Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

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.

Mass Supreme Court: Detaining is unconstitutional

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Per the Boston Globe, The state’s highest court ruled Monday that under Massachusetts law, local law enforcement officials cannot hold a person who is wanted solely for immigration violations, a ruling that provides a legal basis for sanctuary cities to refuse to cooperate with federal officials.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruling is believed to be the first court decision in the country to forbid local authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws, unless the state Legislature passes a law that specifically allows it.

Since, State Police have held 27 people on detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Other agencies have refused to honor the requests.

“Conspicuously absent from our common law is any authority . . . for police officers to arrest generally for civil matters, let alone authority to arrest specifically for civil immigration matters,” the court ruled.

ICE issues hundreds of detainers in Massachusetts each year. Local municipalities including Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and some states, including California and Connecticut, have established policies that forbid law enforcement officials from assisting their federal counterparts in enforcing immigration laws. But Monday’s decision was believed to be the first by a state’s high court to forbid officers from arresting or holding someone based on an immigration violation.

Attorney General Maura Healey praised the decision. She had asked the court to find that federal authorities cannot force local officials to hold someone on a detainer under state law. Lawyers for Healey’s office had argued in court filings that local law enforcement officials can still play a role in helping federal officials when an immigrant wanted for deportation poses a public safety risk — for instance by alerting authorities of a suspect’s whereabouts. But they argued that those decisions should be left to local agencies.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said that the Legislature could consider passing a law that would regulate how local law enforcement officials can assist federal authorities but left that consideration to lawmakers. “State law must affirmatively grant authority to state and local officers to enforce federal immigration law before arrest can be made on that basis,” the court said.

One quarter of second gen children at risk of losing parents by deportation

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

The American Immigration Council reports:

“Since fiscal year 2010, over a quarter million parents of minors who are American citizens have been deported. These numbers…. likely do not reflect all of families that have been torn apart. ICE’s reports only include those who volunteer information about their children; many may not disclose this fact, fearing for the safety and future of their children.”

An estimated six million U.S. citizen children live with at least one family member who is undocumented. This is  8% of all children in the U.S. Using Pew Research figures, this means that one quarter of the current second generation immigrant population under 18 (27 million) has at least one unauthorized parent.

(For second generation figures see appendix 1 here)

 

Do non-citizens vote in American elections? Recent evidence says no.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

The evidence available, drawing from extremely little legal enforcement action (mostly tied to local scandal) and from a recent study (by voting fraud allegers) of Virginia, is that the number of non-citizens voting is infinitesimally small, under one tenth of one percent of actual voters, and probably that is a gross over-estimate. In contrast, the allegers of voting fraud are saying that somewhere around 10% of non-citizens voted and that somewhere around 2% of all voters were non-citizens.

For my state of Vermont, which is subject as all other states to Kobach’s demand for voter data, a high estimate of non-citizens registered (per the analysis below) is a total of 39.

Background: Kobach

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-chairs the Trump Administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (VP Pence is chair) announced on November 30, 2016 that it was a “reasonable estimate” that 3.2 million people could have voted illegally based off a survey of the 2008 presidential election.

The Kansas secretary of state said data showed that 11.3% of non-citizens in the United States said they had voted in that year’s election. He pulled this figure from the heavens. There are 43 million immigrants of which 95% are 18 and older . About half are naturalized. Kobach is in effect alleging that of about 20 million non-citizens 18 or old, 11.3% or 2.3 million voted illegally. (If all of Kobach’s 3.2 million voted illegally and were non-citizens 18 or over, that implies that 16% of non-citizens voted.

On the face of it, this allegation implies national. massive, orchestrated campaigns of voter fraud. Actual systemic voting fraud cases of late involve at most dozens of voters and are local in nature.

A disputed 2014 research article

Kobach and allies have leaned on a 2014 article authored by Old Dominion University researchers that “6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.”

The article was based on no original inspection of records or surveying but rather on a study by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study of surveys done in 2008 and 2012. The CCES researchers disparaged the Old Dominion article asserting that is drew unwarranted inferences from a very small sample size (such as under 200 positive results from a total survey population of 19,000). The title of the CCES December 2015 refutation: “The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys.”

The Virginia allegations

In May of this year a Public Interest Legal Foundation – sponsored report, “Alien Invasion,” produced figures of what it called non-citizens with Virginia driver licenses who voted. If you examine its figures, and compare them with Virginia population and voting numbers, these non-citizen estimates come to one third of one percent of adult non-citizens, and an infinitesimally small percentage of total voting in Virginia.

The Virginia report compared motor vehicle registration data (which has a field for citizen status), registration rolls, and actual voter counts. I have grossed up the figures, which covered most but not all voter districts, in order to show complete statewide estimates. The adjusted figures indicate that over a six year recent period 2,415 non-citizens were registered to vote and that they voted 9,745 times. These are definitely not the figures that Kobach and allies want to hear about. The reason is that the 2,415 is an extremely tiny share of the approximately 400,000 non citizen adults living in Virginia at the time.

The reasonable explanation is that many or most of the 2,415 persons either became citizens later or mistakenly listed themselves as citizens (consistent with survey errors found by CCES). Also, the 9,745 votes over a six year period is a vanishingly small share of the roughly 18 million times people voted in Virginia over the six year period.

“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.