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October 31, 2008

Former CEO of Agriprocessors arrested.

That’s the company which ICE raided in May, arresting 300 workers and herding them through a judicial stockyard. See my earlier postings. Now the Feds have arrested and put on $1 million bail the person who was CEO at the time of the raid, and was subsequently removed by his father, living in New York City. To my knowledge this is the first time that a large scale raid resulted in federal charges against a top executive.

The full story in the New York Times:

October 31, 2008
Federal Charges for Ex-C.E.O. at Meatpacker

Federal immigration agents on Thursday arrested the former chief executive of Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s biggest kosher meatpacking company, accusing him of harboring illegal immigrants at a plant in Postville, Iowa, where about 400 immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May.

With the arrest of the former chief executive, Sholom Rubashkin, federal authorities extended their criminal prosecution to the highest level of management at the plant. Some 300 workers, mainly immigrants from Guatemala, were convicted of felony document fraud charges after the raid, and Iowa prosecutors had faced mounting criticism for punishing those workers but not Agriprocessors’s executives and owners.

Mr. Rubashkin is the highest-ranking executive to face arrest in stepped-up immigration raids at packinghouses nationwide since late 2006.

The son of Aaron Rubashkin, the owner of the family-held company, Sholom Rubashkin had been the top manager of the kosher plant since 1987. He was forced by his father to step down as chief executive shortly after the raid.

Mr. Rubashkin was arrested Thursday by immigration agents at his home in Postville, prosecutors said, and was released on $1 million bail after a hearing.

He is also accused, in a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, of abetting aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year minimum sentence. Many of the immigrant workers were charged with that crime.

Mr. Rubashkin and his father, both Lubavitch Hasidic Jews, built Agriprocessors into a kosher giant. Kosher consumers faced meat shortages since the raid, and the scandal fueled a debate about kosher ethics.

According to the complaint, Mr. Rubashkin participated directly in efforts in the days before the raid to obtain fraudulent documents that could pass immigration agents’ scrutiny for dozens of illegal immigrants working in Postville.

The complaint suggests that plant managers had heard a raid was coming and had initially informed many workers they would have to present valid identity documents or be fired. But two floor supervisors told investigators that they met with Mr. Rubashkin at the plant to request a $4,500 loan to “help the employees who were to be terminated.” On May 9, Mr. Rubashkin agreed to give them the cash loan.

One supervisor said he had lent $200 each to about a dozen workers, who paid a line foreman to buy fake documents, the complaint says.

On May 11, the complaint charges, human resources managers worked all day under Mr. Rubashkin’s supervision to fill out job applications for workers with new fake documents.

One human resources manager told investigators that she had protested to Mr. Rubashkin that employees who had been scheduled for termination were applying under new names. Mr. Rubashkin said “the IDs looked good to him” and told her to accept them, the complaint says.

While the complaint names no employees, two supervisors, Juan Carlos Guerrero Espinoza and Martin de la Rosa, have pleaded guilty to harboring charges. A human resources manager, Laura Althouse, pleaded guilty on Wednesday.

Mr. Rubashkin and his father also face state charges for child labor violations. And Iowa labor authorities on Wednesday levied $10 million in fines against the company for wage violations.

Mr. Rubashkin faces a maximum of 22 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges.

October 26, 2008

A book on internal worker migration in China

About 150 million workers, many of them women, have migrated within China for work. This internal migration matches or exceeds the entirety of world-wide transborder worker migration in the recent past. "Factory Girls" is a newly published book which examines this Chinese migration among women. The author at one time was one of these women. the New York Times published the following review:

Published: October 21, 2008

From Village to City in a Changing China
By Leslie T. Chang
Spiegel & Grau. 420 pages. $26.

Some day the manic thrust of China’s continuing dash for development will have passed, and the quest for leisure so cherished in developed countries will become as commonplace among Chinese as their current thirst for achievement.

Perhaps by then, new heroes will have emerged to help explain how the world’s most populous nation rejoined the ranks of the rich.

For now, the familiar story line credits the former leader Deng Xiaoping (1904-97) for breaking the dismal, decades-long run of misrule and foreign subjugation, feudalism and civil war, and finally the fanatical excesses of Mao Zedong.

Often lost in the telling are the invisible foot soldiers who made China’s stirring rise possible: the country’s 130 million migrant workers, the subject of Leslie T. Chang’s “Factory Girls.” This vast and ceaselessly renewed workforce has built China’s cities, throwing up skyscrapers at a rate never seen before, and has filled China’s factories, churning out ever cheaper goods in ever greater quantities to fuel the double-digit growth that has reshaped the world’s economy.

Ms. Chang, a former China correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, describes this endless flow of labor from the hinterland to the booming cities of the east as the “largest migration in human history.” But she gives us something more personal as well, including an extended aside in which she explores her ancestors’ roots in China. The results are deeply affecting.

Her focus, as suggested by the title, are the young women who overwhelmingly staff the factory assembly lines in the new industrial supercities of the Pearl River Delta of southern China. In the course of her narrative, she builds a quiet but powerful case that through their tireless work and self-sacrifice, these women, invisible to the outside world and to most Chinese, are this era’s true heroes.

Ms. Chang’s story centers on Dongguan, a giant factory town whose population is estimated at 70 percent female, where the economy has grown at a 15 percent annual clip for two decades.

Dongguan is one of China’s hyper-dynamic new boom towns and a place seemingly without history, boasting a pseudo Ikea, pseudo K.F.C.’s and even a Hyatt hotel knockoff. Here, as in China itself, “everything is in the process of becoming something else.”

The factories are a world of brutal 12-hour shifts and minimal leave, Spartan dormitories, six-month minimum commitments enforced by the withholding of the first two months’ salary, and monthly wages that often hover in the $100 range. Fines are assessed for talking on the job, and bathroom breaks are allowed once every four hours.

Despite exploitation like this, the supply of girls willing to trade the dead-end life of the village for the cheating and discrimination of the factory appears limitless. As one chapter title puts it, to die poor is a sin.

If the steely motivation of these young women were only about securing a meager wage, this bargain would not work. One after another, they tell the author that their current jobs are merely temporary stopping places.

For nearly all, the greater goal is self-improvement, which they pursue by frequently jumping jobs, abandoning both friends and back pay as they bluff their way into better and better work.

This self-improvement is also facilitated by night school sessions, which may cost as much as a month’s salary and which the young women attend after a full shift, somehow managing the feat of showing up in a fresh change of nonfactory clothes.

The change of dress is an important part of their transformation into what they conceive of as a better class of people. Many dream of jobs as managers of some kind or, best of all, as white-collar workers.

China is locked in a Dale Carnegie era, with bookstore shelves dominated by titles purporting to explain how to gain a leg up. In Dongguan the self-improvement business that caters to the female factory worker has achieved industrial dimensions, with night schools on every street corner.

It scarcely seems to matter that most of these schools are ersatz affairs with few conventional qualifications. At one, the Dongguan Zhitong Talent Intelligence Development Company, a 17-year-old breathlessly lectures others about the perils of growing old as a lowly worker.

The women’s road from village to factory job is lined with manipulators and cheats, and the schools, which busily copy one another’s curriculums, in turn teach the virtues of lying as a means of getting ahead. “People who are too honest in this society will lose out,” one instructor told the author.

The women learn something else important along the way, and in a country that actively discourages religion, it resonates with the force of gospel: “change soon or it will be too late.”

We are a very long way from Mao Zedong, who glorified the worker and despised the managers, all the while emphasizing the importance of the collective identity over that of the individual, whose re-emergence in China is an important theme of this book.

Ms. Chang’s rich narrative takes us deep inside a country that is changing too fast for any reckoning about the outcome or even direction, and she is wise in avoiding easy conclusions or even approval.

“One day, I asked a friend: ‘What is life all about? Why are we working so hard?’ ” she quotes one worker saying. “My friend could not answer.”

October 19, 2008

Delusional thinking about immigrants and voting registration fraud

I stay away from much of the news about immigrants and voting but this looney study is too outrageous not to comment on. the Center for Immigration Studies, which does some decent conservative work in the area of immigration policy, and is a good place to go to read arguments critical of liberal immigration policies, fell off the train in a recent study on voter fraud. Actually a former executive director of the CIS wrote the study. He estimates that between 1.8 and 2.7 million illegal immigrants may be registered to vote. Given the scrupulous, under-the-glare-of-headlights approach of voter registrars, the figure is patently ridiculous. CIS previously published a report which associated immigration with climate problems in the United States.

Study calls into question number of non-citizen voters
By John Riley
The Dallas Morning News, October 7, 2008

The former head of a Washington think tank specializing in immigration issues says that voter registration numbers in Texas and elsewhere may be inflated because of the presence of non-citizens on voter rolls.

Below is a news article from the Dallas Morning News of 10/7/08.

David Simcox, former executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, released a study Tuesday afternoon that said an estimated 1.8 million to 2.7 million non-citizen immigrants in the Unites States may be illegally registered to vote, thereby potentially influencing the outcome of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.

The report also estimated that anywhere from 161,000 to 333,000 non-citizens may be registered to vote in Texas.

Calling the state's political culture 'a mix of the worst of Old South Dixieland politics and Latin American politics,' Mr. Simcox said Texas has a political history marked by election fraud, sometimes involving Mexican or Mexican-American voters.

Using Texas population estimates from the 2000 census, Mr. Simcox said his study found a disproportionately high number of registered voters when compared to the total number of eligible voters in six major metropolitan counties and five counties near the Mexican border, all having a high percentage of non-citizen residents.

The counties mentioned in Mr. Simcox's report were Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Maverick, Presidio, Starr, Tarrant, Travis, Valverde and Webb counties. The report found that, according to Mr. Simcox's calculations, Dallas, Harris, Presidio and Starr counties had a higher number of registered voters than legitimately eligible voters, a figure that excludes non-citizens and convicted felons.

But Starr County Election Administrator Rafael Rodolfo Montalvo disputed the claims in Mr. Simcox's report, saying he doesn't understand how Mr. Simcox got his registration figures.

'I'm not saying it can't happen, but [non-citizen voting] isn't a big issue here,' Mr. Montalvo said. 'I feel very sure that our elections are fair and our people who are voting are eligible.'

Mr. Montalvo said Starr County has about 66,000 residents and about 27,500 are registered voters. Mr. Montalvo also said that despite the county's proximity to the Mexican border, the residents know each other and any non-citizens trying to vote would easily be pinpointed and stopped.

Mr. Montalvo also said there are plenty of safeguards in place in the registration process. Once a voter submits a driver's license number or social security number, it is entered into a statewide electronic system. Then, the Secretary of State's office must verify the information, and then approve a voter's application. Only after approval is granted are applicants sent a voting card, Mr. Montalvo said.

'If I thought there was an issue, I would go wherever, I would do anything to bring attention to it,' said Mr. Montalvo. 'It's getting closer to an election, and some people want to muddy the waters for one reason or another.'

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Simcox report is available online at:http://www.thesocialcontract.com/docs/tsc_how_many_non_citizen_voters_simcox_2008oct7.pdf

New analysis of workers comp laws and illegal workers

Here is the headline: “Most States Allow Benefits for Illegal Aliens, but Restrictions Abound”. WorkcompCentral (subscription required) ran an article about a new study done on state policies with regard to allowing illegal workers benefitsThis study is exceptional in value because it surveys not only statutes but many key court decisions. The study was prepared by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers. Good for them!

The news article:

Only one state - Wyoming - has a statute that directly prohibits illegal aliens from receiving benefits, but court decisions around the country have narrowed the scope of benefits allowed for undocumented workers, according to a report from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

The IIABA report, called "Workers' Compensation and Illegal Aliens," shows that 38 states offer at least some type of benefits to illegal aliens. The report, designed as a chart showing each state's stance on the issue, also notes the various factors that can be considered when the courts hear claims by workers who obtained their jobs using false documents or fake Social Security numbers.

Bill Wilson, the associate vice president of education and research for the IIABA, said that he compiled the chart from Google and legal database searches in 2006. He noted that the chart contains a warning that it is not a scientifically researched document, and recommended that readers verify with local sources before relying on the information.

The majority of the United States grant illegal aliens benefits, but courts and legislatures in some states - including Nebraska, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida - have established case law or passed statutes that restrict illegal aliens' access to benefits.

For example, in Florida, sections 440.02(14)(a) and 440.105(4) prohibit compensation if the employment was obtained under false pretenses. In Georgia, an appellate court stated in Martines v. Worley & Sons Construction that disability benefits were not payable if the illegal immigrants were are unable to work due to their illegal status.

Illegal aliens in Nebraska might not receive vocational rehabilitation benefits because of Isaac Ortiz v. Cement Products, where the court ruled that a defendant could refuse a claimant's request for vocational rehabilitation benefits because he could not legally work in the U.S.

The chart also notes ongoing legislative efforts in states such as South Carolina, where legislators unsuccessfully attempted to ban workers' compensation benefits for illegal aliens this year.

Utah, on the other hand, approved legislation in 2008 that might affect benefit payments for illegal aliens, but an administrative law judge noted that it is too early to know for sure.

Idaho statutes preclude illegal aliens from collecting unemployment benefits, but do not prevent illegal aliens from collecting workers' compensation benefits.

To view the chart, go here:

October 17, 2008

Federal court upholds Arizona law sanctioning employers for illegal hires.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Arizona's employer-sanctions law that went into effect on January 1, 2008, does not preempt federal immigration law or violate federal constitutional protections according to a recent court ruling. I have posted on this law earlier this year.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the arguments of various business and civil rights organizations but left open the possibility of a challenge to the law once the statute is enforced.

Under the Arizona law, employers that hire unauthorized immigrants can have their business licenses suspended or revoked. The law also requires them to use E-Verify, a federal database, to determine their employees' work-authorization status.

No action has been brought against an employer since the law went into effect.

The Ninth Circuit was the first federal appellate court to rule on state employer-sanctions laws in recent years. A similar case is now pending before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Depending on the outcome of that appeal, the issue may be headed to the US Supreme Court for resolution.

October 12, 2008

Raid at House of Raeford plant nabs 330 workers

I have posted before on the work safety and workers compensation problems of this largely immigrant-staffed poultry processing plant chain. On October 7, ICE raided its plant in Greenville, SC, arresting 330 workers. I have pasted below the Associated Press article for today, 10/12, about the aftermath of the raid.

Groups help families of SC poultry raid workers

GREENVILLE, S.C. Greenville-area residents and groups are working to help the families of more than 300 suspected illegal immigrants arrested in a raid at a poultry processing plant last week.

The Greenville News reported Sunday that the Alliance for Collaboration with the Hispanic Community and local residents have met to identify lawyers, counselors, educators and interpreters to help the families. They also are trying to raise money and find people to care for the children of the jailed workers.

Some 330 workers were arrested in a raid at the Columbia Farms plant in Greenville County. In addition, the U.S. Labor Department said the plant is under federal investigation for possible child labor violations following the arrests of suspected illegal immigrants, including six juveniles.

The plant is owned by Raeford, N.C.-based House of Raeford. The company has said it's cooperating with authorities.

House of Raeford processes chickens and turkeys in eight plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan.

A regional coordinator for the Catholic Charities of the Piedmont Region, Gabriel Cuervo, said several churches also will help.

October 3, 2008

Remittances from the United States declining

The Inter-American Development Bank has reported that in real dollar terms, the level of remittances to Latin American countries, which run on average about $300 a month, has declined for the first time since the funds flow was analyzed in 2000. The Bank is estimating the funds flow in 2008 will be 1.7% below 2007 levels when adjusted for inflation.

But the bank also confirms the importance of these remittances. “Notwithstanding this slowdown, the volume of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean still outstrips all the overseas development aid and foreign direct investment in this region. Remittances are and will continue to be a vital lifeline for millions of households.”

The press release from the Bank:

Economic downturns, inflation hit remittances to Latin America

IDB fund forecasts money transfers made by migrants will decrease in real terms

For the first time this decade, remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to decrease in value due to the combined effects of economic downturns in the United States and Spain, inflation and a weaker dollar.

According to an analysis of recent remittance data by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean will send some $67.5 billion to their homelands in 2008, against $66.5 billion in 2007.

However, adjusted for inflation, this year’s total will be worth 1.7% less than the total sent in 2007, marking the first decrease in the value of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean since the MIF started tracking these flows in the year 2000. Until last year, remittances to the region had grown by double digits every year


These new estimates are based on monthly and quarterly data from nine Latin American central banks in countries that receive about 88.5% of the remittances flowing to this region. The impact of remittances will be a subject of discussion at the upcoming annual Inter-American Microenterprise Forum to be held in Asunción, Paraguay, October 8-10.

Earlier this year the MIF had noted that remittances to Mexico, the leading destination of such transfers in Latin America, were no longer rising, while remittances to Brazil, the second biggest recipient, had dropped in 2007. More recently, Guatemala and El Salvador have reported declines in remittance flows.

According to the MIF, several factors are affecting these flows. Among the leading causes are the economic downturns in the United States and Spain, the two top sources of remittances to Latin America. U.S. census data shows higher unemployment rates among Hispanics, who make up the majority of migrant workers in this country.

Other factors are higher inflation, principally driven by increasing food and fuel prices; a weaker dollar, particularly in countries where the local currency has appreciated against the U.S. currency; more restrictive measures against illegal immigration and improving economic opportunities in migrants’ homelands, especially in the case of Brazilians.

Notwithstanding this slowdown, the volume of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean still outstrips all the overseas development aid and foreign direct investment in this region. Remittances are and will continue to be a vital lifeline for millions of households. Previous MIF studies have highlighted how, throughout this decade, remittances have been more stable than other currency flows.

“People who are already abroad will adapt, looking for new jobs or cutting back on consumption in order to keep sending money home,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno “Those thinking of migrating will probably opt for destinations where the economy is stronger and more jobs are available. Industrialized nations will continue to attract migrants but we expect to see an increase in remittances between developing countries, as more people move to places less affected by the global downturn.”

From a development standpoint, the IDB sees a more urgent need to bank the millions of unbanked families that receive remittances in Latin America and the Caribbean. By gaining access to the formal financial system, these families would be able to use the kinds of services that allow better-off households to accumulate savings and weather economic hardship.

The MIF started studying remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean to measure their volume and assess their economic impact. Its research helped encourage greater competition among service providers, which in turn led to sharp drops in the cost of money transfers, especially between major urban centers.

October 2, 2008

Sharp decline in median income of non-citizen immigrant households

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that the median income of households headed by non-citizen immigrants fell 7.3% between 2006 and 2007. 45% of these households are headed by an illegal immigrant. Given has about half of these illegal workers are estimated ot be pain in full or part in cash. I am not very confident about these figures. However, the collapse of the residential construction market has probably wiped out a lot of relatively high paying jobs, and demand for illegal labor has probably peaked or declined in all other job sectors.

The press release:

WASHINGTON - The median annual income of non-citizen immigrant households fell 7.3% from 2006 to 2007. In contrast, the median annual income of all U.S. households increased 1.3% during the same period. A Pew Hispanic Center report released today analyzes recent trends in the incomes of the nation's 8.2 million non-citizen immigrant households and identifies who among them experienced the largest losses. About half (45%) of non-citizen immigrant households are headed by an undocumented immigrant.

The decline in the economic fortunes of non-citizen households represents a sharp turnaround from the preceding year. Incomes of non-citizen households in 2006 were 4.1% higher than income levels in 2005. Incomes of all U.S. households, meanwhile, had increased 0.7%.

Overall, the income of non-citizen households has displayed great instability in the past decade, fluctuating much more than the average for all U.S. households. For example, household income for non-citizens increased 9.8% in 2000, the last year of an historic expansion, and fell 4.2% in 2001, the first year of a recession and economic slowdown.

The Center's estimates show that household incomes have fallen most for non-citizens who are Hispanic; from Mexico, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean; recently arrived; males, either unmarried or with no spouse present; lacking a high school education; and employed in construction, production or service occupations. Those characteristics of non-citizen households experiencing declines in income that are higher than average are also associated with likely undocumented status for the head of household.

Pew Hispanic Center estimates of illegal immigrants, 2008

The Center, whose estimates of the illegal population and illegal workforce I have posted on the past, estimates that as of March 2008 there were 11.9 million illegal immigrants. That is close to the 11.8 million estimate for 2007 put out the other day by the Department of Homeland Security. Back in 2004, the Center estimated that the workforce participation rate of illegal immigrants was 68%m at 7 million. Applying the same percentage today yields an estimate of 8.1 million illegal workers.

The annual inflow of illegal immigrants has declined from the 800,000 level earlier in this decade to 500,000 since 2005. I believe this is the estimate of in-migration, and does not reflect out-migration.

The Center’s past estimates of the entire illegal population was 8.4 million in 2000 and 11.4 million in 2005.

The Executive Summary:

There were 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in March 2008, according to new Pew Hispanic Center estimates. The size of the unauthorized population appears to have declined since 2007, but this finding is inconclusive because of the margin of error in these estimates.

However, it is clear from the estimates that the unauthorized immigrant population grew more slowly in the period from 2005 to 2008 than it did earlier in the decade.

It also is clear that from 2005 to 2008, the inflow of immigrants who are undocumented fell below that of immigrants who are legal permanent residents. That reverses a trend that began a decade ago. The turnaround appears to have occurred in 2007.

The Pew Hispanic Center also estimates that inflows of unauthorized immigrants
averaged 800,000 a year from 2000 to 2004, but fell to 500,000 a year from 2005
to 2008 with a decreasing year-to-year trend. By contrast, the inflow of legal permanent residents has been relatively steady this decade.

Although the growth of the unauthorized population has slackened, its size has increased by more than 40% since 2000, when it was 8.4 million. In 2005, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The most recent estimate, 11.9 million, indicates that unauthorized immigrants make up 4% of the U.S. population.

These estimates are based mainly on data from the 2000 Census and the March Current Population Surveys for the years since then. Because the Census Bureau does not ask people their immigration status, these estimates are derived using a widely accepted methodology that essentially subtracts the estimated legal immigrant population from the total foreign-born population. The residual is treated as a source of data on the unauthorized immigrant population.

The estimates are not designed to explain why the net growth rate has declined. There could be a number of possible causes, including a slowdown in U.S. economic growth that has had a disproportionate impact on foreign-born Latino workers, at the same time that economic growth in Mexico and other Latin American countries has been stable. Another factor could be a heightened focus on enforcement of immigration laws, which a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey indicates has generated worry among many Hispanics.

Other major findings:

• Undocumented immigrants make up 30% of the nation’s foreign-born population of more than 39 million people. More than four-in-ten of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants—5.3 million people—have arrived since the decade began.

• The vast majority of undocumented immigrants—four-in-five—come from Latin American countries. In March 2008, 9.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Latin America were living in the United States.

• The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico, 7 million, appears to have leveled off since 2007. Mexico remains the birth country of most unauthorized
immigrants in the U.S.

• The number of undocumented immigrants from other Latin American nations has fallen since 2007.