Administration’s inconsistences on temporary work visas

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.

Barriers to productive employment by skilled immigrants

February 28th, 2017

The Migration Policy Institute issued a report on the barriers to fully productive employment by immigrants with advanced degrees.

One-quarter of all college-educated immigrants and refugees in the United States are stuck in low-skilled jobs or unemployed because of (1) complex licensing requirements, (2) lack of access to programs that can help them bridge English or skills gaps, (3) unfamiliarity with the U.S. labor market and (4) employers’ negative perceptions of the quality of foreign education and work experience. They include doctors, engineers, social workers, teachers and other professionals.

In an earlier report, MPI found that this skill underutilization — brain waste — results in $39.4 billion in forgone wages and a resulting $10.2 billion in unrealized tax payments annually. More than half of the 1.9 million highly skilled immigrants experiencing brain waste came to the United States with academic and professional credentials already in hand.

Some steps to remedy the problem:

*Reform state licensing laws
*Expand reciprocity /mutual recognition between states, countries educational institutions
*Increase advanced English education
*Find out how job integration succeeds/fails
*Monitor employer behavior

Enforcement only strategy: dark times for farming

February 26th, 2017

 

A study by the American Farm Bureau Federation forecasted the impact on farming and food prices if Washington pursued a strategy of enforcing immigration laws without expanding a guest worker program.

The report estimated (in 2014) that 525,000 or about half of hired farm workers are unauthorized. “Labor is farmers’ third highest expense, accounting for 17% of production costs for the sector as a whole and up to 40-50% in labor-intensive subsectors such as fruit, vegetables, and horticulture.” The guest worker program, H-2A, accounts for about 50,000 workers. I’ve been told that if California farmers were to implement e-Verify (employer verification) the impact on employment would be catastrophic. Native born workers have widely demonstrated their distaste for farm work.

Aggressive enforcement “is the most severe for agriculture since [it] not only tightens labor supply in the general work force but eliminates half of the hired farm work force. Agriculture’s initial losses are exacerbated by the cut-off of further undocumented immigration and the drying-up of the pool of workers generally drawn on by farm employers.”

The AFBF projects:

 A 1% to 3% reduction in grain production due to lagging feed demand due to lower livestock production. This translates into a 3% to 6% drop in grain producer returns based on both lower production and higher costs.

 A 13% to 27% reduction in meat production linked to higher wages’ double impact on the livestock sector.

 A 15% to 31% and 30% to 61% drop in vegetable and fruit production, respectively, combined with an offsetting increase in imported products. With U.S. producers unable to pass most of their increased costs on to consumers, vegetable and fruit producers absorb most of the wage cost increases and face the loss of 30 to 40% of their net revenues due to lower production and higher costs.

 A drop in net farm income of 15% to 29% due to lower production, lower gross receipts, and higher expenses.

 A drop in farm asset values linked both to the drop in farm income and the realization that the down-turn in the farm economy is due to a permanent shift in labor supply. Hence, the drop in asset values would most likely be stronger than the 10% to 15% generated in the model solution.

 A rise in food prices of 5% to 6% as consumers bear a small part of farmers’ higher costs but face smaller supplies of products generally despite higher imports, with the change in supply largest for fruit and vegetables as well as meat and dairy products in particular.

Imports of food have close to doubled in the past 25 years: “The import share estimate for 2013 is 20 percent based on value and 19.4 percent based on volume. In the early 1990s, the share estimates from volume were 12 percent and the shares from value were close to 11 percent.”

 

 

 

Where immigrants come from

February 26th, 2017

Green cards awarded in 2016. Thanks to Sarah.

 

Sanctuary Cities: the legal battle

February 25th, 2017

Does the Trump administration have the legal power to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities? Below is an analysis of the legal battle. In sum, the battle is partly over whether sanctuary cities are in violation of federal statute for failing to detain persons arrested  (San Francisco says no), and whether all federal funds or only a very small segment of them is at risk.

The details:

On January 25, President Trump said, “And finally, at long last, cracking down on Sanctuary Cities. It’s time to restore the civil rights of Americans to protect their jobs, their hopes, and their dreams for a much better future. Congress passed these laws to serve our citizens. It is about time those laws were properly enforced. They are not enforced.”

A law suit by San Francisco filed on January 31, in response to a Trump Administration executive order signed on January 25 sets out the legal parameters of the sanctuary city issue. The suit says that the Executive Order threatens the loss of $1.2 billion in Federal funds, 13% of the city’s annual budget.

“Sanctuary city” is an informal term with no legal meaning The SF suit describes what local orders generally do: “They specifically prohibit local law enforcement officers from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detainer requests, which are voluntary, and limit when local law enforcement officers may give ICE advance notice of a person’s release from local jail.” SF is referring to its Administrative Code, Chapters 12H and 12I. A detainer request is a request by the federal government that a city detain in custody persons who have been arrested.

The Executive order says that sanctuary cites are in violation of Title 8, Section 1373 of the United States Code, “which provides that local governments may not prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from “sending to, or receiving from, [federal immigration officials] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status . . . of any individual.”

The SF suit says that it and other sanctuary cities are not in violation of this law. It cites a May 31, 2016 report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department on what constitutes a violation of Section 1373. The IG’s report includes examples of sanctuary city ordinances. It suggests that violation of Section 1373 puts at risk State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which for the top ten sanctuary jurisdictions came to $342 million in 2015.

The SF suit says that Section 1373 does not require cities to respond to requests by the federal government to detain persons. Further it says that “No federal funds received by San Francisco have statutory conditions specifically requiring compliance with Section 1373.”

 

Trump re-setting expectations about unauthorized population

February 19th, 2017

The Trump administration appears to have a strategy to change public expectations about the future of the 11 million unauthorized persons in the country.

Coming into 2017, the public appears to strongly favor a policy of eventual citizenship for these persons, based on a poll published in the Atlantic. Such a policy is apparently supported even by conservative Republicans. Thus, the default position of Americans has been light on deportation and heavy on normalization, with an expectation that legalization is the assumed solution.

The Trump administration is trying to reverse the expectations, to induce the public to expect mounting deportation as the default approach, with legalization being the exception.

An Executive Order on January 25 basically criminalizes the eight million illegal workers, the vast majority of whom do not have a felony or major misdemeanor record, for abuse of social security card identification.

The arrest in Phoenix on February 8 and deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos marks the start of what I expect to be a pattern of strict enforcement of this Executive Order. De Rayos, who illegally entered in the 1990s with her parents when she was 14, was convicted in 2009 for felony criminal impersonation – using another person’s social security card. Federal felony categories are here. De Rayos’ conviction was a Level 6 felony in Arizona – the mildest in the state’s categories.

In 2013 she was the subject of a removal order, but she also was the subject of court-ordered supervision, which meant she wouldn’t be immediately deported. De Rayos is the mother of two children born in the United States.

Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old man who arrived in the U.S. at age 7 and had DREAMER (DACA) permission to stay in the country, was arrested who authorities say he violated DACA standards due to his being a gang member. DACA deferment is not allowed for those who “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department will, I expect, repeat many times these kinds of arrest and deportation, first taking on cases that allow for immediate deportation without chance of a check by a court.

It will then probably expand the scope of its arrests to include those for whom a check by a court is possible. The January 25 EO (“Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”) included persons with criminal charges, persons who “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense, persons who “ have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency”, and person who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”

 

Community colleges and immigrant education

February 17th, 2017

Community colleges are the higher ed pathway for many immigrant youth. The latest estimate found (for 2003-2004) shows that one about a quarter of the nation’s 6.5 million degree seeking community college students are immigrants.

Quincy College in Quincy and Plymouth, Massachusetts is an example. The municipally affiliated college serves approximately 5,500 students. The college draws a diversity of students from the greater Boston area as well as 100 countries around the world.. It offers 34 associate degree programs and 19 certificate programs. The college plans to expand into a four-year college. An admissions official told me that enrolling foreign born students was extremely satisfying. Barriers such as unauthorized status were heart wrenching.

Quincy College students ranked #1 as top salary earners in Massachusetts and New England across two-year public colleges for the second year in a row. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, Quincy College students ranked #1 as top salary earners in Massachusetts and New England across two-year public colleges.

From a study of immigrants and higher education:

A study of the 25,173 students in the freshman class at the City University of New York (CUNY) system in 1997 found that 59.9% of the foreign-born students began in an associate’s degree program. Among the foreign-born, a greater proportion of first-time students who attended high school outside the United States began CUNY in an associate’s program (66.5%) than those who attended high school in it (58.5%).

 

ICE sweeps in February 2017 and March 2015

February 15th, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security’s fact sheet on a sweep conducted on the week of February 5 reports that about 680 persons were arrested. This is one third of the number arrested in a March, 2015 sweep. In both sweeps, it appears there were no raids at worksites to round up many unauthorized persons.

The February, 2017 sweep – 680 persons arrested

Fusion ran the story this way:

ICE said 75% of those arrested were “criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.” It is not clear who the remaining 25% of detainees are but there were reports of bystanders being picked up when they could not prove they were in the U.S. with proper authorization.

In Southern California, there were 161 people detained in what David Marin, field office director for ICE enforcement and removal operations in the Los Angeles area, described as an “enforcement surge.” In the South, there were 192 people detained in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. In Texas, ICE reports there were 51 arrests in the San Antonio area. Of the 51 individuals arrested, 23 had criminal convictions. ICE officials also arrested 235 individuals in six midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri. There were also 40 individuals detained in the five boroughs of New York City.

In Austin, ICE officials arrested a man in an H.E.B. grocery store parking lot while someone broadcasted the scene live on Facebook. The video posted Friday morning had more than half a million views by the end of the day.

Operation Cross Check, March 2015 — 2,000 persons arrested

The Department of Homeland Security reported the sweep as follows:

The operation, dubbed “Cross Check,” began Sunday, March 1, and ended Thursday, March 5.

The 2,059 individuals with prior criminal convictions who were arrested include more than 1,000 individuals who have multiple criminal convictions. More than 1,000 of those arrested have felony convictions, including voluntary manslaughter, child pornography, robbery, kidnapping and rape.

Of the total 2,059 criminals arrested, 58 are known gang members or affiliates, and 89 are convicted sex offenders.

The vast majority of misdemeanor convictions were for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). ICE considers DUI offenders, particularly repeat offenders, to be a significant public safety threat.

Of those arrested during this operation, 476 were illegal re-entrants who had been previously removed from the country. Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, 163 of those arrested during the enforcement action were presented to U.S. Attorneys for prosecution on a variety of charges, including illegal re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Draft Executive Order on means testing of legal Immigrants

February 14th, 2017

The American Progress released a draft executive order which vastly expands the power of the executive branch to control legal immigration among low wage earners by using an old concept of “public charge” in the current setting, where many means tested programs are used by wage earners.

“Under the draft order, individuals who are otherwise eligible for green cards could be denied admission to the United States if they could conceivably become eligible for any kind of means-tested assistance….Under the draft order, applicants who are otherwise eligible for a green card may be denied LPR status or admission to the United States if they are deemed likely to receive any means-tested public benefit. As currently drafted, the order would even allow federal officials to deport LPRs if they receive such benefits during their first five years in the United States.”

According to the Census, among non-high school graduates, 37.3% received means-tested benefits in 2014; also, 21.6% of high school graduates participated in one of the major means-tested government assistance programs.

 

Immigration from Muslim-dominant countries – shapshot

February 12th, 2017

The Executive Order countries are presented (Asia and Africa), along with Pakistan/Saudi Arabia, which are not included in the Executive Order.