinking and chatting, and on the other side you had all the illegal Immigrant women carrying the babies and pushing the carriages.”

Something about that scene disturbed Borjas, who saw it through the eyes of an Immigrant.

“What really bothered me,” he said, “was the social separation and distance and segregation between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ”

Those Immigrants were no doubt doing better financially than they would have south of the border. But to Borjas, this was a reminder that in the economy, in globalization, in immigration, there are always going to be winners and losers.

“The question, in the end, is, ‘Who are you rooting for?’ ” he asked.

He’s rooting for U.S. citizens.

Borjas argues that immigration has unquestionably affected employment and wages for the native-born population. He said he believes Immigrants pump about $50 billion a year into the economy, but that workers who might have had those jobs lose out. And the $50 billion infusions, he argues, is wiped out by the social costs of hosting Immigrants. Also, he doesn’t buy the theory of an eventual benefit to all of the society as Immigrant children become more upwardly mobile.

I’m not convinced he’s right, or wrong. Or that a complicated story of human yearning can be reduced to cold calculation and economic theory. And Trump has targeted poor people of color for the sin of doing what American industry and families have encouraged them to do for decades — come north, take the hardest jobs, and work cheap.

Borjas agreed that employers benefit most from low-wage Immigrants and are “laughing all the way to the bank.” He advocates electronic screening of job applicants, and fines and criminal penalties for law-breaking businesses.

He’d like to see a slowdown in Immigrant, pending a rational determination on how many people to legally admit each year. As for law-abiding working people already here illegally, he said deportation would lack compassion, and he advocates for visas.

So there you have it, divergent views on a divisive topic.

I stand prepared to take hits from all quarters.

Get more of Steve Lopez's work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez

GOP lawmaker: Immigration compromise not a new position for Trump

"I believe there is an opening here and it's consistent with what the President said when he was campaigning," Rep. Chris Collins told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day."

Trump -- whose campaign was marked by tough rhetoric against undocumented immigrants -- ruled out a so-called pathway to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US as recently as August.

But he told reporters Tuesday at the White House that "the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is a compromise on both sides." He did not use similarly explicit language during his address to a joint session of Congress later that night.

The President is eager to pass an immigration bill in his first term that would stop short of granting a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but would allow undocumented immigrants who aren't serious or violent criminals to live, work and pay taxes in the US without fear of deportation, a senior administration official said.

Collins, who supported Trump during the 2016 presidential election, said the President's apparent interest in compromising on immigration is not a policy shift.

"During the campaign, he said, 'Let's secure the border, let's deport the criminal element and then we will deal in a compassionate way typical of the way America has treated people in the past,'" the New York lawmaker told Camerota.

Collins said he was hopeful for a pathway to legal work status for law-abiding undocumented workers. He also blamed former President Barack Obama for putting "a stick in our eye" when it came to a bipartisan compromise on immigration.

Obama Header Immigration
Obama Header Immigration

"I thought we were close to some type of compromise and then he insisted on citizenship and that just poisoned the water and weren't able to move beyond it," Collins said.

Supporters of a pathway to citizenship argue that granting legal status instead could create a permanent underclass of residents.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also appearing on "New Day" Wednesday, criticized the President over the issue, calling it the latest example of Trump's inconsistency.

"To a group of cosmopolitan reporters off the record in the White House, he says, 'Oh, maybe we can work something out.' Then he gives a speech that is vehement, virulently anti-immigrant. And we have been to this movie before," he told CNN's, Chris Cuomo.

The New York Democrat said when Trump associates have expressed interest in immigration reform in the past, the President's base and staff pushed back on it.

"The bottom line is, if he's interested in a real plan, of course, we'll sit down and talk to him. He's said things several times and backed off, which is what the speech was all about," Schumer said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez also criticized Trump for a speech that he said was hostile toward immigrants.

"We talked about the wall again last night. What he doesn't talk about are the people he's reporting," he told Camerota Wednesday. "He claims to only be deporting immigrants who have been convicted of a serious crime. That's simply not accurate."

"The immigrant baiting that was a staple in last night's speech was just again another example of the divisive action," Perez added.

The former labor secretary said that if Trump supports undocumented immigrants gaining legal work status, then his actions need to match his rhetoric.

"I judge a person by their actions. Everything Donald Trump has said about immigration has been immigrant-baiting," he said. "We've seen it through the campaign, through the election."

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