San Joaquin Valley

California’s San Joaquin Valley, from Stockton in the north to Arvin in the south, is 234 miles long and 130 miles wide. If you drive there from the Bay Area, in less than an hour the temperature will go from 57 to 97 degrees. It will keep rising. The radio stations are predominantly Spanish.

Measured by yearly production, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the highest-value stretches of farmland in the country, and is dominated by large growers who preside over a labor force of migrant workers in a way that has not changed much since Carey McWilliams described it in his 1939 book, Factories in the Fields. The revenue from all the crops harvested here and elsewhere in California is $47 billion a year, more than double that of Iowa, the next-biggest agricultural state.

When Cesar Chavez started organizing farmworkers in the 1950s, his son said, 12 to 14 percent of field hands “were still Okies and Arkies, the Steinbeck people,” and 8 to 10 percent were African-Americans brought in by cotton planters during the boll weevil infestation in the 1920s. About 12 percent were Filipino, and 55 percent were Mexican, “half of them Mexican nationals, the other half first-generation Americans like my father.”

Today, at least 80 percent of farmworkers are undocumented Mexicans, the majority of them Mixteco and Trique, indigenous people from the states of Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Guerrero—the poorest regions in Mexico—who speak no or very little Spanish, much less English. Most of them have been working the fields for at least a decade, have established families here, and live in terror of la migra, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is called, and instant deportation or imprisonment that would wrench them from their children.

From “In the Valley of Fear” by Michael Greenberg in the New York Review of Books:

Murder rates in Central American countries are declining

More than 7,000 lives were lost to violence in Honduras in 2011, about the same number as in Syria, which had more than twice as many people and was stumbling into civil war. That year Honduras had the highest homicide rate of any country not at war, at 86 per 100,000 people. The number in Mexico, itself extremely violent, was 20.

There are signs that the bloody tide is receding. Homicides are down from their peak in all three countries [Honduras, Guatamala, El Salvador]. This year the murder rate in Honduras will fall to 40 per 100,000 people. El Salvador’s will have fallen by half from 2015, to about 51 per 100,000. And in Guatemala, which has tended to have a lower murder rate than its neighbours, homicides are down by half since 2009, to 26 per 100,000.

In 2016 Honduras, where fewer people trusted the police than anywhere else in Latin America, purged a third of its force. It has built a new training academy and doubled training time for new cops to 12 months.

In 2016 Honduras, where fewer people trusted the police than anywhere else in Latin America, purged a third of its force. It has built a new training academy and doubled training time for new cops to 12 months.

Honduras has also made progress in tackling trans-national drug trafficking. More soldiers have been posted to the Mosquito Coast. A new task force has improved co-ordination between agencies. And a recent willingness to extradite criminals to the United States has put the fear of Uncle Sam into captured goons, who become talkative to avoid American jails. Many big fish have been locked up. The president’s brother, Antonio, was arrested last month in Miami on trafficking charges.

From the Economist Dec 9 2018 issue, ” Calm like a bomb.”

Some Central American counties depend on remittances

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Remittances, mainly from the U.S., are vital to millions of Latin American households, reaching a record $80 billion last year, according to the World Bank. While more than a third of that went to Mexico, the smaller Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the so-called Northern Triangle, rely on remittances even more.

In Honduras and El Salvador, remittances account for nearly one-fifth of economic output, according to the World Bank. Cutting the migrant flow risks further economic deterioration that could spark even more migration, experts say.

Honduran immigrants in the U.S. totaled almost 600,000 in 2017, from 109,000 in 1990, according to the U.N.’s Statistics Division.

In Honduras, where two-thirds of the country’s nine million people live in poverty, about one in four families receive remittances, said Manuel Orozco, a migration expert at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank. Last year, they received on average 16 transfers of $281 each, Mr. Orozco said.

The money transfers soared in 2017 as migrants fearful of deportation sent home more of their savings, according to the World Bank. In El Salvador, remittances rose nearly 10% to $5.1 billion, and in Honduras 12% to $4.3 billion. In Guatemala they rose 14% to $8.5 billion, or 12% of GDP.

Why high skilled immigration is so strong

The overall number of high-skilled migrants to OECD countries increased by 120% from 12 million in 1990 to 27 million in 2010.  Most OECD destination countries show greater skill selection in 2010 than 1990. The immigration policies of many destination countries are becoming increasingly selective (e.g., de Haas et al. 2014). For example, we see that Canada is consistently selective, while the United Kingdom demonstrates the largest increase in selectivity. The United States is a notable exception, along with Italy, Portugal, and New Zealand.

The emigration rates of college-educated individuals are always greater than their lesser-educated compatriots across all countries and at every level of development. Why?

First, high-skilled people are more likely to be endowed with skills that are both in demand and globally transferrable. They are able to obtain job offers in advance of emigrating and clearing migration policy hurdles that favor higher levels of human capital. If they are using other migration channels (such as family preferences or lotteries), they know they will find employment or assimilate more easily upon their arrival. In addition, high-skilled migrants generally integrate into the host societies more easily as they are more likely to have better linguistic and cultural as well as professional knowledge of the destination society.

They have better access to global information sources through their social and professional networks. They can better access financial resources and credit. As a result, they are able to meet the financial costs of migration more easily. The highest skilled emigration rates are observed from middle income countries.

This report shows that 20%-50% of migrants leave within five years of arrival, with some variability by country pair and time period. High-skilled migrants appear more likely to leave than low-skilled migrants. At the very highest skill levels, return rates from the United States become substantially lower.

A migrant is defined as high-skilled if he or she has completed at least one year of tertiary education.

From here.

Demographic transformation of the U.S. workforce

Hispanic and Asian workers are largely responsible for labor force growth especially since the mid 2000s.

The Hispanic share of the labor force will grow from 9.1% in 1994 to 19.8% in 2024. Its numerical growth from 2004 to 2024 will be 69%. Asian share will from 4.2% in 1994 to 6.6% in 2024. Its numerical growth from 2004 to 2024 will be 72%. But the size of the white non-Hispanic labor force will absolutely decline from 2004 to 2024 by 4%. The black labor force will increase from 2004 to 2024 by 25% but by 2024 will be less than half the size of the Hispanic+Asian workforce.

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why Trump is fighting over The Wall

The Wall is smack dab in the center of the movement of voters switching between the two parties in successive Novembers. People who voted for Obama, then Trump, and then voted Democratic in November 2018 are the “switcher” voters today.  A poll reveals that Trump’s Wall is not just aimed at his base, but at the relatively small band of voters who switch.

David Leonard of the NY Times interpreted a poll of switchers this way: “People who voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump are closer to loyal Republicans on immigration and gun control — but much closer to loyal Democrats on health care, jobs and education.”

The poll categorized voters along a spectrum of loyal Democrats to loyal Republicans, with switchers in the middle (those who switched in any direction the past few elections. It asked about building The Wall:

“Our preliminary results suggest that many voters who swung to Democrats in 2018 are to the right on the issue of border security. While straight Democratic voters oppose increasing border security, including “building a fence along part of the US border with Mexico” by a 66-7 margin, Obama-Trump voters who swung Democratic support increased border security by a 63-12 margin, up to a 73-13 margin for Romney-Trump voters who swung Democratic in 2018.”

I assume that Trump understands this dynamic, which is why he has raised building a wall to the level of a national crisis. the switchers want The Wall, by a not overwhelming majority.

Abolishing ICE

Switchers do not want to abolish ICE: “Respondents across the political spectrum opposed abolition of ICE. While loyal Democrats narrowly supported outright abolition of ICE, every other group of voters on net opposed abolition. We note that while abolition of ICE is typically couched with a reminder that border-related crimes in fact remain crimes with or without ICE, and would be pursued as such by traditional law enforcement agencies at the Federal, state, and local levels, here we simply asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of outright abolition. That said, there is not presently widespread political support for abolishing ICE.”

Have immigrant workers stopped reporting work injuries?

I asked Bruce Goldstein, executive director of Farm Worker Justice, if the administration’s actions against immigrants has deterred injured workers from reporting injuries and filing workers’ compensation claims. He responded:

We have been told for many months from sources all over the country that undocumented farmworkers, due to the ramp-up of immigration enforcement and the highly-publicized anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Administration, are living and working in fear of arrest and deportation, and do not want to take any risks of detection by bringing attention to themselves.

To reduce their risk of detection farmworkers often avoid being in public places and raising an issue with their employers about their conditions, even if they are illegal.  The fear of retaliation and deportation has made it difficult for farmworkers to speak with advocates who seek to help them with legal claims unless they have proven to be trustworthy.  Even when they are willing to speak, the workers are usually unwilling to press their claim.

There have been a few publicized undocumented farmworkers who have stepped forward and been quite public about it, but that is rare.  And because many documented farmworkers have family members and friends who are undocumented, the documented workers often are reluctant to step forward to challenge employer conduct for fear of the repercussion on their co-workers.

A Comprehensive immigration policy: Dreamers

A New Center immigration policy about Dreamers:

Dreamers should receive green cards immediately, while those who serve in the military should receive citizenship on an expedited basis. For those who are not in the military, a process needs to be developed to determine their place in the queue alongside other immigrants who wish to receive American citizenship. Assuming an otherwise clean criminal record, misdemeanors should not be a bar to citizenship.

A Comprehensive Immigration Policy: internal immigration law enforcement

A New Center policy on internal immigration law enforcement:

Implement and require a universal E-Verify system that would assist employers in ensuring that they only employ individuals who are authorized to work in the United States. Potential employers have an essential role to play in enforcement. If undocumented immigrants can’t work, many will return home. E-Verify should continuously be improved in order to limit false negatives and false positives. This system should be implemented only after a registration period, during which unauthorized individuals living in the U.S. can apply to become Registered Provisional Immigrants.

Get serious about visa overstays.  A robust and fully funded biometric entry and exit system—which would include regular text and email communications to visa holders from the DHS about departure deadlines—should be implemented immediately. In addition, foreign countries should be incentivized to educate their citizens about U.S. visa requirements.

End the practice of separating children from their families on the border, and stop subjecting families to lengthy detention under any circumstances. Establish a legal mechanism for enforcing higher civil detention standards in ICE detention centers, and allow for more frequent inspections that increase both accountability and transparency. Discontinue the use of private prisons and county jails for immigrant detention, thus reducing the financial corner cutting

that causes deaths, suicides, sexual abuse, and lack of access to medical care. End mandatory detention. Ensure that individuals are not placed in detention centers unless they are deemed a threat to the public or a flight risk.


A Comprehensive Immigration Policy: The Mexican border

A New Center policy on the Mexican border:

Both sides of the immigration debate should be able to agree that it is essential to have a fortified border that allows for the U.S. to reliably and consistently prevent unauthorized entry. On some parts of the border, a wall or fence may make the most sense; on others, private property, mountain ranges, national parks, and reservations make a physical border impractical. Here, emphasis should be placed on electronic surveillance as a better tracking method. This should be coupled with revised legal measures that quicken deportation proceedings in order to deter crossings.

Build physical barriers along the border where they are effective and economical.

Shift towards a focus on technological improvements along the border, such as the implementation of the Integrated Fixed Towers System, which relies on sophisticated cameras, sensors, and radar to detect border crossings.

Renovate infrastructure at land ports of entry and ensure that they are adequately staffed by officers and agents.