Dreamers, other unauthorized persons, and their economic contribution today and tomorrow

January 21st, 2017


741,546 unauthorized young people have received DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Three pro-immigration groups carried out a survey of DACA enrollees. The survey was done online thus is vulnerable to response bias. The respondents reported significant gain in employment by virtue of DACA.

An earlier Ford Foundation-funded study looked at undocumented higher education students. Among its findings:

Participants emigrated from 55 different countries of origin, On average, participants had resided 14.8 years in the U.S.; in most cases, the majority of their lives have been spent in the U.S. 61.3% had an annual household income below $30,000, 29.0% had an annual household income of $30,000 to $50,000, and 9.7% had an annual household income above $50,000. 72.4% were working while attending college. 64.1% reported having at least one member of their household who was citizen or lawful resident. Deportation is a constant concern. Over ¾ of participants reported worries about being detained or deported. 55.9% reported personally knowing someone who had been deported including a parent (5.7%) or a sibling (3.2%) A vast majority (90.4%) said they would become citizens if they could.

The Center for American Progress estimated the economic impact of legal status for the estimated 5.2 million DACA and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) persons. (DAPA is described here.)

The Center for American Progress estimates a significant gain in the American economy by granted permanent legal status to all 8 million undocumented workers.

Profile of an illegal immigrant, now a citizen

January 17th, 2017

When Ana Ramos Martinez ended her shift in Whole Foods’ regional bakery in Everett, Massachusetts, in January, 2016, she sat down to tell me how she twice entered the country as an illegal immigrant. She left her financially distressed family in a coffee- and corn-growing farm community in El Salvador to jump the border in 1988.

Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez

After trimming clothes in Los Angeles for eight years, she returned to El Salvador to bring back the two young girls she had left behind. It was 1994. She paid off over seven years the charges of the coyote who led her and her girls through the desert back into the United States. Ana became an American citizen in 2014. She owns a house in near Boston and one in El Salvador. Her two grown girls work, one at Whole Foods.

World immigration key numbers

January 16th, 2017

From the World Bank:

Number, 2013: 247.2 million or 3.4% of world population
Top 10 emigration countries, 2013: India, Mexico, the Russian Federation, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom
Top 10 immigration countries, 2013: the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Spain, Australia
Destinations, 2013: high-income OECD countries 49.4%, high-income non-OECD countries 21%, developing countries 29.3%
Top 10 migration corridors excluding the former Soviet Union, 2013: Mexico-the United States; Bangladesh-India; China-the United States; Afghanistan-Pakistan; Afghanistan- Iran; Hong Kong-China; India-the United Arab Emirates; the West Bank and Gaza-Jordan; India-the United States; India-Saudi Arabia.
Tertiary-educated as a percentage of total migrants in OECD countries, 2011: 27.6%
Number of refugees, 2014: 19.5 million

Cuban immigration in a nutshell: dramatic changes

January 14th, 2017


Here is a quick overview of Cuban immigration from the 1960s through this past week, when policy changed without advance notice. This radically changes the immigrant equation for the first time since the 1960s. Much of this history is taken from a Migration Policy Institute report issued today.

There were about one million Cuban-born immigrants in the U.S. in 2013, up from 636,000 in 1980, virtually all of whom emigrated illegally from Cuba and arrived in the U.S. in unauthorized status. The children of these immigrants number about 800,000. About half remain Spanish-dominant in language; 68% live in Florida; and in education, house ownership and income are above other Hispanic immigrants but lower than the general population.

On January 12, the Obama Administration announced “Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities. By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”

This announcement came without warning, to avoid a last minute rush of Cubans seeking to enter the U.S.

Since 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act treats all Cubans as refugees. Cubans who arrive in the United States are eligible for legal permanent residence one year after arrival. Under a1980 law, certain Cubans are also eligible for welfare benefits similar to refugees. No other nationality group has such preferential or immediate access to green cards and welfare benefits. Cuba has refused to take back its nationals who have been ordered deported.

The most dramatic event in this history was the Mariel Boatlift, between April and October, 1980, and named after a port in Cuba. Castro allowed people to emigrate, and 125,000 arrived in 1,700 boats before the U.S. and Cuba came to terms, with Castro no longer permitting emigration. This event added to political pressure to pass an immigration bill, eventually passed in 1986.

A wet foot, dry foot policy is the name given to a consequence of the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 that essentially says that anyone who fled Cuba and entered the United States would be allowed to pursue residency a year later. The Clinton administration came to an agreement with Cuba that it would stop admitting people intercepted in U.S. waters. A Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (with “wet feet”) would summarily be sent home or to a third country. One who makes it to shore (“dry feet”) gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited “legal permanent resident” status and eventually U.S. citizenship.

Re-establishing U.S. – Cuban relations in 2014 spurred a huge increase in Cuban emigration to the U.S. due to fear that preferential treatment of Cuban émigrés will end. Tens of thousands got previously unobtainable exit permits from the Cuban government and traveled by land routes through South and Central America to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. Total Cuban arrivals in the U.S. went from well under 20,000 before FY 2014 to 48,520 in FT 2016. In FY 2016, there were 5,213 “wet foot” cases and 48,520 “dry foot” arrivals. The number of green cards granted to Cubans has steadily increased in recent years, from 32,219 in FY 2013 to 54,396 in FY 2015.

Cubans who reach U.S. soil are now to be treated the same as all other migrants who arrive without prior authorization. Fuller details on how the new regime will work in actual practice have not yet been detailed.

Cuba has also agreed to consider on a case-by-case basis the return of Cuban nationals who were found removable before January 12, 2017. Media reports suggest that as many as 34,000 Cubans with final orders of removal remain in the United States.

Application for citizenship denied for having a “big mouth”

January 12th, 2017

Marginal Revolution reports on why Nancy Holten, 42, had her application for Swiss citizenship rejected – twice.

In Switzerland citizenship applications are decided primarily by the cantons and communes where the applicant lives, rather than federal authorities.

Holten was born in the Netherlands but grew up in Switzerland from the age of eight, speaks fluent Swiss German and has children with Swiss citizenship. A vegan and supporter of animal rights, she gained a reputation in her community of Gipf-Oberfrick, in the canton of Aargau, after campaigning against cowbells, claiming they were damaging to cows’ health.

She has also objected to hunting and piglet racing, and complained about the noise of church bells in the village, campaigns that have seen her regularly interviewed in the Swiss press over the past few years.

In Holten’s case it seems her campaigning has not won her many friends in the village, with the president of the local branch of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, telling the media that Holten has a “big mouth”.

The commune did not want to give Holten the “present” of Swiss citizenship “if she annoys us and doesn’t respect our traditions”, said Suter.

Wikipedia  that as of June 2009, 10.6% of Gipf-Oberfrick’s population are foreign nationals. Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (93.9%), with Albanian being second most common (1.1%) and Italian being third ( 0.9%).


Senator Jeff Sessions on immigration

January 10th, 2017

Senator Jeff Sessions wrote in Washington Post on April 9, 2015:

What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.

But high immigration rates help the financial elite (and the political elite who receive their contributions) by keeping wages down and profits up. For them, what’s not to like? That is why they have tried to enforce silence in the face of public desire for immigration reductions. They have sought to intimidate good and decent Americans into avoiding honest discussion of how uncontrolled immigration impacts their lives.

Senator Sessions published a “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority” in January, 2015.

The last large-scale flow of legal immigration (from approximately 1880–1920) was followed by a sustained slowdown that allowed wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and the middle class to emerge. (page 3) The labor market tightened substantially as a result of policy changes, boosting wages for both the native-born and the millions of immigrants who had arrived previously—helping the great American middle class to emerge. (page 10)

The GOP should focus on discrete, targeted enforcement measures designed to have an outsize effect on reducing illegality, empowering immigration officers, restoring enforcement, and putting a stop to catch-and-release.

 Mandatory E-Verify to protect American jobs and wages
 Ending tax credit and welfare payments to illegal immigrants
 Closing asylum and refugee loopholes
 Cancelling federal funds to sanctuary cities
 Empowering local officials to coordinate with ICE officers
 Establishing criminal penalties for visa overstays
 Ending catch-and-release on the border with mandatory detention and expedited deportations
 Suspension of visas to countries with high overstay rates or those that won’t repatriate criminal aliens
 Mandating completion of the exit-entry system (page 8)

Here are the findings from a poll of likely U.S. voters commissioned by GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway:

 77% of respondents said jobs should go to current U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants already in the country—instead of bringing in new workers to fill those jobs
 Three in four respondents wished to see substantial immigration cuts. (page 16)

Every Member of Congress should read the incredibly important USA Today op-ed penned by five of the nation’s most esteemed academics who specialize in labor markets and guest workers. Excerpts from the op-ed follow:

“Legislation that expanded visas for IT personnel during the 1990s has kept average wages flat over the past 16 years. Indeed, guest workers have become the predominant source of new hires in these fields. Those supporting even greater expansion seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of American high-tech workers who are being shortchanged — by wages stuck at 1998 levels, by diminished career prospects and by repeated rounds of layoffs.” “Bill Gates’ Tech Worker Fantasy,” July 27, 2014.

Melons, pickles and post-Bracero employer response

January 9th, 2017

The Bracero program, which lasted from 1951 through until 1965 (Public Law 78), was the last large-scale low-skilled guest worker program in the United States. (The program grew out of an earlier seasonal migrant program initiated in 1942.) The program has been well researched, including worker exploitation and conflicts between workers and employers.

Its elimination led some economists to see what happened to employment, wages and production. Donald Wise did his doctoral work in economics on the agricultural industry in California. He looked at winter melons and strawberries, two crops that required a lot of stooping and at least at that time, did not have a readily available technology to take over from humans. He estimated that production was cut back, wages increased, and more native born workers were employed. Specifically, he estimated that for winter melons, acreage used declined by 26%, production declined by 23%, wages increased by 67%, and there was a 2.5 times increase in domestic employment while total employment declined by 22%. Prices rose by 6%.

J.D. Mason looked at the impact of the termination of the Bracero program on seasonal agricultural work in Michigan for the pickle industry. He found that after a drop in acreage in 1965 and 1966 the increased use of the mechanical pickle harvester increased acreage for cucumbers for pickle production in 1967.

This posting relates how a large increase in labor costs translates into a much smaller increase in prices.

Sources: Wise, the effect of the bracero on agricultural production in California (1970?). Mason, The aftermath of the Bracero: a study of the economic input of the agricultural hired labour market of Michigan from the termination of Public Law 78 (1970).

State of ICE – local law enforcement collaboration

January 7th, 2017

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center published an analysis of local (county) collaboration on immigration enforcement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It writes: “The Trump administration will be inheriting a well-oiled deportation and detention machine. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operates the largest police force in the nation and has a budget that is $4 billion more than all of the other federal law enforcement agencies combined.

Over the past ten years, the increased  involvement of city and county law enforcement in the deportation business – at the urging of DHS and particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – has played a central role in the record-breaking volume of deportations we see today. It is because of this assistance from local law enforcement that the Obama administration gained the capacity to detain and deport so many people. That massive infrastructure will now be led by an administration with an even more ambitious nativist agenda.”

Here is its summary, by county:

Of the 2,556 counties looked at, only 25 had 287(g) agreements and 147 had ICE detention contracts (also called Intergovernmental Service Agreements or IGSAs). These numbers show that only a small proportion of counties have a formal or contractual relationship with ICE. However, when we looked at the data for policies and stated practices in other forms of assistance, the numbers paint a very different and concerning picture.

1,922 counties, or 75% of counties, will hold immigrants on detainers, willingly violating these individuals’ 4th Amendment rights. Only 635 counties, or 25% of counties, do not hold on detainers.

Even more counties, 2,414 in total, take it upon themselves to notify ICE when immigrants will be released from custody, while 142 counties have a policy against that practice.

In 2,484 counties, there are no limitations on what ICE can do in the jails, whereas just 72 counties place some sort of restriction or procedural protections on ICE’s access to detainees.

2,331 counties allow local law enforcement to inquire into an individual’s immigration status, with only 25 counties banning that inquiry.

And finally in 2,503 counties, county employees are able to use local resources to assist ICE in their federal immigration enforcement responsibilities. Only 53 counties prohibit that practice.

Why do people immigrate to the U.S.?

January 6th, 2017

Feifei Wang’s answer to this question was posted on Quora. She answers the question as some one who came from China. Feifei has her own blog on Quora.

I’m a Chinese American, my family and I immigrated to the US some 10 years ago, and became citizen a few years later.

Here are the reasons we decided to move to the US. I imagine these probably apply to many Chinese Americans as well:

Overall superior basic living conditions, which include: better air quality, cleaner water, greener cities and suburbs, better roads and bridges (they don’t collapse)… You can’t buy these things in China, no matter how rich you are, you breathe the same polluted air like everyone else.

No poisoned food. Food safety is a huge problem in China. From street food to milk to restaurant food, you’re never sure if it’s safe. There’s a famous joke saying “You can’t honestly say you’re a Chinese unless you’ve eaten everything on the periodic table”. While in the US, the most you have to worry about are probably bad sushi and Monsanto.

Better, less exam-focused primary education system. This is probably one of the most important reasons many Chinese families try to move to the US. The elementary and middle schools in China are brutal. It’s heavily exam-driven, and it’s really not good for overall development of the child. There’s a lot of memorizing, a lot of test preparation. The last 3 years of high school is just a 3 year long exam preparation class for the university entrance exam. There’s no way to escape it, and many parents don’t want their children to be limited like that. Especially with the “one family, one child” policy. A lot of people tried to send their kids here to attend middle/high schools even if they themselves can not come over.

Better universities with more freedom. China has some pretty good universities, like Peking University and Tsinghua University. However, unless you did well in that once-in-a-lifetime university entrance exam, you won’t have other opportunities. US universities offers a lot more freedom, you can transfer departments, or even universities. You can improve your GPA and go to a better university midway. This is a huge plus compared to the rigid Chinese universities.

Better grad schools. The reason I separate grad school and 4 year college is because it attracts different people. Going to US grad school is still the most accessible method to go to the US. It is very hard for a Chinese to apply for a US visa, and getting an F1 (Student Visa) through grad school is the cheapest way. And Chinese grad schools suffer from corruption like other Chinese organizations. Students don’t feel that they can do anything in grad school other than being the slave labor for their advisers. I guess US grad schools also have similar problems, but it’s a lot better.

Overall better social welfare system, especially if you can get green card or become a citizen. You can actually buy land and house (Chinese government only allows people to buy the use rights of a land, you don’t own the land or the house). If you rent, the landlord can drive you off anytime he/she wants (yeah… renting law in China sucks, reason why people want to own their own home). Better health care, better unemployment insurances, better domestic violence support, less corrupted justice system… overall, safer, easier to live in the US.

More freedom. This is a personal experience, but since I’m lucky that I entered the US with a green card, so it may not be true to people who struggle with their visa. I think I have a lot more options to do what I want to do with my life. And the general ideology is that you can do whatever you want, be whoever you want, as long as you work hard and don’t give up. I’ll say regular Americans have a better chance working towards their dream and succeed than regular Chinese people.

Now I sound like a total traitor, praising America over the motherland. US is not perfect, if it’s up to me, I’d live in one of those welfare states. But I really like being an American.

Summary of the immigration commission created by President Carter

January 4th, 2017

In the late 1970s through early 1980s, the United States was hit with arrival of 160,000 Indochinese, 20,000 Russian Jews, and 130,000 Cuban and Haitian “boat people.” Annual permanent visas other than for refugees rose from around 200,000 in the 1960s, to somewhat above 400,000 a year. About 200,000 net unauthorized migrants per year arrived in the 1970s. With the oil crisis and inflation, public concern about immigration spiked.

President Carter convened a Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1979. Its final report was issued in March,1981.

The Commission recommended “Closing the back door to undocumented – illegal immigration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of the country, defining our immigration goals clearly and providing a structure to implement them effectively, and setting forth procedures which will lead to fair and efficient adjudication and administration of U.S. immigration laws.”

Specific recommendations included:

1. Employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers.
2.Legalization of unauthorized persons.
3.Numerical ceiling of 300,000 (plus those not subject to this ceiling).
4.“Independent immigrants” (i.e. not family reunification). The Commission agreed that “specific labor market criteria” be used. but was divided on how restrictive. No mention of attracting immigrants based on work skills.

In 1980 there were 14.1 million immigrants in the U.S. The demographer for the Commission forecasted that if net migration including illegals kept at at 500,000, the population in 2080 would be 270 million. Our total population today is about 320 million, one quarter of whom are first or second generation immigrants.  As it turned out, the immigrant population rose since 1980 by an average of 800,000 – plus through 2015. The fertility rate of immigrants has been 50% higher than of the total population. Immigrants now number 43 million.