David Brooks on the Republican Party losing its humanity

David Brooks writes:

Families are ripped apart and children are left weeping by the fences constructed by government officials blindly following a regulation.

This illustrates something crucial about this administration. It is not populated by conservatives. It is populated by anti-liberal trolls. There’s a difference.

People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. Their primary orientation is not to conservative governance but to owning the libs. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends.

Here’s how you can detect the anti-liberal trolls in the immigration debate: Watch how they use the word “amnesty.” Immigration is a complex issue. Any serious reform has to grapple with tangled realities, and any real conservative has an appreciation for that complexity. But if you try to account for that complexity before an anti-immigration troll, he or she will shout one word: Amnesty!

Maybe we should find some arrangement for the Dreamers? Amnesty! The so-called moderate House immigration bill? Amnesty! Keeping families together? Amnesty!

This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.

Look at how the Republican candidates for the G.O.P. Senate nomination in Arizona answered questions about a provision to keep families together at the border. They responded with inhumane abstractions: “I try not to get swayed by what the emotions are or the pressure,” Martha McSally said. “Compromising on the rule of law to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is the wrong path to take,” Kelli Ward replied.
“Amnesty” has become a club the trolls use in their attempt to stamp a rigid steel boot on the neck of the immigration debate. It’s the sign of a party slowly losing its humanity.

Nigerians in the U.S.

Nigerian immigrants are relatively few but are very highly educated, in contrast to what one hears from the White House.

Today, 29% of Nigerian-Americans over the age of 25 hold a graduate degree, compared to 11% of the overall U.S. population. Among Nigerian-American professionals, 45% work in education services. Nigerians are entering the medical field in the U.S. at an increased rate. A growing number of Nigerian-Americans are becoming entrepreneurs and CEOs.

“There’s something about America and education that we need to celebrate,” [a Nigerian] says. Anyone from the Nigerian diaspora will tell you their parents gave them three career choices: doctor, lawyer or engineer. For a younger generation of Nigerian-Americans, that’s still true, but many are adding a second career, or even a third, to that trajectory…. Now that doctor, lawyer and engineer are no longer the only acceptable career options within the community, the path to professional achievement is rife with more possibilities than ever before. Sports, entertainment, music, the culinary arts — there are few fields Nigerian-Americans aren’t already influencing.

According to the Migration Policy Institute there were in 2011 about 213,000 Nigerian-born persons in the U.S. They had 163,000 American born children. In 1980, there were only about 25,000 Nigerians in the U.S. In 2012, Nigerians in the U.S. sent $6.1 billion in remittances to Nigeria, the largest source of remittances to that country. Total remittances from all sources are equivalent to 7.9% of Nigeria’ GDP.

In 1963-1964 I attended the University of Nigeria. While I was there Malcolm X spoke, with reverence for the racial and ethnic equality he found in Mecca. He was returning to the United States and to his death.

Fear of immigrants

Tom Edsall writes about how even apparently liberal communities, such as in the Boston suburbs, can react negatively to immigrants.

He cites a study which tested how native-born Americans respond to slight but noticeable increases in immigrants. The study placed teams of two Spanish speakers into Boston area commuter train stations, “stimulating the conditions of demographic change.” The researchers then interviewed Americans (by voluntary online surveys) who were regularly taking these trains. The researchers compared results with a control group of stations where they had not placed the Spanish speaking teams. They found “a significant shift towards exclusionary” attitudes among the Americans. The affected respondents “were far more likely to advocate a reduction in immigration from Mexico and were far less likely to indicate that illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in this country.” The rightward shift of attitudes was restricted to immigrants – their other political attitudes did not change.

The guest worker proposal in the House

The House is scheduled to vote on two immigration bills next week. At least one of the bills will apparently address a legislative compromise over DACA, border security, employer verification (e-Verify) and a guest worker program.

This guest worker program fits into the legislative package in this way: if employers will be required to verify the legal status of their workers, this will create havoc in some major industries, in particular agriculture. A new guest worker program could normalize the status of these workers.

Bob Goodlatte introduced in the fall of 2017 the Agricultural Guestworker Act. It would replace the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program. The H-2A program today covers about 10% of the American farm workforce today, with numbers of about 150,000. The Goodlatte bill would introduce a replacement visa with a cap of 400,000 workers.

Goodelatte’s replacement visa is a H-2C visa. This visa provides for 36 months plus additional 18 month extensions, for agricultural workers. Workers must periodically leave the U.S, 10% of their wages are to be held in a trust fund, accessible only outside the U.S. Workers are barred from federal public benefits, and employers must provide the workers health insurance “in order to protect taxpayers from footing the bill for expensive medical care.”

The 10% wage hold-back is a copy of an element in the Bracero program of the 1940s through early 1960s.

The Bracero program did, and Goodlatte’s proposed H-2C program would primarily impact farming in California. But the H-2C would also normalize dairy farm workers throughout the country. The Bracero program suppressed farm wages, evidenced in in wage increases won by the United Farm Workers after the Bracero program ended.

New evidence of firm creation by immigrants

The American Community Survey shows that an increasing share of entrepreneurs are immigrants, growing from 17% in 2001 to about 24% by 2015.  immigrant-owned firm accounted for 16% of all U.S. companies in 2007 and 18% in 2012. But if you look at new firm creation, immigrants, who comprise 18% of the workforce are proportionately ahead of natives.

First-generation immigrants account for 23.7% and 26.0% of new firms in 2007 and 2012.   In 2012, in California, 33.4% of all firms were immigrant founded and 41.9% of new firms.  The states in which at least 30% of new firms in 2012 were immigrant-founded are NJ, NY, CA, FL, DC, IL and MA.

Native-owned firms are more likely to have bank loans and credit, while immigrant-owned firms are more likely to rely on home equity loans and family loans. These patterns may signal a lower ability by immigrants to obtain bank credit.

Immigrant-owned firms have somewhat lower wages. They are less likely to provide health insurance and paid leave than non-immigrant firms.  They are more likely than non-immigrant firms to be in accommodations, healthcare, social services, and retail.

From Immigrant Entrepreneurship in America: Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners 2007 & 2012, Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, NBER April 2018



How busy are immigration court judges?

The Dept. of Justice administers the country’s immigration court.

The backlog of cases before the immigration courts surged after the early 2000s. From FY 2003 through FY 2015, the average days pending tripled from slightly over 200 days to over 600 days. In mid 2016 there were 233 judges, handling on average over 1,400 “matters”/year on average at the end of FY 2014—far more than Social Security administrative law judges (544 hearings/year in 2007).

A May 10, 2018 article reports that there are now 334 judges and about 700,000 pending cases. Based on current trends, about 184,000 cases will be completed in FY 2018, or on average 550 per judge, or 10 a week. (Also go here.)

The Department of Justice wants judges to complete 700 cases a year, and introduced a performance system.

If you are detained, your case will be completed on average in about 40 days. The number of cases in which the defendant fails to appear will probably be about 45,000 this fiscal year.

184,000 cases is equivalent to about about 1.4% of the number of unauthorized persons in the U.S.  The DOJ’ performance system assuming 350 judges would amount to 245,000 cases a year.

Undocumented population in U.S.

The undocumented population in the U.S. has been falling, increasing its length of stay and acquiring more American-born children.

According to Pew Research there were 12.2 million unauthorized persons in 2007, before the Recession. By 2015 it declined to 11.3 million. In its April, 2018 analysis it estimated that the 2016 figure was 11.3 million.  The decline entirely accounted for by a drop in Mexicans, down from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2016.  Other Latin countries and Asian countries added more persons.

in 2014, 4 million unauthorized adults, or 39%, lived with their U.S.-born children, either minors or adults. In 2000, 2.1 million unauthorized-immigrant adults, or 30%, lived with their U.S.-born children.

The 11.3 million population includes the 700,000 persons formally protected by DACA and an additional 1.3 million persons that might be DACA-eligible were DACA to be revived and expanded as some have proposed.


From college to green card for foreign students

There are about one million foreign students in higher ed in the U.S. today. It is about double from the mid 2000s. According to Pew Research, Between 2004 and 2016, nearly 1.5 million foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and universities continued after graduation to work here Optional Practical Training program (OPT). More than half (53%) of the foreign graduates approved for employment in specialized STEM fields.

David North in 2010 described a five-step process by which a foreign student gains a green card using OPT.

Step One: The first step for these would-be migrants is to secure admission to a U.S. graduate program, which leads to a student visa (F-1 in most cases). The best applicants get tuition remission and a graduate assistantship from the first day. Some others must pay their own way for the first term, and only then does financial assistance materialize.

Step Two: A crucial moment in the career of the would-be H-1B comes during the first summer, when the students are free to — and encouraged to — work off campus. (Their F-1 visas allow such employment, nominally if it has something to do with their graduate program.)

Step Three: Move from the campus into a H-1B job (temporary skilled worker). But “optional practical training” or OPT applies to newly-graduating F-1 students. The duration allowed was revised in 2008 29 months, then later to 36 months.

Step Four: If the graduating worker started out as a OPT version of F-1, this step four is to obtain a H-1B visa. Per Pew Research, nearly 14%, or 118,000, of all capped H-1B visas approved between fiscal 2010 and 2016 were given to advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities.

Step Five: This final step, securing a green card through a permanent labor certification sought by the worker’s employer, is again the product of a process in which merit, career-building skills, and luck all play a role. Some employers of H-1B workers actively use the program as a bridge to green card status for some of their workers, and other simply use it as a source of relatively short-term, talented, but inexpensive labor.

Four questions about illegal crossings at the Mexican border

Are illegal border crossings going up? Ans: Yes compared to recent years.

Immigrant and Customs Enforcement reports the number of arrests. Between FY 2013 and 2016, total apprehensions varied between 489,000 and 569,000. They were 415,000 in FY 2017. Between March and September 2017 the monthly figures were well below the average of recent years. Since then the monthly figures have risen and in the most recent reported months, March and April 2018, they are well above the average of recent years.

To put this into context, through the 1990s and until the mid 2000s, border arrests were always over 1.2 million. ICE estimates that it captures 55% to 80% of all those who cross. This means that in a year in which 500,000 are arrested, some 100,000 – 400,000 or more succeed in crossing illegally.

Illegal crossings are heavily seasonal, in response to farm and construction job openings in the U.S. The job markets are very good in the U.S. The highest number of arrests are usually in March, April and May.

What are the illegal crossings composed of?Ans: mostly individuals seeking work.

Politico reports that of the roughly 50,000 persons arrested in April, 2018, the breakdown was about this: single persons: 30,000; families: 15,000; unaccompanied children: 5,000.

What is the condition of unaccompanied children? Ans: vast increase in detention.

The number of unaccompanied children, which was small until about 2014, has soared, thereby vastly increasing the number of unaccompanied children in detention awaiting adjudication. In 2014 the number of children in detention was about 5,000. In March, 2018, there were 77,000.

A 2014 Migration Policy Institute report on the surge of unaccompanied children crossing is here.

What about separation of children from their parents? Ans. Caused by new ICE policy

Separation of children from their parents happens when families are arrested when they try to cross outside the formal ports of entry. The Trump administration decided to place the parents in federal detention. Children are not allowed in federal detention, thus are separated.

The official ports of entry are here.

Bipartisan Senate sentiment for moderate immigration reform

Going back to Senate votes in February, we see that about half of Senators want a moderate resolution of immigration issues including protection of Dreamers.

On January 17, 2018 a bipartisan group of Senators offered an immigration bill. The White House rejected the bill. \ Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, introduced their bill with Sens. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota,

On February 14, the Senate began debating seven immigration proposals. All included protection for Dreamers, mostly estimated at 1.8 million persons. Three included border wall funding at $25 billion. Three included changes to family and/or lottery visa law. None of the bills passed, but at least one garnered a majority of votes.

On February 15, a vote was 54-45 in favor of the “Common Sense Coalition” plan, short of the 60 needed for approval. Eight Republicans bucked their party and supported the measure, and three Democrats abandoned their leaders and opposed it.