The Bits of a New Immigration Reality: A Bad Fit with Current Policy
Published on: Jul 28, 2006


1 A few basic figures help illustrate this. About 30 countries account for over 75% of all immigration; eleven of these are developed countries, with over 40% of all immigrants. More generally, the latest estimate is of a world wide immigrant resident population of between 185-192 million in 2005.  This is under 3% of global population, but up from the 2.1% of world population in 1975; and up from the 175 million or 2.9% of world population estimated for 2000. See World Migration 2005: Costs and Benefits of International Migration (Geneva: IOM, 2006).

2 Please find sources for these various items in Douglas S. Massey, Backfire at the Border: Why Enforcement without Legalization Cannot Stop Illegal Immigration (Washington, DC: Center for Trade and Policy Studies, Cato Institute, 2005). 

3 A detailed examination of these issues can be found in Saskia Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), chaps. 5, 6, and 9.

4 See David Jacobson and Galya Benarieh Ruffer, "Social Relations on a Global Scale: The Implications for Human Rights and for Democracy," pp. 25-44 in Dialogues on Migration Policy, edited by Marco Giugni and Florence Passy (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006).

5 For instance, to mention just one of the more recalcitrant EU members, in 2000 the UK incorporated the bulk of the European Convention of Human Rights into domestic law.  The British Parliament adopted the Human Rights Act of 1998 in November of 1998; it became effective in the UK in October 2000. 

6 Harold Hongju Koh, “How Is International Human Rights Law Enforced?” Indiana Law Journal 74, 1997, p. 1379. 

7 For more see Sassen op. cit., especially chapters 6 and 8. 

8 See World Bank, Global Economic Prospects: Economic Implications of Remittances and Migration (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2006).

9 The IADB also found that, for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, in 2003 these remittance flows exceeded the combined flows of all foreign direct investment and net official development assistance. 

10 Elsewhere I have examined how when public sector firms get privatized, and, more generally, when economies are deregulated, regulations do not simply disappear. Rather, they get transformed into private corporate specialized services (accounting, legal, etc.), and get oriented towards the private interests of the firms and markets at issue. For details, see Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991/2001 [2nd updated edition]).

11 On the question of control as a political choice see Peter Andreas, “The Escalation of U.S. Immigration Control in the Post-NAFTA Era,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 113, nr. 4: 591-615 (1998-9). See also generally Wayne Cornelius et. al, Controlling Immigration (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003).

12 Only about 2 percent of the INS budget has been allocated to employer sanction enforcement over the last several years; and few sanctions have been imposed since the passing of the legislation as part of the 1984 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). In 2005, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which succeeded the INS, strengthened enforcement efforts: it won 127 criminal convictions in 2005, up from 46 in 2004, and won $15 million in settlements from Wal-Mart and 12 subcontractors for violations. To address the failure of employers’ sanctions enforcement, the government has started the Basic Pilot Program, part of Homeland Security. It is an electronic search machine that combines Social Security and immigration databases to verify an employee's status. While today’s program is small and voluntary, with about 6,000 employers enrolled, it can be extended to each of the country's approximately 8 million employers. Violations of the law would subject employers to stiff fines, with jail sentences for repeat offenders. However, the program is problematic in technical and legal terms.  This combination has created a mixed opposition—from civil rights organizations to big business. A Government Accountability Office report issued in August 2005 criticized the program for its inability to identify fraud, for flaws in the databases, and for the possibility that employers will abuse the system.

13 For more detail see Sassen 2006, op.cit. chapter 9.