Senator Jeff Sessions on immigration

Senator Jeff Sessions wrote in Washington Post on April 9, 2015:

What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.

But high immigration rates help the financial elite (and the political elite who receive their contributions) by keeping wages down and profits up. For them, what’s not to like? That is why they have tried to enforce silence in the face of public desire for immigration reductions. They have sought to intimidate good and decent Americans into avoiding honest discussion of how uncontrolled immigration impacts their lives.

Senator Sessions published a “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority” in January, 2015.

The last large-scale flow of legal immigration (from approximately 1880–1920) was followed by a sustained slowdown that allowed wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and the middle class to emerge. (page 3) The labor market tightened substantially as a result of policy changes, boosting wages for both the native-born and the millions of immigrants who had arrived previously—helping the great American middle class to emerge. (page 10)

The GOP should focus on discrete, targeted enforcement measures designed to have an outsize effect on reducing illegality, empowering immigration officers, restoring enforcement, and putting a stop to catch-and-release.

 Mandatory E-Verify to protect American jobs and wages
 Ending tax credit and welfare payments to illegal immigrants
 Closing asylum and refugee loopholes
 Cancelling federal funds to sanctuary cities
 Empowering local officials to coordinate with ICE officers
 Establishing criminal penalties for visa overstays
 Ending catch-and-release on the border with mandatory detention and expedited deportations
 Suspension of visas to countries with high overstay rates or those that won’t repatriate criminal aliens
 Mandating completion of the exit-entry system (page 8)

Here are the findings from a poll of likely U.S. voters commissioned by GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway:

 77% of respondents said jobs should go to current U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants already in the country—instead of bringing in new workers to fill those jobs
 Three in four respondents wished to see substantial immigration cuts. (page 16)

Every Member of Congress should read the incredibly important USA Today op-ed penned by five of the nation’s most esteemed academics who specialize in labor markets and guest workers. Excerpts from the op-ed follow:

“Legislation that expanded visas for IT personnel during the 1990s has kept average wages flat over the past 16 years. Indeed, guest workers have become the predominant source of new hires in these fields. Those supporting even greater expansion seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of American high-tech workers who are being shortchanged — by wages stuck at 1998 levels, by diminished career prospects and by repeated rounds of layoffs.” “Bill Gates’ Tech Worker Fantasy,” July 27, 2014.

Melons, pickles and post-Bracero employer response

The Bracero program, which lasted from 1951 through until 1965 (Public Law 78), was the last large-scale low-skilled guest worker program in the United States. (The program grew out of an earlier seasonal migrant program initiated in 1942.) The program has been well researched, including worker exploitation and conflicts between workers and employers.

Its elimination led some economists to see what happened to employment, wages and production. Donald Wise did his doctoral work in economics on the agricultural industry in California. He looked at winter melons and strawberries, two crops that required a lot of stooping and at least at that time, did not have a readily available technology to take over from humans. He estimated that production was cut back, wages increased, and more native born workers were employed. Specifically, he estimated that for winter melons, acreage used declined by 26%, production declined by 23%, wages increased by 67%, and there was a 2.5 times increase in domestic employment while total employment declined by 22%. Prices rose by 6%.

J.D. Mason looked at the impact of the termination of the Bracero program on seasonal agricultural work in Michigan for the pickle industry. He found that after a drop in acreage in 1965 and 1966 the increased use of the mechanical pickle harvester increased acreage for cucumbers for pickle production in 1967.

This posting relates how a large increase in labor costs translates into a much smaller increase in prices.

Sources: Wise, the effect of the bracero on agricultural production in California (1970?). Mason, The aftermath of the Bracero: a study of the economic input of the agricultural hired labour market of Michigan from the termination of Public Law 78 (1970).

State of ICE – local law enforcement collaboration

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center published an analysis of local (county) collaboration on immigration enforcement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It writes: “The Trump administration will be inheriting a well-oiled deportation and detention machine. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operates the largest police force in the nation and has a budget that is $4 billion more than all of the other federal law enforcement agencies combined.

Over the past ten years, the increased  involvement of city and county law enforcement in the deportation business – at the urging of DHS and particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – has played a central role in the record-breaking volume of deportations we see today. It is because of this assistance from local law enforcement that the Obama administration gained the capacity to detain and deport so many people. That massive infrastructure will now be led by an administration with an even more ambitious nativist agenda.”

Here is its summary, by county:

Of the 2,556 counties looked at, only 25 had 287(g) agreements and 147 had ICE detention contracts (also called Intergovernmental Service Agreements or IGSAs). These numbers show that only a small proportion of counties have a formal or contractual relationship with ICE. However, when we looked at the data for policies and stated practices in other forms of assistance, the numbers paint a very different and concerning picture.

1,922 counties, or 75% of counties, will hold immigrants on detainers, willingly violating these individuals’ 4th Amendment rights. Only 635 counties, or 25% of counties, do not hold on detainers.

Even more counties, 2,414 in total, take it upon themselves to notify ICE when immigrants will be released from custody, while 142 counties have a policy against that practice.

In 2,484 counties, there are no limitations on what ICE can do in the jails, whereas just 72 counties place some sort of restriction or procedural protections on ICE’s access to detainees.

2,331 counties allow local law enforcement to inquire into an individual’s immigration status, with only 25 counties banning that inquiry.

And finally in 2,503 counties, county employees are able to use local resources to assist ICE in their federal immigration enforcement responsibilities. Only 53 counties prohibit that practice.

Why do people immigrate to the U.S.?

Feifei Wang’s answer to this question was posted on Quora. She answers the question as some one who came from China. Feifei has her own blog on Quora.

I’m a Chinese American, my family and I immigrated to the US some 10 years ago, and became citizen a few years later.

Here are the reasons we decided to move to the US. I imagine these probably apply to many Chinese Americans as well:

Overall superior basic living conditions, which include: better air quality, cleaner water, greener cities and suburbs, better roads and bridges (they don’t collapse)… You can’t buy these things in China, no matter how rich you are, you breathe the same polluted air like everyone else.

No poisoned food. Food safety is a huge problem in China. From street food to milk to restaurant food, you’re never sure if it’s safe. There’s a famous joke saying “You can’t honestly say you’re a Chinese unless you’ve eaten everything on the periodic table”. While in the US, the most you have to worry about are probably bad sushi and Monsanto.

Better, less exam-focused primary education system. This is probably one of the most important reasons many Chinese families try to move to the US. The elementary and middle schools in China are brutal. It’s heavily exam-driven, and it’s really not good for overall development of the child. There’s a lot of memorizing, a lot of test preparation. The last 3 years of high school is just a 3 year long exam preparation class for the university entrance exam. There’s no way to escape it, and many parents don’t want their children to be limited like that. Especially with the “one family, one child” policy. A lot of people tried to send their kids here to attend middle/high schools even if they themselves can not come over.

Better universities with more freedom. China has some pretty good universities, like Peking University and Tsinghua University. However, unless you did well in that once-in-a-lifetime university entrance exam, you won’t have other opportunities. US universities offers a lot more freedom, you can transfer departments, or even universities. You can improve your GPA and go to a better university midway. This is a huge plus compared to the rigid Chinese universities.

Better grad schools. The reason I separate grad school and 4 year college is because it attracts different people. Going to US grad school is still the most accessible method to go to the US. It is very hard for a Chinese to apply for a US visa, and getting an F1 (Student Visa) through grad school is the cheapest way. And Chinese grad schools suffer from corruption like other Chinese organizations. Students don’t feel that they can do anything in grad school other than being the slave labor for their advisers. I guess US grad schools also have similar problems, but it’s a lot better.

Overall better social welfare system, especially if you can get green card or become a citizen. You can actually buy land and house (Chinese government only allows people to buy the use rights of a land, you don’t own the land or the house). If you rent, the landlord can drive you off anytime he/she wants (yeah… renting law in China sucks, reason why people want to own their own home). Better health care, better unemployment insurances, better domestic violence support, less corrupted justice system… overall, safer, easier to live in the US.

More freedom. This is a personal experience, but since I’m lucky that I entered the US with a green card, so it may not be true to people who struggle with their visa. I think I have a lot more options to do what I want to do with my life. And the general ideology is that you can do whatever you want, be whoever you want, as long as you work hard and don’t give up. I’ll say regular Americans have a better chance working towards their dream and succeed than regular Chinese people.

Now I sound like a total traitor, praising America over the motherland. US is not perfect, if it’s up to me, I’d live in one of those welfare states. But I really like being an American.

Summary of the immigration commission created by President Carter

In the late 1970s through early 1980s, the United States was hit with arrival of 160,000 Indochinese, 20,000 Russian Jews, and 130,000 Cuban and Haitian “boat people.” Annual permanent visas other than for refugees rose from around 200,000 in the 1960s, to somewhat above 400,000 a year. About 200,000 net unauthorized migrants per year arrived in the 1970s. With the oil crisis and inflation, public concern about immigration spiked.

President Carter convened a Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1979. Its final report was issued in March,1981.

The Commission recommended “Closing the back door to undocumented – illegal immigration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of the country, defining our immigration goals clearly and providing a structure to implement them effectively, and setting forth procedures which will lead to fair and efficient adjudication and administration of U.S. immigration laws.”

Specific recommendations included:

1. Employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers.
2.Legalization of unauthorized persons.
3.Numerical ceiling of 300,000 (plus those not subject to this ceiling).
4.“Independent immigrants” (i.e. not family reunification). The Commission agreed that “specific labor market criteria” be used. but was divided on how restrictive. No mention of attracting immigrants based on work skills.

In 1980 there were 14.1 million immigrants in the U.S. The demographer for the Commission forecasted that if net migration including illegals kept at at 500,000, the population in 2080 would be 270 million. Our total population today is about 320 million, one quarter of whom are first or second generation immigrants.  As it turned out, the immigrant population rose since 1980 by an average of 800,000 – plus through 2015. The fertility rate of immigrants has been 50% higher than of the total population. Immigrants now number 43 million.

Senator Cotton on immigration

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote a New York Times op-ed column on December 28 which can be broken down into a few policy prescriptions. His basic message is to call for “a large reduction in legal immigration and a reorientation toward ultra-high-skill immigrants.”

The pitch: economic gains to American workers.

He writes that “Higher wages, better benefits and more security for American workers are features, not bugs, of sound immigration reform.”

Increase the share of green cards awarded on the basis of work skills.

The United States awards permanent residency (green cards) far more on the basis of family re-unification than 22 other countries. (I am drawing on a study by Douglas Holtz-Eakin of April 2013.) Among these countries, only six commit at least 25% of permanent residency awards on the basis of work. For the other immigrant-friendly countries, work-based permanent residency awards are about 22% (Australia), 23% (New Zealand) and 26% (Canada). The share for the U.S. is about 5%, per Holtz-Eakin’s analysis.

Reduce low skilled immigration

Cotton appears to view that low skilled immigration arises from family reunification awards and illegal immigration. He implies that employers who want cheap labor are the chief advocates for low skilled immigration. This includes corporate agriculture. He also says that “professionals get cheaper personal services like housekeeping” thanks to low skilled immigration.

Reduce total immigration

Cotton does not set a target figure for permanent awards, but he does imply that one million a year is way too many.