How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

How will first- and second-generation young adults fare in college and beyond?

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Youths and young adults between 16 and 26 from immigrant families now represent one in four people in the United States in this age group - up from one in five only 15 years ago, according to a new report. As they move through secondary and postsecondary education then on to the workplace, replacing older workers, how will they fare?

The Migration Policy Institute report takes a close look at what it terms "youth of immigrant origin," profiling foreign-born and U.S.-born young people between the ages of 16 and 26. The report notes, among other things, that between 2007 and 2010, a tipping point occurred in which the number of first-generation immigrants was eclipsed by that of the U.S.-born second generation. In 2010, there were 4.8 million first-generation immigrant youths ages 16 to 26 in the U.S., 2.8 million of whom arrived before they were 16.

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Immigrants wanted: The future role of immigration to U.S. and Europe

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Spain's version of a green card, January 2009

Since early this year, the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute has partnered with the European University Institute in Italy to produce a series of reports and policy briefs on the immigration challenges facing U.S. and European governments. They have explored demographic changes, the economics of immigration and integration, among other things.

A final report just released looks at the shared challenges on both sides of the Atlantic in the future and potential reforms - and at the role that immigration will play as the native-born population ages and leave the workforce.

In Europe, these changes could potentially threaten the region's future economy and global influence, the report concludes, making inbound migration a necessity. From the report:

While the population of Europe will decrease or stabilize, depending upon migration scenarios, most other regions will continue to grow. As a result, the relative weight of Europe in world population terms will dwindle, thereby potentially undermining Europe’s influence in world affairs and the institutions of global governance.

Without migration, Europe would already be experiencing a decline in the size of its labor force. The reduction in the native labor force has already begun and will accelerate in coming years, in stark contrast to many emerging economies that are going through demographic expansion.

Under a no-migration scenario, the working-age population of the European Union would fall by a projected 84 million, or 27 percent of its current size, between 2010 and 2050. Even with migration maintained at the relatively high precrisis levels — a highly unlikely scenario when considering the euphoric economic conditions that drew immigrants to the European Union during the mid-2000s boom and the dramatic collapse that succeeded it — this loss would reach 35 million over the same period, and reductions of 5 to 11 million each would be expected in Germany, Italy, and Poland.

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Report: Why immigration reform has gone nowhere since 9/11

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Marchers in downtown Los Angeles rallying for immigration reforms on May 1, 2006

Why is it that in spite of public opinion poll support for broad immigration reforms and two presidents who have pushed for it recently, such initiatives have fallen short in the last decade?

The Migration Policy Institute examines the fate of immigration reform attempts in the post-9/11 era in a new report authored by Marc Rosenblum, an immigration policy specialist with the Congressional Research Service. From the executive summary:

The election of George W. Bush in 2000 seemed to mark a turning point in US immigration policy. Thirty- five years after the last major changes to the US immigration system, and two decades into an increasingly assertive, but mostly ineffective, immigration enforcement policy, the Republican president seemed to see immigration as offering important benefits to the US economy.

He called for a new and large-scale temporary worker program, saw the growing Hispanic population as important swing voters, and met five times in nine months with Mexico’s newly elected president, Vicente Fox.

But migration negotiations with Mexico collapsed following the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001. In the post-9/11 period, Congress passed a series of tough measures to tighten border security and facilitate data collection and information sharing on suspected terrorists, and broadened the government’s power to detain and deport immigrants.

Both Presidents Bush and Barack Obama have supported broader immigration reforms. Yet, while Congress took up “comprehensive immigration reform” (CIR) bills (i.e., legislation combining enforcement, legalization, and changes to the visa system) in 2006 and 2007, it did not deliver a bill for the president’s signature. Legislative action in 2009-10 was limited to debate on a legalization proposal focusing on unauthorized youth (the DREAM Act) — a proposal that was defeated on a procedural vote in the Senate.

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Will the recession hurt immigrants' move up the economic ladder?

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For much of the last century, the United States has provided a means of upward mobility for immigrants willing to work their way up the economic ladder. But with a slower economy predicted for the next several years, how will this affect their prospects?

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute examines the economic integration of immigrants in the U.S., short-term and long-term. While immigrants enjoy low levels of unemployment and make up a large share of the labor force, they are much more likely to work in lower-wage and lower-status occupations, according to the report, with even high-skilled immigrants working beneath their skill level.

Given predictions of a very slow economic recovery, immigrant workers could well hit a lower ceiling on their way up than in the past. From the executive summary:

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How to curb illegal hiring? Mimic some characteristics of illegal immigration

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A new report from the Migration Policy Institute that was funded by the European Union addresses the never-ending quandary over unauthorized workers, as much of an issue in Europe as it is in the United States.

Wherever unauthorized workers are hired, the draw of the underground economy is a leading driver of illegal immigration, the report notes.

These workers are not only cheaper to hire, but are also a boon to employers because they come with "no strings attached," providing employers with greater flexibility that makes running a business easier.

Now for the question that has stumped political leaders for decades: What, if anything, can be done about it? From the report:

First, in order to bring employers who would have otherwise hired illegally into legal hiring, legal systems would have to mimic at least some of the characteristics of illegal migration.

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