El Salvador and the U.S.

September 8th, 2018

6.3 million people live in El Salvador. The Salvadoran diaspora as of 2016 was 2.2 million, of which 1.4 million lived in the U.S., not including children born here. It is the largest Central American group in the U.S. Starting with a 94,000 base in 1980, on average about 40,000 Salvadoreans have entered the U.S. annually.

As of 2010, 30% of Salvadoreans in the U.S. were American citizens. 24% spoke English “very well.” Of those 25 years or older, 54% did not complete high school. Roughly 500,000 were undocumented.

A civil war begun in the 1970s displaced one million internally and to neighboring countries. The United States heavily supported the military in part to eliminate the risk of communism. Peace accords formally ended the civil war in 1992. Two earthquakes occurred in 2001. Salvadorean waves in emigration to the U.S., under “temporary protected status,” happened in the 1990s and after the earthquakes.

The Trump administration has said it will remove this status from about 200,000 persons in the U.S. Further, the Justice Department under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that domestic and gang violence no longer constitute grounds for asylum

The 1992 Peace Accords did not improve life for most Salvadorans. The quarter-century since has seen worsening living conditions, widening inequality, and an economy artificially sustained by the remittances that Salvadorans abroad, mostly in the United States, send regularly to their families. These remittances—which totaled US $5 billion in 2017, roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product, according to World Bank data—help keep the Salvadoran economy afloat.

The civil war left behind a militarized society with most of its population unable to earn enough to survive, creating fertile recruitment ground for drug cartels and various organized-crime groups. Furthermore, deportations of Salvadorans from the United States, which started in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s, significantly exacerbated violent trends in the country. Deportees included young Salvadorans who had formed gangs in the United States—their way of navigating life in inhospitable neighborhoods—contributing to a perfect storm that allowed these activities to proliferate back in El Salvador.

it is likely that in the absence of major changes in the country, Salvadorans will continue to migrate.

From the Migration Policy Institute here.

Can Mexico be more prosperous?

September 6th, 2018

The supply of Mexican labor for the domestic U.S. economy is influenced by forces on both sides of the border, including the strength of the Mexican economy. The Economist recently analyzed the failure of the Mexican economy to perform better: “Between 1995 and 2015 real GDP per person increased by an annual average of 1.2%, less than in any Latin American country except Venezuela. Take into account the swelling labour force, and Mexico looks even worse: GDP per worker expanded by just 0.4% a year.”

This is despite an improvement in formal educational levels among Mexicans. As I posted recently, today a quarter for young people in their teens will end up going to college, three times a percentage of those who did in the early 1990s. The Mexican economy is now the 15th largest in the world and is projected to become the seventh or eighth largest by 2050.

The solution: change laws to make it relatively more attractive to hire salaried employees rather than to pay them as non-salaried self-employed workers.

Per the Economist, workers end up in jobs where they are less productive than they might be. Too many individuals who should be workers become entrepreneurs or are self-employed. Efficient businesses are taxed and penalised, while subsidies help sustain unproductive ones.

Mexico has a huge and disproportionate number of small businesses, and unusually wide variation in the productivity of its companies. More than 90% of the 4.1 million firms in the 2013 census had at most five workers. And 90% of the total were “informal”, absorbing 40% of workers.

Economist Santiago Levy distinguishes between firms that have salaried employees and those that do not. Four-fifths of the “informal” firms are in the second category: their staff are either self-employed or paid piece-rates or profit shares. These firms’ only legal obligation is to pay corporate tax, of just 2% of revenues. Firms with salaried workers, by contrast, must pay social insurance, deduct income tax and grapple with employment law (which doesn’t allow them to fire people if business drops).

Immigrants dropping out of support programs

September 4th, 2018

Politico reports that “Local health providers say they’ve received panicked phone calls from both documented and undocumented immigrant families demanding to be dropped from the rolls of WIC, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and children, after news reports that the White House is potentially planning to deny legal status to immigrants who’ve used public benefits. Agencies in at least 18 states say they’ve seen drops of up to 20 percent in enrollment, and they attribute the change largely to fears about the immigration policy.”

The Trump Administration is planning to expand the “public charge” criteria that is used to bar persons from permanent residence (green cards) if there is a risk of using public support programs –even though millions of low wage employees of Walmart, Amazon and other companies depend on SNAP (food stamps), Head Start and WIC to balance their budgets. The expected expansion of the criteria is a means to cut off permanent immigration of working class households. I have posted on this here.

Politico writes that in the past, if a mom was applying for a green card her own use of public benefits might be examined. Under the proposed change, her child’s enrollment in Medicaid or Head Start would weighed as a negative factor, even if that child is a U.S. citizen.

Politico goes on: Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — serves about half of all babies born in the U.S by providing vouchers or benefit cards so pregnant women and families with small children can buy staple foods and infant formula.

In some cases, immigration attorneys are recommending that families drop out of all government programs, including WIC, to avoid any chance that using the benefits could negatively affect their chances of getting a green card — or even prevent a family member from being able to get a visa to visit, according to caseworkers.

In January, the State Department instructed embassies and consulates to look at potential use of nutrition and health benefits when deciding whom to admit to the U.S.

Immigration in context of a more threatening world

September 2nd, 2018

Bruno Macaes in the National Review puts immigration into the context of new fears, unknown to Americans in the past, of about foreign influence over our jobs, our politics and our futures:

Immigration now takes place in the real world. And it all started in those months leading from Brexit to the Trump election.

The truth is that for many in the United Kingdom and the U.S., there is no longer a functioning liberal order. While the elites see a well-functioning international system of markets, trade, and the free movement of people, those at the bottom can find only the work of blind forces and competing states in an increasingly chaotic world.

Factories are being closed because of competition from China and elsewhere, and the message communicated to workers is that their country is no longer able to compete. Growing numbers of immigrants have a measurable impact on neighborhoods and the provision of public services, predominantly affecting the poor.

What has been taking place in the U.S. since the 2016 elections would look strikingly familiar to Turks or Egyptians. Some episode or other of foreign involvement in the democratic process is reported. That is bad enough as far as it goes, but it gets worse. Once the fatal virus of suspicion enters the political bloodstream, it will never leave.

Trump did not bring this situation with him. He is in fact the product of a new world where voters in the U.S. feel increasingly vulnerable to influences from the outside — influences which can no longer be managed or controlled as they were in the past.

One could speculate endlessly about the root causes of the new situation, but the truth is notably straightforward. Technology — once the preserve of the West — is now universal. [In the 19th C], the Muslim and Chinese worlds were faced with a new kind of civilization, carrying all the secrets of modern science, which at first must have looked like supernatural powers. The encounter between European and Asian empires in the mod­ern age had a very specific meaning to those involved: the superiority of European technology.

We have now entered a new age, one perfectly summarized by saying that Western machines are every day meeting Asian machines.

Italian immigrants murderers?

August 31st, 2018

“But immigration policy is not just about economics; it’s also about rights, said James Hollifield, a professor and director of the Tower Center at Southern Methodist University. The U.S. has imported workers for years, often without giving them legal status, and that’s coming home to roost.

“We’ve fudged that because it’s a fairly difficult political and legal question,” he told the audience on Friday, adding that people were not a commodity like shirts.

America has a history of embracing nativism after major waves of immigration. Hollifield cited a 1930 note from then-President Herbert Hoover: “The Italians are predominantly murderers and bootleggers [and you and your Italian supporters] should go back to where you belong.”

“It’s back to the future,” Hollifield said about the sentiment coming out of Washington today. “Back to America first, back to protectionism, back to nativism — that’s where we were in the 1920s.”

Quote is from here. Profile of Hollifield is here.

Profile of Dallas and immigrants

August 29th, 2018

Dallas Morning News reports that Last year, Dallas created an Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs to ramp up the outreach. At a committee meeting last week, it unveiled a long list of goals developed with a task force of 85 contributors. Their ideas include boosting the number of naturalized citizens, increasing their participation in local government and promoting growth in minority owned businesses.

40.3% of Dallas’ population growth since 2011 has come from immigrants. They now account for almost 1 in 4 city residents, a higher ratio than in the state and nation.

Almost 70% of construction workers in Dallas are foreign-born, as are almost a third of the entrepreneurs. Immigrants are much more likely to have a college degree than the overall population….And a higher share of immigrants are working age, which is important as more baby boomers retire and fewer move here from other states.

Here is a New American Economy profile of immigrants in Dallas.


Stephen Miller in profile

August 29th, 2018

Politico runs an in-depth profile of Stephen Miller, Trump’s 33 year old advisor on immigration. Here are some passages:

Liberal upbringing in Santa Monica, California…deeply shaken by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, at Duke as an undergraduate as a columnist for the student newspaper he warned that multiculturalism poses a threat to American identity.

He has installed acolytes across key U.S. agencies, such as the State Department. He has inserted himself into NSC deliberations to an extraordinary degree for someone not in that elite group’s ranks. He takes care to limit his paper trial, avoiding email and keeping his name off documents when possible.

Miller from the start wielded tremendous sway over the Domestic Policy Council, a White House-based forum of top U.S. officials and staffers who deal with issues such as health care, education and other domestic topics aside from the economy. Some elements of immigration policy are among the DPC’s portfolios. But there are other aspects of immigration that have been traditionally dealt with by the NSC, such as refugee resettlement and recalcitrant countries. According to multiple former officials, under Miller, the DPC proposed that it take the lead on all immigration matters, including what was supposed to be handled by the NSC. NSC staffers raised concerns. But Miller pushed then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser at the time, to effectively cede control of immigration policy to him.

“The entirety of my work during my time in the administration was influenced or dictated maybe 90 percent of the time by Miller, but I saw maybe three emails from him,” the former administration official said.

Perhaps Miller’s most important move has been identifying and promoting lower-level staffers who share his anti-immigration views, some of whom he helped place into key agencies, essentially embedding foot soldiers across the federal government.

A White House staffer who admires Miller said the Trump confidant is in contact with many more career staffers across the government who support his views, even lawyers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Miller has asked people to look at every policy change possible within the executive branch’s authority to be stricter on immigration, the White House staffer said.

The former White House official warned, however, against exaggerating Miller’s reach, saying that although he has a solid “kitchen cabinet” of advisers, “there’s a mythology that’s crept up that overstates their influence.” Miller, the former official added, has promoted that “myth.”

Current and former officials say they can’t recall any incidents in which Miller used overtly racist language. Instead, they say, his views appeared more nativist — his language loaded with suspicion, if not outright hostility, toward non-Americans, including refugees.

700 million people want to migrate

August 28th, 2018

According to Gallup, 700m people—14% of the world’s adults—would like to move permanently to another country, usually a rich one. In sub-Saharan Africa the figure is 31%.

— From The Economist

Immigration waves and anti-liberalism

August 27th, 2018

I agree with this description of the role of increased immigration on national politics in Europe and the United States. From Tyler Cowan: “There is another explanation for the rise in anti-liberal sentiment: immigration. Through a series of historical accidents, it was kept off the table as a major issue for many decades. The U.S. had choked off immigration in 1920, and at first the liberalization of the 1960s did not have much of a visible impact on the American population. In those early decades after the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, many poor nations were so poor and unfree that it wasn’t easy to leave them.

As for Europe, in-migration was too small to make much of a political impact. For a while in the 1960s and 1970s, the bigger story was emigration, due to high taxes, from countries such as the U.K. and Sweden. The presence of the Iron Curtain also blocked some of the routes and sources that enable some migration to Western Europe today.

In a democratic society where there simply isn’t much immigration, it is much harder for nationalists and populists to use it as an issue. But today much of the West has seen high immigration for 20 years or more, giving nationalist and populist forces a major talking point. Even if most of the population is broadly pro-immigration, perhaps a core of 15 to 20 percent will not be. With that base, a movement of counterreaction can have real political impact.”

From here.


New York City immigrants today

August 25th, 2018

New York City is home to 3.1 million immigrants, the largest number in the City’s history. Immigrants comprise nearly 38% of the city population and 45% of its workforce (up from 31% in 1990).

21% of New Yorkers are naturalized U.S. citizens. 10.9% are lawful permanent residents. 6.3% are undocumented.

62% of New Yorkers live in households with at least one immigrant, including one million New Yorkers who live in households where at least one person is undocumented.

The hour glass: Nearly half of immigrant New Yorkers age 25 years or older have graduated from college or have attended some college. These rates are notably higher for naturalized U.S. citizens. Nearly 37% of undocumented immigrants living in New York City have less than a high school degree, compared to approximately 33% of those with green cards and other status, 22% of naturalized U.S. citizens, and 11% of U.S.-born citizens.


Source: NYC government.