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March 30, 2006

Latin American migrants send back $54B in year in remittances

Migrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean sent home $53.6bn to their families last year, an increase of 17% from 2004. The remittance are sent from the U.S, Canada, and other developed countries. This is according to a Financial Times report on an upcoming study by the Inter-American Development Bank. The study "confirms Latin America's position as the biggest market in the world for remittances. For the third consecutive year, remittances to the region exceeded the combined flows of direct foreign investment and overseas economic aid."

The FT report does not appear to distinquish between Latin Americans who have become citizens, those who are legal immigrants, and those who are illegal immigrants.

The FT goes on to report that

"The shift in international trade, investment and communications has required the world's political and economic system to adapt new rules and mechanisms to meet modern realities," said Donald Terry, head of the bank's multilateral investment fund. "The same needs to be done for the migrant labourers who have become such an integral part of the world's labour markets."

An estimated 25m-27m Latin Americans are living and working abroad, 22m of them in the developed markets of North America, Europe and Japan. Migrant workers from the region now made up more than 20% of the labour force in Madrid, Spain's capital. In the US, Latin American and Caribbean workers constitute an average of 12%of the labour force. Family by family, worker by worker, migrants are redrawing the map of global labour markets
Improvements in techniques used to monitor the flows of remittances in part accounted for the sharp rise last year. Many migrants continue to use informal channels, and the total could be more than $59bn.
Countries nearest the US have seen the biggest flows, with Mexico drawing some $20bn of foreign exchange earnings from remittances. The five countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic received $11bn.
Brazil got $6bn, Colombia $4bn and the four other Andean economies a total of $9bn. The bank is continuing its efforts to force down transmission costs of remittances, typically despatched in sums of between $100 and $300. Commission costs now amount to about 5% of the total, less than half the levels of five years ago.

March 29, 2006

The great demographic shift in the American workforce

In the past ten years, the American workforce has been growing in total largely on the strength of increases in foreign born labor. Among the ranks of the employed, foreign-born worker growth’s role has been even more pronounced.

An article in the May 2002 issue of the Monthly Labor Review has data to show the impact of foreign-born labor. The authors reported that for the year 2000, three quarters of the growth in the workforce was from foreign labor. In that year, employment among non foreign-born workers actually declined by 491,000 while employment among foreign-born workers rose by 897,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more recently that in 2004 the total number of foriegn-born workforce was about 21.4 million, or 14.5.% of thr total labor force. Slightly under half of the workforce growth between 2002 and 2004 was foreign-born.

Foreign born labor has entered employment rolls in an hour glass fashion: a small absolute number in the highly trained professions, a much larger number and much larger proportional impact in the bottom quarter of jobs as defined by educational requirements.

Between 1996 and 2000, foreign-born labor accounted for 49% of the increase in the workforce. (As the 2000 data above show, this percentage increased in 2000 alone.) For workforce members without a high school diploma, the total number in America declined by 393,000 but the total number of foreign-born workers with less than a high school diploma went up by 654,000. Thus, foreign-born workers were rapidly filling the ranks of the low educated that were being emptied by non-foreign born.

For the occupational category of “operators, fabricators and laborer,” total workforce growth in 1996-2000 was 105,000. However the workforce growth among foreign born was 664,000, indicating that non-foreign born ranks declined while foreign born workers flooded in.

Study asserts H-1B visa program undercuts American computer programmers

The Center for Immigration Studies just released a critique of the H-IB visa program. The core message of the study is that employers use the visa program to hire professional workers at wages well below the actually prevailing wages of comparable workers – despite a statutory prohibition. I have entered below the executive summary of “The Bottom of the Pay Scale: Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers” by John Miano and, following that, a useful primer of the program from his study.

H-1B visas by occupation are computer 28%, education 14%, administrative 13%, engineering 12%, health 9%, managers 8%, all others 18%. Visas by country of origin are mainland India 36%, China 9%, Canada 5%. all others 50%.

Executive Summary

The temporary visa program known as H-1B enables U.S. employers to hire professional-level foreign workers for a period of up to six years. Employers must pay H-1B workers either the same rate as other employees with similar skills and qualifications or the "prevailing wage" for that occupation and location, whichever is higher….The analysis demonstrates that…actual pay rates reported by employers of H-1B workers were significantly lower than those of American workers. ….[R]ather than helping employers meet labor shortages or bring in workers with needed skills, as is often claimed by program users, the H-1B program is instead more often used by employers to import cheaper labor.

Key Findings

On average, applications for H-1B workers in computer occupations were for wages $13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and state.

Wages on approved Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for 85% of H-1B workers were for less than the median U.S. wage in the same occupations and state.

Applications for 47% of H-1B computer programming workers were for wages below even the prevailing wage claimed by their employers.

Employers can easily manipulate their need to show that the H-1B worker will be paid a prevailing wage. The Department of Labor is hamstrung in enforcing more rigor into this part of the application process.

Employers making applications for more than 100 H-1B workers had wages averaging $9,000 less than employers of one to 10 H-1B workers.

The report goes on to say that many U.S. employers use “bodyshops” (labor service providers) for H-1B workers, thereby making it easier for the employer to obscure how it may be firing American workers in order to hire H-!B workers. And the report says that any investigation of H-1B abuses must be personally approved by the Secretary of Labor.

A primer of H-1B visa program

This H-1B visa program was created in 1990 as a guestworker program for specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that requires a college degree or equivalent professional experience. There is no specific skill requirement for an H-1B visa.

The H-1B program is technically classified as a non-immigrant program. H-1B visas are valid for up to three years and can be renewed once for an additional three years. H-1B visas are also tied to employment so that an H-1B visa becomes invalid if the worker loses his job. While employed, it is relatively easy for a worker on an H-1B visa to transfer the visa to another employer. Transfers do not extend the time limit on the original visa.

While the H-1B is a temporary, non-immigrant visa, the law allows H-1B holders to apply for permanent residency and, since H-1B workers can bring their families with them, any children born during their stay become U.S. citizens. While relatively few H-1B workers obtain permanent residency, anecdotal evidence suggests a significant percentage, perhaps the majority, of workers who come to the United States on H-1B visas come intending to stay permanently.

The challenge for H-1B workers who want to remain in the United States is to get a permanent residency application processed within the six-year maximum term of an H-1B visa. Congress has modified the H-1B program to allow workers in the final stages of a permanent residency application to remain in the United States beyond the six-year time limit. However, an H-1B worker who changes employers is unlikely to be successful in getting permanent residency.

The H-1B program was originally limited to 65,000 visas a year. As the popularity of the H-1B program grew in the late 1990s, employers started to exhaust this quota. In 1998, 2000, and 2004 Congress enacted both temporary increases and permanent increases in the program. Figure 1 shows the quota changes over time. The current limits, effective in FY 2005, divide H-1B visa into four categories with different limits:

No limit to the number of visas issued to universities and research institutions.

20,000 visas reserved for those with graduate degrees from U.S. institutions.

6,800 visas reserved for Singapore and Chile under free trade agreements.

58,200 visas for all others.

This complicated visa allocation scheme reflects the political struggles that have surrounded the H-1B program since 1994. The general H-1B quota for FY 2005 was exhausted on the first day of the fiscal year and six weeks beforehand in FY 2006. However, only about a third of the quota for U.S-educated workers was used in FY 2005 and it is unlikely to be used up in FY 2006."

H-1B visas are often referred to as "high tech" visas since historically most have been issued to workers in computer programming, engineering, or science disciplines. In recent years, while the H-1B quota was temporarily increased, the percentage of workers in these occupations declined.

Workers from India and China dominate the H-1B program. Before the temporary increases in the H-1B visa quota, nearly half of all H-1B visas went to people born in India. During the periods of increased H-1B quotas, the percentage of H-1B visas issued to people born in these countries decreased.

March 28, 2006

Senate Committee approves McCain bill on March 27

The Washington Post reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 6 in favor of the McCain bill, which combines a guest worker program, citizenship options, and immigration enforcement. The voting took place under a strict deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and as demonstrations erupted across the country against tough enforcement of immigration laws. The 12 vote majority included 4 Republicans (Specter, Graham, Brownback and DeWine and all 8 Democrats.

The Post described the amended legislation as follows:

The panel's bill would allow the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country to apply for a work visa after paying back taxes and a penalty. The first three-year visa could be renewed for three more years. After four years, visa holders could apply for green cards and begin moving toward citizenship. An additional 400,000 such visas would be offered each year to workers seeking to enter the country.
Senators also accepted a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would offer 1.5 million illegal farmworkers a "blue card" visa that would legalize their status. The committee also accepted a provision by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would shield humanitarian organizations from prosecution for providing more than simple emergency aid to illegal immigrants, rejecting an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to require humanitarian groups providing food, medical aid and advice to illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security.

The Post described popular demonstrations:

At least 14,000 students stormed out of schools in Southern California and elsewhere yesterday, waving flags and chanting to protest congressional actions. About 100 demonstrators, including members of the clergy, appeared at the Capitol yesterday in handcuffs to object to provisions in the House bill that would make illegal immigrants into felons and criminalize humanitarian groups that feed and house them. More than a half-million marchers protested in Los Angeles on Saturday, following protests in Phoenix, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

ICE no longer to impersonate OSHA personnel

Hazards Magazine
has reports that Immigration Customs and Enforcement (within Homeland Security) has reversed its controversial policy. Per Hazards:

On February 16, AIHA [American Industrial Hygiene Association] sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security opposing word that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau would continue posing as OSHA personnel to conduct immigrant workforce enforcement. AIHA's letter went on to say that while we understood the need for illegal immigrant enforcement, using OSHA personnel to conduct "sting" operations was not the way to go, and would undoubtedly result in making it much more difficult to improve the health and safety of immigrant workers.
Last week, AIHA received a letter (dated March 17) from the Director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Marcy Forman. Ms Forman stated "Effective immediately, the use of ruses involving health and safety programs administered by a private entity or a federal, state, or local government agency (such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) for the purpose of immigration worksite enforcement, will be discontinued by ICE".

This from a press release issued by Aaron K Trippler, Director Government Affairs, American Industrial Hygiene Association, Fairfax VA.

March 27, 2006

Paul Krugman on immigration reform

The New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugram, expresses today deep his caution on immigration reform and a guest worker program. In “North of the Border,” he writes that a guest worker program will likely have the effect of creating a formal sub-class of non-voting workers. Repeating some content some of my prior postings, Krugman writes:

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.
Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.

Krugman ends with these comments about Bush’s guest worker plan:

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's plan for a "guest worker" program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages. And because guest workers would face the prospect of deportation after a few years, they would have no incentive to become integrated into our society.
What about a guest-worker program that includes a clearer route to citizenship? I'd still be careful. Whatever the bill's intentions, it could all too easily end up having the same effect as the Bush plan in practice — that is, it could create a permanent underclass of disenfranchised workers.
We need to do something about immigration, and soon. But I'd rather see Congress fail to agree on anything this year than have it rush into ill-considered legislation that betrays our moral and democratic principles.

March 26, 2006

Skilled labor immigration into the U.S.: some highlights

A 2004 report on skilled workforces highlights some key trends in skilled immigrants working in the United States. I have excerpted passages on foreign supply of scientists and engineers, the foreign presence among Silicon Valley leaders, and the broad effect of globalization.

The study is titled Preparing Chemists and Chemical Engineers for a Globally Oriented Workforce: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable (2004)

I have previously posted on foreign trained physicians in the United States, the U.K., Canada and Australia.

Effects of globalization on the domestic supply of IT workers

If in 1980 the United States had closed its borders and not allowed IT to globalize as it did, there probably would not have been the IT boom enjoyed in the 1990s. The IT industries would not have been able to deliver the productivity gains and price declines that they did.

To summarize, research by economists has concluded that in recent decades globalization appears to have been more beneficial for more-skilled workers in the United States than for less-skilled workers. It also seems that the boom time in real wages since 1995, driven largely by IT, has had a lot to do with globalization. These gains from global integration are widely distributed across skill groups.

Foreign supply of scientists and engineers

According to data from the National Science Board, the fraction of science and engineering doctoral students in the United States who are U.S. citizens has dropped from 70 percent to 56 percent in the last 25 years; the average enrollment dropped steadily from 118,000 in 1992 to about 100,000 in 1998. Reversing these trends will be difficult, and the consequences of not doing something, potentially damaging. According to the Department of Labor, 60 percent of future jobs require skills only 20 percent of Americans have.

International students have typically been attracted to the United States by the standard of living and the great opportunities to carry out science and engineering research. This has been of great benefit to the U.S. science and engineering workforce. In the United States, 10 percent of holders of bachelor’s degrees, 20 percent of master’s degrees, and 25 percent of doctorates in science and engineering were born in other countries. This trend might not continue in the future. In fact, some countries other than the United States are trying to counteract it as competition for scientists and engineers increases. For instance, China now has special programs with funds for Chinese citizens that want to return to China and start up laboratories. Recently in the European Union (EU), 1.9 million high-technology jobs were made available to non-EU applicants.

The percentage of students going into science and engineering outside the United States is increasing rapidly but the percentage of U.S. students going into science and engineering remains very low (a few percent each year). If that continues, the United States will become less competitive. We should continue to focus on improving the quantity and quality of U.S. students so that there is no need to worry about the supply coming in from other countries or about foreign students returning home.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs

More recently, there have been comprehensive surveys of startup companies in information technology (IT), especially in the Silicon Valley of California in the 1980s and 1990s. About one-third of startup companies in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 1998 were either started or headed by immigrants from India or China (Saxenian, 2002). In 1998, they headed 2,775 Silicon Valley high-tech firms, employed 58,000 people, and had total sales of $16.8 billion.

March 24, 2006

Legal and illegal immigration survey results

CT-based Quinnipiac University conducted in February a poll on attitudes about public policy options for legal and illegal immigration. Legal immigration has become more popular: 59% opposed more immigration in 2002, but only 38% in 2006.

Overall results

39% want to reduce current levels of legal immigration, with 24% want increased levels and 33% say maintain current levels. Some 57% say that illegal immigration is a "very serious" problem, 31% say "somewhat serious."

Immigration: split between red and blue states:

In red states (Bush won by at least 5%) were 42% want to reduce [legal?] immigration. In blue states voters (Kerry won by at least 5% ) were 35% - 36% on the immigration question.

On illegal immigration:

62 – 32% opposed to making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens; 54 – 41% opposed to making it easier for illegal immigrants to become legal workers. 50 – 42% opposed to eliminating the automatic U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants' children born in the U.S.

Immigration bill debate heats up in Washington; filibuster threatened

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had front page articles today in the immigration debate in Congress. A bush proposal for a guest worker program is still very much alive; so are proposals from McCain, Specter and Frist. The McCain and Specter bills have guest worker provisions; the Frist bill is focused on closing the Mexican-U.S. border to illegal workers, which are now 7.5 million in number.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said to the Associated Press, "Rarely have I seen an issue that divides people so clearly, with so little possibility of seeking a middle ground." The article printed in the Washington Post refers to the illegal immigrant debate as “an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week's immigration showdown in the Senate…. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced that he will not accept [a guest worker] program until "we have proven without a doubt that our borders are sealed and secure. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) promised this week to filibuster Frist's enforcement-only bill.”

The New York Times, also today, says that Bush said Thursday that his message is: ''If you are doing a job that Americans won't do, you're welcome here for a period of time to do that job”… “The president is working hand-in-hand with employers who want cheap labor to clean hotel rooms, pick crops and do other tasks that they say keep their businesses competitive. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says he understands those economic issues, but his focus is on the main concern voiced by the social conservatives -- national security.

''The most important thing is that we keep our borders safe, we keep America safe,'' said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call. ''It's obvious there are drugs, there are criminals coming through those borders. There are also people from known terrorist organizations coming through those borders.''

The Times article goes on: Three-quarters of respondents to a Time magazine poll in January said the United States is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Roughly the same amount said they favor a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, but 46% said those workers should have to return first to their native countries and apply. About 50% favored deporting all illegal immigrants.”

March 23, 2006

Washington Post columnist: "We don't need guest workers"

Robert Samuelson in the 3/22/06 edition of the Washington Post argues that a guest worker program will lock more poor workers into the American economy, taking jobs away from Americans and disincenting employers from making labor saving improvements. He cites as an example the California tomato industry as one which innovated after cheap labor Mexican labor dried up. Two comments: 1. A guest worker program such as the McCain or Specter bill will increase the cost of immigrant labor, thus to some extent rebalancing the labor costs which Samuelson sees as having gone askew. 2. He does not address what we do with today's 7.5 million undocumented workers.

Below are some excerpts.

Economist Philip Martin of the University of California likes to tell a story about the state's tomato industry. In the early 1960s, growers relied on seasonal Mexican laborers, brought in under the government's "bracero" program. The Mexicans picked the tomatoes that were then processed into ketchup and other products. In 1964 Congress killed the program despite growers' warnings that its abolition would doom their industry. What happened? Well, plant scientists developed oblong tomatoes that could be harvested by machine. Since then, California's tomato output has risen fivefold.
We'd be importing poverty. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line (about $19,300 in 2004 for a family of four) has risen 162 percent. What we have now -- and would with guest workers -- is a conscious policy of creating poverty in the United States while relieving it in Mexico.
It's a myth that the U.S. economy "needs" more poor immigrants. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." In 2004, the median hourly wage in Mexico was $1.86, compared with $9 for Mexicans working in the United States, said Rakesh Kochhar of Pew. With high labor turnover in the jobs they take, most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages slightly below prevailing levels.
Hardly anyone thinks that most illegal immigrants will leave. But what would happen if new illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Well, some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers. Facing greater labor costs, some industries would -- like the tomato growers in the 1960s -- find ways to minimize those costs. As to the rest, what's wrong with higher wages for the poorest workers? From 1994 to 2004, the wages of high school dropouts rose only 2.3 percent (after inflation) compared with 11.9 percent for college graduates.
Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What's more perplexing is why liberals, staunch opponents of poverty and inequality, support a program that worsens poverty and inequality. We've never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that's shown to be ineffective, we shouldn't adopt guest worker programs that don't solve serious social problems -- but add to them.

March 22, 2006

Meat processing: an industry engineered to hire immigrants

In the past twenty years the meat processing industry has evolved into a more rural, immigrant-staffed and corporately organized industry. To get to full picture you need to appreciate the interweaving of a number of apparently disparate trends which, together, evolved into a huge immigrant hiring and employment machine: in a way, a completely privatized, but hardly improvised, guest worker program. The industry model was: larger, more efficient and non-union plants; recruitment of immigrant labor to rural sites; and deskilling of jobs in part to facilitate immigrant hiring.

As of 2003, about 43% of meat processing labor was Hispanic, up from 33% in 1998 and 15% in 1990. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 27% of this meat processing workforce is undocumented workers. This trend line suggests that half of the workforce today is Hispanic. Below we describe industry growth and ruralization; concentration, deskilling, and planning for immigrants.

Most of the following is taken from Migration News editions archived on the site of the Migration Information Service.

The key industry is Animal Slaughtering & Processing (NAICS 3116). According to the Monthly Labor Review, this industry sector had in 456,000 workers in 1994, 505,000 workers in 2004, and prospectively 570,000 workers in 2014. Starting in the 1980s, this labor began to concentrate more in rural areas, and to focus less on beef and more on pork and chicken, which doubled in consumption per capita. (Poultry processing has traditionally been in the rural south.)

The rural shift also included moving beef processing from metropolitan area plants in the 1980s. As of 2005, there is one small slaughterhouse left in Chicago in 2005, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal – staffed mainly by Hispanic workers. Closing and relocating jobs sparked many labor-management struggles; in the end union representation of the industry’s workforce declined from half to 20%. Real wages fell. And – noted below – skill requirements fell.

Evidence of concentration

Concentration. The US food processing and retailing sector is consolidating rapidly. Food processing was relatively unconcentrated until the 1980s, when fewer and larger firms became dominant in meat processing, often re-opening closed plants with subsidies from state and local governments and hiring non-union immigrant workers. Today 90% of meat and poultry is from plants that have 400 or more employees. Cattle slaughtering plants fell from 600 in 1980 to 170 in 2000, and for plants for hogs from 500 to 180 during the same period.

Consolidation in meat processing, the largest manufacturing sector in rural America, is extending to farmers. The first industry in which processors relied on "contract farmers" was broilers and, since the 1970s, almost 100 percent of chickens have been grown in a vertical integration process in which processors supply feed and chicks, while farmers own the buildings and supply labor to raise the chickens. Less than five percent of hogs were raised under contract in 1980, but over 80 percent were in 2000, which helped to reduce the number of US hog farms from over 500,000 to 85,000 in 20 years.


The following paragraph is excerpted from “Restructuring of the US meat processing industry and new Hispanic migrant destinations.”, Population and Development Review; 9/1/2005; Parrado, Emilio A. and Kandel, William.

At the same time, meat processing as an occupation has become almost entirely de-skilled. Conventional labor economics theory posits that greater technological innovation by firms would lead to increased skill requirements for their workers, but this has not been the case for the meat processing industry. A formerly urban, unionized, and semiskilled workforce employed in production plants, supermarkets, and butcher shops in the 1950s was transformed into one with rural, mostly nonunion, and unskilled workers concentrated at the industrial processing end of the meat production chain by the end of the 1980s Employment that previously required butchering skills and some degree of craftsmanship became routinized and repetitive, as once relatively small plants processing many types of livestock were replaced by much larger plants often specializing in specific livestock breeds.

A recent analysis of nine broad industrial sectors (e.g., other agricultural processing, nondurable manufacturing, mining) between 1972 and 1992 found that meat processing was the only industry that experienced a decline in its ratio of skilled to unskilled workers (Lee and Schluter 1999; Schluter and Lee 2002).

Planning for large immigrant workforces

Meat-packing has long attracted workers with relatively little education and sometimes little English, but wages had to be comparable to those in durables manufacturing when processors were in urban areas. Meat processing facilities in rural areas do not have to compete with other factories for workers. But they often have to recruit workers from out of the area. Many Midwestern meat processors offered cash bonuses to current workers and others who recruited workers who were hired and stayed on the job 60 or 90 days, setting in motion networks that brought US-born as well as Mexican-born Hispanic workers from south Texas and other areas with few high unemployment rates.

Non-white populations continue to penetrate more areas of the country

A March 2006 Brookings Institution study reports that between 2000 and 2004, “Hispanic and Asian populations are spreading out from their traditional metropolitan centers, while the shift of blacks toward the South is accelerating.”

It goes on to report that

Of the nation's 361 metropolitan areas, 111 registered declines in white population from 2000 to 2004, with the largest absolute losses occurring in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Declines were greatest in coastal metropolitan areas and economically stagnant parts of the country. More so than for minority groups, white population growth has dispersed towards smaller-sized areas.
Minorities contributed the majority of population gains in the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan areas and central metropolitan counties from 2000 to 2004. Minority groups remain the demographic lifeblood of inner counties in older metropolitan areas, but they are increasingly fueling growth in fast-growing outer suburban and "exurban" counties as well.
Hispanic, Asian, and black populations continue to migrate to, and expand their presence in, new destinations. They are increasingly living in suburbs, in rapidly growing job centers in the South and West, and in more affordable areas adjacent to higher-priced coastal metro areas. The wider dispersal of minority populations signifies the broadening relevance of policies aimed at more diverse, including immigrant, communities.

The study: Diversity Spreads Out: Metropolitan Shifts in Hispanic, Asian, and Black Populations Since 2000, by William H. Frey, March 2006

Further findings:

The Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas contained 23 percent of the nation's Hispanic population in 2004, down from 30 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, interior California areas such as Riverside and Stockton gained significant numbers of Hispanics and Asians. Fully 56 percent of the nation's blacks now reside in the South, a region that has garnered 72 percent of the increase in that group's population since 2000.
The fastest growing metro areas for each minority group in 2000–2004 are no longer unique, but closely parallel the fastest growing areas in the nation. National growth centers such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, Orlando, and Phoenix are now prominent centers of minority population growth as well. Still, Hispanics, Asians, and blacks remain more likely to reside in large metropolitan areas than the population as a whole.
A strong multi-minority presence characterizes 18 large "melting pot" metro areas, and 27 large metro areas now have "majority minority" child populations. Because the nation's child population is more racially diverse than its adult population, in nearly one-third of all large metro areas—including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Phoenix, and Atlanta—fewer than half of all people under age 15 are white.

March 21, 2006

Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform

In keeping track of published opinions about immigration reform, I will cite from a 3/21/06 David Broder column on Bill Gates’ efforts to increase temporary professional work visas, and from a 3/15/06 Wall Street Journal column by a conservative think tank about immigration reform. Bottom line messages: liberalize immigration. The only problem: no politician wants to be accused of somehow backing an amnesty program, and their panic about this means that all immigration liberalization is stalled.

Gates wants a lot more foreign programmers here. He says there is a tight employment market now for computer and mathematical operators (less than 3% unemployment rate), and wants to ceiling on temporary professional worker visas to go from 65,000 to 115,000. An H1B visa holder is a “specialty worker” admitted for a temporary term (including extension possibilities) on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience. In 2003, the ceiling went from 195,000 to 65,000.. I have previously posted a plea by the chairman of Intel to raise the H1B ceiling.

The Manhattan Institute fellow, Tamar Jacoby, in “Bitter Sweet Spot,” says we need to do something about “an underground economy the size of Ohio that makes an ass of the law and endangers our security.” However, Jacoby is clearly at a loss as to how Congress will pass legislation allowing most or all illegal immigrants to stay and not have that called amnesty.

That is a rock upon which no Republican wants to run his or her boat -- which is what happened in the past 48 hours to Senator Frist. Out of the blue he proposed a get tough bill without solving the long term status of illegal immigrants, and was slapped down by Senator Specter, intent on getting his own bill through. I posted already an analysis of the worker protections in the Specter bill.

Jacoby sharply critiques the Specter bill because while it provides as the McCain bill does for an adjustment from undocumented worker to form guest worker status, the Specter bill keeps the work permanently in guest status, not offering a citizenship path.

Follow her essentially liberal reasoning:

The result would be a permanent caste of second-class noncitizen workers, people we trusted to cook our food and tend our children and take care of our elderly relatives -- but not to call themselves Americans or participate in politics. They would live in permanent limbo, at risk of deportation if they lost their jobs, hesitant to bargain with employers and unlikely to make the all-important emotional leap that is essential for assimilation.
Sens. McCain and Kennedy make one of the best moral arguments: Illegal immigrants should be allowed to earn their way in out of the shadows, demonstrating by their behavior that they want to be part of mainstream America. That's why the McCain-Kennedy bill emphasizes work, taxes, English and waiting in line -- a way for immigrants to prove that they want to do the right thing.

March 18, 2006

Does immigration depress wages of native Americans?

Two prominent economists each with many years’ experience in immigration research come down on opposite sides of this question:

David Card of UC Berkeley thinks the adverse impact is scant. His most recent paper is titled,” Is the new immigration really so bad?”

George Borjas of Harvard thinks the adverse impact is large –the new eave of immigrants depresses wages by 3 to 4%. He stakes his position out in a paper presented through the Center for Immigration Studies.

I'll use a simple model below to highlight that which researchers have to grapple.

The domestic workforce is divided among many labor markets, and among many education and age cohorts. There will be a cohort, for example, for persons with less than a high school diploma and over 10 years work experience for Chicago; another for those without a high school diploma and up to 10 year’s work experience; and so on. Job growth varies over time and there is a fair amount of geographic mobility.

When worker supply increases relative to worker demand there is a tendency for wages to become relatively depressed. But that economist’s axiom needs to be shown at the local level with all these factors at play.

The economic research is focused on labor. I think it the matter is more clearly addressed if we think about jobs. There appears to be one job category which concerns all researchers: jobs which can be filled by workers with less than a high school diplomas Borjas notes that in the 2000 Census, immigrants made up half of all non-high school diploma workers with 10 to 20 years work experience: i.e. those poorly educated with little or no chance of upward mobility. Borjas estimates that for this education / age cohort, native American wages have declined by upwards of 7%.

Card is not so sure. He says the statistics show only a modest impact on wages. The less than high school diploma job market has been growing in absolute terms but have been shrinking in relative terms. Fewer young native American workers fit into this category – Americans have become better educated. Card believes that as immigrants flood into a local job market they are competing less with native Americans and more with themselves.

Borjas summarizes his findings thus:

• By increasing the supply of labor between 1980 and 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of native-born men by an estimated $1,700 or roughly 4 percent.

• Among natives without a high school education, who roughly correspond to the poorest tenth of the workforce, the estimated impact was even larger, reducing their wages by 7.4 percent.

• The 10 million native-born workers without a high school degree face the most competition from immigrants, as do the eight million younger natives with only a high school education and 12 million younger college graduates.

• The negative effect on native-born black and Hispanic workers is significantly larger than on whites because a much larger share of minorities are in direct competition with immigrants.

• The reduction in earnings occurs regardless of whether the immigrants are legal or illegal, permanent or temporary. It is the presence of additional workers that reduces wages, not their legal status.

Borjas draws his findings from analyzing in several decennial censuses the penetration of immigrant labor in education/work experience cohorts. The conclusion – that wages are depressed – is pretty much assured based on the theory he cites that more supply of a factor (such as labor) trends to depress the cost of that factor. He does not consider local labor market dynamics. Nor (like Card) does he devote much time to looking at changes in job composition.

Card approaches the problem very differently. He looks at prevailing wages by educational attainment in local economies (Dallas, New York, etc. as well as many smaller areas). He says, at that level, you simply can’t find a relationship between size of immigrant labor share and wage levels.

My own interpretation of this debate is that in some industries within some local markets it may well be easier to show that native Americans, especially those with low mobility, are being harmed by immigrant influx, but that these instances are fewer than may be imagined. Tightness in many blue-collar labor markets, American labor mobility, restructuring of jobs, and the underground economy overwhelm the economist’s axiom.

March 17, 2006

Stalemate for Immigration reform this year?

Per the 3/17/06 Christian Science Monitor (link not available),"Steven Camarota [research director for the Center for Immigration Studies] doubts that Congress will agree on an immigration bill this election year. He sees too great a divide between the views of "elites" and the "public" over the economic and social merit of a massive inflow of foreigners. A legislative stalemate would result in a continuation of what a study for the conservative Heritage Foundation calls "a policy of benign neglect."

The elites, including business leaders, would like an amnesty for the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States - though it wouldn't be called an amnesty but a "guest worker program," perhaps. They welcome cheap immigrant labor. Contrariwise, polls show the public is strongly opposed to letting undocumented immigrants (many with fake papers) obtain citizenship.
The Republican Party is divided on how to deal with the issue, making a resolution even less likely. Democrats are also divided, but they can just sit back and watch the fuss. Fear of terrorism has led to more calls for reform. Almost four of every 100 people in the country today sneaked across the borders or overextended their visa, according to numbers in a new Pew Hispanic Center report. Some 850,000 illegal immigrants have entered the country annually for each of the past six years. If so many illegals can get in, the theory goes, couldn't terrorists use the same routes and get in as well?
On Dec. 16, the House passed a tough border-security bill. It includes a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, the first-ever criminal penalties for illegals, and a requirement that businesses check the status of new hires on a federal electronic database. If enforced, the bill could stem the flow of new illegal immigrants. If Mexicans, Central Americans, and others can't get jobs in the US, they won't come. The Senate is still working on legislation. But proposals include a guest-worker program that would include what Mr. Camarota regards as amnesty in disguise for illegals living here now.
In rich nations, no program of guest or temporary workers has ever led to such workers going home after their time was up. To think they will is "just silly," Camarota says. In Germany, most Turkish "guest" workers have remained. The same is true of South Asians in Britain and North Africans in France. If a tough law is passed to limit illegals, any plan to send them home would not be enforced, Camarota predicts. Politically powerful business and religious groups would block such action. Making matters more difficult, illegals bear some 380,000 children a year. These babies become US citizens automatically.

Smuggling of Chinese workers into the United States

The handing down of a 35 year sentence on 3/16 in New York City brought a kind of closure to one of the most lurid worker smuggler schemes in recent American history: Chinese coming into the U.S. by boat, plane, or via Mexico, under the control of professional smugglers, or “snakeheads,” and Cheng Chui Ping – “Sister Ping” -- in particular.

As reported by the New York Times, “The Chinatown businesswoman who calls herself Sister Ping was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for running one of New York City's most lucrative immigrant smuggling rings and for financing the infamous voyage of the Golden Venture, the rusting freighter that ran aground off Queens in June 1993 with nearly 300 starving immigrants in its fetid hold. Ten of the immigrants died after they leaped into chilly waves off the Rockaways in a final effort to reach American soil.”

According to an article, “A hard road ahead: how the snakeheads rule”,

Driving the flow of illegal Chinese immigrants into the U.S. is the hope of fabulous economic gain. An undocumented Chinese can earn about $1,500 a month working at a restaurant in America. An immigrant who sends half that money home to China can catapult his or her family into the upper class in a country where the average income, according to several international reports, is between $250 and $300 a year. An INS intelligence report estimates that in 1999, between 12,000 and 24,000 illegal Chinese entered the United States, although academics and other experts say the number is much higher. Of these undocumented immigrants, more than 80 percent come from the Fujian province in southeastern China.
Alien smuggling from China began in the 1970s, according to the FBI’s Rose. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that masses of Fujianese began entering the country illegally. Throughout the 1980s, the Cantonese population in New York City’s Chinese communities ballooned, expanding from New York City’s Chinatown into Brooklyn and Queens. In the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, the U.S. government began to relax its immigration policies. One policy implemented during this time came as a result of the Chinese government’s 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square; President George Bush’s administration allowed all Chinese students in the United States at the time to become legal permanent residents. Encouraged, the Chinese began coming to the United States in greater numbers, increasing the influx of Chinese immigration from a trickle to a flow.

Returning to the New York Times article, “Ms. Cheng, 57, was convicted on June 23 after a monthlong trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan on three counts of immigrant smuggling, money-laundering and trafficking in kidnapping proceeds….. The tough sentence marked the end of a 12-year effort to catch and prosecute Ms. Cheng….. Martin D. Ficke, the special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for New York, said Ms. Cheng's was the biggest immigrant smuggling operation ever investigated in New York. He said the operation had been shut down.

“An assistant United States attorney, Leslie C. Brown, said at the beginning of the hearing that ….in a two-decade smuggling career, the prosecutor said, Ms. Cheng charged exorbitant rates for a sea trip in which passengers were given little food and sometimes only two sips of water a day. Once they arrived in the United States she hired gang members to ensure that they paid their debts to her, Ms. Brown said.”

Ko-lin Chin wrote "The Social Organization of Chinese Human Smuggling"
Excerpts from "Global Human Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives" (published by John Hopkins in 2001)

Ko-lin Chin is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Newark. He is the author of "Smuggled Chinese: Clandestine Immigration to the United States" (1999), "Chinatown Gangs" (1996), "Chinese Subculture and Criminality" (1990), and coeditor of "Handbook of Organized Crime in the United States" (1994).

The following comes from chapter 8 of his 2001 book:

A year after the United States had established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic, China liberalized its immigration regulations in order to qualify for most-favored-nation status with the United States Since 1979, tens of thousands of Chinese have legally immigrated to the United States and other countries. U.S. immigration quotas allow only a limited number of Chinese whose family members are U.S. citizens or who are highly educated to immigrate to or visit America. Beginning in the late 1980s, some of those who did not have legitimate channels to enable them to immigrate, especially the Fujianese, began turning to human smugglers for help.

Smuggled Chinese arrive in the United States by land, sea, or air routes. Some travel to Mexico or Canada and then cross U.S. borders illegally. Others fly into major American cities via any number of transit points and make their way to their final destination. Entering the United States by sea was an especially popular method between August 1991 and July 1993. During that time, thirty-two ships carrying as many as fifty-three hundred Chinese were found in waters near Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and the United States, though in the aftermath of the Golden Venture incident, the use of the sea route diminished significantly.

According to a senior immigration official who was interviewed in the early 1990s, "at any given time, thirty thousand Chinese are stashed away in safe houses around the world, waiting for entry.”.

Research Methods

This study employs multiple research strategies, including a survey of three hundred smuggled Chinese in New York City, interviews with key informants who are familiar with the lifestyle and social problems of illegal Chinese immigrants, a field study in the Chinese immigrant community of New York City, two research trips to sending communities in China, and a systematic collection of media reports.

According to my subjects, a smuggling organization includes many roles:

1. Big snakeheads, or arrangers/investors, often Chinese living outside China, generally invest money in a smuggling operation and oversee the entire operation but usually are not known by those being smuggled.

2. Little snakeheads, or recruiters, usually live in China and work as middlemen between big snakeheads and customers; they are mainly responsible for finding and screening customers and collecting down payments.

3. Transporters in China help immigrants traveling by land or sea make their way to the border or smuggling ship. Transporters based in the United States are responsible for taking smuggled immigrants from airports or seaports to safe houses.

4. Corrupt Chinese government officials accept bribes in return for Chinese passports. Law enforcement authorities in many transit countries are also paid to aid the illegal Chinese immigrants entering and exiting their countries.

5. Guides move illegal immigrants from one transit point to another and aid immigrants entering the United States by land or air. Crew members are employed by snakeheads to charter or work on smuggling ships.

6. Enforcers, themselves mostly illegal immigrants, are hired by big snakeheads to work on the smuggling ships. They are responsible for maintaining order and for distributing food and drinking water.

7. Support personnel are local people at the transit points who provide food and lodging to illegal immigrants.

8. U.S.-based debt collectors are responsible for locking up illegal immigrants in safe houses until their debt is paid and for collecting smuggling fees. There are also China-based debt collectors.

According to data collected in New York City and the Fuzhou area, a close working relationship links the leaders and others in the smuggling network, especially the snakeheads in the United States and China. More often than not, all those in the smuggling ring belong to a family or an extended family or are good friends.

When I visited Fuzhou, I interviewed a number of people who belonged to a ring that smuggled Chinese by air. A woman in charge of a government trade unit in Fuzhou City recruited customers and procured travel documents. She interacted only with government officials who helped her obtain travel documents; her assistant dealt with customers directly, recruiting, collecting down payments, signing contracts, and so forth. She recruited a partner, a childhood friend and member of the Public Security Bureau, who was responsible for securing travel documents for the ring's clients. A female relative in Singapore acted as a transit point snakehead. She traveled to countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia to set up transit points in those countries.

The primary leader and investor in the ring, based in New York, was responsible for subcontracting with members of a Queens-based gang to keep immigrants in safe houses and collect their fees after arrival in the United States. If the fee was to be paid in China, the female snakehead's assistant in China would collect it. It was not clear to me how profits were distributed among members of the smuggling ring or how money was actually transferred from one place to another.

There is no shortage of evidence that government officials, both within China and at various transit points, help to facilitate the clandestine movement of people abroad.

March 16, 2006

Wall Street Journal article on employer use of illegal immigrants

The article explores at length employer resistance to burdensome documentation requirements. Bottom line: employers need workers and don’t care if they are undocumented workers. The “Basic Pilot” system set up by the federal government in the 1990s to improve verification has huge holes in it – which employers in effect favor.

The article published today (3/16/06) says that “But that can work to an employer's advantage. As the number of Americans in low-skilled jobs shrinks, employers depend on illegal immigrants for an estimated 400,000 low-wage jobs in need of filling each year. Illegal immigrants keep costs low and the economy humming, so employers have shown little enthusiasm for enforcing immigration laws in the past.”

Business Groups Fault U.S. Plan To Identify Illegal Workers, by June Kronholz

When Tyson Foods Inc. hires a new worker, it electronically sends his or her name, Social Security number and citizenship status to a fledgling worker-verification system run by the Department of Homeland Security. The prosaically named Basic Pilot system checks the worker's information against government databases, and either confirms that the new hire is eligible to work in the U.S. -- or cautions that something's amiss.

Congress is so optimistic that Basic Pilot will stanch the flood of job-seeking illegal immigrants to the U.S. that it plans to require all employers to use it as part of the immigration-overhaul legislation it's now considering. Basic Pilot "works fairly well, as far as it goes," agrees Tyson spokesman Archie Schaffer.

But as far as it goes isn't yet very far. Basic Pilot can't detect whether a worker is using a stolen identity, for example. Only a handful of employers have volunteered to use it, and Homeland Security concedes that its technology isn't up to the job. All that explains why Basic Pilot is likely to set off a politically bruising battle when the issue reaches the Senate floor, and why employers could face grueling new regulation if it passes.
[On the Job]

Congress ordered up the Basic Pilot system a decade ago to see if it could plug the loopholes that now make it fairly easy for illegal immigrants to hold jobs in the U.S., and fairly risk-free for employers to hire them. Those loopholes were written into a 1986 immigration-overhaul law that for the first time required employers to verify both the identity and work eligibility of their new hires. To do that, Congress gave employers a menu of documents that workers can show them -- passports, Social Security cards, even school report cards.

But Congress didn't sanction employers for accepting fake documents or give them any help at spotting counterfeits. "All an employer has to do is ask for these documents; he doesn't have to verify they're accurate," says Deborah Meyers of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank.

The result has been a boon to illegal immigrants, who can buy counterfeit papers. "The documents have become so good it's difficult to distinguish between real and fake," says Tyson's Mr. Schaffer.

But that can work to an employer's advantage. As the number of Americans in low-skilled jobs shrinks, employers depend on illegal immigrants for an estimated 400,000 low-wage jobs in need of filling each year. Illegal immigrants keep costs low and the economy humming, so employers have shown little enthusiasm for enforcing immigration laws in the past.

The Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington think tank, estimates there now are 7.2 million illegal immigrants in the work force, including one in seven workers in construction. The odds of getting caught are slim, which reinforces the illegality. Most of the government's budget for immigration enforcement is spent on the border and deporting illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In 2004, Homeland Security began legal proceedings against only three employers.

Basic Pilot was designed to make it harder to employ an illegal worker by making it easier to verify his documents. The system compares a new hire's information against the Social Security Administration's database to confirm that the worker is authorized to work in the U.S.

If a worker's name and Social Security number don't match -- a giveaway that the number is fake -- the worker's information is reported to Homeland Security where it is compared against immigration databases to see whether the worker is legally in the country. If the comparison shows what the government calls a "nonconfirmation," the employer must fire the worker.
[Who's Working]

Basic Pilot began in 1997 by enlisting employers in a few high-immigrant states and industries but has since been expanded nationwide. Data that once were telephoned in now are sent via the Internet. Still, only 5,479 of the country's 8.5 million employers have signed on. Basic Pilot has just five employees, and its technology remains so elementary that some databases must be checked by hand.

"It has its imperfections," concedes Emilio Gonzalez, director of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Service, who will be charged with implementing any worker-verification plan that Congress passes.

But perhaps Basic Pilot's biggest flaw is that while it can detect a fake document by cross-checking databases, it can't detect a stolen identity -- when a new hire submits the name, address and Social Security number of a U.S. citizen or legal resident, for example. In 2004, only 208 of the 757,000 names submitted to Basic Pilot were what the government calls "employment unauthorized" -- a strong hint that at least some workers had found their way to beat the system.

Moves in Congress to mandate use of Basic Pilot by all employers are sure to provoke heated debate. Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, insist they support a verification program. But they complain about the unreliability of the government databases, as well as the cost and paperwork burden of checking out their employees through an expanded Basic Pilot system. The Government Accountability Office found that employers who now use Basic Pilot typically spent only $777 each on equipment and training.

A rough-draft Senate bill would require that an expanded Basic Pilot system screen all new hires and that the verification requirement be phased in, starting with the biggest employers. But a companion plan that was passed by the House of Representatives last year and that would have to be reconciled with the Senate, sends real shudders through the business community. It requires that employers -- even families with household help, in some cases -- screen all 150 million U.S. workers within six years, including those who have been on the payroll for decades.

Catching employers who fail to use Basic Pilot would be problematic -- Homeland Security would likely conduct random audits, says a House staffer who worked on the bill. But fines would be stiff, topping out at $40,000 for each employee who isn't verified.

The most contentious fight in Congress, though, may come over what documents a worker should produce. The Senate bill insists that worker verification won't result in a national identity card, a red-flag issue for privacy advocates on both the political left and right.

Instead, it says, a worker-verification system would "build on" a 2005 law that requires states to issue driver's licenses that include a photo, fingerprint, iris scan or other biometric identifier. But that law -- aimed at foiling identity theft -- already has civil-liberties and libertarian groups up in arms.

Because there is no secure ID in general use now, they say, any card that could be used both for identity and worker verification would morph into a national identity document. "This will become a de facto [national] card," says Tom Sparapani, a privacy-rights lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Trying to foil illegal immigrations by making the Social Security card tamper-proof has problems too. The Social Security Administration estimated a few years ago that reissuing all 227 million account holders a secure card would cost up to $9.2 billion and, depending on the technology, take 73,000 work-years.

Write to June Kronholz at june.kronholz@wsj.com

Why Hispanic workers have higher work fatality rates

According to federal statistics, “The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers was sharply higher in 2004 after declining for the two previous years.” That came from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. BLS researcher Scott Richardson wrote an article showing that the fatality rate for Hispanic construction workers was higher than for non-Hispanic workers, even after adjusting for age, education and work experience.

I have posted below a short article I wrote on this topic in April 2005 for Risk & Insurance Magazine. I cite ten factors behind this higher fatality rate. Some of these factors likely apply in other occupations. Richardson and David Lighthall of the Relational Culture Institute in Fresno helped me in writing this article.

10 Threads of Huerta's Shroud

Why are Hispanic workers dying on the job at a rate much higher than other workers? On average, every calendar day marks another Hispanic work-related death that confirms this pattern. There are, it turns out, a crowd of culprits.

In 2002, an 18-year-old construction worker, Carlos Huerta, was building low income housing in North Carolina, when he fell to his death from a platform atop the raised prongs of a forklift. The circumstances of Huerta's death reveal what is killing these workers at a higher rate.

One, there are more and more Hispanic workers here. Who are these men? A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reported that most Hispanic construction workers were born outside the United States; one-third have been here for less than three years, and one-third speak Spanish only. They are 10 times more likely to have left school before the 9th grade. Two, Hispanic workers have been switching from agricultural to construction work for higher pay and to avoid having to travel to the harvests. Some bring to construction an independent mindset. That might work when it comes to working on the farm. But it's not so desirable when it comes to construction.

Three, Hispanic construction workers are younger, hence less work-experienced. The disparity in construction death rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics is at its highest in these green years-about double. The disparity declines with age but never disappears.

Four, many of these workers are undocumented. They are concerned about being deported. On top of their lack of experience is their hesitancy about demanding their safety rights.

Five, Carlos Huerta fell to his death. While falls are the most common immediate cause of death for Hispanic and non-Hispanic construction workers, death among Hispanics is noticeably more concentrated in falls. That means you need to modify the safety focus.

Six, many construction firms are small, and Hispanics appear to be over-represented in the workforces of small companies. Small employer size correlates with higher fatality rate. This has been reported even in Denmark, where safety standards are tidily enforced.

Seven, Hispanics appear to be hired more readily by employers under stress, with poor safety systems. David Lighthall, who works in California's San Joaquin Valley, follows Hispanic workforces.

"Contractors are subcontracting different jobs such as drywalling to labor contractors who have become pretty much dependent on immigrant workers, many of which are undocumented residents of Mexico," says Lighthall. "These labor contractors have a strong incentive to get their workers to complete the job as quickly as possible. This shift, driven by a high degree of access to immigrant workers willing to work their tails off, has the net effect of placing more stress on employers as well."

Eight, many of these workers are hired curbside. It is safe to say this is unsafe.

Nine, primary contractors cannot be expected to discipline subcontractors regarding safety if there are no shared insurance arrangements.

And 10, it might be a stretch to expect that safety inspectors can devote sufficient resources to induce better safety practices among these small, stressed firms. (Carlos Huerta's employer was fined.)

How do we stop the brothers of Carlos Huerta from dying? We'd better think of something, and quick. In 2010 we will have the second largest Hispanic population in the world.

March 14, 2006

Study of Hispanic North Carolina Poultry Workers

A September 2005 press release by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center reports that North Carolina poultry workers show a higher than reported rate of work injuries, suggesting a need for uniform enforcement of safety regulations. This study goes along with a study of Oakland garment workers and a study of Las Vegas hotel workers (to be profiled) in describing the working conditions of specific immigrant groups within a specific labor market. All of these studies suffer from a limited understanding of the dynamics of workers compensation. The lead author declined to discusss the methodology problems with this study. Yet it remains a good introduction to immigrant workers in the poultry industry.


The survey was conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in collaboration with Centro Latino of Caldwell County, Inc. The survey was based on a representative sample of Latino workers in six counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin.

Poultry processing is the largest and fastest growing sector of the meat products industry, according to the authors. In 2002, North Carolina and four other states accounted for 70 percent of all broiler production in the United States. Many of the workers are immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, according to the authors.

Face-to-face interviews with 200 poultry workers found that 119 workers (60 percent) reported having one or more of these occupational injuries or illnesses in the past month: respiratory, skin, leg/foot, neck/back or arm/hand. Musculoskeletal problems were the most commonly reported work-related injuries. Thirty-six percent of workers surveyed had neck or back pain, and one in three of those workers missed work in the past 12 months because of the pain.

The injuries and illnesses varied by company, but on average exceeded rates that plants reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2003, a reported 8.1 of every 100 full-time poultry workers nationwide were injured or made ill. North Carolina reported a 9.4 percent injury and illness rate.

“The reported rates of illness and injuries in the poultry industry are likely to be the tip of the iceberg,” write the authors. “Workers often see the hazards as just part of the job, or they move on to other jobs as they begin to develop symptoms.”

The researchers also found that the prevalence of injuries and illnesses varied among companies. For example, 70 percent of workers at one company said they had an illness or injury during the previous year, compared to less than 30 percent at a second company and less than 10 percent at a third company.

The survey collected data on occupational and psychological health, safety training and the safety climate inside the plants. It was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In addition to Quandt, researchers were Joseph Grzywacz, Ph.D., Michael Coates, M.D., M.S., Antonio Marin, M.A., and Thomas Arcury, Ph.D., all with Wake Forest Baptist; and Bless Burke, M.A., and Lourdes Carrillo, B.S., with Centro Latino.

March 13, 2006

The “Real ID” program to catch illegal immigrants: Stalled? Dead?

This program, hatched by Congress last Spring to impose immigrant IDs through the states’ driving license systems, seems to be going nowhere, a reflection of the lack of serious thought put into the idea at the outset. I am presenting here a summary of the bill and excerpts of an information technology magazine article from 2005.

Homeland Security Watch has been monitoring progress and as of late January 2006 found the program to be in a near-complete mess, with wildly ranging estimates of costs and an array of opponents. Consider this: to make Real ID work, you need to get the Registry of Motor Vehicle Departments to not only get their individual IT systems up to snuff, but then to coordinate with a single national IT standard.

Now for a summary of the bill and an early analysis of the IT challenges....

Title: To establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence. Sponsor: Rep Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [WI-5] (introduced 1/26/2005)

Title II: Improved Security for Driver's Licenses and Personal Identification Cards - (Sec. 202) Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting State issued driver's licenses or identification cards unless such documents are determined by the Secretary to meet minimum security requirements, including the incorporation of specified data, a common machine-readable technology, and certain anti-fraud security features.

Sets forth minimum issuance standards for such documents that require: (1) verification of presented information; (2) evidence that the applicant is lawfully present in the United States; and (3) issuance of temporary driver's licenses or identification cards to persons temporarily present that are valid only for their period of authorized stay (or for one year where the period of stay is indefinite).

(Sec. 203) Requires States, as a condition of receiving grant funds or other financial assistance under this title, to participate in the interstate compact regarding the sharing of driver's license data (the Driver License Agreement).

(Sec. 204) Amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit trafficking in actual as well as false authentication features for use in false identification documents, document-making implements, or means of identification. Requires the Secretary to enter into the appropriate aviation security screening database information regarding persons convicted of using false driver's licenses at airports.

(Sec. 205) Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to assist States in conforming to the minimum standards set forth in this title.

(Sec. 206) Gives the Secretary all authority to issue regulations, set standards, and issue grants under this title. Gives the Secretary of Transportation all authority to certify compliance with such standards. Authorizes the Secretary to grant States an extension of time to meet the minimum document requirements and issuance standards of this title, with adequate justification.

(Sec. 207) Repeals overlapping document provisions of the IRTPA.

(Sec. 208) States that nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the authorities and responsibilities of the Secretary of Transportation or the States under existing laws governing the establishment of a National Driver Register.

'Real ID' Faces Reality: The federal government wants driver's licenses that are more trustworthy and
tech-enabled. State IT leaders will have to figure out how to make that happen.

By Eric Chabrow and Larry Greenemeier , InformationWeek
May 16, 2005

n May 2005 Congress attached to a military spending bill a provision to set up a national identification card: “Real ID.” Congress’s main interest was in controlling the movement of immigrants by, in effect, controlling their access to driver’s licenses though the full reach of the program may be more comprehensive.
The key provisions of the bill are that states by 2008 will need to verify data with the feds and other states before issuing driver's licenses, and the cards must include certain minimum data and be "machine readable." The act is billed as voluntary for states and therefore isn't creating a true national ID. But licenses from noncompliant states won't be acceptable ID to get on an airplane or for any other federally regulated use.

Coordination of databases:

The most-difficult challenge created by the act will be sharing birth-certificate information, Social Security numbers, and other data found on a driver's license across multiple agencies in the 50 states, territories, tribal jurisdictions, and the federal government. It isn't necessarily cutting-edge IT, says Richard Hunter, a Gartner VP and research director. States will need to restructure existing databases, which is more time-consuming and costly than innovative. What's difficult will be determining rules for access, management, and security for these state records if they're all connected.


There's already some cross-state data sharing. Thirty-nine states use EDI to access a Social Security database to verify a driver's name and Social Security number, which this bill requires. Other verifications will be tougher, since most states don't have birth certificates and other vital records stored digitally. "It's one thing to present a document; it's another thing to accept the document as valid," says Terry Dillinger, Iowa's Driver Services' director."Most of the documents we can accept at this point for the authentication process are difficult to verify. There's not a system online to go to in which all states' vital records can be checked."

Iowa’s approach to “machine readable” driving license.

Iowa's driver's licenses have three pieces of machine-readable technologies: a magnetic strip and a two-dimensional bar code contain the data printed on the face of the card, and a linear bar code contains the cardholder's driver's license number. Dillinger expects those will meet the new requirements.

Sen. Specter Guest Worker bill to expand foreign worker programs for professionals

Per Schusterman's Immigration Update, these are (1) Employment-Based (EB) Immigration -- the “green card” permanent immigration program. A current cap of 140,000 would be raised to 290,000 per year. The other (2) is the H-1B non-immigration program. The cap is now 65,000. It would be to 115,000 annually. Thereafter, the cap would be controlled by a "market based escalator mechanism". However: persons with advanced degrees in math, science, technology and engineering would be exempt from the cap.

EB in depth: See for a for in-depth treatment by Stephen Yale-Loehr and Michael J. Bayer. An excerpt:

The U.S. immigration system has five employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories that allow up to 140,000 people a year obtain permanent residence (also known as “green cards”) in the United States through their work or skills. These categories are set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which codifies most but not all U.S. immigration laws. This article summarizes the five employment-based categories.
The INA gives first preference to “priority workers,” including noncitizen workers of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives. Second preference goes to professionals with advanced degrees and workers with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The third employment-based category includes professionals without advanced degrees, skilled workers, and unskilled workers. The fourth EB category provides visas for certain “special immigrants,” such as religious workers. Finally, the fifth EB category reserves a certain number of visas for immigrant investors seeking to enter the United States to start a commercial enterprise that will create or save at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.

The H1B program is overviewed here.

The United States H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows a US company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years. Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a 'Green Card. Individuals cannot apply for an H1B visa to allow them to work in the US. The employer must petition for entry of the employee. H1B visas are subject to annual numerical limits.
The H1B visa is designed to be used for staff in "specialty occupations", that is those occupations which require a high degree of specialized knowledge. Generally at least the equivalent of a job-relevant 4-year US Bachelor's degree is required (this requirement can usually be met by having a 3-year degree and 3 years' relevant post-graduate experience). However, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and others must be licensed to practice in the state of intended employment – e.g. a lawyer must generally have passed the relevant state bar exam.
H-1B workers are supposed to be paid a prevailing wage, based on state, federal or private-survey employment data. Most companies use federal or state salary data, according to immigration attorneys, who said the current system doesn't give employers much flexibility, often forcing them to pay a wage that is higher than an employee's skills and training warrant.

March 11, 2006

The working immigrant and social mobility in America

Let us look at the analyses of job growth in the past ten years and projected into the 2010 and ponder how job trends are reinforcing barriers to upward mobility.

They show an hourglass shape: strong, in some instances spectacular growth of knowledge economy jobs, shrinkage of routine jobs (such as office workers) and steady growth of many manual jobs. I have noted the influx of relatively small numbers of highly educated foreigners into the American workforce, for instance physicians.

David Autor of MIT in examining these trends says the American workforce is being polarized. (I have noted Autor’s findings here.)

The more we delve into this trend, the more we see structural changes that inhibit upward migration of low income workers. That does not mean we are doomed to a good jobs/lousy jobs future. It does mean, however, that government policy must be harnessed to lessen these rigidities.

The polarization challenge is at its most acute within the huge undocumented workforce of America. Handcuffs, not a handshake or even a handout, are looming into the futures of these workers.

We are losing through off-shoring net about 300,000 routine office types of jobs a year. We are adding net about 300,000 undocumented workers a year. Today undocumented workers are about (per the Pew Hispanic Center, with some adjustments) about 7.5 million undocumented workers -- illegal immigrants -- a year. they make up a quarter of the workforce in some job, particular high risk, such as roofers. One half (!) of new immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented workers. (I have presented Pew data here and here.)

It is important to realize that these manual jobs are increasing, and will continue to increase. Would anyone disagree with the proposition that an undocumented worker enjoys significantly less upward mobility than does a legal American working alongside him or her, or a legal immigrant?

March 8, 2006

Immigration of medical doctors to the U.S.

Some 22% of MDs in practice in the United States in 2004 were non-Americans trained in foreign medical schools, according to an article published October, 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The total number of doctors in practice was 836,000. Of these 183,000 were non-Americans trained abroad. Six countries supplied 49% of these 183,000 (in descending order): India, Philippines, Pakistan, Canada, China, and the foreign Soviet Union. In 2004 40,888 India trained doctors were in practice in the United States. That made up 5% of all practicing MDs and 22% of all non-American foreign trained doctors.

It is not known how many American trained doctors work abroad, however the number is likely insignificant. The total number of American trained doctors working in Canada, the UK, and Australia in 2004 equaled only 671 (while 13,571 non-American doctors trained in those countries were working in the U.S.)

Americans trained abroad and working in the U.S. in 2004 were 23,380, or 3% of the entire body of doctors in practice.

These summary ratios are also roughly the same for the practicing MD populations in Canada, UK, and Australia.

The brain drain from developing countries to the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia from some developing countries was quite high. For example, 41% of Jamaica trained doctors (excluding Americans) worked in one of these four developed countries. The brain drain percentages for other countries included Haiti (35%,), the Philippines (18%), and India (11%.)

Summarizing on India: about one out of every ten India trained doctors were practicing in one of these four developed countries, and in the U.S. they made up 5% of all doctors.

Fitzhugh Mullan MD of George Washington University authored the article.

March 7, 2006

Types of work done by illegal immigrants and other data from the Pew Hispanic Center

The Center released today a report which updates its findings from 2005. I have listed below some of the more interesting findings:

1. The total undocumented population now is 11.5 – 12 million. The population continues to grow at 500,000 per year. There are in total about 37 million immigrants in the United States.

2. The number of undocumented workers as of 3/05 was 7.2 million. (I extrapolate that to a March 2006 estimate of 7.6 million ) This is equal to about 5% of the American workforce.

3. Some 55-60% of these undocumented workers are in formal employment and are paying social security taxes, which go into a Social Security suspense file when the Soc Sec # is unverifiable.

4. About 3 million of the 7.2 million workers are in occupations in which undocumented workers account for at least 15% of total employment in that occupation. These include construction labor (25%), cooks (20%). Maids and housecleaners (22%), and grounds maintenance (25%). among roofers, 29% of the total workforce is estimated to be undocumented workers.

5. One half of undocumented working men here are single. But a phenomenal 94% of undocumented men work compared to 83% for native Americans. Undocumented women participate much less than native women in the workforce (54% vs. 72%) This explains th image of a very large single male workforce as the tpyical undocumented immigrant.

March 6, 2006

More than 70% of Congress supports a guest worker program

According to The Washington Times, 3/4/06, “The National Journal Insiders Poll, a survey of members of Congress, found both parties are ready to accept a plan that would allow more foreigners to legally come to work in the United States. Support was 73% among Republicans and 77% among Democrats."

In July the Insiders Poll found that immigration and border security topped the list of issues 'most on the minds of your constituents these days' for Republicans in Congress. In that poll, 17 of 37 Republicans put immigration tops, far above the No. 2 issue of the economy. For Democrats, though, immigration was at the top of the list for just two of the 35 members who responded.

Study: Fatal occupational injuries among Asian workers

There is a one in four chance that a victim of grocery store robbery-related murder will be Asian, and a foreign born Asian at that.

In her report on Asian worker fatalities in the October 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review, Jessica Sincavage notes that between 1999 and 2003, 775 workers of Asian descent suffered fatal work fatalities, which equals 3 percent of all work fataltites in the given time frame. More than half of Asian worker fatalities were the result of an assault or violent act, far higher than for all fatalities (10%).

Who are the Asians who die at work? Indians, 23%; Koreans, 18%; and Vietnamese, 14%, are the three largest nationalities.

she writes:

"During the 5-year period between 1999 and 2003,775 people of Asian descent suffered a fatal work injury; this is equal to 3 percent of all fatal work injuries during this period; more than half of the fatalities resulted from an assault or violent act
According to Census 2000, Asian-Americans accounted for 3.6 percent of the U.S. population; this percentage is likely to rise as more Asians continue to immigrate. In 2000, 76 percent of the foreign-born Asian population had immigrated to the United States in the past two decades. Part of this increase was because of the growth of the foreign-born Asian population from 1990 to 2000. In 2000, 43 percent of the foreign-born Asian population had just immigrated into the United States within the past 10 years.
As the Asian-American population continues to grow, so does the need to understand the distinct societal and economic issues this group faces, especially in the workplace. Worker safety is one area that can be studied. Understanding the dangers that threaten their safety in the workplace and how the Asian labor force experience differs from other workers is an important beginning."

March 5, 2006

Employer obligations in Sen. Specter's guest worker bill

Thanks to Tony Herrera for giving us the URL of Sen. Specter's bill, which as posted is unnamed and unnumbered. The meat of employer obligations is in Title IV, Section 403, "Employer obligations", starting on page 204. Without having carefully compared the language with that of Sen. McCain's bill, I surmise that the employer's obligations and penalties in some respects seem either identical or similar. For instance 204 (b)(3) states that "All workers in this H2C category will be provided the working conditions and benefits that are normal to workers similarly employed in the area of intended employment." The employer must provide workers comp insurance, regardless of what is normally done.

Sen. Sepecter's bill does not have the foreign labor contractor provisions of Sen. McCain's S.1033. Instead, the employer appears free to hire directly or through contractors, but bears per Title III all the legal liability of employer failures to comply. The bill expects to roll out the program throughout the entire economy starting with employers with workforces of at least 5,000. I cannot yet find a prohibition of independent contractor status, which is a remarkable feature of the McCain bill as I pointed out in an earlier posting.

March 4, 2006

Farm workers labor contractor fraud

Four California agriculture contractors accused of labor violations is the title of the article which ran on 1/14/06 in the Fresno Bee. The article summarizes a common theme of employer fraud practiced in the California agricultural counties by labor contractors. These are employers who bring workers to the farm. The farm owners do not know the terms of employment between the contractor and the workers – pay, compliance with state labor laws, etc.

According to the Bee:

The alleged misconduct resulted in an underpayment of about $900,000 in premiums to the State Compensation Insurance Fund and cheated the state out of about $676,000 in payroll taxes, according to a state Department of Insurance statement made public Friday.
The companies are suspected of misrepresenting total payroll, the number of employees and the type of work performed by employees, according to the Insurance Department..
The companies supply workers to farms in Fresno, Madera, Kern, Tulare and San Luis Obispo counties.
More than 100 workers' compensation fraud cases have been investigated in the San Joaquin Valley in the past three years, a marked increase from previous years, said Mark Voss, chief investigator of the Fresno Fraud Division Office of the Insurance Department.

Data on immigrants (2000 - 2005)

The Center for Immigration Studies has summarized the findings of the March 2005 issue of the Current Population Survey (CPS). I include a few of the highlights below, from its December 2005 study, Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005

The 35.2 million immigrants (legal and illegal) living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded -- two and a half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910.

Between January 2000 and March 2005, 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country, making it the highest five-year period of immigration in American history.

Nearly half of post-2000 arrivals (3.7 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens.

Immigrants account for 12.1 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in eight decades. If current trends continue, within a decade it will surpass the high of 14.7 percent reached in 1910.

Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, three-and-a-half times the rate for natives. Since 1990, immigration has increased the number of such workers by 25 percent, while increasing the supply of all other workers by 6 percent.

March 3, 2006

Sen. Specter bill on illegal immigrants: some key provisions

I have not located an actual copy of the 300 page –plus bill so I am quoting from a New York Times article. His bill treats workers here before 1/4/04 (my estimate: 6.7 million) more generously than those who have since come (my estimate: 600,000), and all future applicants.

Senator Introduces Bill Creating Guest Worker Program, by Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times, February 25, 2006.


The proposal would require employers to attest that they had tried to recruit American workers before bringing in additional foreigners from abroad and to pay prevailing wages. The plan would not place a restriction on the number of foreigners who could take part in the guest worker program. Those workers would not have the right to become permanent residents or citizens.
Under Mr. Specter's proposal, the guest worker program would be open only to foreigners living outside the United States. Applicants would be sponsored by employers - though they would be allowed to switch employers during their time here - and would undergo background checks and medical screening. If approved, applicants would be allowed to bring their spouses and children to the United States.
Work permits would be granted for three years, after which the worker would have to return to his country for a year and apply again. The guest worker could then be authorized for a second and final work permit for three years.
Illegal immigrants already here
The draft would also authorize millions of illegal immigrants who arrived in this country before Jan. 4, 2004 to remain here indefinitely, along with their spouses and children, as long as they registered with the Department of Homeland Security, paid back taxes and remained law-abiding and employed, among other conditions.
Illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States after Jan. 4, 2004 could also participate in the guest worker program, but only if they returned home and applied from their countries. Those illegal workers who arrived in this country before Jan. 4, 2004 could stay in this country indefinitely, provided that they underwent background checks and did not remain unemployed for 45 days or more.

The undocumented worker debate in Washington this week

The Center for Immigration Studies has brought together several newspaper articles about the current status of immigration reform in Washington. The debate is 99% focused on undocumented workers, and involves internal divisions among Republicans. Some want a get tough program alone; others like Specter and Frist want to ensure a continued supply of labor.

Specter trying to forge a consensus

Congress to Debate Illegal Immigration” by Suzanne Gamboa of the AP, 3/2/06 as printed in the Washington Post writes that “Pressure to move forward intensified this week as governors meeting in Washington said they consider immigration one of their major concerns and made them an agenda item in their private meetings with Bush and his Cabinet.

The House managed to pass a border security bill last year - pleasing conservatives clamoring for an immigration crackdown. But that came only after House leaders beat back an attempt by some GOP members to include President Bush's proposal for a temporary worker program.

In contrast, the Senate is wading right into the thorny guest worker issue. Debate was starting Thursday with the Senate Judiciary Committee taking up an immigration reform bill drafted by the committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Specter told fellow senators in advance that the bill is 'a framework for building a consensus.' Specter's plan would allow immigrants who entered this country before Jan. 4, 2004 and who have jobs to participate for up to six years in the temporary worker program.

[My guess is that since then there has been a net increase of 600,000 in the number of undocumented workers – PFR]

The bill and another proposed by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would force workers to return to their countries of origin if they want to become permanent legal U.S. residents.

Summary of rival bills

The Cornyn-Kyl legislation goes further than Specter's and mandates that illegal immigrants leave the country within five years. Sen. John McCain's bill, co-authored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would penalize employers who hire illegal workers but allows immigrants participating in the temporary worker program to work toward eligibility for legal permanent residence.

Presidential politics is an undercurrent in the debate. Majority Leader Bill Frist, McCain and Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who has pushed immigration legislation to provide a steady supply of workers for the agriculture industry, are considered potential 2008 presidential candidates. Frist told several key senators early last month that he planned to take up immigration on the Senate floor March 27, leaving open the possibility that he might offer his own immigration bill if the Judiciary Committee did not yet have a consensus bill.

How it plays in Georgia

Solutions elusive, divisive for illegal immigration” by Bob Kemper of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/2/06 talks about Georgia and the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.

Some Georgia congressmen represent suburban counties that have seen the Hispanic populations --- including a large contingent of illegal immigrants --- surge 200 to 300 percent since 1990. They say they are regularly inundated with complaints about the pressures illegal immigrants are placing on local schools, jails, hospital emergency rooms and public services. 'That issue over the three or four years has seemed to have moved higher and higher up the ladder. It's hugely important,' said Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Marietta Republican elected in 2002.

The House, with the unanimous support of Georgia's Republican delegation as well as Democrats Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah, passed a bill in December focused on increasing border security, including building walls along the border and requiring employers to verify the residency status of all employees.

Rep. Charlie Norwood, a Republican from suburban Augusta, is calling for 36,000 to 48,000 U.S. troops or National Guard members to be dispatched immediately to secure the border. Bush's immigration plans and many of the reform plans being weighed in Congress would take up to four years to fully implement, allowing 1 million illegal immigrants a year to enter the United States, he said.

'We are by default agreeing to allow an additional 4 million illegal aliens into our country, the equivalent of the entire population of South Carolina,' Norwood said. 'Think about that. We're being asked to add a 51st state, populated entirely by low-income illegal aliens.'

Rep. Nathan Deal, a Republican from Gainesville, tried unsuccessfully to include in the House bill a provision that would prevent U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants from automatically becoming U.S. citizens.

Congresssional Immigration Reform Caucus

The growth of the issue can be seen in the makeup of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, an informal study group in the House that is calling for tighter immigration controls. Of Georgia's seven House Republicans, all are members except John Linder of Duluth, who could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The caucus, led by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), one of Congress' most vocal critics of the immigration system, has grown from 15 members, mostly from border states, to 91, most hailing from the suburbs of Atlanta, Greensboro, N.C., Charlotte and other cities --- even Indianapolis and Cincinnati --- that a generation ago had few foreign-born residents.

Deborah Meyers of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington said that the dispersion of illegal immigrants to areas unused to dealing with them is driving up voter anxiety that gives Congress a potent incentive to act. 'There's a perception -- a legitimate perception -- that the system is out of control,' she said. 'And it is out of control.'

Immigration bills splitting Republicans

Bipartisan Call for Guest Worker Program at Odds With Push to Secure Borders"
By Jonathan Weisman” in the Washington Post, March 2, 2006; Pg. A09

Many Republicans, especially those from the West, have said passage of legislation to enforce border security is vital to their reelection, and do not want this merged with other measures that would open up work options for immigrants.

On the other side, supporters yesterday talked up efforts to open new opportunities for migrant workers. 'I smell victory in the air,' thundered Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), at a rally of immigrant hotel workers in Union Station.

Privately, however, voices on both sides concede they would rather see legislation die in Congress than accept the compromises that may be necessary to win passage. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) wants a bill to the Senate floor by March 27, but aides say the Senate Judiciary Committee could take three weeks just to draft one.

'This is going to be very, very difficult,' said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who supports a guest worker program and says immigration is one of the top two or three topics roiling the country. 'You've got a lot of emotions on both sides.'

'The gap is huge,' agreed Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who has been leading the charge for a bill that deals only with border security. 'I don't think you can square this circle.'

Spector's new H2 visa

Beginning today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will try, when his committee begins drafting the Senate's answer to a tough border security bill that passed the House in December with no guest worker plan. The draft would authorize the hiring of new border agents, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other new technologies on the border, expand the definition of 'alien smuggling' to combat those who shelter illegal immigrants, and toughen penalties on smugglers and illegal immigrants who repeatedly cross the border.

But the controversy will lie with his new H-2C visa, which could be offered to hotel workers, cleaners, restaurant workers, meat processors and other 'essential occupations' by employers who say they could not fill the posts with a U.S. worker. The visa would be good for six years, after which workers would have to return to their home countries for at least a year. The visa would offer no special path toward citizenship or a legal 'green card.'

[The H-2A and H-2B visa programs have been available for years. In a prior posting, I estimated that for Florida, the numbers coming in that way were equivalent to 1% of the entire undocumented worker population in that state. - PFR]

In an election year, when some Republicans fear they could lose their hold on Congress, the issue is equally bedeviling. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman has warned his party that an anti-immigrant stand could jeopardize years of outreach to Latino voters, a position seconded by Kennedy in his hunt for GOP support for his bill.

'The people on the other side are going to have to decide whether they want to alienate a whole, growing constituency in this country,' he said.

March 1, 2006

Failure of existing guest worker programs as seen in FL figures

The failure of existing guest temporary visa programs can be summarized in these figures: the number of workers under them in Florida is probably equivalent to 1% of all undocumented workers in that state.

These programs are designed to attach each worker to a particular employer for a specified period of time – in months. The Palm Beach Post ran on Dec. 9, 2003, as part of an extensive series on farm labor, an analysis of how the federal governments guest worker provisions for temporary farm labor have worked in Florida. Farm employers rarely use these programs. According to the federal government only 2,423 H2A and H2B visas were issued to Mexican for work in Florida. I have previously estimated, drawing on Urban Institute figures, that as of 1/1/06 there were roughly 600,000 undocumented workers in Florida. Assume that total figure in 2002 was 450,000: H2 visa programs were equivalent to less than 1% of Florida’ undocumented workers.

According to the Post:

According to Tom Canahuate, a diplomat at the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, 66,379 such visas were issued in Mexico in the last fiscal year [2002] ending: 24,946 H2A visas for agricultural workers and 41,433 H2B visas for other jobs. Only 2,423 of the total number were for work in Florida.
The program requires employers to pay workers' travel expenses into and out of the U.S. and to pay a wage commensurate with that of Americans working in the industry. Employers also must provide free housing for employees.
"Employers have always insisted that H2A is too much of a hassle, makes too many demands on them," says attorney Greg Schell of the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project.
"There have been awful abuses of H2A workers over the years," says Schell. The visas allow a migrant to work only for the employer who sponsors the visa. If the worker is abused in any way, he can quit, but must leave the country. Many put up with abuse, including cheating on wages, rather than report their bosses.