The “Northern Triangle” immigrants

December 11th, 2017

The term applies to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The Pew Research Center issued a report on how immigration from these countries surged since the Great Recession, while Mexican immigration has lagged. In 2000, legal and illegal Mexican entrants were estimated by Pew Research at 725,000, vs 100,000 from the Northern Triangle. Their respective figures in 2014 were 165,000 and 115,000.  The Northern Triangle countries are much more dependent on their citizens in the U.S. than is Mexico.

Populations: In 2015, 12 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S (125 million in the homeland). El Salvador had 1.4 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2015 (6.3 million in the homeland); Guatemala, 980,000(16.25 million); and Honduras, 630,000 (9 million). Some 57 million persons in the U.S. self-identify as Latino. Most have been born here.

Of the 3 million Northern Triangle immigrants living in the U.S. as of 2015, 55% were unauthorized, according to Pew Research Center estimates. By comparison, 24% of all U.S. immigrants were unauthorized immigrants.

Immigrants account for most of the 4.6 million U.S. residents with origins in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and are the main driver of the group’s growth. By contrast, two-thirds of Mexican Americans were born in the U.S., and births to U.S. residents are the main contributor to the group’s population growth.

Why Immigrate? Among Guatemalans deported from the U.S., 91% cited work as a main reason for coming, as did 96% of Hondurans deported from the U.S. and 97% of deported Salvadorans. Surveys of Northern Triangle migrants who were apprehended in Mexico while on the way to the U.S., then deported, also found that nearly all said they were moving to find work.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey in El Salvador found that high shares of people living there – 90% or more – said crime, illegal drugs and gang violence were very big problems in their country. The same survey also found that most Salvadorans not only knew someone already living in the U.S., but also wanted to move to the U.S. themselves.

Remittances: In 2016, according to World Bank estimates, remittances to the three nations totaled $15.9 billion, of which most came from the U.S. Those remittances were the equivalent of about 17% of the total economic output (as measured by gross domestic product) in El Salvador, 11% in Guatemala and 18% in Honduras in 2016.  Remittances to Mexico in 2017 were $27 billion, or about 2.7% of GDP.

A World Bank brief about global remittance trends, published in October, noted that money sent home by Northern Triangle and Mexican migrants went up despite an increase in deportations from the U.S. The increase in remittances “is in part due to possible changes in migration policies. Migrants are sending their savings back home in case they must return.”

In the Political Battle Over Immigration, Trump Is Winning

December 10th, 2017

Written by me and published by the Valley News (LebanonNH) on 12/7/17: Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign with a slur against Mexicans who have come to the United States. Since January, the executive branch has been doggedly determined to stem immigration. Trump is succeeding, both in a ground game of executive branch actions, and in projecting a get-tough image.

National Democratic politicians have done basically little or nothing to forge an alternative vision of immigration. Their failure is likely to lead to a debacle in the 2018 congressional elections, when Trump will take one more step to remold the Republican party into an anti-immigration party intent on ending 50 years of liberal immigration.

A casual look at polls about immigration suggests that the public thinks favorably about it, and even has been more supportive recently. If Democrats, in gauging the public’s attitudes about immigration, rely only on general national polls, they might infer that the country disagrees with restrictive policies.

But it’s not as simple as that. A March 2016 Pew Research poll asked people to respond to these statements: “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents. Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” Fifty nine percent said that immigrants strengthen the country, while 33 percent said they burden it. This was the most pro-immigration response to this question since the pollsters began posing it in 2011.

The overall positive glow of this polling result is a mirage. Pew Research also asks people, by party affiliation, their thoughts on immigration. Its latest such poll, in September 2015, revealed a sharp division between parties on the pace of immigration. Two-thirds of Republicans say immigration to the U.S. should be decreased, compared with one-third of Democrats.

Responses to other questions reveal how soft support for immigration is. Eighty-one percent of Republicans said immigrants generally want to hold on to the customs and way of life of their home country, compared with 66 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats.

The rhetoric of Democrats, to the extent that there is any, appears be a kind of sleepwalking, a rote restatement of the liberal arguments for a more open immigration policy that served as a platform for immigration reform long ago. That reform took place in 1965, when both forms of immigration, legal and illegal, were at far lower levels than today. Democratic politicians appear unwilling, or unable, to articulate to a country now flush with immigrants and their children why immigration should remain relatively open going forward.

The case for a liberal immigration policy can be made on grounds of morality, cold economics and our role in the world as the most heterogeneous major power. But no one of national stature is making this argument in an up-to-date way.

One step, which is long overdue, is to create a trusted source of analysis of labor market needs. It would show that in nine out of 10 cases immigrants materially help Americans to prosper. Immigrants do not just do menial jobs; they also win Nobel Prizes.

To be sure, Democratic politicians have, and will, castigate the Trump administration for its restrictive policies regarding refugees, dreamers and other vulnerable immigrant groups. But there appears to be no strong political will, much less sustained strategy, behind these castigations. Their howls may have the effect of validating in the minds of restrictionists that Trump is being successful in closing the door.

Already, the administration has severely tightened refugee inflows, raised barriers to awarding work visas, launched an aggressive campaign against sanctuary cities, equivocated about the future of dreamers, and reportedly filled top immigration jobs with immigration skeptics.

Trump’s strategy comes in three themes: law and order, jobs and civil culture. It will avoid the traps of comprehensive legislative reform and the consensus-inducing task forces of Washington.

So the administration forges ahead. The Washington Post reported on Nov. 21 that “the White House … said it had conducted a “bottom-up review of all immigration policies” and found “dangerous loopholes, outdated laws, and easily exploited vulnerabilities in our immigration system — current policies that are harming our country and our communities.”

The administration will avoid the pitfalls of large-scale raids on work sites with many undocumented workers. That tactic was tried under President George W. Bush and led to news stories about mothers of American citizens being rounded up for deportation. New actions will be more selective. In September, the federal government fined an American company $95 million for systematically hiring undocumented workers. That kind of action gets the attention of the business community without the hard-to-explain front-page stories.

And this kind of action may very well play in the 2018 congressional elections, by which time this administration will have advanced much further its agenda for a return to the restrictionist policies of the post-World War I years.

Mexican educational assimilation in the US

December 6th, 2017

An important concern among immigrant research and policy communities is whether Mexican Americans progressively attain higher educational outcomes over generations, as do about all other immigrant groups, or whether progress stalls. Until now, research showed that progress stalled, that 3rd generation Mexican Americans failed to achieve higher education than 2nd generation.

A new study, using a hitherto unused data source, finds that education attainment has in fact progressed. This study corrected for two biases in previous studies. The authors were able to track Mexican origins even among people with this origin who no longer self-identify as Mexican, and they sorted out 3rd generation from later generations. They thus have a more accurate picture.

According to them, 84.25% of third generational Mexican Americans graduated from high school compared to non-Hispanic whites (86.17%) and blacks (74.97%). Yet four-year college completion was low (19.74%) compared with whites (39.34%). Hispanics are known to make use of community colleges. Among Hispanics, 53.53% have some college, compared with white (65%) and blacks (52.08%).

The study is by Brian Duncan et al, New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans. NBER, November 2017.

Excerpts from the study:

We focus on education because it is a fundamental determinant of economic success, social status, health, family stability, and life opportunities.

Mexican Americans with mixed ethnic origins are less likely to identify as Mexican or Hispanic and also display higher levels of average attainment.

Ethnic attrition takes place when U.S.-born descendants of Mexican immigrants do not subjectively identify as Mexican American or Hispanic. Previous research indicates that ethnic attrition is substantial among later-generation Mexican Americans and that such attrition typically arises in families with mixed ethnic origins….The lack of information on grandparents’ countries of birth also implies that analysts cannot distinguish 3rd-generation from higher-generation Mexican Americans.

[From a new data source] We find substantial educational progress between 2nd- and 3rd-generation Mexican Americans. For a recent cohort of Mexican-Americans, our analysis thus provides promising evidence of generational advance. In particular, for this cohort of individuals born in the years 1980-84, the high school graduation rate of 3rd-generation Mexican Americans is only slightly below that of later-generation non-Hispanic whites.

Other measures of educational attainment—completed years of schooling, college attendance, and bachelors degree completion—also show sizable gains for Mexican Americans between the 2nd and 3rd generations. In contrast with high school completion, however, for these other education measures 3rd-generation Mexican Americans maintain large deficits relative to non-Hispanic whites, despite their generational gains.

Ultimately, our findings suggest that Mexican Americans do indeed experience substantial socioeconomic progress beyond the 2nd generation, and that this progress is obscured by limitations of the data sources commonly used to look for it.

US withdraws from UN migration pact

December 3rd, 2017

The U.S. has withdrawn from the unbinding U.N. compact on migration. According to The Guardian,” The announcement of the US withdrawal from the pact came hours before the opening of a UN global conference on migration scheduled to begin on Monday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In 2016, the 193 members of the UN general assembly unanimously adopted a non-binding political declaration. The initiative had the enthusiastic backing of Barack Obama, and was embraced by U.N Secretary General Antonio Guterres as one of his major challenges for 2018.

The compact said, “We are witnessing in today’s world an unprecedented level of human mobility. More people than ever before live in a country other than the one in which they were born. Migrants are present in all countries in the world. Most of them move without incident. In 2015, their number surpassed 244 million, growing at a rate faster than the world’s population. However, there are roughly 65 million forcibly displaced persons, including over 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons.

“No one State can manage such movements on its own….We acknowledge a shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people –centred manner….Large movements of refugees and migrants must have comprehensive policy support, assistance and protection, consistent with States’ obligations under international law.”

The signatures committed themselves to:

protect the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status, and at all times;

support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants;

integrate migrants – addressing their needs and capacities as well as those of receiving communities – in humanitarian and development assistance frameworks and planning;

combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards all migrants;

develop, through a state-led process, non-binding principles and voluntary guidelines on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations; and strengthen global governance of migration, including by bringing IOM into the UN family and through the development of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration

Canada’s success with immigration

December 1st, 2017

From the Migration Policy Institute: More than one of every five Canadian residents foreign born. Nearly 47,000 refugees were resettled in 2016—the highest level in Canadian history.

Three oceans (one frozen most of the year) and a developed country to the south act as a buffer from large-scale uncontrolled migration. Furthermore, Canadian history made the country more multinational in character from its start than a traditional nation-state.

The widely held perception among Canadians that immigrants are an economic boon and cultural asset to the country has made public opinion on the subject generally resilient, even as sharp backlashes have unfolded in the United States and Europe.

In the 1960s, Canada made dramatic changes liberalizing immigration. It did away with race-based selection criteria in 1962, and subsequently established the more neutral points system in 1967 to assess potential immigrants based on their ability to integrate quickly into the workforce (e.g., language, education, experience, skills, and job offers).

Immigrants admitted under economic preferences have consistently accounted for half or more of newly arrived immigrants. Taken together, these shifts have had important implications for Canadian integration policy and outcomes.

The government has frequently adjusted the points system to further improve labor market integration, most recently with the 2015 introduction of the Express Entry system to fast-track those skilled workers deemed most likely to integrate successfully. Upon arrival, policies and programs targeting settlement, citizenship, and multiculturalism further facilitate integration.

Central to Canada’s success has been its commitment to stay true to the early definitions of integration, while being flexible and open to policy change and refinement. Policymakers and bureaucrats regularly evaluate programs; systematically collect data on integration; analyze commissioned and noncommissioned research; consult with nongovernmental organizations and provinces for their expertise; assess experiences of other countries; and monitor mainstream and ethnic media to identify issues related to integration outcomes. This evidence-based approach forms the basis of advice to the government, with respect to ongoing and emerging issues as well as political priorities.

One key element to Canada’s resilience thus far is the confidence of Canadians that their government controls and manages immigration.

Foreign students here, American students abroad

November 24th, 2017

The Institute for International Education released its 2017 report on foreign students here and American students studying outside the U.S. Here are some highlights:

In 2016/17, for the second consecutive year, U.S. colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students, reaching a record high of 1.08 million.

But new students (enrolled in the Fall of 2016) declined by nearly 10,000 students to about 291,000. This is the first time that these numbers have declined in the twelve years since Open Doors has reported new enrollments.

The scaling back of large Saudi and Brazil government scholarship programs were a significant factor, as the number of students from those two countries showed the biggest decreases, particularly in non-degree study. Much of the increase reported for the past couple of years can be attributed to more students pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT) related to their academic fields after their degree studies, and thus remaining longer in the U.S. higher education system.

45 percent of the campuses reported declines in new enrollments for fall 2017, while 31 percent reported increases in new enrollments and 24 percent reported no change from last year.

While this year’s Open Doors report shows strong growth in the number of international students studying in the United States in the past decade, with an increase of 85 percent since 2006/07 (when there were fewer than 600,000 international students in U.S. higher education), the new findings signal a slowing of growth, with a three percent increase compared to increases of 7 to 10 percent for the previous three years.

Modest increases in the numbers of international students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees were partially offset by a decrease of 14 percent in the numbers enrolled in non-degree programs, including short-term exchanges and intensive English language programs.

Americans Studying Abroad

The report shows that 325,339 American students received academic credit last year at the home campus for study abroad in 2015/2016, an increase of four percent from the previous year. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the past two decades; however, the rate of growth had slowed following the financial crisis in 2008.

The top host destinations for U.S. students studying abroad in 2015/16 were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. China dropped out of the top five host countries, as the number of U.S. students studying there decreased by 9 percent. Europe was the top host region, attracting more than 50 percent of Americans who studied abroad.

Executive Branch tightens up legal immigration

November 23rd, 2017

 

The Customs and Immigration Service has been tightening up the flow of legal immigration. This from Bernard Wolfsdorf, past national president of the 14,000-member American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Joseph Barnett, both of Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP:

“USCIS is now issuing lengthy detailed requests for evidence contesting every issue and requiring unreasonable quantities of proof in regard to any application for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa or adjustment of status.

“USCIS is adjudicating nonimmigrant visa applications with the goal to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.” Immigration petitions should include an argument on how the issuance of a visa or other immigration benefit promotes these policy goals.”

The Wall Street Journal adds, “H-1B applications for positions at the lowest pay level are getting particular scrutiny, with the government questioning whether the foreigner holds required specialized skills, according to several immigration attorneys. A directive from the agency specifically questions whether a computer programmer is a specialty occupation that qualifies for the visa. Many of these applications are being denied, attorneys say.”

The WSJ cites the following other changes in administrative practice:

*Eliminate a provision that spouses of H-1B workers have the right to work.

*Kill the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign graduates from U.S. colleges in science and technology an extra two years of work authorization, giving them time to win an H-1B visa.

*USCIS directed last month that adjudicators no longer pay “deference” to past determinations for renewal applications. This means an applicant’s past approval won’t carry any weight if he or she applies for a renewal.

*The agency is conducting more applicant interviews, which critics say slows the system. The agency spokesman said this process will ramp up over several years and is needed to detect fraud and make accurate decisions.

*In the spring, the agency suspended premium processing, which allowed for fast-track consideration to those who paid an extra fee. This option wasn’t resumed until October, meaning many workers who qualified for a coveted H-1B visa had to wait months for a decision.

Biggest settlement ever for hiring undocumented workers

November 21st, 2017

The government settled in September with a company for $95 million over past used of undocumented workers. This is the largest settlement ever with an employer over illegal employment.

The Trump administration is, in effect, going after employers with the threat of huge fines, and avoiding the worksite raids which, around 2006, caused terrible press. This strategy is consistent with my prior comments that this administration will drive as far as possible to throttle immigration through Executive Branch initiatives that do not require the participation of Congress.

The government’s press release includes: “Asplundh Tree Experts, Co., one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States, headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty today [Sept. 29, 2017] to unlawfully employing aliens, in connection with a scheme in which the highest levels of Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States.

“The $95,000,000.00 recovery, including $80,000,000.00 criminal forfeiture money judgment and $15,000,000.00 in civil payment, represents the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.

“According to court documents, from 2010 until December 2014, Asplundh, an industry leader in tree trimming and brush clearance for power and gas lines, hired and rehired employees in many regions in the United States accepting identification documents it knew to be false and fraudulent. A six-year HSI audit and investigation revealed that the company decentralized its hiring so Sponsors (the highest levels of management) could remain willfully blind while Supervisors and General Foremen (2nd and 3rd level supervisors) hired ineligible workers, including unauthorized aliens, in the field. Hiring was by word of mouth referrals rather than through any systematic application process. This manner of hiring enabled Supervisors and General Foremen to hire a work force that was readily available and at their disposal.

“This decentralized model tacitly perpetuated fraudulent hiring practices that, in turn, maximized productivity and profit. With a motivated work force, including unauthorized aliens willing to be relocated and respond to weather related events around the nation, Asplundh had crews which were easily mobilized that enabled them to dominate the market. Asplundh provided all the incentives to managers to skirt immigration law.”

Trump voters and the sharp rise of cultural diversity from nil

November 16th, 2017

Tom Edsall writes about how Trump won many localities which saw their minority populations from virtually zero in the past 15 – 20 years.

“Where are the overwhelmingly white localities experiencing the most rapid rate of minority population growth, although the absolute numbers themselves are small? They are in the part of the nation’s heartland — Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — where Trump earned enough Electoral College support to win the presidency even as he lost the popular vote.”

In my own research I have recorded, “For the first 80 years of the 20th Century, immigrants stayed largely along the coasts and the Mexican border. After 1980, the immigrant population rose almost three times and spread into most counties in the country. Sixty-two million people speak a language other than English at home today.”

A study published in 2010 showed that anti-immigration sentiment increased noticeably in communities with relatively rapid in-migration and much faster in these communities when immigration became a national political topic.

The Center for Immigration Studies looked at the foreign-born populations in each county for 1990, 2000 and 2014.

In 1990, one could correctly guess the counties with an immigrant share of at least 5% by estimating what the nation’s county map look liked during Kennedy Presidency: New York City and New Jersey, southern New England, Washington DC, South-Central Florida, Chicago, the three rows of counties along and away from the Mexican border and three counties away, California, and isolated counties bordering Canada. The only concentration that might surprise people are happened in many counties in Washington State.

CIS reported that between 1990 and 2014 the number of counties in which at least a fifth of the population over 17 was foreign born rose from 44 to 152. Now almost all the counties along, west and south of a line from Seattle to Houston have at least a 5% immigrant population. So do many southern and upper Midwest counties. Since 1990, the immigrant share of adults has more than quadrupled in 232 counties (usually starting with very low rates such as 1% to 3%). The Center speculates that resistance to immigration is especially strong in small towns where the foreign-bon population became visible in recent decades.

Georgia’s Stewart County went from under 1% to 23% immigrants. In the ten years from 2000 through 2010, the Hispanic population went from 1.5% to 24%, causing the county to increase its total population for the first time since the 1900 census.

Foreign temp farm workers close to 10% of farm wage workforce

October 28th, 2017

Rural Migration News reports that temporary farm workers have more than doubled in numbers in the past few years, and are approaching 10% of the entire wage workers in farming.

The H-2A program has since 1987 allowed farmers anticipating too few farm workers to apply for certification to employ guest workers. The H-2 program was created in the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Between the 1950s and the 1990s, most H-2/A workers were Jamaicans who hand cut sugar cane in Florida and picked apples along the eastern seaboard. The number of H-2A jobs certified fell after the Florida sugar cane harvest was mechanized in response to worker suits alleging underpayment of wages. In FY1985, the US Department of Labor certified 20,700 jobs to be filled by then H-2 workers, including 10,000 in sugar cane.

In 2012, when DOL certified 85,248 jobs to be filled by H-2A workers, 5,400 certified employers offered an average 33 weeks of employment for an average 43 hours a week.

Farm employers must pay the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, which is the average hourly earnings of field and livestock workers reported to USDA by farm employers the previous year. AEWRs for 2017 range from $10.38 an hour in the south to $13.79 in the Plains states, above federal and state minimum wages. Farmers would like to end recruitment, housing, and wage requirements.

Since the 2008-09 recession, farmer requests for H-2A workers have increased, and the number of jobs certified to be filled by H-2A workers could top 200,000 jobs in 2017.

Average employment covered by unemployment insurance on US crop farms is almost 900,000, including 560,000 workers hired directly by crop farmers and 331,000 workers brought to farms by crop support services. If 160,000 H-2A workers are employed an average 26 weeks in FY17, they would be equivalent to 80,000 full-time workers, and H-2A workers would be nine percent of all workers employed on crop farms.