Archive for August, 2017

Pro Publica / NPR expose of Florida deportations of injured workers

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

 

Florida passed a law in 2003 that made a crime out of misrepresentation by use of a social security number. Almost by definition, any unauthorized person put on a regular payroll is violating that law. The state’s anti-fraud unit has used this law to arrest unauthorized workers injured at work who file workers’ compensation claims.

Trump issued an executive order targeting immigrants who have “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency.” Very roughly, about 150,000 unauthorized persons sustain a work injury every year.

ProPublica and NPR issued a report today, excerpted:

We analyzed 14 years of state insurance fraud data and thousands of pages of court records. We found nearly 800 cases statewide in which employees were arrested under the law, including at least 130 injured workers. Another 125 workers were arrested after a workplace injury prompted the state to check the personnel records of other employees. Insurers have used the law to deny workers benefits after a litany of serious workplace injuries, from falls off roofs to severe electric shocks. A house painter was rejected after she was impaled on a wooden stake.

Flagged by insurers or their private detectives, state fraud investigators have arrested injured workers at doctors’ appointments and at depositions in their workers’ comp cases. Some were taken into custody with their arms still in slings. At least 1 in 4 of those arrested were subsequently detained by ICE or deported.

State officials defended their enforcement, noting that the workers, injured or not, violated the law and could have caused financial harm if the Social Security numbers they were using belonged to someone else. Moreover, the law requires insurers to report any worker suspected of fraud.

We don’t have the authority or the responsibility to go out and start analyzing the intent of an insurance company or anybody else when they submit a complaint to us,” said Simon Blank, director of the Florida insurance fraud unit. “It would be unfortunate,” he said, if insurers turned in injured workers “just to do away with claims.”

Blank insisted that his investigators’ efforts have nothing to do with immigration. But ProPublica and NPR’s review found that more than 99 percent of the workers arrested under the statute were Hispanic immigrants working with false papers.

In Florida, cases against such workers have become standard practice for a group of closely affiliated insurers and employers. The private investigative firm they employ has created a wall of shame, posting the arrests it’s been involved in on its website. Critics say the arrangement encourages employers to hire unauthorized immigrants, knowing they won’t have to pay for their injuries if they get hurt on the job.

“It’s infuriating to think that when workers are hurt in the United States, they’re essentially discarded,” said David Michaels, the most recent head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “If employers know that workers are too afraid to apply for workers’ compensation, what’s the incentive to work safely?”

English language skills of low skilled immigrants

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The English language proficiency of immigrants has increased, most notably in the past ten or so years. This upward trend is seen in important groups such as Mexicans. But English language proficiency of Mexican immigrants declined in the 1990s. What was the impact of that, and why did it happen? The explanation has to do with demographics of immigrants and job growth in the 1990s.

Researchers looked at the impact on earnings and education when immigrants learn English. English proficiency helps in getting better paying jobs. It also enables the immigrant to obtain more formal education. Another study found that the benefits of English proficiency were primarily in becoming more educated. Young persons with English were more inclined to complete high school.

Demographic trends actually caused English proficiency among low skilled immigrants to decline. In 1990, 80% of individuals from non English-speaking countries said that they spoke English very well. In 2000, 70% said so. The decline is due to the large increase in immigrants, many unauthorized, in the 1990s.

During that decade, an hourglass profile of workers and jobs enlarged. There was a sharp increase in demand for service workers such as food preparation, janitors, gardeners, security guards, housekeeping ,cleaning and laundry workers. These low skilled jobs require limited language skills.

The English language skills of these jobholders declined in the 1990s. On factor in lower English proficiency is that with larger numbers of non-English proficient residents, these individuals were more able to find work that did not require English proficiency. This led to great linguistic and cultural isolation.

One researcher, writing in 2015 (Cassidy) found a large decline in the earnings of childhood immigrants in the U.S. between 1990 and 2010, and in particular during the 1990s. This drop in earnings has occurred across all age at arrival groups, but has disproportionately impacted lower-educated immigrants. A large decline in English language proficiency can explain much of this trend. A concentration of source countries (largely, through not entirely, due to an increase in Mexican immigration) has also contributed, mainly through the negative impacts it has had on English language proficiency and education levels.

See: Language Skills and the Earnings Distribution Among Child Immigrants, by Wang and Wang

The Decline in Earnings of Childhood Immigrants in the U.S., by Cassidy

Immigration a lifeline for Midwestern cities

Monday, August 14th, 2017

 

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs reports that metro areas in the Midwest are aging and are growing much more slowly than the nation as a whole. Midwest metro population rose by only 7% from 2000 to 2015 compared to 14% for the nation.

In the 2000-2015 period immigrant populations in the Midwest rose by 34.5% growth and accounted for 37% of all mid-western metro growth in the last 15 years.

Immigration is responsible for majority of majority of population growth in five metro areas including metro areas of Chicago, Rockford, and Akron. In numerous other metro areas such as Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis immigration accounts for at least a quarter of population growth.

Natives in the 35 to 44 age category are in striking decline. The number of native-born age 35 to 44 fell by 1.4 million persons or 24% between 2000 and 2015. An increase of 313,000 immigrants ages 35 to 44 years during the same period helped to offset the extreme native population loss in that category.

American farms hire more Mexicans on temp visas

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Demand in America for Mexican farmhands, landscapers and other temporary workers is surging as the Trump administration moves to curb immigration and renegotiate its trade relationship with Mexico.” The amount of non-skilled temporary visas issued in FY 2017 may exceed the peak reached in 2010, which was about 325,000.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2017, which began Oct. 1, the U.S. Labor Department certified more than 160,000 temporary workers—the bulk of them from Mexico—to harvest berries, tobacco and other crops in the U.S. under the H-2A agricultural visa program. That was up 20% from the period a year earlier.

The annual issuance of H-2A visas nearly doubled from 85,248 in fiscal 2012 to 165,741 in 2016. The U.S. doesn’t cap the number of these visas.

Outside of agriculture, use of another type of seasonal-work visa also has surged in response to increased U.S. demand for unskilled laborers such as hotel housekeepers. The Department of Homeland Security in July raised the annual cap on H-2B visas by more than 20% to 81,000. The majority of workers receiving this type of visa also are from Mexico.

In 2015, farmers in California’s Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, which grow roughly 30% of the strawberries in the U.S., reported $13 million in losses because they lacked enough labor to harvest their crops in a timely manner.

Last year, vegetable farmers in the two counties reported they had 22% fewer workers than needed on average, while berry farmers put the worker shortage at 26%, according to a survey conducted by a local growers association.

Refugees in America, in historical context

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

The RAISE Act, proposed by Republican senators and endorsed by the White House, would cap annual refugee immigration at 50,000, which is well below the volume of many years. The Obama administration had targeted 110,000. In 2016, the EU set a plan to settled 22,000 refugees over two years. Put these figures in the context that over one million people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have applied for refugee or asylum status in Europe.

There have been roughly two million refugees or asylees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. The net population growth of the U.S. since then has been 100 million. The vast majority of refugees has come from countries with or over whom the U.S. has been engaged in some form of conflict, such as Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq.  

The 1980 Refugee Act established formal criteria and legal statuses for the admission of refugees and migrants of humanitarian concern, including the establishment of an asylum system and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Per Pew Research, historically, the total number of refugees coming to the U.S. has fluctuated along with global events and U.S. priorities. From 1990 to 1995, an average of about 112,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year. Refugee admissions dropped off to fewer than 27,000 in 2002 following the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year 2016, the most in any year during the Obama administration.  The Obama target was 110,000.

In fiscal 2016, the highest number of refugees from any nation came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo accounted for 16,370 refugees followed by Syria (12,587), Burma (aka Myanmar, with 12,347), Iraq (9,880) and Somalia (9,020). Over the past decade, the largest numbers of refugees have come from Burma (159,692) and Iraq (135,643).

Cambodians: Between 1975 and 1994, nearly 158,000 Cambodians were admitted. About 149,000 of them entered the country as refugees, and 6,000 entered as immigrants and 2,500 as humanitarian and public interest parolees

Vietnamese: At the Fall of Saigon, about 125,000 Vietnamese were admitted into the U.S. in 1980 there were 231,000 Vietnamese living in the U.S. Large-scale Vietnamese migration to the United States began as a humanitarian flow after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and, over time, transformed into one of family reunification. By 2014, 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants resided in the United States representing 3 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants.

Russian Jews: Emigration of Russian Jews to the U.S. began in the early 1970s, at an annual flow of about 30,000, then dropped to a few thousand a year in the 1980s. The large majority of emigrating Russian Jews went to Isreal. Today there are less than one million persons in the U.S. who are Russian-born or have Russian-born parents or grandparents.

 

Cut immigration proposals – today and in 1997

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act was filed by Senators Cotton and Perdue early in 2017 but promoted with White House endorsement only now. The act intends to cut immigration (permanent visas or Green cards) by about half, from one million to 500,000. Its intent and contents are similar to a proposal by a bipartisan task force made 20 years ago

The RAISE Act will trim away family-based immigration, which accounts for over half of new permanent visas today. Up to 140,000 Green cards will be issued using a points system that is tied to potential economic contribution.

The points system will favor persons who speak English. This may appear to favor immigrants from countries with many English speakers, like India, but it probably is more consistent with higher education – that is, Ukrainians and Brazilians who as part of their formal education and perhaps jobs learned English.  Australian and Canada include language proficiency in their points systems today

The Jordan Commission report of 1997

President Clinton appointed the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which took the name of its chairperson, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. In the Commissions’ last report, issued in 1997, it defined a vision in 90 words:

“Properly-regulated immigration and immigrant policy serves the national interest by ensuring the entry of those who will contribute most to our society and helping lawful newcomers adjust to life in the United States. It must give due consideration to shifting economic realities. A well-regulated system sets priorities for admission; facilitates nuclear family reunification; gives employers access to a global labor market while protecting U.S. workers; helps to generate jobs and economic growth; and fulfills our commitment to resettle refugees as one of several elements of humanitarian protection of the persecuted.”

The commission recommended that permanent residency awards go down by about a third from the prevailing annual level of about 600,000, or to about 400,000.