Collapse of remittances to labor exporting countries?


The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to seriously disrupt the economies of emerging nations due to a sharp decline in remittances.

According to the World Bank, an estimated $625 billion was sent by migrants to individuals in their home countries in 2017, a 7% increase from 2016, when the amount was $586 billion. That is up from $188 billion in 2005, or an average annual increase of 27% while global GPD has grown about 3% a year.

The Philippines, for instance, received in 2017 about $28 billion in remittances or over 9% of its GDP. $10 billion came from the Gulf States; $11 billion from the U.S. and $6.6 billion from four other states.

Several Latin American countries vitally depend on remittances from one country – the United States. Perhaps half of the workers from these countries in the U.S. are unauthorized and may not receive unemployment checks or the one time $1,200 payment.


For an overview of remittances to emerging economies, go here. For detailed historic data from the World Bank, go here and here.

Unauthorized workers excluded from $2T rescue package

About 8 million persons unauthorized to work in the U.S. fill jobs. Maybe 50% of them work for employers through formal payrolls, as opposed to for cash. The rescue package does not recognize either the formal payroll or the cash workers.

This means in effect that 15% of farm workers, 13% of construction workers, and 8% of hospitality workers will not benefit from the program.

We can estimate the formal payroll workers through the volume of persons working with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN), plus a generous number working with some someone else’s social security number. In 2010, 3 million federal tax returns were filed with ITINs.

In 1996, the Internal Revenue Service created the ITIN to provide a way for noncitizens who earn income in the United States, including legally-present noncitizens who do not have Social Security numbers, to pay taxes on money earned in the United States while not being technically employed by a U.S employer. The vast majority are unauthorized workers.

3/29/30. Update with more information from the American Immigration Council

Temporary farm workers and the COVID 19 crisis

The advanced countries have increasingly depended on temporary foreign workers to pick crops. The COVID-19 crisis exposes this dramatic shift in farm labor, mainly since about 2010.

On March 18, the Feds shut down processing of temporary (H-2A) visas for farm workers, who come typically from Mexico to pick crops. The crops picked by hand, such as tomatoes and strawberries,, will be most severely affected. Yesterday (March 26) the Feds relented to pressure from the farm industry to waive some visa processing requirements in order to restore the flow of temporary workers.

In FY 2019 258,000 workers came to the U.S. on this visa. That is up from 60,000 in 2011. (Go here for the history of the H-2A program.)

In Europe, the virus shutdown imperils the flow of temporary farm workers from eastern Europe and Morocco. And the lack of farm workers is affecting eastern Europe – Poland uses 500,000 temporary workers from outside the EU for its farms, as its own workers stream into western Europe.

Immigration enforcement of Public Charge rule suspended for COVID 19

The Customs and Immigration Service has suspended the application of its new Public Charge Rule (Feb 24) with respect to public assistance delivered in response to COVID-19.

In its official statement, the USCIS says, “USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care…related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits.”

The types of public assistance involved include the following: Means-tested cash benefits like SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families); Medicaid; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and subsidized housing.

COVID 19’s impact re: international students

The pandemic has created a severe crisis for foreign students in the U.S and for their colleges. A talented freshman from New Delhi at Grinnell College (whose parents are now in 21 day lockdown) is a case I personally know of. I personally know a Honduran high school student who is marooned in Texas.

American universities have increasing depended on foreign students to fill their classrooms and coffers. In academic year 2017 – 2018, over a million foreign students studied at American colleges, up from about 600,000 in 2005-2006.

Shutting down American campuses has severely disrupted the lives of these students, and put into question how many students will show up in the Fall of 2020. Several states are dependent on foreign students for at least 8.6% of total enrollment: CA, MA and NY. For most states 5% of college students are foreign. The bulk of the dependent colleges are public.

Several states depend on these students for at least 17% of high ed tuition. CA, IL, MA, MD, NY. The table below distributes the 50 states by their dependence on college tuition income from foreign students. There is no state with less that 5% of tuition paid by foreign students.

Hispanic voters — more of them, better educated

Hispanics underperform in national elections.  But there are more of them, and they appear to be better educated then in a past

Nearly a million more Hispanics Americans turn 18 every year. That’s roughly an annual increase of 3% of Hispanic eligible voters, vs. an absolute decline in white eligible voters. In 2018, Hispanic Americans made up 12.5% of eligible voters nationwide (28.8 million). They make up 30% and 29.8% of eligible voters in California and Texas, respectively, and almost 1 in 4 eligible voters in Arizona.

Many Hispanic eligible voters are immigrants. But the share that are born in the U.S, which was 73% in 2010, grew to 79% in 2018.

But Hispanics are poor in registering to vote: only 57% of Hispanic eligible voters registered to vote in 2012. Voters / total eligible is about 55% for whites, 40% for Hispanics. Much of this can be explained by whites being older and with more formal education..Both are associated with higher voting reates. U,S. born Hispanics have much higher educational attainment than immigrant Hispanics,

From The New American Economy, Power of the Purse: The Contributions of Hispanic Americans

Also go to Pew Research here.

Why don’t people register to vote? Go here.




Immigration to America in five stories

My grandfather arrived with little formal education and helped to build the [insert] industry.

Comment: during late 19th C – mid 20th C manufacturing employment grew by using new workers with few skills. Southern blacks were largely excluded from this workforce until the 1940s.

The rise of Silicon Valley was intimately tied to global workforce immigration of skilled engineers and scientists. American medicine has been deeply dependent on trained immigrants.

Einstein and Nobel Prize winners immigrated here.

Comment: this celebrity immigrant story remains current. Relates to perhaps 0.1% of immigrants.

In past 40 years, low skilled workers, many illegal, flooded the U.S.

Comment: Notable politically powerful industries, such as agriculture, textiles, meat processing, Trump resorts, and accounts for much of the geographic spread of low skilled immigrants since about 1980. This explains the continued successful resistance of the business community to mandatory verification of employment status.

Expected increases in demand for unskilled workers — personal aides, growing now at 5% a year — are not associated with politically powerful employers

America needs to meet its responsibilities re: global refugees

Comment: this commitment arose out of major American wars — WW2 and Vietnam. Most global refugees today arise from other circumstances (Syria, Africa, Myanmar) Central American refugees referred to as anti-American by Trump. (His 2020 State of the Union speech: border policies are “restoring the rule of law and reasserting the culture of American freedom.”)

We are a nation of immigrants.

Comment: True yesterday and today.

The Michigan Compact


State and local chambers of commerce in Michigan issued a Michigan Compact on February 27, 2020, relating to the 700,000 foreign born persons in the state.

“As signers of the Michigan Compact on Immigration, we are committed to promoting common-sense immigration reforms that will strengthen our economy, as well as attract talent and business to our state. Talent is the number one challenge facing Michigan employers and we recognize the critical role national immigration policy will play in driving continued economic growth.

We support bipartisan immigration policy reforms that ensure the federal system meets the needs of our employers and labor market, while providing a permanent solution for undocumented residents who make significant contributions to our state and nation’s economy and enforcing our nation’s laws.

Michigan’s immigration policies must reflect and affirm our goal to be the most welcoming, hospitable, and business-friendly state in the nation. Immigration has played a critical role in our history and is fundamental to future growth and prosperity.”

Michigan immigration facts:

3.8% of population were foreign born in. 1990; 7.1% in 2017.

In 2017, among foreign born 53% were white, 31% Asian, 16% Latino. There were more from India than from Mexico/Central America. Also many from “other western Asia” (mainly Iraq). Half of foreign born have been naturalized. Unauthorized population estimated at 110,000, or about 30% of total non-citizen foreign-born (about 350,000).

Data from here. Unauthorized population from here.

Where non-English speaking is dominant

In Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district, which includes part of the Bronx and Queens, 68% of adults speak other than English at home. 46% of the population is foreign-born (compared to 13% nationwide).

In 39 U.S. counties, a majority of adult citizens speak any language other than English at home. Most of these counties lie along the southwestern edge of Texas, but the largest of them are Bronx County in New York (1.3 million people with more than 53 percent of adult citizens not speaking English) and Miami-Dade County in Florida (2.5 million people with more than two-thirds of adult citizens not speaking English at home) (from here).

On a state rather than county basis, in three states there are at least 25% of the total population which speaks Spanish at home: Texas (30%), California (29%) and New Mexico (28%). For the U,S. as a whole, 13% of the population speaks Spanish at home.

2 of 5 recent green card awardees might be rejected today

About two or every five recent green card holders may not have been given a green card were they subjected to new review guidelines. And that could easily understate the impact.

Revisions to the “public charge” rule went into effect this month. An August, 2019 study puts the then-proposed changes into the context of profiles of recent green card recipients.

It says, “Using Census data to review the characteristics of recent green-card holders, the Migration Policy Institute found 43% were not employed or enrolled in school; 39% did not speak English well or at all; 33% had incomes below 125% of the poverty line; 25% lacked a high school diploma; and 12% had incomes below 125% of poverty and were either under 18 or over 61.” These are among the criteria that would expose an applicant to denial.

Among recent green-card holders, 69% had at least one of these negative factors; 43% had at least two; and 17% had at least three. Most applicants would fall into a gray area with some positive and some negative factors, underscoring how discretionary the process may be.