Farm labor shortages in California

From a 2017 member survey by the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said they were experiencing employee shortages to various degrees. A majority of farmers who reported shortages said they were unable to recruit up to 50 percent of their seasonal workforce needs, with 15% unable to recruit more than 50% of employees. Of the farmers who reported shortages, the majority employ 15 or fewer people on a permanent basis and hire 50 employees or fewer during peak season.

When asked what actions they have taken in response to employee shortages, one third of respondents said they used mechanization if available; another 29% attempted or investigated mechanization. One-third of respondents elected not to engage in labor-intensive cultivation activities such as pruning and grapevine canopy management. About 9.5% planted fewer acres and 9% did not harvest some of their crop. The most frequent action, taken by 49% of respondents, was to offer increased wages, benefits and additional incentives to prevent employees accepting work with other growers or leaving agriculture altogether.

Fewer than 3% of those responding use the existing H-2A agricultural immigration program. Farmers in California have for many years said they find the H-2A program inadequate to meet their employment needs, given the program’s high cost, bureaucratic difficulties and the diversity of seasons, workforce needs and timing of those needs, which often conflict and overlap. In spite of increases in the number of people being employed in California through the H-2A program, it still represents a small fraction of the overall agricultural labor force in the state.

Youth in America today

Latinos account for about half or more of all K-12 students in three states – New Mexico (61%), California (52%) and Texas (49%).

The population of the youngest Latinos, those under 18 years old, grew by 22% from 2006 to 2016, a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds. This growth helped keep the nation’s youth population steady at about 73 million over the past decade. During this time, the under-18 population of whites and blacks declined by 11% and 7%, respectively. Among Asian Americans, a group with a fast-growing population overall, the number of people under 18 years old jumped by 21%. But at 3.5 million, this group is far smaller than the under-18 Hispanic population of 18.3 million.

Latinos accounted for 25% of the nation’s 54 million K-12 students in 2016, up from 16% in 2000. In 14 states, Latinos accounted for at least 20% of K-12 students in 2016, up from six states in 2000, according to Census Bureau data. States new to this list in 2016 are Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. Latinos account for about half or more of all K-12 students in three states – New Mexico (61%), California (52%) and Texas (49%).

From here.

The underclass scenario in immigration

Reihan Salam writes about the risks of a persistent, multi-generational underclass of American residents. This class compromises immigrants and their subsequent generations who do not get the education and social skills needed to rise up economically in the American economy.

Very large numbers of Latin Americans are here, legally or unauthorized, with little formal education and limited English.

Despite what we like to think about our “knowledge” economy, some 25 million jobs — 15 percent — do not require either much formal education or English language proficiency. At the lowest level of education, five million workers today have no more than an eighth-grade education. Four million of them are foreign-born. They comprise a special underclass marked by far greater economic and social isolation and vulnerability to exploitation than native-born workers, even if these foreigners feel better off than they were in their home countries.

Within our native-born labor force, barely 1 percent have an education level of eighth-grade or lower. Among Mexican and Central American workers, that share is 34 percent, or about 3.3 million workers. For the rest of the foreign-born labor force, it’s 4 percent, or about 600,000 people.

In all likelihood, at least half — and possibly more — of these 4 million foreign-born workers are living here illegally. Many of them likely came to the United States over the Mexico-U.S. border during the 1990s and early 2000s.

These 4 million workers crowd into farming and low-level construction jobs, cooking, housekeeping, groundskeeping and building cleaning, among other occupations. The jobs can be socially isolating. It is easy to avoid, for years, learning more than rudimentary English.

Waiting tables, retail sales and personal-care jobs are often off limits for many of these foreign workers because of their limited English, as well as a lack of social skill sets that native-born Americans take for granted.

See Reihan Salam, Melting Pot of Civil War.

For education figures go here.



Rising number immigrants who are college grads and/or speak English

Today, immigrants account for 17% of all college educated adults in the U.S. compared with 10% in 1990. The rise in college education and English proficiency began about ten years ago – when Asian immigration overtook Latin American immigration.

When you take into account all foreigners in the U.S., 48% of foreigners 25 years or older came to the United States between 2011 and 2015 with college graduates compared to 31% of US born adults and 2015. Half of the college educated immigrants are from Asia. There are more recent college educated foreigners who arrived from Latin American than from Europe.

This high rate exists because of temporary visa holders, who (in the 2011-105 period) were 84% college educated compared with 33% among those awarded green cards in this period. The college education rate of recent naturalizations was 31%.

The percentage of recent immigrants with college degrees is 10% to 20% higher in most states than the college educated percentage of native born persons. The college education rate of recently arriving foreigners 25 years or older ranges from the low 80s in Vermont and District of Columbia to 25% in Arkansas (and lower in MT and SD).

Still, most immigrants arrive with limited English proficiency – 57%, through that percentage has declined from 66%. As of 2015, 34% of immigrants were bilingual, meaning they spoke English well and another language at home. Another 16% spoke only English at home.

The following is the percentage of all immigrants 18 or older who spoke only English at home or who were bilingual (spoke English “very well”), by date of arrival:

1986 – 1990: 35%

1996- 2000: 34%

2006 – 2010: 36%

2011- 2015: 43%

From here.


The last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform, in 2013

The last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform took place in 2013, led by the Senate but ignored by the House. Below are portions of the American Immigration Council’s review of the Senate bill, written before failure in the House:

Senate Bill 744 (S.744) was introduced in the Senate on April 16, 2013, by Senator Schumer of New York and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. 92 amendments were incorporated into the bill by voice vote. On May 21st, S. 744 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 13-5. One major amendment was passed by the Senate. S. 744 as amended passed the Senate on June 27, 2013 by a vote of 68-32. The House never considered the bill.

The bill addressed all aspects of the immigration process from border and enforcement issues to legal immigration reforms. It makes changes to the family and employment-based visa categories for immigrants, provides critical due-process protections, increases the availability of nonimmigrant workers to supplement all sectors of the workforce, and provides legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. The Senators intended this legislation to address these issues “…by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here.”

….although undocumented immigrants will be allowed to register for the new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program almost immediately, before those in RPI status can apply to become lawful permanent residents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational, 700 miles of fencing is complete, 38,405 border patrol agents are deployed, and the E-Verify employment verification system is in place, among other requirements.

One of the primary purposes of the bill is to provide a path to Lawful Permanent Residence (a “green card”) for the existing undocumented population via the new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program. Before Registered Provisional Immigrants can apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status, several security goals, or “triggers,” must be met. For example, the Department of Homeland Security had to certify that a Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational, 700 miles of fencing is complete, 38,405 border patrol agents were deployed, and the E-Verify employment verification system was in place, among other requirements.

Undocumented residents would gain Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status if they had been in the U.S. since December 31, 2011 and met other criteria. This provision covered DREAM act and a proposed law for farm workers. With some exceptions, Registered Provisional Immigrants will be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence (a “green card”), but they must go to the “back of the line” and have been in RPI status for at least 10 years. RPIs must earn their green cards through employment, learning English, paying taxes, and other contributions to the country.

A merit-based point system would allow foreign nationals to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence in the United States by accumulating points mainly based on their skills, employment history, and educational credentials. At the same time, the current immigrant visa categories for siblings and adult married children of U.S. citizens, as well as the diversity visa program, are eliminated and replaced by this system. Between 120,000 and 250,000 visas would be allocated each year based on the point system. The visa cap would fluctuate using a formula that takes into account the number of visas requested the previous year and the unemployment rate. . Certain highly skilled and exceptionally talented immigrants are also exempted from the worldwide cap, such as those who have extraordinary ability or advanced degrees in STEM fields from U.S. universities.

Compared to reform proposals from 2006 and 2007, S. 744 contains stronger devices designed to facilitate immigrants’ language acquisition, civic engagement, financial self-sufficiency, and upward economic mobility.

According to the CBO’s final score, enacting S. 744 would lead to a net savings of about $135 billion over the 2014-2023 period. This figure results from subtracting the costs of implementing the legislation ($23 billion) from the expected reduction in the federal budget deficit ($158 billion).

The net fiscal gains ($1 trillion over the 20-year period analyzed) would result from the fact that federal revenues would exceed spending. The boost in revenues is mostly attributable to the expansion of the size of the labor force and secondarily to the legalization of current undocumented workers. These changes would lead to additional collection of income and payroll taxes

Germany and immigration today

Germany, with a population of 82 million, has admitted 2 million immigrants since 2015. Per capita, that level of immigration is 3 times the current level in the U.S. Germany’s fertility rate is 25% less than that of the U.S. and well below replacement rate.

A profile of Germany’s immigration in crisis in the Wall Street Journal:

Düzen Tekkal and her family had put on their best clothes for the naturalization ceremony. But when her father expressed his joy at becoming German, the presiding civil servant said, “You are not German—you only have citizenship.”

Germany needs to attract workers as the current population ages, according to economists who say the country must lure at least 400,000 skilled outsiders a year to maintain economic growth. Already, nearly a quarter of Germany’s 82 million people have at least one immigrant parent who was born without German citizenship.

“Germany is not a classic immigration country, and it also cannot become one due to its historical, geographic and social circumstances,” the conservatives said in a 2001 policy paper.

Critics from across the political spectrum now say such views are out of sync with reality. Germany’s political discourse on immigration was “long designed to avoid the statement of fact: We need immigration for the job market and because of our demographic decline,” said Petra Bendel of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, a think tank. Some 1.2 million jobs stand vacant in Germany, she said.

[A] bill backed by the Social Democrats would set criteria for non-Europeans who want to work in Germany, and establish a point-based system designed to attract skilled workers. Modeled on legislation in countries such as Canada, the new system would consider the needs of employers and cut red tape for foreign workers needed for the booming German job market.

As part of the deliberations on the new legislation, the conservatives are discussing a controversial initiative, backed by the Social Democrats, to give work permits to some rejected asylum seekers who speak German and have skills needed by the job market. There are around 200.000 such rejected migrants, according to official estimates.

Immigrant representation in Congress

There are 12 first generation Congresspersons, four of whom are from California. The total number of first and second-generation Congresspersons is 20 from California, 5 each from Florida and New York, 4 each from Maryland and Illinois, 3 each from Hawaii and Texas, 2 each from Connecticut, New Jersey, Arizona and Washington, and 11 states with one. This totals to 63, or 12% of the 535 voting members: 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, and 36% of seats in California (52 house, 2 senate).

Very low wage workers by country of origin

Workforce figures show the distribution of very low wage workers between native and foreign born.

As of 2015, 33% of the 140 million native-born American workforce earned less than $20,000 a year. Among foreign born workers, the percentage was the same, 33%. But the share differs greatly by country of origin.

Among Mexican-born workers, 42% earned less than $20,000. Among Asian workers, 26% earned under $20,000.

Put another way, Mexican born workers made up 6% of the entire workforce paid under $20,000 a year but made up 4.6% of the entire domestic workforce. Asian born workers made up 3.4% of the under $20,000 workforce but 4.3% of the total workforce.

These figures cover over the fact that low wage foreign born workers due in part to language problems, in part to undocumented status, concentrate in jobs removed from public contact, such as kitchen, warehouse, farming, housekeeping and low-level construction work.

As of 2015, the total foreign-born workforce stood at 27.6 million, or 16.4% of the entire workforce. The entire foreign-born population was 13% of the entire population.

Go here.




Green cards by way of chicken factories

Who would pay to work in a chicken plant? Chicken plants have recruited thousands of foreign workers in recent years through a little-known program to fill jobs they say Americans won’t do. So said Politico last year in an article. The problem persists according to Claudia Minoiu, who brought it to my attention.

The EB3 visa is a green card set aside for skilled workers. It is rarely used.  But South Korean with skills have been pitched to apply for it, and American immigration lawyers participate in the following manipulation of the law. A skilled South Korean pays tens of thousands of dollars, upwards of $70,000, for fixers to do the paperwork.  Part of the deals is they work for a north Carolina chicken processing company, Raeford Farms, for as little as $8.50 an hour for a year.

According to Pro Publica, the EB3 program is now dominated by a handful of poultry processors with poor safety records, one janitorial firm and a single fast-food franchisee. Overseas, a cottage industry of migration agents has popped up charging steep fees for “migration assistance,” even as the law bars the selling of green card sponsorship and other recruiting fees.

And under the program, U.S. companies aren’t obligated to do much to first persuade Americans to take their jobs. They merely have to place two want ads seeking American workers in the local Sunday newspaper and a notice on the state jobs board — not raise pay or improve work conditions.

A House of Raeford chicken plant in West Columbia, South Carolina. The poultry processor has sought to sponsor 1,900 foreign workers through the EB-3 program in the last three years.

But other agencies cleverly disguise recruitment fees as “settlement services” or “assimilation packages,” charging inflated rates, said David Hirson, an immigration attorney in Costa Mesa, California. One ad in China, where demand for visas is so high that the wait under the program is 11 years, lists the going rate to migrate through Burger King and Pizza Hut at $130,000.

In 2008, the House of Raeford was raided by ICE and 350 workers arrested. The company was actively recruiting unauthorized Hispanic workers.



The big wave of Italian immigrants

Most of first large scale generation of Italian immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil in Ellis Island. In the 1880s, they numbered 300,000; in the 1890s, 600,000; in the decade after that, more than two million. By 1920, when immigration began to taper off, more than 4 million Italians had come to the United States, and represented more than 10 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population.

What brought about this dramatic surge in immigration? The causes are complex, and each hopeful individual or family no doubt had a unique story. By the late 19th century, the peninsula of Italy had finally been brought under one flag, but the land and the people were by no means unified. Decades of internal strife had left a legacy of violence, social chaos, and widespread poverty. The peasants in the primarily poor, mostly rural south of Italy and on the island of Sicily had little hope of improving their lot.

There were a significant number of single men among these immigrants, and many came only to stay a short time. Within five years, between 30 and 50 percent of this generation of immigrants would return home to Italy, where they were known as ritornati.

Those who stayed usually remained in close contact with their family in the old country, and worked hard in order to have money to send back home. In 1896, a government commission on Italian immigration estimated that Italian immigrants sent or took home between $4 million and $30 million each year, and that “the marked increase in the wealth of certain sections of Italy can be traced directly to the money earned in the United States.”

From Library of Congress