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March 30, 2007

White House PowerPoint outline of its proposal

Thanks to the Immigration Portal we have a copy of a Powerpoint presentation of the White House's legisaltive plans. I am posting it now without comment. go to "tools - rotate" if you need to straigthen it out.

Overview of non-immigrant visa activity

The Congressional Research Service published an update overview of non-immigrant visa activity, inlcuding business, student temporary guest worker, etc travel. This is a lucid introduction to the lierallty dozens of kinds of visa arrangements.

March 29, 2007

No immigration reform bill yet

According to the Washington Post and LA Times, Republicans in Congress and the White House have been trying to put together a bill that Senate Republicans can support, expecting the bill’s passage in the Senate will have a positive effect on the more anti-reform House. Democrats are waiting to see what the Republican come up with. The Senate bill passed last year – S.2612 – will not work as it will not be accepted by the House.

March 24, 2007

slow movement on immigration reform bills

The NY Times reviews the status of immigration reform legislation in the House and Senate and finds progress wanting in both chambers. “Three months into the new Congress, immigration legislation is hitting some unexpected roadblocks. A mix of presidential politics and unforeseen fissures between Democrats and their Republican allies has stalled movement in the Senate.

“Key lawmakers in both chambers seem to be moving to the right to assuage conservatives who helped derail immigration legislation last year. Now there are doubts as to whether Congress will actually send an immigration bill to President Bush this year. “

March 23, 2007

Son of illegal Mexican immigrants makes good

I have already posted on how one quarter of technology start-ups in the United States involved foreign born entrepreneurs.

BusinessWeek.com ran a story in the current issue about the son of illegal migrant workers from northern Mexico who eventually secured green cards as sponsored agricultural workers. Diago Borrego founded Networkcar in 1999 and currently serves as the firm's director of engineering.

Networkcar designs and markets software that provides wireless vehicle management to fleet managers. The installed software monitors vehicles' locations and diagnostics wirelessly, reporting up-to-the-minute status via the Internet.

The article traces his life from birth in an El Paso indigent clinic up to the present. Thanks to Valerie Chereskin for alerting me to this article.

Trafficking in identity papers - a case study

The NY Times ran an article which gets into the underbelly of the trafficking of personal identifications for use by illegal immigrants. The article links a worker who was caught up in the Swift raid in Marshalltown, IA in December with a drug addict in Bakersfield, CA. Reportedly, the drug addicted American woman has replaced her social security card twenty times, presumably to sell it.

“Ms. Eloisa Nuñez Galeana said she paid a woman $800 for official copies of Ms. Violeta Blanco's birth certificate and Social Security card.” How Blanco’s papers, by inference sold by her, got into the hands of Nunez is through a lot of hands and possibly multiple uses of them.

Here are excerpts from the article.

With little in common but their shared identity, the two women are unwittingly linked by an illicit trade that is the focus of a new federal crackdown on illegal immigration. Detained in a recent raid on the Iowa plant, the Mexican worker admitted that she had used the California woman's identity to get her job. Now she is in jail on felony charges of identity theft/

Immigration raids at six Swift & Company meat-packing plants in six states in December, as well as more recent sweeps in Michigan, Florida and Arizona, have exposed an expanding front in the underground business that caters to illegal immigrants looking for work, officials say.

Of 1,282 illegal immigrants detained in the Swift raids, the majority were charged with civil immigration violations and quickly deported. But federal prosecutors brought identity-theft charges against 148 of the workers.

Court papers show that the accused did not use stolen documents to loot bank accounts or credit cards, the primary crimes that identity-theft laws seek to attack. Instead, they used the birth certificates and Social Security cards to get jobs.

At Swift, the workers had Social Security contributions and other taxes deducted from their paychecks, but they did not file tax returns. The Social Security taxes accumulated in the accounts of the real owners. Because the documents were real, Swift managers were not alerted to any irregularities by the Social Security Administration, and no charges were brought against the company in connection with the raids.

Traffickers have devised several ways to meet the demand for authentic documents. Along the Mexican border, immigration officials said, muggers and pickpockets have learned that selling stolen documents to black market vendors can be less risky than a shopping spree with a stolen credit card.

Some Americans willingly sell their documents.

In Corpus Christi, Tex., this month, seven people pleaded guilty to selling their birth certificates and Social Security cards for as little as $100 for both. In another recent case, immigration officials said, an employee of a Michigan state employment bureau sold confidential identity information from state records to illegal immigrants seeking jobs.

Traffickers apparently sold and resold the documents in several places. Many of the identities found in Marshalltown, including Ms. Blanco's, had also been used by immigrant workers in Green Forest, Ark., and Milwaukee, Wis. Neither Ms. Nuñez nor Ms. Blanco has ever been to either place

March 16, 2007

Senator Kennedy leading Senate effort to pass immigration reform bill.

Earlier this week the NY Times profiled Senator Ted Kennedy’s current efforts to enact an immigration reform bill. He is using the language which was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate as S. 2612 last Spring in order to improve the chances for passage. (I have posted several times on S. 2612.) The article said that Kennedy is hoping for a floor vote by May. It also says that Senator McCain may backing off from supporting immigration reform.

I am increasingly concerned that a bill will not be passed due to the vocal anti-immigration lobby and both Dem and Rep concerns about the 2008 election.

There are some serious problems with this Judiciary bill including an unworkable provision requiring many illegal immigrants to leave the country and apply for entrance. Specifically, according to an outline of the bill, it “Authorizes mandatory departure and immigrant or nonimmigrant reentry for a qualifying illegal alien who has been present and employed in the United States since January 7, 2004.”

The article:

WASHINGTON, March 12 — Facing a rebellion from some crucial Republicans, Senator Edward M. Kennedy has abandoned efforts to produce a new immigration bill and is proposing using legislation produced last March by the Senate Judiciary Committee, then controlled by Republicans, as the starting point for negotiations this year, lawmakers said Monday.

Mr. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is a principal architect of immigration legislation in the Senate, now controlled by Democrats, said he was shifting gears in hopes of winning Republican support and speeding the passage of immigration legislation this spring. Four of 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted last year for the committee’s bill, which would tighten border security, create a temporary worker program and legalize illegal immigrants.

President Bush said Monday in Guatemala that he hoped to see an immigration bill completed by the fall and that he was working with Republicans to define a position most could support. “If we don’t have enough consensus,” Mr. Bush said, “nothing is going to move out of the Senate.”

Mr. Kennedy and a Republican colleague, Senator John McCain of Arizona, had spent several months trying to produce a new immigration bill that was expected to be introduced this month. But several Republicans protested that they had been shut out of the negotiations. They began drafting their own bill, led by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican moderate who led the debate on immigration in the Judiciary Committee last year.

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who led Republican lawmakers in championing immigration legislation last year, has appeared to be backing away from that role, several Congressional aides said.

Conservatives have sharply criticized Mr. McCain, a leading Republican presidential candidate, for supporting efforts to put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Senior aides in both parties said Mr. McCain told several colleagues last week that he was stepping away from the bill because he was troubled by labor provisions it included. Eileen McMenamin, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, disputed that assertion, saying he “remains committed to passing a comprehensive immigration bill.”

Mr. Kennedy said that he hoped Mr. McCain would continue to be deeply involved in the push for immigration legislation but that he would “certainly understand” if he could not be, given the demands of the presidential campaign.

“We will value as much time and effort and energy as he can put into this,” Mr. Kennedy said in an interview. “I recognize that he’s a presidential candidate and that’s going to take a big part of his time.”

Mr. Kennedy dismissed the notion that his efforts to produce a new immigration bill had failed. He said he had decided that the committee report was “the best starting point” because it had bipartisan support and because it would allow lawmakers to move swiftly toward passage, with a vote as early as May.

“We’ve had extensive hearings on the essential aspects of this bill,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We are effectively ready for markup and going to the floor.”

Mr. Specter, who said Mr. Kennedy first suggested the new approach on the Senate floor on Friday, said he was still weighing whether to support it. He said he and several Republican lawmakers had met with White House officials when it became clear they would not be included in the negotiations between Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McCain.

“We’ve gotten fairly far along on the outlines of a bill,” said Mr. Specter. “Nonetheless, I think it is desirable to work jointly with the Democrats.”

Mr. Specter said he would consult with his Republican colleagues and White House officials before deciding. The bill passed by the Judiciary Committee did not include several measures included in last year’s Senate legislation, including a provision to compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before applying for citizenship.

Mr. McCain declined a request for an interview, but Ms. McMenamin said he supported Mr. Kennedy’s approach. “The most important thing is that they come to some sort of consensus on immigration reform,” she said. “This is a good way to arrive at it.” She said Mr. McCain had told his staff to remain deeply involved in negotiations on the legislation.

March 15, 2007

Senator Kennedy on New Bedford sweat shop raid

Senator Kennedy is using the New Bedford raid as a platform for moving immigration reform forward. I have posted below his statement, in which he allegaes that Homeland Security's ICE unit swiftly transfered hundreds of the arrested workers to holding areas in Texas while not caring for some children left in New Bedford. Meanwhile, the owner of the employer, Michael Bianco, Inc, is free on bail and vacationing in Puerto Rico.

"This is the haphazard way DHS handles the problem of illegal immigration. They have said that they had planned this raid for months, but had made no provision to house the workers they arrested. Instead, the workers were rounded up and immediately transported by DHS to Texas and other states, far from their families, without even an opportunity to say goodbye. The DHS knew that many of these workers had children at home, but they did not do nearly enough to protect them. As a result, children came back to empty homes; at least one nursing baby went to the hospital with dehydration; and hundreds cried themselves to sleep, wondering where their loved ones were and why they had disappeared."

“Making an example of New Bedford workers doesn't solve the problem”

By Senator Edward M. Kennedy
As it appears in The New Bedford Standard Times
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On Sunday afternoon, in the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe in New Bedford, I saw first-hand the pain and suffering of the families and community ripped apart by the actions of the Department of Homeland Security. In my 45 years of public life, this was one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever witnessed. Babies were screaming for their mothers. Wives were desperately searching for information about their husbands. One father tearfully described the agony and sleeplessness of his young children who couldn’t understand why their mother had disappeared. Shock, confusion and despair were the order of the day.

I was reminded of the tragedy and human suffering that we all witnessed after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Such human tragedy is heartbreaking when it is caused by a natural disaster. But when it is the product of a government agency’s failures, it is utterly unconscionable.

These men and women had not harmed anyone. They were victims of exploitation, forced to work under barbaric conditions by an employer who knew that they could not afford to complain. Their children — many of whom are United States citizens — had done nothing wrong at all. None of them had any reason to expect that the Department of Homeland Security would decide to make an example out of them.

This is the haphazard way DHS handles the problem of illegal immigration. They have said that they had planned this raid for months, but had made no provision to house the workers they arrested. Instead, the workers were rounded up and immediately transported by DHS to Texas and other states, far from their families, without even an opportunity to say goodbye. The DHS knew that many of these workers had children at home, but they did not do nearly enough to protect them. As a result, children came back to empty homes; at least one nursing baby went to the hospital with dehydration; and hundreds cried themselves to sleep, wondering where their loved ones were and why they had disappeared.

The treatment of these workers is sharply different from the treatment given so far to the owner of Michael Bianco, Inc. His factory abused undocumented workers for years, and he reaped lucrative government contracts made even more profitable by underpaying and overworking the undocumented. However, he is now free on bail and was free to take a trip to Puerto Rico. There is no clearer proof that our immigration system is badly broken. It is swift to punish a handful of exploited workers, but slow and uncertain in addressing the employers who exploit them. Clearly, the time has come to address these inequities.

We must enforce our nation’s immigration laws. But the raids in New Bedford and elsewhere are merely a stopgap solution that unfairly penalizes vulnerable workers in an already flawed system. There are 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Arresting 300 of them may generate some headlines for DHS, but such raids do not begin to solve the immigration issue.

To make real progress, I have proposed comprehensive immigration reform. That legislation will create a program whereby undocumented workers who are already in the United States can earn legalization by working and paying taxes over many years. It will also hold employers accountable for verifying the immigration status of the workers they hire, and significantly increase penalties against employers who hire and exploit undocumented workers. Such legislation offers a practical alternative to the chaos of the current system.

Today, we must pull together just as we did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The administration must not flee the scene of this disaster. Instead, DHS must be held accountable for its failure to take adequate steps to protect innocent children from the fallout from this raid. We owe that much to our neighbors in New Bedford — and to workers in communities across the country who have experienced similar raids. I have also asked DHS to meet with me, the rest of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Scott Lang this week to explore immediately what can be done to reunite families and restore some order to their lives. These workers may lack documents, but they do not lack dignity, and they do not lack friends.

–Jill McCarthy

March 13, 2007

More on expose about current guest worker programs

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted on its website today a summary of its report that Bob Herbert of the NY Times wrote about. “The report — Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States — comes as Congress is about to begin debating immigration legislation that could greatly expand guestworker programs to cover hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new temporary foreign workers.

“The most fundamental problem with the H-2 system is that employers hold all the cards. They decide which workers can come to the United States and which cannot. They decide whether a worker can stay in this country. They usually decide where and under what conditions workers live and how they travel.”

The report summary:

New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

March 12, 2007 — Guestworkers who come to the United States are routinely cheated out of wages; forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs; held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents; forced to live in squalid conditions; and denied medical benefits for injuries, according to a new report released by the Center today.

The report — Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States — comes as Congress is about to begin debating immigration legislation that could greatly expand guestworker programs to cover hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new temporary foreign workers.

"Congress should reform our broken immigration system, but reform should not rely on creating a vast new guestworker program," said Mary Bauer, director of the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project and author of the report. "The current program is shamefully abusive in practice, and there is almost no enforcement of worker rights."

The 48-page report, based on interviews with thousands of guestworkers and dozens of legal cases, describes the systematic abuse of workers under what is known as the H-2 system administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program was created in 1943 to allow the sugar cane industry to bring in temporary workers and was revised by Congress in 1986 to include non-agricultural workers.

Employers in 2005 "imported" more than 121,000 temporary H-2 guestworkers — 32,000 H-2A workers for agricultural work and 89,000 H-2B workers for jobs in forestry, seafood processing, landscaping, construction and other non-agricultural industries.

"Guestworkers are usually poor people who are lured here by the promise of decent jobs," Bauer said. "But all too often, their dreams are based on lies, their hopes shattered by the reality of a system that treats them as commodities. They're the disposable workers of the global economy."

Hugo Martin Recinos-Recinos, a former guestworker from Guatemala, borrowed thousands of dollars to pay recruiting fees for a forestry job in the United States. "I had to leave the deed to my home," he said. "When I got to the U.S., I was always underpaid, living in small hotel rooms and working 10-hour days. The debt from my recruitment and travel to the States made the low pay even harder to bear. When I filed a lawsuit about the conditions, my family and I were threatened. The guestworker program was abuse from beginning to end."

The most fundamental problem with the H-2 system is that employers hold all the cards. They decide which workers can come to the United States and which cannot. They decide whether a worker can stay in this country. They usually decide where and under what conditions workers live and how they travel.

Guestworkers are typically powerless to enforce their rights. "If guestworkers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting or other retaliation," the report says.

"Guestworkers don't enjoy the most basic protections of a free labor market — the ability to change jobs if they are cheated or abused by their employer," Bauer said.

The rights that H-2 workers do have exist mostly on paper. The federal government has failed to protect them from unscrupulous employers, and most cannot obtain private legal assistance to enforce their rights through the courts.

The report concludes that the H-2 guestworker program should not serve as a model for immigration reform, but in fact should be overhauled if allowed to continue. It offers specific recommendations to remedy the worst abuses.

"The mistreatment of temporary foreign workers in America today is one of the major civil rights issues of our time," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "For too long, we've reaped the economic benefits of their labor but have ignored the incredible degree of abuse and exploitation they endure.

"Congress now has an opportunity to right this terrible wrong. As part of the reform of our broken immigration system, Congress should eliminate the current H-2 system entirely or commit to making it a fair program with strong worker protections that are vigorously enforced."

New expose on H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs.

Bob Herbert of the New York Times devoted his Monday, March 12 column to a forthcoming report by the Southern Poverty Law Center about guest worker program abuses. The title of the report: “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” I have not been able to find it yet so am posting below Herbert's column. Herbert is talking about The H-2A and H-2B programs.

Indentured Servants in America

A must-read for anyone who favors an expansion of guest worker programs in the U.S. is a stunning new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that details the widespread abuse of highly vulnerable, poverty-stricken workers in programs that already exist.

The report is titled “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” It will be formally released today at a press conference in Washington.

Workers recruited from Mexico, South America, Asia and elsewhere to work in American hotels and in such labor-intensive industries as forestry, seafood processing and construction are often ruthlessly exploited.

They are routinely cheated out of their wages, which are low to begin with. They are bound like indentured servants to the middlemen and employers who arrange their work tours in the U.S. And they are virtual hostages of the American companies that employ them.

The law does not allow these “guests” to change jobs while they’re here. If a particular employer is unscrupulous, as is very often the case, the worker has little or no recourse.

One of the guest workers profiled in the report was a psychology student recruited in the Dominican Republic to work at a hotel in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The woman had taken on $4,000 in debt to cover “fees” and other expenses that were required for her to get a desk job that paid $6 an hour.

But after a month, her hours were steadily reduced until she was working only 15 or 20 hours a week. That left her with barely enough money to survive, and with no way of paying off her crushing debt.

The woman and her fellow guest workers had hardly enough money for food. “We would just buy Chinese food because it was the cheapest,” she said. “We would buy one plate a day and share it between two or three people.” She told the authors of the report: “I felt like an animal without claws — defenseless. It is the same as slavery.”

Steven Greenhouse of The Times recently reported on a waiter from Indonesia who took on $6,000 in debt to become a guest worker. He arrived in North Carolina expecting to do farm work but found that there was no job for him at all.

The report focused primarily on the 120,000 foreign workers who are allowed into the U.S. each year to work on farms or at other low-skilled jobs. In most cases the guest workers take on a heavy debt load to participate in the program, anywhere from $500 to more than $10,000. Worried about the welfare of their families back home, and with the huge debt hanging over their heads, the workers are most often docile, even in the face of the most egregious treatment.

The result, said the report, is that they are “systematically exploited and abused.”

Some of the worst abuses occur in the forestry industry. The report said, “Virtually every forestry company that the Southern Poverty Law Center has encountered provides workers with pay stubs showing that they have worked substantially fewer hours than they actually worked.”

A favorite (and extremely cruel) tactic of employers is the seizure of guest workers’ identity documents, such as passports and Social Security cards. That leaves the workers incredibly vulnerable.

“Numerous employers have refused to return these documents even when the worker simply wanted to return to his home country,” the report said. “The Southern Poverty Law Center also has encountered numerous incidents where employers destroyed passports or visas in order to convert workers into undocumented status.”

Without their papers the workers live in abject fear of encountering the authorities, who will treat them as illegals. They are completely at the mercy of the employers.

President Bush has been relentless in his push to greatly expand guest worker programs as part of his effort to revise the nation’s immigration laws. To expand these programs without looking closely at the gruesome abuses already taking place would be both tragic and ridiculous.

“This is not a situation where there are just a few bad-apple employers,” said Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has initiated a number of lawsuits on behalf of abused workers. “Our experience is that it’s the very structure of the program that lends itself to abuse.”

March 11, 2007

2008 Elections and immigration reform

Focus on three things. One, the share of voting age population that is Hispanic went from 7% in 2000 to 9% in 2006. Two, four states with populations at least 25% Hispanic hold 104 of the 270 electoral votes needed for presidential candidate victory. Three, the immigration issue unites pretty much the entire Hispanic population in America.

These states are AZ (28% Hispanic), CA (35%), NM (43%) and TX (35%). And we’re not counting the 58 electoral votes in FL (19% Hispanic) and NY (16%).

The Politico website talks about the political perils of the Republicans in immigration reform. “….Another high-profile Capitol Hill debate, coming right after the bitter 2006 discussion, over treatment of the thousands of legal and illegal immigrants in the country could crystallize Hispanics' views about the political parties for a generation, providing a critical advantage to one of them."

It goes on:

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization, Hispanic voters represented nearly 9 percent of the voting-age population in 2006, up from just over 7 percent in 2000. A 2006 study by Strategic Telemetry, a Democratic research group, predicted that Hispanics will remain the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, accounting for 44 percent of the growth in the nation's voting-age population by 2020, compared with 14 percent for blacks.

-- PFR: Both McCain and Giuliani (in a February 2000 Meet the Press interview) has spoken out strongly in favor of inclusion of Hispanic immigrants through immigration reform.

Back to Politico:

The Democratic National Committee supported a move by Nevada to insert its primary caucuses between those held in Iowa and New Hampshire largely because it would give Latinos a greater voice in the nomination process.

Indeed, Democrats are convinced that if their party can gain an edge with Hispanic voters, they can break the Republican presidential-year hold on several western states, including Nevada and Colorado. That could offset their own party's loss of strength in the South.

March 9, 2007

Regional sources of Mexican workers in U.S.

The Atlantic Monthly (subscription required) has an article in its April 2007 edition called “The Mexican Connection.” I have posted on this before (search for “remittance”). The main contribution of this article is to pinpoint the regional sources of many of U.S. based workers -- states immediately northwest of Mexico City: “ Five predominantly rural Mexican states—Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas—send a disproportionately large number of emigrants to the United States. Their links to the U.S. date back a century, to when American mining and railroad companies recruited workers from these regions to offset reductions in Chinese and Japanese immigration. Home to less than a third of Mexico’s population, they receive 44 percent of Mexico’s remittances.”

The Mexican Connection
by Matthew Quirk

Among the crumbling adobe shacks of rural Mexico, two-story California- style housing developments are rising. In the tiny city of Tlacolula, plots of land that sold for about $10,000 in 1994 now cost $60,000. Like the towns where they are going up, the new developments are partly empty. The home owners are among the many Mexican workers—nearly one in seven overall, and half the adult population of some communities, such as La Purísima and San Juan Mixtepec—who are in the United States. Typically working low-wage jobs, they send home much of their pay (41 percent on average, or $300 a month) to support families left behind and build a better life for their return.

Remittances to Mexico exceed $20 billion a year.[Actually $25B – PFR] By 2003, they had become the nation’s second-largest source of external finance, ahead of tourism and foreign investment and just behind oil exports. That same year, then-President Vicente Fox noted that the roughly 20 million Mexican-origin workers in America create a larger gross product than Mexico itself. [This cannot be a correct figures – it is too large. There may be 20 million total Mexican-born people in the U.S. including children. – PFR]

Worldwide, remittances have surpassed direct aid in volume, and international development institutions (along with the governments of many less- developed countries) have recently seized upon them as a key to economic growth in the global South. The United States is the largest source of remittances—Saudi Arabia, with its armies of serflike guest workers, is No. 2—and Mexico the largest recipient of U.S. funds.

The map below, based in part on work by Raúl Hernández-Coss for the World Bank, shows the flow of remittances from different parts of the United States to various states in Mexico—a mirror image of migration flows from south to north. [Map is on pp.26 -27 PFR] Though mass migration from Mexico to the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, it has grown through century-old social networks linking specific immigrant communities in America to their hometowns in Mexico. Most of these networks have their roots in rural Mexico, though migration from urban areas is now increasing as well.

Remittances are unquestionably a boon to Mexican living standards, but they are also changing the character of Mexican life. In some towns with a long history of migration, leaving home to work in the United States has become a rite of passage for young men, often in place of completing school. Many of these towns are bereft of men and dominated by single-parent households. The money flowing in reduces local incentives to work and fuels inflation. Many of the houses being built boost real-estate prices beyond the reach of people working in Mexico.

Typically the men—most Mexican emigrants are men, though in border states women increasingly cross over— leave believing that they will eventually return. But most do not. U.S. crackdowns on illegal immigration have made the trip north dangerous and expensive (financing an illegal entry can cost $20,000 or more), so workers sometimes must remain for years just to repay transit debts. As seasonal visits to Mexican hometowns become more difficult and rare, family ties weaken. Perversely, stepped-up attempts to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States have resulted in a migrant population more likely to stay. The fact that more than $20 billion is sent back to Mexico each year is evidence of a robust labor flow that seems to benefit both economies. It’s also a sign of workers stuck between two worlds.

Branching Out

Social networks have long connected certain communities in Mexico to specific cities in the U.S.—Puebla to New York, Michoacán to Chicago, Jalisco to Boston. As migration has grown, these networks have proliferated. But new links are forming as well; for instance, workers are increasingly migrating from Guerrero to Georgia, with money flowing back the other way.

The Hollow States

Five predominantly rural Mexican states—Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas—send a disproportionately large number of emigrants to the United States. Their links to the U.S. date back a century, to when American mining and railroad companies recruited workers from these regions to offset reductions in Chinese and Japanese immigration. Home to less than a third of Mexico’s population, they receive 44 percent of Mexico’s remittances.

Staying Put

The relatively small remittance flow to Mexico’s border states attests to their economic strength. The spread of factories along the border to perform cheap manufacturing for U.S. companies allows many Mexicans to find work without crossing over.

Community Development (from 2,000 miles away)

Mexican “hometown associations” are common in American cities. They host dances, rodeos, and picnics, and send the proceeds back to their members’ native towns to finance water, electricity, or building projects. Migrants in Chicago, for instance, gathered $240,000 one year to build a church in the small village of La Purísima (pop. 4,000). The Mexican government matches such funds 3-to-1.

March 8, 2007

sweat shop in New Bedford MA busted, 350 illegal workers out of work

Workers Comp Insider, the best workers comp blog in the country, reports on and analyzes a story in the Boston Globe about a raid on a sweast shoop which made military supplies.

According to jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider, "Affidavits allege that Insolia preferred to hire illegal immigrants because they were desperate for jobs and willing to put up with atrocious working conditions. He even helped them secure forged identity papers, referring them to vendors who would produce the documents for about $120. As for the working conditions, workers were routinely denied overtime pay, docked 15 minutes for every minute late and fined for talking on the job or spending more than two minutes in the plant's "squalid" rest rooms. Sure, but at least the vests and backpacks were made in America!"

Two of three new construction jobs go to Hispanics

The Pew Hispanic Center released a factsheet that examines recent trends in the employment of Latino workers in the U.S. labor market and focuses specifically on the construction industry.

Hispanic workers landed two out of every three new construction jobs in 2006, according to the analysis. They benefited from strong employment growth in the industry even as the housing market endured a year-long slump. Indeed, the construction industry continues to be a key source of jobs for Hispanics and especially for those who are foreign born and recently arrived.

Hispanic employment increased by almost 1 million from 2005 to 2006. Even though Latinos account for only 13.6% of total employment, they accounted for 36.7% of the increase in employment. The comparatively high share of employment reflects demographic changes in the U.S. About 40% of the total increase in the working-age population (16 and older) in 2006 was Hispanic and of these three-fourths are foreign born Latino workers.

Foreign-born Latinos who arrived since 2000 were responsible for about 24% of the total increase in employment in the U.S. labor market last year. Estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center suggest that in recent years about two-thirds of the increase in the employment of recently-arrived Hispanic workers has been due to unauthorized migration.

The estimates in the fact sheet are derived from data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. Most of the data is from the Current Population Survey, a monthly Census Bureau survey of approximately 60,000 households. Monthly data are combined to create larger sample sizes and to conduct the analysis on either an annual or quarterly basis. The analysis is for 2004-2006.

March 6, 2007

Live-in domestic foreign in workers in the U.S.

Human rights Watch issued in June 2001 a 58 page report on the tens of thousands of foreign born workers to come to work in America as au pairs and maids. I am posting about it with thanks to Julie Ferguson for having brought it to my attention. These workers come under one of the following visa programs: A-3 if hired by diplomats, G-5 if hired by international organizations, and B-1 if hired by other foreigners or American citizens. Human Rights Watch finds that these workers are without legally enforceable work contracts, are not protected by American labor laws, and can easily be threatened with deportation by their employers. This report is a stunning expose of the problems these workers experience.

March 4, 2007

Data about the H-2A and H-2B temporary work visa programs

The Global Worker Alliance has on its webite some important facts about these programs. H-2A is for agricultural workers.H-2B is for forestry, landscaping and construction.

These are not to be confused with the H-1A program which brings over engineers and computer sciences, from which Intel and Microsoft and their like benefit. I have posted on all of these program before.

Go here for the Global Worker Alliance posting which includes source of data citations.

What the Global Worker Alliance reports:

The United States admits temporary (less than one year) foreign guestworkers through its H-2 program. H-2 visas workers are considered non-professional workers. H-2A visas are issued for seasonal agricultural workers. H-2B visas are issued for temporary non-agricultural workers. Industries that often use H-2B workers are forestry, construction, and landscaping.

H-2R visas are issued to persons who had been issued an H-2B visa within any of the previous three fiscal years. The H-2B and H-2R issuance totals for each nationality when added together produce the totals of H-2B temporary worker visas issued.

Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2A workers – 2006

Total H-2A Visas Issued 37,149
1. Mexico 34,195 [92% of total]
2. South Africa 1,054
3. Peru 841
4. Nicaragua 146
5. Guatemala 110
6. Australia 87
7. Romania 87
8. New Zealand 84
9. Haiti 78
10. Chile 64

Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2B workers – 2006

Total H-2B Visas Issued 71,687
1. Mexico 43,269 [60% of total]
2. Jamaica 4,727
3. Romania 2,752
4. Guatemala 2,605
5. South Africa 1,855
6. Philippines 1,590
7. Great Britain 1,504
8. Brazil 1,474
9. Bulgaria 1,108
10. Dominican Republic 853

Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2R workers – 2006

Total H-2R Visas Issued 50,854
1. Mexico 36,723 [[72% of total]
2. Jamaica 8,402
3. Guatemala 2,356
4. Dominican Republic 490
5. Costa Rica 409
6. Romania 329
7. Honduras 328
8. New Zealand 305
9. Bulgaria 237
10. Australia 231

Digging into abuses of H-2A and H-2B temporary worker programs in U.S.

The Global Worker Alliance, about which I have posted in the past, is evolving into the leading advocate of temporary worker rights, especially for H-2A (agriculture) and H-2B (forestry, landscaping, etc.) workers. I have placed below its March 2007 report on a visit to Guatemala. The Aliiance is now training workers before they come, and documenting abuses of recruiters.

Reducing Guest Worker Exploitation in Guatemala

Global Workers has been persistently encouraging the United States Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Labor Ministry to take steps to reduce the rampant exploitation of the Guatemalan people who work in the US guest worker program. On a recent trip to Guatemala, both entities pledged to take major steps forward.

Global Workers met with the US Ambassador and the US Consul General in Guatemala and secured a commitment to change the practice of not informing guest workers about their rights or where to seek assistance. Soon the embassy should be providing the workers with a know-your rights hand out that Global Workers and Southern Poverty Law Center jointly crafted.

The Guatemalan labor ministry has invited Global Workers to provide a training on the US guest worker program. Building on the training, the ministry is pledging to crack down on the abuses by Guatemalan contractors. One such example is the procurement of false loans. Contractors force workers to sign contracts stating they have received loans, when in fact they have not. The contract is a form of bondage to guarantee the worker’s return.