I recently posted on discussion in the U.S. about a guest worker program, the Seasonal Workers Pilot. The United Kingdom introduced such a program which has horrible results, as reported by the Financial Times. Excerpts:
Two labour providers, Concordia and Pro-Force, are permitted to recruit people from places such as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to work in edible horticulture on strict six-month visas. The pilot started in 2019 with an annual quota of 2,500 workers. It was extended to 10,000 workers in 2020 and to 30,000 workers in 2021, with an additional two recruitment agencies set to be added.
The workers on the farm that employed Russia [one worker from Russia], Castleton Fruit in north-east Scotland, were on zero-hour contracts, which do not guarantee any work, and were paid for the amount of fruit they picked rather than by the hour. Under the law, pickers on this “piece rate” system must be “topped up” to the minimum wage of £8.72 [$12.10] an hour if they have not picked enough to earn this amount. Because of this, the supervisors would check everyone’s work every two hours, and the workers who had not picked fast enough would be sent back to the caravans for the rest of the day, unable to earn any more money.
Between March 2020 and February 2021, Focus on Labour Exploitation, an NGO, investigated the experience of workers in Scotland on the pilot programme, in a project part-funded by the Scottish government. FLEX surveyed 84 farm workers and interviewed 62 on 12 different farms, of which 39 were on the scheme.
The researchers found that more than half were on piece rates, and three-quarters felt like they were always or usually being pushed to do more work than was possible in the time they had. Two-thirds reported receiving threats of loss of work, 60 per cent said the information they were given about earnings before travelling proved inaccurate, and a similar proportion said they were refused transfers to other farms.
A Home Office minister stated in a written parliamentary answer in 2019 that “the scheme operators are not permitted to offer zero-hours contracts to workers” but the Financial Times has seen worker contracts that do not guarantee any hours, including one titled “Terms and conditions of zero hours employment”.
Research suggests that, over the course of decades, UK farmers have intensified these jobs in response to the rising minimum wage and the pressure from powerful supermarkets for flexibility, speed and low prices. For example, according to British Summer Fruits, an industry body, government data suggest that prices paid to farms for strawberries barely rose between 2008 and 2018. The UK has some of the lowest food prices in western Europe.
Juan Orlando Herandez. president of Honduras, was an unindicted co-conspirator in his brother’s trial for drug smuggling into the U.S., and has been reported to having accepted bribes from drug smugglers. Three former attorneys general from Guatemala and El Salvador who have been forced into exile over the past four years.
Excerpts from an article on Central America:
Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are not just poor and violent; they are beset by corruption and ineffectual, often predatory governance. On nearly all of the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, including the effectiveness of government, rule of law, and control of corruption, countries in northern Central America lag well behind even their Latin American and Caribbean peers.
Over the past three decades, irregular migration from northern Central America has steadily grown, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of non-Mexicans (predominantly Central Americans) apprehended at the southern U.S. border—from the low 10,000s in the 1990s to nearly 700,000 in fiscal year 2019. The Biden administration is now bracing for even more irregular migration across the U.S.-Mexican border. Through a series of executive actions, it has begun to reform antiquated border-processing infrastructure and the overtaxed asylum system, slowly unwinding Trump-era policies that eliminated migrants’ ability to claim asylum at the U.S. border and crippled the already limited capacity to deal with increased migration.
The United States cannot, of course, impose change. Rather, it should lift up local actors who are already responding to legitimate, popular demands for better governance. Where governments are open to reform, such as empowering national prosecutors to root out corruption and reforming laws to allow for the collection of more income and wealth taxes, Washington should provide political and technical support for those efforts. But where corrupt governing elites are resistant to change, Washington should partner with civil society.
The Trump administration turned its back on anticorruption efforts led by three former attorneys general from Guatemala and El Salvador, who have been forced into exile over the past four years. The United States must never betray such officials again. Instead, it should create a protection program to allow vulnerable officials and civil society leaders to seek refuge in the United States, signaling clearly that such actors are U.S. allies.
From Central Americans Are Fleeing Bad Governments To Stanch Migration, Washington Must Address a Deeper Crisis, By Dan Restrepo
Besides farming and STEM jobs, immigrants have supported the residential construction industry, which is now facing a shortage of workers.
Foreign-born workers now account for almost a quarter of workers in the construction industry, and close to 30% of construction tradesmen. In some states, reliance on foreign-born labor is even more pronounced. Immigrants comprise close to 40% of the construction workforce in California and Texas. In Florida, New Jersey and New York, close to 37% of the construction labor force is foreign-born and in Nevada, one out of three construction industry workers come from abroad. (From here. Also here.)
Legend for table:
C painters and paper hangers
D carpet installers
E brick masons
F drywall workers
Source of data on trades here.
Here is a quick summary with links to articles published in the past two months about the Mexican border, written mostly not by journalists but rather immigration wonks.
Overall crisis management failure: The Bipartisan Policy Center calls for new legislation which enable “a presidential declaration of an extraordinary migration event,” and would mandate FEMA-like action involving coordination of many agencies.
Missteps by Obama and Trump. The Migration Policy Institute reviews the painful story of the past two administrations, both of which include failure to improve the management of immigration courts.
Better management of the courts. Again, we are back to the courts. I am deeply skeptical of court systems to respond quickly to events, even if these events are predictable and repeated. NPR reports on a potential Biden policy on how courts are assigned cases. NPR reports that “There are currently about 530 judges in the immigration courts that handle a caseload that is now backed up to more than 1.2 million cases, according to the Justice Department. Meanwhile, the asylum office that could take on some of those cases under this plan has about 860 officers and a pending caseload of about 350,000, according to the Department of Homeland Security.” Migrants with court cases can expect to be allowed to stay in the U.S. for several years before their cases are called.
Unaccompanied children shelters. Pro Publica writes that “After ignoring signs that shelters were filling quickly, agencies are scrambling to get thousands of kids out of Border Patrol jails. But new “emergency” facilities skirt safety standards, while facilities accused of abuse are still getting grants.”
Deja vue on asylum surges. Each surge different, each one the same. WOLA says that “At the moment, unaccompanied children (apart from unaccompanied Mexican children) are the only population that stand a 100 percent chance of being released into the United States to start an asylum process while living with relatives. (Families seem to have stood about a 40 percent chance in February.)
This is the fourth time that we’ve seen a significant increase in unaccompanied child and child-and-family migration at the U.S.-Mexico border since 2014.
A research team wrote, “Our goal was to assess U.S. citizens’ mental models of immigration, i.e., their beliefs and attitudes towards it, but also their perceptions of the risks and benefits it poses…. Research shows that when perceived threat and social identity become involved, our policy stances can become sacralized, transforming into absolutist, moralized, non-negotiable values. These sacred values do not operate like regular values, which can be reevaluated if one is willing to make trade-offs….Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). Group norms are the informal rules that govern behavior in a group. They set expectations of how to behave, whether in terms of eating a meal or interacting with outsiders.”
The top three sacralized open (i.e. immigration incluseive) stances are:
— Stopping family separation (47% of respondants cited this, the most strongly felt issue of inclusivists).
— Being a nation of immigrants (rather than preserving a white and Christian culture) (37%)
— Stopping construction of the border wall (33%)
The top three sacralized immigration restrictive stances are:
— Withholding public benefits from unauthorized immigrants (33% of respondents, the most strongly felt issue of restrictionists)
—Stopping undocumented immigration (22%)
—Continuing to build the border wall (21%)
From “What Immigration Issues Do Americans Hold Sacred? A Psychological Journey into American Attitudes Towards Immigrants” by Nichole Argo, Ph.D. and Kate Jassin, Ph.D.
Immigration, like politics, is local, making it difficult to forge a shared national experience. I compare the granting of permanent legal residency in 2019 in three localities: the Bronx, El Paso County (TX), and Boulder County (CO). You can see dramatic differences in profiles.
The Bronx is the most balanced of the three localities, with representation roughly matching national distribution visas in employment, the two family categories and refugees/asylees. Its diversity (lottery) participation, 7% of total, is almost twice the national rate of 4%. The Bronx represents the traditional image of immigration to America.
El Paso has much more family related immigration than the other two, and than the national rate (El Paso’s both sum to 75%; national is 69%). Interestingly, El Paso’s source of immigrants is not more Hispanic than the other two.
In all localities, Asia is by far the biggest source (average of 36% vs Hispanic 20%).
Boulder is markedly weighed more towards employment visas, with 33% vs the national rate of 14%. And it has distinctly fewer diversity and refugee/asylee immigrants. Boulder’s high employment rate represents where many people want immigration to go. Arlington County (VA) and King County (basically Seattle) both have employment rates of 30% or higher vs the national rate of 14%. Employment visa patterns may be a good indicator of where the country’s economy is growing the most.
Data from here.
I am going to explain in very few words what is happening at the Mexican border and the context. I have followed immigration for over a decade.
Immediate situation: The number of people trying to cross the border illegally has risen, but not to the highest levels experienced. ICE and other U.S. agencies are bureaucracies which cannot be expected to manage efficiently, consistently, or effectively major surges. Immigration and border enforcement are subject to complicated laws and staffing levels. A pattern of surges has been in place for 30 plus years. I doubt that surges are mainly driven by U.S. policies at the time.
An example of the unreality of the political pronouncements is that much is made of the migrants with COVID, but 15 million people cross the border legally each month and are never tested.
The context: Both right and left are more interested in arousing their constituencies than in longer term solutions. Most activists of both sides feel better off without a long-term solution. Yet, both Dems and Reps in Congress have proposed long term solutions which include legalization of substantially all unauthorized persons in the U.S. I have discussed this here. Among the relative handful of politicians who follow immigration closely, I think there is a lot of agreement about where immigration should be heading.
For 100 years + a transnational economy has existed involving Hispanic workers. This reality has never been addressed by legislation, including NAFTA. The economic and social incentives for Mexicans and Central Americans to migrate to the U.S., perhaps just for labor and not settlement, are and will be very high. I do not believe that the U.S. can successfully improve social/economic conditions there. This is the largest transnational labor market among advanced nations in the world.
Your Congress person is likely unable to articulate a coherent vision of comprehensive reform. We are a nation of immigrants. For us not to discuss immigration coherently is like Microsoft executives not to discuss the future of information technology.
Analysis of the Presidential election by David Shor In November 2020. Hispanic support dropped by 8 to 9 percent. The jury is still out on Asian Americans. We’re waiting on data from California before we say anything. But there’s evidence that there was something like a 5 percent decline in Asian American support for Democrats. [PFR: Due to social conservatism and anti-Communism of many Hispanics and Asians, I am surprised that the decline is this modest.]
Democrats gained somewhere between half a percent to one percent among non-college whites and roughly 7 percent among white college graduates (which is kind of crazy). Our support among African Americans declined by something like one to 2 percent. And then Hispanic support dropped by 8 to 9 percent. The jury is still out on Asian Americans. We’re waiting on data from California before we say anything. But there’s evidence that there was something like a 5 percent decline in Asian American support for Democrats, likely with a lot of variance among subgroups. There were really big declines in Vietnamese areas, for example.
One important thing to know about the decline in Hispanic support for Democrats is that it was pretty broad. This isn’t just about Cubans in South Florida. It happened in New York and California and Arizona and Texas. Really, we saw large drops all over the country. But it was notably larger in some places than others. In the precinct-level data, one of the things that jumps out is that places where a lot of voters have Venezuelan or Colombian ancestry saw much larger swings to the GOP than basically anywhere else in the country. The Colombian and Venezuelan shifts were huge.
One of my favorite examples is Doral, which is a predominantly Venezuelan and Colombian neighborhood in South Florida. One precinct in that neighborhood went for Hillary Clinton by 40 points in 2016 and for Trump by ten points in 2020. One thing that makes Colombia and Venezuela different from much of Latin America is that socialism as a brand has a very specific, very high salience meaning in those countries. It’s associated with FARC paramilitaries in Colombia and the experience with President Maduro in Venezuela. So I think one natural inference is that the increased salience of socialism in 2020 — with the rise of AOC and the prominence of anti-socialist messaging from the GOP — had something to do with the shift among those groups.
As for the story with Hispanics overall, one thing that really comes out very clearly in survey data that we’ve done is that it really comes down to ideology. So when you look at self-reported ideology — just asking people, “Do you identify as liberal, moderate, or conservative” — you find that there aren’t very big racial divides. Roughly the same proportion of African American, Hispanic, and white voters identify as conservative. But white voters are polarized on ideology, while nonwhite voters haven’t been. Something like 80 percent of white conservatives vote for Republicans. But historically, Democrats have won nonwhite conservatives, often by very large margins. What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates; they started voting more like white conservatives.
the fundamental problem is that Democrats have been relying on the support of roughly 90 percent of Black voters and 70 percent of Hispanic voters. So if Democrats elevate issues or theories that a large minority of nonwhite voters reject, it’s going to be hard to keep those margins.
Now that both parties have released at least the outlines of a plan, we now see several ways to legalize the status of a larger number of unauthorized persons. I draw in part on a Migration Policy Institute report. All approaches implicitly recognized that 60% of unauthorized persons are estimated to have been in the U.S for at least ten years; hence, a legalization policy must be broad-based to avoid being severely draconian.
A relatively fast all-inclusive Biden policy. Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes this approach. This bill, per the White House, “allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation.” Generally, persons had to be in the U.S. on January 1, 2021. The person will wait five years on a temporary visa before getting a green card. Citizenship is then accessible.
A narrower policy, as applied by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Of the approximately 3.2 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States at the time of the bill’s passage, 1.6 million legalized through IRCA’s general legalization, and another 1.1 million farmworkers and 38,000 Cubans and Haitians. Applicants had to demonstrate continuous residence since 1982 and meet certain criteria.
Per the MPI, the farmworker eligibility provisions were considered too lenient and as inviting fraud. The accompanying employer sanctions for hiring unauthorized immigrants proved easy for employers to evade and difficult for the government to enforce. The resources for border enforcement included in the legislation were inadequate. The unauthorized population surged in the 1990s and early 2000s. I describe why this surge happened here.
The relatively slow new Republican Dignity bill approach. I outlined here a draft of this act which was just released. Provisions includes, for all undocumented persons, a 10-year enrollment in a temporary program, followed by a five year program before gaining regular green card status. Citizenship appears not available. The draft act is silent on the cut-off date to be eligible.
A more narrow, but fast working old registry approach. The MPI says that Registry has been part of U.S. immigration law since 1929 when the Registry Act was enacted. Registry aims to resolve the issue of legal status for those who have been in the country for an extended period. The rationale is akin to that of statutes of limitation, which do not exist in immigration law. That is, that at a certain point no further public interest is served by pursuing long-ago violations. In the past, the registry date has been between 8 and 18 years prior to the passage of the registry act. If the date is 10 years before 1/1/21, it would include about 60% of the unauthorized population.
Here are some figures for immigrant-related students in higher ed now. Immigrant-origin students accounted for 60% of the increase in all post-secondary education students between 2000 to 2018. These are not international students (who total about 1.1 million higher ed students).
The President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration found that fewer than half of the estimated 454,000 undocumented students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities were eligible for DACA.
Can unauthorized students access state colleges? This portal shows how each state is recognizing unauthorized students regarding tuition and financial aid for state higher ed. Three very large states – CA, NY and TX – provide “comprehensive access.” Only three states – AL, GA and SC – prohibit access to state colleges. About 20 states are restrictive to some degree, 16 states offer comprehensive access, and the rest either have no policy are in the middle. I personally doubt meaningfulness of this analysis for many states.
The size of the immigrant-related higher ed population. From the Alliance: The United States is home to 5.3 million immigrant-origin students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions. First-generation immigrants, individuals born abroad who immigrated to the U.S, account for 1.7 million students. Second-generation immigrants, persons born in the U.S. to one or more immigrants parents, account for 3.6 million students.