Monday, April 20, 2009

12 Million SS Numbers Do Not Match

Criticism against legalizing undocumented immigrants has resurfaced as President Obama’s plans for immigration reform build momentum.

Opponents have condemned the possible legalization of undocumented immigrants on a variety of grounds--allowing immigrants to work legally when so many Americans are unemployed is irrational and granting amnesty to immigrants who broke the law when coming into this country is wrong.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports an estimate of 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. Texas alone is home to 1.45 million of them. Before attacking immigration reform, critics should consider why a legalization effort for this large number of immigrants is crucial in terms of economic recovery.

Researchers from the Immigration Policy Center have suggested that a change in immigration policy offers the potential to generate new revenue from income and payroll taxes. The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the immigration reform bills introduced in 2006 and 2007 would have increased the tax revenue by $66 billion and $48 billion respectively.

Our current policies drive undocumented immigrants to work for an underground economy outside of the tax system, resulting in a loss of revenue from personal income taxes. More important, though, are the undocumented immigrants (between 50 and 75 percent) that are paying Medicare, Social Security, federal and state income taxes without receiving any of the benefits. In 2006, the Social Security Administration reported a total $586 billion in earnings from workers who weren’t eligible for Social Security benefits because their names or numbers didn’t match SSA records.

An immigration policy that gives legal rights to undocumented workers will allow them to have better jobs and earn higher wages. Higher wages translate to more spending and more money pouring into our businesses. Immigrants have already proved to be a major economic force. A study by The Selig Center for Economic Growth at The University of Georgia reports that the Latino buying power totaled more than $950 billion in 2008, while the Asian purchasing power amounted to $509 billion. Moreover, immigrant-owned businesses generate $67 billion of the $577 billion in U.S. business revenue, according to the Small Business Administration. Immigration reform would be a step toward creating more businesses and more jobs.

The financial situation is America’s main threat, not immigrants. Instead of spending a massive $13 billion on border security and immigration enforcement, our country should be taking advantage of the contributions that a foreign-born population has to offer. The U.S. needs immigrants who can study, work, earn, spend, create businesses and pay their taxes legally to drive the economic growth.

Friday, April 3, 2009


In a sad day for print journalism, the Houston Chronicle lays off almost 200 people. Two Detroit papers end daily home delivery. The line between life and death for the San Francisco Chronicle gets thinner. Newspapers are quickly becoming an endangered species, but is this necessarily a bad thing?

As the economy worsens and more online news sites replace newspapers due to a drop in revenue from advertising and subscribers, it is difficult to ignore the developing concerns: newsroom employees losing their jobs and journalism losing its watchdog role.

Paper Cuts, a blog that tracks newspaper layoffs and buyouts, reports that in 2008 more than 15,800 newspaper jobs disappeared, while 7, 652 jobs have vanished so far in 2009. One of the tragedies of the layoffs is the loss of diversity in the newsrooms. The Newspaper Death Watch site mentioned that the positions of two women on the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle were eliminated, leaving a less diverse team in command of the newspaper. The newspaper has not published a list with the names of those laid off. also indicated that some metropolitan dailies are not leaving behind news Web sites, as is the case of the Rocky Mountain News and the Cincinnati Post. Cutting Web sites leaves more personnel without jobs and more readers short of alternatives. In addition to jobs, the traditional watchdog role is also at risk. The main worries are the growing number of bloggers and the demands of continuous news. Although bloggers can be knowledgeable and provide valuable information not found in the mainstream news, most bloggers are not trained reporters. While blogs are a tool for democratization and free speech, they should not be considered on a par with journalism because a majority of them are based on opinions instead of facts.

The pressure of nonstop online news can also affect the accuracy and depth of reporting. The quality of journalism has suffered in the growing competition among news Web sites.

Keeping newspapers alive is a serious effort for these and other reasons, but even if we wake up to a world without newspapers one morning, it will not be the end of news. On the contrary, the news demand is increasing as the Internet makes more media free and accessible.

The Internet allows news consumers to get their information from different publications, act as critical readers and form their own balanced views. Younger readers are less interested in newspapers, but links from CNN, The New York Times, and other major news sources on Twitter, Facebook and Apple applications are attracting the youth to stay informed. A Scarborough Research study found that readers aged 18-34 who viewed only the online editions of newspapers increased 21 percent between 2004 and 2007.

Laid-off and unemployed journalists should be interested in contributing to online media and providing the analysis that this medium often lacks. The shift from newspapers to the Internet has the potential to improve journalism as a whole. It is important for reporters to take advantage of the new technology to continue serving as watchdogs and do their best to monitor Houston’s social, political and economic life.