Republican initiative to boost skilled immigration

What about boosting skilled worker immigration?

Two immigration lawyers write, “In stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s xenophobic wish-list is the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2018, introduced by two Republican Senators, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bill does not address Dreamers, but rather focuses on employment-based visas. Although imperfect, the bill serves as a proper starting point when discussing sensible immigration policy. Specifically, the bill acknowledges the utility and benefit of foreign skilled workers, especially in the IT field.

“Hatch and Flake have both realized that these workers not only benefit US industries, but also help create jobs for American workers. In a global economy, all forms of capital, including intellectual capital, flow to their optimum destinations according to the laws of supply and demand. We can, if we think and act anew, transform immigration policy from an endless source of controversy to a flexible weapon in our economic arsenal so that everyone profits. I-Squared does provide the opening salvo.”

Polling results support compromise deal in midst of agreements, disputes

A Harvard-Harris poll on January 17-19 of 980 registered voters found a rare high degree of consistent support for an immigration package being proposed by the White House.

Voters were asked, “Would you favor or oppose a congressional deal that gives undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents work permits and a path to citizenship in exchange for increasing merit preference over preference for relatives, eliminating the diversity visa lottery, and funding barrier security on the U.S.-Mexico border?”

Every category of political leaning and demographics said it would support the deal by a majority of between 60% and 75%. Liberals like it by 63%; conservatives, by 68%.

When asked, not about a deal, but about specific features, 77% said yes to Dreamer access to citizenship. Even conservatives agreed by 64%.

As for giving more weight to education and skills, 79% said yes, with Republicans at 87% and Democrats at 72%

However, there is wide disagreement about the preferred number of permanent immigrants per year. The respondents were not told the current rate of about one million. Conservatives want a level of well less than 500,000, even below 250,000, while liberals want between 500,000 and million. College educated persons and those earning $75K or more tend to be more open.

The lottery system is unpopular by 32% in favor, 68% opposed.

16% of Republicans think that border security is adequate, compared to 60% of Democrats.

Deal on immigration reform?

Ross Douthat in the NY Times points to possible negotiation between the White House and pro-immigration forces among Democrats:

“Especially since last week, Trump and Miller actually made an interesting offer: an amnesty and even a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers, more generous than what many restrictionists favor and with no promise of the new E-Verify enforcements conservatives often seek, in return for a shift (over many years) to a skills-based policy and a somewhat lower immigration rate. [The White House “framework” of January 25 would reduce immigration from about one million to about 700,000 a year.]

“If you’re committed to the view that restrictionists can and must be steamrolled, you’ll respond to this offer the way many Democrats have — call it a “white supremacist ransom note,” punt on policy, and use the issue to rally your base in 2018.

“But if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer: for instance, the same rough blueprint but with more green cards for skilled immigrants, so that Miller gets his cuts to low-skilled immigration but the overall rate stays closer to the status quo.”

New White House statement on immigration reform

On January 25 the White House issued a one page statement on immigration reform.

Dreamers to become citizens in 10 to 12 years requirements yet to be determined for work and education, as long as they do not commit crimes. Total Dreamers estimated at 1.8 million.

Border control: $25B for wall and border security improvements, increase law enforcement at border, and expedite removal of illegal border crossers.

Limit family reunifications to spouses and minor children, removing parents, siblings and older children. This will reduce annual family unification by at least 287,700. Currently about 650,000 persons receive green cards based on family.

End diversity lottery of 50,000 green cards a year.

El Salvadoran immigrants and Temporary Protected Status

In 1980, 95,000 Salvadoran immigrants lived in the U.S. Today 1.17 million do. A total of 2.1 million, which includes immigrants and their American-born children, constitute the third-largest Hispanic group in the United States, after those of Mexican and Puerto Rican origin, according to the Pew Research Center. Roughly. About 600,000 of the 1.17 million immigrants are here illegally. 265,000 live in Los Angeles. 165,000 live in the D.C. area.

Remittances, which mostly come from the United States totaled $4.58 billion in 2016, representing 17% of the country’s economy (Gross Domestic Product).

Generations of Salvadorans have left in search of land and work. Neighboring Honduras was once a crucial demographic escape valve. A 1969 war closed it, and disrupted the Central American common market, destabilizing El Salvador politically. There was a savage 1979-1992 civil war between U.S.-supported governments and Marxist guerrillas. That conflict drove hundreds of thousands to the United States, establishing a migratory pattern that continues to this day.

Very few Salvadorans, about 10%, who arrived as immigrants had a high school degree, but about 50% of second generation Salvadorans do.

Temporary Protected Status

Following a series of earthquakes in 2001, the U.S. granted Temporary Protected Status to 217,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. Prior to leaving office in January 2001, the Clinton Administration said it would temporarily halt deportations to El Salvador because of a major earthquake. In 2001, the George W. Bush Administration decided to grant TPS to Salvadoran nationals following two earthquakes that rocked the country. Temporary Protected Status provides temporary lawful status to foreign nationals in the United States from countries experiencing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent their safe return. TPS was established by Congress as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. (From here.)

On January 8, 2018, the Trump administration announced that it is removing TPS status effective September, 2019.  About 20,000 Salvadorans are in DACA status.

Other sources: Washington Post and the Migration Policy Institute


40 years in U,S, Michigan doctor faces deportation


A Kalamazoo, MI, a 47-year-old doctor who entered the U.S. legally 38 years ago is now in jail facing deportation for two misdemeanors committed when he was a teenager, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He arrived in 1979 at age 5 with his family from Poland. Lukasz Niec received a temporary green card and, in 1989, became a lawful permanent resident. He grew up in Michigan, went to medical school, became a doctor, and raised a daughter and stepdaughter. He doesn’t speak Polish. He is a permanent legal resident and never got around to taking out citizenship.

On January 16, immigration authorities arrested Niec at his home, just after he had sent his 12-year-old stepdaughter off to school. According to his “notice to appear” from the Department of Homeland Security,

Niec’s detention stems from two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago. In January 1992, at age 18, Niec was convicted of malicious destruction of property under $100. In April of that year, he was convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property over $100 and a financial transaction device.

Because Niec was convicted of two crimes involving “moral turpitude,” stemming from two separate incidents, he is subject to removal, immigration authorities wrote in the notice to appear, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act.

A memo from the Obama administration in 2011 directed immigration officials to look at a number of factors, such as familial relationships with U.S. citizens, criminal history, education and contributions to the community, in deciding whether arrests and prosecution are warranted.

But the Trump administration has issued sweeping new guidelines expanding the range of immigrants that count as high priority for deportation, including low-level offenders, and those with no criminal record – regardless of how long they have lived in the country.

“He can’t be deported,” his wife said. “He can’t speak Polish. He wouldn’t know where to go. He would be lost.”

White voters and immigration

The present confrontation in Congress involving immigration highlights how Americans perceive changes in the ethnic and racial makeup of the country.

Two researchers carried out some experiments by interviewing white Americans about ethnic-racial diversity. They selectively brought up demographic trends in which non-white population will continue to grow relatively to white. They found “compelling evidence” that raising the shifting U.S. racial demographics, even well in the future, leads white Americans to perceive greater threat to their racial group’s status, which motivates them to increase their support of a variety of conservative policy positions.

They also wrote that making this demographic shift salient for black Americans may result in group-status threat and shifts in endorsement of conservative ideology similar to those found among white respondents.

Pew Research says that by 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration.

From On the Precipice of a ”Majority-Minority” America: Perceived Status Threat From the Racial Demographic Shift Affects White Americans’ Political Ideology, by Psychological Science published April 2014

More immigrants are becoming citizens

Many immigrants who are here on permanent visas (green cards) don’t take out citizenship, but most do, and the rate has gone up. According to Pew Research, naturalization rates rose from 62% in 2005 to 67% in 2015.

Eligible immigrants from Vietnam, 86%, and Iran, 85%, had the highest naturalization rates of any group in 2015. Above 80% rates are seen for India, South Korea and a few other countries. The rate among Chinese is 76%.

Mexican immigrants have long had among the lowest U.S. naturalization rates (42%) of any origin group. I bet the higher rate of naturalization is due to more eligible persons being from Asia than from Mexico.

There are about 45 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. 44% of them, or close to 20 million, are naturalized citizens. An estimated. 9.3 million are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship (that doesn’t mean they will pass the tests). That leaves about 2.6 million legally here but not yet eligible for citizenship. The 11 million illegal immigrants are of course not eligible.

To be eligible for U.S. citizenship, immigrants must be age 18 or older, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years as lawful permanent residents (or three years for those married to a U.S. citizen), and be in good standing with the law, among other requirements. The process to begins with submitting an application and paying a $725 fee. It culminates with an oath of allegiance. Current processing times range from seven months to a year.

The U.S. government denied naturalization applications from 2005 to 2015 to 11% of the 8.5 million applications filed during this time. The standards are here. Ability to speak English is one of them but there are exemptions based on age and length of time in the U.S.


Four questions about chain migration

What is it?

A single example: Barket Farah, who entered the U.S. in 2016 as a Somali refugee, reunited with his father in Portland, Maine. He has been trying to bring over his wife and three children, who have been living in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Over the past 150 years, the great majority of immigrants have come to the U.S. through connection with family and friends of prior immigrants. This is called chain migration, although usually the term is used only to apply to immediate family members. The term started to be used in the 1980s. The official record before the last few decades is spotty. But anecdotes and personal family history indicate that, in the last major wave of immigration, in the 1890s – 1910s, chain migration was the norm.

Who is concerned about chain migration?

Who would consider it a problem for an individual who has immigrated to the U.S. to bring in her or his parents and children? Don’t we believe in the family unit?

Immigration restrictionists focus on chain migration by families (family reunification) in the past 30 years. For example, “Over the last 35 years, chain migration has greatly exceeded new immigration.” Their concern is based on (1) too many immigrants, and (2) immigration policy that does not weigh economic merit scoring enough. The large majority of immigrants since the 1965 reform act has been family based.

However the dominance of family based immigration has been a bipartisan concern for decades. In the 1990s, the Jordan Commission on Immigration called for a shift to merit based immigration.

A proposed immigration reform act in 2013 would have eliminated access to visas for siblings and children over the age of 30. This bill was the last instance of a bipartisan effort for comprehensive immigration reform.

The best, really the only way to deal with chain migration is through a bipartisan consensus.

Why is immigration so family based?

Congressional conservative objected to merit based immigration during debate for the 1965 immigration, expecting that would favor Asians. They thought that family-based immigration would favor European immigration due to the fact that current immigrants were overwhelmingly Europeans.

How extensive is chain migration?

One report says that out of 33 million immigrants admitted to the United States from 1981 to 2016, about 20 million were chain migration immigrants (61 percent). The largest categories of chain migration are spouses and parents of naturalized U.S. citizens because admissions in these categories are unlimited by law. Each new immigrant sponsored an average of 3.45 additional immigrants.

Mexico has the highest rate of chain migration. In the most recent five-year cohort of immigrants studied (1996-2000), each new Mexican immigrant sponsored 6.38 additional legal immigrants.

Immigration top problem for Reps, not for Dems

The Gallup Poll reports: 16% of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP vs. just 4% of Democrats and Democratic leaners mention immigration as the most important problem of the country. Only 7% of Republicans cite the federal budget deficit at the top problem.