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March 29, 2009

Delay in immigration raids may signal Obama policy change

According to the Washington Post, “Immigrations and Customs Enforcement may be shifting focus from detaining illegal workers to prosecuting executives at the companies that employ them. A senior government official says raids are being delayed.”

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement may be shifting focus from detaining illegal workers to prosecuting executives at the companies that employ them. A senior government official says raids are being delayed. (By Matt Bush -- Associated Press)

The article:

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 29, 2009; Page A02

Delay in Immigration Raids May Signal Policy Change

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement may be shifting focus from detaining illegal workers to prosecuting executives at the companies that employ them. A senior government official says raids are being delayed.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute -- increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

"ICE is now scrutinizing these cases more thoroughly to ensure that [targets] are being taken down when they should be taken down, and that the employer is being targeted and the surveillance and the investigation is being done how it should be done," said the official, discussing Napolitano's views about sensitive law enforcement matters on the condition of anonymity.

"There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you've got to scrutinize the cases coming up," the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano's expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

Another DHS official said Napolitano plans to release protocols this week to ensure more consistent work-site investigations and less "haphazard" decision-making.

Napolitano's moves have led some to question President Obama's commitment to work-site raids, which were a signature of Bush administration efforts to combat illegal immigration. Napolitano has highlighted other priorities, such as combating Mexican drug cartels and catching dangerous criminals who are illegal immigrants.

Napolitano's moves foreshadow the difficult political decisions the Obama administration faces as it decides whether to continue mass arrests of illegal immigrant workers in sweeps of meatpackers, construction firms, defense contractors and other employers.

Critics say workplace and neighborhood sweeps are harsh and indiscriminate, and they accuse the government of racial profiling, violating due process rights and committing other humanitarian abuses.

The raids have enraged Latino community and religious leaders, immigrant advocates and civil liberties groups important to the Democratic base, who have stepped up pressure on Obama to stop them.

At a rally last week in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, head of the archdiocese of Obama's home city, called on the government "to end immigration raids and the separation of families" and support an overhaul of immigration law. "Reform would be a clear sign this administration is truly about change," George said.

March 26, 2009

the competitive demographic edge of the U.S. thanks to immigration

The Slow News Is Good News” by Thomas F. Cooley in Forbes.com states the case that the rest of the world is aging at a far faster rate than is the United States. The reason? – we are a nation with continuous in-migration. The benefits: less of a retired-to-worker demographic imbalance. Relatively more tolerance for change. More productivity.

A passage from Cooley’s article:

The world economy is undergoing an even more dramatic transformation now, under the radar and at such a low frequency that it is easy to overlook. But we ignore it at our peril because it has profound consequences for issues--like "global imbalances"--that many think are directly linked to our current economic woes.

Let's begin with a few facts about population growth. In almost all of the economically successful countries and regions, birth rates have declined and, as a result, the population is aging. In some countries, the population growth has or will become negative.

In China, for example, the median age of the population is expected to increase by nearly 11 years between now and the year 2050--from roughly 34 years to 45 years--and the population growth rate there will turn negative in the next several years. The picture is similar in Japan, where the growth rate has already reached close to zero. The average age is expected to increase from 44.7 years to over 55 years by 2050. In Korea, the median age of the population is expected to increase by nearly 20 years by 2050. If you've traveled to these countries recently, you'll probably have noticed the significant graying of their population.

Similar patterns hold in Russia and much of Eastern Europe. All are expected to have shrinking populations. In Western Europe, the pattern is a little bit different, but the outcome is similar. The average age of the population is currently 40 years and is expected to increase to 47 by year 2050. Obviously, birth rates are well below replacement, and the population growth rate is projected to be negative eventually for the whole of Western Europe.

The demographic picture for the U.S., in contrast, is quite good. The median age is 36 and is expected to increase to just over 40 by 2050. The population growth rate will continue to stay positive and significant.

March 19, 2009

The economics of the Swift meatpacking plant raids of 2006

The Center for Immigration Studies issued today a thoughtful analysis of employment at the Swift plants after the 2006 raids. The study is: The 2006 Swift Raids: Assessing the Impact of Immigration Enforcement Actions at Six Facilities. I have posted on the Swift raids in the past. The CIS study, authored by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jerry Kammer, goes into depth about the multi-decade meat-packing business trends which ended with Swift having, by his estimate, 23% of its production workers being illegal immigrants. And he writes about the aftermath of the raids on employment, wages and community.

Here is a paragraph from the study:

“One of the most important findings of this analysis is that these six Swift plants could operate without the presence of illegal workers. New employment screening adopted by the company, the raids themselves, and continuing efforts by Swift to employ legal workers, dramatically reduced the illegal share of workers at all of these facilities. Yet, all the facilities continued to operate and all returned to full production within a few months. Moreover, this recovery was accomplished during the first half of 2007 when national unemployment figures were still low and the current recession had not begun.”

A summary:

The 2006 Swift Raids: Assessing the Impact of Immigration Enforcement Actions at Six Facilities By Jerry Kammer March 2009

On December 12, 2006, about 1,300 illegal immigrants working at six meat processing plants owned by Swift & Co. were arrested in the largest immigration enforcement action in U.S. history. Other illegal workers, fearful of future raids, stopped reporting to work. Additionally, in the months prior to the raids, new employee screening by Swift led to the loss of about 400 illegal workers. The plants are located in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, and Utah. This report examines the raids and their aftermath.

Among the report’s findings:

* As is the case in the entire industry, work at the six Swift plants is characterized by difficult and dangerous conditions.
* Like the rest of the industry, workers at these facilities have seen a steady decline in their standard of living. Government data show that the average wages of meatpackers in 2007 were 45 percent lower than in 1980, adjusted for inflation.
* We estimate that 23 percent of Swift’s production workers were illegal immigrants.
* All facilities resumed production on the same day as the raids. All returned to full production within five months. This is an indication that the plants could operate at full capacity without the presence of illegal workers.
* There is good evidence that after the raids the number of native-born workers increased significantly. But Swift would not provide information on how its workforce has changed. Swift also has recruited a large number of refugees who are legal immigrants.
* At the four facilities for which we were able to obtain information, wages and bonuses rose on average 8 percent with the departure of illegal immigrants.

* There is a widespread perception among union officials, workers, and others in these communities that if pay and working conditions were improved, it would be dramatically easier to recruit legal workers (immigrant and native).
* Worker pay has a small impact on consumer prices. Research by the USDA and others indicates that wages and benefits for production workers account for only 7 to 9 percent of retail meat prices. This means that if wages and benefits were increased by one-third, consumer prices would rise by 3 percent at most.
* Research by the United Food and Commercial Workers union indicates that pay to production workers accounts for only about 4 percent of consumer costs. If that is correct, a 50 percent increase in wages would cause only a 2 percent increase in consumer prices.
* Turnover is high at all Swift plants, ranging from 40 to 70 percent per year. Swift accepts high turnover as a cost of pursuing a business model that emphasizes high-volume production. It spends heavily to replace workers rather than seeking to retain workers by slowing production.
* High turnover imposes severe stress on local communities and social service agencies. It makes transience and upheaval a constant problem for the communities. Many residents resent the price their community pays to have the Swift plant as a large part of their local economy.
* Swift has tried to reduce the employment of illegal immigrants with more rigorous checks of documents presented by new workers. Several months before the raids, the company contracted with the Tucson-based Border Management Strategies for advice on hiring practices.
* In addition to pay increases, Swift introduced a number of methods to attract workers after the raids. The company paid bonuses to new employees, and to current employees who recruited others. It also advertised heavily, paid relocation expenses, and provided daily transportation from distant population centers.
* Reaction to the raids varied widely within these communities. Many members of the communities were enthusiastically supportive of the enforcement action, while other were sharply critical.
* The Swift plants in Marshalltown, Iowa, and Hyrum, Utah, illustrate the immigration connections that were established during the 1942-1964 era of the braceros and extended through the 1986 amnesty. Many relatives and neighbors of former braceros now work at Swift plants.

March 17, 2009

Remittances to Latin America to decline this year.

Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean from the world (mostly from the U.S.) rose by 1% in 2008 to $69.2 billion but are forecast to decline by as much as 13% this year. This is according to a study by the Inter-American Bank, reported on by the Wall Street Journal. This will be the first drop in remittances perhaps for decades.

The article:


Remittances sent from overseas workers back to Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to drop in 2009, according to a new study, shrinking what is often a crucial source of cash for many families in the region.

After a decade of growth, remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean began to slow in 2008, according to the Inter-American Bank, as countries that attract large numbers of migrant workers, including the U.S., Spain and Japan, slid into recession. And this year, remittances to the region are likely to drop for the first time since the bank began tracking annual flows in 2000.

Migrant workers -- the lifeline for millions of families in Latin America and the Caribbean -- sent home a record $69.2 billion last year, nearly 1% more than in 2007. However, the outlook is grim for 2009, according to the IDB. For countries that have reported data for January, totals were down by as much as 13%, according to remittance analysts at the Washington-based institution.

"While it is too early to project by how much remittances may decline in 2009, this is bad news for millions of people in our region who depend on these flows to make ends meet," said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno.

U.S.-based migrant workers who send money home -- many of them undocumented immigrants who sneaked into the country illegally -- have been under pressure for some time. The gradual economic slowdown, negative immigration environment and mortgage meltdown preceded the current crisis. Despite these challenges, remittance flows kept growing, even if at steadily declining rates.

Remittances grew by 6% in 2007 over the previous year and remained steady throughout the first half of 2008. Migrants began to feel the impact of the recession on their earnings in late 2008. Following a flat third quarter, in the fourth quarter the money they sent home declined by 2% relative to the same quarter in 2007.

A significant proportion of money that relatives send home is used for daily necessities, including food, shelter and clothing. A decline in remittances is likely to result in greater pressure on social safety networks. Moreover, it is likely to result in less spending on healthcare, education and other investments in human capital that put individuals on a path to prosperity in the long term, according to the IDB.

The appreciation of the U.S. dollar in late 2008 provided some respite for families dependent on remittances, particularly in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Thus, remittances from the U.S. to those countries increased the purchasing power for recipients, offsetting at least in part the decline in volume.

Countries in the Andean region, such as Peru, that receive a significant amount of money from Spain, benefited from the strong euro during the first half of 2008 but since then have been affected by declines in the European currency.

The current economic crisis has especially hurt industries that employ low-skilled foreign workers, particularly those in construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants. Despite the grim economic picture, the IDB said it saw "scant evidence" that migrants are prepared to return en masse to their countries of origin. In Spain, where there are some five million foreign workers, a government plan to pay welfare benefits in a lump sum to people who return to their homelands has attracted few takers.

"Migrants have proven that they adapt to tough conditions," said Mr. Moreno. "They change jobs, work longer hours, cut back on spending, move to another city and even dip into savings in order to continue sending money to their families," Mr. Moreno said. "Going home is usually a last resort."

March 13, 2009

Colorado local police raid tax practice to nab illegals

On October 7, 2008, as reported by the New York Times, “the Weld County, CO, Sheriff’s Office, armed with a search warrant, seized thousands of confidential tax returns from Ms. Cerrillo’s business. They told her they were looking for people with fraudulent Social Security numbers, commonly used by illegal immigrants to get work.”

This raid set off a legal fight over creative enforcement of immigration laws by state and local police. Under the so-called 287G program, the Department of Homeland Security contracts with non-federal agencies to enforce immigration laws. Janet Napolitano, Obama’s head of DHS, has launched a review of the program.

Below is a March 11 article by the Times on an ACLU suit in a state court to prevent the tax returns from being used by law enforcement. Following that is the original Times article from February 9.

Amalia’s tax service Judge Puts Halt to ID Theft Inquiry Focusing on Immigrants

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Published: March 11, 2009

DENVER — An identify theft investigation in northern Colorado that has implicated more than 1,000 people suspected of being illegal immigrants has now been halted by a judge until he decides whether tactics used by the authorities were legal.

The judge, James H. Hiatt of State District Court, ordered Weld County officials on Tuesday to hand over documents seized during a search of a tax preparer’s office last October. Sheriff’s investigators and the local district attorney have been using the tax documents as the basis for arrests on charges involving fraudulent Social Security numbers, commonly presented by illegal immigrants to get work.

Judge Hiatt’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado against Weld County’s district attorney, Kenneth R. Buck, and its sheriff, John Cooke, who together undertook the investigation.

The civil liberties union claims that the authorities violated the privacy rights of thousands of taxpayers when they seized the documents from the tax preparer, Amalia’s Translation and Tax Services, in Greeley.

Judge Hiatt is to decide next month whether the authorities acted legally. In the meantime, the ruling Tuesday “is certainly a sign that the judge understood our arguments regarding the right to privacy and the potential harm that flows from this massive and illegal fishing expedition,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Colorado.

Jennifer Finch, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the judge’s temporary halt to the inquiry had been expected. “This case has brought up a variety of issues that need to be sorted out and decided on,” Ms. Finch said.

The investigation has inspired a debate over whether local authorities can use personal tax information to pursue suspects on identify theft charges. The government requires residents of the United States, legal or not, to pay taxes on income earned here, and many illegal immigrants do so because they hope it will lead to legal status.

The inquiry has so far led to the arrest of 62 people on identify theft or criminal impersonation charges, and warrants have been issued for the arrest of 59 others. Those cases, already in the justice pipeline, are not affected by Tuesday’s order, but the authorities are barred from any more arrests until Judge Hiatt rules next month.

On Monday, another state district judge, James Hartmann, presiding over a separate case involving the search of the tax preparer’s office, ruled that local law enforcement officers had not had sufficient probable cause for it. Ms. Finch said the district attorney’s office would appeal that decision.

Original article Feb 9 2009

GREELEY, Colo. — For the past decade, thousands of Hispanic men and women who settled here went to Amalia’s Translation and Tax Services to pay their annual income taxes.

“They are committing felonies through identify theft,” District Attorney Ken Buck said.

Whether these people were in the United States legally mattered little to Amalia Cerrillo, who runs the business out of her home in this northern Colorado farming town. The Internal Revenue Service, Ms. Cerrillo knew, requires everyone, regardless of immigration status, to pay taxes on income earned in this country.

“My clients wanted to do what any other American does,” Ms. Cerrillo said. “And they wanted to show that they paid their taxes if there is ever a chance for amnesty or a green card.”

That all changed Oct. 17, when investigators with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, armed with a search warrant, seized thousands of confidential tax returns from Ms. Cerrillo’s business. They told her they were looking for people with fraudulent Social Security numbers, commonly used by illegal immigrants to get work.

The seizure of the tax returns was the first step in a broad, continuing investigation, called Operation Number Games by local law enforcement officials. Sheriff John Cooke said his investigators had identified about 1,300 illegal immigrants who had filed tax returns bearing fake or stolen Social Security numbers. Many will face deportation proceedings.

Since October, 40 people have been arrested on identity theft or criminal impersonation charges. Sixty-five additional arrest warrants have been issued, and District Attorney Ken Buck said many more would be coming.

“I don’t care whether they are meth addicts or petty thieves or illegal immigrants,” Mr. Buck said. “What matters most to me is that they are committing felonies through identify theft.”

The campaign is causing concern at the I.R.S., which says illegal immigrants paid almost $50 billion in taxes from 1996 to 2003, and among immigrants’ rights groups, which call the operation a thinly disguised attempt to root out illegal immigrants.

“For years, they said immigrants don’t pay taxes and are a burden on our system,” said Julie Gonzales, the political coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Late last Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a lawsuit in State District Court here arguing that by seizing and retaining confidential tax information, the Weld County authorities had violated privacy rights of thousands of taxpayers.

“If the sheriff and the D.A. can comb through thousands of records in a tax preparer’s office on the theory that some of their clients are doing something wrong, then none of our confidential information is safe,” said Mark Silverstein, the legal director for the group.

Mr. Buck said all information from the investigation would be kept confidential.

Both sides agree that the issue has exposed a hole in federal immigration policy. Since 1996, the I.R.S. has distributed about 15 million Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to enable people without Social Security numbers to pay taxes. Many illegal immigrants also buy fake or stolen Social Security numbers on the black market to show to potential employers.

While not commenting specifically about the Colorado operation, an I.R.S. spokesman, Frank Keith, said, “We are concerned when information provided by taxpayers to meet their legal tax obligations is used for purposes other than federal tax administration.”

Sheriff Cooke said the federal policy was tantamount to “the government turning its back on victims of identity theft.”

If a stolen or false Social Security number is used only to get work, “there is no negative impact on the rightful owner,” said a Social Security Administration spokesman, Mark Hinkle; but it can wreak financial havoc if used to gain access to bank accounts or to obtain credit cards.

Sheriff Cooke said the Greeley investigation began last August when a Texas man contacted the authorities here and said he had been notified by the Social Security Administration that someone was using his Social Security number in Weld County.

Investigators traced the number to Servando Trejo, who according to a search warrant told them he was in the United States illegally and had bought the number. Mr. Trejo said he paid income taxes through Ms. Cerrillo’s office, the warrant said.

Ms. Cerrillo is not facing charges.

Sheriff Cooke blames the I.R.S. “They know the Social Security numbers are stolen,” he said, “and they choose to ignore it.”

Some illegal immigrants hope that the payment of taxes in compliance with federal laws will benefit them if and when Congress addresses the immigration issue. But Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, said the crackdown had put illegal immigrants in a bind: if they pay their taxes, they risk exposure to immigration authorities.

“It cuts at the bedrock of confidentiality of tax law, whose central tenet is that people come forward and report their income,” Ms. Hincapié said.

The investigation has had a chilling impact on immigrants in Greeley, advocates say. A man who asked to be identified only as Jose because he is in the country illegally said he had filed taxes with the dream of one day becoming a citizen.

Jose said that he was arrested late last year for using a false Social Security number he bought in Denver and that he now faces prison and deportation.

“You try and do the right thing,” Jose said of paying taxes, “and it seems they’re using it as an excuse to take people out of the country.”

Mr. Buck, though, said the cases stemming from the inquiry are about identity theft, not immigration. District attorneys in the Southwest, he said, have called to ask about his tactics.

“Am I apologetic for spreading fear amongst people committing felonies?” Mr. Buck said. “No.”

March 5, 2009

Immigrants and the California economy

The Immigration Policy Center issued a report last week which reported on the extent (large) of the immigrant workforce in California, and the net effect (positive) of this immigrant workforce on wages of all workers. About one third of the workforce is immigrant. Since these workers complement, rather than compete, with American – born workers, their net effect is to push general wages up by 4%.

The summary of the report:

Latinos and Asians account for more than one-quarter of California’s businesses and buying power.

The 2008 purchasing power of California’s Latinos ($249 billion) and Asians ($162.8 billion) is the highest of any state in the nation. Together, Latinos and Asians account for roughly 30% of the state’s total consumer purchasing power. Since 1990, the purchasing power of Latinos in California has increased by 258%, and the purchasing power of Asians by 272%, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

California’s 427,678 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $57.2 billion and employed 445,820 people in 2002. The state’s 371,530 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $125.8 billion and employed 745,874 people. Together, businesses owned by Latinos and Asians comprised more than one-quarter of all businesses in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrant workers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers are integral to California’s economy.
“Immigrants comprise more than one-third of the California labor force. They figure
prominently in key economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and services. Immigrants provide leadership and labor for the expansion of California’s growing economic sectors—from telecommunications and information technology to health services and housing construction,” according to the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Immigrants in California pay roughly $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes, and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year. In California, “the average immigrant-headed household contributes a net $2,679 annually to Social Security, which is $539 more than the average US-born household.”

Immigrants in Los Angeles County account for nearly 36% of the county’s total consumer purchasing power and over 40% of its total economic product, according to a study by Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz at the University of Southern California.

Most native-born Californians have experienced wage gains from immigration.

“During 1990–2004, immigration induced a 4 percent real wage increase for the average native worker,” according to a 2007 study by economist Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis.

The reason for wage increases is that “immigrant workers often serve as complements to native workers rather than as their direct competitors for jobs, thereby increasing total economic output. Native workers benefit because they are able to specialize in more productive work.”

California’s immigrants move up the socioeconomic ladder over time—learning English, buying homes, and escaping poverty.

A study by demographer Dowell Myers of the University of Southern California found that:

• The share of California’s foreign-born Latinos who reported being proficient in English as of 2000 rose from 33.4% of those who had been in the United States for less than 10 years to 73.5% among those who had been here for 30 years or longer.
• The share of foreign-born Latinos in California who owned their own homes as of 2005
rose from 16.4% of those who had been in the United States for less than 10 years to 64.6% among those who had lived here for 30 years or more.
• The share of California’s foreign-born Latinos who lived below the poverty line as of
2005 dropped from 28.7% of those who had been in the United States for less than 10 years to 11.8% among those who had been here for 30 years or more.

The share of immigrants in Los Angeles County who owned their own homes as of 2005-06 rose from 14.8% of those who had come to the United States within the previous 10 years to 63.4% of those who had lived here for more than 30 years—compared to a homeownership rate of 54.2% among the native-born, according to a study by Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz at the University of Southern California.

Nearly half of Californians are Latino or Asian—and they vote.

The Latino share of California’s population grew from 25.8% in 1990, to 32.4% in 2000, to 36.2% in 2007. The Asian share of the population grew from 9.2% in 1990, to 10.9% in 2000, to 12.3% in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Latinos comprised 18% of California voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 6%. Barack Obama defeated John McCain among Latino voters in California by 74% to 23%, and among Asian voters by 64% to 35%, according to CNN exit polls.

One-quarter of California’s registered voters are immigrants or the children of immigrants. The foreign-born share of California’s population rose from 21.7% in 1990, to 26.2% in 2000, to 27.4% in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

43.6% of immigrants in California were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007 (up from 31.2% in 1990)— meaning that they are eligible to vote.

24.4% of all registered voters in California are “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2006 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.

March 2, 2009

illegal Immigration control items in the FT 2010 budget

The FY 2010 budget request of the Obama Administration is calling for increases in several illegal immigration enforcement programs. According to Federal Computer Week,
“Highlights of the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] spending plan include $1.4 billion for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s efforts to identify and deport illegal aliens who have committed crimes. The administration would spend $368 million for existing border patrol agents at the Customs and Border Protection agency.
The administration also requested $110 million to continue expanding the E-Verify system, which employers use to check workers’ Social Security numbers and immigration status. “