Bangladeshi workers in the Gulf and the pandemic

Eight of Bangladeshi’s 160 million people live outside the country. About half, or 4.2 million, live in the Gulf region*, the second largest group in the region behind migrants from India. Most of them are unskilled and from the most poverty-ridden regions of Bangladesh. Almost all of them are contract migrants, meaning they return after a fixed tenure typically lasting between three and ten years.

These migrants have contributed to building up the vast highways, eye-catching skyscrapers, thriving industries, and world-class cities. Their cost of migration is often exorbitant, with significant shares of the recruitment fees handed off to middlemen, with the remainder covering agency fees at both ends, official costs, and plane tickets. Most become indebted to raise the funds, pawning their land, selling property, taking high-interest loans, or borrowing from relatives.

These migrants are largely left out of pandemic response programs of these countries, despite relatively high infection rates. In Saudi Arabia migrants account for 38% of the population but 76% case confirmed as of May.

Bangladesh received U.S. $18.3 billion via remittances sent via formal channels in 2019, 73% of which came from the Gulf region. Remittances were equal to 6% of the country’s $302.6 billion GDP. The World Bank predicted that South Asian countries might face a 22% decline in remittances during 2020.

*The Gulf region in this posting includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

From the Migration Policy Institute

USCIS crises

The American Immigration Council writes about funding and management crises at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. These crises have multiple dimensions, including the following taken from its July 15 blog posting:

USICS plans to furlough over 13,000 employees as of August 3 at a time when its own data confirms that the agency has a backlog of over 5.7 million pending cases. While the agency has asked Congress for emergency funding, the White House has yet to submit a formal request. It is unclear if Congress will be able to step in before the long August recess.

If USCIS moves forward with these furloughs, productivity will plummet even further. Millions of cases will be left in limbo until the agency is able to fully resume operations. This includes the applications from hundreds of thousands of Dreamers impacted by the Supreme Court’s recent DACA decision.

The USCIS is also holding up green card and work permit issuance.

Marriage based green cards

Asel Mukambetova of SelfLawyer responds to my request to summarize how marriage-based green cards are handled:

The time between an individual’s submission of an application for a green card and the date of award varies greatly by circumstances. Assume you have married a person without a green card. It will take about 12 to 13 months to obtain a green card for your spouse. After receiving a green card, your spouse will generally not be eligible for citizenship until 3 years have passed (if you are a U.S. citizen).

If you are a U.S. citizen sponsoring your unmarried son or daughter over 21, the waiting time is 58.5 Months to 76 Months. For a son or daughter under the age of 21 (including stepchildren), the waiting time is 12 months to 13 months. (The duration estimates cited above were typical as of month/year.)

The cost of obtaining a green card for a family member includes fees and attorney costs assuming you use an attorney. The minimum cost of government fees to sponsor a relative is $1,400-$1,900 per immigrant. Immigration attorney fees can range from $935 to $4,000 per immigrant.

If undocumented are not counted for House seats

President Trump signed a memo today with the intent to remove undocumented persons from the population count in the 2020 census when the 435 congressional seats are apportioned. Since neither authorized nor unauthorized persons are identified in the census, the probability of this policy happening are slim simply on data collection grounds. But let’s do some numbers. It appears that 4 seats might be switched among states.

There are 320 million people in the U.S. There are about 11 million undocumented persons, or 3.4% of the total population. The only states where the undocumented population is so proportionally large that they would lose seats are California (lose 2 seats of 53), Texas (lose 1 seat of 36) and Illinois (lose 1 of 18). Florida would come close to losing 1 of 27 seats. (Data on unauthorized populations from here.)

What states might benefit? 16 states are marginally more likely to gain or lose seats before this new factor is taken into account. Brookings demographer William Frey estimated that Texas could gain three seats. Florida could gain two seats; thus the provision would lower the prospects of these two states. North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon could each gain one seat. Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia could each lose a seat. (from CNN here.)

Coming decline of international students this coming academic year

About 2.5 million students began college in 2018-2019. In that year, over 10% of them were international students — about 270,000 new students. The enrollment of new international students in the Fall 2020-21 academic year is projected to decline 63% to 98% from the 2018-19 level. (From here.) This is even with the recission of the rule to bar international students.

Several factors are behind this, including difficulties in obtaining visas, and the greater risk of acquiring the virus in the U.S. compared to other countries.

The pandemic + the Trump administration’s instinctive antipathy towards immigration (as the fiasco of barring international students, which lasted for less than a week) are happening at a time when other advanced countries are wooing international students. Canada, for instance, is making it easier for international students to gain work permits (here).

Two thirds of post BA international students in computer sciences used to come from India. Even before the pandemic, there was a decline in this inflow (here).

Jaw dropping forecast of world population trends

The global total fertility rate will be 1.66 in 2100, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. Pretty much every advanced country’s fertility rate in 2017 was below replacement.  By 2050, 151 countries are forecasted to have a fertility rate below 2.1, and 183 by 2100. 23 countries including Japan, Thailand, and Spain, will have population declines greater than 50% from 2017 to 2100; China’s population is forecasted to decline by 48% in 2100 due to the extraordinarily low ratio of young to old because of the one child policy of the past. China’s 2017 fertility rate was 1.53.  

The authors of this forecast say that “continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth.” And, “Our findings show that some countries with fertility lower than replacement level, such as the USA (now: 1.81), Australia, and Canada, will probably maintain their working-age populations through net immigration. Our forecasts for a shrinking global population have positive implications for the environment, climate change, and food production, but possible negative implications for labour forces, economic growth, and social support systems in parts of the world with the greatest fertility declines.”

The world’s population today is 7.6 billion. The world’s population will peak in 2068. In 2100 it will be 8.8 billion, but if female education and contraception goals that have been articulated are met, the 2100 popularion will be less then 7 billion.

From The Lancet, and as reported here.

Biden position on immigration

The Biden campaign task force issued a 1,800 word statement on immigration policy. It embraces an inclusive vision of immigration. The Trump policies will be reversed and immigration will be increased.

The war over immigration is primarily a cultural war, not a war over jobs. This is hard to find stated explicitly by either side.

The Biden statement implies that that immigration should be assessed on its impact of American culture and that this impact is overwhelmingly positive. In contrast, a hard restrictionist position on immigration, in my view, focuses on competition for jobs but has an underlying and unstated position that American culture suffers from immigration

The Biden prioritizes non-economic-based immigration (“Our family, humanitarian, and diversity pathways have contributed immeasurably to the vibrancy and productivity of American society and should continue to be the centerpiece of our immigration system.”)

It contains nothing surprising except perhaps for going further than some might expect to limit immigration law enforcement — making it government policy to shield “sensitive locations like our schools, houses of worship, health care facilities, benefits offices, and DMVs from immigration enforcement actions.”

Reforming pandemic aid

I posted before on how the federal pandemic aid to household explicitly excluded several million persons because one adult in the household did not have proper identification for residence in the U.S. (social security number). Thus many citizens and permanent residents were left out. The legislation is the CARES Act. (Go here and here).

The Migration Policy Center reports that a bill to correct this was submitted by Senator Marco Rubio and Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. MPI estimates the legislation could benefit 1.7 million spouses excluded from the CARES Act stimulus and 1.7 million of the 3.7 million children who were also left out.

Among the biggest recipient states: 896,000 spouses and children could receive payments in California 2% of the state’s population), 609,000 in Texas (2%, 240,000 in New York and 148,000 in Florida (1%).

Ban on temporary work visas – H-1B visas

I turn again to Asel Mukambetova of Selflawyer, here to summarize the impact of the Trump Administration’s ban on temporary work visas.

Asel’s assessment: President Trump passed an executive order on June 23, 2020 temporarily banning all new work visas issued to foreign nationals until the end of 2020. Suspended work visas include H-1B, used by U.S. tech companies for highly qualified foreign professionals, and four other visa categories. All told, Trump’s executive order can bar the entry of up to 525,000 foreign workers.

Before this ban, H-1 visa denials skyrocketed between FY 2015 and 2020. The number of RFEs (Request for Evidence) issued also showed a drastic upward trend for the same period. Between FY 2015 and FY 2019 shows that USCIS increased its RFEs by 64% and denial rate by 82%.

The software industry alone creates 14.4 million jobs and contributes $1.6 trillion in the total value-added GDP of the U.S. economy. The computer-related sector employs the highest percentage of the H-1B workforce. Top U.S. tech firms like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon among others rely on employment visas like H-1B, to hire critically needed tech workers from overseas. This allows them to maintain global competitive standards, which in turn boosts the economy and helps create millions of jobs for American citizens.

Trump’s ban will discourage companies from locating their branches in the U.S., creating opportunities for countries like Canada and Australia.

PFR: I have posted often on H-IB workers and stem workers. This in 2017: The nation’s STEM workforce that is foreign-born doubled from 11.9% in 1990 to 24.3% in 2015. They account for 47% of STEM workers with advanced degrees.

Look who wins the Nobel Prizes and MacArthur Fellowships

In 2019 four of eight Nobel Prize winners from the United States were foreign-born individuals. Eleven of 14 Nobel Prize winners in 2019 have been associated with a U.S. institution of higher education at some point in their lives. Throughout the history of the Nobel Prize, 143 immigrants to the United States have won a Nobel Prize and were 34% of all U.S. winners.

In 2019, six of the 26 MacArthur Fellows are foreign born and, since 1981, 226 of 1,040 total MacArthur Fellows (22%) were born outside of the United States.

From here.