Immigration and the electorate 2000 to 2000

November 23rd, 2020

The Center for Immigration Studies summarizes the growth of the immigrant-related eligible voter population (both naturalized adult immigrants and their U.S.-born children):

Nationally, the number of voting-age citizens who are immigrants or their children increased by 71 percent, while the rest of the potential electorate grew by just 15 percent between 2000 and 2020. As a share of eligible voters, immigrants and their children increased their share from 14 percent to 20 percent.

As a share of eligible voters, between 2000 and 2020 adult immigrants and their adult U.S.-born children increased the most in New Jersey, from 23 percent to 36 percent; Texas, from 14 percent to 25 percent; Maryland, from 12 percent to 23 percent; California, from 33 percent to 43 percent; Georgia, from 4 percent to 13 percent; Virginia, from 7 percent to 16 percent; and in North Carolina, from 4 percent to 12 percent.

Biden and immigration

November 20th, 2020

Here is a post-election summary of some of the elements in the Biden immigration platform. They come down to two types: (1) reversal of Trump administration executive orders and (2) streamlining some channels of immigration. From here.

Missing are an initiative to assess immigration for the future of the workforce and society, and effective controls over unauthorized immigration (which includes e-Verify).

Here is my July 15 posting on Biden’s 1,800 word statement on immigration.

Unauthorized workers and the future of the American economy

November 19th, 2020

The 160 million person workforce of the country includes roughly 8 million unauthorized workers who are predominantly with little formal education and very restricted as to their ability to progress into well-paying jobs, to buy household assets, and to demand good working conditions. This is a captive workforce, one which perpetuates low productivity jobs and social indignity.

A friend in London told me the story of the Midland Grand Hotel, which opened in about 1865 next to St. Pancras Station. Five stories tall, it was the epitome of luxury, coal fires every room, even elevators. But as there was no central plumbing a battalion of servant girls was required to haul coal and hot water up to the rooms and carry down full chamber pots. During World War One, women were hired to work in factories. They did not want to go back to domestic service, with its low pay and demeaning social status. The hotel was forced to close

It reopened in the 2011, without the servant girls.

Immigration post-Trump

November 14th, 2020

I have not posted since before the election. Now is time to make some initial observations on what the election results mean for immigration policy.

The starting point is the removal of a president with the most coherent immigration policy in generations – a policy basically to cut the inflow of immigrants in half, across the board, but with a tilt in favor of those with high formal job skills. And, this policy is to be run almost entirely through executive order, relying very little or not at all on Congressional approval.

The president replacing him is an immigration inclusivist, without expressed policy choices that would give liberals, moderates, and perhaps even some fiscal conservative much heartburn.

A key point to make today that there is little public support for the Trump policy of severe cutback in immigration. It appears to be supported by only his fervent supporters, and even then only a segment of his fervent supporters.

John Hibbing, in his 2020 book The Securitarian Personality, has polled Trump supporters. His key restrictionist followers are what Hibbing call “securitarians.” They are generally financially comfortable, have a good sense of well-being, and are preoccupied with threats to the country’s well-being and safety as they see it. One of the leading threats to them are immigrants who take advantage of America’s wealth. In one sense, their view is correct: overall, immigrants gain economically vs. their chances in their country of origin more than the U.S. economy appears to.

In the graph below, we see how Trump supporters feel threatened by immigrants a lot more (this is not being personally threatened, but the fabric of true America being threatened). The population segments are Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives who are not strong Trump supporters, and Trump supporters.

The next graph shows that immigration is the most important issue for Trump supporters.


Rising economic status of Hispanic workers

October 29th, 2020

The median real (i.e. net of inflation) weekly wages of Hispanic men have improved by 20% between 2000 and today; for Hispanic women, by 17%. But half of that growth has taken place after 2013. Since then, Hispanic incomes have risen faster than those of whites, blacks and Asians.

A 2018 study of intergenerational economic mobility reports that “Hispanics have relatively high rates of absolute upward mobility and are moving up significantly in the income distribution across generations.”

Remittances to Mexico have grown by a lot

A fair indicator of the trends in economic fortunes of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. (legal, unauthorized, naturalized or not) is the trend in remittances from the U.S. to Mexico. The chart below shows that this amount grew significantly in the 2000s, declined and leveled off due to the 2008 financial crisis, and has grown by a lot during Trump administration. This most recent trend is consistent with the trend in Hispanic wages.

Does this translate in more Republican Hispanics?

The only Hispanic community with a distinctly pro-Republican presence is Cuban. The basic issue however is that Hispanics have relatively much lower rate of voting.

Immigrants staffed the early 20th C manufacturing industry

October 25th, 2020

European immigration provided the large semi or unskilled workforces for industrial growth in the first decades of the 20th Century. They cut off access to these jobd by Blacks who otherwise would have migrated in large numbers from the South.

Here is the abstract of a 2009 article:

In this study, we measure the contribution of immigrants and their descendents to the growth and industrial transformation of the American workforce in the age of mass immigration from 1880 to 1920. The size and selectivity of the immigrant community, as well as their disproportionate residence in large cities, meant they were the mainstay of the American industrial workforce. Immigrants and their children comprised over half of manufacturing workers in 1920, and if the third generation (the grandchildren of immigrants) are included, then more than two-thirds of workers in the manufacturing sector were of recent immigrant stock. Although higher wages and better working conditions might have encouraged more long-resident native-born workers to the industrial economy, the scale and pace of the American industrial revolution might well have slowed. The closing of the door to mass immigration in the 1920s did lead to increased recruitment of native-born workers, particularly from the South, to northern industrial cities in the middle decades of the 20th century.

Immigration and the American Industrial Revolution From 1880 to 1920, by Charles Hirschman and Elizabeth Mogford. Soc Sci Res. 2009 Dec 1; 38(4): 897–920.

Trump Administration tightens H-1B rules

October 22nd, 2020

The Trump Administration is undertaking to severely constrain the use of H-1B visas. This visa program was created in 1990 for professional level temporary workers. This visa lasts for up to six years. Indian and Chinese workers in STEM fields have dominated the flow. The program, set at 85,000 new visas a year, attracts far more applicants than allowed by the cap.

The Administration is issuing new rules which constrain the problem in at least two ways. First, the rules are being changed to force a more narrow match between the applicant’s qualifications and the occupation the applicant will fill. Second, the wage paid to the applicant will need to meet a higher threshold of “prevailing wage,” i.e. be paid more,

The Administration has already restricted the right of a H-1B visa holder’s spouse to work in the U.S. 

Since the 1950s the use of skilled foreign workers has been debated, with waves of arguments for or against there being a labor shortage in the U.S. Two indicators are often referred to. One, are the wage levels in the occupational categories under consideration (such as computer scientists) going up significantly higher than average wage increases? Second, are the unemployment rates of the occupational categories relatively low? A “yes” answer to both questions can be taken an evidence that a labor shortage exists.

The case for importing skilled workers when both answers are “yes” is bolstered by a contention that in these skilled fields, the addition of a foreign-born worker leads to further job openings to be field by U.S. citizens.

I doubt the arguments for or against temporary foreign skilled workers are often overwhelmingly strong in one direction or another. This makes it particularly costly that Washington does not have an agency which tracks, studies and makes projections of labor demands and foreign workers.

for stories of these recent rules, go here and here.


Impact of immigration of U.S. population growth since 1965

October 19th, 2020

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act replaced the restrictionist and explicitly racist Immigration Act of 1924. In 1965 there were 6.9 million foreign-born persons in the United State. Today there about 45 million.

Between 1965 and 2015, new immigrants, their children and their grandchildren accounted for 55% of U.S. population growth. They added 72 million people to the nation’s population as it grew from 193 million in 1965 to 324 million in 2015. Growth of this size was not anticipated in 1965.

In 1980, foreign-born persons were geographically concentrated pretty much as they were in the 1920s – in California, the Northeastern cities, and some old cities in the interior such as Chicago. Since about 1980 they have spread throughout the country.

The combined population share of immigrants and their U.S.-born children was 26% in 2015 and has also certainly risen. That percentage (which leaves out third generation) is projected to rise to 36% in 2065, at least equaling previous peak levels at the turn of the 20th century.

From Pew Research.

What happened with the caravans?

October 17th, 2020

The Migration Policy Institute is one of the best sources of information about immigration in the United States. Julius Hattem, editor of MPI’s newsletter, wrote on October 16 about caravans from Central America. I have included below his commentary in full.

Two years ago this week, about 160 people set off from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, headed towards Mexico and, for many, eventually the United States. In following weeks their numbers would swell to form a caravan of about 7,000 people that moved into Guatemala and across the Mexican border, traveling in a group for safety and as a political signal. In the United States, the migrants became a rallying cry for President Donald Trump ahead of midterm elections that would see his Republican Party expand its Senate majority.

In recent weeks, another migrant caravan left from Honduras heading north, but this one did not get very far. More than 3,700 Hondurans were turned back in Guatemala, where hundreds of police and military officials set up roadblocks and where, previously U.S. border agents may controversially have been involved in on-the-ground operations. Mexico had similarly deployed a heavy presence along its southern border to block passage.

The episode underscores changing migration dynamics in the Americas and around the world.

For one, it is testament to how the COVID-19 pandemic is fundamentally altering human movement. Guatemalan and Mexican government leaders cited the health crisis as the reason they halted the migrants’ path, although human-rights groups claimed the pandemic was being used as a pretext. Meanwhile, some migrants said that the poverty, violence, and corruption that prompted their flight had only gotten worse during the outbreak.

The caravan’s fate was also a sign of the changing posture by the Guatemalan and Mexican governments, which appear to have coordinated their response. Guatemala had previously done little to stop migrants’ passage, but this time President Alejandro Giammattei declared the travelers could “put us at serious risk” and suspended some constitutional rights to detain them. Mexico, meanwhile, has increasingly taken a tougher posture towards Central American migrants, partly in response to threatened U.S. tariffs.

Finally, the caravan highlighted how immigration has, oddly, faded from the limelight of U.S. politics. Trump built his 2016 campaign around restricting immigration, has taken more than 400 immigration-related executive actions, and can exploit a deep partisan divide on the issue. But with less than a month until the election, the president was oddly quiet about the new caravan. In fact, the politician who connected it to U.S. politics was Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Migration developments can be fluid, as the recent caravan demonstrated. The flows evolve in response to policy, politics, and broader circumstances, all of which are constantly changing.

Best regards,
Julian Hattem
Editor, Migration Information Source

why the decline in unathorized persons?

October 16th, 2020

The total number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has declined from a peak in 2007 of abut 12.2 million to 10.5 million in 2017 (This from Pew, no estimates since then). Why?

Enforcement. It is most likely partly due to greater enforcement of immigration laws begun under Obama. The annual number of persons arrested in the U.S. interior doubled from the early 2000s to the second Obama administration; it has since leveled out or declined (even under Trump).

The U.S. economy. The falloff began very likely due to the 2008 financial crisis, which worsened work prospects in the U.S. But in the later 2010s, farming and hospitality industries, which hires many unauthorized workers, did well.

The Mexican economy. GDP growth in the past 20 years has been modest. There is a large informal employment sector. Education has incrementally improved. The country has had a higher percentage of young persons who did not complete high school than most comparable countries. However, it is possible that the odds for a young man to be schooled and get a job in Mexico have probably risen compared to coming illegally to the U.S. and finding employment.
See here and here.

The 10.5 million or so who remain are more likely committed to the U.S. for the long term. They include individuals who are currently DACA-protected (about 825,000) or could be protected with an expansion of the program, plus people who have been here for decades.