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July 31, 2006

Immigration Voice, or "Green Card applicants unite!"

Here is an activist organization worthy of the times: Immigrantion Voice I doubt there is another web source of infotmed information about professional working visa problems that is as informative as this site..

Immigration Voice is a non-profit organization (501 (c) (4) pending) working to alleviate the problems faced by legal high-skilled foreign workers in the United States. We act as an interface between this set of immigrants and the legislative and executive branches of the government.

The mission of Immigration Voice is to organize grassroots efforts and resources to solve several problems in the employment based green card process including (a) delays due to Retrogression (visa number unavailability for certain employment-based categories) (b) delays due to USCIS processing backlogs and (c) delays due to Labor Certification backlogs. We will work to remove these and other flaws by supporting changes to immigration law for high-skilled legal employment-based immigrants. High-skilled legal immigrants strengthen the United States' economy and help maintain American technological superiority.

Under the tag “IV team” you’ll read about the activists in Immigration Voice: talented professionals caught in some small but interminable Kafkaesque nightmare. See this profile:

Aman Kapoor is the co-founder of Immigration Voice and is our liaison with other groups and agencies. Mr. Kapoor has been working in US for the last eight years. The prolonged employment-based immigration process has continued to hurt Mr. Kapoor’s career growth prospects. Mr. Kapoor possesses strong technical skills and has contributed in many high profile projects with large clients across the country. He has a Bachelors’ degree in Engineering and is presently pursuing his MBA in the U.S. His permanent residency application is being processed and the I-485 approval has been pending for more than 28 months. Mr. Kapoor and his family are now on third year EAD and continue to await approval of their Green Card application. Mr. Kapoor’s handle is WaldenPond and his email is aman@immigrationvoice.org

More aggressive enforcement by ICE re: employers

The NY Times is reporting a sharp increase in enforcement activity directed at employerts for hiring illegal workers. “While the old immigration agency brought 25 criminal charges against employers in 2002, this year Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already made 445 criminal arrests of employers, officials said. Some 2,700 immigrant workers were caught up in those operations, and most were deported, the officials said."

Hiring illegal immigrants “has been a low-risk, high-reward enterprise,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, the agency’s special agent in charge for Ohio and Michigan. “We want to send the message that your cost of business just went up because you risk your livelihood, your corporate reputation and your personal freedom.”

The article deals largely with arrests made relating to a labor contractor, Garcia Labor, “because of a contract it had with ABX Air, a cargo airline that flies express shipments for DHL, with a fleet of 112 airplanes based at its privately owned airport in Wilmington, Ohio. From 1999 to 2005, the indictment charges, Garcia Labor sent more than 1,000 illegal immigrants, mostly Mexicans, to sort freight at ABX Air.”

I previously reported on a highly publicized ICE stricke against IFCO.

July 28, 2006

A source of practical advice for immigrant professionals

Leslie Kamenshire, a college administrator, began a few years ago to help foreign professionals in the Washington, DC area, to speed up their entry into the American workforce. She started a website, immigrantcareers.com, and published a book, Career Guide and Directory for Immigrant Professionals (Washington Metropolitan Area). She also has run some workshops. I just learned about her work and hope to post about her again soon.

She held a 7/20 workshop at which was directed to health professionals, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc., and addresses these practical problems:

• how to get needed license or certification in Virginia, DC, Maryland

• who can help you prepare for the licensing exam

• who can evaluate your foreign credentials

• what are employment needs in the Washington area – & perhaps elsewhere

• where can you obtain help to start a small business or high tech venture

The immense challenge of employee/employer verification, Part 2

This is what the U.S. is confronting in processing immigrant workers, per a Washington Post article:

In Tallahassee, Aman Kapoor, a computer programmer who is in the final stages of obtaining his green card, has been called for fingerprinting five times. "Next time if they call me, I am just going to leave my fingers there," said Kapoor, one of the founders of Immigration Voice, a group that advocates for legal immigrants. "Give me back my fingers once you are done."

In another case cited by the Post,

Arturo Zavala entered the United States illegally from Mexico in 1976 and picked mushrooms in Pennsylvania for a decade before he became a legal resident. But that menial labor was not the toughest part of life here. More difficult was gaining permission for his wife, daughter and two younger sons to join him and his eldest son here. The family finally reunited in 2001, 14 years after Zavala received his green card as part of a 1986 amnesty program for illegal immigrants.

And what about this?

In 2004, the agency submitted 1.9 million sets of fingerprints and 1.5 million names to the FBI, numbers that would grow tremendously if the Senate bill became law, according to the GAO. As of now, 113,000 FBI name checks have been pending more than six months, and 40,000 more than two years, officials said.

More from the article:

Of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, about 10 million may register to apply for legalization if the Senate plan passes, said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a research center. That could overwhelm the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which last year granted permanent residency to 1.1 million people and awarded temporary worker visas to 200,000.

Supporters of the Senate proposal note that Congress has learned some lessons from 1986. The bill would set a six-year processing window and would require participating immigrants to register within 90 days.. Citizenship and immigration bureau officials, however, said they would need much more time and more staff to register millions of applications. Director Emilio T. Gonzalez said it would take six to nine months just to register a group the size the Senate bill contemplates. Michael Aytes, the agency's associate director for domestic operations, added: "We can't approach anything like legalization on the scale being discussed in a traditional way. We would have to grow too far, too fast."

The Senate bill would set up complex rules for how illegal immigrants can apply for legal status, depending upon how long they have been here. The legislation also says immigrants would have to prove their U.S. work history with at least two documents. Many would not have pay stubs or tax records, so the law provides for sworn affidavits from employers. The rules and use of affidavits would open the process to fraud, experts said.

"The document of choice inevitably will be an awful lot of legal statements saying, 'Yes, I employed this guy.' Well, once you move to affidavits, then you basically have next to nothing," said former Immigration and Naturalization Services commissioner Doris Meissner. "How do you design an affidavit system that has integrity?"

Skeptics of the Senate proposal cite a provision of the 1986 amnesty law that targeted agricultural workers. Congress expected 200,000 to 400,000 people to apply. Instead, 1.3 million people came forward -- twice as many people as were employed on farms in some states, according to labor statistics -- taking advantage of shorter residency requirements and low burdens of proof. Many then disappeared to take non-farming jobs. By 1989, federal officials placed nearly 400,000 applications on hold and made hundreds of arrests for fake documents. Some applicants are still in limbo.

The citizenship and immigration bureau currently faces a backlog of pending cases and security checks, as well as antiquated technology and a shortage of skilled personnel.

The Bush administration has set aside $560 million over five years to reduce a backlog that numbered 3.8 million cases in 2003 -- there were 276,000 as of June 2006, not counting 1 million cases that await actions by applicants, other government agencies or openings in quota-based programs. The Government Accountability Office says the citizenship and immigration bureau is unlikely to meet a six-month processing target by September as it had promised.

"The hidden chokepoint here is going to be the security background checks," Meissner said. "The FBI is not set up to handle the volume that the immigration agencies are generating."

New technology is supposed to help. The Senate bill would require that by October 2007 all permanent immigration documents be machine readable, fraud resistant and linked to biometric indicators, such as fingerprints, and that Homeland Security and FBI automated fingerprint systems be compatible. All U.S. employers would have to adopt an electronic system to verify the eligibility of workers within six years.

But that would be costly. The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would require $800 million to pay one-time costs for facilities and computers.

Officials hope to transform the $2 billion-a-year, 15,000-worker citizenship and immigration bureau through new technology and the expanded use of contractors, paid for by its share of billions in new fees, Aytes said.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Congress must not micromanage eligibility rules, or else even new computer systems won't be able to handle the workload. "The more documents you have . . . the more fraud you have -- that's the lesson from 1986," Chertoff said.

The immense challenge of employee/employer verification, Part 1

I have held off posting for some days, awaiting something useful to report. Today I am posting twice on the same issue: the enormous information system and manual challenges of registering illegal workers and verifying employer compliance with immigration laws. The root trouble behind both of these problems is the absence in the U.S. of a comprehensive system of employment verification. Erecting such a system is a perhaps five year effort. Enforcing immigration laws while the system is not satisfactorily in operation is fraught with problems, which employers groups are very quick to point out.

This posting is about a Rube Goldberg program being proposed to verify employer compliance at this time, without a satisfactory system in place.

According to the New York Times, ICE is trying to launch a plan for employers to be relieved of any liability for hiring illegal workers, by means of a complicated process of payroll audits, inspections and online verification.

Per the Times, “Under the new program, which is voluntary, employers must pass a series of hurdles to demonstrate that no illegal immigrants are among their employees and will then be certified as clean. They would have to submit to an audit of their employee records by immigration agents and join the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program, a federal database that companies can use to confirm that employees’ identification documents are not fraudulent. Companies would also be expected to name a compliance officer to monitor the status of immigrant workers and to train their staff to verify documents.”

In return, employers would be certified by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as having a clean bill of health on hiring. Immigration officials in Washington announced the effort in response to growing alarm among employers about the agency’s recent crackdown on companies that employ illegal immigrants. Federal immigration agents have brought federal criminal charges against some employers who were repeat violators, putting some of them in jail.

Julie L. Myers, the homeland security assistant secretary who is the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that worried companies had come forward seeking a way to avoid problems with the agency. Under current law, employers are not required to scrutinize their employees’ documents extensively.

Randel K. Johnson, a vice president at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said he doubted that many companies would join the new program. “I don’t think a lot of employers will sign up because there are a lot of hurdles, and no real carrot at the end of the process,” Mr. Johnson said.

July 21, 2006

Where are Hispanic voters concentrated?

A Pew Hispanic Center study of the Hispanic vote in the 2004 elections analyzes the where eligible voters reside. (The study discusses in depth the low actual voting rate of Hispanics, as well.)

The Hispanic population remains concentrated in a few states. Several of those states were decided by wide margins in the last presidential election and do not appear to be battlegrounds in the current campaign. Texas, California and New York are all generally considered uncontested states in the presidential race, and 58% of all Latino eligible voters live in those three states alone.

Among the 18 states generally considered battlegrounds in the presidential election because they were decided by a margin of less than 7% of the popular vote in 2000, Latinos comprise at least 10% of the eligible voters in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. The Hispanic electorate has distinctly different characteristics in each of those states and different patterns of growth since 2000.

Florida: Hispanics make up 14% of the eligible voters, and they are unusual
because so many are naturalized citizens (44% of Latino eligible voters in Florida
compared to 24% nationally). Nonetheless, the fastest growth has been among
native born Latinos who account for 83% of the new eligible Latino voters in

New Mexico: Latinos are 40% of the eligible voters, a greater share by far than in
any other state. These voters are overwhelmingly native-born citizens, 93%.

Nevada: Latinos account for 13% of the eligible voters but their numbers are
growing very fast. Since the last presidential election, the number of eligible
Latinos in Nevada has increased by about 50%, and Latinos account for about half
of all the increase in the Nevada electorate. About two-thirds of the Latino
eligible voters in Nevada are native born.

Arizona: Some 16% of eligible voters in Arizona are Hispanics, and 80% are
native-born citizens.

Poll: hispanic voters turning away from Bush, Repubican party

Hispanic voters – 9% of the total electorate - may be “the fastest growing and perhaps the most volatile swing electorate in American politics.” What has the past year or two done to their political loyalties, after over a decade of movement towards the Republican party? The answer, from this NDN poll discussed further below:

In 2004 Kerry beat Bush 59%-40% with all Hispanics. When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage: 59%-23%. Thus the Republicans lost serious ground but Democrats did not gain any.

Bush’s standing with this group has plummeted. In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable towards the President.

NDN, a Democratic Party-affiliated public interest group, released the results of this survey of Hispanic voters this week, in collaboration with its Hispanic Strategy Center. Another article on a recent Pew Hispanic Center political poll is found
here in the Washington Post.

The NDN survey found that support for Bush and Republicans has “dramatically declined” but that support for Democats has not proportionately increased. “Additionally, the poll offers clear evidence that the immigration debate has increased this community’s participation in the civic life of their nation. More than half of those questioned say the issue will make it more likely that they will vote this year. A remarkable 25% of those surveyed state that they have taken part in recent public demonstrations for better immigration policies. It appears that millions of Hispanics are rising to the “today we march, tomorrow we vote” challenge offered by the leaders of community this year.

The poll, conducted by the New York-based market research firm LatinInsights, surveyed a 600-person national sample of Spanish-dominant Hispanic registered voters. It is the largest poll of Spanish-language dominant Hispanic voters we’ve come across. The poll was paid for by the NDN Political Fund.

About 9% of all American voters today are Hispanic. Of this 9%, about half, or 4-5% of the overall American electorate, is Spanish-language dominant. Spanish-language dominant means that these voters prefer to speak in Spanish, though many of these voters are English competent.

In the last three Presidential elections, the Dem/GOP share of the total Hispanic electorate has gone from 72%-21% to 62%-35% to 59%-40%. This extraordinary shift has made the Hispanic vote the fastest growing and perhaps the most volatile swing electorate in American politics.

Much of the movement towards the Republicans at a national level has come with Spanish language-dominant Hispanic voters. According to an analysis done by NDN and Bendixen and Associates, English-dominant Hispanics have stayed reliably Democratic, holding throughout this time at about a 2:1 ratio (2004: 65%-34%). The movement towards Bush has come from the Spanish-dominant, as they have gone from 82%-18% Clinton-Dole in 1996 to 52%-48% Kerry-Bush, while increasing from 30% of the Hispanic electorate in 1996 to 48% in 2004.

Key Finding 1: Hispanics are disappointed with Bush and unhappy with Republican government. Recent electoral gains made by Bush in this community have been wiped out. On the issue of greatest concern to the Hispanic community as a whole – immigration reform – only 15% believe that the current debate will make it more likely they vote Republican. Overall, the number identifying immigration and discrimination as major issues have increased substantially from previous years.

Key Finding 2: While making modest gains, Democrats have a lot of work to do.

While Democrats have made modest gains with this group, growing from 52% in 2004 to 59%, most of the movement this year has been away from Bush and the Republicans and not towards Democrats. In a detailed issue battery, while consistently far ahead of Republicans, Democrats regularly under perform their 59% electoral performance and 65% Party favorability. This indicates that while Democrats are well-regarded by this electorate, they are not well defined.

Key Finding 3: The immigration debate has had a tremendous impact with these voters, and will increase their turnout this fall.

This group now believes immigration reform is now the most important problem facing the Hispanic community, with 37% choosing that option, and 15% choosing a related issue, discrimination. Taken together, these two issues are seen as the most important concerns by 52% of those surveyed. The next highest issue is education with 8%. In the 2004 cycle, immigration rarely ranked in the 1st tier of concerns of Hispanics voters.

By a margin of 62% to 28%, Hispanics are in favor of immigration reform. By more than a 2-1 margin (36%-15%), Hispanics believe the immigration debate makes it more likely that they will vote for Democrats in the fall. In a remarkable show of civic participation, 25% say they participated in a recent rally or demonstration for a better immigration policy. 54% of all those surveyed say they are more likely to vote this fall because of the debate.

Key Finding 4: Most Hispanics believe that it is harder to get ahead. Consistent with national data showing median income decline and wages stagnant; rising health care, interest, energy and education costs; and the erosion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage, most Hispanics – an extraordinary 86% - say the cost of living has increased.

Key Finding 5: Despite the perception that discrimination against Hispanics is widespread, Hispanics overwhelmingly believe there are greater opportunities here than in Latin America. Even though 75% of respondents say that there is discrimination against Hispanics in the US, 91% believe there is much greater opportunity here than in Latin America.

July 16, 2006

High impact of immigrant workers on civilian labor force, 1990 - 2001 and beyond

Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies prepared in 2002 a study of the impact on new immigration to the civilian labor force, by region, between 1990 and 2001. These figures instantly convey the dependence of the economy on immigrant labor. It is reasonable to infer that over a third of the new immigrants were working illegally. Since 2001, the share of immigrant worker growth has probably shifted more to the illegal category, to 1 out of 2 instead of 1 out of 3.

Below are listed regions and the percentage of civilian labor force growth attributed to immigration. A figure of over 100% indicates that without immigrants, the labor force would have declined.

New England 567%
Mid-Atlantic 369%
Eastern North Central 35%
Western North Central 20%
South Atlantic 45%
Eastern South Central 14%
Western South Central 37%
Rocky Mountains 37%
Pacific 21%

These figures appear to understate the impact of immigrant labor on the labor force, because the impact rose after the early 1990s. According to one analysis, the President’s 2005 Economic Report estimated that “The President’s report points out that “between 1996 and 2003, when total employment grew by 11 million, 58 percent of the net increase was among foreign-born workers,” almost all of whom had arrived since 1995. The immigrant share of employment growth was even higher in particular occupations, amounting in the 1996-2002 period to 86 percent of the 1 million new positions in “precision production, craft, and repair” (which includes mechanics and construction workers) and 62 percent of the 2 million new positions in service occupations (such as janitors, kitchen workers, and grounds workers).

“Moreover, this pattern holds true beyond the traditional immigrant-receiving states of California, New York, Texas, and Florida. The President’s report notes that between 1996 and 2003 immigrants accounted for 84 percent of labor-force growth in eastern North Central states (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and 47 percent in eastern South Central states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee).”

The press release from Northeastern is as follows:

CONTACT: Christine Phelan:

(12-2-02) BOSTON, Mass. –During the decade of the 1990s, foreign immigration reached an all-time historical high in the U.S. when between 13 and 14 million net new foreign immigrants flowed into the country and contributed some 40 percent of the net growth in the resident population over the decade.
As a consequence of both these immigrants’ relative youth and strong labor market attachment, they had an even more substantial – and heretofore unexamined – impact on the growth of the U.S. labor force, impacting the private sector to an even greater degree. New immigrants made up more than half of the growth of the nation’s entire civilian workforce between 1990 and 2001, but their impacts on labor force growth varied markedly by age, gender, region and state. Among males, new immigrants were responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s labor force growth and within the New England and Middle Atlantic divisions where immigrants generated all of the labor force growth between 1990 and 2001.

According to a new analysis of 2000 Census data and 2001 monthly CPS surveys by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies prepared for The Business Roundtable’s Education and the Workforce Task Force in Washington, D.C., neither the dimensions of immigrant participation in the labor force nor the role they played in the 90s boom has been fully appreciated. No longer solely relegated to low-level service and manufacturing jobs, new immigrants increasingly made up large portions of those who worked in retail, trade, and business, high-tech, personal and professional services.

“At no point during the past century did new immigrants ever contribute so substantially to the labor market growth of the country,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern and one of the authors of the study. “New immigrants’ role in contributing to the 1990s job boom in both sheer magnitude and breadth can no longer be ignored.”

Often thought to solely work as laborers, semi-skilled operatives, and in lower-level service jobs, new immigrants were found to be employed in large numbers in every major occupational group although they remain under-represented in management and high level sales positions.

“New immigrants filled a relatively high share of jobs in professional, skilled blue-collar, and production/assembler positions, including many engineering, scientific, and skilled craft positions,” noted Paul Harrington, associate director of the Center. The researchers also found that a very high share of production jobs within the nation’s manufacturing industries was occupied by new and older immigrants, according to Harrington.

New immigrants (those arriving since 1990) were found to be substantially concentrated in wage and salary jobs in the private sector, with nearly nine of every ten employed new immigrants holding these positions.

“New immigrants’ impact on private sector job growth was particularly astounding during the 1990s,” Sum said. “Without their active participation, major shortages in the labor market would have likely cropped up, including many high skilled occupations.”

Private sector firms’ high level of dependence on immigrant male workers was particularly noted by researcher Neeta Fogg, one of the researchers on the project.

“The growing educational gaps between younger women and men, combined with the human capital deficits of older males that limit their labor market attachment, have contributed to the substantially increased reliance on immigrant male workers,” Harrington said.

Despite the associated hurdles with business startups and ownership, the rate of self-employment among all immigrants was only one percentage point lower than among native-born workers. After having spent a decade or more in the U.S., however, foreign-born workers actually become more likely than their native-born counterparts (11.7 percent versus 10.3 percent) to be self-employed.

Additional key findings from the study:

*Male immigrants made up nearly 80 percent of the increase in the nation’s male civilian labor force between 1990 and 2001 while female immigrants contributed 30 percent of the growth in the female labor force over the same time period.

* In the New England and Middle Atlantic divisions, new immigrants made up all of the labor force growth over the 1990s, and 72 percent of the labor force growth in the Pacific region was due to new immigrants. In contrast, only 14 percent of the growth in the East South Central region’s labor force was attributable to new foreign immigration.

* New immigrant workers were much more likely than their native born counterparts to be young (under age 35) and were less well-educated. All of the nation’s labor force growth among workers under 35 was due to new immigrants who prevented the nation’s work force from aging rapidly. New immigrants also contained a disproportionate share of high school dropouts although both groups – native and immigrants – had similar shares of four-year college graduates;

*Contrary to assertions in many sociological studies of immigrant labor markets, the study found that new immigrants were overrepresented in goods producing industries, including construction and manufacturing, industries that employ nearly three of every ten new immigrant workers. New immigrants also were over-represented in retail trade, business/repair services, and personal/entertainment services;

* More than one-third of new immigrant workers were employed in blue-collar occupations, including many skilled craft and production positions in manufacturing and construction, versus only 23 percent of native-born workers. Contrary to popular perceptions, nearly one of every four new immigrant workers also held a professional, management, or technical position in 2000-2001.

“The findings in this report on the growing dependence of American industry on immigrant workers need to stimulate an objective and sustained public policy debate on immigrant labor policies, taking into account both the important and valuable contributions of immigrant workers and the liabilities of some forms of immigrant labor,” Sum said.
The report calls for a more detailed and objective analysis by national and state policymakers of the contributions of immigrant workers to U.S. employment growth and their impacts on the economic well-being of native-born American workers. Its authors hope it compels legislators and state governments to strengthen the educational and training systems to support the assimilation of these immigrants into American society and culture while also acknowledging the needs of those who have been displaced by their arrival.

The report was commissioned by the Business Roundtable as part of its ongoing efforts to examine the impacts of the workforce and the economy. For a copy of the full report, please visit our web site: http://www.nupr.neu.edu or call 617-373-5455.

July 13, 2006

New study of low wage Korean immigrant workers in New York City

The Asian American Legal Defence and Education Fund, located in New York City, just issued an important study of the 200,000 Korean Americans working in the New York City area.

The study drew upon a sample of 187 low wage Korean immigrant workers, in jobs such as hair and nail salons, dry cleaning, garment making, grocery stores, and health spas. The workers were interviewed between January 2005 and January 2006.

37% had less than a high school education
28% were undocumented workers; 42% were American citizens; 30% legal permanent residents.
Only 6% had more than limited English proficiency
47% worked more than 60 hours a week, yet....
73% had no overtime pay provisions.
15% had either poor health experiences or had been injured on the job.
64% did not know about workers compensation
55% did not know about unemployment compensation

Two loopy proposals to control those pesky illegals

Here are two actual proposals to control the illegal immigrant population in America. One is to implant into each immigrant a computer chip. The other is to stretch an electrified fence along the Mexican border, set at a below – fatal level of power. Both proposers were apparently sober at the time.

According to one account, “Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has alarmed civil libertarians by promoting the company's subcutaneous human tracking device as a way to identify immigrants and guest workers. He appeared on the Fox News Channel [on May 18, 2006], the morning after President Bush called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigrants.

The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated Radio Frequency Identification tag that is injected into the flesh to uniquely number and identify people. The tag can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves from up to a foot or more away, right through clothing. The highly controversial device is also being marketed as a way to access secure areas, link to medical records, and serve as a payment device when associated with a credit card.
VeriChip's Silverman bandied about the idea of chipping foreigners on national television Tuesday, emboldened by the Bush Administration call to know "who is in our country and why they are here." He told Fox & Friends that the VeriChip could be used to register guest workers, verify their identities as they cross the border, and "be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level." He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it...."

Thanks to Stephanie King, a staffer on the Hill, for sending this excerpt from the publication, The Hill (no direct link available)

Steve King (R-IA) equates immigrants to livestock
It was prop time on the House floor Tuesday night when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), making the case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, showed a miniature version of a border wall that he "designed."
He had mock sand representing the desert as well as fake construction panels as C-SPAN focused in on the unusual display. But it got really interesting when King broke out the mock electrical wiring: "I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top."
He added, "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time." King spokeswoman Summer Johnson disputed the notion that it was an immigrant-livestock comparison, saying, "He was comparing a fence to a fence - a border fence to an Iowa farm fence." The outspoken proponent of border security, however, did not mention an Iowa farm fence during his show-and-tell performance.

July 12, 2006

Illegal workers, employers, being pressured by state and local legal action

The Wall Street Journal this morning (subscription required) reported on activity in many states to put pressure on illegal workers and their employers. This activity is being fanned directly as a result of Congress’ failure to pass a reform law. The article cites instances in CA, CO, GA, MA and PA.

This year, more than 500 pieces of immigration-related legislation have been introduced in state legislatures, and 57 of them have been enacted in 27 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In April, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, signed into law a bill that will restrict public benefits and certain employment rights for illegal immigrants, starting next year. On Monday, Colorado legislators passed similar measures.

I have posted before on the Georgia law.

Last month, several Pennsylvania legislators introduced a package of bills that would, among other things, prohibit public spending on services or benefits for illegal immigrants. Several Pennsylvania towns are considering local sanctions against landlords that rent to or businesses that employ such immigrants.
Some of the state and local initiatives may run afoul of federal law and face legal challenges from immigrant-advocacy groups. "These local measures are couched as rental or trespassing laws," says Maria Blanco, an attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco. "The bottom line is their motivation is to control immigration, and that is within federal purview."
In the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Hazleton, population 31,000, Mayor Louis Barletta introduced a proposal last month that calls for revoking permits granted to businesses that employ illegal immigrants, imposing fines on landlords who rent to them and making English the city's official language. The city council has given preliminary approval to the initiative, and it is expected to pass this week. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Legislature plans to hold hearings later this summer on a package of bills dubbed "National Security Begins at Home." In addition to barring state spending on health care, education and other services for illegal immigrants, the legislation would allow law-enforcement spending on illegal immigrants to be billed to the immigrant's country of origin.

Until recently, the issue of illegal immigration has popped up only sporadically at the state level, with the most famous case being California's proposition 187 to deny services to illegal immigrants. It was passed in 1994 and ruled unconstitutional four years later. But the latest initiatives signal that the immigration debate has taken on a new fervor and divisiveness. The measures appeal to residents who feel illegal immigrants are overtaxing local schools and other public services and taking unfair advantage of legitimate taxpayers. "There are flashpoints that feed into the average person's fears," says Michael Manning, a priest in San Bernardino, Calif., about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, where a petition that would ban renting houses to illegal immigrants and punish their employers led to a city council showdown.
Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court, on technical grounds, disqualified a petition for a November ballot initiative that would have asked the state's voters to bar illegal immigrants from receiving state services. Undeterred, the state's Republican governor, Bill Owens, called a special legislative session to tackle illegal immigration. Late Monday, Colorado lawmakers ended the five-day special session by passing legislation that would deny most state benefits to illegal immigrants 18 years or older, and require those applying for or renewing benefits to prove legal residency.

July 9, 2006

Do immigrants depress existing wages?

The New York Times Sunday Magazine today carried a long article, “The Immigration Equation,” By Roger Lowenstein. Much of the article focuses on the debate about whether Hispanic immigration has depressed wages in the United States. I have posted several times on this – citing the major “yes” academic, George Borjas of Harvard, and the most prominent “no” academic, David Card of U.C. Berkeley. Here, I will excerpt some interesting passages. I include a summary of Card’s study of the labor market effect of a large shift of Cubans to southern Florida (the 1980 Mariel boat lift), and another researcher’s study of the effect of Russian immigration to Isreal. Both studies concluded that the effect was neutral to positive for the income of the existing workforce. This is not surprising to me because, in my judgment, a pretty healthy modern market economy can be very creative about the use of new resources (labor, capital, land, bananas, etc.) without seriously harming any large stakeholder.

How the skill mix of immigrants differs significantly from the 1880-1921 period of high immigration to the current period:

During the previous immigrant wave, roughly from 1880 to 1921 (it ended when the U.S. established restrictive quotas based on country of origin), the immigrants looked pretty much like the America into which they were assimilating. At the beginning of the 20th century, 9 of 10 American adults did not have high-school diplomas, nor did the vast majority of immigrants. Those Poles and Greeks and Italians made the country more populous, but they did not much change the makeup of the labor market.

This time it's different. The proportion of foreign-born, at 12 percent, remains below the peak of 15 percent recorded in 1890. But compared with the work force of today, however, the skill mix of immigrants is lopsided. Mexicans have far fewer skills. And Mexicans and other Central Americans (who tend to have a similar economic background) are arriving and staying in this country at a rate of more than 500,000 a year. Their average incomes are vastly lower than those both of native-born men and of other immigrants.

Native-born workers: $45,400
All immigrants: $37,000
Mexican immigrants: $22,300

The reason Mexicans earn much less than most Americans is their daunting educational deficit. More than 60 percent of Mexican immigrants are dropouts; fewer than 10 percent of today's native workers are.

Burden on publicly funded systems is not high except in California

With the exception of a few border states, however, the effect of immigration on public-sector budgets is small, and the notion that undocumented workers in particular abuse the system is a canard. Since many illegals pay into Social Security (using false ID numbers), they are actually subsidizing the U.S. Treasury. And fewer than 3 percent of immigrants of any stripe receive food stamps. Also, and contrary to popular wisdom, undocumented people do support local school districts, since, indirectly as renters or directly as homeowners, they pay property taxes. Since they tend to be poor, however, they contribute less than the average. One estimate is that immigrants raise state and local taxes for everyone else in the U.S. by a trivial amount in most states, but by as much as $1,100 per household per year in California. They are certainly a burden on hospitals and jails but, it should be noted, poor legal workers, including those who are native born, are also a burden on the health care system.

The Mariel boat lift study by Card

Card decided to study the 1980 Mariel boat lift, in which 125,000 Cubans were suddenly permitted to emigrate. They arrived in South Florida with virtually no advance notice, and approximately half remained in the Miami area, joining an already-sizable Cuban community and swelling the city's labor force by 7 percent.

To Card, this produced a "natural experiment," one in which cause and effect were clearly delineated. Nothing about conditions in the Miami labor market had induced the Marielitos to emigrate; the Cubans simply left when they could and settled in the city that was closest and most familiar. So Card compared the aftershocks in Miami with the labor markets in four cities — Tampa, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles — that hadn't suddenly been injected with immigrants.

That the Marielitos, a small fraction of whom were career criminals, caused an upsurge in crime, as well as a more generalized anxiety among natives, is indisputable. It was also commonly assumed that the Marielitos were taking jobs from blacks.

But Card documented that blacks, and also other workers, in Miami actually did better than in the control cities. In 1981, the year after the boat lift, wages for Miami blacks were fractionally higher than in 1979; in the control cities, wages for blacks were down. The only negative was that unemployment rose among Cubans (a group that now included the Marielitos).

Unemployment in all of the cities rose the following year, as the country entered a recession. But by 1985, the last year of Card's study, black unemployment in Miami had retreated to below its level of 1979, while in the control cities it remained much higher. Even among Miami's Cubans, unemployment returned to pre-Mariel levels, confirming what seemed visible to the naked eye: the Marielitos were working. Card concluded, "The Mariel influx appears to have had virtually no effect on the wages or unemployment rates of less-skilled workers."

Although Card offered some hypotheses, he couldn't fully explain his results. The city's absorption of a 7 percent influx, he wrote, was "remarkably rapid" and — even if he did not quite say it — an utter surprise. Card's Mariel study hit the cloistered world of labor economists like a thunderbolt. All of 13 pages, it was an aesthetic as well as an academic masterpiece that prompted Card's peers to look for other "natural" immigration experiments. Soon after, Jennifer Hunt, an Australian-born Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, published a study on the effects of the return migration of ethnic French from Algeria to France in 1962, the year of Algerian independence. Similar in spirit though slightly more negative than the Mariel study, Hunt found that the French retour had a very mild upward effect on unemployment and no significant effect on wages.

Study of Russian immigration to Isreal by Rachel Friedberg

Rachel Friedberg, an economist at Brown, added an interesting twist to the approach. Rather than compare the effect of immigration across cities, she compared it across various occupations. Friedberg's curiosity had been piqued in childhood; born in Israel, she moved to the U.S. as an infant and grew up amid refugee grandparents who were a constant reminder of the immigrant experience.

She focused on another natural experiment — the exodus of 600,000 Russian Jews to Israel, which increased the population by 14 percent in the early 1990's. She wanted to see if Israelis who worked in occupations in which the Russians were heavily represented had lost ground relative to other Israelis. And in fact, they had. But that didn't settle the issue. What if, Friedberg wondered, the Russians had entered less-attractive fields precisely because, as immigrants, they were at the bottom of the pecking order and hadn't been able to find better work? And in fact, she concluded that the Russians hadn't caused wage growth to slacken; they had merely gravitated to positions that were less attractive. Indeed, Friedberg's conclusion was counterintuitive: the Russians had, if anything, improved wages of native Israelis. She hypothesized that the immigrants competed more with one another than with natives. The Russians became garage mechanics; Israelis ran the garages.

July 8, 2006

Bloomberg: Economy would fail if illegal immigrants deported

The AP reported that NYC Mayor Bloomberg told a Senate hearing on July 6th that New York City has a half million illegal immigrants. That suggests there are about 300,000 illegal workers in the City. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 475,000 illegal workers in the entire New York State in 2005.

The AP story goes on:

The economy of the country's largest city and the entire nation would collapse if illegal immigrants were deported en masse, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a Senate committee hearing today. New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants, and a half-million of them came to this country illegally, Bloomberg testified. "Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders ... our city's economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it would collapse if they were deported," he said. "The same holds true for the nation."
The hearing, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in Philadelphia, was one of several held nationwide as congressional Republicans take to the road to discuss overhauling immigration laws.

July 7, 2006

Why the hotel industry wants a guest worker program

This I got from Workforce Management Online, or www.workforce.com -- no link available. The website says that “the lodging industry is particularly concerned about issues of liability, both pertaining to the verification of worker documentation and to the use of subcontractors, says Shawn McBurney, vice president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association in Washington, D.C.”

The 10,000-member trade and advocacy organization worries about of the accuracy of the Department of Homeland Security's Basic Pilot Program, which is a database used for verifying the legal status of workers. Homeland Security's database has an average error rate of 1.4%, McBurney says. This rate, however, could increase once more participants join the system, potentially exposing hospitality employers to inadvertently hiring undocumented workers, he explains.

I have blogged before that the error rate problem is actually much worse. One third of all positives (i.e. "the worker’s illegal") are false – and hence the employer liability.

Another source of anxiety for the hospitality industry stems from proposed language in the House’s current version of the immigration reform bill that suggests employers could be liable for the actions of their subcontractors. Should this aspect of the bill come become law, it would virtually be a 180-degree departure from the current protocol in which subcontractors carry the responsibility of hiring decisions.
This could be a hard blow to the hospitality industry, where subcontracting is widely practiced to meet demand for large volumes of workers. Many of the 1.5 million workers in the hospitality industry were hired through subcontractors, allowing employers to save money, reduce paperwork and avoid the hassle, McBurney explains. Subcontracting can get quite convoluted because, oftentimes, subcontractors hire other subcontractors, muddying transparency and hindering accountability.

July 6, 2006

Third study out on labor rights violations on Katrina cleanup

The Advancement Project issued today its report, "Worker exploitation in New Orleans is running rampant." I have not studied it yet but conversations with people involved or who know the study inform me that the researchers found -- as did those involved with the two other studies I have posted on -- violations of workers comp standards. I will post more as I dig into it. to find these other studies, type "katrina" in the search box.

More on remittance traffic to Latin America

I have previously posted on Hispanic worker banking patterns in the U.S. and on the record $53.6 billion in remittances in 2005 from all worldwide sources to Latin America. Where did the money go? Some interesting information flows below, including how remittances to the Dominican Republic can be home delivered within hours of being sent, how much is sent, and from where in the U.S. and elsewhere, and to where (top three countries are in order Mexico, Brazil and Columbia).

MoneyGram International, Walmart’s remittance partner, sends cash from some 100,000 locations in 170 countries. As Latin Business Chronicle reports, "We've seen very significant growth to Latin America - over 45 percent versus a year before," says Augusto Esclusa, the company's Miami-based marketing manager for US outbound shipments to Latin America.

The article goes on: In Honduras, remittances accounted for 22% of the country's GDP last year, a Latin Business Chronicle analysis of the IDB data and figures from the International Monetary Fund shows. In El Salvador, remittances accounted for 17.1% of GDP and it was also key to economies like Nicaragua (12.2%), the Dominican Republic (12.2%) and Guatemala (10.9%).

Remittances were larger than foreign direct investment last year in countries like Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to a Latin Business Chronicle analysis of the IDB data and fresh figures from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Compared with exports, remittances were larger in Haiti and [were equivalent to] 60.9% of El Salvador's exports and 58.8% of Guatemala's exports, according to our analysis. Remittances also accounted for a high percent of exports from other countries like Nicaragua (45.4%), Bolivia (28.8%), the Dominican Republic (27.2%), Colombia (16.7%), Paraguay (16.1%) and Peru (13.1%), the analysis shows. Although they play a smaller role in Mexico measured in percent of exports (8.9%), that figure is still considerable.

MoneyGram currently charges a flat fee of $9.99 for any transfer up to 1000. That compares with a fee of 2 percent before. "We basically cut our price in half," Esclusa says. And Bank of America last year reduced the fees for transfers to Mexico from $10 to $8 for remittances up to $1,500. It also eliminated a foreign exchange fee of 3 percent.

Technology has also helped. "Technology has been a big part of our growth in Latin America," Esclusa says. MoneyGram introduced a card that allows senders to record their key data, so they can avoid having to fill out new forms each time they return. "The new product...Makes filling forms obsolete," he says.

Major transfer companies like MoneyGram would for many years depend on Latin American banks at the receiving end, but has recently expanded its network to include other retailers that have broader range than the banks, with locations outside the big cities and longer opening hours. Although banks are still important for MoneyGram, they now account for 20 percent of its business down from 80 percent 10 years ago, according to Esclusa.

At the same time, Latin America remains considerably under-banked and receiving money through cash transmitters like La Nacional and MoneyGram remain the only option for a majority of the region's population. And the service is just as convenient in many cases. "In the Dominican Republic, for example, we offer home delivery service where 95 percent will get the money within two hours or less after you send the money here," Friedman says.

Fewer than 10 percent of Latin American recipients of money transfers have access to bank accounts, according to the IDB. Also the senders - in the United States, for example - are largely under-banked, due to a combination of legal, economic and cultural reasons, industry experts say.

California tops the origin for sending remittances from the United States to Latin America, followed by New York and Texas, according to IDB research in 2004. Other key states that sent remittances included Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. On average, remittances were $1,805, with states like Maryland and North Carolina posting higher averages and states like California and Florida posting lower averages, the IDB data showed.

Mexico accounted for 35.6% of all remittances sent to Latin America last year.
Remittances to Mexico have been growing at strong rates the last few years and are now more double the $8.9 billion sent in 2001, according to the IDB.

"In the sending side as well as the receiving side, a high level of competition is observed," the IDB says of Mexico. "Banamex and Bancomer offer a wide distribution network in the Mexican side. In the U.S. side, institutions such as Citicorp, Wells Fargo [and] Bank of America are seeking to attract new customers among sending groups."

Brazil is the second-largest recipient of remittances in Latin America. The country received $6.4 billion in remittances last year, an increase of 14.0 percent from 2004.
Unlike Mexican remittances, which largely come from the United States, the Brazilian remittances come from Brazilians living in Japan ($2.2 billion), and Europe ($1 billion) and other countries ($500 million) as well as the United States ($2.7 billion).

Colombia, the third-largest remittance recipient in Latin America, last year posted an increase of 7.0 percent to $4.1 billion. The remittances come from growing Colombian populations in the United States, Spain and Latin America. Leading companies are Western Union, Envíos de Valores, Remesas Pujol, La Nacional, and Viameras. There is also a healthy business on the distribution of remittances, with Titan as one of the key distributors, the bank says.

July 5, 2006

New Mexico Workplace Safety for Immigrant Workers From Mexico (2005)

The workers comp regulators in New Mexico have been way out in front in recognizing and trying to address the work safety issues that are distinctive to Hispanic immigration workforces (legal or not). The regulators have worked up some programs in collaboration with the Mexican consulate. The program includes Spanish language wallet cards and safety videos.

I have posted below an article which appeared in the Journal of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). I visited the state regulatory agency and the state-sponsored worker comp insurer, New Mexico Employers' Mutual Insurance Corporation, in December, and found both to be very attentive to the problems of under-reporting of injuries and poor medical treatment.

Workplace Safety for Immigrant Workers From Mexico: Perspectives for Workers’ Compensation Administrators

By James M. Mullen, Safety Technical Advisor, Office of the Director, New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration, Phone: 505-841-6807 E-mail: jim.mullen@state.nm.us

IAIABC Journal Fall, 2005

Mr. Mullen has been involved in all aspects of workplace safety in New Mexico. Accident prevention has been effective in improving the business environment by reducing the number of accidents, improving productivity, lowering insurance costs and increasing profitability.

This article from the perspective of the workers’ compensation administrator, describes actions taken by the New Mexico Workers Compensation Administration that have been accomplished or are underway to address the serious issues related to immigrant labor. As many of the same issues confront all workers compensation jurisdictions in the United States, the process may serve as a template for other jurisdictions.

The article does not address public policy or offer solutions to the many conflicting views and approaches of those involved, either directly or indirectly. The immigrant worker is among us and, if injured on the job, must be dealt with in a legal, fair and humanitarian way. In New Mexico, a worker who is injured during the course and scope of employment (with some exceptions) is covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act. Immigration status, legal or otherwise, is not an issue. There are many other issues and problems which include language and cultural barriers, fear, lack of understanding, high accident and fatality rates among Hispanic workers – especially in construction, low levels of education, ignorance of the laws of the United States and many more.

To overcome some of these issues, the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration (Administration) developed a partnership with the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque. The Administration believed that international cooperation with diplomacy was the best way to reach workers who may be at risk and who were in need of workers’ compensation information. With workplace safety as the common goal, great things were possible. This approach has worked for New Mexico and may be a valuable course of action for others who are involved in attempting to solve some of the problems presented by cross-border workers or resident immigrant Hispanic populations.

The mission of the Consulates of Mexico in the United States is to protect the interests of Mexican citizens and to promote trade, commerce and cultural relations between Mexico and the United States. Among the services and information offered by the consulates are Visa and Passport information, Mexican immigration and trade information including Powers of Attorney or legalization of documents to be used in Mexico. Consulates of Mexico are located throughout the United States and can be focal points for action to improve the lives of immigrant workers and their families.

The Administration has worked closely and successfully with the Mexican Consulate to develop programs of cooperation so that workers and employers may be more aware of workplace safety, their rights and responsibilities and the safety and Ombudsman (advisory) services that are available though the Workers' Compensation Administration. The goal of this program is to reduce the number of accidents and injuries among all workers in New Mexico with a focus on immigrant workers from Mexico. . The Consul of Mexico, the governor, and Workers’ Compensation Administration director and assistant director are highly supportive. Other participants include a team from a major local employer and members of the Association of Latino Businesses of New Mexico. Armed with the knowledge that our team members knew nothing about international cooperation, we proceeded on the premise that the team could be effective by addressing needs of immigrant workers in terms of workplace safety in a positive way and in Spanish. The staff of the Mexican Consulate appreciated our situation and our efforts – this led to a productive relationship that produced results. It was also pervasive – when a senior Mexican Consul staff member was reassigned to the new consulate in St. Paul, MN, he took with him the methods and tools that had proven themselves in New Mexico.

Through these innovative collaborative efforts, the following specific actions have been taken. Together with the business team and the Association of Latino Businesses of New Mexico, the Administration designed, developed and presented a workplace safety presentation for Spanish-speaking employers to provide them with the information and tools necessary to make their workplaces safer and to understand the elements of the workers' compensation system in New Mexico
Another presentation for workers has been designed for presentation in the near future. The plan is to target workers in industries that that have significant accident experience. These presentations focus on accident prevention and highlight family and cultural issues, US laws, rights and responsibilities and what to do if injured on the job in New Mexico.

Specifically, it was important to convey to both groups the fact that it is not OK to be injured on the job in the United States. Accidents can and should be prevented. Families and employers rely on workers and the products and services they render. Workers are protected in the United States by federal, state and local laws. Workplace safety is critical to an effective workforce and economic development. Basic methods of doing work in the United States are different and require review. When developing programs and training it is important to remember –
* to have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and Right to Know (RTK) information available in Spanish.

* workers need to understand and respond to safety language – signs, rules, verbal and non-verbal signals and emergency actions. Training should include identification of all essential tools and equipment that the worker needs for the job – symbols help convey meaning. Understanding is most important.

Hispanic worker issues and industries that should be addressed include the following:

Safety Training in Spanish Utilizing Videos, Presentations and Written Procedures

General Industry: Emergency/First Aid Procedures, Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention, Back Injury Prevention, Workers’ Compensation Procedures. New workers need special attention in any industry.

Construction: Scaffolding/Ladders, Slips/Falls (from elevation and on the same level), Machine Guarding, Right to Know – Material Safety Data Sheets (RTK-MSDS*), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Sun/Heat Exposure Precautions, Back Injury Prevention/Proper Lifting, Confined Space Entry, Trenching & Shoring.

Janitorial/Motel/Restaurants: Blood Borne Pathogens, RTK-MSDS*, Slips/Falls, Back Injury Prevention, Repetitive Motion Injury Prevention, PPE, Fire and Chemical Safety

Landscaping: Slips/Falls, RTK-MSDS*, Sun/Heat Exposure Precautions, Back Injury Prevention, PPE, First Aid.

Healthcare: Back Injury Prevention/Proper Lifting, Slips/Falls, Violence – Physical Attacks, Blood Borne Pathogens, RTK-MSDS*, Slips/Falls.

Mexican consulates participate in the program by doing the following –

Spanish language workplace safety videos on loan from the Administration are shown for clients in the waiting area at the consulate on a daily basis. These videos are a part of the consulate’s educational approach for its clients that include the history of Mexico, United States laws, safe work practices and other information.

In a related and continuing effort, a senior member of the consulate's staff is highlighted in a video produced by the Administration and shown in the consulate's waiting area. The focus is on accident prevention, rights and responsibilities and actions to take if injured at work. Sources of help available through both the consulate and the Administration are identified.

Together with Spanish speakers from the business partners and the consulate, The Administration continues to participate in several Spanish language radio station call-in question and answer sessions to focus attention on accident prevention and discuss what to do if an accident happens. Recently, senior Administration officials participated in a Spanish language television news interview that focused on workers and highlighted the availability of the Administration to assist anyone.

The Administration has also increased emphasis on getting information out to the Spanish speaking community with advertisements and articles in a variety of Hispanic media - magazines, television and radio throughout the State. Additionally, a specific radio campaign was directly targeted to Spanish speaking workers and employers to increase knowledge and prevent accidents in New Mexico.

Spanish language wallet cards for workers, providing safety and workers’ compensation information, were developed by the Administration and delivered to the consulate for their use and distribution to the immigrant community. While seeming insignificant at first blush, these cards from the representatives of two governments have the weight of law behind them.. Immigrants carry the cards with them as they would an identification card or driver’s license. Because of its importance, the Administration plans to look at issuing the cards again and, potentially, expand distribution through other consulates in the United States. See Figure 1.

Figure 1 Spanish Language Wallet Card

English Translation (Front):

Workers in New Mexico

Workers’ compensation laws protect the majority of workers in New Mexico. If you suffer a work-related accident:

• For emergency medical assistance go to any emergency facility
• For any non-emergency medical assistance, get instructions from your employer as to where to go for medical treatment.
• Tell your employer about the accident as soon as possible,
• By law, you should file the Notice of Accident Form within 15 days of the accident,
• If you are injured at work, it’s possible your employer may be responsible to pay your authorized medical costs.

If you have questions, call the Workers’ Compensation Administration at 1-(866)-967-5667.


Safety Suggestions

• Ask questions and get answers before beginning any job.
• If you work outside, drink plenty of fluids and wear long sleeved shirts.
• Never use alcohol or drugs at work
• Don’t accept jobs that put your life in danger. If you perform hazardous work, remember to use personal protective equipment and follow safety procedures.
• Personal protective equipment could save your body and your life. Use safety glasses, work gloves, safety shoes other required (safety) equipment.

Remember that it’s your responsibility to work safely!

In addition, a senior Administration official and several staff members have participated in three of the Mexican Consulate’s Informational Fairs for Immigrants from June 2004 through April 2005. These fairs are intended to provide information and legal advice to immigrant workers and their families in different fields such as workers’ compensation, labor rights, food programs, IRS, immigration and naturalization, motor vehicles, insurance, real estate, financial services, police and fire services and others. The Administration’s participation has led to direct intervention to ensure delivery of medical care and indemnity benefits, investigate bad acts, provide assistance and education and be an available and pro-active resource for the immigrant community.

The Workers’ Compensation Administration has also worked with the consulate and met with our State OSHA leaders to implement the provisions of the July 21, 2004, Letters of Agreement/Joint Declarations between the countries of Mexico and the United States to protect the well being of Mexican workers in the United States (New Mexico). It is important to note that the “parties” of the Letters of Agreement are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States through its Embassy and Consulates in the United States and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor of the United States of America.

For administrator purposes, the Letter of Agreement Concerning Workplace Safety and Health Protections Applicable to Mexican Workers in the United States is of the greatest significance. This letter outlines the objective – to promote the rights and well-being of Mexican workers in the United States through joint efforts between the parties and other relevant governmental agencies and private organizations in the United States, as appropriate and as mutually agreed upon by the parties. To further the objective, initiatives include making Mexican workers more aware of workplace laws and regulations; jointly developing, promoting and conducting training programs and other cooperative efforts to enhance worker safety. (The complete text of the Letter of Agreement may be found online at: www.osha.gov/international/index.html).. Jointly, with the consulate and New Mexico State OSHA, the Workers’ Compensation Administration will continue to explore new areas of cooperation to enhance worker safety in New Mexico.

In the future, the Mexican Consul would like to expand the program to include Spanish-speaking New Mexicans throughout the state in addition to the target audience in the Albuquerque area. The New Mexico Economic Development Division is also interested in supporting this work.

The excellent working relationship between the Consulate of Mexico and the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration continues to develop and grow with mutual recognition of common interests and respect for the roles each can play in addressing the target audience. We believe that the progress that has been made can be replicated in other jurisdictions and welcome the opportunity to help other states take the steps necessary to reach this important worker population.

Industries lobbying for a guest worker program

Employers anxious to normalize the legal status of undocumented workers and to expand working immigration have come together in an organization active since 2001, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC). The list of business associations affiliated with EWIC provides an excellent overview of those industries that depend heavily on undocumented workers. They are in effect lobbying for a guest worker program. I have pasted this membership list below.

EWIC appears to be run out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. (202) 463-5931 contact: ewic@uschamber.com

It describes itself as “a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and other organizations from across the industry spectrum concerned with the shortage of both skilled and lesser skilled ("essential worker") labor. EWIC stands ready to work with the Administration and Congress to push forward on important immigration reform issues.

“EWIC supports policies that facilitate the employment of essential workers by U.S. companies and organizations. Current immigration law largely prevents the hiring of foreign essential workers. EWIC supports reform of US immigration policy to facilitate a sustainable workforce for the American economy while ensuring our national security and prosperity.”

The following membership list, taken from the WWIC website, is complete except for the roughly 10 individual employer names (the most notable of which are Tyson Foods and Marrriott).

American Health Care Association
American Hotel & Lodging Association
American Meat Institute
American Nursery & Landscape Association
American Road & Transportation Builders Association
American Staffing Association
American Subcontractors Association, Inc.
Associated Builders and Contractors
Associated General Contractors
Building Service Contractors Association International
California Landscape Contractors Association
Farm Equipment Wholesalers Association
Federation of Employers & Workers of America
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
International Franchise Association
National Association for Home Care
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds
National Club Association
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Restaurant Association
National Retail Federation
National Roofing Contractors Association
National Tooling & Machining Association
National Wooden Pallet and Container Association
Outdoor Amusement Business Association
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association
Professional Landcare Network
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Society of American Florists
Travel Business Roundtable
Tree Care Industry Association
Truckload Carriers Association
United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association
US Chamber of Commerce

July 4, 2006

Bush may shift more towards House’s immigration proposal

The New York Times reported that the White House may be willing to back off from the Senate bill, and support a bill which focuses on enforcement and moves onto a guest worker program in a few years. If he does that, the Senate's reaction will be important to watch for -- especially the Senate Democrats, whose support may be essential to get any bill passed in the Senate. Delaying a guest worker program is bad news for illegal immigrants and businesses, both of whom are subject to more aggressive law enforcement.

The Times reports:

Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.
"He thinks that this notion that you can have triggers is something we should take a close look at, and we are," said Candi Wolff, the White House director of legislative affairs, referring to the idea that guest worker and citizenship programs would be triggered when specific border security goals had been met, a process that could take two years.

The Times summarizes a plan identified with Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence:

In a sign of that willingness, the White House last week invited a leading conservative proponent of an enforcement-first bill, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, to present his ideas to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office. Mr. Pence would require illegal immigrants — even those in the United States for decades — to leave the country briefly before returning, with proper documentation, to participate in a guest worker system. Private employment agencies would set up shop overseas to process applications; after six years in a guest worker program, an immigrant could apply for citizenship.

July 2, 2006

Major developments regarding illegal immigrants, first half of 2006

Here is my wrap up for the past six months. in short, life has become more uncertain for both illegal workers and their employers. And, Hispanics may have become more politicially mobilized.

First, the number of illegal workers may have grown from the outset of about 7.5 million, not so much because of new in-migration but because the normal level of out-migration by illegals may well have dropped to a trickle because it probably seen more riskier to try to get back into the U.S.

Second, the Senate and House of Representatives are deadlocked over an immigration bill. Because the dispute involves Republications as much as Democrats it seems to me very unlikely that any substantive legislation will pass this year.

This deadlock when combined with fire-fanning at the level of state politics creates more uncertainty among American companies who use illegal workers as employees or outsourced workers. There was a chance that they would be hit by RICO suits but that threat seems to have passed or at least been moderated by Supreme Court action of the Mohawk case (see my posting). they still can be hit by state and federal enforcement action.

The Katrina cleanup has been the largest aggregate new employer of illegal workers -- some 5,000, but the estimate of a Tulane researcher. Two studies suggest that most if not substantially all of work injuries by these workers have been turfed out of the Louisiana workers comp system (see my postings for Katrina).

Another major development was the series of rallies of Hispanics in May to make their voices heard, their faces visible. This may well have been a turning point in which Hispanic households become more politically active, supporting politicians who seek a guest worker solution to the country's illegal immigration mess.

Massachusetts State Police, IRS use the same illegal worker cleaning crew

The conservative base - hunting governor of Masachusetts, when he decided it was smart to bully the roughly 150,000 plus illegal workers in Massachusetts, forgot to do his homework. The local newspaper did it for him.

The Boston Globe ran a story today titled "Troopers had relied on illegal workers, Yet they may enforce immigration laws"

Governor Mitt Romney is pushing to give state troopers the authority to enforce federal immigration laws so they can arrest those who are here illegally. But records indicate the State Police has relied for years on a company to clean its barracks and headquarters that has employed scores of undocumented immigrants. A Globe review of payroll data from National Facility Services of Boylston found that more than 80 percent of the 192 unionized maintenance workers employed there in 2004 had questionable or bogus Social Security numbers. The company has received more than $2.2 million in state contracts since 2000. National Facility Services said it has cleaned State Police facilities for at least a decade….The company also maintains the Internal Revenue Service center in Andover.

The article goes on (excerpted):

The Globe analyzed the data last week after Romney proposed seeking the controversial agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deputize state troopers to arrest undocumented immigrants. The Globe ran the Social Security numbers of the National Facility Services workers through three private databases that compile valid numbers. Of the 192 workers reviewed, 162 appeared to have bogus or questionable numbers.

At least 18 of the workers on the records reviewed had Social Security numbers that belonged to dead people, including three deceased people born in the 1800s. One undocumented worker from Brazil, who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity, said National Facility Services is well-known within the Brazilian community, and that many of his co-workers also are undocumented.

The worker said he went to work immediately at the company after arriving here six years ago, using a Social Security number passed on to him by a friend who was moving back to Brazil.

Raymond P. Howell , spokesman for National Facility Services, issued a statement yesterday that the company is ``collateral damage in the political battle over illegal immigration….Illegal aliens have historically been a large part of the commercial cleaning industry, but National has been a model and leader in fighting that trend."

Last month, a Globe story disclosed that on nine recent state and municipal public works projects -- from dormitory construction at the University of Massachusetts to the building of a new Middlesex County Jail -- more than a third of 242 workers on weekly payroll lists appeared to lack legitimate Social Security numbers.