No workforce deal in NAFTA

When NAFTA went into effect, on January 1, 1994, Mexicans and Central Americans made up 4.6% of the U.S. labor force. In 2009, about the peak of this population in the U.S., these workers made up 9.6% (of which 80% were Mexicans), an increase of five million workers at an annual growth rate of 5%. The native-born workforce over that period grew annually on average by 0.7%.

The Mexican & Central American workforce in the U.S. is one of the largest cross – border workforces in the world. But NAFTA, and the replacement treaties now being negotiated, don’t include an provisions to govern this workforce.

Go here.


Health insurance among Californians with Mexican backgrounds

Self-identified Mexican adult immigrants in California have health insurance at 10% below the rate for the entire adult national population. Over 20% remain uninsured. This is after the Affordable Care Act gave many of them coverage and California worked diligently to expand coverage

California was an early adopter of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, being one of the few states that received a waiver to begin the expansion in 2011. One of the main challenges that the state encountered with the ACA implementation was the health insurance eligibility among its foreign-born population, especially undocumented immigrants. California has the largest undocumented population in the country: Approximately one-quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the US live in the state.29 Our study showed that lack of legal status remains an important barrier to health insurance coverage and access to and use of health care in California.

Before the Affordable Care Act, 68% of self-identified Mexican adult immigrants in California (including U.S. born) had health insurance. After ACA’s implementation, 78% had insurance. (Mexican born persons account for about 80% of all Latin American adults.) Compare that with Puerto Ricans in California – 87% had insurance before, and 94% had insurance after.

In 2016, throughout the U.S. 88% of persons between 19 and 64 were insured. (Go here).

Nationwide, non-Latino whites in 2016 were 94% covered; blacks, 90%; Asians 92%; Latinos, 84%.

Two factors are associated with the lower rate for Mexicans: undocumented status and poor English. Third, lower income persons were less covered by insurance compared to higher income Mexicans.

From Health Affairs, September 2018

Dominican doctor in Boston

When I was four, my mother brought my brothers and me from a poor rural village in the Dominican Republic to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. I knew no English. “We have to win,” she told us. She said, “So we have a donkey. Now we have to find a saddle and go somewhere.” I graduated from Dartmouth Medical School on a full scholarship. I bought a primary care practice here. Two weeks after I advertised on Spanish language radio, people were standing in the waiting room. I don’t tell my patients anything my grandmother would not understand. Today I oversee six clinics. I learned pain management at the Harvard hospitals. I’m part of Boston medicine. It’s a club. — Roberto Feliz, MD

Public Charge Rule proposal

The “Public Charge” rule, as I have reported in July here, is being expanded. This will, if put into law, effectively bar a very large number of legal low wage immigrants in the country from obtaining green cards. For example, among 48% of farm worker households, at least one person used at least one of the cited public assistance program in the past two years.

The median total income of these primarily farm working households (in 2014) was roughly $25,000. About 20% of all U.S. households have total income under $25,000 (found here). Another 9% have incomes between $25,000 and $35,000. The median household income of non-citizen immigrants in $40,000. (go here). Bottom line: a large share of non-citizen immigrant households are now vulnerable to denial of a green card due to use of public assistance programs actively used by citizen households with low incomes.

This 50% rate of utilizing public assistance comes from a Dept of Labor survey of farm workers in 2014, the most recent year of this survey. The programs most commonly utilized were Medicaid (37%), WIC (18%), food stamps (16%), and public health clinics (10%).

The expanded criteria for denying a green card to applicants include the following: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SSI, Federal, state, and local cash benefit programs; SNAP; Section 8 Housing Vouchers; and Medicaid. CHIP is not included in the list of benefits but is being considered by DHS, according to the rule’s preamble.

The DOL report of farm workers is here.

(Thanks to Alexis Guild, Farmworker Justice).

For more from The Migration Policy Institute go here.

Wage earnings and education Mexicans in U.S. vs. native born workers.

Mexicans are paid about 20%-25% less than native born workers with the same educational attainment. I am confident this is due to language barriers, discrimination and relative sophistication in the job market. And, Mexicans are much more likely to be poorly educated compared to any other foreign born worker from other than Latin America.

A great majority of very poorly educated workers in the United States come from outside the country.In our native-born labor force, only one percent have an 8th grade or lesser education. That’s about 1.3 million workers. Among Mexicans and Central Americans, that share is 34%, or about 3.3 million.  For the rest of the foreign-born labor force, it’s 4%, or about 600,000 persons.

The Congressional Budget Office reports (with figures up to 2009, when the tide of Mexican immigrants had begun to recede).

in 2009 Mexicans in the U.S. were 7.7 million, representing 5% of the domestic labor force and 32% of the foreign-born labor force. It was the least educated, with an average 9.7 years of schooling, compared to 13.9 years for the native born labor force and 12.9 years for the entire foreign-born labor force. (Asian, Canadian and European rates exceeded 14 years.) Mexico and Central America accounted in 2009 for 19% of the Californian labor force. In the Mexican and Central American labor force, 34% had 8th grade or less education, and they accounted for 64% of the total labor force with 8th grade or less education.

The native born labor force accounted for 23% of workers with 8th grade or less, and 69% of those with some high school, but 86% of those with the a bachelors degree.

28% of Mexicans and Central Americans 25 years or older and in the workforce were U.S. citizens. That’s compared to 56% of all other foreign born workers 25 years or older.

3.7% of Mexicans and Central Americans were in management, compared to 11% for all other foreigners and 12.9% of native born workers.

Wages: among men those with 8th grade or less education, Mexicans and Central Americans earn $500 a week compared to $610 for workers with native born parents (and 530 native born with parents from Mexico and Central America). Among women, the comparative figure are $370, $480, and $380. Wage differentials are worse among men, and the differential is worse when you look at persons with a high school or GED degree.

Religious vs. non-religious Trump voters and immigration

Active church goers who are Trump voters are more likely to be less anti-immigrant, more tolerate of minorities than non-church going supporters. A survey shows:

Among Trump voters who never go to church, 67% want stricter immigration laws. But for those who go every week, 48% want stricter laws. Among the never-church goers, 68% oppose a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. Among weekly church goers, 51%. 55% of never church goes

Donald Trump voters who attend church regularly are more likely than nonreligious Trump voters to have warm feelings toward racial and religious minorities, be more supportive of immigration and trade, and be more concerned about poverty.

Religious Trump voters have higher levels of social capital: They are far more likely to volunteer, to be satisfied with their family relationships and neighborhood, and to believe the world is just and that people can be trusted.

39% of Trump voters go to church at least once a month; 48% never or seldom. Church goers tend to be older, married, higher education and income, female, and more conservative.

From The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, September 2018

ICE: a thumbnail history


From an August 22, 2018 report by the Migration Policy Institute, “Once Relatively Obscure, ICE Becomes a Lightning Rod in Immigration Debate.” ICE is a new creature in that its focus is exclusively on immigration law enforcement, and not engaged in other immigration services.

With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was cobbled together from deportation and investigations officers with the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and investigations officers from the U.S. Customs Service at the Treasury Department. The deportation officers became ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and the investigations and Customs officers became the agency’s investigative component, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

While Border Patrol agents headed to the new Customs and Border Protection at the border, and ICE was charged with interior enforcement—detention, deportation, and criminal investigations.

In 2018, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) alone received $4.1 billion for enforcement and removal, representing 58% of ICE’s total budget of $7.1 billion.

In 2011, after ICE national leadership directed agents to narrow their enforcement focus, the union representing ICE officers released a statement blasting the Obama administration, saying “the administration protects foreign nationals illegally in the U.S. but does nothing for our employees.” In 2012, a group of ICE agents sued the Obama administration for prohibiting them from arresting and removing those covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In 2016 the ICE union endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump, after 95% of its members voted in favor of endorsement.

Executive orders the President signed in his first week in office directed the agency not to exempt any class of unauthorized immigrants from enforcement and revoked the prosecutorial discretion guidelines that were first created in 1976 and updated over time. Today, a much wider group of noncitizens is subject to arrest and removal, and ICE no longer gives much consideration to factors such as long-term U.S. residence or other equities such as having U.S.-citizen children.

We don’t plan for native-born workforces

The 19th Century saw foreign workers brought into the U.S. through private sector workforce recruitment, such as Chinese workers on railroads, to fill jobs otherwise filled by native-born Americans. American food processing companies in the 1990s recruited undocumented workers at staff their factories. But there has been little of the reverse, that is, a concerted hiring of native-born American workers to staff positions that otherwise would be filled by immigrants.

An example of a possible “Hire An American” policy to recruit native-born American doctors for rural medical care.

Today, one quarter of all practicing doctors are foreign-trained (the great majority being foreign born). In rural areas, and in low income areas, the percentages are higher. What would it take to design and implement a strategy to make them more native-born?

There is no federal agency nor any major research/policy institute which routinely examines native born / immigrant workforce dynamics. There is no tried and tested method of designing such a strategy. And no one in Washington is talking about building this capacity.

And, for purposes of staffing rural physician slots with more native-born doctors, building such a strategy is very difficult. Let’s look at the forces that would complicate a plan, for instance, to financially incentivize graduates of American medical schools to locate for extended periods in rural areas”

1. Labor shortages and surpluses come in waves and both influence and are influenced by immigration.

2. There is a lot of internal sorting / shifting within occupations. For instance, native born doctors tend to concentrate in higher compensated specialties and live in relatively more amenable locations.

3. There can be a lot of sorting / shifting between occupations — for instance, using nurse practitioners a lot more for primary care than physicians. In my dozen years in Vermont, I am far more likely to see a nurse in primary care than to see a physician.

Striking misperceptions about immigration

Some striking misperceptions in six countries about immigrants (U.S. Germany, France, Italy, U.K. and Sweden):

In five of the six countries, the average native believed that there are between two and three times as many immigrants as there are in reality.

Natives also got the origins of immigrants wrong. They particularly overestimated the shares of immigrants coming from regions that have recently been described as ‘problematic’ in the media. In the US, respondents thought the share of Muslim immigrants was 23% when in reality it is 10%.

In all countries, immigrants were viewed as poorer, less educated, and more likely to be unemployed than is the case. For instance, US natives believed that 35% of immigrants lived below the poverty line, while the real number is less than 14%. Natives also believed that immigrants relied heavily on the welfare state, with roughly one-third of all US, Italian, and French respondents, and one-fifth of all UK and German respondents, believing that an immigrant would receive more benefits than a native, even if both had exactly same income, family structure, age, and occupation.

Respondents in all countries also greatly exaggerated the share of immigrants among the poor or the low-educated. For example, US respondents thought that 37% of the poor were immigrants; the true number is 12%.

From here.

Business Roundtable grades U.S. poorly on immigration policy

The Business Council wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on August 22, signed by 39 CEOS. Citing a backlog of green card applications, the Business Council wrote that in the past year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “has issued several policy memoranda over the past year” that inject uncertainty into skilled employment by foreigners. “Few will move their family and settle in a new country if, at any time and without notice, the government can force their immediate departure–often without explanation.” The Council also opposes the impending decision to bar the spouses of H1-B visa holders from working.

The Business Council’s ranking of immigrant policies

Overall ranking: The Council on a scale of 1 to 5 ranks the U.S. at 2.3, Germany at 4.5, the U.K. at 3.9, and Canada at 3.3. “Based on a comprehensive examination of 10 advanced economies to identify and evaluate the best immigration policies to promote economic growth, the United States ranked 9th out of 10 competitor countries, ahead of only Japan, a country historically closed to outsiders. This analysis found that America’s near-bottom ranking among major advanced economies is due to U.S. laws and regulations that impose unrealistic numerical limits and excessive bureaucratic rules on hiring workers that the country’s economy needs.”

For use of highly skilled workers, the Council’s scores are the U.S. at 2.0, Germany at 5.0, the U.K. at 4.0, and Canada at 3.5.

Here is what the Council says about skilled labor immigration:

U.S.(2.0): More than half of applicants for H-1B visas each year are denied the opportunity to work due to the low H-1B quota.

Germany (5.0): Applications for high-skilled people are rarely turned down, there is no annual quota and Germany’s membership in the European Union (EU) provides access to 500 million people who can work without any immigration processing. The process is clear enough that some employers do not need attorneys to apply. The EU Blue Card provides an easy option for hiring non-EU skilled professionals, including no labor market test.

Canada (3.5): There is no annual quota for hiring high-skilled foreign nationals. Employers must pay a market wage; recent requirements for employers to test the labor market have made the process much more difficult for employers.