Frederick Douglass argues for the Chinese immigrant and “composite nationality”

In a speech in Boston in 1869, Frederick Douglass argued that Chinese should be allowed to immigrate and become citizens. He presented his vision of composite nationality under conditions of “perfect human equality.”

Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 prohibited Chinese labor migration to the United States and barred Chinese residents from obtaining U.S. citizenship. The law was repealed in 1943. (see here.)

From his remarks:

I want a home here not only for the negro, the mulatto and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours. Right wrongs no man. If respect is had to majorities, the fact that only one fifth of the population of the globe is white, the other four fifths are colored, ought to have some weight and influence in disposing of this and similar questions. It would be a sad reflection upon the laws of nature and upon the idea of justice, to say nothing of a common Creator, if four fifths of mankind were deprived of the rights of migration to make room for the one fifth.

The voice of civilization speaks an unmistakable language against the isolation of families, nations and races, and pleads for composite nationality as essential to her triumphs.

Our Republic is itself a strong argument in favor of composite nationality. It is no disparagement to Americans of English descent, to affirm that much of the wealth, leisure, culture, refinement and civilization of the country are due to the arm of the negro and the muscle of the Irishman. Without these and the wealth created by their sturdy toil, English civilization had still lingered this side of the Alleghanies, and the wolf still be howling on their summits.

The grand right of migration and the great wisdom of incorporating foreign elements into our body politic, are founded not upon any genealogical or archeological theory, however learned, but upon the broad fact of a common human nature.

Man is man, the world over. This fact is affirmed and admitted in any effort to deny it. The sentiments we exhibit, whether love or hate, confidence or fear, respect or contempt, will always imply a like humanity.

If our action shall be in accordance with the principles of justice, liberty, and perfect human equality, no eloquence can adequately portray the greatness and grandeur of the future

Trump admin targets temporary skilled foreign workers

The Trump administration issued a “Buy American, hire American” Executive Order with a provision on temporary skilled workers:

“In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Temporary skilled worker H-1B visas (for 3 years, can be extended to 6) are awarded to 85,000 persons a year. There are over 500,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S. Most work in computer jobs. The new visas for this year are awarded by lottery with an April 11 deadline. 199,000 applications were submitted.

Brookings in 2013 said that “Detailed data on H-1B wages by occupation suggests that the H-1B program helps to fill a shortage of workers in STEM occupations.

Job openings harder to fill

“Labor market experts interpret the duration of a job opening as an indicator that qualified candidates are hard to find. Using 2011 job openings data from the Conference Board for the 100 largest metropolitan areas, we find that 43% of job vacancies for STEM occupations with H-1B requests are reposted after one month of advertising, implying that they are unfilled. By contrast 38% of vacancies in non-STEM occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree go unfilled after one month, and just 32% of job postings for all non-STEM occupations.

Visa holders are paid more

“H-1B visa holders earn more than comparable native-born workers. H-1B workers are paid more than U.S. native-born workers with a bachelor’s degree generally ($76,356 versus $67,301 in 2010) and even within the same occupation and industry for workers with similar experience.”

We need an agency to identify occupational shortages.

The failed 2013 immigration reform act included a provision for a Bureau on Immigration and Labor Market Research, which could “collect better information from employers about job openings, including occupations, the number of qualified applicants, the number of interviews conducted, and the length of time it takes to fill the job. Likewise, the bureau should also consider how demand and supply play out in regional or metropolitan area labor markets, since job search and recruitment often happen locally.”

Low wage Mexican immigration on the way down

One of the most dramatic, if not the most dramatic, change in immigration trends in the U.S. in the past ten years has been a very large decline in immigrant young working age Hispanic men, especially Mexicans. These workers flooded into the country, mid 1980s – mid 2000s, as American employers (farming, meat processing, residential construction in particular) hired as many as they could find.

The causes of the decline include what some researcher have noted is a kind of natural law of mass immigration, where over time supply and demand are for decades vibrant and then the market becomes saturated, plus the comparative demographics of the sending and receiving countries change. The birth rate in Mexico has been declining. The variance has lessened between wages for the median wage earner in Mexico and the wages near the bottom of the American job market. The Great Recession killed off the demand for workers in the residential housing market. And border as well as inland immigration law enforcement has toughened.

The Brookings Institution summarized the change as follows:

Over the 1990 to 2007 period, the number of working-age immigrants with 12 or fewer years of schooling more than doubled, rising from 8.5 million to 17.8 million individuals. Since the Great Recession, however, U.S. borders have become a far less active place when it comes to net inflows of low-skilled labor from abroad. The undocumented population declined in absolute terms between 2007 and 2014, falling on net by an annual average of 160,000 individuals, while the overall population of low-skilled immigrants of working age remained stable.



Iraqi Christians learn American civic culture

Washington Post reporter Abigail Hauslohner visited “El Cajon, Calif., a predominantly working-class San Diego suburb with a large and growing Middle Eastern immigrant community, to explore the ever-contentious topic of what it means to be American, in the wake of President Trump’s recent efforts to redefine who belongs in this country and who doesn’t.”

A city of 104,000 just east of San Diego, El Cajon is home to one of the largest Arabic- and Chaldean-speaking populations in the country. Since the 1980s, the city has welcomed Chaldeans, members of Iraq’s Christian minority, who every Sunday pack the pews of three local churches, where services are conducted entirely in their native language.

Amir Bajelori, who arrived in El Cajon 20 years ago, takes a practical approach when he counsels his growing flock of Syrian and Iraqi refugees who pray at the Kurdish Community Islamic Center.

“You can practice your religion here, but some other things that you do at home [in Iraq or Syria] are not allowed here,” he said he told them during a recent sermon, “like raising your voice, putting too many kids in a car, driving without a license.”

Some of the new arrivals are offended to see U.S. women wearing revealing clothing or are upset by the presence of dogs in their apartment buildings, animals often considered unclean by practicing Muslims. But he tells them to deal with it.

“You have to respect them,” Bajelori says; in the United States, people have the right to be different.

One man who immigrated in 1968 “immediately found a job on the assembly line at Chrysler, worked his way out of debt, graduated from college, raised a family and became a successful entrepreneur, now living in El Cajon, where he runs a legal aide service. He votes Republican. For him the essence of America is access to equal rights and free speech — “freedom, stability, feeling comfortable,” he said. The first time he truly felt like an American was in 1974 — the year he became a citizen — when he saw a police officer reprimanded for discrimination after he had complained about mistreatment.

(Articles here and here.)


Camarota’s argument for less immigration


Foreign Affairs just published, “Why the United States Should Look Out for Itself,” by Steven Camarota, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies.

Camarota adds to the one million new green card awards each year another 700,000 new “long term” foreign entries as students or temporary work visa holders. These figures can be compared to the roughly four million new births each year and to the total native born population of about 275 million.

The author’s first critique involves what he sees as a shift from aspirations of assimilation towards acceptance of non-assimilated identity. “Emphasis on assimilation has been replaced with multiculturalism, which holds that there is no single American culture, that immigrants and their descendants should retain their identity, and that the country should accommodate the new arrivals’ culture rather than the other way around.” But how truly prevalent are “race- and ethnicity-conscious measures” today?

Camarota then addresses the disproportionate share of poor households among immigrants compared to native-born persons. “Some 51 percent of immigrant-headed households use the welfare system, compared to 30 percent of native households.” This is largely due to surge in immigrants from Mexico and Central America in the 1990s and early 2000s. They work in farming, low status construction jobs, buildings and grounds maintenance, kitchens, housecleaning, and packing / warehouse jobs. Some of these jobs pay above minimum wage, others do not. Jobs paying minimum wage or somewhat higher today tend to qualify the worker for some public assistance.

He concludes with a 30,000 foot proposal not very different than that of the Jordan Commission from the 1990s: “It could involve legalizing some illegal immigrants in return for tightening policies on who gets to come in. Prioritizing skilled immigration while cutting overall numbers would increase the share of immigrants who are well educated and facilitate assimilation.”

Day laborers who are injured

A Research Brief by the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (UCLA-LOSH) says that “each day, 40,000 individuals seek day labor work at street corners, curbsides, and hiring centers in communities throughout California. The vast majority of these individuals are undocumented male migrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. California accounts for about one-third of the nation’s day labor population

“Day labor is characterized by temporary and informal work arrangements, with payments typically provided in cash. Many day labor assignments are with homeowners or contractors providing services in residential settings. [Other sites are construction or agricultural sites and warehouses.] Studies have indicated that as many as one in five day laborers experience serious work-related injuries each year.”

The researchers conducted 106 interviews: average age was 47, 97% spoke Spanish as their primary language, and three quarters rated their English language abilities as average or poor. Over 60% had more than 5 years of experience as a day laborer.

They reported on 64 day laborers injured during residential work. Only one had all their medical bills paid for by workers’ compensation. Three-quarters lost work time as a result of their injuries. 82% of day laborers were never paid for this lost work time. 10% indicated that their employer paid for some or all lost work time, and only two of 64 respondents said that lost work time was paid by workers’ compensation. These figures conflict with the standard that workers’ compensation is supposed to pay for all medical care and for lost wages of substantially all workers.

Unauthorized dairy workers in Vermont in a time of Trump

Undocumented on the farm: inside the life of a Vermont migrant dairy worker,” by Terry Allen, appeared on Vermont Digger. Here are some nuggets from the best reporting I’ve seen on unauthorized workers at time of the Trump administration.

A thousand- plus dairy workers

Carlos [not his real name] just wanted a job. “It’s hard, hard work,” he says. “But you came to America to make money and go back quick. So you come to Vermont.” At his previous job, construction for a large company in a mid-sized Texas city, the hourly wages were comparable to dairy, but the potential earnings and the cost of living were not. The Vermont jobs include housing with heat and other utilities, isolation that brings fewer spending temptations, and an opportunity to work up to 90 hours a week.

Older Vermonters still remember when, in the 1940s, some 11,000 small, family farms the dotted the land…..The number of farms continues to decline — from 1,030 to 825 just in the last decade.

Nonetheless, milk production is up….What keeps the owners awake at night — besides the vagaries of weather and fluctuating milk prices that sometimes fall below costs — is finding and keeping cheap labor. Most have tried locals, and some have turned to former prisoners. But few stick it out.

It is little wonder that Americans with other options do not last. With two milkings a day, 12 hours apart, farms must be staffed 14 to 16 hours a day. Cows don’t get Christmas off, and neither do dairy workers.

Latino migrants are filling a gap and saving America’s farms. Nationwide, immigrants, many undocumented, comprise 51 per cent of the nation’s dairy industry, according to a 2015 study by Texas A&M University for the National Milk Producers Federation. If these workers were deported, the report concludes, milk prices would rise 90 per cent, and cost the U.S. economy more than $32 billion.

Without “our guests,” as then Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin called migrant farm workers, much of the state’s milk industry would likely dry up. Say goodbye to affordable Cabot cheddar; kiss Vermont-sourced Cherry Garcia sweet adios.

A few times a year, officials from the Mexican consulate in Boston travel to areas with unauthorized Mexican citizens and, after careful screening, provide legal identification papers. The document allows migrants to buy a plane ticket to return to home, to prevent their being mistaken for criminals if picked up by authorities; and, in Vermont and 11 other states plus DC, to obtain a restricted “driving privilege” license.

While the Mexican IDs are useful, they do nothing to change U.S. legal status. And impediments to obtaining lawful visas are nearly insurmountable….Temporary H-2A agricultural visas last for months and are only for strictly seasonal jobs like planting and picking crops.

Recently Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents targeted and detained the three prominent activists with Migrant Justice, a Burlington-based group advocating for dairy workers’ rights. The detentions were denounced in public demonstrations and a sharp letter from the state’s congressional delegation and Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Support for the migrants is not universal among Vermonters. Some workers at the Department of Motor Vehicles contacted authorities to drop the dime on people with “South of the Border” names who applied for the special driver’s licenses, according to emails obtained through a public records request by Migrant Justice, a local farmworker advocacy group.

Six Million Children of unauthorized parents

“Millions of Children, Citizens Impacted by U.S. Immigration Enforcement,” by Tory Johnson (April 3, 2017) reports that:

“More than 16 million people in the United States live with at least one undocumented family member, often a parent, who may be targeted for deportation. More than eight million of these residents are citizens. And the majority of them—almost 6 million—are children under the age of 18.

“ICE issued more than 200,000 deportations for parents with citizen children between 2010 and 2012, according to the most recent government data available. In 2011, an estimated 5,000 U.S. citizen children with a detained or deported parent were in foster care.

“While there are some policies in place designed to protect parental rights, such as ICE’s 2013 Parental Interests Directive, significant issues persist and it can be incredibly difficult for a parent to reunite or regain custody of a child following detention or deportation. There is also a risk that under the new administration the policy could be changed, rescinded, or violated.”

Students and U.S. births

Pew Research estimates about 3.9 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students in U.S. public and private schools in 2014 – or 7.3% of the total – were children of unauthorized immigrants….an increase since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, when such students numbered 3.6 million and accounted for 6.6% of the total.

U.S.-born children made up 81% of all children of unauthorized immigrants enrolled in grades K-12 in 2014.


Foreign healthcare workers in the U.S. – one out of six

The size of this workforce is neatly described here, with comments about the impact of Trump – driven lowering of immigration flows. the Migration Policy Institute also as a brief on foreign health professionals.  27% of all doctors are foreign born. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the size of the foreign born healthcare workforce increased from 1.5 million to 1.8 million.

Do high skilled immigration policies work? – Yes

Bottom line, increasing the high skilled work force through immigration works well, and better when a points system, without regard to job matching, is used rather than a system of finding labor shortages and matching workers with jobs.

From “The Gravity of High-Skilled Migration Policies,” by Mathias Czaika1 & Christopher R. Parsons, in Geography (2017) 54:603–630

To the best of our knowledge, this article provides the first test of the efficacy of policies targeting high-skilled migrants in a comparative cross-country setting.

By 2015, approximately 44 % of the 172 United Nations member states declared an explicit interest in increasing their numbers of high-skilled migrants….for spurring technological progress, raising productivity, and fostering economic growth. These changing policy objectives have been accompanied by a large rise in high-skilled migration. Between the last two census rounds, in 2000/2001 and 2010/2011, OECD countries witnessed an unprecedented 70 % rise in the number of tertiary-educated migrants to 35 million. …. the effectiveness of such policies remains contested.

The key result of this study is that supply-side policies—for example, points-based systems (PBS)—are much more effective in attracting and selecting high-skilled migrants than are demand-led policies, including job offer systems, labor market tests, and shortage lists.

Importantly, we adopt two measures of skill. The first, which we refer to as high skilled, includes all those in the first three major groups of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) 2008: (1) managers, senior officials, and legislators;(2) professionals; and (3) technicians and associate professionals…. Our data capture, on average, more than 700,000 skilled migrants per year from 185 origins who reside in 10 OECD destinations


Even though all 10 destination countries are highly developed, an increase in high-skilled wages of 10 % is associated with an increase in high-skilled immigration flows of between 7 % and 11 %. [i.e. high skilled immigrants are associated with rising, not falling, wages.]

Bilateral agreements aimed at recognizing foreign qualifications are associated with an increase in the number of high skilled migrants by 30 % to 60 %.

UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia use a points based system. [Other countries govern immigration by setting demand goals. This is the case with the U.S.]

Two of the three demand-driven instruments—the need to obtain a job offer, and shortage lists—significantly deter the absolute inflow of high-skilled migrants. Countries requiring a job offer recruit almost one-half as many high-skilled migrants. Labor market tests, however, have no influence on high-skilled migration flows in the baseline models. Shortage lists, which are even more rigid in preselecting high-skilled migrants, seem to represent an additional barrier for recruiting high-skilled migrants in large numbers.

Our main result is that Point Based Systems [PBSs] appear to represent the most effective policy for attracting high-skilled migrants. Major PBS countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom) attract, on average, 1.5 times the number of high-skilled migrants when compared with countries that adopt alternative policy tools.

The provision of permanency rights is also an important incentive for high-skilled migrants. Countries providing a road to permanency attract, on average, double the number of high-skilled migrants in comparison with those that do not.

PBSs again prove the most effective in improving the incoming distribution of skills at destination. PBSs assess skill profiles and filter labor migrants according to perceived long-term skill requirements and therefore are effective instruments not only for recruiting relatively large numbers of high-skilled migrants but also for shifting the skill composition in favor of the highly skilled