Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Immigrants in construction — key facts

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

In 2015, there were 25.7 million foreign-born workers in the U.S., making up 17.1% of the U.S. workforce. Among the major industrial sectors, the construction industry employed the highest percentage of foreign-born workers outside of agriculture. About 2.4 million construction workers, nearly a quarter (24.7%) of the industry workforce, were born in foreign countries

The majority (84.3%) of foreign-born workers in construction were born in Latin American countries in which 53.1% were born in Mexico, 6.6% in El Salvador, 5.4% in Guatemala, 4.7% in Honduras, 2.4% in Cuba, 2.1% in Ecuador, and a small percentage in other countries in that area. Europeans made up 7.3% of foreign-born workers in construction, and 6.4% came from Asia.

About 74% of foreign-born construction workers reported they were not U.S. citizens when the survey was conducted. In 2015, nearly 30% of construction workers spoke a language other than English at home. Among foreign-born construction workers, about 86% reported they spoke Spanish at home. Other languages spoken at home among foreign-born construction workers included Portuguese (1.8%), Polish (1.5%), and Russian (1.1%). In fact, less than 9% of foreign-born construction workers spoke English at home. Overall, more than 33 million workers in the U.S. spoke languages other than English at home in 2015.




Re-Definition of ‘Public Charge’ Could Drastically Slash Family Immigration

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Thomas Ewing writes about a planned Executive Branch change in immigration policy for “public charges” which will severely impact immigrants with moderate to low household income. It would make them ineligible for green cards. It may lead to expulsions. He says, “If these measures are translated into federal regulations, the share of immigrants who would qualify as a public charge would skyrocket.”

The Migration Policy Institute says that Applying the definition of public charge outlined in the March 2018 leaked draft, MPI estimates the share of non citizens who could face a public-charge determination based on benefits use would increase more than 15-fold—from 3 percent under current policy to 47 percent under the terms of the draft rule.

The covered benefits are very popular among native-born Americans — 31% use them, per the  MPI which estimates that 36% of naturalized citizens use them and 47% of non-citizen immigrants use them.

The administration plans to add to the circumstances under which a non-U.S. citizen is deemed a public charge—meaning someone who depends on government means-tested benefits or is likely to depend upon these benefits in the future. Being a public charge is grounds for inadmissibility into the country, and—depending on how far the administration wants to take this—might even become grounds for deportation as well.

If the policy is implemented, an immigrant would also be considered a public charge if he or she utilized (or might have to utilize) for herself or for her dependents, even if American citizens, non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Let’s look at SNAP beneficiaries. According to here, cross monthly income — that is, household income before any of the program’s deductions are applied — generally must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. 130 percent of the poverty line for a three-person family is $2,213. The poverty level is higher for bigger families and lower for smaller families.

The Federal minimum wage now is $7.25 per hour. Full-time work at this level yields monthly earnings of $1,256 monthly. The average monthly SNAP benefit is $254.

But a better way to look at SNAP eligibility is to see that for working age households, SNAP is often used during temporary periods of unemployment, such as for seasonal workers. The planned new policy will put at severe risk low income households in seasonal work.

Also go here.


Modern day slavery legislation

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Not since the days of slavery have so many residents of the United States lacked the most basic social, economic, and human rights.”

The management of entirely unregulated trans-border labor force of millions of workers with low formal education, including recruitment and employment, has been driven by corporate employers in agriculture, textiles, and meat processing. From the early decades of the 20th Century, whole sectors of the American economy have been staffed by persons with to legal status. Their employers have defeated efforts to normalize the employment relationship. Programs to coordinate the North American economy, including NAFTA, left this trans-border workforce unrelated. Corporate employers have essentially kept the world’s largest trans-border workforce out of government oversight.

Rather than to regulate in a way consistent with 20th Century standards of worker protections and of dispute resolution, the United States practiced benign neglect on these employment relations, with some exceptions, and  tried and consistently failed to influence them indirectly by Mexican border control.

Immigration restrictionists have to come to terms with those employers who depend on these workers. Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guest Worker Act (H.R. 4092) would regulate the workforce by formally recognizing guest workers as persons of sharply diminished rights.

The bill would arm employers with overwhelming control over employment conditions, including mandatory arbitration, reporting within 72 hours if a worker quits, mandatory periodic return to country of origin with no obligation of the employer to pay for transportation, barring family members to accompany the worker, and barring of access to common supports for low wage workers such as SNAP food stamps, federal community health center care, and federally funded legal aid. The bill would essentially close of much of the farming workforce from U.S. citizens and create a closed pool of vulnerable temporary workers.

Farmworker Justice is at the forefront of tackling this bill.

Immigrant dairy farmers in Vermont

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

According to Migrant Justice:

The average dairy farm worker works 60 – 80 hours a week.
40% of farm workers are paid less than minimum wage.
40% have no days off.
28% routinely work seven hours or more without a break to eat.
20% have their pay illegal held.
15% live in overcrowded housing and 15% have inadequate heat.

From a 2014 survey of 200 Vermont dairy workers

What is the impact of E-Verify?

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

The House Freedom Caucus demands that e-Verify be mandatory for American employers. Who would benefit?

There appears to be no systematic evidence that native-born American workers gain any benefits from e-Verify, but that there are shifts within the Hispanic immigrant workforce. Consider who will replace undocumented workers in farming — other immigrant workers.

A 2014 study examined the impact of state-mandated E-Verify laws on the workforce. The use of e-Verify is voluntary except in these states with the implementation date of the mandate: Alabama April 2012; Arizona January 2008; Georgia January 2012; Mississippi July 2008; North Carolina October 2012; South Carolina January 2012; Tennessee January 2012; Utah July 2010. A fact sheet on e-Verify is here. Based on estimates from 2007, 4% of new hires in the U.S. workforce went through e-Verify.

The authors wrote,” universal E-Verify mandates appear to reduce hourly earnings by about 8% among male Mexican immigrants who are likely to be unauthorized. The effect is concentrated among long-term U.S. residents. The results indicate that E-Verify mandates to date are largely successful in achieving the goal of worsening labor market outcomes among unauthorized immigrants.

Another goal of E-Verify mandates is to improve labor market outcomes for U.S. natives who may compete with unauthorized immigrants. We find some evidence that the laws achieve this objective, although positive effects are more prominent for Mexican immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens than for U.S.-born Hispanics. The adoption of E-Verify mandates does not appear to affect labor market outcomes among non-Hispanic whites either positively or negatively.”

The authors conclude, “If more states implement employment verification, unauthorized workers will likely have even lower wages and may not be able to avoid disemployment effects by moving to a state that does not have a mandate in place. This suggests E-Verify can be a powerful interior enforcement tool but could also lead to higher poverty and more social assistance needs among the unauthorized immigrant population. E-Verify mandates might be used more effectively and with fewer unintended consequences as part of a comprehensive immigration reform where they would be a deterrent to future unauthorized immigration.”

And this….

“We do not support E-Verify unless there is a fully functioning guest-working program,” said Paul Schlegel, the managing director for public policy and economics at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We don’t want to be in a situation in which a grower has a need for labor and doesn’t know where he’s going to get a legal worker.” From here.



Two out of 400,000 plus crossing the border illegally

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

This year, maybe 300,000 plus people will be arrested trying to cross illegally from Mexico. More than 100,000 will likely make it safely to their destination. This is a story of two who got arrested.

The Washington Post tracked a couple trying to return from Mexico to Florida, where they had worked, for jobs promised to them via Facebook. The couple waited two miles south of the border. “For $3,000, the first smuggler would take the couple from a nearby safe house to the Rio Grande. For $4,000 more, the second smuggler would take them from the river to a safe house in McAllen, Tex. For another $3,000, the third smuggler would take them from McAllen to Houston. And for $2,000 on top of that, the fourth smuggler would take them from Houston to Florida. In total, it was a $12,000 investment — equivalent to what they could earn in Florida in six months, at $9.60 per hour.” The smuggler had a package deal for three attempts.

On their second attempt, they crossed the Rio Grande but were caught south of Houston, abandoned by their smuggler.

“There’s an absolute dearth of workers, the likes of which I’ve never seen in my career,” said Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort, a lobbying firm that represents the horticulture industry in Washington.

“Thanks to an improving economy, U.S. citizens who might have picked flowers or planted corn now have better options. Farm and nursery owners complain about the red tape and expense of work visa programs.”

ICE inspections of employers at a pace of 219% of last fiscal year

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Rural Migration News reports that ICE has increased investigations of employers suspected of hiring unauthorized workers. In the entire 2017 fiscal year there were 1,716 investigations. As of May 4, 2018 there have been 3,510 investigations in FY 2018. Were 5,000 to happen as planned in FY 2018, that is 219% of the FY 2017 figure.

About two-thirds of these workplace investigations involve audits of the I-9 forms completed by newly hired workers and their employers. HSI agents give employers three days to provide their I-9 forms, and sometimes obtain warrants requiring employers to provide copies of the identity and work-authorization documents that were provided by workers when they were hired.

California’s Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450) requires employers to demand warrants from ICE agents before allowing them to inspect I-9 forms, to notify their employees of upcoming ICE audits, and inform employees of the outcomes of ICE audits. Employers can be fined $2,000 to $5,000 for the first violation of AB 450, and $5,000 to $10,000 for each additional violation.

After ICE audits, employers receive Notices of Suspect Documents that inform them which workers appear to be unauthorized. Employers must “take action” on suspect employees within 10 days, firing them if they do not clear up discrepancies flagged by ICE. Most workers quit when informed of discrepancies between the documents they presented to employers when hired and the information in government databases.

Form I-9: Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete the form. (from here)


The guest worker proposal in the House

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

The House is scheduled to vote on two immigration bills next week. At least one of the bills will apparently address a legislative compromise over DACA, border security, employer verification (e-Verify) and a guest worker program.

This guest worker program fits into the legislative package in this way: if employers will be required to verify the legal status of their workers, this will create havoc in some major industries, in particular agriculture. A new guest worker program could normalize the status of these workers.

Bob Goodlatte introduced in the fall of 2017 the Agricultural Guestworker Act. It would replace the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program. The H-2A program today covers about 10% of the American farm workforce today, with numbers of about 150,000. The Goodlatte bill would introduce a replacement visa with a cap of 400,000 workers.

Goodelatte’s replacement visa is a H-2C visa. This visa provides for 36 months plus additional 18 month extensions, for agricultural workers. Workers must periodically leave the U.S, 10% of their wages are to be held in a trust fund, accessible only outside the U.S. Workers are barred from federal public benefits, and employers must provide the workers health insurance “in order to protect taxpayers from footing the bill for expensive medical care.”

The 10% wage hold-back is a copy of an element in the Bracero program of the 1940s through early 1960s.

The Bracero program did, and Goodlatte’s proposed H-2C program would primarily impact farming in California. But the H-2C would also normalize dairy farm workers throughout the country. The Bracero program suppressed farm wages, evidenced in in wage increases won by the United Farm Workers after the Bracero program ended.

New evidence of firm creation by immigrants

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

The American Community Survey shows that an increasing share of entrepreneurs are immigrants, growing from 17% in 2001 to about 24% by 2015.  immigrant-owned firm accounted for 16% of all U.S. companies in 2007 and 18% in 2012. But if you look at new firm creation, immigrants, who comprise 18% of the workforce are proportionately ahead of natives.

First-generation immigrants account for 23.7% and 26.0% of new firms in 2007 and 2012.   In 2012, in California, 33.4% of all firms were immigrant founded and 41.9% of new firms.  The states in which at least 30% of new firms in 2012 were immigrant-founded are NJ, NY, CA, FL, DC, IL and MA.

Native-owned firms are more likely to have bank loans and credit, while immigrant-owned firms are more likely to rely on home equity loans and family loans. These patterns may signal a lower ability by immigrants to obtain bank credit.

Immigrant-owned firms have somewhat lower wages. They are less likely to provide health insurance and paid leave than non-immigrant firms.  They are more likely than non-immigrant firms to be in accommodations, healthcare, social services, and retail.

From Immigrant Entrepreneurship in America: Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners 2007 & 2012, Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, NBER April 2018



Vibrancy of immigrant owned small businesses

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

In 2012, the Fiscal Policy Institute found that 18% of small business owners in the U.S. were immigrants, about even with the foreign-born share of the workforce (17%). Immigrants make up 43% of hotel and motel owners and 37% of restaurant owners. Immigrant small business owners are also over-represented in taxi service firms, dry cleaning and laundry services, gas stations, and grocery stores.

Immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. businesses in 2011. That is per size of population, double the rate of native-born businesses. Between 2000 and 2010, income generated by native-owned businesses increased 14% But income from immigrant-owned businesses increased by more than 60%.

Source here.