Muslims in America: why so little terrorism?

President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said that it’s appropriate to consider restrictions on immigration by people identified as Muslims. The Muslim population in Western Europe is the source of acts of terror. In the United States, there are very few domestic acts of terror committed by Muslims. Terrorist movements might be called an extreme and the most violent expression of ethnic animosity; it’s a failure to integrate.

Self-identified Muslim immigrants practice their religion at a far higher rate (68%) than do Christian immigrants (27%). According to a Pew survey, religion remains important past the first generation. About three out of five first and second generation perform the daily prayer (Salah). Thirty percent Muslim women always wear a head cover or hijab when out in public. This might suggest a high level of cultural isolation.

But foreign-born Muslims in America are highly likely to become citizens — some 80% — when they are eligible to do so. Among eligible Mexican immigrants, the rate is about one third.

Richard Alba and Nancy Foner, authors of the 2015 book Strangers No More, came across four reasons why there is so little terrorist risk in this population. First, they note that the Muslim population in the United States is tiny compared to Europe. They are 1% of the American population, compared to 11% in France (these include foreign-born and native-born.)

Also, unlike in Europe, the Muslim population here is well educated and middle class. The Muslim foreign-born also are highly educated, with over 30% completing college, a higher rate than native-born Americans. Their household incomes on average match the general public.

Third, even as deToqueville noted in the early 19th Century, American culture is much less secular than is European culture. Public expression of belief in God and religious practices are much more common here. And fourth, the right to express one’s faith without encumbrance from government is a fundamental part of the Constitution.

These observations found in The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, By National Academies Press, pp 323-324 , available here

820,000 illegal criminals instead of Trump’s 2 million

Trump has pledged a greater focus on removal of unauthorized immigrants with criminal records. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 820,000 illegal residents [out of 11 million] that are deportable for criminal convictions. There are another million of legal non-citizen residents [out of about 33 million] subject to deportation for criminal convictions. Trump tends to group these together as all illegals.

Large-scale enforcement requires close coordination between local police enforcement and DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Much higher rates of deportation will require substantially greater federal funding, including more courts, but the biggest constraint is local law enforcement (not political) ambivalence about demands on police and corrections resources and an inherent conflict with community policing goals. This does mean that it can’t be done.


Drawing upon MPI’s analysis of the 3.7 million deportations that occurred between fiscal years (FY) 2003 and 2013, which looked at the most serious criminal conviction for deportees, we further estimated who among the 820,000 unauthorized immigrants convicted of a crime would be priorities for removal under current DHS policy. We determined that 300,000 of these likely have a felony conviction and another 390,000 are serious misdemeanants.

[Generally speaking, felonies involve incarceration for more than one year. Typical misdemeanors include petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, reckless driving, discharging a firearm within city limits, possession of cannabis.]

These 820,000 unauthorized immigrants are a subset of the 1.9 million noncitizens identified by DHS [in 2012] as removable criminal aliens, in other words noncitizens identified for deportation from the United States based on a criminal conviction.
A very substantial portion of these 1.9 million noncitizens are people lawfully present in the United States who have become deportable as the result of a disqualifying crime.


The immigration enforcement system has already been recalibrated in recent years to focus on criminals. Convicted criminals accounted for 59% of 235,000 removals in FY 2015. [Deportations have been about 370,000 on average under the Obama administration. Most were criminals.]

Secure Communities, launched in 2008, used fingerprint data to check the immigration status of all arrestees and issue detainers to local law enforcement agencies to hold individuals for ICE to take into custody.

In response to a significant backlash from communities across the United States, the Obama administration in July 2015 replaced Secure Communities with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), intended to be tailored to the priorities of local jurisdictions. PEP limits ICE issuance of detainers to local law enforcement agencies only for noncitizens who have been convicted of a crime or represent a public-safety risk, consistent with the priorities of the local jurisdiction.

DHS is funded to identify, detain, and deport about 400,000 unauthorized immigrants annually. The current administration largely met that number in FY 2009-12 before tailoring its prosecutorial discretion guidelines to focus more fully on criminals and other public-safety threats, recent border crossers, and people with outstanding deportation orders.

The Trump campaign has said that it will restore Secure Communities, which allowed ICE to ask all local law enforcement agencies to hold for removal any noncitizens who were deportable, whether convicted or not.

State restrictions on immigration: a surprising finding

A study published on November 3 assesses whether state-level laws enacted between 2005 and 2010 that seek to crack down on illegal immigration have deterred immigrants, both unauthorized and authorized, from residing in those states.

(By Bárbara Gómez-Aguiñaga,Stepping into the Vacuum: State and Cities Act on Immigration, But Do Restrictions Work? published by the Migration Policy Institute.)

from the study:

Slightly more than 3,000 immigration-related laws and resolutions were enacted by states between 2005 and 2015. Of the 868 policies between 2005 and 2010, 441 were classified as restrictive with an additional 423 as immigrant-friendly, and four as neutral.

….Restrictive state immigration laws do not have a statistically significant correlation with the percentage change of the unauthorized immigrant population or the overall immigrant population. However, the economic variable measured—median household income—had a positive and significant correlation with the percentage change of both the overall immigrant population and the unauthorized immigrant population alone.

The results indicate that an increase of 1 percentage point in the median household income of a state is correlated with a 0.739 percent increase in the overall immigrant population of a given state and a 1.699 percent increase in the unauthorized immigrant population. On a larger scale, the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in the median household income of a state would correspond to a 7.39 percent increase in the overall immigrant population and a 16. 99 percent increase in the unauthorized immigrant population.

Economic conditions themselves, rather than the restrictive immigration-related legislation that arose during this period, are the main predictor for changes in the immigrant population of individual states, even after the end of the recession.

Trump on 60 Minutes about deportation

The NY Times on Trump’s interview on 60 Minutes today:

“On immigration, he said the wall that he has been promising to build on the nation’s southern border might end up being a fence in places. But he said his priority was to deport two million to three million immigrants he characterized as dangerous or as having criminal records, a change from his original position that he would deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. President Obama has deported more than two million undocumented immigrants during his time in office.”

I reported on September 19 that “enforcement is so high that there is a backlog of a half million cases at immigration courts.”

On September I wrote that Trump is overestimating by ten times the number of criminal unauthorized foreign residents.

ICE reported on for Fiscal Year 2015:

“In FY 2015, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals. Of this total, 165,935 were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States. The remaining 69,478 were apprehended in the interior of the United States and the vast majority were convicted criminals who fell within ICE’s civil immigration enforcement priorities.”

ICE cannot expand deportation, especially for criminals, without partnering with local law enforcement. The report goes on to describe lack of total success in partnering:

“A significant factor impacting removal operations has been the number of state and local law enforcement jurisdictions limiting or declining cooperation with ICE. When law enforcement agencies decline to transfer custody of removable convicted criminals and public safety threats to ICE, the agency must expend additional resources to locate and arrest these individuals at-large…..

To address this problem, on November 20, 2014, Secretary Johnson announced the creation of the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) as part of the President’s immigration accountability executive action…. PEP improves the process of transferring those most dangerous from state and local custody by enabling ICE to take custody of priority individuals without damaging trust with local communities….

The agency’s Field Office Directors have briefed the program to over 2,000 law enforcement jurisdictions. Of note, 16 of the top 25 jurisdictions with the largest number of previously declined detainers are now participating in PEP, representing 47 percent of previously declined detainers. Most law enforcement agencies are now cooperating via PEP.”

The Hispanic vote on November 8

Pew Research estimates an increase since 2012 of 4 million Hispanics eligible to vote, or 17%, rising to 27.3 million. Between 2008 and 2012 Hispanic voters increased by15%. Among some top contested states, Hispanics comprise 18.1% of eligible voters in Florida; 172.% in Nevada; and 14.5% in Colorado.  (Also, go here.)

The electoral impact of the Hispanic community in America, about 57 million or 18% of the total population, is less per person because of demographics of eligibility and a lower voter turnout rates. The relative youthfulness (fewer voters) of recently newly eligible Hispanic voters suggests this lagging pattern will continue on November 8.

Were the Hispanic population to match the white population in eligibility and voting behavior, there would be 29 million Hispanic voters on November instead of a projected 13.1 million, a more than doubling. Thus, one could say that one Hispanic resident equals about 45% of a non-Hispanic white resident at the polling booth.

Demographically, due to a higher portion of children and the non-citizen status, the Hispanic population has less engagement with voting. Pew says, “Latinos tend to “punch below their weight” in elections because more than half (52%) of the national Latino population is either too young to vote or does not hold U.S. citizenship. By comparison, just 20% of the nation’s white population is not eligible to vote for the same reasons, as is 28% of the black population and 44% of the Asian population.”

Eligible Hispanics voters are younger than other eligible voters – 44% or millennials (born since the early 1980s) compared with 27% of white eligibles. In addition to these 3.2 million newly eligible millennials are 1.2 million older Hispanics immigrants who took out citizenship since 2012 and 130,000 Porto Ricans who since 2012 have migrated to Florida.

An estimated 11.2 million Hispanics voted in 2012, a voting rate of 48%. With the same voting rate, 13.1 million will vote on November 8.

The voting rate among Latinos is lowest among millennials and those primarily speaking Spanish. For all eligible American voters, the voting rate was 61.8% in 2012; for Hispanics, 48%; and among Hispanic millennials, 37.8%.

Births by undocumented mothers decline

From Pew Research:

About 275,000 babies were born to unauthorized-immigrant parents in 2014, or about 7% of the 4 million births in the U.S. that year, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on government data. This represented a decline from 330,000 in 2009, at the end of the Great Recession.

Births to unauthorized immigrants accounted for about one-in-three births (32%) to foreign-born mothers in the U.S. in 2014, according to the estimates.

The decrease in births to unauthorized immigrants from 2009 to 2014 contrasts with the trend for the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population overall, which has stabilized. The number of births and the total population both generally rose through the 1990s and 2000s, peaked in 2006 (births) or 2007 (population), and then declined as the recession of 2007-2009 lingered.

Number of babies born to unauthorized immigrants in U.S. continued to decline in 2014

Foreign-born workers, from HS drop-outs to CEOs

Here is a profile of foreign worker employment in America, from high school drop outs to chief executives, using 2010-11 American Community Survey data:

For the 100 largest occupations (two-thirds of American civilian employment), about 15% are foreign born workers.

41% of these foreign-born workers hold jobs not requiring a high school diploma. The largest foreign-born workforces in this category are maids and housecleaners, cooks, janitors and building cleaners, and cashier. These non high school grads earn 23% of all foreign-born worker income in the top 100 jobs.

37% hold jobs requiring a high school degree or a certificate in addition to a high school degree. The most popular jobs are first line retail supervisors, production workers, assemblers, carpenters, health aides, and secretaries and administrative assistants. They earn 33% of all foreign-born worker income.

Jobs for four-year college graduates make up 18% of the foreign-born workforce and account for 34% of foreign worker income. The largest work forces are nursing, accounting, elementary and middle school teaching, and software developers.

Jobs for advanced degree holders account for 3% of the foreign born workforce and 11% of the foreign-born worker income. This workforce is largely made up by medical doctors, other highly trained medical personnel, and college teachers.

High income foreign workers are concentrated in three classes of occupations:

Computer-related jobs account for 3% of foreign workers in the top 100 jobs, and 7% of foreign worker income. Foreign works make up 25% of the 2.5 million computer-related workers.

Healthcare-related jobs, ranging from personal care aides to doctors, account for 9% of foreign workers in the top 100 jobs, and 14% of foreign worker income. Foreign workers make up 19% of the 10 million workers.  A quarter of a million foreign-born doctors, more than a quarter of all practicing physicians, account for 6% of total foreign born worker income in the top 100 jobs.

Averaging $170,000 in income, chief executives account for one tenth of one percent of foreign workers for the top 100 jobs but 3% of their income.

Education         % of workers          % of income
Less than HS              41%                         23%
HS                             37%                          33%
BA                             18%                          34%
Higher degree             3%                          11%

Gradations of farm workers by national origin and ethnicity

The National Agricultural Workers Survey for 2008–2012 was used to compare characteristics associated with adverse health and safety conditions among US-born and Mexican and Central American-born Latino and Indigenous, documented and undocumented farmworkers, separately for males and females. US-born farmworkers had more secure work, worked less onerous tasks, and earned more per hour than other categories of farmworkers. Undocumented Indigenous workers had more precarious work, worked more onerous tasks, and were more likely to do piece work, than undocumented Latino workers.

In 2012, of 1,063,000 hired farmworkers, 563,000 (53%) were in year round positions,199,000 (19%) were in part-year positions (seasonal), and an estimated 288,000 (27%) were brought to farms by contractors. The majority (78%) of hired farmworkers in the United States were born outside of the United States, principally Mexico.

Of those surveyed, 81% were male, 78% were born in either Mexico or Central America and 51% were working in the United States without legal authorization. Indigenous workers comprise 9% and of those 74% were undocumented. Of all foreign-born workers 92% were born in Mexico and six percent in Central America. Of US-born workers more than 80% reported US ancestry and 15% reported Mexican ancestry.

In general, male US-born farmworkers did semi-skilled tasks and field work in field crops in the Midwest, Southeast and East, and were employed year round. Documented Latino’s did semi-skilled tasks and field work in fruit and nut crops in California and were more likely to be employed seasonally and to have worked for their employer longer than US-born males. Fewer undocumented Latino males and Indigenous males did semi-skilled tasks and undocumented workers worked fewer years for their current employer than US-born males. Documented Latino’s tended to work more hours per week than other workers.

US-born farmworkers were more likely to be paid a salary compared with the other groups and undocumented Latino and Indigenous workers were less likely to receive an employer bonus, and more likely to have a family income below the poverty level compared with US-born workers. If paid by the hour, undocumented workers earned less per hour than their US-born counterparts. This association remained for undocumented workers after adjusting for number of years of farm work, number of years worked for current employer, English speaking and reading ability, region, crop, task, and work type.

On several measures, particularly earnings and access to injury compensation and health insurance, undocumented Indigenous workers fared worse than undocumented Latino workers. In addition, undocumented Indigenous workers had more precarious work, worked more onerous tasks, and were more likely to do piece work, than undocumented Latino workers.

We found a gradient in health insurance ownership that was highest among US-born workers, middling amongst Latino documented workers, and lowest among undocumented Indigenous workers. Likewise ,knowledge of and access to workers’ compensation was lower among undocumented workers. Other research has shown that undocumented farmworkers in California were less likely to have health insurance or receive workers compensation or to have knowledge of worker’s compensation than were documented workers

Source: Alison Reid, PhD and Marc B. Schenker, MPH. Hired Farmworkers in the US: Demographics, Work Organisation, and Services. Am J Ind Med. 2016 Aug;59(8):644-55. Also, Martin P. 2014. Farm Labor and Immigration: Outlook for 2015.University of California.McCurdy SA, Samuels SJ, Carroll DJ, Beaumont JJ, Morrin LA. 2003.Agricultural injury in California migrant Hispanic farm workers. Am J Ind Med 44(3):225–235.

The global flow of top talent today

It’s highly concentrated in terms of destination, makes a big impact at the destinations (such as Silicon Valley) and has a large circular component. From the study published in October 2016:

The global distribution of talent is highly skewed and the resources available to countries to develop and utilize their best and brightest vary substantially. The migration of skilled workers across countries tilts the deck even further. ….

We begin by sketching the landscape of global talent mobility. The number of migrants with a tertiary degree rose nearly 130 percent from 1990 to 2010, while low skilled (primary educated) migrants increased by only 40 percent during that time. A pattern is emerging in which these high-skilled migrants are departing from a broader range of countries and heading to a narrower range of countries—in particular, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The globalization of economic ties is also leading to a rise in shorter-term and circular migration patterns for skilled labor; for example, global companies often insist that their rising executives live and work in other countries for a meaningful portion of their careers. We also give examples showing how global migration may be most pronounced for those at the very outer tail of the talent distribution and that female high-skilled migration outnumbered males in 2010.

Even among OECD destinations, the distribution of talent remains skewed. Four Anglo-Saxon countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia—constitute the destination for nearly 70 percent of high-skilled migrants (to the OECD) in 2010. The United States alone has historically hosted close to half of all high-skilled migrants to the OECD and one-third of high-skilled migrants worldwide. In 2010, the United States hosted 11.4 million skilled migrants, 41 percent of the OECD total.

For recipient countries, high-skilled immigration is often linked to clusters of technology and knowledge production that are certainly important for local economies and are plausibly important at the national level. More than half of the high-skilled technology workers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are foreign-born. For native workers, high-skilled immigration means both greater competition for certain jobs, but also a chance to benefit from the complementarities and agglomeration effects created by talent clusters. For sending countries, the loss of high-skilled workers raises concerns over “brain drain.”On the positive side, high-skilled emigrants can create badly needed connections to global sources of knowledge, capital, and goods—and some will eventually return home with higher social and human capital levels.


Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, Çaǧlar Özden and Christopher Parsons. Global Talent Flows, Working Paper 22715. NBER, October 2016

A brief analysis of the new NAS report on immigration economics

Tom Edsall of the New York Times wrote a column today which nicely summarizes the 500 page report issued last week, “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration,” by the National Academies of Science. He include this quote to show that the report is decisively positive about the economic consequences of immigration:

“Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging work force and reduced consumption by older residents. In addition, the infusion of human capital by high-skilled immigrants has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change.”