Archive for 2019

How anti-immigrant rumors work for Trump

Monday, September 16th, 2019

From the first minutes of his campaign through today Donald Trump and his supporters have started or fanned rumors and conspiracy theories about immigrants – murderers and rapists….M 13…. caravans funded by Soros…. taking our jobs. What does Trump know about how these work? A lot, if you apply Pascal Boyer’s analysis of collective behavior.

Evolutionary anthropologist Pascal Boyer (author of Minds Make Society) presents a model of collective behavior which helps to explain this unending stream of provocations.  Boyer draws upon evidence found in small tribal cultures and advanced states.

Trump understood long ago that a politician can mobilize followers by constantly arousing the deeply embedded human desire for tight, reciprocating ties.  The designating of others as outsiders is part of recruitment and boundary making. Stereotyping and constant threat detection become standard.  To a coalition member, creating or passing along rumors and conspiracy theories does not require you to actually believe in them. We do a lot of things together in earnest without deep belief in their overt explanation.  The member basically wants to experience a fierce re-confirmation of the coalition, not to win a debate.

Trump constantly makes up moral transgressors and their victims.  Moralizing is a form of group enforcement.

Boyer cites two general habits of thinking. One involves what we retain in memory. Most people typically retain in memory receiving and passing on threats (“The lettuce may be carrying a botulism”), even if very improbable, more than receiving and passing on simply negative information (“Often the produce there is not very fresh”).

The second involves popular perceptions about economics: (1) The economy is zero-sum game. (2) The world is full of people who want a free ride. And, (3) bargaining prowess provides a huge advantage.  Trump has been suggesting that free loaders include pretty much the entire immigrant community. The Democratic party encourages free loading. Only he can fix immigration, using his bargaining skills. See him drive hard bargains with Central American countries! Any minute how, another lightning-like tweet will remind us how he is on the job.

This political style of his makes it difficult for Trump to act like a compromiser, or to show compassion,  such as letting Dorian survivors stay for a while. That would confuse his followers. He has no interest in general reform of immigration law, as that will require compromise.

EB-5 program to be drastically revised

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

The Trump administration is revamping the Green Card program for wealthy foreign investors that benefited developers such as Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. A new final rule, effective Nov. 21 will nearly double the minimum amount of cash required to secure an EB-5 investor visa from $500,000 to $900,000 for projects in needy areas. It will also revise the standards for what is considered a blighted or high-unemployment neighborhood, to prevent developers from “gerrymandering” their own boundaries to attract investments for projects located in affluent communities.

The standard investment threshold for projects in non-needy areas will increase from $1 million to $1.8 million. The amount will automatically adjust for inflation every five years. From here.

The EB-5 program was created in 1990 to encourage investment in economically distressed areas. Foreigners only really started using it in 2008, when turmoil in American capital markets caused real estate developers to scramble for other ways to raise money. It now generates more than $5 billion a year, in exchange for nearly 10,000 green cards — a number that is capped by statute. Chinese applicants take up almost all of the 10,000 spots. From here.

 

Immigrant representation in Congress

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

There are 52 immigrants and children of immigrants serving in the House of Representatives and 16 serving in the Senate. Counting both chambers, 57 of the 68 lawmakers who are immigrants or children of immigrants are Democrats. Ten others are Republicans, and one – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – is an independent.

The following table shows the region of origin. Note the drastic shift from presentation from European countries. (Data from here.)

 

Ukraine’s remittance economy

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Ukraine is Europe’s biggest recipient of remittances in proportion to the size of its economy. More than 11 per cent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product comes from remittances and its 5m-strong workforce abroad last year sent home a record $14.4bn through wire transfers and cash carried across the border.

Between 1m and 2m Ukrainians work in Poland, drawn by a combination of linguistic ties, geographical convenience, higher wages and better economic prospects. Salaries are three times higher than back home, and gaps left by young Poles heading to western Europe have caused labour shortages.

The lion’s share of these workers are from Ukraine’s western regions around Lviv, the 1m-strong provincial capital an hour’s drive from Poland where there is a two-decade-long tradition of working both seasonal and long-term jobs across the border, from construction to vegetable picking.

A widespread distrust of local banks means that workers abroad are pouring their cash into other assets, particularly real estate. As a result high-rise apartment complexes are sprouting up around Lviv and property developers say migrant labourers are some of their biggest customers.

From the Financial Times

Major delays in student visas

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Year to year declines in international students have concerned American universities. Now in addition are major delays in processing F-1 student visas this summer.

Universities have written to Washington to expedite visa issuances by the USCIS or else face a precipitous decline in the flow of international talent.

For undergraduates, new enrollments fell 2.9% from their peak in 2015-16 to 2016-17 and again by 6.3% the year after. Graduate new enrollments are following a similar trend, down 6.8% from their high point in 2015-16 to 2017-18, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

Harvard notes that the delays have “hindered or endangered their post-graduate work and, in some cases, their medical residencies.” This, in addition to the frustration caused to employers who’ve been waiting for new talent to add to the workforce.

Colleges believe the delays are due to new and complex visa screening procedures and changes to policies on how visa holders accrue “unlawful presence,” which largely stem from heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric and concerns about foreign students related to national security.

“Protracted visa delays. Harsh rhetoric against most immigrants and a range of other groups, because of religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. Together, such actions and policies have turned the volume all the way up on the message that the U.S. is closing the door — that we no longer seek to be a magnet for the world’s most driven and creative individuals,” wrote MIT President L. Rafael Reif in a letter to the university community on June 25.

From here.

Poland trying to bring back its citizens

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Poland is introducing personal income tax exclusions to induce its people to return to the country. In 2004, when it entered the EU, 400,000 Poles lived outside the country. Millions of Poles have left – about 2.5 million, of which 750,000 are students studying in Germany and elsewhere. These expatriates are likely concentrated among the young and prime working age. The country’s entire population is about 39 million.

A new law will exclude many persons under 26 years old from an 18% income tax. From here.

 

Filipino workers around the world

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

No country has worked harder than the Philippines to export its people, and no people have proved more eager to go. since the mid-1970s the government has trained and marketed overseas workers not just drumming up jobs but fashioning a brand — casting the Filipino as a genial hard worker, the best in low-cost labor. in 1977 Wingtips, the magazine of Philippine Airlines, insisted that “Filipinos don’t pose the problems that guess workers from, say, the Mediterranean belt have in Western Europe.” they won’t riot or strike.

Critics later called the sale of the happy hard-working Filipino infantilizing, an effort to turn people into remittance machines.  But most Filipinos like that their country was known as the HR department of the world.

More than 2 million Filipinos depart each year, enough to fill a dozen or more Boeing 747s  a day. About one and seven Filipino workers is employed abroad. and the $32 billion that they send home accounts for 10% of the GDP. Migration to the Philippines what cars once were to Detroit: the civil religion. The Philippine Daily Inquirer runs nearly 600 stories a year on overseas Filipino workers or “OFW‘s”. Half have the fevered feel of gold rush ads. Half sound like human rights complaints.

Published in The Atlantic. Adapted from A Good Provider is one who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century, by Jason Deparle, published 2019.

 

Filipino women packing pineapples in Hawaii, 1928.

 

 

 

question for today

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

“What obligation do you believe you have to your country?”

— from Table Topics

Dairy workers: at least half are immigrants

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

 

From 2017 interviews in Spanish with dairy workers throughout New York State: 90% are men, 61% from Mexico, 34% Guatemala, 2% Honduras, 2% Puerto Rico; 93% are undocumented; 73% speak little to no English; 62% are married; 70% have children.

Two-thirds had sustained a work injury; more than 80% were estimated to live and work on farms with too few workers to fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction for inspection and sanctioning (that is, below 11 non-family workers). Typically paid $9 an hour; 97% live in on-farm housing provided by their employers.

New York is a major dairy state. In 2015, it ranked fourth nationally in terms of milk production.

A national survey, done in late 2014, reports much less dependence on immigrant workers but shows better the impact of immigrant workers on the entire dairy industry. It reports that immigrant labor accounts for 51% of all dairy labor, and dairies that employ immigrant labor produce 79% of the U.S. milk supply. Dairy farm workers are paid an average wage of $11.54/hour. Dairy farms employed an estimated 150,418 workers in 2013. An estimated 76,968 of those are immigrants.

A bill was introduced in March, 2019 to expand the current H-2A visa program to allow for its use by dairy farmers. Under current law, dairy workers are not allowed to utilize H-2A visas because the dairy industry is not considered seasonal. The bill would allow for an initial three-year visa with an option to extend for another three years.

Insightful profile of an immigrant family

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

This Sunday’s NY Times Magazine contains an article on a Filipino immigrant family in Houston. Having read tons about immigration in the past 15 years, this article best captures in few words some truths about immigration.

The U.S. has by far the largest flow of permanent immigrants in the world. Note the word “permanent.” The article relates how a Filipino family switched from temporary immigration in the Persian Gulf to permanent immigration to the U.S. An underlying problem for the U.S. is that we do not know how to do — we feel very ambivalent about — temporary immigration, even though historically much of the former Mexican wave of immigration (declining since the 2000s) to the U.S. was in reality temporary in intent.

Permanent immigration is a multi-generational investment by both the host country and the immigrating households. Think of your image of immigration: most likely there a multi-generational dimension when you consider individuals you have known. The NY Times article addresses three generations. People living on the coasts have been used to the multi-generational story for years.

Immigrants are among the more ambitious within their country of origin. This Filipino family reflects that. This raises the issue of talent drain from the country of origin (which goes well beyond doctors).

The Trump administration has defined immigration opposition around somewhat manufactured law enforcement crises, and the Democratic presidential candidates are drinking the Trump cool-aid by focusing on law enforcement issues. Not a single one has articulated a sound vision for immigration.

Below the somewhat manufactured law enforcement crisis (which Dems including the Vermont congressional delegation have bought into) is an important underlying concern — it used to be called assimilation, but some years ago I began to see it as a question of civil (or civic) culture. U.S. born people want immigrants to have dual parent households, speak English, go to school, work, separate their trash, show up at community meetings, etc. Cultural expressions such as Cinco de Mayo and Asian dance performances are pleasant embellishments. You can see much of this work out in this article through the lens of young sisters and their parents.