Archive for September, 2019

Guatemala, asylum applications, and the safe third country concept

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

What happened?

On July 15, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued an interim final rule denying asylum to certain aliens who seek asylum on the southern border of the United States without having sought protection in a third country through which they traveled and where such protection was available. The U.S. District Court for Northern California issued an injunction. On September 11, the Supreme Court lifted the injunction.

What countries have agreed to process asylum applications?

On July 26, President Trump, in the presence of Guatemala’s Interior Minister, announced that Guatemala has agreed to cooperate. Trump also announced by a Twitter post “that took Guatemalan politicians and leaders at immigration advocacy groups by surprise.” Persons attempting to transit Guatemala from El Salvador or Honduras would be affected. The Guatemalan Congress must approve the agreement, which it has yet to. The agreement is here.

Mexico as so far refused to cooperate.

“Safe third country” concept

An article published on August 23, generally challenging the legality of the final rule, interprets the rule as attempting to apply a “little-noticed provision of U.S. law allowing for the transfer of asylum seekers to a third country – 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(2)(A).” A Trump tweet on June 17 said that Guatemala was about to sign a safe third country agreement.

The article goes on: The “safe third country” concept, which first found multilateral expression among European States in the 1990 Convention Applying the Schengen Agreement and subsequent 1990 Dublin Convention, is contested in international law. The concept is said to apply when a person travels through a country where they could have applied for international protection, but either did not apply or sought protection and a determination was not made. The essential premise is that the country in question is capable of providing international protection and is willing to do so (or “is able and willing to provide international protection”).

The author asserts that the administration’s action are not in accordance with the safe country rule, but rather emulated what Australia has done with using Nauru as a holding pen.

The case of Turkey

This is likely the biggest use of the safe third party concept. The European Union pledged more than $6 billion to Turkey. In return, Turkey tightened up its border restrictions, and take back from Greece every migrant who travelled through Turkey and reached Greece. Turkey did cut migration flows to Europe drastically, but only a small proportion of migrants who continued to land in Greece have been sent back.Migrants still have the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, or for relocation to other European countries, and many do so successfully. From here.

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