ICE: a thumbnail history

September 20th, 2018

 

From an August 22, 2018 report by the Migration Policy Institute, “Once Relatively Obscure, ICE Becomes a Lightning Rod in Immigration Debate.” ICE is a new creature in that its focus is exclusively on immigration law enforcement, and not engaged in other immigration services.

With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was cobbled together from deportation and investigations officers with the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and investigations officers from the U.S. Customs Service at the Treasury Department. The deportation officers became ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and the investigations and Customs officers became the agency’s investigative component, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

While Border Patrol agents headed to the new Customs and Border Protection at the border, and ICE was charged with interior enforcement—detention, deportation, and criminal investigations.

In 2018, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) alone received $4.1 billion for enforcement and removal, representing 58% of ICE’s total budget of $7.1 billion.

In 2011, after ICE national leadership directed agents to narrow their enforcement focus, the union representing ICE officers released a statement blasting the Obama administration, saying “the administration protects foreign nationals illegally in the U.S. but does nothing for our employees.” In 2012, a group of ICE agents sued the Obama administration for prohibiting them from arresting and removing those covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In 2016 the ICE union endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump, after 95% of its members voted in favor of endorsement.

Executive orders the President signed in his first week in office directed the agency not to exempt any class of unauthorized immigrants from enforcement and revoked the prosecutorial discretion guidelines that were first created in 1976 and updated over time. Today, a much wider group of noncitizens is subject to arrest and removal, and ICE no longer gives much consideration to factors such as long-term U.S. residence or other equities such as having U.S.-citizen children.

We don’t plan for native-born workforces

September 18th, 2018

The 19th Century saw foreign workers brought into the U.S. through private sector workforce recruitment, such as Chinese workers on railroads, to fill jobs otherwise filled by native-born Americans. American food processing companies in the 1990s recruited undocumented workers at staff their factories. But there has been little of the reverse, that is, a concerted hiring of native-born American workers to staff positions that otherwise would be filled by immigrants.

An example of a possible “Hire An American” policy to recruit native-born American doctors for rural medical care.

Today, one quarter of all practicing doctors are foreign-trained (the great majority being foreign born). In rural areas, and in low income areas, the percentages are higher. What would it take to design and implement a strategy to make them more native-born?

There is no federal agency nor any major research/policy institute which routinely examines native born / immigrant workforce dynamics. There is no tried and tested method of designing such a strategy. And no one in Washington is talking about building this capacity.

And, for purposes of staffing rural physician slots with more native-born doctors, building such a strategy is very difficult. Let’s look at the forces that would complicate a plan, for instance, to financially incentivize graduates of American medical schools to locate for extended periods in rural areas”

1. Labor shortages and surpluses come in waves and both influence and are influenced by immigration.

2. There is a lot of internal sorting / shifting within occupations. For instance, native born doctors tend to concentrate in higher compensated specialties and live in relatively more amenable locations.

3. There can be a lot of sorting / shifting between occupations — for instance, using nurse practitioners a lot more for primary care than physicians. In my dozen years in Vermont, I am far more likely to see a nurse in primary care than to see a physician.

Striking misperceptions about immigration

September 16th, 2018

Some striking misperceptions in six countries about immigrants (U.S. Germany, France, Italy, U.K. and Sweden):

In five of the six countries, the average native believed that there are between two and three times as many immigrants as there are in reality.

Natives also got the origins of immigrants wrong. They particularly overestimated the shares of immigrants coming from regions that have recently been described as ‘problematic’ in the media. In the US, respondents thought the share of Muslim immigrants was 23% when in reality it is 10%.

In all countries, immigrants were viewed as poorer, less educated, and more likely to be unemployed than is the case. For instance, US natives believed that 35% of immigrants lived below the poverty line, while the real number is less than 14%. Natives also believed that immigrants relied heavily on the welfare state, with roughly one-third of all US, Italian, and French respondents, and one-fifth of all UK and German respondents, believing that an immigrant would receive more benefits than a native, even if both had exactly same income, family structure, age, and occupation.

Respondents in all countries also greatly exaggerated the share of immigrants among the poor or the low-educated. For example, US respondents thought that 37% of the poor were immigrants; the true number is 12%.

From here.

Business Roundtable grades U.S. poorly on immigration policy

September 14th, 2018

The Business Council wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on August 22, signed by 39 CEOS. Citing a backlog of green card applications, the Business Council wrote that in the past year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “has issued several policy memoranda over the past year” that inject uncertainty into skilled employment by foreigners. “Few will move their family and settle in a new country if, at any time and without notice, the government can force their immediate departure–often without explanation.” The Council also opposes the impending decision to bar the spouses of H1-B visa holders from working.

The Business Council’s ranking of immigrant policies

Overall ranking: The Council on a scale of 1 to 5 ranks the U.S. at 2.3, Germany at 4.5, the U.K. at 3.9, and Canada at 3.3. “Based on a comprehensive examination of 10 advanced economies to identify and evaluate the best immigration policies to promote economic growth, the United States ranked 9th out of 10 competitor countries, ahead of only Japan, a country historically closed to outsiders. This analysis found that America’s near-bottom ranking among major advanced economies is due to U.S. laws and regulations that impose unrealistic numerical limits and excessive bureaucratic rules on hiring workers that the country’s economy needs.”

For use of highly skilled workers, the Council’s scores are the U.S. at 2.0, Germany at 5.0, the U.K. at 4.0, and Canada at 3.5.

Here is what the Council says about skilled labor immigration:

U.S.(2.0): More than half of applicants for H-1B visas each year are denied the opportunity to work due to the low H-1B quota.

Germany (5.0): Applications for high-skilled people are rarely turned down, there is no annual quota and Germany’s membership in the European Union (EU) provides access to 500 million people who can work without any immigration processing. The process is clear enough that some employers do not need attorneys to apply. The EU Blue Card provides an easy option for hiring non-EU skilled professionals, including no labor market test.

Canada (3.5): There is no annual quota for hiring high-skilled foreign nationals. Employers must pay a market wage; recent requirements for employers to test the labor market have made the process much more difficult for employers.

A 2017 Census report on immigration trends.

September 13th, 2018

The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009.

For many years, Mexico was the single largest contributor of immigrants. But since 2010, the number of immigrants arriving from Mexico has declined, while those from China and India have surged. Since 2010, the increase in the number of people from Asia — 2.6 million — was more than double the 1.2 million who came from Latin America, Mr. Frey found.

The foreign-born population stood at 13.7 percent in 2017, or 44.5 million people, compared with 13.5 percent in 2016.

Some of the largest gains were in states with the smallest immigrant populations, suggesting that immigrants were spreading out in the country. New York and California, states with large immigrant populations, both had increases of less than six percent since 2010. But foreign-born populations rose by 20 percent in Tennessee, 13 percent in Ohio, 12 percent in South Carolina and 20 percent in Kentucky over the same period.

From The New York Times

Sweden and immigration: a lot has to do with jobs

September 12th, 2018

The foreign-born worker unemployment rate in Sweden is five times that of native born workers. in the U.S. the foreign-born rate is below that of native born workers.

in 2000, 8.9 million people lived in Sweden. 50,000 immigrants entered the country, and 38,000 emigrated. In 2019, 10 million people lived in Sweden. 163,000 persons, equivalent to 1.6% of the population immigrated and 46,000 emigration. That annual rate of immigration is equivalent to 5 million persons immigrated to the U.S, compared to the roughly 1 million who do. In 2016, 67,000 persons, mostly from Syria, were granted asylum. That compares to about 45,000 refugees who will enter in the U.S. in 2918. In 2016, there were 163,000 asylum seekers in Sweden.

Because immigration to Sweden before the Syrian crisis was generally low, the total foreign population in Sweden (about 15% of total) is proportionally not much higher than in the U.S. (13%). Thus Sweden experienced in about a decade the rise in foreign persons in the U.S. that took several decades

In July, 2018, 3.6 native born Swedes were unemployed compared to 19.9% of foreign born workers. Per The Local, “Unemployment is clearly falling among both native and foreign born, but there are still major differences. To get more new arrivals into work, education and subsidized jobs are important,” Arbetsförmedlingen analyst Andreas Mångs said in a statement.

In 2017, Sweden had one of the highest unemployment rates among foreign-born workers (about 15% in its chart) and the U.S. had one of the lowest (about 5%). The low U.S. rate may be in part due to how Spanish speakers with low English proficiency find employment in Spanish speaking worksites.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 4.1 percent in 2017, down from 4.3 percent in 2016.  The jobless rate of native-born persons was 4.4 percent in 2017, down from 5.0 percent in 2016.

Lessons from past wave of refugees in Sweden: it’s jobs, stupid.

From The Local: Two decades ago thousands of refugees fled war in Yugoslavia and made Sweden their home, where today they are a well-integrated part of society. During the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, many of those fleeing the conflict looked to Sweden for protection, with just over 100,000 coming to the Scandinavian nation at the time. In 1992 alone, 70,000 people from the former Yugoslavia applied for asylum in the country – a record high number for a calendar year until it was surpassed in 2015.

A 2016 study showed that a significantly higher proportion of Bosnians are employed. In the 20-24 age bracket, employment was at virtually the same level as native Swedes/

But what lessons can Sweden learn from its successful integration of Yugoslavian refugees? Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the experience is that a good match between the people coming in and the systems of their new home is worth its weight in gold. One thing was the harmony between the general makeup of those who came from former Yugoslavia to the Scandinavian country, and developments in Sweden, which was moving towards a knowledge-based economy at the same time.

Similarities in level of education was particularly vital to the long-term success: Yugoslavia’s education system, where primary schooling was compulsory until the age of 15 and students were encouraged to follow upper secondary education until the age of 19, was not dissimilar to Sweden’s, where school is compulsory until 16, and most pupils then go on to upper secondary school. But Sweden had a financial crisis in the 1990s. Of the Bosnians who were given a residence permit between 1993 and 1994, only 24 percent in the 20-59 age bracket had found employment after four years.

As the new millennium arrived things improved significantly, but with notable regional differences. So while by 1999, 90 percent of male and 80 percent of female Bosnian refugees aged 20-59 living in in Gnosjö, Gislaved, Vaggeryd and Värnamo were employed, the corresponding figure for Malmö was 37 percent and 28 percent respectively. The integration process for those who ended up in the southern Swedish city would have been quicker if they had been placed in regions with a better economic outlook from day one.

Brett Kavanaugh’s court record on Immigration

September 10th, 2018

Because the federal D.C. Circuit rarely hears cases directly involving immigration law, Kavanaugh has only written three opinions in cases involving immigrants. All three opinions were dissents, where Kavanaugh stated that he believed the immigrant should have lost the case.

In 2008, Kavanaugh issued his first major dissent in a case involving immigrants. In Agri Processing Co. Inc, v. National Labor Relations Board, Kavanaugh declared that undocumented immigrants should not be entitled to labor-law protections because they were not legally permitted to be “employees.”

Even though the Supreme Court had years before declared that undocumented immigrants were “employees” for the purposes of labor law, Kavanaugh argued that a 1986 law making it a crime to employ undocumented immigrants had implicitly overruled the Supreme Court. The majority on the D.C. Circuit called his reasoning illogical and accused him of misapplying principles of statutory interpretation.

Next, in 2014, Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in Fogo de Chao Holdings Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In that case, Washington, DC restaurant Fogo de Chao applied for an L-1 visa to bring a chef from Brazil to the United States. Fogo de Chao argued that the chef had “specialized knowledge” in churrascaria cooking and methods, a form of Brazilian barbecue that the restaurant is known for.

The government initially denied the chef’s visa. In overturning the denial, the D.C. Circuit criticized the government’s “wooden refusal” to consider that specialized knowledge might come from a person’s upbringing, family, and community tradition.

However, Judge Kavanaugh dissented strongly. He framed the dispute as simply about the restaurant “want[ing] to employ Brazilian chefs rather than American chefs,” and suggested that hiring such chefs was just trying to “cut labor costs masquerading as specialized knowledge.”

Finally, Judge Kavanaugh dissented in the 2017 case of Garza v. Hargan, in which an undocumented teenager sued the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement for preventing her from obtaining an abortion. He accused the majority of a “radical” expansion of the law, suggesting that the D.C Circuit had created a “new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”

From here.

El Salvador and the U.S.

September 8th, 2018

6.3 million people live in El Salvador. The Salvadoran diaspora as of 2016 was 2.2 million, of which 1.4 million lived in the U.S., not including children born here. It is the largest Central American group in the U.S. Starting with a 94,000 base in 1980, on average about 40,000 Salvadoreans have entered the U.S. annually.

As of 2010, 30% of Salvadoreans in the U.S. were American citizens. 24% spoke English “very well.” Of those 25 years or older, 54% did not complete high school. Roughly 500,000 were undocumented.

A civil war begun in the 1970s displaced one million internally and to neighboring countries. The United States heavily supported the military in part to eliminate the risk of communism. Peace accords formally ended the civil war in 1992. Two earthquakes occurred in 2001. Salvadorean waves in emigration to the U.S., under “temporary protected status,” happened in the 1990s and after the earthquakes.

The Trump administration has said it will remove this status from about 200,000 persons in the U.S. Further, the Justice Department under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that domestic and gang violence no longer constitute grounds for asylum

The 1992 Peace Accords did not improve life for most Salvadorans. The quarter-century since has seen worsening living conditions, widening inequality, and an economy artificially sustained by the remittances that Salvadorans abroad, mostly in the United States, send regularly to their families. These remittances—which totaled US $5 billion in 2017, roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product, according to World Bank data—help keep the Salvadoran economy afloat.

The civil war left behind a militarized society with most of its population unable to earn enough to survive, creating fertile recruitment ground for drug cartels and various organized-crime groups. Furthermore, deportations of Salvadorans from the United States, which started in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s, significantly exacerbated violent trends in the country. Deportees included young Salvadorans who had formed gangs in the United States—their way of navigating life in inhospitable neighborhoods—contributing to a perfect storm that allowed these activities to proliferate back in El Salvador.

it is likely that in the absence of major changes in the country, Salvadorans will continue to migrate.

From the Migration Policy Institute here.

Can Mexico be more prosperous?

September 6th, 2018

The supply of Mexican labor for the domestic U.S. economy is influenced by forces on both sides of the border, including the strength of the Mexican economy. The Economist recently analyzed the failure of the Mexican economy to perform better: “Between 1995 and 2015 real GDP per person increased by an annual average of 1.2%, less than in any Latin American country except Venezuela. Take into account the swelling labour force, and Mexico looks even worse: GDP per worker expanded by just 0.4% a year.”

This is despite an improvement in formal educational levels among Mexicans. As I posted recently, today a quarter for young people in their teens will end up going to college, three times a percentage of those who did in the early 1990s. The Mexican economy is now the 15th largest in the world and is projected to become the seventh or eighth largest by 2050.

The solution: change laws to make it relatively more attractive to hire salaried employees rather than to pay them as non-salaried self-employed workers.

Per the Economist, workers end up in jobs where they are less productive than they might be. Too many individuals who should be workers become entrepreneurs or are self-employed. Efficient businesses are taxed and penalised, while subsidies help sustain unproductive ones.

Mexico has a huge and disproportionate number of small businesses, and unusually wide variation in the productivity of its companies. More than 90% of the 4.1 million firms in the 2013 census had at most five workers. And 90% of the total were “informal”, absorbing 40% of workers.

Economist Santiago Levy distinguishes between firms that have salaried employees and those that do not. Four-fifths of the “informal” firms are in the second category: their staff are either self-employed or paid piece-rates or profit shares. These firms’ only legal obligation is to pay corporate tax, of just 2% of revenues. Firms with salaried workers, by contrast, must pay social insurance, deduct income tax and grapple with employment law (which doesn’t allow them to fire people if business drops).

Immigrants dropping out of support programs

September 4th, 2018

Politico reports that “Local health providers say they’ve received panicked phone calls from both documented and undocumented immigrant families demanding to be dropped from the rolls of WIC, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and children, after news reports that the White House is potentially planning to deny legal status to immigrants who’ve used public benefits. Agencies in at least 18 states say they’ve seen drops of up to 20 percent in enrollment, and they attribute the change largely to fears about the immigration policy.”

The Trump Administration is planning to expand the “public charge” criteria that is used to bar persons from permanent residence (green cards) if there is a risk of using public support programs –even though millions of low wage employees of Walmart, Amazon and other companies depend on SNAP (food stamps), Head Start and WIC to balance their budgets. The expected expansion of the criteria is a means to cut off permanent immigration of working class households. I have posted on this here.

Politico writes that in the past, if a mom was applying for a green card her own use of public benefits might be examined. Under the proposed change, her child’s enrollment in Medicaid or Head Start would weighed as a negative factor, even if that child is a U.S. citizen.

Politico goes on: Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — serves about half of all babies born in the U.S by providing vouchers or benefit cards so pregnant women and families with small children can buy staple foods and infant formula.

In some cases, immigration attorneys are recommending that families drop out of all government programs, including WIC, to avoid any chance that using the benefits could negatively affect their chances of getting a green card — or even prevent a family member from being able to get a visa to visit, according to caseworkers.

In January, the State Department instructed embassies and consulates to look at potential use of nutrition and health benefits when deciding whom to admit to the U.S.