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November 28, 2006

Two reservations about an immigration reform bill

Darrell Schapmire sent in a comment from which I have extracted a few passages and am placing here. He has some serious reservations about an immigration reform bill. I have placed below two of his concerns. I think that advocates of immigration reform along the lines of the Senate bill – of which I am in favor – need to address his concerns.

Schapmire says that “the sinkhole” nature of the low wage labor market in the United States will result in debasement and erosion of any immigration controls Washington legislates.

We are also ignoring the sinkhole nature of the demand for cheap labor. This, to me, is the great sucker punch for the American public. Twenty years before Simpson-Mazzoli, we had similar legislation passed in Congress for a small number of immigrants. The law passed in 1986 was supposed to eliminate the problem of illegal immigration and the problems that go along with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I would predict that when the current group of illegals is given amnesty, businesses will not only hire----but in many cases actively recruit----more illegal workers because they are "cheaper." We need to understand that business demand for "cheap labor" is insatiable. We also need to understand that there is no limit to the number of people who would come here, given the opportunity.

Comment: to avoid this scenario this time around, I believe the following must happen. First, labor protections for workers/employers in guest worker status and enforcement against workers/employers in illegal status need to be clearly superior to the status quo of today, in order that these measures sharply discourage both the supply and demand for illegal workers.

It will take five to ten years to get the protection and enforcement measures right, perhaps capped by Supreme Court decisions over the constitutionality of mandatory identity cards. In the past under Presidents Johnson and Reagan, the immigration reforms were sold to the public on the cheap. Border fences alone, and uniform driver licenses alone, are ideas coming from the let’s fix this cheap mindset.

Schapmire’s other concern I want to highlight deals with lack of commitment to an American way of life:

Beyond all of these it is disturbing to me that the current debate on immigration has simply centered around the economic and security aspects. These issues are, most assuredly, vital to our future. But this debate ignores one central fact: the perpetuation of our democratic republic does not depend so much on having a ready supply of workers as its existence depends on having a citizenry that is committed to our way of life. We need new residents to have not only their stomachs, but also their hearts and minds, fully invested in being Americans first. I am not personally satisfied that this is the case with some many of the people now coming to this country as illegal workers. I need only see pictures of tens of thousands of people demanding rights in the streets while waving the flags of another country.

Only 3% of Hispanic day laborers say they speak English very well. Given the vast transborder traffic in labor and jobs today, it is not clear to me if Schampire’s concerns about a immigrant working family commitment to an American way of life is translatable into a clear litmus test of commitment vs. lack of commitment.

The glue holding American society together is composed of (1) widely shared, core expectation that one’s way of life can improve, (2) access to educational resources, (3) mobility in the job market, and (4) skepticism towards ideologies. If these conditions hold, severe social isolation of groups cannot persist. I am not concerned if large numbers of Americans feel in their bones that they remain true to Mexico, Ukraine, or Laos.

November 24, 2006

Guest workers in the future: union organizing

A new book assesses the potential for organizing immigrant workers, citing examples among Los Angeles area building maintenance, trucking, construction, and garment production workers. If a guest worker program is enacted, it is very likely that the enrolled workers will have the right to collective bargaining. According to the publisher, “Los Angeles’ recent labor history highlights some of the key ingredients of the labor movement’s resurgence—new leadership, latitude to experiment with organizing techniques, and a willingness to embrace both top-down and bottom-up strategies.”

L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement, released this past August by the Russell Sage Foundation, is written by Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology and director of the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The publisher’s blurb:

Sharp decreases in union membership over the last fifty years have caused many to dismiss organized labor as irrelevant in today’s labor market. In the private sector, only 8 percent of workers today are union members, down from 24 percent as recently as 1973. Yet developments in Southern California—including the successful Justice for Janitors campaign—suggest that reports of organized labor’s demise may have been exaggerated. In L.A. Story, sociologist and labor expert Ruth Milkman explains how Los Angeles, once known as a company town hostile to labor, became a hotbed for unionism, and how immigrant service workers emerged as the unlikely leaders in the battle for workers’ rights.

L.A. Story shatters many of the myths of modern labor with a close look at workers in four industries in Los Angeles: building maintenance, trucking, construction, and garment production. Though many blame deunionization and deteriorating working conditions on immigrants, Milkman shows that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Her analysis reveals that worsening work environments preceded the influx of foreign-born workers, who filled the positions only after native-born workers fled these suddenly undesirable jobs. Ironically, L.A. Story shows that immigrant workers, who many union leaders feared were incapable of being organized because of language constraints and fear of deportation, instead proved highly responsive to organizing efforts. As Milkman demonstrates, these mostly Latino workers came to their service jobs in the United States with a more group-oriented mentality than the American workers they replaced. Some also drew on experience in their native countries with labor and political struggles. This stock of fresh minds and new ideas, along with a physical distance from the east-coast centers of labor’s old guard, made Los Angeles the center of a burgeoning workers’ rights movement.

Los Angeles’ recent labor history highlights some of the key ingredients of the labor movement’s resurgence—new leadership, latitude to experiment with organizing techniques, and a willingness to embrace both top-down and bottom-up strategies. L.A. Story’s clear and thorough assessment of these developments points to an alternative, high-road national economic agenda that could provide workers with a way out of poverty and into the middle class.

November 22, 2006

Construction accidents in New York City up 61%

The New York Times reported today a jump in construction accidents, with a high participation of Hispanic workers in small non-union jobs. I have posted often on the higher rate of fatalities and injuries sustained by Hispanic construction workers. I have written an article on this problem for Risk & Insurance Magazine. Part of the problem is the grey labor market that exists with illegal working immigrants. The Pew Hispanic Center has estimated that, nationwide, 29% of all roofers are illegal workers. This kind of work safety problem is exactly the kind of problem which a guest worker program will help to overcome.

The story:

Fatal construction accidents have grown at an alarming rate in New York City, rising 61 percent in the year that ended on Sept. 30, amid a continuing building boom, officials said yesterday. Many of the 29 victims were Hispanic immigrants working for small contractors in nonunion jobs.

Falls from hanging scaffolds have been the single greatest factor in the increase. Top officials of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the city’s Buildings Department said they were disturbed by the trend and vowed vigorous enforcement of safety rules and unannounced inspections of construction sites.

Some advocates for workers said those efforts were long overdue, asserting that regulators had failed to safeguard workers during the flurry of construction.

In the 12 months that ended on Sept. 30, 17 of the 29 construction workers who died in work-related accidents fell to their deaths. In the previous year, 18 construction workers were killed, 9 in falls.

Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s area director for Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, said the “dramatic increase” in fatalities was preventable.

“These are all needless, excess deaths in the city,” he told the Building Trades Employers’ Association, an umbrella group for the city’s largest contractors and construction managers. “And they put workers at risk, they put the public at risk, they really put the industry at risk, because employers who cut corners ultimately suffer not only lawsuits, but also OSHA enforcement and city enforcement.”

Of the 28 incidents in which the 29 workers were killed, 19 involved companies with 10 or fewer workers and 21 involved workers who were immigrants or had limited English proficiency and 24 involved nonunionized workers.

Mr. Mendelson said that unionized workers were not immune from accidents, but had a better safety record. “There’s no reason why nonunion workers should have a lower level of protection,” he said. “Obviously there’s a disparity here.”

On Nov. 2, Patricia J. Lancaster, commissioner of the Buildings Department, announced the creation of a task force to examine scaffold safety, a day after a 25-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant fell to his death outside an office building near Union Square. His harness was not attached to a safety line, officials said, and his employer had not obtained the proper permits or provided adequate monitoring and training. The panel is to issue its report by Dec. 18.

Louis J. Coletti, the president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, who is on the task force, said that many small firms that use nonunion labor openly flout laws and regulations. “They don’t file building permits,” he said. “They don’t care about their workers. They don’t care about public safety. They want to get in, get the job done, go to the next one and put the money in their pocket.”

Another task force member, Joel A. Shufro, the executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, said enforcement of building safety requirements has been feeble at best.

“The administration has moved forward to finally consider this epidemic of fatalities, and it’s about time,” he said. “Whether they have the political will to move aggressively to perform inspections and impose strong fines on employers remains to be seen.”

Ms. Lancaster conceded that many violators elude the city’s notice. “We’re complaint-driven,” she told the building executives at a conference on safety in Midtown, adding, “We have repeatedly asked you all to drop a dime and help us out with this, because we can’t be everywhere.” The number of complaints, she said, has increased to 140,000 a year from 38,000 in 2002, when she was appointed.

Ms. Lancaster presented a detailed analysis of recent accident trends. She said the number of accidents involving hanging scaffolds had surged to 19 so far this year, from 11 last year and 5 in 2004. Another fall from a scaffold occurred yesterday, but no one was injured.

As of Nov. 1, there were 88 construction accidents in the city this year, resulting in 15 deaths and 98 injuries. Ms. Lancaster noted that $45 billion worth of construction is planned for the city in the next 10 years. “Citywide, we see a boom as well as rising real estate prices, in such a way that construction in every borough becomes more important to every citizen than it ever has been before,” she said.

The department’s Building Enforcement Safety Team, which is responsible for high-rise construction projects that are at least 15 stories or 200 feet tall or 100,000 square feet or larger, is now monitoring 127 buildings. Construction is about to start on another 56 high-rises.

High-rise builders are being cited more often for failing to remove debris and to protect sidewalk sheds, among other violations. The number of stop-work orders issued for high-rises is projected to grow to 380 this year from 318 last year.

At new buildings lower than 15 stories, the department is considering requiring contractors to appoint trained construction superintendents to be available at all times to answer questions from the city and to be responsible for maintaining safe conditions. Each superintendent would have to be a licensed architect or engineer or to have worked as a superintendent, carpenter, mason or building inspector for at least 5 of the last 10 years.

The department has recently tightened requirements in several other areas.

A city law that took effect on Sunday requires that any supported scaffold 40 feet or taller have a Buildings Department permit. Anyone erecting, dismantling or repairing such a scaffold must receive at least 32 hours of training, while anyone using such a scaffold must receive at least 4 hours of training. The new law does not apply to stand-alone one-story sidewalk sheds.

Edwin G. Foulke Jr., the assistant secretary of labor in charge of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency has set up a Web site and a telephone hotline for Spanish speakers and arranged for translators whom agency inspectors can reach by cellphone.

“We’re also going to more pictorial-type information,” Mr. Foulke said. The images, he added, “will highlight what the hazard is and what is the proper way to avoid those hazards.”

November 21, 2006

“Independent contractor” abuses among immigrant construction workers in Boston

The Boston Globe has run an article titled “An underground economy of improperly classified workers cheats laborers and taxpayers alike.” The Senate's guest worker legislative language prohibiting independent contractor status is designed to prevent these abuses.

The article summarizes the problem:

The undocumented workers are part of an underground economy fueled by fast-paced growth in the region. But this underground economy poses particular problems for both the workers and the Commonwealth's taxpayers.

Because the laborers' unidentified employer is classifying them -- in violation of state labor law, union officials say -- as independent contractors, they are not eligible for the benefits and safeguards available to regular employees. They are paid no overtime and are not eligible for health insurance or worker's compensation.

A 2004 study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University concluded that one in every seven construction workers was misclassified as an independent contractor and estimated that the illegal practice cost the state $7 million a year in worker compensation premiums, $4 million a year in payroll taxes, and $4 million a year in unemployment insurance payments.

More from the article, by Robert Knox 11/16/06:

On a commercial construction project in Hanover, a worker from Ecuador reached down from a ladder to shake the hand of a union organizer and discuss his presence on a job site a continent away from home. The Ecuadoran -- a recent hire at the Village Square strip mall work site -- said he crossed the border this year to look for work in the United States. Guided by friends, he found it in the construction boom south of Boston, working for $11 an hour for 10 hours a day. He is paid in cash and considered an independent contractor.

Other carpenters working with him from countries such as Brazil and Mexico have similar arrangements, and travel daily to Hanover from living quarters in Fall River, according to Mario Majia , a representative of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters .

The undocumented workers are part of an underground economy fueled by fast-paced growth in the region. But this underground economy poses particular problems for both the workers and the Commonwealth's taxpayers.

Because the laborers' unidentified employer is classifying them -- in violation of state labor law, union officials say -- as independent contractors, they are not eligible for the benefits and safeguards available to regular employees. They are paid no overtime and are not eligible for health insurance or worker's compensation.

At the same time, the state and its taxpayers lose the withholding taxes that the employer would otherwise pay, as well as the employer's contribution to the unemployment insurance and worker's compensation funds. Lost, too, is any contribution to Social Security. Neither the Ecuadoran nor anyone else involved on the project could identify the subcontractor that hired them, and neither the project's developer nor its builder returned phone calls.

Attorney General Tom Reilly , in a written explanation two years ago of the state law governing employee classification, said employers who classify construction workers as independent contractors "unfairly reduce employees' state and federal tax withholding and related obligations." They deprive workers of benefits and disadvantage companies that comply with the law, Reilly said.

Undocumented workers are often afraid to complain. And many know nothing of the benefits they might otherwise enjoy.

At a construction site for luxury condominiums in Canton last month, two workers from Brazil said they were unfamiliar with the system of withholding taxes and government benefits common to American workers who receive W-2 forms from their employers. They, too, said they learned of the construction jobs from friends and get paid in cash as independent contractors. The men interviewed did not want to give their names for fear of being deported.

Contractors and developers typically favor subcontractors who keep costs down, and one way to do that is for the subcontractors to classify their workers as independent contractors.

Not all builders are guilty of violating the state's employee classification law, their representatives point out. "If someone cheats," said Greg Beeman, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors , "it puts the legitimate companies who make up the vast majority of the industry at a great disadvantage." The rules governing independent contractors are confusing, he said, adding to the problem.

Although many undocumented workers from Mexico, Central America, and South America have been drawn to the construction trades, the issue is not immigration, said Mark Erlich, executive secretary of the carpenters' council. Unscrupulous employment practices have nothing to do with immigration, he said.

Exploitation of undocumented workers results in a spectrum of practices, he said, that includes paying cash which is not reported as income, paying workers no overtime, paying wage rates barely half industry standards, and violating child labor laws. "Our beef is with those kinds of practices," Erlich said. Treating construction workers as independent contractors should be prosecuted as tax and insurance fraud, he said.

November 14, 2006

The nursing shortage: real, getting worse, and global

My thanks to Joe Paduda for alerting me to Health Affair's articles on the nursing shortage. the shortage is real, will get worse, and is global. So any major new recruitment from abroad takes nurses from other countries. That is the message from a Linda Aiken, a professor of sociology, and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Aiken wrote in the Health Affairs blog this month, “Currently, the United States is short an estimated 150,000 nurses. Yet over the next decade, more than 650,000 new jobs in nursing will be created. At the same time, an estimated 450,000 nurses will have retired. By 2020, the nurse shortage is expected to increase to 800,000……The nurse shortage isn’t confined to the U.S. — it’s global. Extracting nurses from other countries would simply bankrupt the international supply of nurses, affecting global health.”

In her 2004 article in Health Affairs, she wrote:

The world’s nurse supply appears insufficient to meet global needs now and in the future. Countries that use the most nurses should make the biggest investments in nursing education in both their own and the developing countries from which they recruit nurses. It is not common for developed countries to invest their international aid in nursing education, and this should change to help build sustainable nursing education infrastructures in developing countries.

Ethical recruitment guidelines provide a strategy for responsibly managing international nurse recruitment, although to date the first test case—the U.K. Department of Health guidelines—has been disappointing. Since 1999, when those guidelines were established, the outflow of nurses from sub-Saharan Africa to the United Kingdom has greatly increased, and emigration from South Africa has quadrupled. The challenge is in enforcement of the guidelines, especially considering the private, entrepreneurial character of international recruitment.

The most promising strategy for achieving international balance in health workforce resources is for each country to have an adequate and sustainable source of health professionals. A two-prong strategy is required for this to happen. First, developed countries must be more diligent in exploring actions to stabilize and increase their domestic supply of nurses and moderate demand through strategic investments. Second, even without the exodus of so many qualified health professionals to work in developed countries, most less developed countries do not have the health care workforce capacity to respond to the health problems of their citizens that also can threaten global health. Making health, especially nursing, a legitimate focus of international aid and democracy building is needed.

She addressed the limited supply of nurses trained overseas:

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

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

A number of less developed countries, such as India, China, and some of the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union (NIS), aspire to train nurses for export following the Philippine example. That model is based mainly on the provision of private-sector education. Countries considering the development of nurses for export face challenges because of limited access to capital to build an appropriate nursing education infrastructure that meets Western standards and by the emigration of nurse faculty and leaders to developed countries.

November 13, 2006

Senate Bill 2612: Guest worker provisions

Following on my last posting which summarized provisions for currentl illegal workers in the Senate immigration reform bill, I look today at the guest workers provisions. My personal comments are under "PFR"

Title IV Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Reforms

H-2C visa program for “up to 200,000 workers annually. (Originally the language called for 350,000 visas annually, which is the approximate number of new illegal working immigrants per year). This program provides a path towards legal permanent residence.

PFR: I bet that the 200,000 worker cap will be relaxed.

The bill establishes worker protections for the worker, including the same benefits and working conditions as similarly situated workers, workers’ compensation insurance, a provision that no H-2C worker may be treated as an independent contractor, whistleblower safeguards, and other protections.

PFR: This provision has implications going far beyond guest workers. The independent contractor prohibition means that guest workers will have privileged status over Americans, because many workers – such as FedEx drivers, are independent contractors.

Employers must petition for approval to hire H-2C workers, certifying that American workers are not available at prevailing wages.

The federal government can deny an application from an employer if (1) the work is not agricultural AND (2) the unemployment rate of non-high school graduates in the metropolitan area location of the work has an unemployment rate of at least 9%. This provision is somewhat disingenuous because the problem for this workforce not fully reflected in the unemployment rate – many of these individuals, especially blacks, have withdrawn from the job market.

Prior illegal status can be overlooked “for prior conduct” and be eligible for H-2C Status.

November 12, 2006

Senate Bill 2612: rights of current illegal workers

Immigration reform with a guest worker program may come up early next year in Congress. Let's look at what the Senate bill from this Spring says. Below is a summary of Title VI in Senate 2612, the bill passed by the Senate but stalled due to the House’s draconian, enforcement only bill. This title deals with the rights of current illegal workers. Where I comment, I start with “PFR”.

The National Immigration Forum is the source of this analysis.

There are 7.5 million illegal workers in the U.S, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Roughly 5 million of these workers have been here for at least five years. They are allowed to stay so long as they meet the requirements for the 5 year plus workers below. Roughly 1 million have been here between two and five years. They can stay per the rules below. That leaves 1.5 million workers who are out of luck. All these figures are really soft.

Title VI Work authorization and legalization of undocumented individuals

For those in the U.S. for more than five years:

They had to have worked for at least three years during the five year period. The applicant must speak English. And, they need to pay $2,000, plus a $750 “state impact fee”, for a total of $2,750, “in addition to application fees.”

The bill’s language creates a path for these individuals to gain permanent residence status.

PFR: The 3 out of 5 years requirement will not be a problem for men, who have an employment rate estimated to be over 90%, For Hispanic women with children, the employment rate is estimated at below 60%; however, spouses and children of the principal applicant are OK.

For those in the U.S. under five years but more than two years:

These people will come under a new Deferred Mandatory Departure (DMD) status. They had to have been in the U.S. and working before 1/7/06 (this date will obviously be adjusted forward). They must pay $1,000 per application plus $500 for each spouse and child, and the applicant must also pay a $750 state impact fee. The application must be filed within six months of the first day on which the application form is made available (there appears to be no such timeliness standards for the over five year applicant).

The awardee will be able to work in the U.S. for three years. There is no clear path for these individuals to gain permanent residence status.

For those who entered the U.S. after 1/7/06:

On the face of it, these individuals must leave the U.S. However, they can apply for the AgJobs provision, which creates and agricultural worker program that includes earned legalization for undocumented farm workers. They can also apply for H-2C status (which I will describe in the next day or two).

PFR: I have posted on AgJobs before. This is a major concern of Californian farmers: they need the workers.

The dog that didn’t bark: failure of anti-immigration as a campaign position

Immigration reform with a guest worker program is on track for being one of the most important issues in 2007 -- in part because the anti-immigration candidates were beaten, across the country.

The National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration organization, analyzed the elections results where a Senate, House or gubernatorial candidate voiced anti-immigration positions. Its assessment: “First and foremost, [the electorate] defied the pre-election conventional wisdom that had immigration emerging as the wedge issue that would help the Republicans either limit their losses or even retain control of the House of Representatives. Candidates that backed broad and practical reforms performed much better than candidates who espoused a hard enforcement-only or enforcement-first position.”

Perhaps the sentinel event was the defeat of a strenuously ani-immigration candidate in AZ. “In Arizona-8 Republican Randy Graf lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords by 54% - 42%. This was a closely watched race for a toss up district along the U.S.-Mexico border in a state in which immigration is the number one issue. Graf made the prophetic statement, "If this issue can't be won in this district [by hard-liners], the argument can be made that it can't be won anywhere in the country."

Further xcerpts from the Forum’s analysis…

What a difference an election makes. After all the pre-election prognostication and campaign mudslinging, the pundits and operatives are forced to step back, quiet down, and listen closely to the voters. Spin yields to facts as election results, exit polling, and seat counts offer up statistical evidence of voters’ views and demands.

With respect to immigration, this has been an extraordinary election cycle. Never before in our lifetimes has immigration emerged as a major factor in an election. In the past, immigration has affected a few primaries and maybe a handful of races, at most. But in this election, immigration roiled hundreds of campaigns across the country and at all levels. Why? In part, it is because fixing our nation’s broken immigration system has emerged as a top tier policy priority for the American people. And in part, it is because the current Congress stalemated over broad reform, and, in effect, kicked the issue to the voters.

So, what did the voters say about immigration in these mid-terms?

First and foremost, they defied the pre-election conventional wisdom that had immigration emerging as the wedge issue that would help the Republicans either limit their losses or even retain control of the House of Representatives. Candidates that backed broad and practical reforms performed much better than candidates who espoused a hard enforcement-only or enforcement-first position.

Secondly, through pre-election and exit polls, voters soundly rejected the siren song of enforcement-only pabulum in favor of a pragmatic comprehensive approach to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those working and living in the U.S. illegally.

Finally, Latino voters made it clear that immigration is a defining issue for the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation, and that those who adopt a hard line will be met with a hard response.

Throughout most of the past year, many commentators argued that immigration would prove to be “the gay marriage issue of ’06.”

Many candidates followed this logic, either out of opportunism or conviction. How did they fare?

The Senate

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) hit opponent Bob Casey early and late for Casey’s support for the Senate comprehensive bill passed on a bipartisan basis last May. Santorum suffered the biggest defeat of any Senate incumbent in this election cycle, losing by 18%.

Katherine Harris repeatedly invoked Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) support for the Senate bill in her comeback attempt. She lost 60% - 38%.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was attacked by his opponent, Tom Kean, Jr. (R) for the Senator’s support of comprehensive immigration reform. He won going way, 53% -47%.
Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Stabenow (D-MI) were attacked for their votes in support of allowing legalized immigrant workers to claim credit for social security taxes paid when they had been undocumented. Both won easily.

Senator Carper (D-DE) was opposed by a one-issue candidate, former INS official and noted immigration restrictionist Jan Ting. Accused of supporting “amnesty,” Carper won 70% - 29%.

The House

In Arizona-8 Republican Randy Graf lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords by 54% - 42%. This was a closely watched race for a toss up district along the U.S.-Mexico border in a state in which immigration is the number one issue. Graf made the prophetic statement, "If this issue can't be won in this district [by hard-liners], the argument can be made that it can't be won anywhere in the country."

In Indiana-8, House Immigration Subcommittee Chair John Hostettler (R-IN) was one of the featured Republicans in the summer “field hearings” held by House Republicans to stir up voters on the immigration issue. He lost by a wide margin.

In Arizona-5 hard liner J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) is the author of the book “Whatever It Takes” about illegal immigration, and refused to vote for HR 4437, the controversial Sensenbrenner bill, because he thought it did not go far enough. Hayworth was upset by comprehensive reform advocate Harry Mitchell 51% - 46%. Two years earlier Hayworth won re-election by 21 points.

In Colorado-7, the race featured hard liner Republican Rick O’Donnell trying to replace another Republican, Bob Beauprez who vacated the seat to run for governor. O’Donnell was featured in a front page New York Times article arguing that immigration was the biggest issue in his district and that his views were much more popular than those of his comprehensive reform advocate opponent, Democrat Ed Perlmutter. Perlmutter won 54% - 42%.


In Arizona incumbent and Democrat Janet Napolitano, an early proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, was attacked repeatedly by her opponent Len Munsil for being soft on illegal immigration. He proposed a half a billion dollar border security initiative as his signature issue. Napolitano won 63% - 35%.

In Colorado Republican Bob Beauprez staked his campaign on attacking his Democratic opponent, Bill Ritter, for being soft on illegal immigration. He lost 56% - 41%.
In numerous states Democratic incumbents and candidates came under fire from their opponents for being soft on illegal immigration and for supporting in-state tuition for undocumented students. In every case – Kansas, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Maryland – the pro-immigrant candidate won and the attacker lost.

In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger took a different tack from many in his party. He moved to the center on immigration: he stopped applauding the Minutemen, he apologized for his support of Proposition 187 in the past, he dragged his feet on approving the deployment of his state’s National Guard for border duty, and loudly criticized the Republican Congress for not moving on comprehensive immigration reform. He was rewarded with a huge victory that included 39% of the state’s large group of Latino voters.

November 8, 2006

Electoral result: We'll enact a guest worker program next year

1. The House is now run by people who want it. 2. The Senate, whichever way it goes (it is 5 AM on 11/8) is even more liking it, and 3. Bush wants it. But especially, the Dems want it to court the Hispanic vote in 2008. Count on it happening next year.

November 2, 2006

Spanish language barriers increase hazards on construction sites

At a recent construction industry conference an executive in charge of safety for a large industry firm spoke on the need to address more forcefully work safety among Hispanic workers. “The bilingual workforce is ‘an issue we need to deal with because it's a hazard. That's not unkind, it's the truth…and it needs to be dealt with effectively,’ Mr. Carter said….. Enacting workplace policies requiring employees to speak only English is not the solution, Mr. Carter said. Federal appeals courts have upheld "English only" rules in the workplace, but there must be a "business necessity" for it, Mr. Carter said. If employers cannot prove the workplace policy is a business necessity, they may be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he said.”

This will be a BIG issue in the implementation of a guest worker program,. I predict.

The full text of the 10/23 article published in Business Insurance is below:

SAN DIEGO—While there are many hazards on a construction site, employers cannot overlook the hazard associated with a bilingual work force, according to a health and safety expert.

Hispanic workers die at a greater rate each year in U.S. workplace construction accidents than African-Americans and Caucasians, and within the next five years or so, Hispanics could represent nearly half of the construction workforce, said Tim Carter, vp-health, safety, security and environmental for Trammell Crow Co., an Irvine, Calif.-based commercial real estate services company.

Lack of effective communication within a bilingual workforce raises a number of safety issues, but implementing an English-only workplace policy is not the answer. Instead, he said, the focus should be on effective communication and training.

The bilingual workforce is "an issue we need to deal with because it's a hazard. That's not unkind, it's the truth…and it needs to be dealt with effectively," Mr. Carter said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total workplace fatal injuries in 2005 fell 1.2%. But the number of fatal injuries among Hispanic workers rose 2% last year to 917, Mr. Carter noted. And in 2004, while the overall number of workplace fatal injuries was up 2%, fatal workplace injuries among Hispanic workers rose 11%.

In the construction industry, the Hispanic fatality rate is 5.2 per 100,000 workers compared to a 4.5 per 100,000 workers rate among African-Americans and Caucasians, he said.

Mr. Carter noted that 12% of serious injuries among Hispanic workers occur during the first day on the job.

"Something's dreadfully wrong and there is something that needs to be done," he said during a session at the 26th Construction Risk Conference, held Oct. 9-12 in San Diego and sponsored by the International Risk Management Institute Inc.

"We can't communicate with each other as effectively as we need to," he said.

Of the more than 28 million Spanish speaking people in the United States, 5.1 million do not speak English well and nearly 3 million do not speak English at all, Mr. Carter said, referring to 2000 U.S. Census statistics.

Not only are effective communication skills lacking in the construction industry, but in some cases, there is little or no safety training and great exposure to high-hazard work, he said.

Many Spanish-speaking immigrants are young and have minimal or no skills, but are "willing to do anything to keep the job… because they have to have a job." At the same time, safety questions sometimes go unasked and unanswered, Mr. Carter said. One of the cultural differences with the immigrant population is they don't necessarily feel comfortable in raising questions because it could be perceived as challenging authority, he noted.

Employers have the "responsibility to provide a workplace that is free from hazards," according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mr. Carter said. OSHA does not give construction companies an escape clause for workers that do not understand English, he said.

If the inability to effectively communicate with employees could be hazardous, "then you better take care of it," Mr. Carter said.

Enacting workplace policies requiring employees to speak only English is not the solution, Mr. Carter said.

Federal appeals courts have upheld "English only" rules in the workplace, but there must be a "business necessity" for it, Mr. Carter said. If employers cannot prove the workplace policy is a business necessity, they may be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he said.

Rather than instituting an English-only workplace policy, employers should consider grouping workers according to language skills, mixing bilingual workers with non-English speaking workers and requiring supervisors to become bilingual, he said.

November 1, 2006

Immigration reform - for 2007?

President Bush and a Congress controlled in part or whole by Democrats will most likely collaborate in passing a liberal immigration reform package, with a guest workers program.

Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Nov-Dec issue of Foreign Affairss, sizing up the case for immigration reform that is basically pro-immigration. I have excerpted from his article,.

Here is his summary

The United States is far less divided on immigration than the current debate would suggest. An overwhelming majority of Americans want a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Washington's challenge is to translate this consensus into sound legislation that will start to repair the nation's broken immigration system.

The anti immigration issue arose out of talk shows. Jacoby thinks that the Republicans are trying to recruit for November as many as possible of the 20% - 25% of voters who are far less tolerant of illegal immigration (or immigration in general) than the mainstream:

In fact, the nation is far less divided on immigration, legal or illegal, than the current debate suggests. In the last six months, virtually every major media outlet has surveyed public attitudes on the issue, and the results have been remarkably consistent. Americans continue to take pride in the United States' heritage as a nation of immigrants. Many are uneasy about the current influx of foreigners. But an overwhelming majority -- between two-thirds and three-quarters in every major poll -- would like to see Congress address the problem with a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living and working here.

We are receiving in his estimation about one million new workers legally every year, and another 500,000 illegally. I have already posted estimates of about 350,000 new illegal Hispanic immigrant workers per year. Perhaps Jacoby finds another 150,00 among Asians and Europeans. We are part of a global wave of immigration:

The most important of those new realities is the global integration of labor markets. Today's immigrant influx -- second in volume only to the wave that arrived a hundred years ago -- is not some kind of voluntary experiment that Washington could turn off at will, like a faucet. On the contrary, it is the product of changing U.S. demographics, global development, and the increasingly easy international communications that are shrinking the planet for everyone, rich and poor. Between 2002 and 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy is expected to create some 56 million new jobs, half of which will require no more than a high school education. More than 75 million baby boomers will retire in that period. And declining native-born fertility rates will be approaching replacement level. Native-born workers, meanwhile, are becoming more educated with every decade. Arguably the most important statistic for anyone seeking to understand the immigration issue is this: in 1960, half of all American men dropped out of high school to look for unskilled work, whereas less than ten percent do so now.

America needs these largely unskilled workers, for instance in construction (masonry and dry-walling) and in the restaurant field:

The resulting shortfall of unskilled labor -- estimated to run to hundreds of thousands of workers a year -- is showing up in sector after sector. The construction industry creates some 185,000 jobs annually, and although construction workers now earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, employers in trades such as masonry and dry-walling report that they cannot find enough young Americans to do the work. The prospects for the restaurant business are even bleaker. With 12.5 million workers nationwide, restaurants are the nation's largest private-sector employer, and their demand for labor is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2005 and 2015. But the native-born work force will grow by only ten percent in that period, and the number of 16- to 24-year-old job seekers -- the key demographic for the restaurant trade -- will not expand at all. So unless the share of older Americans willing to bus tables and flip hamburgers increases -- and in truth, it is decreasing -- without immigrants, the restaurant sector will have trouble growing through the next decade.

He argues that (1) illegal immigrant households are very modest users of public services and (2) that they complement, rather than substitute for and compete with, American workers. In doing so they support the increasingly educated American workforce, helping them to be more productive.

He cites North Carolina:

Some of the best efforts to measure the elusive immigrant growth dividend look at states or regions rather than the nation as a whole. A recent report on immigrants in North Carolina -- which has one of the fastest-growing foreign-born populations in the country -- estimated their contribution to economic expansion and compared it with the more easily measured fiscal consequences. The bottom line: newcomers filled one-third of North Carolina's new jobs in the past decade, and they were responsible for $9.2 billion in consumer spending and $1.9 billion in saved wages -- a total growth dividend of $11 billion, which dwarfed the $61 million (or $102 per native-born taxpayer) that the newcomers cost the state when taxes and services were netted out.

Jacoby sees a three part reform package:

This, then, is the essential architecture of comprehensive reform: more immigrant worker visas, tougher and more effective enforcement, and a one-time transitional measure that allows the illegal immigrants already here to earn their way out of the shadows. Together, these three elements add up to a blueprint, not a policy, and many questions and disagreements remain. But on one thing everyone who shares the vision agrees: all three elements are necessary, and all three must be implemented together if the overhaul is to be successful. Think of them as the three moving parts of a single engine. There is no tradeoff between enforcement and legalization or between enforcement and higher visa limits. On the contrary, just as enforcement is pointless if the law is unrealistic, so even the best crafted of laws will accomplish little if it has no teeth, and neither one will work unless the ground is prepared properly.