Pro Publica / NPR expose of Florida deportations of injured workers

August 16th, 2017

 

Florida passed a law in 2003 that made a crime out of misrepresentation by use of a social security number. Almost by definition, any unauthorized person put on a regular payroll is violating that law. The state’s anti-fraud unit has used this law to arrest unauthorized workers injured at work who file workers’ compensation claims.

Trump issued an executive order targeting immigrants who have “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency.” Very roughly, about 150,000 unauthorized persons sustain a work injury every year.

ProPublica and NPR issued a report today, excerpted:

We analyzed 14 years of state insurance fraud data and thousands of pages of court records. We found nearly 800 cases statewide in which employees were arrested under the law, including at least 130 injured workers. Another 125 workers were arrested after a workplace injury prompted the state to check the personnel records of other employees. Insurers have used the law to deny workers benefits after a litany of serious workplace injuries, from falls off roofs to severe electric shocks. A house painter was rejected after she was impaled on a wooden stake.

Flagged by insurers or their private detectives, state fraud investigators have arrested injured workers at doctors’ appointments and at depositions in their workers’ comp cases. Some were taken into custody with their arms still in slings. At least 1 in 4 of those arrested were subsequently detained by ICE or deported.

State officials defended their enforcement, noting that the workers, injured or not, violated the law and could have caused financial harm if the Social Security numbers they were using belonged to someone else. Moreover, the law requires insurers to report any worker suspected of fraud.

We don’t have the authority or the responsibility to go out and start analyzing the intent of an insurance company or anybody else when they submit a complaint to us,” said Simon Blank, director of the Florida insurance fraud unit. “It would be unfortunate,” he said, if insurers turned in injured workers “just to do away with claims.”

Blank insisted that his investigators’ efforts have nothing to do with immigration. But ProPublica and NPR’s review found that more than 99 percent of the workers arrested under the statute were Hispanic immigrants working with false papers.

In Florida, cases against such workers have become standard practice for a group of closely affiliated insurers and employers. The private investigative firm they employ has created a wall of shame, posting the arrests it’s been involved in on its website. Critics say the arrangement encourages employers to hire unauthorized immigrants, knowing they won’t have to pay for their injuries if they get hurt on the job.

“It’s infuriating to think that when workers are hurt in the United States, they’re essentially discarded,” said David Michaels, the most recent head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “If employers know that workers are too afraid to apply for workers’ compensation, what’s the incentive to work safely?”

English language skills of low skilled immigrants

August 16th, 2017

The English language proficiency of immigrants has increased, most notably in the past ten or so years. This upward trend is seen in important groups such as Mexicans. But English language proficiency of Mexican immigrants declined in the 1990s. What was the impact of that, and why did it happen? The explanation has to do with demographics of immigrants and job growth in the 1990s.

Researchers looked at the impact on earnings and education when immigrants learn English. English proficiency helps in getting better paying jobs. It also enables the immigrant to obtain more formal education. Another study found that the benefits of English proficiency were primarily in becoming more educated. Young persons with English were more inclined to complete high school.

Demographic trends actually caused English proficiency among low skilled immigrants to decline. In 1990, 80% of individuals from non English-speaking countries said that they spoke English very well. In 2000, 70% said so. The decline is due to the large increase in immigrants, many unauthorized, in the 1990s.

During that decade, an hourglass profile of workers and jobs enlarged. There was a sharp increase in demand for service workers such as food preparation, janitors, gardeners, security guards, housekeeping ,cleaning and laundry workers. These low skilled jobs require limited language skills.

The English language skills of these jobholders declined in the 1990s. On factor in lower English proficiency is that with larger numbers of non-English proficient residents, these individuals were more able to find work that did not require English proficiency. This led to great linguistic and cultural isolation.

One researcher, writing in 2015 (Cassidy) found a large decline in the earnings of childhood immigrants in the U.S. between 1990 and 2010, and in particular during the 1990s. This drop in earnings has occurred across all age at arrival groups, but has disproportionately impacted lower-educated immigrants. A large decline in English language proficiency can explain much of this trend. A concentration of source countries (largely, through not entirely, due to an increase in Mexican immigration) has also contributed, mainly through the negative impacts it has had on English language proficiency and education levels.

See: Language Skills and the Earnings Distribution Among Child Immigrants, by Wang and Wang

The Decline in Earnings of Childhood Immigrants in the U.S., by Cassidy

Immigration a lifeline for Midwestern cities

August 14th, 2017

 

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs reports that metro areas in the Midwest are aging and are growing much more slowly than the nation as a whole. Midwest metro population rose by only 7% from 2000 to 2015 compared to 14% for the nation.

In the 2000-2015 period immigrant populations in the Midwest rose by 34.5% growth and accounted for 37% of all mid-western metro growth in the last 15 years.

Immigration is responsible for majority of majority of population growth in five metro areas including metro areas of Chicago, Rockford, and Akron. In numerous other metro areas such as Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis immigration accounts for at least a quarter of population growth.

Natives in the 35 to 44 age category are in striking decline. The number of native-born age 35 to 44 fell by 1.4 million persons or 24% between 2000 and 2015. An increase of 313,000 immigrants ages 35 to 44 years during the same period helped to offset the extreme native population loss in that category.

American farms hire more Mexicans on temp visas

August 8th, 2017

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Demand in America for Mexican farmhands, landscapers and other temporary workers is surging as the Trump administration moves to curb immigration and renegotiate its trade relationship with Mexico.” The amount of non-skilled temporary visas issued in FY 2017 may exceed the peak reached in 2010, which was about 325,000.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2017, which began Oct. 1, the U.S. Labor Department certified more than 160,000 temporary workers—the bulk of them from Mexico—to harvest berries, tobacco and other crops in the U.S. under the H-2A agricultural visa program. That was up 20% from the period a year earlier.

The annual issuance of H-2A visas nearly doubled from 85,248 in fiscal 2012 to 165,741 in 2016. The U.S. doesn’t cap the number of these visas.

Outside of agriculture, use of another type of seasonal-work visa also has surged in response to increased U.S. demand for unskilled laborers such as hotel housekeepers. The Department of Homeland Security in July raised the annual cap on H-2B visas by more than 20% to 81,000. The majority of workers receiving this type of visa also are from Mexico.

In 2015, farmers in California’s Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, which grow roughly 30% of the strawberries in the U.S., reported $13 million in losses because they lacked enough labor to harvest their crops in a timely manner.

Last year, vegetable farmers in the two counties reported they had 22% fewer workers than needed on average, while berry farmers put the worker shortage at 26%, according to a survey conducted by a local growers association.

Refugees in America, in historical context

August 6th, 2017

The RAISE Act, proposed by Republican senators and endorsed by the White House, would cap annual refugee immigration at 50,000, which is well below the volume of many years. The Obama administration had targeted 110,000. In 2016, the EU set a plan to settled 22,000 refugees over two years. Put these figures in the context that over one million people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have applied for refugee or asylum status in Europe.

There have been roughly two million refugees or asylees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. The net population growth of the U.S. since then has been 100 million. The vast majority of refugees has come from countries with or over whom the U.S. has been engaged in some form of conflict, such as Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq.  

The 1980 Refugee Act established formal criteria and legal statuses for the admission of refugees and migrants of humanitarian concern, including the establishment of an asylum system and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Per Pew Research, historically, the total number of refugees coming to the U.S. has fluctuated along with global events and U.S. priorities. From 1990 to 1995, an average of about 112,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year. Refugee admissions dropped off to fewer than 27,000 in 2002 following the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year 2016, the most in any year during the Obama administration.  The Obama target was 110,000.

In fiscal 2016, the highest number of refugees from any nation came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo accounted for 16,370 refugees followed by Syria (12,587), Burma (aka Myanmar, with 12,347), Iraq (9,880) and Somalia (9,020). Over the past decade, the largest numbers of refugees have come from Burma (159,692) and Iraq (135,643).

Cambodians: Between 1975 and 1994, nearly 158,000 Cambodians were admitted. About 149,000 of them entered the country as refugees, and 6,000 entered as immigrants and 2,500 as humanitarian and public interest parolees

Vietnamese: At the Fall of Saigon, about 125,000 Vietnamese were admitted into the U.S. in 1980 there were 231,000 Vietnamese living in the U.S. Large-scale Vietnamese migration to the United States began as a humanitarian flow after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and, over time, transformed into one of family reunification. By 2014, 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants resided in the United States representing 3 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants.

Russian Jews: Emigration of Russian Jews to the U.S. began in the early 1970s, at an annual flow of about 30,000, then dropped to a few thousand a year in the 1980s. The large majority of emigrating Russian Jews went to Isreal. Today there are less than one million persons in the U.S. who are Russian-born or have Russian-born parents or grandparents.

 

Cut immigration proposals – today and in 1997

August 3rd, 2017

American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act was filed by Senators Cotton and Perdue early in 2017 but promoted with White House endorsement only now. The act intends to cut immigration (permanent visas or Green cards) by about half, from one million to 500,000. Its intent and contents are similar to a proposal by a bipartisan task force made 20 years ago

The RAISE Act will trim away family-based immigration, which accounts for over half of new permanent visas today. Up to 140,000 Green cards will be issued using a points system that is tied to potential economic contribution.

The points system will favor persons who speak English. This may appear to favor immigrants from countries with many English speakers, like India, but it probably is more consistent with higher education – that is, Ukrainians and Brazilians who as part of their formal education and perhaps jobs learned English.  Australian and Canada include language proficiency in their points systems today

The Jordan Commission report of 1997

President Clinton appointed the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which took the name of its chairperson, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. In the Commissions’ last report, issued in 1997, it defined a vision in 90 words:

“Properly-regulated immigration and immigrant policy serves the national interest by ensuring the entry of those who will contribute most to our society and helping lawful newcomers adjust to life in the United States. It must give due consideration to shifting economic realities. A well-regulated system sets priorities for admission; facilitates nuclear family reunification; gives employers access to a global labor market while protecting U.S. workers; helps to generate jobs and economic growth; and fulfills our commitment to resettle refugees as one of several elements of humanitarian protection of the persecuted.”

The commission recommended that permanent residency awards go down by about a third from the prevailing annual level of about 600,000, or to about 400,000.

Mass Supreme Court: Detaining is unconstitutional

July 25th, 2017

Per the Boston Globe, The state’s highest court ruled Monday that under Massachusetts law, local law enforcement officials cannot hold a person who is wanted solely for immigration violations, a ruling that provides a legal basis for sanctuary cities to refuse to cooperate with federal officials.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruling is believed to be the first court decision in the country to forbid local authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws, unless the state Legislature passes a law that specifically allows it.

Since, State Police have held 27 people on detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Other agencies have refused to honor the requests.

“Conspicuously absent from our common law is any authority . . . for police officers to arrest generally for civil matters, let alone authority to arrest specifically for civil immigration matters,” the court ruled.

ICE issues hundreds of detainers in Massachusetts each year. Local municipalities including Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and some states, including California and Connecticut, have established policies that forbid law enforcement officials from assisting their federal counterparts in enforcing immigration laws. But Monday’s decision was believed to be the first by a state’s high court to forbid officers from arresting or holding someone based on an immigration violation.

Attorney General Maura Healey praised the decision. She had asked the court to find that federal authorities cannot force local officials to hold someone on a detainer under state law. Lawyers for Healey’s office had argued in court filings that local law enforcement officials can still play a role in helping federal officials when an immigrant wanted for deportation poses a public safety risk — for instance by alerting authorities of a suspect’s whereabouts. But they argued that those decisions should be left to local agencies.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said that the Legislature could consider passing a law that would regulate how local law enforcement officials can assist federal authorities but left that consideration to lawmakers. “State law must affirmatively grant authority to state and local officers to enforce federal immigration law before arrest can be made on that basis,” the court said.

The Trump Adminstration’s enforcement changes

July 22nd, 2017

A summary of the administration’s enforcement changes:

Enforcement targets have expanded, enforcement tools have been sharpened, and enforcement locations have been widened, triggering pervasive fear of deportation and separation among immigrant families.

The single biggest change is the unwinding of enforcement priorities from the Obama administration, with ICE now instructed to arrest any individual they encounter who does not have lawful immigration status.

While ICE alleges that they are only targeting those with a criminal history or deportation order, they have also made clear that they will ask the immigration status of anyone in the course of an enforcement action and arrest nearly all those without proper documentation. This shift ensnares all sorts of people who have lived quietly in the U.S. for many years without incident while they work to support their families and integrate into society.

Immigration arrests are up by nearly 40%. ICE has increased its issuance of detainers by 75 percent, requesting that local law enforcement hold individuals in their custody so ICE can pick them up. And ICE has increased the number of people it places in removal proceedings by 47 percent.

ICE now has agreements with 59 law enforcement agencies (known as “287(g) agreements”) in 18 states, with plans to consider expansion to additional partnerships both near the border and deep within the interior of the country. Other localities—often called “sanctuary jurisdictions”—that opt out of full cooperation with ICE have been threatened with cuts to their federal funding.

The Department of Homeland Security may seek to add more tools to its toolbox. The “expedited removal” process, which currently applies to a 100-mile border zone and only to those noncitizens who have been in the U.S. up to 14 days, could be expanded to the entire United States as well and to those who have been here up to two years. To accommodate this shift, the administration is seeking to increase the hiring of Border Patrol and ICE agents and dramatically increase the number of detention beds, from a funding level of 34,000 beds in recent history, to as many as 51,379 beds.

The abandonment of enforcement priorities will also reap havoc on cases long-closed, as people who have been meeting their obligations to check in with ICE are taken into custody or who have had their court cases administratively closed seek to be re-calendared by ICE attorneys.

At risk now is the possible termination of the deferred action program (DACA) benefiting 800,000 young people raised in the U.S. and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 300,000 people allowed to live and work in the U.S. while their countries experienced armed conflicts and disasters.

Skilled immigrant workers and our economic future

July 18th, 2017

A lot of Trump’s economic revival ideas are “fighting the past war. What really matters is how we are faring globally in the industries of the future like: aviation, aerospace, biotechnology, semiconductors, software and the internet.” This from an interview with Robert Atkinson, an immigrant from Canada and proponent of innovation as our only real hope to prevail in the future

These industries depend on STEM workers (science, technology, engineering, and math). The core list of 46 STEM occupations are in computer and mathematics; engineering and surveying; physical and life science; and managerial. There are eight million of these STEM workers, about 5% of the entire workforce.

Nationally, about one-quarter of the nation’s STEM workforce is foreign-born, according to the report, “Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States.” It has doubled from 11.9% in 1990 to 24.3% in 2015. They account for 47% of STEM workers with advanced degrees

In New Jersey 43% of STEM workers are foreign-born. In California, 42%.In New york, 29%. In 16 other states, foreign-born workers make up 20 percent or more of all STEM workers.

Labor shortages driving up demand for temp foreign workers

July 10th, 2017

Employers across occupations are increasingly relying on all available temporary worker channels to respond to labor shortages. This is according to the Migration Policy Institute.

H-2A (primarily for farm workers)

This has seen a more than twelve-fold increase over two decades—from 11,000 visas issued in 1996 to more than 134,000 in 2016.

At least half of farm workers today are unauthorized. In 2015, the flows of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico to the United States reached a net negative, with more people returning to Mexico than coming to the United States. The Mexican farmworker population has been aging out of the job. In California, crop production wages increased 13% between 2010 and 2015.

H-2B (generally, seasonal hospitality and other workers)

From 2013 to 2016, the number of H-2B visas issued increased 47%, from 58,000 to 85,000, and the program is already showing evidence of extraordinary growth in 2017. By the midway point of fiscal year (FY) 2017, employers had sought approval for 121,000 H-2B workers. Maine relies on H-2B visas for 10% of its 100,000 hospitality workers annually.

H-1B (skilled workers)

Demand has been increasing in a tightening labor market. In 2016, 180,000 H-1B visas were issued, a 53 percent increase from 2010 and the largest number in more than two decades. More and more American vs. Indian companies are using these workers. the American share grew from 40% in 2012 to 61% in 2016.

The unemployment rate for computer and mathematical occupations in the United States was 1.9% in May 2017. These are precisely the occupations most commonly filled by H-1B workers: in FY 2015, 66.5% of H-1B workers were employed in computer-related occupations.