Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

“If John Cunningham is not safe, no one is safe.”

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

“If they’ll go after John Cunningham, they’ll go after anybody,” said Ronnie Millar, the executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston. “John is so well-known and so well-liked. If John Cunningham is not safe, no one is safe.”

So reported Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe about a man who overstayed his tourist visa 18 years ago. The story goes on.:

John Cunningham has an electrical contracting business and is chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Boston. They came for John Cunningham on a sunny evening last week, showing up at his house in Brighton like early dinner guests. They were federal immigration agents, and they were there to throw John Cunningham out of the country he has called home for 18 years.

John Cunningham, 38, has an electrical contracting business. He has paid taxes. He has done much to improve the lives of those around him. But what he does not have is a green card, and so the federal agents brought him to the jail in South Bay and put him in a cell with the rest of the common criminals.

Chris Lavery, Cunningham’s lawyer, told the Globe reporter there is no underlying criminal charge. Cunningham was grabbed for overstaying the 90-day visa he received 18 years ago.

Cunningham is widely known in Boston’s Irish ex-pat community. He was a fixture at the Gaelic Athletic Association fields at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. He was especially proud of getting more kids from all backgrounds playing the traditional Irish games of hurling and Gaelic football.

It is because of Cunningham’s prominence in that community that his arrest has sent shivers through it.

Trump extends, withdraws protections of unauthorized persons

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Last week, Homeland Security assured protection of about 1.1 million unauthorized persons but withdrew Obama’s proposed protection of another 3.6 million persons. There are about 11 million unauthorized persons in the country.

The media reported widely that the Secretary of Homeland Security extended the Obama Administration’s protection of unauthorized persons who arrived in the United States as children in recent years. This protection, DACA, was issued on June 15, 2012.

Pew Research reported that more than 750,000 persons have received formal protections under DACA and that about 1.1 million are eligible. This total figure accounts for about 10% of unauthorized persons in the U.S.

However, at the same time the Secretary removed another provision that protected parents of children who were American citizens – DAPA. That provision was created by Homeland Security on November 20, 2014. It was challenged in the courts, which put a hold on the order. The Trump administration cancelled the order.

DAPA applied to an unauthorized person with the children who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, who has been in the country since before 2010, and who is not subject to other priority removal policies, such as relating to persons with criminal records.

The Migration Policy Institute and Urban Institute estimated in early 2016 that DAPA would have covered 3.6 million unauthorized persons – that is, persons with at least one child who is legally able to stay in the country. The report said that “Providing work authorization for these unauthorized immigrant parents could raise the average DAPA family’s income by 10 percent. Despite very high male labor force participation, the poverty rate for DAPA families is 36 percent, compared with 22 percent for all immigrant families, and 14 percent for families with U.S.-born parents.”

DACA and DAPA were cases of “deferred action.” Homeland Security described this type of action in the November, 2014 memorandum as follows:

“Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion by which the Secretary deprioritizes an individual’s case for humanitarian reasons, administrative convenience, or in the interest of the Department’s overall enforcement mission. As an act of prosecutorial discretion, deferred action is legally available so long as it is granted on a
case – by-  case basis, and it may be terminated at any time at the agency’s discretion. Deferred action does not confer any form of legal status in this country, much less citizenship; it simply means that, for a specified period of time, an individual is permitted to be lawfully present in the United States. Nor can deferred action itself lead to a green card.”

Changing the business model of seasonal business?

Friday, June 9th, 2017

The Trump administration effectively cut in half the number of temporary H-2B visas for 2017. This has caused employers to scramble to find workers for landscaping, amusement park, resort housekeepers and similar jobs. The New York Times and the Washington Post ran stories of desperate employers.

As reported by the NY Times, “Eric Haugen, who runs a landscaping company in the Denver area, regularly posts ads in newspapers, on Craigslist and on street signs for positions that pay $14 to $25 an hour, with health care and benefits. ‘We hire every single person who shows up’ for an interview, he said. We are lucky if one reports to work.’ ”

“On Mackinac, the 393-room Grand Hotel is short staff. ‘Without them, we would be looking at changing our entire business model,’ Jennifer King, general manager of the property, said.”

Daniel Costa of the Economics Priority Institute told Congress in 2016 that “Despite such claims from industry groups—other than employer anecdotes—no credible data or labor market metrics have been presented by non-employer-affiliated groups or organizations—let alone by disinterested academics—proving the existence of labor shortages in H-2B occupations that could justify a large expansion of the H-2B program.”

A labor shortage can be defined as (1) rising real wages relative to other occupations, (2) faster-than-average employment growth, and (3) relatively low and declining unemployment rates.

Wage trends: for the top 15 H-2B occupations, “there was no significant wage growth for workers; wages were stagnant (growing less than 1 percent annually) or declined for workers in all of the top 15 H-2B occupations between 2004 and 2014.”

Employment growth: “the top 15 H-2B occupations had widely varying rates of employment growth. Six experienced employment declines; seven experienced growth that was positive and above the 5.5 percent growth rate for all occupations; and two experienced growth that was lower than the percentage change for all occupations.”

Unemployment rates: The average annual unemployment rate for all workers in the United States in 2014 was 6.2 percent. During 2013–2014, none of the 15 H-2B occupations was at or below the overall U.S. unemployment rate for 2014.

Trump’s 3 Pronged Immigration strategy

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

The Trump Administration is making immigration its most important and ambitious domestic initiative. It seeks to lead in a once every 40 to 50 year cycle in the nation’s immigration policy.

As backdrop, America has long wavered between restrictive and permissive approaches to foreign migration. The nation waxed permissive from the 1880s until an explicitly racist restrictive act in 1924. Lyndon Johnson extended the civil rights movement by engineering with liberal Democrats a permissive reform in 1965. Since then, Washington has been paralyzed from expressing goals for immigration that come down to practical solutions to questions about goals, labor expectations, and enforcement.

Note below how in each of the three strategies, the administration will be leveraging and taking credit for some trends in place for years.

Prong One: changing expectations on unauthorized residency

Most published commentary, such as here, focuses on the crackdown on illegal migration and the 11 million unauthorized persons in the U.S. Trump’s people showed quickly that it absorbed the lessons from President Obama on the executive power over immigration. Obama protected classes of unauthorized persons; Trump applies his discretion to bar admittance, and to expand deportations. Obama deported millions, but his deportations fitted in the narratives about him of neither supporters nor opponents. The quickly emerging narrative of this administration is more coherent, sharply defined, relentless.

On March 20, President Trump said in a Louisville speech that illegal immigration at the southern border declined by 61 percent, “and we haven’t started.”

Illegal entries from Mexico have been declining for years.  A decline in the number of 15 – 40 year old Mexican males in the U.S. has been baked into demographics of Mexico for some time.

Prong Two: Domestic jobs

Expect executive branch-sponsored reports on how foreign workers combined with unfair foreign competition stymie the careers of native-born Americans.

American employers of low wage workers were already feeling the pinch of tight labor markets. Restaurants have a hard time finding cooks. Farms considering more mechanization, for instance to pick fruit. Meat processing plants are looking at automatic deboning machinery.

Computer engineers are in great demand, with salaries well over $100K. Google pays $177K for a recent bachelors graduate from a high ranked college.

A recent paper estimates that H-1B workers depress the wages all computer workers, and prompt native born workers to go into other fields. But the study also said that the program results in a larger total supply of computer workers. As information technology spurs all sectors, so grow the entire economy and the workforce.

Prong Three: Ethnocentrism.

The Administration nurtures a message that foreigners appear to fail in what I call civic culture – looking and acting like native Americans in public. Its focus on Muslims is a good example. Ironically, Muslim immigrants on the whole are very middle class, more American than Americans in their surveyed views.  As early as 2000, Robert Putnam of Harvard noted that rising immigration levels led to lower perceptions of civic culture.

I see the administration as selecting immigration as its signature policy through the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.

Fear among vulnerable immigrants

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire have small unauthorized and legally vulnerable immigrants. Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, an award winning reporter for the Valley News which covers two dozen towns in both states, profiles some of these individuals who are working.

He writes about “black market limbo” in which they are caught. Tamara, 43, raises three children in the Upper Valley. Born in English-speaking Africa, she holds a nursing degree, and recently earned $19 an hour in a healthcare job. Today she earns below the minimum wage cleaning houses. She over-stayed her visa, which an estimated 400,000 did in 2015 and which some two thirds of all 11 million unauthorized persons did.

She arrived with husband and two children in 2003 legally, went in, out and in legal status and got a registered nursing degree in 2010, divorced her abusive husband in 2013, and as of now is out of legal status. One of her children has been accepted at the University of Chicago. The Department of Homeland Security has voided any special protections for her that the Obama Administration introduced.

Hongoltz-Hetling reported earlier on the anxiety of unauthorized dairy workers in Vermont. He says that Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based advocacy group, estimates that 1,500 undocumented migrants now make up a majority of the Vermont farm workforce, producing dairy products for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and others.

A Vermont woman married a 21 year-old Mexican worker, then living in the South and with legal status. They are now in the late 20s, with a daughter. The husband and father works on a New Hampshire dairy farm and lost his legal status.

Dairy farms in the region survive in part by hiring Hispanic workers, many of them illegally here.

The husband was arrested in 2012 for illegal status, spent three months in detention, got out and eventually obtained a green card. But the card could be taken away, per Homeland Security, if he does so much as have a moving violation when driving.

In early May Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy filed legislation to protect unauthorized farm workers. Per the Vermont Digger, under their Agricultural Worker Program Act, foreign farmworkers who have worked in the United States in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years may earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would become eligible to adjust to legal permanent residency and obtain their green cards.

Trump admin targets temporary skilled foreign workers

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

The Trump administration issued a “Buy American, hire American” Executive Order with a provision on temporary skilled workers:

“In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Temporary skilled worker H-1B visas (for 3 years, can be extended to 6) are awarded to 85,000 persons a year. There are over 500,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S. Most work in computer jobs. The new visas for this year are awarded by lottery with an April 11 deadline. 199,000 applications were submitted.

Brookings in 2013 said that “Detailed data on H-1B wages by occupation suggests that the H-1B program helps to fill a shortage of workers in STEM occupations.

Job openings harder to fill

“Labor market experts interpret the duration of a job opening as an indicator that qualified candidates are hard to find. Using 2011 job openings data from the Conference Board for the 100 largest metropolitan areas, we find that 43% of job vacancies for STEM occupations with H-1B requests are reposted after one month of advertising, implying that they are unfilled. By contrast 38% of vacancies in non-STEM occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree go unfilled after one month, and just 32% of job postings for all non-STEM occupations.

Visa holders are paid more

“H-1B visa holders earn more than comparable native-born workers. H-1B workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally ($76,356 versus $67,301 in 2010) and even within the same occupation and industry for workers with similar experience.”

We need an agency to identify occupational shortages.

The failed 2013 immigration reform act included a provision for a Bureau on Immigration and Labor Market Research, which could “collect better information from employers about job openings, including occupations, the number of qualified applicants, the number of interviews conducted, and the length of time it takes to fill the job. Likewise, the bureau should also consider how demand and supply play out in regional or metropolitan area labor markets, since job search and recruitment often happen locally.”

Camarota’s argument for less immigration

Friday, April 14th, 2017

 

Foreign Affairs just published, “Why the United States Should Look Out for Itself,” by Steven Camarota, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies.

Camarota adds to the one million new green card awards each year another 700,000 new “long term” foreign entries as students or temporary work visa holders. These figures can be compared to the roughly four million new births each year and to the total native born population of about 275 million.

The author’s first critique involves what he sees as a shift from aspirations of assimilation towards acceptance of non-assimilated identity. “Emphasis on assimilation has been replaced with multiculturalism, which holds that there is no single American culture, that immigrants and their descendants should retain their identity, and that the country should accommodate the new arrivals’ culture rather than the other way around.” But how truly prevalent are “race- and ethnicity-conscious measures” today?

Camarota then addresses the disproportionate share of poor households among immigrants compared to native-born persons. “Some 51 percent of immigrant-headed households use the welfare system, compared to 30 percent of native households.” This is largely due to surge in immigrants from Mexico and Central America in the 1990s and early 2000s. They work in farming, low status construction jobs, buildings and grounds maintenance, kitchens, housecleaning, and packing / warehouse jobs. Some of these jobs pay above minimum wage, others do not. Jobs paying minimum wage or somewhat higher today tend to qualify the worker for some public assistance.

He concludes with a 30,000 foot proposal not very different than that of the Jordan Commission from the 1990s: “It could involve legalizing some illegal immigrants in return for tightening policies on who gets to come in. Prioritizing skilled immigration while cutting overall numbers would increase the share of immigrants who are well educated and facilitate assimilation.”

Merit based immigration system supported, criticized, by Right and Left

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

In 2015 14% of all green care awardees or about 140,000 persons received a green card on the basis of employment merits.

Republican Senator Cotton wants to increase the employment merit share and reduce total permanent awards by half, to about 500,000. His RAISE Act was filed in February, and was criticized by the conservative Cato Institute, for not helping low skilled native-born workers, and by liberals.

Former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, who served under Carter, advocated a merit system in an article on the website of the liberal-oriented Economic Policy Institute. He wants “points-based systems to give quantitative weights for preferred migrant selection characteristics. These systems are more objective than decisions made by immigration officials, and their flexibility allows the mix of characteristics and total point scores to adjust migration to changing conditions.”

The last attempt at comprehensive reform, in 2013, aimed to trim back family based award, by cutting out siblings, and eliminate caps on visas for certain employment-based categories. Use a point system for a new “merit based” visa, of which 120,000 would initially be awarded per year, with a maximum cap of 250,000 annually. It would have raised the annual cap on H1-B visas for high-skilled workers from 65,000 to 110,000, with provisions to prevent such workers from undercutting American wages.

Immigration: Trump’s cornerstone policy initiative

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The Trump administration speaks loudly and wields a big stick on immigration. It eyes an extremely attractive opening to deliver on its promise to Make America Great Again. It looks beyond the 2018 and 2020 election cycles to a leading a once in every 40-50 year cycle in the nation’s immigration policy.

The administration’s approach to immigration restrictions is catnip to conservatives in the way that universal health insurance coverage is to liberals. The constituents in favor feel vindicated, the opponents feel disparaged and weak. Liberals are fine for expanding benefits and rights. Conservatives are fine for instilling order.  Stephen Bannon and Attorney General Sessions are out to make history.

America wavers between a restrictive and permissive approach to foreign migration. It waxed permissive from the 1880s until an explicitly racist restrictive act in 1924. Lyndon Johnson extended the civil rights movement by engineering with liberal Democrats a permissive reform in 1965. Since then, Washington has been paralyzed from conveying a reputable style of leadership in goals and practical coordination, while legal and illegal immigration boomed. The public has become confused about what it wants. It appears to say that it likes immigrants but wants fewer of them.

The Trump administration in its first weeks in office showed that it learned from the Obama Administration the power of executive orders over immigration. Obama protected classes of unauthorized persons; Trump applies his discretion to bar admittance, and to expand deportations.Obama deported millions, but his deportations fitted in the narratives about him of neither supporters nor opponents. The quickly emerging narrative of this administration is more coherent, sharply defined.

Trump greatly pleases conservatives with his deportations and his entry bars. That its executive orders bypass Congressional oversight and to a lesser extent judicial interference gives flesh to his boast that only he can save the country. He is making the most of lurid images of rapist Mexicans and Muslims who practice honor killings.

Behind the narrative of law enforcement is a strategy, in a pilot now, of serious constraints on legal immigration. In the initial country ban of January 27, but missing in the replacement executive order of March 6, were instructions to Executive Branch agencies to consider in visa review “a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest.”

No executive branch in generations has formally addressed the national interest for immigration. Task forces formed in the late 1970s and in the 1990s to think through the national interest for immigration failed to make a dent on Congress.

Expect well-publicized tightening up of the nation’s temporary worker programs, which include both $12 an hour farm workers and $75,000 software engineers. Expect executive branch-sponsored reports on how immigration combines with unfair foreign competition to stymie the careers of native-born Americans.

Administration’s inconsistences on temporary work visas

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Justice in Motion (formally Global Workers Justice Alliance) says that a draft Executive order “cherry picks categories and continues a long tradition of allowing U.S. employers to hire an easily exploitable temporary foreign workforce over U.S. workers.”

Its report:

Another Executive Order (EO) that affects justice across borders for migrants, has yet to be released but was recently leaked to the press: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Program.

This EO calls for administrative reform to various temporary foreign worker visa categories to ensure that U.S. workers get priority access to jobs before foreign workers do. We support the premise, but when we look deeper into the details, we are concerned that the EO will not actually achieve this goal.

First, the H-2B foreign work visa — used regularly at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to hire cooks, waiters, and housekeepers — is entirely absent from the EO. As the Palm Beach Post reported, there were more than 35,000 local job seekers in Palm Beach County where the Club is located, yet Trump made only one request to the state employment agency for a single U.S. worker.

Next, the EO calls for “efficient processing” of employer petitions under the H-2A agricultural visa program. (In addition to employing H-2B workers, Trump family businesses also hire H-2A workers.) This so-called “efficient processing” is a euphemism for bypassing U.S. farmworker recruitment, enabling employers to more quickly and readily access the foreign labor pool. As Buzzfeed revealed in an award-winning expose, U.S. farmworkers are often considered differently and excluded access to these jobs in preference for foreign workers.

If protecting U.S. workers is a priority, then the H-2A and H-2B visa program should also be reformed to allow U.S. workers to have more access to these job opportunities — not less.

Finally, the EO also calls for reform of the J-1 Summer Work Travel visa, a J-1 visa category that allows foreign college students to work for three months in low-wage jobs. But Summer Work Travel is not the only J-1 visa category that needs reform. The lower wage subcategories of the J-1 exchange visitor visa are \chronically misused by U.S employers to avoid hiring U.S. workers, for whom they will have to payroll taxes, recruitment costs, and market-rate wages. If the administration was genuinely concerned about protecting U.S. workers, J-1 categories like interns, trainees, camp counselors and au pairs in hospitality and childcare would not have been conspicuously absent from the EO.