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February 27, 2006

The day laborer: characteristics of the individual

This is my fourth extract of data from On the Corner, the nationwide survey of day laborers. Most day laborers are Mexican, and did not know about day labor before coming to the U.S. Tenure in the U.S.: 19% under one year; 41% between 1 and 5 years. Tenure in the day labor market: 44% for less than one year. The overwhelming majority (86%) are seeking regular employment. In fact, 57% have previously held regular jobs in the past, mainly in construction, restaurants and manufacturing, and day labor work for them appears to be a transition to another regular job. Thu many move in and out of regular employment.

Over half have been married, and 29% have children born in the U.S. and thus U.S. citizens. Schooling: 53% have no more than 8th grade education; 42% have between 9 and 12 years of education.

In my earlier postings, I described the high injury rate, wage scales, and types of day laborer employers.

McCain Guest Worker bill S 1033: strong worker rights provisions

The current draft of S. 1033 probibits non-immigrant aliens using the Act to work in the U.S. from being employed as independent contractors. They will instead be employees of a foreign labor contractor. This provision is decidedly helpful to the worker in any industry that sees a lot of sub-contractors of questionable financial competence and sees aggressive use of independent contractor status to lower worker costs. Best example: construction, in particular residential construction. Jon Coppelman of WorkersCompInsider considers the independent contractor provision is very beneficial to the worker and questions if it will survive the legislative process. (He himself is a formeer union carpenter.)

My summary of some provisions:

Recognizes role of foreign labor contactor.

The term `foreign labor contracting activity' means recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, or furnishing, an individual who resides outside of the United States for employment in the United States as a nonimmigrant alien described in section 101(a)(15)(H)(v)(a).

The worker will not be treated as independent contractor

Notwithstanding any other provision of law-- A) a nonimmigrant alien is prohibited from being treated as an independent contractor; and (B) no person may treat a nonimmigrant alien ….as an independent contractor.

Enjoys all labor “rights and remedies”

A non-immigrant alien shall not be denied any right or any remedy under Federal, State, or local labor or employment law that would be applicable to a United States worker employed in a similar position with the employer because of the alien's status as a nonimmigrant worker.

February 25, 2006

New study on economics of rural immigrant workers

Thanks to the Immigration LawProf blog for alerting me to a new study of immigrants in rural areas.

The Urban Institute has come out with a new book on rural poverty in America, and the effect of rural migration by immigrants.

It describes The New Rural Poverty: Agriculture and Immigration in California as follows:

Migrants arrive, many from Mexico, to fill jobs on farms and in farm-related industries, usually at earnings below the poverty. Leaders of rural industries are adamant that a steady influx of foreign workers is necessary for economic survival. But the integration of these newcomers is uneven: many immigrants achieve some measure of the American dream, but others find persistent poverty, overcrowded housing, and crime. The New Rural Poverty examines the effect of rural immigration on inland agricultural areas in California, farm areas in coastal California, and meat and poultry processing centers in Delaware and Iowa. The authors examine the interdependencies between immigrants and agriculture in the United States, explore the policy challenges and options, and assess how current proposals for immigration reform will affect rural America.

The New Rural Poverty: Agriculture and Immigration in California, by Philip Martin, Michael Fix, and J. Edward Taylor, is available from the Urban Institute Press

Florida's improves work protections to migrant workers, progess report just out

Facing up to near catastrophic safety events among migrant workers, Florida has since 2004 tried to turn a corner: tougher monitoring, reform of a national class code for death benefits, and a new legislative commission which just issued a report.

Transportation deaths alone would have been a sufficient spur. According to Rural Migration News, in April 2004, nine were killed and 10 injured after their van rolled over four times on I-95 in Fort Pierce. In June 2004, two were killed when a van built for seven, but with 11 workers, overturned; most of the men had no identification.

Florida in May 2004 revived the Florida Agricultural Workers Safety Act (FAWS), which expired in 1998. (See details below). It also corrected an egregious wrong in state law. Citing an award winning Palm Beach Post series in late 2003 (link now dead), Workers Comp Insider reported that state law since the 1920s put death benefits at 50% less if the deceased was not an American or Canadian. In 2003 the legislator upped the U.S/Canadian award from $100,000 to $150,000 – but retained the 50% cut, despite a reported state Supreme Court decision striking it down. Only in 2004 was the wrong corrected by law. The Palm Beach Post reported in 2003 since 1990, nearly 30% of the death cases settled, with the average settlement of $32,000."

The new law creates a Legislative Commission on Migrant and Seasonal Labor to supervise and coordinate migrant labor programs geared to improve worker living conditions, health, housing and sanitation as well as knowledge of labor laws, education, transportation and public assistance. This month (Feb 2006) it issued a
Report to the Legislature.

See my earlier posting on SAFE: Socially Accountable Farm Employers.

According to Rural Migrant News,

FAWS increases penalties from $1,000 to $2,500 on contractors who do not keep records of work done by farm workers, requires pesticide safety training, and prohibits farm labor contractors from requiring workers to obtain housing or to buy goods from them. The Florida Department of Agriculture will get four new enforcement officers to monitor the practices of labor contractors, whose registration fees will rise from $75 to $275.

Farm and worker groups generally endorsed the revived FAWS, which was named after Alfredo Bahena, who came to the United States as a teenager, fought for pesticide protections, and died in an auto accident in April 2004. Florida has 3,600 licensed farm labor contractors.

Deaths at work: who dies, how

Immigrants fill many high risk jobs, such as in construction, farming and convenience stores. The blog Confined Space does an invaluable service of listing all the work deaths the blogger, Jordan Barab, learns about. In his current posting he records 68 deaths from traumatic events. (Go down 1/3 of the way to "Weekly Toll.") The majority of the deaths are from construction, logging, or farm accidents or by murder. Example of a murder: immigrant worker at a donut shop killed by robber. It's not possible to know fully from his thumbnail descriptions how many were immigrants, legal or illegal.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that about 5,700 deaths are occuring at work each year. One researcher, Paul Leigh of UC Davis, estimates deaths at upwards of ten times that -- by counting death from diseases such as the deaths of 400,000 Americans who have or are expected to die from asbestos-related conditions acquired at work, according to a RAND report.

February 24, 2006

Line up of endorsers of McCain guest worker bill

McCain's bill calls for gradual conversion of undocumented workers to a legal status. It is free of the Rube Goldberg complexity and get-tough approach of proposals of Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

According to the Phoenix Business Journal

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is teaming with top labor unions, other business interests and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in support of a guest worker program and legal way for undocumented workers already in the U.S. to stay in the country. Arizona Congressmen Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, as well as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, behind the bill

Also behind the bill are U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) are the Service Employees International Union, the second largest union, the Laborers International Union, the American, bishops group and the American Health Care Association. The Arizona state chamber also backs that guest worker effort. The ALF-CIO has taken a position in opposition to guest worker legislation.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) officially endorsed a guest worker program.

Other heavyweight business interests backing guest worker include the Travel Industry Association of America, Ford Motor Co., Eastman Kodak, DaimlerChrysler and the California Chamber of Commerce.

Go here to get a copy of the bill, Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act – S. 1033

The New York Times today carried a profile of Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union, the nation's second-largest union, and an advocate of Bush’s guest worker program proposal.

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 22, 2006

New York court in Balbuena case: worker gets full lost wages

New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that an undocumented worker can receive back pay at prevailing wages as part of a tort suit against employer due to work injury. The Balbuena vs. IDR Realty case stems from a work accident in 2000 resulting in multiple skull fractures. A lower court ruled in 2005 that Balbuena was entitled to lost wages but only at the amount he would have received in Mexico. This was a tort case, not a workers compensation case, but it has implications for workers compensation. The courts in New York State have yet to rule definitively on workers comp benefits to undocumented workers.

This information was derived from the Sun, in an article written by Daniala Gerson 2/22/06

According to the Sun,

Noting that "the power to regulate immigration rests exclusively with the federal government," Judge Graffeo concluded that state Labor Law "applies to all workers in qualifying employment situations - regardless of immigration status - and nothing in the relevant statutes or our decisions negates the universal applicability of this principle." Moreover, she wrote, by not providing compensation to illegal immigrants, the state would encourage their employment, deterring federal objectives.

A copy of the decision is available. The court folded in a similar case involving a Polish immigrant, Stanislaw Majlinger

February 21, 2006

WA Employer settles private RICO suit over use of illegal immigrants

According to WorkForce Management, in December 2005 the executives of a fruit grower in Washington State settled for $1.3 million a suit “by a group of legal workers accusing the grower of depressing wages, which is illegal under RICO laws, by hiring illegal immigrants.” The case was initially filed in 2000, dismissed, and then appealed. The settlement covers the company’s operations between 1999 and 2004.

This is first time that a privately filed RICO suit about the use of illegal immigrants has come to a positive ending for the plaintiffs, who are American workers. In 2005, Wal-Mart last year paid $11 million to settle a federal investigation into its use of undocumented workers as janitors. Also in 2005, Washington State negotiated a settlement relating to the importation of Thai workers.

Johnson & Bell, headquartered in Chicago, handled the plaintiff’s case. The firm is involved in similar litigation against Tyson Foods, the poultry processing firm, and Mohawk Industries, the carpet manufacturer. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Mohawk case in April.

Zirkle Fruit used a recruitment firm, Selective Employment Agency, to manage the hiring. According to Workforce Management, all the companies being sued under RICO claim they were unaware that they were employing illegal immigrants because external labor recruiters were the ones responsible for the hiring.

RICO is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

February 19, 2006

2004 Green card awardees: what work they do

Not available for technical reasons.

Proposals to tighten worker documentation enforcement

The following description of ICE worksite enforcement of worker documentation, and proposals to tighten identity standards, is excerpted from an article by Stanley Mailman and Stephen Yale-Loehr. The article appeared in the August 22, 2005 issue of the New York Law Journal. The article is posted on the website of the law firm of Miller Mayer, which has other informational resources on immigration.

A common criticism of the President’s proposal, and indeed any program that smacks of an amnesty, is that it will simply invite further violations of our border. To try to prevent future undocumented immigration, both Senate bills would tighten the documentary rules on work eligibility.
Everyone agrees that the current I-9 system for verifying workers’ identity and work eligibility is broken. Counterfeit documents are easily available. Moreover, worksite enforcement has been a low priority for many years. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in fiscal year 1999 the former Immigration and Naturalization Service devoted only about nine percent of its total investigative efforts to worksite enforcement. [See footnote 1.]
By fiscal year 2003 that number dropped to about four percent. Id. The number of notices of intent to fine issued to employers for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers or improperly completing I-9 forms, never a high number, decreased from 417 in fiscal year 1999 to just three in fiscal year 2004. [See footnote 2.]
[The] Cain-Kennedy [bill] would create a new electronic work authorization system to replace the paper-based I-9 system. That bill would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to create a machine-readable card to show work eligibility. The new card would apply to all workers, including U.S. citizens. Employers would swipe the card into an electronic registry to verify the person’s authorization to work. Anyone whose records weren’t in the system would go to a secondary verification system, which is supposed to respond within ten days. ….
Cornyn-Kyl would require the SSA to issue machine-readable, tamper-resistant social security cards within one year of enactment. The bill would create a new electronic employment authorization verification system called the Employment Eligibility Verification Program (EEVP). Employers would have to use the EEVP within one year after enactment. The bill also authorizes the hiring of 10,000 new DHS personnel dedicated to worksite enforcement over the next five years.
The idea of using social security cards as a universal work authorization document is hardly new. Members of Congress sparred over this issue almost 15 years ago. [See footnote 3.]….
There are other problems with using the social security card as the main work authorization document. Most importantly, the social security card is not an effective personal identifier. Without a photo and personal identification information on the card, it is difficult to ensure that the person presenting the card is its owner.
Second, the insecurity of so-called “breeder documents,” on which social security card issuance is based, makes it difficult to prevent the fraudulent use of social security cards. The only way to make social security cards more resistant to counterfeiting is to tighten the security of breeder documents, especially birth certificates. Both Senate bills attempt to do that.

The authors, Stanley Mailman and Stephen Yale-Loehr, are co-authors of Immigration Law and Procedure, published by LexisNexis Matthew Bender.

Footnote 1. See GAO, No. GAO-05-822T, Immigration Enforcement: Preliminary Observations on Employment Verification and Worksite Enforcement Efforts, at 3 (June 21, 2005), available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05822t.pdf.

Footnote 2. See generally Stanley Mailman and Stephen Yale-Loehr, The Complexity of Verifying Work Authorization, N.Y.L.J., Oct. 27, 1997, at 3, reprinted in 2 Bender’s Immigr. Bull. 943 (Nov. 15, 1997).

Footnote 3. See, e.g., Social Security Numbers as National Identifiers Discussed at House Hearing

February 18, 2006

Can illegal immigrants receive workers compensation benefits? MA said, “Yes”.

The Massachusetts Medellin case, finally resolved at the end of 2003, is a good example of how a state can reach a decision that workers compensation laws benefits are available to undocumented workers. Subsequent decisions in other states may have relied on this case. I will report on them later. The MA decision relied on two findings: the validity of employment contracts, and the lack of authority of federal laws over state workers compensation law.

This information is drawn from a 2004 analysis by the National Immigration Law Center.

A cleaner and construction laborer, Guillermo Medellín, sustained lasting injuries when he fell into an eight-foot-deep hole. An administrative law judge for the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) ruled that Medellin was eligible for benefits, even after Medellin testified that he was in the country illegally. The insurer then filed an appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, that an undocumented worker could not receive back pay.

The DIA then affirmed the original decision on the two findings noted above. Below is a summary of its reasoning. :

First, the DIA ruled that a contract of employment between an employer and an undocumented worker is an enforceable contract. Second, the DIA ruled that Hoffman does not preempt the interpretation of Massachusetts law as giving undocumented workers an enforceable contract of employment for purposes of workers' compensation.

The DIA noted that it is a well-established principle that states have great latitude under their powers to legislate matters involving "the protection of the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons." The DIA concluded that mandatory insurance schemes, including workers' compensation, are within these powers.

Medellín v. Cashman KPA, et al., Board No. 03324300, Massachusetts Dept. of Industrial Accidents, Reviewing Board Decision, Dec. 23, 2003.

February 17, 2006

Illegal immigrants pay taxes, like we do

This is the occasional reminder that I consider substantive differences few among these alternatives: illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, and undocumented workers. I personally use “undocumented workers”. But when citing a source such as a news article I usually defer to the source’s preference.

Contradictions abound. Do Lou Dobbs' illegal aliens pay taxes? Apparently a lot – with no prospect of getting Soc Security or Medicare benefits.

According to the New York Times, since enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which imposed stricter alien identification rules, a lot of underground taxpayers appeared. The Feds have

…Received a flood of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect - sometimes simply fictitious - Social Security numbers. It stashed them in what it calls the "earnings suspense file" …. The file has been mushrooming ever since: $189 billion worth of wages ended up recorded in the suspense file over the 1990's, two and a half times the amount of the 1980's.
In 2002 alone, the last year with figures released by the Social Security Administration, nine million W-2's with incorrect Social Security numbers landed in the suspense file, accounting for $56 billion in earnings, or about 1.5 percent of total reported wages.

Immigrant worker injuries at day labor

According to On the Corner, the nationwide survey of day laborers, almost all urban day laborers are immigrants, and mostly from Latin America. They reported very high injury rates.

75% consider their jobs dangerous
19% had suffered a work injury requiring medical attention.
67% missed work due to a work injury
22% of those injured lost at least one month of work.

By these figures alone it is hard fully to compare their experience with that of native-born Americans in roughly the same occupations. But it would be reasonable to conjecture that immigrant day laborers’ frequency of injuries, and the severity of the injuries, is twice that of native-born Americans.

For earlier postings about On the Corner, go here, here and here.

SAFE: Socially Accountable Farm Employers in Florida

Here is an example of a community-based organization and an employers association joining forces to bolster employee protections and rights of farm workers in Florida. They conduct audits to check for compliance with a code of conduct. Audit scope includes forced labor, child labor, discrimination, wages and benefits, employment records, healthy and safe work environment, and housing.

An executive of a farming corporation told me that

Their auditors were very professional and knowledgeable and really dug into our operations for hiring, screening, training, payroll, benefits, safety, insurance, chemical handling, housing, etc. They also conducted interviews with 50+ employees. Oh yeah, the SAFE audit is conducted annually to maintain your certification.

According to SAFE....

SAFE was formed in 2005 by the Redlands Christian Migrant Association and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association…. to provide a transparent and credible source of independent, third-party certification of labor practices for farm employers…. SAFE certification signifies that a producer has complied with implementing the principles SAFE's farm employer Code of Conduct. SAFE is a positive development for the industry and for farmworkers because it will validate the good labor practices that the vast majority of growers already follow.

The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association is in Maitland, FL 321-214-5200

The Redlands Christian Migrant Association
was founded Oct. 1, 1965, by Mennonite Church volunteers in the Redlands farming area of southern Miami-Dade County to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children while their parents worked in the fields. It annually provides child care and development services to these families in 51 child development centers and family day care home networks. It is one of the largest community-based organizations serving the farmworker community in Florida.

Its headquarters are located at Immokalee, FL (800) 282-6540

Number of undocumented workers by state and their workforce share

I can now provide an estimate of the number of undocumented workers in each state and their share of that state's totwl workforce.

The Pew Hispanic Center issued in March, 2005 an estimate of the size and characteristics of the undocumented population in the county as of March 2005.

The Pew report says that in 2004 there were 7 million undocumented workers out of a total undocumented population of 10.3 million. This comes to a workforce – to – population percentage of 68%. This is extremely high compared to national figures of close to 60% and reflects the reality that most undocumented people are here to work.

I used Pew’s figures for March, 2005, and – applying growth rates that it found for the recent past -- I extrapolated them to find a January 1, 2006 undocumented workforce of 7.3 million. Per Pew, The undocumented worker population is growing at about 300,000 per year (net of entrants and exiting persons), out of a net total undocumented immigrant growth of 500,000 per the Pew Hispanic Center. The workforce growth is close to 4% annually, far ahead of the growth of the American citizen workforce.

This comes to about 4.9% of the American workforce, which is about 150 million. I have estimated for each state the number of undocumented workers and their share of the state’s workforce as of December 2005.

You can read the rows below as follows. Take Florida for example. The total undocumented workforce in January 2006 is about 621,743. This is 7.1% of Florida’s workforce. What about the 14.2% figure? – See below.

For this understates the impact of the undocumented workforce, which is concentrated in low paying jobs and which is effectively excluded from major employment sectors, such as local, state and federal public sector jobs, most hospital jobs, just to name a few. It is more realistic to compare the undocumented workforce with about half of the American workforce – that is, about 75 million, not 150 million. ( I will explore this adjustment in future postings.)

When we do that, we find that nationwide the undocumented worker’s share is 9.7%. For Florida, undocumented workers fill roughly 14% of all jobs (1) from which they are categorically excluded due to strict documentation enforcement and (2) that demand less than a full high school education.

But even that understates how much the Wal-marting in reverse is going on: instead of off-shoring work to low cost countries, our economy is importing low cost workers to fill the steadily growing demand for workers who are not well educated (and don’t have time or resources to complain).

U.S. 7,300,000 4.9% 9.7%
Alabama 20,115 0.9% 1.9%
Alaska 3,657 1.1% 2.1%
Arizona 292,585 10.2% 20.5%
Arkansas 20,115 1.5% 2.9%
California 1,755,511 9.7% 19.5%
Colorado 164,579 6.5% 12.9%
Connecticut 51,202 2.8% 5.6%
Delaware 20,115 4.5% 9.1%
District of Co 20,115 6.8% 13.6%
Florida 621,743 7.1% 14.2%
Georgia 164,579 3.6% 7.2%
Hawaii 20,115 3.1% 6.2%
Idaho 20,115 2.7% 5.5%
Illinois 292,585 4.5% 9.0%
Indiana 51,202 1.6% 3.2%
Iowa 51,202 3.1% 6.2%
Kansas 51,202 3.5% 7.0%
Kentucky 20,115 1.0% 2.0%
Louisiana 20,115 1.1% 2.2%
Maine 3,657 0.5% 1.0%
Maryland 164,579 5.5% 11.1%
Massachusetts 164,579 4.9% 9.7%
Michigan 91,433 1.8% 3.6%
Minnesota 51,202 1.7% 3.5%
Mississippi 20,115 1.6% 3.1%
Missouri 51,202 1.7% 3.4%
Montana 3,657 0.7% 1.5%
Nebraska 20,115 2.0% 4.1%
Nevada 91,433 7.4% 14.8%
New Hampshire 3,657 0.5% 1.0%
New Jersey 256,012 5.7% 11.4%
New Mexico 51,202 5.4% 10.9%
New York 475,451 5.0% 10.0%
North Carolina 219,439 5.0% 10.1%
North Dakota 3,657 1.0% 2.0%
Ohio 91,433 1.5% 3.1%
Oklahoma 51,202 2.9% 5.9%
Oregon 91,433 4.9% 9.8%
Pennsylvania 91,433 1.4% 2.9%
Rhode Island 20,115 3.5% 6.9%
South Carolina 20,115 1.0% 1.9%
South Dakota 3,657 0.8% 1.7%
Tennessee 91,433 3.1% 6.2%
Texas 1,024,048 9.1% 18.1%
Utah 51,202 4.1% 8.2%
Vermont 3,657 1.0% 2.0%
Virginia 164,579 4.2% 8.3%
Washington 164,579 4.9% 9.9%
West Virginia 3,657 0.5% 0.9%
Wisconsin 91,433 3.0% 6.0%
Wyoming 3,657 1.3% 2.6%

February 16, 2006

Wall Street Journal article on Brazilian immigrant cleaning business in MA

Today's Wall Street Journal profiles Brazilian home cleaning businesses in MA. The businesses are so well developed that a buy-sell market has emerged; the Internet is used to communicate and clients; and Craig’s list is used to recruit workers. The hub of the cleaning business is in Somerville, MA, which according to the Boston Globe’s analysis of census data, 31% of new immigrants are Portuguese speaking (Brazilian or Portuguese). We have already profiled the Brazilian Immigrant Center.

Tufts University is undertaking a collaborative multi-year project in Somerville to study and support economic growth among immigrants. Included in the project is the introduction of “green” cleaning materials for cleaning businesses.

Among a number of initiatives, this project

.... will also break new ground by launching an entirely new business model for immigrant workers: a non-profit green cleaning cooperative that will help to break down the barrier of isolation faced by these workers. "Brazilian women cleaners form a large occupational group working and living in Somerville who can benefit from this new structure and by learning about safe work practices and the benefits of using environmentally friendly cleaning products," said Monica Chianelli, coordinator, Brazilian Women's Group.
"Immigrants have accounted for 82 percent of the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts since the mid 1980s. Somerville, which has seen the number of foreign-born residents grow by 34 percent in 10 years, is an important gateway for newcomers," explained Principal Investigator David M. Gute, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts University and an epidemiologist.

One out of eight new jobs to be filled by immigrants, 2002 - 2012

A new study by the American Immigration Law Foundation estimates that job growth for the foreseeable future is heavily dependent on immigration. Economic Growth and Immigration: Bridging the Demographic Divide, says that:

U.S. economic growth projections for 2002–2012 are predicated on a growing supply of workers that likely will not be found in the native-born population alone. Absent a change in current immigration laws, undocumented immigrants will likely account for 1 in 8 new workers between 2002 and 2012. Rather than creating an orderly process by which needed workers enter the United States from abroad, static limits on employment-based immigration have diverted labor migration to undocumented channels or clogged the family-based immigration system.

February 15, 2006

IRS gives taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) to undocumented workers

This from The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Ft Lauderdale), February 12, 2006 Undocumented workers must report income, by Allan Wernick

The law requires undocumented immigrants to report income to the Internal Revenue Service under the same rules that apply to other earners. If you want to file a tax return but don't have a Social Security number, you can use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number as a substitute. An ITIN is a nine-digit number used for tax purposes. You get the number by including IRS Form W-7 the first time you file a tax return.

Many undocumented immigrants want an ITIN for banking and other purposes. The IRS now issues ITINs to undocumented immigrants only if they file a tax return. Given this rule, workers who worked 'off the books' and didn't file in the past might want to consider filing this year.

According to the IRS, to get an ITIN you must have a legal obligation to file a return. You have that obligation if you earned $400 or more as an independent contractor. Examples of an independent contractor are day laborers doing yard work for different homeowners each day and part-time housekeepers working, as needed, cleaning apartments.

Regular employees (as opposed to independent contractors) have an obligation to report income if they earned at least $8,200, though the amount might vary depending on age and other factors.

If you earned very little last year, you might be able to report your income without having to pay taxes. You could file a return, get an ITIN and not have to pay a cent to the government.

An ITIN alone does not authorize you to work in the United States. Still, some employers hire undocumented immigrants and report their workers' income using the ITIN.

According to tax expert Eileen Glassman of the Newburgh, N.Y., accounting firm of Goldstein, Karlewicz and Goldstein, LLP, if you or your employer reported income using an ITIN number, then later you get a valid Social Security card, you can ask the U.S. Social Security Administration to reconcile (put together) any retirement accounts that you create.

February 14, 2006

How immigrants without bank accounts get by

An introduction to “unbanked” workers in America – mainly Mexican – can be found at Financial DNA Weekly, May 14, 2004 According to this report, the Mexican worker in U.S. remits on average $2000 a year to Mexico. Average individual remittance is $300, with transaction fees of $10 to $20. This is a $3.5 billion business growing to $10 billion. This source estimates that only 25% of Mexican workers have a bank account, which presumably supports its $10 billoin forecast.

Another source, in contradiction, estimates that 40% of Latin American in the U.S. do not have a bank account. “A worker earning $12,000 a year could pay $250 for check cashing services” per Banking the Poor: Policies to Bring Low-Income Americans Into the Financial Mainstream, by Michael S. Barr, University of Michigan Law School, Published in The Brookings Institution, Research Brief, pg. 1 (September 2004)

Jopari Solutions, run by insurance professionals, has reportedly proposed to major workers compensation insurers a service to expedite indemnity payments, including to unbanked recipient.

The Financial DNA Weekly report contains the following nuggets:

Money remittances: about half of Mexican immigrants remit money home. Western union has dominated the business.

Short term lending: conventionally pawn shops but consulate-provided ID the business might shift the business. Banco Popular is a big player.

Payment of bills through electronic transfers: storefront given cash, then it pays bill to third party (phone company, etc) electronically.

Payroll check cashing Walmart has entered the business

The leading corporations in the field of financial services to the unbanked according to the report are (note that this report was issued in 2004):

ACE Cash Express approx 900 locations. Charges about 2.3% of face value of check to cash it.
Cash America approx 800 locations. Payday loans
Ezcorp approx 300 locations. Pawn shop loans and payday loans
First Cash Financial approx 250 locations. Pawn shops.
Walmart aprox 3,500 locations. Check cashing ($3 flat rate) plus Moneygram services

February 13, 2006

Where immigrant workers live in the United States

The Migration Immigration Source makes available online a huge amount of data on foreign-born residents of the United States, as mostly reported through the 2000 census. Dated in some instances as that may be, one can use the website quickly to find where foreign-born people of any nationality live in each state or region.

How many immigrants are employed? Let's say 40%. I'll look into it. I haven't found a better estimate.

I did two quick searches, on Thai immigrants throughout the country, and Russians living in the Northeast and in particular New York.

Thai immigrants in the United States: In 2000, throughout the United States there were 169,801. Of this total, 37% lived in California; next highest is Minnesota at 5%.
Russian immigrants in the Northeast and New York: According to the 2000 census, there were 153,596 foreign born from Russia in the Northeast. The foreign born from Russia represented 2.1% of the Northeast's total foreign-born population of 7.2 million. Of the 53.6 million people in the Northeast, the foreign born from Russia accounted for 0.3% of the total population. The foreign born from Russia in the Northeast constituted 45.2% of the 340,177 foreign born from Russia in the United States, and Russians in New York constituted 27.8% of foreign born from Russia in the United States.

February 12, 2006

What day laborers earn by hour, month, year

On the Corner, the recently published nationwide survey of day laborers, reports that 7.4% of work assignments pay $7 per hour or less; 22% between $7 and $9.99; 46% between $10 and $12; and 25%, over $12.

Assignments paying over $12 usually involve high skill work such as electrical or plumbing work.

For total monthly earnings, in a good month the median total income is $1,400. In a bad month the median is $500.

The authors report that even with workers who have more good than bad months, it is unlikely that their total annual wages exceed $15,000.

See a prior posting for the report's analysis of the kind of work days laborers perform and whom they work for.

February 11, 2006

Demand for foreign nurses is intensifying

Foreign nurses are now filling a very high share, perhaps as much as one third, of new hospital based nursing jobs.

Put this in context: One out of every five new jobs created between 2004 and 2014 will be in the healthcare sector. Three of the ten industries with the highest total job additions are in the health care area: practitioner offices, private hospitals, and home health care.

Nursing jobs will grow at a relatively fast rate in the next decade. Foreigners hold currently about 300,000, or 11%, of nursing positions. Nurses from the Philippines make up one third of these workers. Latin American/Caribbean workers are about a quarter. In the past few years hiring of foreign nurses has spurted due to rising demand and limitations on nursing educational slots in the United States. Foreign nurses tend to work for metropolitan area hospitals and, due to more experience, many work in ICUs and are paid relatively well.

Much of this information comes from a presentation by Linda Aiken, professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

For a description of the legal and professional steps in recruiting a foreign nurse, go to this article.

NY Times: U.S. officials defend fake OSHA sting

More on the immigration agency's sting tactic, and on a similar but abandoned tactic by Houston police,

Following up on my posting a few days ago, I see that the New York Times (subscription may be required) today ran an article about the controversial tactic of immigration officials to conduct sting operations by impersonating OHSA training officials. The tactic appears to be focused on workers at defense installations and appears to assume that terrorists may gain access to critical defense installations through cleaning and grounds keeping contractors, and then exploit the vulernabilities of illegal immigrants.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) used the tactic in July, 2005, to lure and arrest workers from Latin America and Europe working at Seymour Johnson Air Force near Goldsboro, in North Carolina.

I have found one other use of sting tactics to arrest undocumented workers – an operation by the Houston police department in 2005, which it said it will not repeat (see below).

And in Chicago, federal and other law enforcement agencies undertook in 2003 a massive non-sting search for terrorism suspects – to in the end arrest undocumented people working as food service workers and such, none of whom had terrorist connections (see below).

An immigration spokesman said this to the New York Times reporter:

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, emphasized that ruses were standard law enforcement policy. "We're not going to rule out valid investigative techniques," he said. Mr. Boyd said that if immigration officials were to do such a sting in the future, it would be only after coordinating with federal safety officials.

The Times article went onto to say that

OSHA officials repeated yesterday the stance they took after the July raid, saying the agency worked to build trust with Hispanic workers. They also said they did not condone using the agency's name in this type of ruse.
Mr. Boyd said the employment of illegal immigrants at sensitive facilities like military bases posed a serious threat to domestic security. He said that, given their illegal status, they might be vulnerable to exploitation by criminals or terrorists.

In Houston, the chief of police reported decided in late 2005 not repeat a sting operation against undocumented workers. According to the Houston Chronicle,

Members of an HPD tactical unit dressed up as contractors and arrested 30 day laborers near the corner of Shepherd and Washington. The men were charged with soliciting work in the roadway, a misdemeanor.
In a meeting with activists Monday, [Chief of Police Harold] Hurtt said he wants to build trust with immigrants, and he was concerned about the way the operation was handled, according to a police spokesman.

The Chicago Reporter wrote that the results of a massive effort in 2003 to find terrorists in the air transportation field ended with no terrorism suspects -- but with a lot of undocumented workers.

..... An examination of Operation Chicagoland Skies, drawn from court files and a series of interviews by The Chicago Reporter, reveals that the “web of terrorism prevention” has largely come up empty.
Instead, after reviewing records for tens of thousands of workers at O’Hare and Midway airports, federal agents mostly rounded up undocumented immigrants, some of whom had obtained fake Social Security cards or passports. Others were U.S. citizens who had concealed prior criminal convictions.
Among those swept up were janitors, food service employees, a baggage handler, truck drivers and other low-level airport workers—45 in all. During raids of some workers’ homes, an additional eight undocumented immigrants were arrested.
Much of the work consisted of painstaking reviews of more than 84,000 records on multiple fronts: The immigration status of the workers was verified by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; criminal background checks were performed by the FBI to weed out convicted felons; and the authenticity of Social Security numbers listed on badge applications was examined by the U.S. Social Security Administration. In the end, investigators found discrepancies in the information provided on 553 applications, a discovery that has since led to the arrests of 45 people

New York construction safety expert: safe practices hard to find in Brooklyn

Study Finds Lax Safety Standards at Construction Sites

Published: October 18, 2005

On Nov. 24, 2003, Manuel Falcón, an Ecuadorean laborer, died after falling from the roof of a house he had been working on in South Ozone Park, Queens. Mr. Falcón was not wearing a hard hat, tethering cord or any other safety gear.

When federal safety inspectors investigated the work site after Mr. Falcón's death, they found three violations and eventually levied a total fine of $2,625. The fine could have been a maximum of $7,000 for each violation, for a total of $21,000. The circumstances of Mr. Falcón's death, and the minimal punishment that followed, illustrate the core conclusions of a study by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, which is set for release tomorrow: inadequate supervision of city construction sites and the low penalties imposed on violators make it easy for builders to ignore safety rules.

''The industry fines are considered a cost of doing business and are too minimal to effect a change in behavior,'' the association's president, Benedict P. Morelli, said yesterday.

The study examines reports prepared by federal safety inspectors after construction accidents in New York City between January 2001 and August of this year that resulted in death or serious injury. A total of 156 accidents were analyzed; all but 12 resulted in at least one fatality.

According to the study, inspectors penalized builders at 113 of the accident sites for violations like insufficient guardrails and safety nets. In most cases, fines amounted to no more than $10,000; only six of the violations resulted in fines greater than $50,000, the study says.

In one accident that resulted in unusually high fines, Efrain Gonzalez and four other workers fell to their deaths when a scaffold at a Gramercy Park office building collapsed four years ago at Park Avenue South. Inspectors found seven ''serious'' violations, and a fine of $9,750 was levied out of a possible maximum of $49,000. But the inspectors also found two ''willful'' violations and the maximum fine of $140,000 was imposed for them.

The inspectors work for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a branch of the federal Labor Department that sets and enforces standards for workplace safety. OSHA's penalties should at least be severe enough to deter future lapses, said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit organization supported by about 200 local unions.

The average penalty for serious safety violations, in which severe injury or death is highly likely, is $1,569, according to the trial lawyers' study. The maximum prison sentence for a safety violation is six months under federal law, but from 1990 to 2003, there were only four cases nationwide in which a builder found to be at fault was imprisoned, the study says.

A spokesman for the federal safety and health agency, Ted Fitzgerald, declined to comment yesterday, saying he had not had a chance to review the study.

In addition to the low penalties, the study lists inadequate supervision as a reason that builders do not feel compelled to comply with safety regulations. Only 28 safety inspectors cover construction and renovation sites in New York City, northern New Jersey, and Westchester and Rockland Counties, allowing inspection of an average of six sites a day in the entire region, the study says.

Nearly half of the 156 accidents examined in the study involved falls from a scaffold, roof or ladder. Immigrant workers were the most common victims, amounting to two-thirds of those killed or injured since October 2001, when OSHA began to include in its reports the language the worker spoke on the job.

''The rapid growth of New York City's underground construction industry, an industry that employs mostly immigrants and where worker safety often takes the back seat, makes credible enforcement of OSHA safety standards more important than ever,'' said Glenn von Nostitz, senior policy adviser for the trial lawyers' group.

Correction: October 19, 2005, Wednesday An article yesterday about a study finding safety standards lax at construction sites in the New York region, and a picture caption, gave an incorrect location in some copies for a 2001 scaffolding collapse in which five workers were killed. It was at Park Avenue South and 18th Street, not Park Avenue and 44th.

Photos: Efrain Gonzalez died when a work scaffold collapsed in 2001.; Five workers died when a scaffold collapsed in a construction accident at a Gramercy Park office building at Park Avenue South in 2001. (Photo by Edward Keating/The New York Times)

Migrant Clinicians Network

The Migrant Clinicians Network engages in healthcare delivery and healthcare research for low income workers including but not exclusively migrant workers. Their new Saving Lives by Changing Practice project is attempting to improve the quality of service to work injured clients. Amy Liebman is coordinating the program. She provided me with this introduction to the program.

For an earlier posting on community health clinic services to injured workers, go here.

Amy K. Liebman, MPA
Migrant Clinicians Network
410.860.9850 aliebman@migrantclincian.org

There are numerous barriers to recognizing and treating environmental and occupational health (EOH) problems in the primary care setting. Some of the underlying reasons are the limited EOH training front line providers receive as well as institutional challenges that prevent clinicians from adequately addressing EOH problems.

For migrant farmworkers and other vulnerable populations employed in hazardous jobs, an occupational injury or exposure is often the reason for first point of contact with the health care system, underscoring the need to begin addressing EOH concerns at the primary care level.

MCN’s program, Saving Lives by Changing Practice, is part of a five-year cooperative agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs, to address pesticides and other EOH issues in the practice setting. Through this program MCN will work to link primary care clinicians in Migrant and Community Health Centers with occupational and environmental specialists and clinics by:

• Developing occupational/environmental medicine clinics in Migrant Health Centers.
• Facilitating clinical consults between the primary care clinician and the occupational medicine clinician.
• Developing referral mechanisms for complicated pesticide cases.
• Training primary care providers in occupational/environmental medicine.

MCN will also recruit and work with six to eight Migrant and Community Health Centers to develop a flexible center-based model to integrate EOH in the primary care setting. This will involve working to incorporate key practice skills outlined in National Environmental Education Training Foundation’s, National Pesticide Practice Skills Guidelines for Medical and Nursing Practice (2003).

Inconsistent quality of healthcare for work injured immigrant workers

Many low income immigrant workers go to hospital emergency departments and to free care community health clinics with their work injuries. Emergency departments and community health clinics typically do not understand how to determine the occupational cause of injury, and do not try to contact the employer and to make sure that an injured worker accesses the workers comp system.

The clinics in particular often appear to be tone deaf to the special needs of injured workers. Example: I contacted the Joseph Smith Community Health Center in Boston, which actively serves low income immigrants, a dozen times to ask them about how they handle work injuries. To get a response i finally conducted a sit-in in the reception area, refusing to leave until I spoke with some one. Eventually the director of the clinic came downstairs. While pleasant, she showed zero interest in the special needs of injured workers, and in investigating them further.

My several contacts with the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for providing financial and technical assistance to community health clinics, revealed that this agency has little interest in addressing the special needs of injured workers.

February 10, 2006

Time Magazine poll on views about illegal immigration

Time Magazine February 6 2006 issue’s cover story is “Inside America’s Secret Workforce."

Here are some Time Magazine polling results:

How serious a problem is illegal immigration into the U.S.? - Extremely 30% Very 33% Somewhat 26% Not very 8%

Concerned that providing social services for illegal immigrants costs taxpayers too much - 83%

Concerned that illegal immigrants increase crime – 71%

Illegal immigrants are taking jobs that citizens don't want – 56%

Do you pay less for some items or services because of low-wage illegal immigrant labor? Yes 17% No 71%

Had hired a contractor or company that may have used illegal immigrants – 14%

Is the government doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.? -- Yes 21% No 74%

All illegal immigrants should be deported – 50%, but ----

Illegal immigrants should be able to earn citizenship – 76%

Favor guest-worker registration for those already here – 73%

Favor issuing temporary work visas for seasonal work – 64%

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:

A full half of China’s college graduates earn degrees in engineering, compared with only 5 per cent in the US. Even South Korea, with one-sixth the population of the US, graduates about the same number of engineers as American universities do. Part of this is due to the poor quality of our primary and secondary education, where US students typically fare poorly compared with their international counterparts in maths and science…
Today, immigration policy is managed through arbitrary and inadequate quotas that severely constrict the hiring of talented foreign nationals and their ability to get permanent residence. The two quotas are the arbitrary caps on the H-1B visa and the visa quotas that that limit the number of highly skilled people who can obtain permanent residence in any given year.
The H-1B visa has a mandatory cap of 65,000, which has been met seven times since 1997. In 2005, advanced degree graduates from US universities were granted an additional 20,000 H-1B visas and that quota has been met. We are currently in a situation where both H-1B caps being exhausted until 10/1/06 when another quota will be available.
The employment-based system provides green cards to individuals sponsored by their employers to work in the United States. The annual cap of 140,000 was implemented in 1990 to address similar backlogs in the 1980s. Today, demand is greater than supply and coupled with long processing delays by the Citizenship and Immigration Service individuals wait up to seven years to obtain a Green Card.
These arbitrary caps undercut business’s ability to hire and retain the number of highly educated people in the fields where we need to maintain our leading position. Instead of arbitrary caps, a market-based approach that responds to demand is needed. Only then will the US be competitive and have the ability to hire the best and the brightest, a large proportion of whom we have educated in our universities. The market-based approach can require employers to pay foreign nationals the market wage (”prevailing wage”), and indeed that is already a requirement in the H-1B and Green Card processes.

February 9, 2006

Access to medical care denied by ID requirements

Something that American citizens take for granted -- picking up your medical prescription at the pharmacy. Not so if your personal ID is iffy and the state is trying to crack down on medication abuses. This case is from Mississippi.

The state began to insist on personal identification to crack down on drug abuse and by failing to educate pharmacies made life more complicated for innocent undocumented workers. Mississippi recognizes the right of work-injured undocumented workers to protections of the workers compensation system. It introduced drug procedures to help in fraud and abuse control.

Pharmacists are asked to get a unique identifier for the patient at the time a controlled substance prescription is filled, for example for pain medication. The website of the Board makes no mention of these ID requirements. The regulations posted there mention only the name and address of the patient.

Angela Stuesse of the Mississippi Poultry Workers’ Center reports that pharmacies have insisted on social security number or driver’s license. In two instances she gave her own identification to have the patients receive their medication. She called the state Board of Pharmacy. An individual told her that the ID requirement is "not voluntary, but not yet mandatory” and that other identification can suffice. The Board just hasn’t clearly told the pharmacies.

He said the Board has received such calls before and has quickly been able to remedy the situation – if the patient were at the pharmacy. She asked if there is any formal process for reporting pharmacists who are abusing/misusing the system, as in the examples I have experienced. There were none.

High future demand for immigrant construction workers

Demand for immigrants in the construction field has been strong since the mid 1990s and will continue to be for several reasons. (1) New and replacement construction will continue to grow, though experts say at a lower rate. (2) Among many construction jobs there is a high turnover rate, and employers have constantly to search for new hires. (3) Demographics will continue to bring construction to areas of the country where there is a high level already of immigrant workers in construction.

In a keynote address at a construction risk management conference on trends and emerging issues, Huge Rice of FMI forecasted high construction activityin the United States, in part due to demographic shifts in age and residential location. Between 2002 and 2012, he forecasted 1.1 million new construction projects involving 1.4 “retirements/defections” and 2.5 million replacements/new entrants. Rice specifically addressed the Hispanic construction workforce. He noted the demographics of the country and the southwest, where Hispanics now make up about a third to a half of all construction labor:

New Mexico 48%
Texas 45%
California 34%
Florida 21%

Total nationwide Hispanic employment in construction rose between 1980 and 2000:

1980 342,000
1990 650,000
1995 782,000
2000 1,408,000

Three quarters of these Hispanic workers are of Mexican descent.

The Federal government addressed construction labor growth in a number of accessible studies, including one in 2002 and a set in the November, 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review.

According to the Department of Labor, construction jobs grew at an annual rate of 3.1% between and 2004. DOL expects much slower growth between 2004 and 2014, about 1.1% annually. However, in terms of total jobs added in that period, 792,000, construction will be the fourth largest contributor to job growth (after retail, employment services, food services, and medical offices). Residential construction, where immigrant labor tends to congregate, is expected to grow in dollars by 1.8% . annually. Construction workers make up slightly under 5% of the domestic civilian workforce.

February 8, 2006

Immigration officials to continue to impersonate OSHA safety trainers

In July 2005 federal immigration officials impersonated OSHA safety trainers in a sting to lure and arrest illegal aliens working for subcontractors at an airforce base in North Carolina. See below for the first paragraphs of a New York Times article on that event.

The blog Confined Space now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reportedly plan to continue this tactic, according to Inside OSHA (paid subscription):

Immigration officials told immigration and labor groups during a closed-door meeting Jan. 30 that the department will continue to have its agents pose as officials from other agencies, including OSHA, to nab illegal immigrants at work sites, despite earlier signals the policy would be dropped. The meeting was set up to discuss last year's controversial sting operation where ICE officials posed as OSHA employees, which had prompted an outcry from labor groups and concerns from OSHA.
OSHA was not present at the meeting.
ICE officials told attendees of the meeting that the department's first priority is national security and public safety and they would not change their controversial sting policy, according to sources involved in the discussions. In a letter sent to [the National Immigrant Law Center] NILC last year, ICE officials said they would no longer continue the practice, however, they now say they view everything from a threat-based level and would continue to increase their work site enforcement of food production companies and industries related to national security, the sources say.

An Immigration Sting Puts 2 Federal Agencies at Odds

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE, New York Times, July 16, 2005

WASHINGTON, July 15 - The 48 immigrants thought they were attending mandatory safety training by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But it was not until they showed up to the meeting in Goldsboro, N.C., last week that they discovered they had been summoned for an altogether different reason.

Federal immigration officials had posted fliers telling immigrant workers for several subcontractors at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro that they had to attend a safety meeting. There was no meeting, however; instead there was a sting operation in which immigration officials arrested 48 people on charges that they were illegal immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Ukraine.

The action had one branch of the federal government speaking out against another. The United States Labor Department as well as North Carolina's Labor Department on Friday criticized the sting, suggesting that it would make immigrant workers distrust safety officials just when safety agencies across the nation are stepping up efforts to reduce the disproportionately high injury rate among Hispanic workers.

Pam Groover, a spokeswoman for the federal labor department , said, ''This is not something we were involved in, and we do not condone the use of OSHA's name in this type of activity.'' The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the branch of the federal Labor Department that sets and enforces standards for workplace safety. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which carried out the sting, said it was part of a stepped-up effort to crack down on illegal immigrants working at chemical plants, nuclear plants and other sensitive facilities.

Defending the use of ruses, Mr. Boyd said: ''The primary reason to use tactics like this in federal law enforcement is to get people in a location where they can be arrested without running all over the place. That helps ensure the safety of these immigrants, the agents, the air base and the community at large.''

Mr. Boyd said that as far as he knew this was the first time that immigration officials had enticed immigrants by representing themselves as OSHA officials.

''We certainly understand OSHA's concerns about the use of their name,'' Mr. Boyd said. ''We're putting in place procedures to ensure appropriate coordination.''

Mr. Boyd said the immigration bureau also used a ruse to help gather 60 illegal immigrants who were arrested on May 20 at petrochemical plants in six states. He declined to discuss details, but he said immigration and prosecutors have long used subterfuges to bring in people for arrest.

February 7, 2006

Avian flu and immigrant workers in poultry plants

A noted occupational health expect warns of avian flu coming into the United States via poultry plants and the largely immigrant work population. He warns that these workers should not be treated as canaries in the mine shaft.

Gary Greenberg MD manages a new non-profit aimed at speeding up transmission of time sensitive information on occupational risks: OHDEN, or the Occupational Health Disaster Expert Network.

Greenberg says the following scenarios could occur. Twoinvolve the arrival in the United States of a migratory bird with the avian flu:

1. a person could pick up a dead bird by the roadside

2. a local -- not corporate --chicken farm serves as a way station for a migratory bird. The corporate chicken farms appear to have invested in bio-safety measures.

3. an individual arrives by plane from another, with the flu still in gestation.

Greenberg says that the avian flu does not transmit easily amomng people -- it is not like the flu of 1918 - 1919, which swept through army camps, among ship crews, and onto city streets, and took years to eventually dissappear.

February 6, 2006

National Employment Law Project on wage abuses

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) describes itself as a non profit law and policy organization advocating on behalf of low-wage, unemployed and immigrant workers. It has recently published two papers on civil and criminal penalties for non-payment of wages. Non-payment, delays in payment, and failure to pay overtime are common complaints among immigrant workers.

The two papers are Fifty state chart of penalties for unpaid wages and Criminal penalties for failure to pay wages

February 5, 2006

serious worker injuries by ethnic group, job and diagnosis

A commentor wrote to ask if I have for work fatalities of immigrants a breakdown by types of jobs, particular immigrant group most effected, etc. I have an indirect positive answer to this question, in the form of an ethnic analysis of work related hospitalizations. Researchers published in October 2005 a study of work related hospitalizations by ethnic groups in Massachusetts.

According to the authors,

This article reports on the use of statewide hospital discharge data to describe patterns of serious occupational injuries (that is, injuries requiring hospitalization) among racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts.

The authors present a breakdown of hospitalizations by medical diagnosis, job and ethnic breakdown: white, black, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic, and other or unknown. They were able to show a relationship between the type of job and the type of injury (for instance: burns = restaurant work).

In a later posting I will summerize their findings.

February 3, 2006

Occupational fatalities of immigrants

The June, 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review published Foreign-born workers: trends in fatal occupational injuries, 1996–2001 by Katherine Loh and Scott Richardson. From the text:

New immigrants who arrived in the United States during the 1990-2001 period accounted for 50.3 percent of the growth in the Nation's civilian labor force. That is, one out of every two net new labor force participants during this period was a new foreign immigrant. Historically, Current Population Survey (CPS) figures show that foreign-born workers, who accounted for 1 in every 17 workers in 1960, increased their share of the labor force to one in eight by 2000.
As the share of foreign-born employment has increased, so has the share of fatal occupational injuries to foreign-born workers. Yet, while the share of foreign-born employment increased by 22 percent from 1996 to 2000 the share of fatal occupational injuries for this population increased by 43 percent. This increase in fatal work injuries among foreign-born workers occurred at a time when the overall number of fatal occupational injuries to U.S. workers declined by 5 percent. As a result, the fatality rate for foreign-born workers has not mirrored the improvement seen in the overall fatality rate over this period. In 2001, the fatality rate for all U.S. workers decreased to a series low of 4.3 per 100,000 workers, but the fatality rate for foreign-born workers recorded a series high of 5.7 per 100,000 workers.

TN's program for driver’s license and Real ID

What is going on with driver's licenses and immigrants? And what is Real ID?

The State of Tennessee is cited as a state intent on making a driver’s license or certificate available two individuals without requiring a valid social security number. According to a recent AP story published in the Washington Post (registration required), Tennessee continues to have a liberal policy towards awarding of driver’s licenses. This is at a time when state governments are beginning to struggle to comply with the Real ID requirements Congress imposed in 2005, to be effective in 2008.

The AP reported on 1/29/06 that

Tennessee has issued more than 51,000 certificates since it became the first state to offer them in July 2004, but not every certificate has gone to someone living there.
The disclosures come as Tennessee's certificate system is being studied as a possible model for handling "non-conforming drivers" under the Real ID program recently enacted by Congress that will set a national standard for driver's licenses by 2008.
Although the words "not valid for identification" appear in bold red letters on the face of the wallet-size certificates, banks accept them as legal ID.
“What we tried to do in Tennessee was to recognize that there are people who may be legally here but they are not completely documented," Gov. Phil Bredesen said.
Tennessee had started licensing illegal immigrants, without a Social Security number requirement, in early 2001. More than 180,000 obtained licenses before 9-11 fears set in. The driving certificates were created in 2004 to satisfy homeland security concerns while allowing illegal immigrants to drive with certified proficiency.

Here is a brief analysis of Real ID when Congress passed it in May 2005 as part of a supplemental budget act. The following was excerpted from www.fcw.com:

According to the bill, the Homeland Security Department will be responsible for setting those standards. Under the Real ID Act, driver’s licenses and personal ID cards must include the cardholder’s legal name, date of birth, address, gender, signature, card number, digital photograph, physical security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication and common machine readable technology with defined minimum data elements.
State motor vehicle administrators must verify the validity of at least four feeder documents, such as a Social Security card or passport, before issuing driver’s licenses or personal ID cards.
By Sept. 11, states must sign a memorandum of understanding with DHS to use the automated Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to verify the legal presence of a driver's license applicant who is not a U.S. citizen. States must capture digital images of applicants and electronically exchange driver histories with other states.
According to the bill, the new measures would take effect in three years, possibly affecting travel and access for some individuals. For example, federal officials could stop people from boarding a plane or entering a building if they have a driver's license or personal ID card from a state that does not comply with the federal standards.

The National Immigration Law Center issued in October 2005 a comparison of application requirements for U.S> Passport and “Real ID” Driver’s License.

The National Employment Law Project contributed analysis used in the NILC's study.

. http://www.nelp.org/


February 2, 2006

Size of the illegal alien population (2000 - 2005)

We will be addressing this matter multiple times as we explore in the future alternative ways of measuring the size of this population. This posting focuses on methods of measurement.

The Center for Immigration Studies summarizes how the Federal Current Population Survey handles this matter, in its Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005.

It is well established that illegal aliens do respond to government surveys such as the decennial census and the Current Population Survey. While the CPS does not ask the foreign-born if they are legal residents of the United States, the Urban Institute, the former INS, the Pew Hispanic Center, and the Census Bureau have all used socio-demographic characteristics in the data to estimate the size of the illegal population.15 Our preliminary estimates for the March 2005 CPS indicate that there were between 9.6 and 9.8 million illegal aliens in the survey. It must be remembered that this estimate only includes illegal aliens captured by the March CPS, not those missed by the survey. By design this estimate is consistent with those prepared by the Census Bureau, Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS), Urban Institute, and Pew Hispanic Center.16 While consistent with other research findings, it should be obvious that there is no definitive means of determining whether a respondent in the survey is an illegal alien with 100 percent certainty. We estimate that in 2000, based on the March 2000 CPS, that there were between seven and 7.2 million illegal aliens in the survey. This means about 2.5 to 2.7 million, or about half of the 5.2 million growth in the foreign born between 2000 and 2005 was due to growth in the illegal population. We also estimate that 3.6 to 3.8 million or almost half of the 7.9 million new arrivals are illegal immigrants.

Polarization of American labor market

A recent paper has proposed a “polarization” of the American labor market. This trend is directly relevant to how immigrants gain entry into the domestic economy.

Per the authors, work is expanding at the high and low ends with little or no growth in the “routine’ job middle, where the IT revolution (including enabling massive off-shoring) is destroying domestic jobs. The vast majority of immigrants would fit into the lower end of the polarized market. This raises in my mind concerns about what integration into the American economy means for the large majority of immigrants. I conversed by email with David Autor, one of the authors.

The paper is The Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market, by David H. Autor, Lawrence F. Katz, and Melissa S. Kearney, NBER Working Paper January 2006. the link will take you to David Autor's webpage...look for the polarization paper under "inequality and technological change."

The authors break the labor down into four sectors: the expanding non-routine cognitive (highest end); routine cognitive and routine manual (the sectors being squeezed); and the somewhat expanding non-routine manual. Examples (provided by David Autor):

1. Non-routine cognitive: Attorneys, Scientists and academics, Architects, Managers,
(Some) engineers

2. Routine cognitive: Clerks, accountants, Word processors/typists, Telephone switchboard operators, “Anyone who does what Google does”

3. Routine manual: Productive workers doing repetitive assembly tasks, Product inspectors and testers

4. Non-routine manual: Truck drivers. Janitors, Medical aides, Security guards, Waiters/waitresses, Walmart workers. (Autor could have added construction and landscaping workers.)

I asked Autor about the chances a non-routine manual worker might have to improve her or his position. He replied,

The problem with Non-Routine Manual work is that the supply of workers capable of doing these tasks is almost infinite. Thus, even though demand may rise for these jobs, wages will probably not rise quickly except through the opportunity-cost mechanism (i.e., barbers' wages rise over time not because they have become more productive but because they must be adequately compensated for not doing another job).

You can get the gist of their proposition from the abstract:

This paper analyzes a marked change in the evolution of the U.S. wage structure over the past fifteen years…We document that wage inequality in the top half of the distribution has displayed an unchecked and rather smooth secular rise for the last 25 years (since 1980). Wage inequality in the bottom half of the distribution also grew rapidly from 1979 to 1987, but it has ceased growing (and for some measures actually narrowed) since the late 1980s. …..We characterize these patterns as the “polarization” of the U.S. labor market, with employment polarizing into high-wage and low-wage jobs at the expense of middle-wage work. We show how a model of computerization in which computers most strongly complement the non-routine (abstract) cognitive tasks of high-wage jobs, directly substitute for the routine tasks found in many traditional middle-wage jobs, and may have little direct impact on non-routine manual tasks in relatively low-wage jobs can help explain the observed polarization of the U.S. labor market.

Oakland garment workers and failure to file claims

This is a hot research topic. I recently entered a posting of 2002 study of Asian garment worker injuries in Oakland. I mentioned in the posting that while it offers useful insights into how immigrant workers experience injury risks at work, the study is flawed in its interpretation of the self-reported injury data. The research team was, simply stated, unaware of how injury experiences turn into workers comp claims.

Two researchers at Michigan State University, Jeff Biddle and Karen Roberts, published an article based on a large survey of Michigan workers. I use this study as a benchmark for how American citizens working for established large employer file workers comp claims (or do not). Immigrant worker experience should be contrasted with the MSU findings. Many in this study do not file, even for disabling injury. Some of them could access other benefits. But that’s not the whole complex and engaging picture. If you need to understand underreporting by immigrants compared to the norm, get their analysis in the December 2003 issue of Journal of Risk & Insurance.

RAND issued in 2005 a study of the effect of health insurance coverage on work injury claiming behavior of workers. Both the Rand and the Biddle and Roberts study reflect a more sophisticated understanding of workers comp.

New IL law to protect labor rights of day laborers

Public Act 94 -0511 (HB 3471), Illinois’ new Day Labor act went into effect January 1, 2006. This act is designed to fill a gap in labor protection laws.

The National Law Employment Project has said that the majority of workplace laws protecting day laborers and temporary workers were written for full-time, permanent employees. The short-term nature of the day labor and sub-contracting pose significant barriers to enforcement of laws and the workers do not receive the same benefits or wages as full-time permanent employees performing the same work.

Temporary employment agencies are integral to the day labor market. According to the Governor’s press release:

Although there are approximately 150 registered day and temporary labor service agencies with nearly 600 branch offices registered with the state, there are also many unlicensed agencies in Illinois.

Provisions of the Act include (per a press release from Governor's Rod Blagojevich's office):

Requiring agencies to provide workers with detailed employment and wage notices, which can be inspected by the IDOL;

Protecting day laborers’ paychecks from unreasonable deductions for meals and equipment;

Requiring agencies to pay workers for lost time when they are sent to a job, only to be sent back because the agency sent too many workers;

Requiring employers that contract with day or temporary labor agencies to verify that they are registered with IDOL or face monetary penalties;

Prohibiting agencies from charging workers fees for transportation between the agency and the job site and requiring that such transportation meet basic safety standards; and

Prohibiting agencies from retaliating or discriminating against a worker who exercises his or her rights under the Act and giving workers the right to sue for damages when harmed by violations.

This new law will allow IDOL to impose a $500 penalty against a day labor agency for each day it is not registered. For all other violations, the department may fine first-time violators up to $6,000 and repeat violators up to $2,500 per violation per day. To pay for increased enforcement of the day and temporary labor industry, the legislation increases agency registration fees to $1,000 and adds a fee of $250 per branch office.

The state has a hot line to report problems: 877-314-7052. Or, to file a complaint or get information go online. The reporting systems are described on the website of the IL Department of Labor's webpage on day labor.