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November 2, 2012

Bloomberg Magazine: lunacy of immigration policy for educated immigrants


BloombergBusinessweek published an editorial on October 25 on the impasse on immigration reforms for highly educated immigrants.

“On one critical component of policy—the treatment of highly skilled workers—a strong consensus exists that a more liberal regime is crucial for U.S. economic prospects.”

It goes on:

House Republicans arranged a floor vote in September on a measure that would have offered more residency visas to immigrants with advanced science, technology, engineering, and math degrees, but set it up to fail by reducing the number of visas overall (which Democrats oppose).

For their part, Democrats think it best to hold the skilled-immigration rules hostage until they can get a more comprehensive agreement (which Republicans tend to resist). We applaud the objective, because we too favor comprehensive reform of the system. But it is time to abandon politically motivated yet economically harmful strategies.

It would be hard to exaggerate the lunacy of U.S. rules on skilled immigration. We know of no other advanced economy that skews its policies so severely against the workers in greatest demand. Most countries see themselves as competing to attract that kind of immigrant, recognizing that human capital is an important driver of economic success.

Many emigrants from India excel in engineering and other technical skills. Yet India’s quota, small in relation to its pool of outstanding applicants, artificially restricts their numbers.

April 26, 2011

Civil rights suits against temporary worker visa violators


H-2A and H-2B (temporary agricultural worker) visa programs have been riddled with abuses by employers against workers who may pay thousands of dollars for the right to work in the United States. A tangled litany of law suits an federal disciplinary actions is found here. I have previously posted on the agricultural firm Global Horizons. Now, the firm has been hit from a new corner with charges of illegal trafficking.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits national origin and race discrimination and retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Global Horizons for civil rights violations. The EEOC has sued Signal International for similar violations. Below are excerpts from EEOC press releases:

EEOC Files Its Largest Farm Worker Human Trafficking Suit Against Global Horizons, Farms

Federal Agency Says Labor Contractor and Eight Farms Discriminated Against Hundreds of Thai Farm Workers Trafficked into Hawaii, Washington

LOS ANGELES - In its largest human trafficking case in agriculture to date, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it filed lawsuits in Hawaii and Washington against Global Horizons Inc., a Beverly Hills-based farm labor contractor, and eight farms. The EEOC contends that Global Horizons engaged in a pattern or practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, when it trafficked over 200 Thai male victims to farms in Hawaii and Washington where they were subjected to severe abuse. Hundreds of additional potential claimants and witnesses are expected, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC asserts that between 2003 and 2007, Global Horizons enticed Thai male nationals into working at the farms with the false promises of steady, high-paying agricultural jobs along with temporary visas allowing them to live and work in the U.S. legally. The opportunity came at a price: high recruitment fees creating an insurmountable debt for the Thai workers. When they reached the U.S., Global Horizons confiscated the workers’ passports and threatened deportation if they complained, which set the tone for the abuses to come.

The Thai workers were assigned to work at six farms in Hawaii (Captain Cook Coffee Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms) and two farms in Washington (Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards), harvesting a variety of items from pineapples to coffee beans. The EEOC asserts that the farms not only ignored abuses, but also participated in the obvious mistreatment, intimidation, harassment, and unequal pay of the Thai workers..

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. d/b/a Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., Captain Cook Coffee Company, Ltd. et al. Case No. CV-11-00257-DAE-RLP) and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. d/b/a Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., Green Acre Farms, Inc. et al, Case No. 2:11-cv-03045-EFS), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit argues that the alleged conduct constitutes retaliation, national origin and race discrimination which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further abuses at the companies and farms.

PRESS RELEASE
4-20-11

EEOC Sues Marine Services Company for Labor Trafficking, Discrimination

Signal International Harassed and Mistreated Workers Recruited From India, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit today against Signal International, LLC, charging that the Gulf of Mexico marine services company violated federal law by subjecting a class of approximately 500 Indian employees to human labor trafficking and a hostile work environment.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that Signal subjected the Indian employees as a class to abuse based on national origin (Indian) and/or race (Asian). The agency charged Signal with disparate, discriminatory treatment concerning the workers’ terms and conditions of employment, as well as segregating them. Finally, the EEOC lawsuit alleges Signal retaliated against Sabulal Vijayan and Joseph Jacob Kadakkarappally because they opposed Signal’s unlawful conduct.

Continue reading "Civil rights suits against temporary worker visa violators" »

April 16, 2011

Critique of H-2A farmworker visa program


Congress held hearings this week on the seasonal agricultural worker program called H-2A. Testimony by the president of Farmworker Justice included this: “More than one million undocumented farm workers are making U.S. agriculture productive. We need to stabilize the workforce and keep agriculture productive by allowing undocumented workers to obtain legal immigration status and by improving wages and working conditions. “

The program currently brings in about 30,000 workers a year, somewhat more than 1% of America's farm workforce.

Summary of Testimony: Bruce Goldstein, President, Farmworker Justice, before the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement April 13, 2011
04/13/2011

Mr. Chairman and Members: Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.

The H-2A program is deeply flawed and should not be a vehicle for filling the nation’s 2 to 2 ½ million jobs on farms and ranches. In addition, Congress should not get mired in previously-fought battles.. Many agribusiness groups lobbied in the 1990’s for changes to “streamline” the H-2A program by cutting worker protections and reducing government oversight. Their legislation would have created a system of exploitable guestworkers and set their wages and other job terms at unconscionably low levels. These efforts failed, as did efforts of farmworker advocates to pass their own policy proposals. Recognizing the need for a policy solution and the inadequacy of the H-2A program, growers and workers reached a compromise, known as the AgJOBS bill. That compromise would allow eligible undocumented farmworkers to earn legal immigration status, revise the H-2A program in balanced ways, and provide America with a stable, productive and decently-treated farm labor force.

The Bush Administration, in its last few days, made drastic, anti-worker changes to the H-2A program: the wage formula changes reduced earnings by $1.00 to $2.00 per hour, key recruitment protections for US workers were eliminated, and government oversight in an already abusive program was restricted.

Fortunately, the Department of Labor under Secretary of Labor Solis reversed these harmful changes, although for more than one year, thousands of U.S. farmworkers and guestworkers at H-2A employers suffered low wages and other harm. The Department also instituted additional common-sense protections, such as a surety bond requirement for labor contractors, a requirement to disclose job terms to workers by the time of the visa application, and increased opportunity for US workers to learn about H-2A employers’ jobs via an online job posting.

Continue reading "Critique of H-2A farmworker visa program" »

January 11, 2011

"Close to Slavery" ; guest worker programs

“Close to Slavery”: Guest workers programs

I just stumbled across a 2007 study on guest worker programs, Close to Slavery, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As the SPLC says, “This report details the systematic exploitation of foreign workers who come to this country for temporary jobs under the nation's H-2 guestworker program. Based on dozens of legal cases and interviews with thousands of guestworkers, it documents how guestworkers are routinely cheated out of wages, forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs, and held virtually captive by employers.”


April 23, 2010

Green card activity, 2009


The Department of Homeland Security reported on green card activity in 2009, in the process providing a succinct overview of green cards. Green cards are given to legal permanent residents. In 2009, a total of 1,130,818 persons became LPRs of the United States. The majority of new LPRs (59%) already lived in the United States when they were granted lawful permanent residence. Nearly two-thirds were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (15%), China (6%), and the Philippines (5%).

A legal permanent resident (LPR) or “green card” recipient is defined by immigration law as a person who has been granted lawful permanent residence in the United States. Permanent resident status confers certain rights and responsibilities. For example, LPRs may live and work permanently anywhere in the United States, own property, and attend public schools, colleges, and universities. They may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces, and apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements. This Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Flow Report presents information obtained from applications for LPR status on the number and characteristics of persons who became LPRs in the United States during 2009.1

Green cards can be awarded expressly for employment reasons, limited to 140,000 per year; thus about 13% of green cards in 2009 were awarded for employment “preferences.” The 140,000 applies to the workers – their spouses and children are in addition to the 140,000.

Employment preferences consist of five categories of workers (and their spouses and children): priority workers (about 41,000 in 2009); professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability (46,000) ; skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; special immigrants (e.g., ministers, religious workers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad)( 40,000); and employment creation immigrants or “investors” (3,000).

April 13, 2010

How foreign college students become American workers

From F-1 (student visa) to H-1B (temporary worker visa) to Green Card: this is the path which David North, of the Center for Immigration Studies takes us down, using Indian students as primary examples. Several quotes from his informative article:

“….The H-1B program is part of a nearly seamless web that starts in the undergraduate years at one of India’s technical colleges and ends, with luck and skill, as a green card-holder. As a second-prize one gets six to eight years of legal employment in one of America’s high-tech industries and as a third prize (my own judgment here) one becomes the holder of a valued U.S. university degree, an excellent thing to have if working in India.”

“I get a strong sense of a supporting international network functioning for many of the students, including the high-tech universities in India, American universities, American employers, and above all else, the American immigration system. The apparently smooth functioning of all parts of this system facilitates the entry into the American labor market of this population, in a way that many believe disadvantages U.S. workers.”

“I must say, though this may irritate some of my colleagues, that the potential H-1B workers I have been talking to constitute an attractive group of people: talented, well-educated, and the Indians among them, at least, have an excellent command of English. They have all survived a series of fitness contests on their way to nonimmigrant workers’ jobs. It is no wonder that employers are anxious to hire them.”

The article in full:

Looking at the H-1B Process Through the Eyes of the Participants

By David North

April 2010


It is often useful to look at an immigration program, step-by-step, through the eyes of the participants; in earlier years I did this with people seeking naturalization, legalization applicants, and green-card holders who lived in Mexico and worked in the United States.

Recently, I started doing this vis-à-vis the H-1B program; one gets a more nuanced view of the program that supplements reading studies, statistics, and statements made by supporters and opponents of the program.

Continue reading " How foreign college students become American workers" »

March 14, 2010

H-2B Guest worker woes


Here is a thoughtful article written for human resource executives about the perils of the H-2B program – the guest worker program used for low wage workers. The article focuses on the problem of recruiting firms which mislead recruits in the developing countries in which they are recruiting. Thanks to Julie Ferguson for alerting me to this article, which was published in Human Resource Executive.

The article in full:

Guest Worker Woes

By Michael O'Brien

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, about 500 guest workers were brought in from India to work for Signal International, a Mississippi-based marine oil-rig company, as it worked to repair hurricane-ravaged oil rigs.

Those workers likely had no idea that they'd someday end up in the middle of separate investigations by three federal agencies -- the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security -- as well as a federal court case involving allegations of labor abuse and human trafficking.

But, they probably should have, say immigration-law experts.

H2-B visas are used for skilled laborers, as opposed to highly skilled or professional workers (for whom the H1-B visa is used), as well as for temporary and seasonal workers.

Erin C. Hangartner, an attorney for Signal International, declined to comment for this story, citing the pending lawsuit. But a recent New York Times story highlights some of the allegations against Signal, the recruiting firms that found and hired the Indian workers on Signal's behalf, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Some of the workers began protesting shortly after they arrived from India when they discovered that promises of green cards and future work opportunities in America were not likely to materialize, according to the Times.

When the company asked ICE officials for "direction" on how best to deal with the most vociferous protestors, the company received the following response from an unnamed immigration-enforcement officer, according to the newspaper account:

"Don't give them any advance notice. Take them all out of the line on the way to work; get their personal belongings; get them in a van, and get their tickets, and get them to the airport, and send them back to India."

Continue reading "H-2B Guest worker woes" »

October 29, 2009

H-1B work visas go begging

The law of supply and demand is leaving many temporary H-1B visas unused. According to the Wall Street Journal,

“Last year, even as the recession began to bite, employers snapped up the 65,000 visas available in just one day. This year, however, as of Sept. 25 -- nearly six months after the U.S. government began accepting applications -- only 46,700 petitions had been filed.”

The article summarizes the program thusly:

In 2008, 44% of approved H-1B visa petitions were for foreigners working as systems analysts or programmers. The second-largest category consisted of professionals working in universities. Indians account for about half of all H-1B visa holders.

While the number of visa holders is small compared with the U.S. work force, their contribution is huge, employers say. For example, last year 35% of Microsoft's patent applications in the U.S. came from new inventions by visa and green-card holders, according to company general counsel Brad Smith.

The article in full:

By MIRIAM JORDAN

A coveted visa program that feeds skilled workers to top-tier U.S. technology companies and universities is on track to leave thousands of spots unfilled for the first time since 2003, a sign of how the weak economy has eroded employment even among highly trained professionals.

The program, known as H-1B, has been a mainstay of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, where many companies have come to depend on securing visas for computer programmers from India or engineers from China. Last year, even as the recession began to bite, employers snapped up the 65,000 visas available in just one day. This year, however, as of Sept. 25 -- nearly six months after the U.S. government began accepting applications -- only 46,700 petitions had been filed.

Continue reading "H-1B work visas go begging" »

June 23, 2009

The nursing shortage, now back in the news

Let’s review where we are with the nursing shortage in the U.S. and immigrant nurses, about which I have posted in the past. A recent Business Week article includes some passages I have inserted below, prefaced by comments by me. Then I cite from an earlier posting by me which includes an estimate that the supply of nurses from the Philippines, by far the largest source of foreign nurses, may be capping out.

The stimulus package included $100 million to enlarge the number of nursing school slots.

First, a new proposal to increase the number of work visas for foreign nurses (which idea Obama has criticized):

“In May, Representative Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would allow 20,000 additional nurses to enter the U.S. each year for the next three years as a temporary measure to fill the gap. If the bill doesn't pass on its own, lawmakers may include it in a comprehensive immigration reform package. Obama is slated to meet with congressional leaders on June 25 to discuss reforming U.S. immigration laws.”

And, nursing slots are increasingly being filled by foreigners, in particular from the Philippines:

“As openings have become more difficult to fill domestically, more foreign-born nurses have entered the workforce, most commonly through green cards that lead to permanent residency. In 1994, 9% of the total registered nurse workforce was composed of foreign-born RNs; by 2008 that percentage had risen to 16.3%, or about 400,000 RNs, according to Buerhaus' research. Of those 400,000 nurses, about 10% had immigrated to the U.S. within the previous five years. About one-third of the increase in RNs from 2001 to 2008 was composed of foreign-born RNs.”

Also, nursing union leaders point to poor employment conditions to explain why one fifth of nurses in the U.S. don’t work as nurses. (I wonder about this: aren’t nurses well paid, especially in an economic environment in which households are concerned about income?)

“Understaffing, mandatory overtime, and physically demanding work, such as lifting and bathing patients, take their toll. And while pay has risen in some regions to attract more nurses, in recent years it has flattened at the national level. That's why up to 500,000 registered nurses are choosing not to practice their profession—fully one-fifth of the current RN workforce of 2.5 million.”

And, there are no enough slots in nursing schools to meet the demand. (That assumes that the turned away students are qualified.)

“One point everyone seems to agree on is that the U.S. needs more capacity to train nurses. Since 2002, enrollments at nursing schools have increased so much that up to 50,000 qualified applicants are turned away each year from training programs. The main problem is a lack of teaching staff at these schools. Dan Stultz, president of the Texas Hospital Assn., which represents more than 500 Texas hospitals, helped form the Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition to push for funding from the state legislature to boost capacity at Texas nursing schools. Stultz says the state has about 22,000 nurse vacancies now, and that the number could rise to 70,000 by 2020. Meanwhile, for the last five years, 8,000 to 12,000 nursing-student applicants have been denied places at training programs for lack of space. 'We have qualified people that get accepted and can't attend,' says Stultz. 'We don't need more immigration; we need to increase capacity and grow our own workforce.' “

From a prior posting on the global nursing shortage:

The Philippines is the leading primary source country for nurses internationally by design and with the support of the government. The 2001–2004 Medium Term Philippines Development plan views overseas employment as a key source of economic growth.16 Filipino nurses are in great demand because they are primarily educated in college-degree programs and communicate well in English, and because governments have deemed the Philippines to be an ethical source of nurses. A motivator for the Philippines to produce nurses for export is remittance income sent home by nurses working in other countries. In 1993 Bruce Lindquist reported that Filipinos working abroad sent home more than $800 million in remittance income.17 No other country produces many more nurses than are needed in their own health care systems at a level of education that meets the requirements of developed countries.

However, the Philippines may be reaching a natural limit in its ability to provide enough nurses for escalating worldwide demand. An estimated 85 percent of employed Filipino nurses (more than 150,000) are working internationally. About one-fourth of the total number of nurses employed in Philippine hospitals (some 13,500) reportedly left for work elsewhere in 2001.18 There has been recent debate that the growing global demand for Filipino nurses is so great that emigration of nurses could be threatening the country’s health care quality.19 It is estimated there are more than 30,000 unfilled nursing positions in the Philippines.20 In 2001 the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Singapore, and United States were the most common destinations for Filipino nurses.21

December 10, 2008

Changes to H-2A farmworker visa program sought by Bush

The Bush Administration is attempting to make last minute changes to the H-2A agriculture temporary worker program, reportedly be relaxing employer requirements to validate that the employer has tried to hire Americans. The effect of the changes, according to activist groups, will be to lower wages for H-2A workers.

go here at the Farmworker Justice site to learn more.

June 22, 2008

4 in 10 green card holders had a prior illegal period of stay

In an astonishing report by the Public Policy Institute of California, we learn that 20% of legal permanent residents (green card holders) crossed the border illegally and 22% overstayed their visa terms!

The PPIC says, “Fewer than four in 10 (38%) legal permanent residents were new to the United States when they got their green cards and many had lived here illegally for at least some time. In California, more than half (52%) had lived in the country illegally. They either crossed the border illegally (35%) or violated the terms of their visas by overstaying a tourist visa or by working when they were not authorized (18%). In the United States, about four in 10 (42%) first lived in the country illegally. This group was more evenly divided between those who crossed the border illegally (20%) or violated their visa terms (22%).”

The study also looked into what the effect would be if the U.S. began to use a merit point system for rationing green cards, much like Canada does. The authors prepared a model to estimate how people, from PhDs to manual laborers, would fare. “An engineer with a PhD and English proficiency would not necessarily have enough points to become a legal permanent resident without some prior work experience in the United States.”

The press release in full:

Continue reading "4 in 10 green card holders had a prior illegal period of stay" »

May 6, 2008

News from Global Workers Justice Alliance

The Alliance, one of my favorite activist groups reported today on two of its initiative to support labor rights of immigrant workers. One, it launched a “defender network” involving representatives from 13 human rights organizations in Latin America. It trained them on worker rights in the United States which are often compromised for H-2 guestworkers. Two, it got the U.S. embassy in Guatemala to distribute to H-2 workers a leaflet it developed with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The leaflet educates these workers on their rights. The Alliance says that “due to the excessive recruitment abuses that are illegal under Guatemalan (and Mexican) law, the guestworker program has become a vehicle for human trafficking.”

The announcement in full:

Global Workers is proud to announce the formal launch of the Global Workers Defender Network. After two years of laying the groundwork, Global Workers invited 23 advocates from 13 human rights organizations from southern Mexico and Guatemala to Tapachula, Mexico from April 28-30 to the first Training on Defending Transnational Migrant Workers in the United States. The excitement for the launch of this unprecedented network was palpable.

Over three days, these seasoned human rights advocates learned about the legal rights of migrant workers in the United States. In addition, they learned how to identify cases of workers who have returned to Mexico and Guatemala after suffering labor and trafficking abuses in the United States. Time was also dedicated to the details of civil litigation so these Defenders can skillfully partner with US advocates to seek justice for individual workers in US courts. Finally, Mexican and Guatemalan legal experts explored the myriad of recruitment abuses H-2 guestworkers suffer before leaving to work the USA.

To read more about the Global Workers Defender Network inaugural training go to our blog at http://globalworkers.org/txp/.

On another note, Global Workers has achieved an important break through in its guestworker advocacy, the H-2 visa program that brings 180,000 workers to the US each year to work in temporary non-professional jobs. The US consulate is now handing out Know Your Rights flyers to Guatemalan workers bound to the US. The flyer, which Global Workers developed with the Southern Poverty Law Center, orients workers to their basic rights and where to seek assistance. In addition, two weeks ago the US consulate started to notify US employers of their obligations under Guatemalan law when recruiting Guatemalans to work in the US. Due to the excessive recruitment abuses that are illegal under Guatemalan (and Mexican) law, the guestworker program has become a vehicle for human trafficking. Global Workers applauds the consulate for its leadership and will soon launch an initiative to ensure that other consulates follow suit.

July 7, 2007

Immigration Malpractice by Citizenship and Immigration Services

The NY Times ran an editorial condemning the inefficiency of CIS, part of Homeland Security, in processing green card applications. The State Department encouraged people to file applications in a way that inundated CIS. Read here:

The prickliness and glacial ineptitude of the immigration system is old news to millions of would-be Americans. Immigrants who play by the rules know that the rules are stringent, arbitrary, expensive and very time-consuming. But even the most seasoned citizens-in-waiting were stunned by the nasty bait-and-switch the federal bureaucracy pulled on them this month. After encouraging thousands of highly skilled workers to apply for green cards, the government snatched the opportunity away.

The tease came in a bulletin issued by the State Department in June announcing that green cards for a wide range of skilled workers would be available to those who filed by July 2. That prompted untold numbers of doctors, medical technicians and other professionals, many of whom have lived here with their families for years, to assemble little mountains of paper. They got certified records and sponsorship documents, paid for medical exams and lawyers and sent their applications in. Many canceled vacations to be in the United States when their applications arrived, as the law requires.

Then they learned that the hope was effectively a hoax. The State Department had issued the bulletin to prod Citizenship and Immigration Services, the bureaucracy that handles immigration applications, to get cracking on processing them. The agency is notorious for fainting over paperwork — 182,694 green cards have been squandered since 2000 because it did not process them in time. That bureaucratic travesty is a tragedy, since the annual supply of green cards is capped by law, and the demand chronically outstrips supply. The State Department said it put out the bulletin to ensure that every available green card would be used this time.

After working through the weekend, the citizenship agency processed tens of thousands of applications. On Monday, the State Department announced that all 140,000 employment-based green cards had been used and no applications would be accepted.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, the definition of a hangdog bureaucracy, says the law forbids it to accept the applications. The American Immigration Lawyers Association says this interpretation is rubbish. It is preparing a class-action lawsuit to compel the bureaucracy to accept the application wave that it provoked.

The good news is that immigrants’ hope is pretty much unquenchable. Think of the hundreds of people standing in the rain in ponchos at Walt Disney World on Independence Day, joining the flood of new citizens now cresting across the country. They celebrated on July Fourth, but for many of them the magic date is July 30, when a new fee schedule for immigrants takes effect, drastically jacking up the cost of the American dream.

The collapse of immigration reform in the Senate showed the world what America thinks of illegal immigrants — it wants them all to go away. But the federal government, through bureaucratic malpractice, is sending the same message to millions of legal immigrants, too.
Next Article in Opinion (1 of 14) »

June 25, 2007

Big trouble with temporary work visa for professional workers.


The likes of Micosoft, Google, Intel and the rest of the IT lobby in Washington have not been able to get Congress to add more slots. In fact, one lobbyist called the Senate reform bill of May a disaster. The point system plan worked against the interests of the lobbying firms because it stripped employers of picking the workers they wanted. And Washington is paying more attention to abuses in the current H-IB program whereby foreign holders of the visas are paid less than their American peers.

From the NY Times article of today, “High-Tech Titans Strike Out on Immigration Bill” -

High-tech companies want to be able to hire larger numbers of well-educated, foreign-born professionals who, they say, can help them succeed in the global economy. For these scientists and engineers, they seek permanent-residence visas, known as green cards, and H-1B visas. The H-1B program provides temporary work visas for people who have university degrees or the equivalent to fill jobs in specialty occupations including health care and technology. The Senate bill would expand the number of work visas for skilled professionals, but high-tech companies say the proposed increase is not nearly enough. Several provisions of the Senate bill are meant to enhance protections for American workers and to prevent visa fraud and abuse.

High-tech companies were surprised and upset by the bill that emerged last month from secret Senate negotiations. E. John Krumholtz, director of federal affairs at Microsoft, said the bill was “worse than the status quo, and the status quo is a disaster.”

In the last two weeks, these businesses have quietly negotiated for changes to meet some of their needs. But the bill still falls far short of what they want, an outcome suggesting that their political clout does not match their economic strength.

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a co-author of a treatise on immigration law, said: “High-tech companies are very organized. They have numerous lobby groups. When Bill Gates advocates more H-1B visas and green cards for tech workers, everyone listens.

“But that supposed influence has not translated into legislative results,” Mr. Yale-Loehr, who teaches at Cornell Law School, continued. “High-tech companies have been lobbying unsuccessfully since 2003 for more H-1B visas. It’s hard to get anything through Congress these days. In addition, anti-immigrant groups are well organized. U.S. computer programmers are constantly arguing that H-1B workers undercut their wages.”

Many high-tech companies bring in foreign professionals on temporary H-1B visas. The government is swamped with petitions. On the first two days of the application period in April, it received more than 123,000 petitions for 65,000 slots.

The Senate bill would raise the cap to 115,000 in 2008, with a possible increase to 180,000 in later years, based on labor market needs.

Many high-tech businesses want to hire foreign students who obtain advanced degrees from American universities, and many of the students want to work here, but cannot get visas.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, have a proposal that would overhaul the H-1 B program and give priority to American workers. Their proposal would also define, in great detail, the wages that must be paid to workers who have H-1B visas.

Mr. Durbin contended that some companies have used foreign workers to undercut the wages of American workers. And in some cases, he said, foreign workers come to this country for a few years of training, then return home “to populate businesses competing with the United States.”

“The H-1B visa program is being abused by foreign companies to deprive qualified Americans of good jobs,” Mr. Durbin said. “Some companies are so brazen, they say ‘no Americans need apply’ in their job advertisements.”

High-tech companies said that the wage standards in the Durbin-Grassley proposal would, in effect, require them to pay some H-1B employees more than some equally qualified American workers who are performing the same duties.

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that thousands of H-1B workers have been paid less than the prevailing wage.

One company, Patni Computer Systems, agreed this month to pay more than $2.4 million to 607 workers with visas after Labor Department investigators found that they had not been paid the wages required by federal law. The company’s global headquarters are in Mumbai, India, and its American operations are based in Cambridge, Mass.

June 10, 2007

Green card disasters

“Sertasheep” from www.immigrationvoice.org wrote me to highlight growing problems with green cards: extremely long waits for green card issuance, and mounting shortage of skilled professional labor beyond computer engineering. Here is his posting:

“Contrary to popular belief, it is not just computer engineers but also high-skilled professionals from such diverse facets of industry as medicine, banking and insurance, finance, teaching and research who are among those affected by delays amounting to over 10 years.

Arcane annual quotas restrict the number of Green Cards available in two ways to the same pool of high-skilled applicants. The First categorization is based on skills and exceptional abilities. The second categorization is based limits assigned to each qualifying country. Thus, there’s currently a overall cap of 140,000 Green Cards in addition to a hard country limit of 9,800 Green Cards annually, despite countries such as India and China yielding more high-skilled professionals to meet burgeoning US demands.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Family
Practitioners (AAFP) have predicted a severe shortage of PCPs over the next decade, as the demand is outstripping supply rapidly. In a position paper published last April, the AMA suggested addressing the shortage of physicians in underserved areas by international medical graduates (IMGs,).

The position paper states that one out of every five adequately served non-metropolitan counties would become underserved, if all IMGs currently in primary care practice were to be removed. Last October, the AMA wrote to several Senators and Representatives asking for their attention towards the hardships faced by not only the physicians and their families in getting Green Cards, but also the communities that depend upon them for their medical care. The AMA asked for exemptions from immigration caps for these physicians, upon completion of their service requirement."

April 6, 2007

Huge demand for H-1B visas this month

The media (including this article) reported that within two days of the beginning of the new year for temporary H-1B working visas (April 1), 133,000 applications were filed for the 65,000 available slots. These visas are generally designed for computer scientists and engineers. There are other, much smaller, channels for foreign high tech workers to enter the U.S. – for instance through academia. But the immensity of the application volume indicates how much American employers want these foreign workers. These visa applications require sponsorship by American employers. Right now, about half of computer programmers in the U.S. are foreign born.

Immigration reform legislative packages usually include a large increase in the H-1B slots.

March 30, 2007

Overview of non-immigrant visa activity

The Congressional Research Service published an update overview of non-immigrant visa activity, inlcuding business, student temporary guest worker, etc travel. This is a lucid introduction to the lierallty dozens of kinds of visa arrangements.

March 13, 2007

More on expose about current guest worker programs

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted on its website today a summary of its report that Bob Herbert of the NY Times wrote about. “The report — Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States — comes as Congress is about to begin debating immigration legislation that could greatly expand guestworker programs to cover hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new temporary foreign workers.

“The most fundamental problem with the H-2 system is that employers hold all the cards. They decide which workers can come to the United States and which cannot. They decide whether a worker can stay in this country. They usually decide where and under what conditions workers live and how they travel.”

The report summary:

New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

March 12, 2007 — Guestworkers who come to the United States are routinely cheated out of wages; forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs; held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents; forced to live in squalid conditions; and denied medical benefits for injuries, according to a new report released by the Center today.

Continue reading "More on expose about current guest worker programs" »

New expose on H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs.

Bob Herbert of the New York Times devoted his Monday, March 12 column to a forthcoming report by the Southern Poverty Law Center about guest worker program abuses. The title of the report: “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” I have not been able to find it yet so am posting below Herbert's column. Herbert is talking about The H-2A and H-2B programs.

Indentured Servants in America
By BOB HERBERT

A must-read for anyone who favors an expansion of guest worker programs in the U.S. is a stunning new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that details the widespread abuse of highly vulnerable, poverty-stricken workers in programs that already exist.

The report is titled “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” It will be formally released today at a press conference in Washington.

Workers recruited from Mexico, South America, Asia and elsewhere to work in American hotels and in such labor-intensive industries as forestry, seafood processing and construction are often ruthlessly exploited.

They are routinely cheated out of their wages, which are low to begin with. They are bound like indentured servants to the middlemen and employers who arrange their work tours in the U.S. And they are virtual hostages of the American companies that employ them.

The law does not allow these “guests” to change jobs while they’re here. If a particular employer is unscrupulous, as is very often the case, the worker has little or no recourse.

Continue reading "New expose on H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs." »

March 6, 2007

Live-in domestic foreign in workers in the U.S.

Human rights Watch issued in June 2001 a 58 page report on the tens of thousands of foreign born workers to come to work in America as au pairs and maids. I am posting about it with thanks to Julie Ferguson for having brought it to my attention. These workers come under one of the following visa programs: A-3 if hired by diplomats, G-5 if hired by international organizations, and B-1 if hired by other foreigners or American citizens. Human Rights Watch finds that these workers are without legally enforceable work contracts, are not protected by American labor laws, and can easily be threatened with deportation by their employers. This report is a stunning expose of the problems these workers experience.

March 4, 2007

Data about the H-2A and H-2B temporary work visa programs

The Global Worker Alliance has on its webite some important facts about these programs. H-2A is for agricultural workers.H-2B is for forestry, landscaping and construction.

These are not to be confused with the H-1A program which brings over engineers and computer sciences, from which Intel and Microsoft and their like benefit. I have posted on all of these program before.

Go here for the Global Worker Alliance posting which includes source of data citations.

What the Global Worker Alliance reports:

The United States admits temporary (less than one year) foreign guestworkers through its H-2 program. H-2 visas workers are considered non-professional workers. H-2A visas are issued for seasonal agricultural workers. H-2B visas are issued for temporary non-agricultural workers. Industries that often use H-2B workers are forestry, construction, and landscaping.

H-2R visas are issued to persons who had been issued an H-2B visa within any of the previous three fiscal years. The H-2B and H-2R issuance totals for each nationality when added together produce the totals of H-2B temporary worker visas issued.

Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2A workers – 2006

Total H-2A Visas Issued 37,149
1. Mexico 34,195 [92% of total]
2. South Africa 1,054
3. Peru 841
4. Nicaragua 146
5. Guatemala 110
6. Australia 87
7. Romania 87
8. New Zealand 84
9. Haiti 78
10. Chile 64


Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2B workers – 2006

Total H-2B Visas Issued 71,687
1. Mexico 43,269 [60% of total]
2. Jamaica 4,727
3. Romania 2,752
4. Guatemala 2,605
5. South Africa 1,855
6. Philippines 1,590
7. Great Britain 1,504
8. Brazil 1,474
9. Bulgaria 1,108
10. Dominican Republic 853

Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2R workers – 2006

Total H-2R Visas Issued 50,854
1. Mexico 36,723 [[72% of total]
2. Jamaica 8,402
3. Guatemala 2,356
4. Dominican Republic 490
5. Costa Rica 409
6. Romania 329
7. Honduras 328
8. New Zealand 305
9. Bulgaria 237
10. Australia 231

Digging into abuses of H-2A and H-2B temporary worker programs in U.S.

The Global Worker Alliance, about which I have posted in the past, is evolving into the leading advocate of temporary worker rights, especially for H-2A (agriculture) and H-2B (forestry, landscaping, etc.) workers. I have placed below its March 2007 report on a visit to Guatemala. The Aliiance is now training workers before they come, and documenting abuses of recruiters.

Reducing Guest Worker Exploitation in Guatemala

Global Workers has been persistently encouraging the United States Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Labor Ministry to take steps to reduce the rampant exploitation of the Guatemalan people who work in the US guest worker program. On a recent trip to Guatemala, both entities pledged to take major steps forward.

Global Workers met with the US Ambassador and the US Consul General in Guatemala and secured a commitment to change the practice of not informing guest workers about their rights or where to seek assistance. Soon the embassy should be providing the workers with a know-your rights hand out that Global Workers and Southern Poverty Law Center jointly crafted.

The Guatemalan labor ministry has invited Global Workers to provide a training on the US guest worker program. Building on the training, the ministry is pledging to crack down on the abuses by Guatemalan contractors. One such example is the procurement of false loans. Contractors force workers to sign contracts stating they have received loans, when in fact they have not. The contract is a form of bondage to guarantee the worker’s return.

February 28, 2007

Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program

“Low Pay and Broken Promises Greet Guest Workers” in the New York Times reports abuses on the United States guest worker program for agricultural workers, the H-2A program. I have posted on H-2A workers before, and also on a special H-2B forestry workers program. The articles focuses on recruitment abuses. “The guest worker program is not for contractors who feel they might be able to find work for other people,” said Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s for people who have a compelling need to bring in workers from abroad. There’s an enormous incentive for contractors to bring in as many people as possible, even when there isn’t enough work, because they often make money from recruitment fees.”

The article says, “Each year 120,000 foreign workers receive visas to do farm work or other low-skilled labor, usually for three to nine months. These programs grew out of the World War II bracero program, in which hundreds of thousands of Mexicans worked on farms and railroads, often in deplorable conditions.”

Labor experts say employers abuse guest workers far more than other workers because employers know they can ship them home the moment they complain. They also know these workers cannot seek other jobs if they are unhappy.

“I’d say a substantial majority of U.S. guest workers experience some abuses with their paycheck,” said David Griffith, a professor in the anthropology department at East Carolina University and author of the new book “American Guestworkers: Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U.S. Labor Market.” “It’s the recruitment process especially where they get cheated.”

The abuses take many forms. Guest workers often pay exorbitant fees and are frequently given fewer weeks of work and lower wages than promised. Many employers fail to make good on their commitment to pay transportation costs. The Thai workers, who were supposed to be paid $16,000 a year for three years, ended up earning a total of just $1,400 to $2,400. Most of the Thai workers had their passports taken away after they arrived, leaving them trapped.

“The program has been rife with abuses, even during the best of times,” said Cindy Hahamovitch, a history professor at the College of William and Mary, who is writing a book about guest workers. “There will never be enough inspectors to check every labor camp, contract and field.”

The article in full:

Continue reading "Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program" »

February 24, 2007

Wealth of statistics on illegal immigrants in the U.S.

This is a quick guide to postings I have made in the past. These and other postings are listed in the right hand column segment called “popular posts.” You will find even more information if you go to the hyperlinks in each of these postings.

Go here to find estimates of the number of illegal workers by state and their share of the state’s workforce. Data drawn in part from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Go here to find federal government estimates of illegal immigrants, by country of origin and by when they arrived in the U.S.

Go here to find recent research findings on the impact of all immigrant as well as illegal immigrant labor on native born American wages.

And here for types of work performed by illegal immigrants and other data on these workers, from the Pew Hispanic Center.

February 23, 2007

AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department’s statement on immigration reform.

Here is the statement, thanks to Jim Platner. I will summarize:

“Mass unregulated illegal immigration into the United States creates unfair wage competition.” There needs to be tougher border enforcement. “A mandatory electronic work-eligibility verification system is needed, which can effectively detect the use of fraudulent documents and significantly reduce the employment of unauthorized immigrants.” This system is “the lynchpin” to comprehensive immigration reform.

A new temporary worker program “would be particularly harmful to the long-term interests of the building and construction industry, because of its negative effect on bona fide apprenticeship and training programs.”

Union sponsored hiring halls and joint labor/management training programs work, and should be supported as the means to provide qualified labor to this industry.

The H-2B visa system in place should be used for foreign labor. This visa program “is currently available to full employers’ temporary needs resulting from either on-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent labor shortages that do not last for more than one year…it is uniquely appropriate” to fill employer needs in building and construction that cannot otherwise be met be hiring halls.

The H-2B system should be modified to allow for joint labor-management programs to sponsor temporary employment of “trained skilled workers from abroad.” This will assure protection of labor standards of U.S. workers.

There should be a “path to earned legal status” for illegal immigrants here now, as many have been “law-abiding, tax-paying and hard working” participants in the economy. They should pay an appropriate penalty and get in line behind those legally in line from the start. [The term “citizenship” is not used.] Once they “adjust their status”, they should receive federal labor and civil rights protections but not receive federal entitlements.

February 15, 2007

Skilled foreign workers – summary statistics

Now waves of immigrants are mostly not skilled workers. But foreign born workers have a huge share of some skilled job categories.

Thanks to Immigrant Voice for bringing to my attention these figures.

Skilled workers are a small minority of U.S. legal immigrants. Of the 940,000 legal immigrants recorded in 2004, only 16% were skilled employment-based immigrants. This means that 150,000 of the almost one million new legal immigrants (permanent or temporary) came on a skilled based authorization. About 40% of these skilled immigrants had advanced degrees, or 5 or more years of experience after a baccalaureate degree.

Per Immigrant Voice, the impact of these workers’ contributions to American competitiveness belies their small number, because they make up a large share of all workers in certain professions.

In 1996 17% of all scientists and engineers were foreign born. That rose to 24% in 2002. Among scientists and engineers with PhDs or professional degrees, 38% were foreign born in 1996 and 43% in 2002.

Go to Chpter 2, page 57 of the 2006 Economic Report of the President for more information.

February 14, 2007

Essential Worker Immigration Coalition: Reform platform

This lobbying group / business association is gearing up for immigration reform this year. It wants more immigrant workers, the more legal the better.

Here is its platform for reform:

Reform should be comprehensive: addressing both future economic needs for future workers and undocumented workers already in the United States.

Reform should strengthen national security by providing for the screening of foreign workers and creating a disincentive for illegal immigration.

Reform should strengthen the rule of law by establishing clear, sensible immigration laws that are efficiently and vigorously enforced.

Reform should create an immigration system that functions efficiently for employers, workers, and government agencies.

Reform should create a program that allows hard working, tax paying undocumented workers to earn legal status.

Reform should ensure that U.S. workers are not displaced by foreign workers.

Reform should ensure that all workers enjoy the same labor law protections.

The policy platform goes on….

Continue reading "Essential Worker Immigration Coalition: Reform platform" »

February 4, 2007

H-IB visa quota for this year may be exhausted in first 15 days

These are the visas that are typically used by engineers to come to the U.S, and work for the likes of Intel or Microsoft. Back in 2004, the annual quota for new H1B visas was 195,000, then it dropped to 65,000. The Senate’s immigration reform bill S. 2611 would boost it back to 115,000, then rise annually according to a “market” based factor. And – many persons with advanced degrees would be exempt from the cap. See my prior postings on H1B.

The Times of India (TOI) reports that when the next annual period begins on April 1, the entire lot of 65,000 visas may be claimed within a few weeks:

The rush for H-1B visas this year could be like never before. Two years ago, the H-1B quota finished on August 9, 2005. Last year it finished on May 25. This year, with the US economy still growing strongly, it is expected that the quota, which opens for filing of applications on April 1, will finish around April 15.
In other words, as Navneet S Chugh, attorney with the Chugh Firm, US, says, "All of the 65,000 visas (which allow skilled foreign workers, including Indians, to go to the US) will evaporate in 15 days." Chugh's firm is telling its clients that "it is imperative that we have all our H-1B petitions ready to go and file them special delivery on April 1."
TOI spoke to several technology firms who said they are busy finalising the names and number of their employees, who would be travelling to US.

September 27, 2006

“Subidos” or Mexicans working legally in migrant construction work

The Wall Street Journal on 9/18 (payment required) tracked the work migration of a Cantu family men – self-described subidos. These are Mexicans with green cards, who leave their families in Mexico and pick up relatively well paying jobs on a contract to contact basis, crisscrossing the United States.

“Thanks to quirks in the law, they have green cards enabling them to come to the U.S. for work stints. Many, like the Cantús, call themselves 'subidos' from the Spanish verb for 'to rise,' because they do the grueling jobs of pouring concrete for tall structures such as grain silos for the ethanol plants increasingly rising across the Great Plains. "

By quickly filling jobs and providing needed skills, such workers are a boon to employers. They rarely put a burden on social services, because they leave their school-age children and elderly relatives at home. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that the Mexicans drive down wages in the industries where they work.

Some guest workers had their status legalized under the Simpson-Rodino Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to 2.7 million undocumented workers. It offered that group, who call themselves 'Rodinos,' the chance at green cards that confer permanent-resident status and the right to work. The act was intended to encourage U.S. citizenship, but some preferred the guest-worker way of life, as the Cantús do, earning wages in the U.S. but keeping their families and their living costs in Mexico.

Others acquired work visas through programs that legalized imported farm workers during times of labor shortages. Still others won green cards after being sponsored by a parent who became a naturalized U.S. citizen, or by marrying a U.S. citizen. About 100,000 Mexicans also legally commute short distances across the border for day jobs in the U.S.

Continue reading "“Subidos” or Mexicans working legally in migrant construction work" »

August 18, 2006

ABCs of Immigration: H-2B (non-agricultural work) Visas

Once again Greg Siskind, immigration lawyer, lays out the basics of a visa program. I have already posted his introduction to the H-2A visa.

He can be contacted at Law Offices of Siskind Susser, P.C., Attorneys at Law; telephone: 800-748-3819, 901-682-6455; e-mail: gsiskind@visalaw.com: http://www.visalaw.com.

The H-2B visa is similar [to the agriculture-related H-2A visa], but is certification for temporary non-agricultural work. In essence, the visa is available when an employer can demonstrate that unemployed Americans are unavailable to fill the temporary position. The process is similar to the labor certification-based green card process except that the Department of Labor’s H-1B certification is not binding and the USCIS can independently decide to approve an H-2B status petition.

Continue reading "ABCs of Immigration: H-2B (non-agricultural work) Visas" »

New Orleans suit over H-2B guest workers

The Wall Street Journal (link not available) reported on a suit against Decatur Hotels, the largest pre-Katrina hotel firm in the City, alleging unfair and illegal exploitation of workers it had recruited to work.

The problems we hear about labor shortages in New Orleans and the Katrina cleanup are consistent with most post-disaster recoveries of large size. I have posted several times before about worker injury and work rights among cleanup workers for Katrina. One of the studies was by The New Orleans Workers Justice Coalition.

The lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Louisiana against closely held Decatur Hotels and Chief Executive F. Patrick Quinn III touches on the hot-button issue of finding workers for the Gulf Coast region following last year's devastating Hurricane Katrina. That debate centers on whether companies are hiring foreign workers, mainly Latino migrants, because they are cheaper or because there is a dearth of U.S. residents available to take blue-collar jobs. Many illegal immigrants, mainly from Latin America, have been flocking to New Orleans to do cleanup work.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, involves an unusual move by Decatur to recruit foreign workers under a government program, known as the H-2B guest-worker program. To qualify for the program, employers must prove to the government that they cannot find U.S. residents to fill the jobs in question. The program is designed to hire foreign workers to do temporary work in nonagricultural areas, often on a seasonal basis.
Several other companies in the region have also hired foreign workers under the guest-worker scheme after winning approval from the Labor Department, according to worker-rights organizations. About 300 foreign workers are believed to have been hired early this year by Decatur to do housekeeping, maintenance and other work at its properties, according to officials at the National Immigration Law Center, a Washington-based advocacy group involved in the case. In the lawsuit, 82 workers from Bolivia, Peru and the Dominican Republic allege that Decatur and Mr. Quinn violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to reimburse them for fees paid to labor recruiters working as agents of the hotel chain abroad, as well as travel expenses and visa fees adding up to as much as $5,000. The lawsuit says Decatur should have made those payments in their first week of work to comply with labor law. The lawsuit further states that the company exploited the workers' indebtedness and lack of familiarity with U.S. laws to violate their legal rights.

Continue reading "New Orleans suit over H-2B guest workers" »

August 3, 2006

ABCs of Immigration – H-2A (agriculture work) visas

By Greg Siskind, from from http://www.visalaw.com

The H-2A temporary agricultural visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to carry out temporary or seasonal agricultural labor or services. Given estimates that more than half of America’s agricultural workers are undocumented immigrants, the use of the H-2A visa is becoming more and more important.

What are employers required to do to obtain workers on H-2A visas?

Generally, employers must satisfy two criteria to hire nonimmigrant workers when filing an application with the USCIS:

1. The employer must show that able, willing, and qualified US workers are not available at the time and place needed

2. The employer must show that an adverse effect on wages or working conditions of similarly employed US workers will not result from the employment of foreign workers

Who may file an application for an H-2A visa?

• An agricultural company or employer who expect a shortage of U.S. workers needed to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural labor or services
• An authorized agent filing on behalf of an agricultural employer

The employer may be an individual proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. A collective of agricultural producers may file as either a sole employer, a joint employer with its members, or act as an agent on behalf of its members.

What steps must employers follow to do to obtain workers via the H-2A process?

Continue reading "ABCs of Immigration – H-2A (agriculture work) visas" »

June 28, 2006

Senate immigration bill to lift ceilings on foreign nurses

I like to follow the issue of nursing immigration because it shows how U.S. immigration policy deals with a specific, large, and well defined class of professional workers. The Senate immigration reform bill removes caps for nurses for seven years.

According to the NY Times, foreign nurses have to pass U.S. nursing tests to qualify for visas. The articles goes on to say:

Last year, American nursing schools rejected almost 150,000 applications from qualified people, according to the National League for Nursing, a nonprofit group that counts more than 1,100 nursing schools among its members. One of the most important factors limiting the number of students was a lack of faculty to teach them, nursing organizations say. Professors of nursing earn less than practicing nurses, damping demand for teaching positions. Under the current immigration system, experts estimate that 12,000 to 14,000 nurses have immigrated to the United States annually on employment visas.
The primary sources for American employers will be the Philippines, India and China. Typically, nurses who enter the U.S. under the special J category for nurses obtain a green card for permanent residency and can bring their immediate family.
A nurse in the Philippines would earn a starting salary of less than $2,000 a year and at least $36,000 in the United States, said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a medical professor at the University of the Philippines who led the country's National Institutes of Health.
Britain is reportedly making financial compensation to Malawi to recognize that country’s loss of nurses to migrate to the U.K. If any nation has demanded such compensation or financial aid from the U.S., it has not been reported.

June 11, 2006

How the Senate bill increases worker immigration

What you see below is taken from an anti-immigration website, which quotes from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. You will see a brief description of the actual provisions in the Senate bill 2611 which passed the Senate, then you will see Session’s extrapolation to forecast total household related immigration in the next 20 years. I do not understand how Sessions came to some extremely high estimates.

Guest worker program: He estimates that the initial guest work program cap of 325,000 plus the amnestied numbers already in the U.S. could result in over 60 million people coming into the U.S. in the next 20 years. The only way on can get these figures is to assume that the guest workers stay beyond expiration and new ones continue to come in. It is impossible to square this with the realities of the American and Latin American economies.

Green care issuance: Sessions says that the bill increases green card issuance from 140,000 to 450,000 a year, and increases household member and relative green cards by several hundred thousand. Another source estimates that the green card cap will by 650,000.


THE NEW GUEST WORKER PROGRAM

H-2C Workers: By creating a new (H-2C) visa category for "temporary guest workers" (low skilled workers) with an annual "cap" of 325,000 that increases up to 20 percent each year the cap is met, the bill allows at least 6.5 million, and up to 60.7 million new guest workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years. There is nothing "temporary" about these workers. Employers may file a green card application on their behalf as soon as they arrive in the United States, or the worker may self-petition for a green card after four years of work.

H-4 Family Members of H-2C Workers: By creating a new visa category (H-4) for the immediate family members of the future low-skilled workers (H-2C), and allowing them to also receive green cards, the bill would allow at least 7.8 million, and up to 72.8 million immediate family members of low-skilled workers to come to the United States over the next 20 years.

HIGH SKILLED PERMANENT IMMIGRATION:

H-1B: The bill would essentially open the borders to high-skilled workers, as well as low-skilled workers. By increasing the annual cap of 65,000 to 115,000, automatically increasing the new cap by 20 percent each year the cap is hit, and creating a new exemption to new cap for anyone who has an "advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math" from any foreign university, the number of H-1B workers coming into the United States would undoubtedly escalate. The 20-year impact of this escalation could be anywhere from 1 million to 20.1 million. H-1B workers are eligible for green cards and would be allowed to stay and work in the United States for as long as it takes to process the green card application.

STEEP INCREASES TO ANNUAL GREEN CARD LIMITS:

Family Based Green Cards: The bill would increase the annual cap on family based green cards available to non-immediate family members (adult sons and daughters, adults siblings, and the spouses and children of adult siblings) by more than 100 percent, upping the current cap of 226,000 to 480,000 a year. Immediate family members are already able to immigrate without regard to the family based green card caps. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 5.1 million non-immediate family member green cards.

Employment Based Green Cards The bill would increase the annual cap on employment-based green cards by more than 500 percent, upping the current cap of 140,000 to 450,000 until 2016 and to 290,000 thereafter and exempting all immediate family members that currently count against the cap today (spouses, children and parents) from the newly escalated cap. The new exemption would result in an average of 540,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the first 10 years, and an average of 348,000 family members receiving green cards each year of the second 10 years. The 20-year impact of this change would be an increase of 13.5 million employment-based green cards, for a total of 16.3 million employment-based green cards issued over the course of the next 20 years.

May 22, 2006

A good source for info about working immigration news

Try the About.com website. I have mentioned it before. Very practical and informed.

May 20, 2006

Mistreatment of H-2B immigrant guest forestry workers

In late 2005 the Sacrament Bee published the best expose of occupational dangers for immigrant Hispanic labor in some time. The focus: works who despite the supposed protections of so-called H-2B forest guest worker program for agriculture were exploited in the common fashion: exposed to job risks for which they were unprepared, cheating on payroll, and generally deficient working conditions. Some 10,000 works have come to the U.S. to “plant trees across the nation and thin fire-prone woods out West as part of the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative.” The Bee reports: “A nine-month Bee investigation based on more than 150 interviews across Mexico, Guatemala and the United States and 5,000 pages of records unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act has found pineros are victims of employer exploitation, government neglect and a contracting system that insulates landowners - including the U.S. government - from responsibility.”

Confined Space has summarized the Bee’s articles. In this posting and future ones, I will excerpt extensively from it, starting with….

…in the backwoods, where pineros often lack adequate training, protective gear or medical supplies, where they sweat, struggle and suffer, the current forest guest worker program casts a shadow across its future…..Across Honduras and Guatemala, 14 guest workers lay in tombs, victims of the worst non-fire-related workplace accident in the history of U.S. forests.

Continue reading "Mistreatment of H-2B immigrant guest forestry workers" »

April 28, 2006

Immigrant labor and agriculture today: fully integrated

The Washington Post ran an article highlighting the tight relationship between immigrant workers and food production, especially corporate meat processing, in America. I have discussed this before. Steve Striffler's book, Chicken, is an excellent description of the evolution of the poultry industry hand in hand with Hispanic labor. See my posting on meat processing as a de facto guest worker program.

The article said that “The meat production unit of privately held Cargill Inc on Tuesday said it decided to close down operations at five U.S. beef plants and two hog plants next Monday while employees participate in mass immigration rallies. Similar rallies on April 10 cut U.S. meat production at top meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said on Tuesday Tyson was not encouraging workers to participate in planned rallies if it meant missing shifts. “

Continue reading "Immigrant labor and agriculture today: fully integrated" »

April 16, 2006

Congressional poll on immigration bill

The National Journal surveyed Congressional members about their preferences for an immigration bill. Only 7% of Republicans want the guest work-focused bill approved by the Senate Judiciary committee; compared to 53% of Democrats. To me, this signals the death of prospects for a bill to be passed this year, as I have noted before.

Here are the results: first, the option, then the Republican response, then the Democrat response.

enforcement bill only: 32%, 11%
temporary guest worker program plus tighter borders: 54%, 11%
path to citizenship plus tighter borders: 7%, 53%
enact nothing: 2%, 26%
other: 5%, 0%

April 13, 2006

recruitment of foreign nurses to the United States

The New England J of Medicine on 10/27/05 carried an article about global patterns of recruitment of nurses. There is a global shortage of nurses. In the United States, the shortage is estimated at 126,000.

In an earlier posting, I reported that of the roughly 3,000,000 nurses in the country, about 11% are foreign workers. The authors say that the United States cannot expect to resolve a nursing shortage by foreign worker recruitment, in part because of global shortages of nurses. A letter responding to the article asserts that low compensation and few education slots are responsible for the nursing shortage.

The article reports that in 2005 a new law to expedite nursing recruitment from overseas was passed: the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief. The law provides for 50,000 new foreign nurses. The law discards a prior policy of requiring that each recruitment be backed up with a prevailing wage certification.


this problem is the fact that as baby boomers are growing older and their medical needs are increasing, enrollment in nursing schools is declining. Increasing demands on nurses, partially a result of the shortage of nurses, have led to early career burnout, with as many as 20 percent of nurses retiring early. The Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2020, the shortage of registered nurses in relation to demand will reach 29 percent, with more than 1 million nursing positions left open.

About recruiting of foreign nurses in the United Kingdom….

For years, the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom relied heavily on the direct recruitment of nurses from African countries such as Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — all former British colonies. These very countries have been among those hit hardest by the HIV pandemic; some have a prevalence of HIV infection of 30 to 40 percent, with a majority of the young, working population debilitated by disease, and are reporting huge nursing shortages themselves….More than half the nursing positions in Kenya and Ghana remain unfilled. As a result, many health clinics in Kenya have closed and many others are severely understaffed. The nursing shortage in the developing world is being felt more intensely even as increased foreign aid becomes available to provide drugs for millions of people with AIDS.

Continue reading "recruitment of foreign nurses to the United States" »

Economists surveyed about impact of illegal immigrants

On 4/13 The WSJ reported a survey of economists about the undocumented workforce’s impact on the economy. Basically, the economists say that the workers have made it difficult for some Americans workers, but that the overall impact is positive. According to the article, “Nearly 80% of economists who responded to questions about immigration in the latest WSJ.com forecasting survey said they believe undocumented workers have an impact on the bottom rung of the wage ladder. Twenty percent believe the impact is significant, while 59% characterize the effect as slight. The remaining 22% said there is no impact.”


About half of the economists said the presence of illegal immigrant workers has slightly reduced the overall rate of inflation in the economy, while 8% said the inflation rate has been reduced significantly. But 41% said they believe undocumented workers have had no impact at all on inflation.

On balance, nearly all of the economists – 44 of the 46 who answered the question – believe that illegal immigration has been beneficial to the economy. Most believe the benefits to business of being able to fill jobs at wages many American workers won't accept outweigh the costs.


April 12, 2006

Economic impact of a guest worker program on American agriculture


Fox News
carried on 4/10 a story, “Farmers Keep Wary Eye on Immigration Debate” which has some good interview quotes. The nub of the article is that farm owners need Hispanic workers and they need them cheap ($10 and hour). A guest worker program will provide the workers, but I expect at a noticeably higher cost. I have noted that the bill sent out by the Senate Judiciary Committee had an “AgJobs” component.here.

Here is my posting about my own remote state of Vermont depending on Hispanic workers to keep its diary industry alive --if only for the tourism industry.

From the Fox News article:

Cutting farmers' access to cross-border workers without giving them an alternative could cost the industry up to $9 billion in annual production, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has long lobbied for a streamlined temporary worker program.

Continue reading "Economic impact of a guest worker program on American agriculture" »

This week’s immigrant demonstrations make big impact

"People Power" is how the New York Times painted the large and many orderly demonstrations this Monday. In Washington DC, Ted Kennedy addressed the crowd like a modern day Henry V, evoking future memories of that day. Demonsrtators read from sheets the following phonetized pledge of allegiance: “Ai pledch aliyens to di fleg, Of d Yunaited Esteits of America, An tu di republic for wich it stands, Uan naishion, ander Gad, Indivisibol, Wit liberti an yostis, For oll”


The immigration rallies of recent weeks have drawn an astounding number of people around the country: Monday's "national day of action" was attended by an estimated 180,000 in Washington, 100,000 each in Phoenix and New York City, 50,000 each in Atlanta and Houston, and tens of thousands more in other cities.

Adding in the immense marches last month in Los Angeles and Chicago, the immigrants and their allies have carried off an amazing achievement in mass political action, even though many of them are here illegally and have no right to vote.
The marchers in white T-shirts poured out of the subway doors and merged into a stream, flowing like blood cells through the tubular innards of the Washington Metro, past turnstiles and up escalators and out into the delicate brilliance of a fine spring day. On the street, they met up with the others — young parents, old people, toddlers in strollers, teenagers in jeans and jewelry — and headed to the Mall, where they and their American flags dissolved into a shimmering sea of white, red and blue.

The AP reported the following:

"This is bigger than the civil rights movement in the sixties. This is huge," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show." "What this is building is enormous pressure on the Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill _ tighten border security, more border patrol agents, secure the border from drugs and illegal traffic, but also a sensible legalization plan that brings the 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows," he said.

Out of Many, One: The Far-Reaching Touch of the Crowd” was the title of an analysis in the Washington Post on 4/11 by a reporter clearly impressed by the orderliness of the demonstration. “The crowd as historical actor is acting again.”

April 11, 2006

A few handy figures about immigration to work in the U.S.

There is no easy way to estimate the net change from year to year in foreign workers coming to the U.S. and the number of foreign workers in the U.S. at any time. The following figures can help. One can infer from these figures that upwards of half of the net increase in foreign workers has been illegal workers. The entire set is divided among official permanent admissions, official temporary admissions, and illegal entrants.

Number of foreign-born persons in the U.S. today: 35 million

Subset of 35M who have become American citizens: 12 million

Subset of 35M who are eligible for citizenship but have elected to become citizens as yet: 8 million

Simple math suggests that about 15 million foreign born people in the U.S. are neither citizens nor on a citizen track. The estimated 12 million illegal immigrants make up the large majority of these persons.

OFFICIAL PERMANENT ADMISSIONS

Number of persons (adults, children, retirees) formally admitted into the U.S. each year for permanent residence (which can lead to citizenship): roughly about 1 million

(This and other official figures below are rough due to volatility from year to year, driven in part by paperwork backlogs)

Subset of these 1M persons who are working age adults: 400,000?

Subset of these 400,000 +/- working age adults who were admitted on the basis of employment criteria (“employment based preferences”) as opposed to family ties, other: about 150,000

OFFICIAL TEMPORARY WORK ADMISSIONS

Number of new H-1B temporary professional workers formally admitted each year (i.e. Bill Gate's programmers): 95,000

Number of new H-2A temporary agricultural workers (special agricultural workers) admitted each year: 200,000? less those returning

Number of other temporary workers admitted for miscellaneous programs: to be found but probably well under 50,000 (types: H-2B, H-1C, E, L, O, P, R, for nurses, ministers, ahtletes, etc, etc.)

ILLEGAL ENTRANTS

Number of new illegal workers each year: roughly 350,000

Lessons from immigration reform in 1986

David North closely analyzed the 1986 reform effort – IRCA, or the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and found lessons for today. In his paper published at an immigration lawyer website, he lists six attributes of IRCA worth noting:

1. Large numbers—often much larger than anticipated—of aliens sought legalization and the overwhelming majority of applications were accepted.

2. The compromises leading to the passage of the legislation led to an extremely complex program, full of internal inconsistencies. [This is already evident in the guest worker and amnesty provisions proposed in 2006 – PFR]

3. There was a great deal of many different kinds of fraud in the program; much of the apparent fraud did not lead to the denial of applications.

4. The promised balance—of a large legalization program for currently illegal aliens joined with a strict enforcement program against the future arrival of illegal aliens—did not eventuate. Yes, there was much legalization, but there was little enforcement of the law forbidding the employment of the undocumented (employer sanctions). [It may well be that the law enforcement system in the U.S. is so poorly acculturated to personal identity enforcement (“big brother”) that it will always be messy – PFR]

5. Within the legalization process there was a built-in (if probably unconscious) bias toward Hispanics and away from other undocumented populations. [We will see a lot of Europeans and Asian computer specialists coming out of the woodwork – PFR]

6. Demographic considerations (are there too many of us?) and equity in the labor market (are we widening the disparity between rich and poor?) were largely overlooked. [These issues have of course been much more openly addressed, especially in the past few months. There is a lot of research on these issues, serving as a foundation for books and articles. - PFR]

April 9, 2006

Opinions by Washington Post, NYT's Nicholas Kristoff

I am excerpting two opinion pieces from this weekend: the Washington Post’s editorial 4/8/06, 'Nirvana,' Lost Thanks largely to Democrats, the Senate missed an opportunity, and Nicholas Kristoff’s column today 4/9/06 in the New York Times, “Compassion that hurts.”

The editorial says that the compromised bill was working in the right direction and that Democrats killed it. I have a problem with an unstated premise of the editorial, that the compromise bill would not be savaged on the floor of the Senate. More likely, no bill will come out of conference with the enforcement-focused House of Representatives. Sure, Democrats at the time would very much like to run in November with a partisan pro-Hispanic position and no legislation enacted with a Republican majority in Congress.

Kristoff essentially repeats arguments made and cited before by me, that massive immigration by poorly educated Hispanics are to the detriment of America’s poorly educated. (To find the several entries, search for Borjas and Camarota.)

The Washington Post’s editorial (link not available):

Continue reading "Opinions by Washington Post, NYT's Nicholas Kristoff" »

April 7, 2006

U.S. Senate struggles on April 6 with immigration bill compromise

The Senate this week came up with a compromise which in my judgment is doomed to fail, for at least two reasons. First, the anti-amnesty lobby wants to shred it. Second, it will be incredibly hard to enforce. To me, this is a means by some Senate Republicans to record a pro-business, pro Hispanic voter vote for a McCain-like bill before such a bill is mauled in conference committee by the House. The business lobby and Hispanic community appears to be strongly in support of the McCain-like bill as it will provides for a continuity of residence and work.

The Senate is (as of right now) proposing in effect to modify the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is modeled after the MeCain bill. This bill pretty much allows all illegal immigrants to stay in the country for a nominal penalty and sets them on the road to long term residency or citizenship. I addressed the Committee’s March 27 work here.

The compromise creates artificial categories of immigrants defined by duration of illegal residency so far in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center quickly came out with an estimate of the duration of illegal residency so far. It says it has “produced estimates of the unauthorized population according to the categories established in the legislation now before the Senate. These estimates are based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey. For a full report based on that data please go to” here.

Time in the US

Five years or more: 6.7 million
Two to five years: 2.8 million
Less than two years: 1.6 million

Total: 11.1 million

Based on analysis of other data sources that offer indications of the pace of growth in the foreign-born population, the Center developed an estimate of 11.5 to 12 million for the unauthorized population as of March 2006.

April 5, 2006

Case study of Nevada: Do immigrants take jobs from Americans?

The Las Vegas Sun talked to two immigration experts. Jeff Passel, from the Pew Hispanic Center, said the relatively high illegal worker population did not seem to have a negative impact on unemployment among citizens. Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies said that the damage is evidenced in lower workforce participation, to him a truer measure.

Per Passel, Nevada had the second-highest proportion of unauthorized workers in the nation in 2004, the state's unemployment rate of 3.8% was one of the country's lowest - a full point lower than the national rate of 4.8%.

( My posting here estimated the size of undocumented workforce relative to total state workforce as of March 2005. Note the high percentage for NV.)

Nearly one in 10 workers in Nevada was unauthorized in 2004, second only to Arizona, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center report. Of the 10 states with the highest shares of illegals in the work force, seven had unemployment rates below the national average. NV’s unemployment rate of 3.8% for 2004 was a point below the national rate of 4.8%.

However, Steven Camarota says you need to look at unemployment rates just for the most impacted cohorts, such as male teenagers. In 2004 male teenagers between 16 and 19 had a 16% unemployment rate.

More importantly, one needs to look at the drop in labor force participation. In 2000, 55.1% of Nevadans between 16 and 19 were either employed or looking for work. By 2004, that number slipped to 45.8%. Among people age 20 to 24, the participation rate dropped from 81.3% to 77%. The number of blacks participating in the state's work force fell from 71.1% to 64.9%.

Douglas Massey of Princeton: a blast of fresh air on Mexican immigrant workers

Douglas S. Massey, Princeton University professor, has closely studied Mexican immigrants and comes up with energetic, constructive interpretations of worker migration into the United. States. I will summarise several of his books. He also wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Monday. One of his most intensely argued points is that border security-alone advocates hugely misperceive what the Mexican worker migration is all about. Massey's broad view puts our immigration issues in the context of 160 million immigrants troughout the world.

Crossing the Border (2004) (co-editor)

The full title: “Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project” (2004). Per the review in Amazon, the book draws from “the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available". It is a myth-breaking book:

Continue reading "Douglas Massey of Princeton: a blast of fresh air on Mexican immigrant workers" »

April 2, 2006

Anti-guestworker panel argues its case

I have condensed the transcript of a March 3 2006 panel discussion called: Guestworker Programs: Do They Make Sense for America? The meeting was sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies, and the transcript came from its website. All the panelists are vocal critics of the guestworker program. I have divided the posting into major segments: (1) 1986 IRCA failed in processing, enforcement, and numbers of evaders, (2) economics of farm labor and what happens when labor costs rise (we adjust) (3) net cost to taxpayer even after guestworker program of $10B, and (4) How to deal with current 12 million illegal immigrants (attrition).

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AgJobs bill passes Judiciary Committee March 27

AgJobs legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27. This bill significantly revises the government’s H-2A guest worker program for farm workers. Key is an earned legal immigration status provision which the Fund estimates will cover several hundred thousand undocumented farm workers. The bill creates a “blue card” status which can lead to a green card.

According to a Farmworker Justice Fund press release,

AgJOBS contains two basic programs. First, the earned legalization program would allow many unauthorized immigrant farmworkers to earn legal immigration status by demonstrating their recent agricultural work experience in the U.S. and by continuing to work in agriculture for three to five years. Second, it would revise the H-2A agricultural guest worker program to streamline the process for employers while retaining major protections for workers.

All of the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Senator Edward Kennedy, supported AgJOBS. The Committee Republicans who voted for AgJOBS were Senators DeWine, Brownback, and Specter. Senators Hatch and Graham “passed,” choosing not to vote on the AgJOBS amendment. The Republican opponents were Coburn, Grassley, Kyl, Sessions, and Cornyn.

Provisions include

* To enter the earned legalization program, farmworkers will have to show that they performed at least 150 days of agricultural work in the U.S. during the 24-month period ending December 31, 2005. (This is not a per-year requirement; it is a total of 150 days.)

* Once the person shows eligibility, he or she gets a "blue card" to demonstrate temporary resident status. Previously, there was no special card or color.

* Once the farmworker obtains a blue card, the farmworker's spouse and minor children obtain temporary resident status and the spouse gets work authorization. These family members may also then travel across the U.S. border.

* To earn a green card, the farmworkers must perform agricultural work for at least 100 work days per year for five years, or perform 150 days per year for three years. Participants may work outside agriculture but only if they continue to meet the annual agricultural work requirement.

* Disqualification will occur due to conviction of a felony or three misdemeanors or a single crime that involves bodily injury or injury to property in excess of $500.

* In addition to an application fee, farmworkers will have to pay a fine of $100 upon obtaining a blue card.

* To obtain a green card, farmworkers must pay a fine of $400 and must be current on their income taxes.

* The earned legalization program has a cap of 1.5 million.

* The H-2A temporary foreign worker program will allow employers in the dairy industry to hire workers even if they are year-round workers.

The Farmworker Justice Fund

This organization, now in its 25th year, promotes improvement in working and living conditions of farmworkers, especially immigrant migrants. It has backed AgJobs legislation, the topic of a future posting.

It’s “Pro-Farmworker Agenda” focuses on

1. Farm Labor Housing and Housing Development Capacity: Farmworkers’ low wages, reluctance to allow farmworker housing in some communities, failure to maintain existing housing, inadequate government funding and other causes have led to a crisis-level shortage of housing and inadequate sanitation.

2. Workers’ Compensation: Farmworkers continue to be discriminated against in many state regarding access to workers’ compensation for work-related injury and illness.

3. "Right to know" about toxic occupational chemicals. Farmworkers have been denied coverage under the hazard communication program of the Occupational Safety and Health Act ….We suggest a federal pilot program in several states to examine whether granting farmworkers the right to know about occupational chemicals reduces the incidence and severity of work-related illness and injury.

4. Farmers’ transition away from toxic pesticides to safer pest control methods would substantially benefit farmworkers by reducing their exposure to toxic chemicals at work.

5. Freedom of Association: Farmworkers employed in an industry substantially supported by government deserve the right to join and organize labor unions free from retaliation, but they presently lack that right. The federal National Labor Relations Act grants that right to other workers but specifically excludes farmworkers. We suggest amending the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the principal federal employment law regarding farmworkers, to grant workers the right to organize, join and participate in labor unions without being discharged or discriminated against in any way by their employers or labor contractors.

6. Unemployment compensation benefits: Business difficulties and the nature of seasonal agriculture prevent many farmworkers from working year-round. Most workers in seasonal industries, such as construction and tourism, can rely on unemployment compensation if they cannot find other jobs during the off-season. a minimum, a business receiving government support should provide unemployment insurance.

7. Transportation to and from work: Many farmworkers do not own their own motor vehicles and live or work in rural areas where there is not public transportation. In many locations, a dangerous business practice has developed. Contractors take money from farmworkers and deliver them to the work site, often in dangerous vehicles, many of which are minivans that lack seats and seat belts.

8. Overtime Pay: Federal law excludes agricultural workers from the payment of time-and-one-half for work in excess of forty hours per week. In California, state law grants overtime to farmworkers after ten hours of work in a day and California remains a highly productive, profitable agricultural state.

9. A Living Wage: The federal minimum wage is utterly inadequate as a minimum wage rate, especially for seasonal employees like farmworkers, whose annual earnings average only about $7,500. A government-supported business should be expected to provide decent work, which includes compliance with all labor laws and a living wage.

March 29, 2006

Study asserts H-1B visa program undercuts American computer programmers

The Center for Immigration Studies just released a critique of the H-IB visa program. The core message of the study is that employers use the visa program to hire professional workers at wages well below the actually prevailing wages of comparable workers – despite a statutory prohibition. I have entered below the executive summary of “The Bottom of the Pay Scale: Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers” by John Miano and, following that, a useful primer of the program from his study.

H-1B visas by occupation are computer 28%, education 14%, administrative 13%, engineering 12%, health 9%, managers 8%, all others 18%. Visas by country of origin are mainland India 36%, China 9%, Canada 5%. all others 50%.

Executive Summary

The temporary visa program known as H-1B enables U.S. employers to hire professional-level foreign workers for a period of up to six years. Employers must pay H-1B workers either the same rate as other employees with similar skills and qualifications or the "prevailing wage" for that occupation and location, whichever is higher….The analysis demonstrates that…actual pay rates reported by employers of H-1B workers were significantly lower than those of American workers. ….[R]ather than helping employers meet labor shortages or bring in workers with needed skills, as is often claimed by program users, the H-1B program is instead more often used by employers to import cheaper labor.

Key Findings

On average, applications for H-1B workers in computer occupations were for wages $13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and state.

Wages on approved Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for 85% of H-1B workers were for less than the median U.S. wage in the same occupations and state.

Applications for 47% of H-1B computer programming workers were for wages below even the prevailing wage claimed by their employers.

Employers can easily manipulate their need to show that the H-1B worker will be paid a prevailing wage. The Department of Labor is hamstrung in enforcing more rigor into this part of the application process.

Employers making applications for more than 100 H-1B workers had wages averaging $9,000 less than employers of one to 10 H-1B workers.

The report goes on to say that many U.S. employers use “bodyshops” (labor service providers) for H-1B workers, thereby making it easier for the employer to obscure how it may be firing American workers in order to hire H-!B workers. And the report says that any investigation of H-1B abuses must be personally approved by the Secretary of Labor.

A primer of H-1B visa program

Continue reading "Study asserts H-1B visa program undercuts American computer programmers" »

March 26, 2006

Skilled labor immigration into the U.S.: some highlights

A 2004 report on skilled workforces highlights some key trends in skilled immigrants working in the United States. I have excerpted passages on foreign supply of scientists and engineers, the foreign presence among Silicon Valley leaders, and the broad effect of globalization.

The study is titled Preparing Chemists and Chemical Engineers for a Globally Oriented Workforce: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable (2004)

I have previously posted on foreign trained physicians in the United States, the U.K., Canada and Australia.

Effects of globalization on the domestic supply of IT workers

If in 1980 the United States had closed its borders and not allowed IT to globalize as it did, there probably would not have been the IT boom enjoyed in the 1990s. The IT industries would not have been able to deliver the productivity gains and price declines that they did.

To summarize, research by economists has concluded that in recent decades globalization appears to have been more beneficial for more-skilled workers in the United States than for less-skilled workers. It also seems that the boom time in real wages since 1995, driven largely by IT, has had a lot to do with globalization. These gains from global integration are widely distributed across skill groups.

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March 21, 2006

Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform

In keeping track of published opinions about immigration reform, I will cite from a 3/21/06 David Broder column on Bill Gates’ efforts to increase temporary professional work visas, and from a 3/15/06 Wall Street Journal column by a conservative think tank about immigration reform. Bottom line messages: liberalize immigration. The only problem: no politician wants to be accused of somehow backing an amnesty program, and their panic about this means that all immigration liberalization is stalled.

Gates wants a lot more foreign programmers here. He says there is a tight employment market now for computer and mathematical operators (less than 3% unemployment rate), and wants to ceiling on temporary professional worker visas to go from 65,000 to 115,000. An H1B visa holder is a “specialty worker” admitted for a temporary term (including extension possibilities) on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience. In 2003, the ceiling went from 195,000 to 65,000.. I have previously posted a plea by the chairman of Intel to raise the H1B ceiling.

The Manhattan Institute fellow, Tamar Jacoby, in “Bitter Sweet Spot,” says we need to do something about “an underground economy the size of Ohio that makes an ass of the law and endangers our security.” However, Jacoby is clearly at a loss as to how Congress will pass legislation allowing most or all illegal immigrants to stay and not have that called amnesty.

That is a rock upon which no Republican wants to run his or her boat -- which is what happened in the past 48 hours to Senator Frist. Out of the blue he proposed a get tough bill without solving the long term status of illegal immigrants, and was slapped down by Senator Specter, intent on getting his own bill through. I posted already an analysis of the worker protections in the Specter bill.

Jacoby sharply critiques the Specter bill because while it provides as the McCain bill does for an adjustment from undocumented worker to form guest worker status, the Specter bill keeps the work permanently in guest status, not offering a citizenship path.

Follow her essentially liberal reasoning:

Continue reading "Bill Gates on H1B visas; Manhattan Institute on immigration reform" »

March 13, 2006

Sen. Specter Guest Worker bill to expand foreign worker programs for professionals

Per Schusterman's Immigration Update, these are (1) Employment-Based (EB) Immigration -- the “green card” permanent immigration program. A current cap of 140,000 would be raised to 290,000 per year. The other (2) is the H-1B non-immigration program. The cap is now 65,000. It would be to 115,000 annually. Thereafter, the cap would be controlled by a "market based escalator mechanism". However: persons with advanced degrees in math, science, technology and engineering would be exempt from the cap.

EB in depth: See for a for in-depth treatment by Stephen Yale-Loehr and Michael J. Bayer. An excerpt:

The U.S. immigration system has five employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories that allow up to 140,000 people a year obtain permanent residence (also known as “green cards”) in the United States through their work or skills. These categories are set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which codifies most but not all U.S. immigration laws. This article summarizes the five employment-based categories.
The INA gives first preference to “priority workers,” including noncitizen workers of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives. Second preference goes to professionals with advanced degrees and workers with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. The third employment-based category includes professionals without advanced degrees, skilled workers, and unskilled workers. The fourth EB category provides visas for certain “special immigrants,” such as religious workers. Finally, the fifth EB category reserves a certain number of visas for immigrant investors seeking to enter the United States to start a commercial enterprise that will create or save at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.

The H1B program is overviewed here.

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March 4, 2006

Farm workers labor contractor fraud

Four California agriculture contractors accused of labor violations is the title of the article which ran on 1/14/06 in the Fresno Bee. The article summarizes a common theme of employer fraud practiced in the California agricultural counties by labor contractors. These are employers who bring workers to the farm. The farm owners do not know the terms of employment between the contractor and the workers – pay, compliance with state labor laws, etc.

According to the Bee:

The alleged misconduct resulted in an underpayment of about $900,000 in premiums to the State Compensation Insurance Fund and cheated the state out of about $676,000 in payroll taxes, according to a state Department of Insurance statement made public Friday.
The companies are suspected of misrepresenting total payroll, the number of employees and the type of work performed by employees, according to the Insurance Department..
The companies supply workers to farms in Fresno, Madera, Kern, Tulare and San Luis Obispo counties.
More than 100 workers' compensation fraud cases have been investigated in the San Joaquin Valley in the past three years, a marked increase from previous years, said Mark Voss, chief investigator of the Fresno Fraud Division Office of the Insurance Department.

March 1, 2006

Failure of existing guest worker programs as seen in FL figures

The failure of existing guest temporary visa programs can be summarized in these figures: the number of workers under them in Florida is probably equivalent to 1% of all undocumented workers in that state.

These programs are designed to attach each worker to a particular employer for a specified period of time – in months. The Palm Beach Post ran on Dec. 9, 2003, as part of an extensive series on farm labor, an analysis of how the federal governments guest worker provisions for temporary farm labor have worked in Florida. Farm employers rarely use these programs. According to the federal government only 2,423 H2A and H2B visas were issued to Mexican for work in Florida. I have previously estimated, drawing on Urban Institute figures, that as of 1/1/06 there were roughly 600,000 undocumented workers in Florida. Assume that total figure in 2002 was 450,000: H2 visa programs were equivalent to less than 1% of Florida’ undocumented workers.

According to the Post:

Continue reading "Failure of existing guest worker programs as seen in FL figures" »

February 24, 2006

H-2A visas - snapshot of wage and worker comp rules

The wage or rate of pay must be the same for U.S. workers and H-2A workers. The hourly rate must also be at least as high as the applicable Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), federal or state minimum wage, or the applicable prevailing hourly wage rate, whichever is higher. The AEWR is established every year by the Department of Labor. For 2005, the minimum wage set by DOL for Washington State is $9.03.

The employer must provide workers' compensation insurance where it is required by state law. Where state law does not require it, the employer must provide equivalent insurance for all workers. Proof of insurance coverage must be provided to the regional administrator before certification is granted.

Thai worker case in WA reveals turmoil in use of foreign workers

A case involving a employer in Washington State who hired Thai workers on a temporary visa program puts into sharp relief today’s turmoil in using foreign workers under federally run special visa programs. The employer is being investigated by federal and state officials. And local American workers are suing the employer.

According to Rural Migration News, the state of Washington reached a $230,000 settlement with Los Angeles-based Global Horizons September 22, 2005 over the treatment of 170 H-2A visa Thai workers who picked apples in the state in 2004. Global agreed to reimburse their travel costs and improperly deducted wages.

The H-2A temporary agricultural visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign nationals to enter into the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature, and for which the employer attests there are not sufficient numbers of American workers.

Per the report,

Thai H-2A workers say that they had to pay $2,000 each in Thailand to get the H-2A contracts, putting up their homes and land as collateral for the cost of getting work visas. According to the Thai workers, only persons with land and other assets that they could pledge to Global were allowed to get H-2A contracts. Once in the US, 24 of the Thai workers abandoned their contracts.
Local workers are suing Global in federal court, alleging that they were not hired when they applied for the jobs that Global filled with Thais.
Washington's Department of Labor and Industries and the Employment Security Department sent a letter to Global Horizons on December 20, 2005,saying that it was in violation of state laws requiring timely payment of unemployment taxes. Under the September 2005 settlement, Global was to retain an independent third party to investigate and provide reports on the company's treatment of workers, which it had not done.

The wage or rate of pay must be the same for U.S. workers and H-2A workers. The hourly rate must also be at least as high as the applicable Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), federal or state minimum wage, or the applicable prevailing hourly wage rate, whichever is higher. The AEWR is established every year by the Department of Labor. For 2005, the minimum wage set by DOL for Washington State is $9.03.

The employer must provide workers' compensation insurance where it is required by state law. Where state law does not require it, the employer must provide equivalent insurance for all workers. Proof of insurance coverage must be provided to the regional administrator before certification is granted.

February 10, 2006

H-1B visas and the engineering workforce shortage, per Chair of Intel

Craig Barrett, Chair of Intel, recently wrote a commentary for the Financial Times (payment required) and afterwards responded to reader questions.

Begun in 1998, the H-1B program has annual caps which in 2003 was 195,000. In 2004 the cap was cut to 65,000. As of 2004, close to 1,000,000 H-1B visa holders were believed to be working in the United States, up from about 360,000 in 1998. This means an annual addition of about 150,000 workers a year into the American workforce.

Compare this stream to the supply of engineers coming from American higher education (many of whom are foreigners)? In 2004, there were about 70,000 bachelor, 40,000 master, and 6,000 doctoral degrees were awarded by American colleges and universities. This is from the American Society of Engineering Education

H1B Visa (Professional in a Specialty Occupation) allows a U.S. employer to fill a position requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate in the particular field with a qualified worker from abroad. The foreign worker must possess that U.S. degree or an acceptable foreign alternative. In some cases, a combination of studies and relevant experience may substitute for the degree if it is determined by a credentials expert to qualify the foreign professional. The large majority of H1B visa holders are believed to be engineers.

Per Barrett:

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