Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

The economics of dreamers

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

The Congressional Budget Office released on December 15 an analysis of the fiscal impact on the federal government if the DREAMERs were to be given full permanent legal status. An anti-immigration group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), immediately said that the report justifies denying the dreamers the dreamers legal resident rights.

The CBO report is a woefully incomplete profile of the economic and federal fiscal impact of dreamers. Here is why: it focuses on incremental federal outlays for the healthcare of these now legal workers without taking into account their contribution to economic production and to federal income tax payments.

It’s sort of like saying that hedge fund managers living in Greenwich CT. are a net cost to the city because they demand a higher public school budget.

The report, after analyzing a bill submitted in Congress in 2018 to give permanent legal status to dreamers, estimates that, with some expansion of the dreamer population by this bill, two million persons are covered. The analysis does not address the workforce contribution of these persons, and thus leaves out their financial contribution in federal, state and local taxes.

A rough estimate of their income tax payments is as follows. It is reasonable to assume that at least 75% of these two million persons, when they are of working age, will be in the workforce. The median annual wage in the U.S. is about $37,000. Let’s assume that the average annual income of these 1.5 million workers is $28,000. Federal taxes on an individual earning that amount is about $3,400. This totals to $5.1 billion annually in federal income taxes.

The CBO report pretty much assumes that these persons prior to legalization do not receive Medicaid benefits or Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) premium subsidies. It estimates these costs after legalization to average, over the first ten years after legalization, at about $1.05 billion a year. The CBO lists other federal expenses but they are minor compared to these healthcare benefits.

This roughly one billion a year incremental cost is (1) less than one fifth of their annual federal income tax payments, and (2) consistent what legal American workers are receiving right now in health subsidies. These costs are the result of making 1.5 million workers legal, allowing them to progress in their work, during their early working years, towards higher wages.

In the Political Battle Over Immigration, Trump Is Winning

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Written by me and published by the Valley News (LebanonNH) on 12/7/17: Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign with a slur against Mexicans who have come to the United States. Since January, the executive branch has been doggedly determined to stem immigration. Trump is succeeding, both in a ground game of executive branch actions, and in projecting a get-tough image.

National Democratic politicians have done basically little or nothing to forge an alternative vision of immigration. Their failure is likely to lead to a debacle in the 2018 congressional elections, when Trump will take one more step to remold the Republican party into an anti-immigration party intent on ending 50 years of liberal immigration.

A casual look at polls about immigration suggests that the public thinks favorably about it, and even has been more supportive recently. If Democrats, in gauging the public’s attitudes about immigration, rely only on general national polls, they might infer that the country disagrees with restrictive policies.

But it’s not as simple as that. A March 2016 Pew Research poll asked people to respond to these statements: “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents. Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” Fifty nine percent said that immigrants strengthen the country, while 33 percent said they burden it. This was the most pro-immigration response to this question since the pollsters began posing it in 2011.

The overall positive glow of this polling result is a mirage. Pew Research also asks people, by party affiliation, their thoughts on immigration. Its latest such poll, in September 2015, revealed a sharp division between parties on the pace of immigration. Two-thirds of Republicans say immigration to the U.S. should be decreased, compared with one-third of Democrats.

Responses to other questions reveal how soft support for immigration is. Eighty-one percent of Republicans said immigrants generally want to hold on to the customs and way of life of their home country, compared with 66 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats.

The rhetoric of Democrats, to the extent that there is any, appears be a kind of sleepwalking, a rote restatement of the liberal arguments for a more open immigration policy that served as a platform for immigration reform long ago. That reform took place in 1965, when both forms of immigration, legal and illegal, were at far lower levels than today. Democratic politicians appear unwilling, or unable, to articulate to a country now flush with immigrants and their children why immigration should remain relatively open going forward.

The case for a liberal immigration policy can be made on grounds of morality, cold economics and our role in the world as the most heterogeneous major power. But no one of national stature is making this argument in an up-to-date way.

One step, which is long overdue, is to create a trusted source of analysis of labor market needs. It would show that in nine out of 10 cases immigrants materially help Americans to prosper. Immigrants do not just do menial jobs; they also win Nobel Prizes.

To be sure, Democratic politicians have, and will, castigate the Trump administration for its restrictive policies regarding refugees, dreamers and other vulnerable immigrant groups. But there appears to be no strong political will, much less sustained strategy, behind these castigations. Their howls may have the effect of validating in the minds of restrictionists that Trump is being successful in closing the door.

Already, the administration has severely tightened refugee inflows, raised barriers to awarding work visas, launched an aggressive campaign against sanctuary cities, equivocated about the future of dreamers, and reportedly filled top immigration jobs with immigration skeptics.

Trump’s strategy comes in three themes: law and order, jobs and civil culture. It will avoid the traps of comprehensive legislative reform and the consensus-inducing task forces of Washington.

So the administration forges ahead. The Washington Post reported on Nov. 21 that “the White House … said it had conducted a “bottom-up review of all immigration policies” and found “dangerous loopholes, outdated laws, and easily exploited vulnerabilities in our immigration system — current policies that are harming our country and our communities.”

The administration will avoid the pitfalls of large-scale raids on work sites with many undocumented workers. That tactic was tried under President George W. Bush and led to news stories about mothers of American citizens being rounded up for deportation. New actions will be more selective. In September, the federal government fined an American company $95 million for systematically hiring undocumented workers. That kind of action gets the attention of the business community without the hard-to-explain front-page stories.

And this kind of action may very well play in the 2018 congressional elections, by which time this administration will have advanced much further its agenda for a return to the restrictionist policies of the post-World War I years.

Canada’s success with immigration

Friday, December 1st, 2017

From the Migration Policy Institute: More than one of every five Canadian residents foreign born. Nearly 47,000 refugees were resettled in 2016—the highest level in Canadian history.

Three oceans (one frozen most of the year) and a developed country to the south act as a buffer from large-scale uncontrolled migration. Furthermore, Canadian history made the country more multinational in character from its start than a traditional nation-state.

The widely held perception among Canadians that immigrants are an economic boon and cultural asset to the country has made public opinion on the subject generally resilient, even as sharp backlashes have unfolded in the United States and Europe.

In the 1960s, Canada made dramatic changes liberalizing immigration. It did away with race-based selection criteria in 1962, and subsequently established the more neutral points system in 1967 to assess potential immigrants based on their ability to integrate quickly into the workforce (e.g., language, education, experience, skills, and job offers).

Immigrants admitted under economic preferences have consistently accounted for half or more of newly arrived immigrants. Taken together, these shifts have had important implications for Canadian integration policy and outcomes.

The government has frequently adjusted the points system to further improve labor market integration, most recently with the 2015 introduction of the Express Entry system to fast-track those skilled workers deemed most likely to integrate successfully. Upon arrival, policies and programs targeting settlement, citizenship, and multiculturalism further facilitate integration.

Central to Canada’s success has been its commitment to stay true to the early definitions of integration, while being flexible and open to policy change and refinement. Policymakers and bureaucrats regularly evaluate programs; systematically collect data on integration; analyze commissioned and noncommissioned research; consult with nongovernmental organizations and provinces for their expertise; assess experiences of other countries; and monitor mainstream and ethnic media to identify issues related to integration outcomes. This evidence-based approach forms the basis of advice to the government, with respect to ongoing and emerging issues as well as political priorities.

One key element to Canada’s resilience thus far is the confidence of Canadians that their government controls and manages immigration.

Executive Branch tightens up legal immigration

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017


The Customs and Immigration Service has been tightening up the flow of legal immigration. This from Bernard Wolfsdorf, past national president of the 14,000-member American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Joseph Barnett, both of Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP:

“USCIS is now issuing lengthy detailed requests for evidence contesting every issue and requiring unreasonable quantities of proof in regard to any application for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa or adjustment of status.

“USCIS is adjudicating nonimmigrant visa applications with the goal to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.” Immigration petitions should include an argument on how the issuance of a visa or other immigration benefit promotes these policy goals.”

The Wall Street Journal adds, “H-1B applications for positions at the lowest pay level are getting particular scrutiny, with the government questioning whether the foreigner holds required specialized skills, according to several immigration attorneys. A directive from the agency specifically questions whether a computer programmer is a specialty occupation that qualifies for the visa. Many of these applications are being denied, attorneys say.”

The WSJ cites the following other changes in administrative practice:

*Eliminate a provision that spouses of H-1B workers have the right to work.

*Kill the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign graduates from U.S. colleges in science and technology an extra two years of work authorization, giving them time to win an H-1B visa.

*USCIS directed last month that adjudicators no longer pay “deference” to past determinations for renewal applications. This means an applicant’s past approval won’t carry any weight if he or she applies for a renewal.

*The agency is conducting more applicant interviews, which critics say slows the system. The agency spokesman said this process will ramp up over several years and is needed to detect fraud and make accurate decisions.

*In the spring, the agency suspended premium processing, which allowed for fast-track consideration to those who paid an extra fee. This option wasn’t resumed until October, meaning many workers who qualified for a coveted H-1B visa had to wait months for a decision.

Trump sets annual refugee cap lower than ever

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The White House announced late last week that for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, beginning Oct. 1, 2017, the United States will only admit a maximum number of 45,000 refugees . This represents the lowest refugee admissions ceiling ever set by the U.S. government, despite record numbers of forced displacement around the world. The UN Refugee Agency estimated 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2016.

This from Royce Murray, Policy Director at the American Immigration Council.

Those visas will be allocated with 19,000 for Africa; 17,500 for the Near East/South Asia; 5,000 for East Asia; and 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia. Latin America and the Caribbean were only allocated 1,500 visas. Unlike years past, there is no “unallocated reserve” of refugee visas which previous administrations routinely authorized to provide flexibility to the U.S. Refugee Program for unexpected refugee flows.

This new refugee cap is a 59 percent reduction in the refugee ceiling set by the Obama administration, who allocated 110,000 visas for refugees in FY 2017. The annual refugee cap since the late 1990s has wavered between about 65,000 and 90,000. The cap has never been below about 65,000 since before 1980.

Senator Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the ranking member, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) criticized the administration in a joint letter, stating, “We are incredibly frustrated that the annual consultation for refugee admissions, which is required by law, was finalized just one day in advance… It is simply unacceptable to read in the press that the administration had reached its decision on the refugee cap before the mandated meeting with Congress had even been scheduled.”

Illegal border crossings declined by less than reported

Friday, September 29th, 2017


The media has been mis-reporting the pace of illegal entry when it gives the impression that the arrival of the Trump administration led to a drastic reduction in illegal crossings, based on apprehension volume. Media reports tend to cite a 40% or greater reduction. A more accurate decline is 25%, and the monthly trend through August shows shrinking of the amount of decline.

Apprehensions rose strongly during May – October 2016, before the election, to a peak of 68,000, well above the monthly average in the past five years of about 45,000. Apprehensions Nov 2015 through August 2016 were a 462,000 vs 320,000 the Nov. 2016 – August 2017. That is a 27% reduction.

From November 2016 through April, 2017, the monthly rate did drop precipitously to about 15,000. Since then it has risen every month to 31,000 in August. After one excludes the very high August of 2016, the August average of the prior four years is 39,000. This indicates a 25% reduction. Trend lines suggest that the reduction since the election will decline.  The next 12 months may be about 350,000 vs an average of about 400,000 if one leaves out the particularly high year of 2016.

Source is here.

The Raise Act’s point system

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Ernie Tedeschi analyzes the RAISE Act, proposed by Republican Senators, in detail, and finds the only 2.1% of current adult American citizens would qualify under its skilled-based entry system just to be considered for permanent residency, much less accepted.

The NY Times presents a tool for grading yourself. I scored 18, well below the 30 point threshold for acceptance. A 40 year old professor, perfectly fluent in English, would have to earn at least $160,000 to get over the threshold.

“Of the 750,000 US citizens who naturalized in 2014 in the ACS, only 20,000 (2.7%) would have qualified under the RAISE Act. It’s important to note that not all 750,000 would have been admitted under employment-based visas: many for example likely came because of family, and some may have gotten visas through the diversity lottery.”

The RAISE Act uses a point system, like Canada and Australia, and sets 30 points as the minimum for a skills-based Green card. It would award only 140,000 of them a year.

Age: 26 – 30 year olds get 10 points, those over 50 get 0

Education: 8 points for a STEM masters, 13 points for a STEM PhD, law degree, or MBA from a US university

English proficiency: You essentially have to speak English well enough to be admitted to an American college (The TOEFL standard). Those scoring in the top 10% of the TOEFL test get 12 points, while those in the bottom half get none.

Income: having a job lined up that pays more than 3x the intended residence state’s median household income gets 13 points; less than 1.5x gets no points.

Extraordinary achievement: 25 points for Nobel Laureates, 15 for recent Olympic athletes

Business investment: 12 points if you invest $1.8 million in a new US business and maintain it for 3 years

Wake up call on immigration policy

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Democrats Need an Immigration Policy

Peter Rousmaniere
Published by Valley News, Friday, August 18, 2017

Two Republican Senators have proposed a radical shift in the nation’s immigration policy. The White House recently endorsed their proposal. The Democratic Party must treat this as a wake-up call. It needs a fresh immigration policy of its own.

The RAISE Act of Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue signals further that immigration could be the Trump administration’s political achievement with the most impact.

The administration is, indeed, changing public expectations, with implications for the myriad ways in which immigration in the U.S. operates. More than a set of complicated laws, immigration slowly moves wave-like through job markets, business creation, public school enrollment and many byways of life.

The act’s key features are not new, but similar to recommendations made by the last bipartisan commission on immigration created by President Clinton. These features are a radical shift from family-based immigration to skill-based immigration, including an English language proficiency test, and a 50 percent cut in permanent visas.

To this lifelong liberal, the response so far from the liberal media to the RAISE act relies on old nostrums, with a lack of imagination. The immigration system of today is an accumulation of historical accidents. By defending the status quo, we make ourselves hostage to those accidents.

There are several ingredients in a fresh, forward-looking vision of immigration.

One step is to look inward to our expectations for America’s native-born workers, who account for over 83 percent of our workforce (down from over 90 percent two decades ago). We need to set goals for skills of our native-born workers in an economy that rewards formal skills and punishes the lack of them. We should set the expectation that all native-born Americans should at least complete high school, and that those with only a high school degree should master a trade, which might include a certificate.

We need also to forecast, without fear, our workforce demands for the next several decades. As economists have pointed out, we have hourglass-shaped job growth. The relatively new job of data scientist grows by 50 percent or more annually. The jobs of personal care aide and construction laborer are among the few large-scale occupations growing at more than 1 percent per year, and these mostly do not require a lot of formal education, even a high school degree. Many middle-level jobs, such as the office worker, have been diminished by automation.

We need to agree that immigration policy should be largely a workforce policy that addresses both high and low ends of the hourglass. This brings us to a scary threshold that calls for political leadership. We must puncture some myths about immigration.

One myth is that when the foreigner comes to the United States, she or he expects to stay here permanently. But many circle back home. Another myth is that all immigrants should pass pretty much the same tests for entry. This myth is contradicted daily by the many convoluted side doors that special interests have written into immigration law and its administration. Sustaining these myths has led to widespread distrust of our immigration system.

The reality is that for more than a century, a huge transnational job market exists involving the United States, Mexico and Central America. This job market accounts for the great majority of unauthorized persons in the United States. It also is the labor foundation for agriculture, low-level construction and other jobs where formal education and English language proficiency are unnecessary.

The 1994 North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA) did not provide for long-term guest workers in the United States and Canada. Guest worker programs in the United States emit an odor of exploitation and discrimination against native-born workers with low formal education. We need to learn how to create large-scale guest worker programs that respect everyone’s rights.

With regard to refugees and asylum-seekers, the United States as a leading country must set an example of generous policies in an age when national governance and even the continued existence of countries are at risk.

Liberals should resist the temptation to set an overall numerical target for immigration and foreign workers. The number should be able to fluctuate according to a planning process.

And, a liberal vision for immigration needs to respect the concerns of many Americans about the number of unauthorized persons. This does not mean massive deportation. Also, we must respect fears about erosion of civic culture attributed to immigration. This second concern is real, even if misplaced. The concerns are most articulated in communities where the important demographic event in the past few decades is not arrival of low-wage immigrants but the continued collapse of job markets for young native-born Americans.

Liberals, unchain yourselves from the past.


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.