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July 29, 2009

Another study of foreign born entrepreneurs in the U.S.

“High tech immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States” is a study published this month (July 2009) under the auspices of the Small Business Administration. The study confirms and elaborates on the role of foreign-born workers in high tech startups.

Its executive summary:

In this study, we quantify the role of immigrants in high-tech entrepreneurship in the
United States. We report the results of a survey of a nationally representative sample of rapidly growing high-impact, high-tech companies.1 This group of companies is very important to the U.S. economy, because they account for a disproportionate share of job creation and economic growth. We find that about 16% of the companies in our sample had at least one foreign-born person among their founding teams. This estimate is lower than that found in most previous studies of high-tech immigrant entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, our data show that immigrants play a crucial role in this vital economic activity.

High-impact, high-tech companies founded by immigrant entrepreneurs and those founded by native-born entrepreneurs in our sample are similar in many ways. They operate in the same industries and are about the same size. One important difference between the two is their location. Immigrant-founded companies tend to be located in states that have large immigrant populations.

Another difference is that immigrant-founded companies in our sample are about twice as likely as native-founded companies to state that they have a strategic relationship with a foreign firm, such as a major supplier, key partner, or major customer.

Immigrant-founded companies may also have a higher level of technological
performance than native-founded companies, although the evidence on this issue is not conclusive.

This study sheds light on high-tech immigrant entrepreneurs as individuals as well as on the companies that they helped to found. The vast majority of these individuals are strongly rooted in the United States. A large proportion of them have lived in this country for two decades or more. More than three-quarters of them are U.S. citizens. Two-thirds of them received undergraduate or graduate degrees here. The 250 foreign-born entrepreneurs on whom we have data hail from 54 countries in all regions of the world. India is the largest source country, accounting for 16% of this group, followed by the U.K. at 10%.

July 24, 2009

Mexican inmigration off, few are returning there

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that inmigration of Mexicans to the United States has leveled off, but few already here are returning. Currently, 10% of Mexicans live in the United Stares.

Data from population surveys taken in the U.S. and Mexico indicate that the flow of migrants back to Mexico appears to be stable since 2006. Mexico's National Survey of Employment and Occupation estimates that 433,000 Mexican migrants returned home between February 2008 and February 2009. For the same period in 2007-2008, 440,000 did; for the same period in 2006-2007, 479,000 did. Analysis of the U.S. Current Population Survey also finds no indication of substantially higher outflows to Mexico for 2007 and 2008.

As for migration to the U.S. from Mexico, data from several sources attest to recent substantial decreases in the number of new arrivals. The inflow began to diminish in mid-decade and has continued to do so through early 2009, according to the latest available population surveys from both countries. This finding is reinforced by data from the U.S. Border Patrol showing that apprehensions of Mexicans attempting to cross illegally into the United States decreased by a third between 2006 and 2008.

Mexico is by far the leading country of origin for U.S. immigrants, accounting for a third of all foreign-born residents and two-thirds of Hispanic immigrants. The U.S. is the destination for nearly all people who leave Mexico, and about one-in-ten people born there currently lives in the U.S.

July 16, 2009

Did ICE enforcement lead to worker unionization at Smithfield?

Such may be the case with The Smithfield pork plant in Tar Heel, NC. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been trying get unionize the plant for over a decade. Many of the workers were illegal. ICE raided the plant in January 2007. In late 2008, with the ranks filled by American workers, the workforce voted to unionize. The point: legalization of the workforce can lead to better protection of labor. The Center for Immigration Studies issued as report on the Smithfield plant this month.

The article in full:

“Immigration Raids at Smithfield: How an ICE Enforcement Action Boosted Union Organizing and the Employment of American Workers”, By Jerry Kammer

Jerry Kammer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center. Before joining CIS he was a reporter with Copley New Service where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006. He has covered immigration and border issues for more than 20 years.


In January 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the Smithfield pork plant in Tar Heel, N.C. Seven months later, ICE agents made more arrests at workers’ homes in surrounding areas. Other illegal workers, fearing they might be detained, left the plant on their own.

If they are concerned about working-class Americans, partisans on either side of the immigration debate can find something to support their positions in the events at Tar Heel.

On the one hand, those who favor using law enforcement to force illegal immigrants out of jobs can point to the fact that enforcement at Tar Heel created job openings for native-born Americans and legal immigrants. Had the illegals remained in the jobs, they would not have been available to American workers. One can also note that enforcement turned out to be a key factor in the December 2008 vote to organize the plant under the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

On the other hand, those who favor amnesty for illegal immigrants can note that Smithfield management long threatened selective immigration enforcement in an effort to pressure illegal immigrant workers to vote against the union.

Smithfield’s ability to intimidate workers prior to the raids demonstrates the unsatisfactory nature of the current state of immigration enforcement. The federal government’s failure to implement a mandatory worksite verification program, coupled with spotty worksite monitoring by immigration authorities, creates an incentive to employ illegal workers and then use the threat of enforcement to intimidate them. Mandatory electronic verification of new hires, coupled with consistent and sustained follow-up by enforcement authorities would rectify this situation.


The Smithfield Plant in Tar Heel, N.C., is the largest hog processing facility in the world. It slaughters up to 32,000 hogs a day, slices them into a variety of cuts, and sends them to market.

In December 2008, workers at the plant voted to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The UFCW victory, by a vote of 2,041 to 1,879, climaxed a long and bitter battle between the union and the company, whose products are labeled with such names as John Morrell, Patrick Cudahy, and Gwaltney.

The UFCW called its Tar Heel effort “the largest manufacturing organizing drive by any union in over a decade.”1 Its victory had national significance for the labor movement because North Carolina has the nation’s lowest rate of union membership and a long history of resistance to labor organizers.

The union worked especially hard to rally Hispanic workers, whose numbers had risen steadily throughout the 1990s, becoming the majority at the plant by 2000. The UFCW dispatched Spanish-speaking organizers to work full time at Tar Heel, and it helped Hispanic workers organize a protest in 2006 after Smithfield fired several dozen workers who were unable to demonstrate legal presence in the United States.

But ironically the most decisive factor in the union’s victory may have been immigration enforcement raids at Tar Heel in 2007. The raids’ immediate result, the arrest of several dozen workers, was followed by the departure of hundreds of others who feared arrest on charges of violating immigration laws.

Their exodus led to an abrupt switch in the plant’s demographics. By the time of the vote on UFCW representation, the majority of workers were once again native-born black Americans, as they had been in the years immediately after the plant opened in 1992. The News & Observer noted that the “raids may have finally sealed the union’s victory…. The 2007 raids purged the plant of illegal Hispanic workers, and left behind a majority of native workers more likely to support unionization.”2

This report examines the developments at Tar Heel and concludes that the legacy of ICE’s enforcement of immigration laws includes not only the union victory, but also a decision by Smithfield to more closely examine documents workers use to verify their legal status.

Moreover, the raids, coming after years of lax enforcement of immigration laws, also opened up more jobs at the plant for authorized workers. At a time when the national recession has compounded years of job losses in North Carolina’s textile and furniture industries, the opportunity to work at Smithfield has provided a welcome boost to authorized workers, both native-born and immigrant.


Smithfield built the plant at Tar Heel because the location gave the company easy access to the hog farms that have proliferated in eastern North Carolina and to Interstate 95, the East Coast’s principal transportation artery.

The UFCW began organizing efforts shortly after the plant opened. In both 1994 and 1997 the union lost elections among the Smithfield workers. But organizers challenged those results, alleging that the company had unlawfully bullied and intimidated workers to keep the union out.

In 2000, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board set aside the 1997 election results, writing in a 436-page opinion that Smithfield had committed “egregious and pervasive” violations of labor law.3 The judge found that some of the company’s threats were aimed at Hispanic workers, who were warned that if the union won, it would report them to immigration authorities. The judge also found that several company managers and lawyers had lied under oath in the case.

Smithfield contested the ruling, launching an appeal process that would drag out for more than five years. In the meantime a former employee provided dramatic and damning testimony to a U.S. Senate committee about the company’s efforts to thwart the UFCW.

“I’m here to tell you that Smithfield Foods ordered me to fire employees who supported the union and that the company told me it was either my job or theirs,’’ Sherri Buffkin told the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2002. “I’m here because Smithfield Foods asked me to lie on an affidavit and made me choose between my job and telling the truth. I’m here today to tell you how Smithfield Foods sought out and punished employees because they were union supporters, and that the company remained true to its word that it would stop at nothing to keep the union out.”4

As the union awaited a ruling from the appeals court, it launched a sweeping public campaign to pressure the company to accept its organizing efforts. It won support from Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards and from such religious and civil rights leaders as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Celebrities such as actors Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon lent their names to the effort.

The multi-pronged campaign included pickets at supermarkets demanding that Smithfield products be removed from shelves. It enlisted the support of several governing bodies, including the New York City Council, where a dozen members sponsored a resolution calling for the city to stop purchases from the Tar Heel plant “until the company ends all forms of abuse, intimidation, and violence against its workers.”5

In a tactic that received considerable media attention, the union also picketed the public appearances of Food Network celebrity chef Paula Deen, who had been hired to promote Smithfield products. One North Carolina business publication reported that union activists had “flooded her Web site with e-mails and her Savannah, Ga., restaurant with phone calls.”6 Deen, dubbed “the queen of butter-drenched Southern cooking’’ by The New York Times, found herself in the middle of a labor feud drenched in bitterness.7

A Smithfield attorney blasted the union for conducting “economic warfare,” a charge the company pursued with a federal racketeering suit. The suit alleged the union was attempting to “extort Smithfield’s voluntary recognition of the UFCW and Local 400.” It included a claim that illustrated the union’s effectiveness in targeting Paula Deen. The company said the UFCW had “deprived Smithfield of an incomparable marketing opportunity” by persuading the Oprah Winfrey show to cancel an invitation for Deen to appear and “promote Smithfield’s products before millions of viewers.”8

In 2006, the Smithfield appeal failed, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the company had engaged in “intense and widespread coercion” of the Tar Heel workers.9 In 2008, the company agreed to drop its racketeering lawsuit as part of a deal that saw the union suspend its campaign to embarrass the company. The two sides also agreed to conditions for the vote that was held at the end of 2008.

Demographic Shift

The 1990s transformation of the Tar Heel plant to a majority Hispanic workforce was part of North Carolina’s sweeping demographic change during that decade. No state had larger growth in its Hispanic population in the 1990s than North Carolina — a 394 percent jump, from 76,726 to 378,963. In 2008, the state’s Hispanic population was estimated at 601,000 and the Pew Hispanic Center estimated the state’s illegal immigrant population at 300,000, the eighth-largest figure in the country.10

Many newcomers found work at Smithfield, gradually building a Hispanic majority at the plant. “They were good people, hard workers,’’ said Wade Baker, an African American who worked at the plant from 1994 to 2002.

Baker said there was a widespread belief among Smithfield employees that the company’s hiring decisions were part of its anti-union strategy. “They started hiring Mexicans to help beat the union,” Baker said. “They would fire blacks for penny-ante things because they knew there were lots of Mexicans ready to come to work. And they knew they could control the Mexicans and make them afraid to vote for the union.”11

Across the United States there was little immigration enforcement in the early 2000s, as the Hispanic workforce at Smithfield and throughout North Carolina continued its rapid growth. In 2000, New York Times reporter Louis Uchitelle reported that “the more tolerant INS policy may be inducing more workers to immigrate, particularly from Mexico, because — once they manage to get here — they face little risk in taking a job.” Uchitelle noted that such an expansion of the labor force would reduce pressure on employers to raise wages.12

Concerns about illegal immigration grew steadily in the first decade of the new millennium. In 2003, the Raleigh News & Observer reported on a poll showing that about three quarters of the state’s residents thought illegal immigrants “should not be allowed to remain, even if they are otherwise law-abiding.”13 As the Woodrow Wilson International Center noted in a 2008 report, “The Latino workers who had originally been welcomed as an inexpensive and reliable source of labor for a booming economy began to be perceived as an emerging problem” because of the strains they put on social service agencies.14

“Americans think that we come here to take away what belongs to them, but we just want decent jobs,” Mexican immigrant Jose Martinez told the Raleigh newspaper. Ironically, the story reported that Martinez had quit his job at an unnamed hog slaughtering plant “because of what he described as horrible working conditions.” Martinez was earning his living doing odd jobs in Lumberton, home to many workers at Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant.15

2006 Enforcement

In 2006, ICE launched a crackdown at meat processing plants across the country. Most media attention focused on raids at plants operated by Swift & Co. in six states.16 Those raids resulted not only in the arrest of 1,300 Swift workers but also in the departure of hundreds of others who feared arrest on immigration charges.

ICE agents also turned their attention to the Tar Heel Plant, where Smithfield agreed to strengthen its review of employee documents. When the company fired 21 workers in late 2006, other Hispanic employees walked out in a coordinated protest that the UFCW helped organize. Responding to the walkout, Smithfield agreed to give the workers 60 days to demonstrate their legal status.

But in January, ICE agents raided the Tar Heel plant. Seven months later, agents swept into nearby communities to make more arrests at workers’ homes. As a result of the raids — and the widespread fear that more Smithfield workers would be targeted by immigration authorities — the Hispanic workforce at the plant dropped significantly. The Fayetteville Observer reported that by the time of the 2008 election won by the union, the Hispanic workforce had dropped by about 1,000 workers, down to 26 percent of the workforce.17

The Observer also noted how the raids affected the UFCW’s organizing drive. “The union took notice of the changing face of Smithfield and reorganized accordingly,” it reported. “Staffing levels in its Lumberton office, once mostly Spanish-speaking, turned largely to black people.”18

Union supporters claimed that in Tar Heel, Smithfield sought to alienate Hispanic workers from the union. Mattie Fulcher, a black Smithfield employee, said plant supervisors “scared a lot of them, telling them that they could be deported if they voted for a union.”19 Other observers said the ICE enforcement action made many immigrants shy away from the union because they wanted to keep a low profile in the community.

Unions and Immigration

For decades the U.S. labor movement resisted illegal immigration, which it saw as a source of unfair competition and downward pressure on wages. But in 2000, when the national economy was strong, jobs were plentiful, and immigration enforcement was weak, the executive council of the AFL-CIO endorsed amnesty for illegal immigrants. That move was part of labor’s effort to reverse decades of declining membership.

“We don’t care about green cards,” the head of the United Food and Commercial Workers told Time magazine, in a reference to the visas that provide permanent resident status. “We care about union cards.”1 The head of the hotel employees union was equally straightforward about illegal immigrants in the workplace, observing, “Whatever the intentions of our immigration laws might have been, they don’t work.”2

The labor movement’s turnabout on amnesty followed blatant attempts by some employers to punish illegal workers who supported union organizing drives. Perhaps the most infamous example of the tactic involved a Holiday Inn Express in Minneapolis and housekeepers who helped lead a successful vote for representation by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union. After receiving a tip from hotel management, immigration agents arrested the workers. The union stepped in to represent them, helping them win not only a $72,000 settlement from the hotel, but also the right for seven of the eight to stay in the United States.3 That victory helped galvanize broad-based union support for illegal immigrants.

Still others cited the low educational level of many of the immigrant workers, which further isolated them. As the Wilson Center noted in its report on immigration to North Carolina: “A considerable portion of recent Latino immigrants have little formal education and are functionally illiterate, so when English language materials are translated into Spanish, these materials still may not be understood.”20

The vote in the December 2008 election was not tallied by race. The factors that influenced the vote were many and varied. Some observers claimed that the national economic downturn made some workers reluctant to risk antagonizing the company with a union. Others said the presidential election victory of union supporter Barack Obama had made black workers more assertive than they otherwise might have been.

But the North Carolina press reported on a broad consensus that the demographic shakeup in the Tar Heel workforce produced by the immigration raids was a major factor in the UFCW victory. While the Charlotte Observer reported that the raids “may have finally sealed the union’s victory,” the Fayetteville Observer reported observations that “the new black majority proved to be the difference.”21

A visit to the Smithfield plant showed that the raids also made a big difference in the job prospects for the African Americans who, along with a few whites, filled the company’s employment office. Carolyn Elliot, who had lost her job due to a business slowdown at a Fayetteville cafeteria, was finishing her paperwork before beginning work at the plant. David Thompson, a 20-year-old who had been laid off from an $8.50-an-hour job at the Red Lobster in Fayetteville, said he was looking forward to making $4 an hour more at Smithfield. “That’s pretty good money around here,” he said.

Meanwhile, two Mexican maintenance workers for a company that contracted to tend the grounds outside the plant, said they would prefer to leave that $6.50 hourly wage for a job at Smithfield. But they couldn’t, they said, because the company was insisting on proper documentation. One was from Chiapas and the other from Veracruz, two states in Southern Mexico where emigration boomed in the 1990s. The two men said they expected to be moving on soon, looking for better pay elsewhere.

1 June 20 PR Newswire, UFCW news release. See also, page 2 of Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss in Civil Action No. 3:07CV641, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division. Smithfield Foods, Inc., and Smithfield Packing Company v. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

2 Kristin Collins, “Raids aided union at Tar Heel plant Raids may have benefited union; Deportations empowered U.S. workers Hog plant's illegal immigrants purged,” News & Observer

3 Kevin Sack, “Judge Finds Labor Law Broken at Meat-Packing Plant,” The New York Times, January 4, 2001.

4 Statement of Sherri Bufkin, former supervisor, Smithfield Packing Company, Tar Heel; hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, June 20, 2002.

5 Adam Liptak, “A Corporate View of Mafia Tactics: Protesting, Lobbying and Citing Upton Sinclair,’’ The New York Times, February 5, 2008.

6 Frank Maley, “The Meat of the Matter,” Business North Carolina, April 2008.

7 Marian Burros, “Union, in Organizing Fight, Tangles with Celebrity Cook,’’ The New York Times, April 20, 2007.

8 The New York Times, February 5, 2008, op. cit.

9 Steven Greenhouse, “Court Rules Pork Processor Broke Law in Fighting Union,’’ The New York Times, May 10, 2006.

10 “Charlotte: A Welcome Denied,’’ Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2008, Page 1.

11 Author interview with Wade Baker.

12 Louis Uchitelle, “INS is Looking the Other Way as Illegal Immigrants Fill Jobs,’’ The New York Times, March 9, 2000.

13 Michael Easterbrook, “Welcome Mat not Out for State’s Immigrants, Poll Shows,” Raleigh News & Observer, November 24, 2003.

14 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2008, op.cit.

15 Raleigh News & Observer, November 24, 2003, op. cit.

16 See Jerry Kammer, “The 2006 Swift Raids: Assessing the Impact of Immigration Enforcement Actions at Six Facilities,” Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, March 2009, http://www.cis.org/2006SwiftRaids.

17 John Ramsey and Sarah A. Reid, “Race and the Union,” Fayetteville Observer, December 2, 2008.

18 Ibid.

19 Kristin Collins, “Raids aided union at Tar Heel plant Raids may have benefited union; Deportations empowered U.S. workers Hog plant's illegal immigrants purged” News & Observer, January 1, 2009.

20 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2008, op.cit

21 Fayetteville Observer, December 21, 2008, op.cit.

July 15, 2009

Global remittances to decline by 7% - 10% this year

The World Bank is expecting that remittances back to developing countries will decline by 7% to 10% in 2009 compared to 2008, but will modestly grow in 2010. By 2010, the bank estimates remittances to be about $313 billion.

The Bank reported the size and relative value of remittances to receiving countries as follows:

Overall, the top recipients of migrant remittances among all developing countries last year, according to the report, were India ($52 billion); China ($40.6 billion); Mexico ($26.3 billion); the Philippines ($18.6 billion); Poland ($10.7 billion); Nigeria ($10 billion); Egypt ($9.6 billion); Romania ($9.4 billion); Bangladesh ($9.0 billion); and Vietnam ($7.2 billion).

The top recipients of migrant remittances as a percentage of GDP were Tajikistan (46 percent); Tonga (39 percent); Moldova (34 percent); Lesotho (28 percent); Guyana (26 percent); Lebanon (24 percent); Samoa (23 percent); Jordan (22 percent); Honduras (21 percent); and Kyrgyzstan (19 percent), according to the report.

The article in full:

Washington, DC (IPS) -- The amount of money immigrants from poor countries send to their families back home is expected to decline between 7 percent and 10 percent in 2009 compared with 2008 levels, according to a new report released here on Monday by the World Bank.

Poor countries in Europe and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean will be hardest hit, according to the report, which was released during the opening session of a two-day International Conference on Diaspora and Development at the bank’s headquarters here.

The decline is expected to bottom out next year, however. Remittances should begin a gradual rebound in 2010, reaching $313 billion worldwide by the end of the year, or 3 percent greater than the $304 billion that is currently estimated for 2009

The decline in remittances has not been remotely as dramatic, according to the new report. Indeed, the bank said it was surprised by the strength of remittances in 2008; they actually rose 15 percent overall in 2008, from $285 billion to $328 billion, according to the bank’s estimates.

It said remittances to South Asia, much of them from the Gulf states, actually grew 33 percent last year, with India alone reporting inflows of $52 billion.

Remittances to East Asia, especially to China and the Philippines, also grew strongly, some 20 percent overall, to $78 billion.

While still positive, growth was much weaker in the other major developing regions of the world, particularly so in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) where a sharp slowdown in the crucial construction sector in the United States—a major employer of immigrant labor—resulted in a remittance increase of only 2 percent, compared to nearly 7 percent in 2007 and 18 percent in 2006.

The outlook for remittances this year, however, is negative across the board, according to the latest estimates. For LAC, the bank predicts a decline in remittances of between 7 percent and 9.5 percent, with countries closest to the US likely to be hardest hit. For Europe and Central Asia, the projected decline is even more dramatic; it could range between 15 percent and 17 percent, according to the report.

Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa are also expected to fall relatively sharply—from a gain of 6.5 percent last year to a decline of between 8.3 percent to 11.6 percent in 2009.

While far less significant in dollar terms than the decline in private foreign investment, the reduction in remittances is likely to have a dramatic impact on the lives of many families among the world’s poorest sectors, according to Dilip Ratha, who coauthored the report.

'Remittances provide a lifeline to many poor countries,' he said. 'Although they remain resilient, even a small decline of 7 percent or 10 percent can pose significant hardships to the people and to governments, especially those facing external financing gaps.'

For 2010, the bank expects remittances to all developing countries to grow by 2.9 percent over 2009, although its low-case forecast calls for a continuing decline of 0.3 percent.

LAC prospects are the least positive: the bank estimates the growth rate over 2009 at between minus 2 percent of 1 percent in positive territory. It estimates growth at between minus 0.5 percent to plus 3 percent in East Asia; 0.5 percent to 3 percent in Europe and Central Asia; minus 0.4 percent to 3.3 percent in the Middle East and North Africa; 0.5 percent to 3.9 percent in South Asia; and 1.1 percent to 4.4 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Overall, the top recipients of migrant remittances among all developing countries last year, according to the report, were India ($52 billion); China ($40.6 billion); Mexico ($26.3 billion); the Philippines ($18.6 billion); Poland ($10.7 billion); Nigeria ($10 billion); Egypt ($9.6 billion); Romania ($9.4 billion); Bangladesh ($9.0 billion); and Vietnam ($7.2 billion).

The top recipients of migrant remittances as a percentage of GDP were Tajikistan (46 percent); Tonga (39 percent); Moldova (34 percent); Lesotho (28 percent); Guyana (26 percent); Lebanon (24 percent); Samoa (23 percent); Jordan (22 percent); Honduras (21 percent); and Kyrgyzstan (19 percent), according to the report.

July 14, 2009

Federal program to deputize local law immigration enforcement cut back

The Wall Street Journal reports that Homeland Security is reining in a Bush Administration program to authorize state and local law enforcement to make immigration violation arrests. It writes, “Opponents said the program, known as 287g, was intended to identify criminal aliens but instead has led to racial profiling; it allowed local police to identify and arrest illegal immigrants for such minor infractions as a broken tail light. In the past two years, more than 120,000 suspected illegal immigrants were identified through the program, and most ended up in deportation proceedings. By comparison, ICE removed 356,739 illegal immigrants from the U.S. during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008 -- a 23.5% increase over the 2007 total.”

The article in full:

New Curbs Set on Arrests of Illegal Immigrants
By Miriam Jordan
The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday it was revising a program that authorized local police to enforce federal immigration law -- a controversial aspect of U.S. border policy.

Opponents said the program, known as 287g, was intended to identify criminal aliens but instead has led to racial profiling; it allowed local police to identify and arrest illegal immigrants for such minor infractions as a broken tail light. Program supporters said it has been an effective tool for combating illegal immigration.

The new guidelines sharply reduce the ability of local law enforcement to arrest and screen suspected illegal immigrants. They are intended to prevent sheriff and police departments from arresting people 'for minor offenses as a guise to initiate removal proceedings,' according to Homeland Security. The program will instead focus on more serious criminals.

'In a world of limited resources, our view is that we need to focus first and foremost on people committing crimes in our community who should not be here,' said John Morton, Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mr. Morton said his agency would sign new contracts with local law enforcement that would bolster federal oversight.

In the past two years, more than 120,000 suspected illegal immigrants were identified through the program, and most ended up in deportation proceedings. By comparison, ICE removed 356,739 illegal immigrants from the U.S. during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008 -- a 23.5% increase over the 2007 total.

The most active local enforcer has been Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County. He said Friday he would continue pursuing illegal immigrants, arguing that state laws allow neighborhood crime sweeps and worksite raids.

'If I'm told not to enforce immigration law except if the alien is a violent criminal, my answer to that is we are still going to do the same thing, 287g or not,' said Mr. Arpaio. His deputies have identified in jail or picked up on the streets more than 30,000 illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area. 'We have been very successful,' said the five-term sheriff.

The Department of Justice is investigating whether Mr. Arpaio's deputies have used skin color as a pretense to stop Latinos suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama's policy change is expected to bolster his standing with Latinos and some Democratic legislators. The administration is seeking to set the stage for a sweeping overhaul of immigration legislation that could put millions of illegal workers on the path to U.S. citizenship.

President George W. Bush pursued a similar goal. After the efforts failed in Congress, his administration stepped up enforcement with raids and the expansion of such programs as 287g.

The provision was created by Congress in 1996 and designed to train local police to help federal immigration authorities locate criminal aliens. It took six years for the first state, Florida, to sign on to the program.

The Bush administration promoted the program among sheriffs and police chiefs, turning it into a symbol of his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Since January 2006, more than 1,000 state and local law-enforcement officials have been certified. Many jurisdictions used those officers in jails, where they could sort through many inmates in a single shift.

Southern states account for more than 40 of the 66 existing participants. There are 42 applications pending, most of them in the South. Both Virginia and North Carolina, where the Latino immigrant population has grown, each have nine 287g agreements, more than other states.

'I think the program is working great,' said Wake County, N.C., Sheriff Donnie Harrison. 'If the highway patrol brings someone to our jail, and they say they are foreign born, then they are flagged for 287g. They have committed a violation of some sort to be brought to our jail...from broken tail lights to murder and rape.'

Raleigh, N.C., resident Maria Hernandez was booked into a Wake County jail after failing to show up for her 6-year-old son's truancy hearing, according to her account and that of her attorney, Marty Rosenbluth.

Ms. Hernandez, a cleaning lady who came to the U.S. illegally nine years ago, is now in deportation court. 'I don't understand why they come after people like me,' she said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a comprehensive review of 287g shortly after taking her post earlier this year. Members of Congress and the Government Accountability Office had raised concerns the program was being used 'to process individuals for minor crimes, such as speeding, contrary to the objective of the program.'

The shift on 287g follows other recent modifications to immigration policy by the Obama administration, reflecting an effort to shift the burden of immigration enforcement to employers, while making it difficult for illegal immigrants to get hired.

In the past two weeks, Ms. Napolitano said federal contractors would be required to check the identity of new hires against a federal database. DHS also will audit hundreds of companies to verify whether their employees are eligible to work.

July 3, 2009

The Obama policy: no more showboat raids

As I have already posted, the Obama Administration’s ICE enforcement policy has shifted, in two ways. First, to focus on the employer rather than the employee. Second, to work more constructively rather than go for red-meat news headlines. The Los Angeles firm of American Apparel employs 5,600 workers, 1,800 of whom are probably illegal. The firm has been fined $150,000 but there have been no raids, which can destroy communities and jar the conscience. In this case, the economy being what it is, the city government wants these jobs to remain filled. A campaign was launched with a clever title of “Legalize L.A.” I do not have figures in hand, but I would not be surprised in 25% of low wage jobs in southern California are filled by illegal workers.

The New York Times article in full:

July 3, 2009
U.S. Shifts Strategy on Illicit Work by Immigrants


Immigration authorities had bad news this week for American Apparel, the T-shirt maker based in downtown Los Angeles: About 1,800 of its employees appeared to be illegal immigrants not authorized to work in the United States.

But in contrast to the high-profile raids that marked the enforcement approach of the Bush administration, no federal agents with criminal warrants stormed the company’s factories and rounded up employees. Instead, the federal immigration agency sent American Apparel a written notice that it faced civil fines and would have to fire any workers confirmed to be unauthorized.

The treatment of American Apparel, which has more than 5,600 factory employees in Los Angeles alone, is the most prominent demonstration of a new strategy by the Obama administration to curb the employment of illegal immigrants by focusing on employers who hire them — and doing so in a less confrontational manner than in years past.

Unlike the approach of the Bush administration, which brought criminal charges in its final two years against many illegal immigrant workers, the new effort makes broader use of fines and other civil sanctions, federal officials said Thursday.

Federal agents will concentrate on businesses employing large numbers of workers suspected of being illegal immigrants, the officials said, and will reserve tough criminal charges mostly for employers who serially hire illegal immigrants and engage in wage and labor violations.

“These actions underscore our commitment to targeting employers that cultivate illegal work forces by knowingly hiring and exploiting illegal workers,” said Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

On Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE, said it had sent notices announcing audits of hiring records, like the one it conducted at American Apparel, to 652 other companies across the country. Officials said they were picking up the pace of such audits, after performing 503 of them in 2008.

The names of other companies that received notices have not been made public. American Apparel became a window into the new enforcement tactics because, as a publicly traded company, it issued a required notice on Wednesday about the hiring audit.

The Obama administration’s new approach, unveiled in April, seems to be moving away from the raids that advocates for immigrants said had split families, disrupted businesses and traumatized communities. But the outcome will still be difficult for illegal workers, who will lose their jobs and could face deportation, the advocates said.

Immigration officials have not made clear how they intend to deal with workers who are unable to prove their legal immigration status in the course of inspections, but they said there was no moratorium on deportations.

Executives at American Apparel were both relieved and dismayed after receiving the warning from the immigration agency of discrepancies in the hiring documents of about one-third of its Los Angeles work force. The company has 30 days to dispute the agency’s claims and give immigrant employees time to prove that they are authorized to work in the United States, immigration officials said. If they cannot, the company must fire them, probably within two months.

But no criminal charges were lodged against the company and no workers have been arrested, American Apparel executives and immigration officials said.

The fines followed discussions over 18 months between federal officials and American Apparel, after immigration agents first inspected the company’s files in January 2008, said Peter Schey, an immigration lawyer representing the company. Mr. Schey said a raid had been averted because the company cooperated with the audit and because immigration agents had not found any labor abuses.

“There is no evidence of any exploitation of workers or violation of labor laws,” he said. “And there is not a single allegation that the company knowingly hired an undocumented worker.”

American Apparel and its outspoken chief executive, Dov Charney, have waged a campaign, emblazoned on T-shirts sold across the country, criticizing the immigration crackdown of recent years and calling on Congress to “Legalize L.A.” by granting legal status to illegal immigrants.

Most garment workers in American Apparel’s huge shop in Los Angeles work directly for the company, not for subcontractors, its records show. They earn at least $10 to $12 an hour, well above minimum wage, and receive health benefits.

At a news conference last year, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles publicly lauded Mr. Charney for helping the city with its faltering economy by providing “the dream of a steady paycheck and good benefits for countless workers.”

While it has been no secret that American Apparel’s largely Latino work force probably included many illegal immigrants, Mr. Schey said the company had been careful to meet legal hiring requirements. Many illegal immigrants use convincingly forged Social Security cards or other fake documents when seeking work.

In a statement, Mr. Charney said that many of his workers cited by the immigration agency were “responsible, hard-working employees” who had been with the company for more than a decade. Mr. Charney, an immigrant from Canada, said he hoped they would be able to prove their legal status. But because of the recession, the company said, it will not be hurt financially if it has to replace them.

Mr. Schey said the hiring audit at American Apparel had been “professionally done.” By contrast, Mr. Schey has brought more than 100 damage claims against the immigration agency on behalf of American citizens who said they were illegally arrested last year in Los Angeles in an immigration raid at a different company, Micro Solutions Enterprises.

Immigration officials, who asked not to be identified because the case is continuing, said the fines to American Apparel so far were about $150,000.

Kelly A. Nantel, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, said it had taken steps to limit negotiations with employers that in the past had resulted in steep reductions in fines the employers ultimately paid.

Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a California Republican who heads an immigration caucus in the House, said the amount of the fines was crucial.

“If this is a truly conscientious effort to get tough with employers to say the days are over of profiteering with illegal immigrants, that’s fine,” said Mr. Bilbray, who opposes any effort to give legal status to illegal immigrants. “But if the fine will be so low that it’s just part of doing business, there’s no deterrent.”

Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an advocacy group, said she welcomed the end to “showboat enforcement raids.” But in the end, Ms. Salas said, “there is still enforcement of laws that are broken,” adding, “The workers will still lose their jobs.”