Increasing polarization over immigration

According to the most recent Gallup poll, Democrats’ views of immigrants’ effect on the country have grown increasingly positive, while Republicans’ have soured further. There are some constants over the past decades, that Americans overall think immigration is good. Today 68% of Americans say immigration is good for the country today but 41% want it decreased.  Most think that immigration worsens crime and drugs.

When you look at perceptions of different attributes of immigration, there is discord ripe for political polarization. 71% of Democrats say that immigration is good for food, music and the arts; a slim majority of Republicans think it is bad. 47% overall say that immigration worsens the drug problem, or 31% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans.

Whereas the party groups were similarly split from 2001 through 2004 over whether immigrants made the economy better or worse, 62% Democrats now say better versus 17% worse, while Republicans say 14% better and 64% worse.

Currently, 73% of Republicans want immigration decreased, while 10% want it increased, meaning their net preference for more immigration is -63. By contrast, 40% of Democrats want it increased, while just 18% want it decreased — a +22 net preference score. Independents still tilt negative, with 27% wanting it increased and 39% decreased, or -12.


Temporary Farm Labor H-2A visas have surged

I noted the other day that Florida farms are using the temporary farm worker program, H-2A, to make up for labor shortages, which the new immigration law of the state will exacerbate.  Here I give an overview of the H-2A program (thanks mainly to here).

The H-2A temporary farm worker visa program is a United States immigration program that allows employers to bring foreign agricultural workers to the country on a temporary basis to fill seasonal or temporary agricultural jobs that cannot be filled by domestic workers. The program is managed by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Unlike some other temporary worker visa programs, the H-2A program does not have an annual numerical cap on the number of visas issued.

Because the visa is seasonal, it is used for crop farms and not for diary and other farms with continuous year-round operations.

In FY22, some 276,000 H-2A visas or 93 percent went to Mexicans, 9,500 or three percent to South Africans, and 4,900 or two percent to Jamaicans.

The process of using the system starts with a certification for a certain number of workers. During the first half of FY23, 14% of H-2A certifications were in Florida, 12% in California, 9% each in Georgia and Washington, and 7% in North Carolina; these states account of 50% of the program.

As the graph shows there has been a huge growth in H-2A visa workers. This is due in part to the decline of unauthorized workers after the 2008 financial crisis, and more restrictions on unauthorized worker hiring by southern states (go here). Also, it appears that more farms – typically large ones – have learned how to use the program.  Some 12,000 farms are formally certified by the Dept of Labor to use the program, but about 5% of them account for 2/3 of program workers.  About 100 farms with employment of over 500 employ on average 1,200 program workers.

Roughly 40% of H-2A jobs are filled by intermediary agencies (“FLCs”) which recruit and place the worker. These agencies, rather than the farm, are the prime party accountable for compliance.

What drives Africran Migration to Europe

from Branko Milanovic The Great Convergence Foreign Affairs (July August 2023):

If Africa continues to languish, such stagnation will keep driving many people to migrate. After all, the gains from migration are enormous: a person with a median income in Tunisia who moves to France and starts earning there at, say, the 20th French income percentile would still have multiplied his earnings by almost three, in addition to creating better life chances for his children. Sub-Saharan Africans can gain even more by moving to Europe: a person earning the median income in Uganda who moves to Norway and earns at the level of the Norwegian 20th percentile will have multiplied his earnings 18-fold. The inability of African economies to catch up with wealthier peers (and thus fail to produce a future reduction in global income inequality) will spur more migration and may strengthen xenophobic, nativist political parties in rich countries, especially in Europe.

Canada poaching our temporary skilled workers

From Forbes:

It is a fact that H1B visa workers from countries such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines face legitimate concerns about their long-term status and stability in the United States. For example, America offers no automatic path to permanent residence for H1-B workers, their work visas are only temporary, H1-B spouses and children cannot work without authorizations,

Starting from July 16, 2023, U.S.-based H1-B workers and their immediate family members will be able to apply for open Canadian work permits of up to three years, enabling them to explore employment opportunities with almost any Canadian employer. [An arrangement with a specific employer is not required to use this program.]

Other new initiatives are described here.

Also go here and here.




Our aging population and how immigration matters

Immigrants are not so much younger than the non-immigrant population than they are child-bearers more than non-immigrants. That way, they mitigate the aging of the population.

The nation’s median age increased by 0.2 years to 38.9 years between 2021 and 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median age in the United States in 1990 was 32.9; in 2000, 35.3, and in 2010, 37.2

The median age has been rising because the birth rate has been dropping—1990: 16.7 births per 1,000 population. 2000: 14.0 births per 1,000 population. 2010. 13.0 births per 1,000 population. 11.9 births per 1,000 population.

The birth rate has declined in large measure due to our not having a fertility rate at replacement (2.1) or higher since the 1970s.

How immigration fits in: Immigration probably does not lower the median age, or if so negligibly. What it does do is produce a lot of babies., Foreign born persons make up 14% of the population but produce 20% of all babies. Why? Because foreign born persons are relatively more concentrated in child-bearing cohorts (young adults and middle age). See my analysis of immigrants as a birthing factory here.




1st and 2nd Gen immigrant workers — 33% of all workers by 2030??

The Migration Policy Institute has issued a report on future job trends and the role of first and second generation workers. The report’s analysis is rather dense, but here are some take aways. It classifies jobs as growing “jobs of the future”, declining, and mixed.  Jobs of the future have more educational requirement, such as management and healthcare professions, for which first and second generation Asian and Black African immigrants are well positioned.  (The report inexplicably leaves out information technology jobs.) the share of the workforce which is first and second generation was 25% in 2010 and 28% in 2018.

Given demographic trends, the report implies, but does not state explicitly, that this percentage will grow in the future as more second generation mature into working age. 25% of persons under 18 are children of immigrants. (See here on how immigrants are a birthing factory.) Right now, about 11% of all workers are children of immigrants – percentage which is bound to grow. Speculatively, by 2030, the share of workforce which is first and second generation could be, say, 33%, up from 28% in 2018.

Some details:

Immigrants and their U.S. born children were responsible for 85% of the labor force growth between 2010 in 2018 at which point they comprised 28% of all workers [17% foreign born, 11% children of foreign born– PFR], up from 25% in 2010. And projection suggestions to 2035, all growth in the working age population will come from immigrant origin adults.

First and second generation workers are more concentrated in prime working age (25 – 54) – 70% vs. 62% for all other workers.

Three job classifications which are going to be growing rapidly in the future have about 25% first or second generation workers are manager, not otherwise classified, registered nurses, and nurse psychiatric and home health aides.

Major jobs where there will be a decline in workforce (with current percentage 1st and 2nd generation) include cashiers (31%). retail sales persons (26%) and maids and housekeeping, cleaners (61%).

Growing jobs will tend to relatively favor, Asians and Black African immigrants, both of which are relatively highly educated. Hispanic workers are relatively concentrated in jobs that are stable or declining.





Florida’s work shortages and its new immigration law

The Wall Street Journal reports on labor shortages in farming and construction in Florida resulting from the state’s new law cracking down on unauthorized persons, who are estimated to number 775,000 (3.4% of the total population). The new law is summarized here. The article is light on data.

Unauthorized workers are estimated to comprise about 50% of the state’s farm workforce.

Commercial farms are responding by using more H-2A temporary farm workers. Nationwide, over the past ten years, the share of farm workers who are unauthorized has declined while the number who have temporary work visas has surged. The number of H-2A “certified jobs” in FY 2013 was 110,000; in FY 2021, 317,000. Today, there are about 50,000 H-2A workers in Florida.

As for construction, a national labor shortage has been a factor for some time.

The Florida Policy Institute estimates that nearly 10% of workers in Florida’s most labor-intensive industries are unauthorized.








Central American immigrants in the US

2.1 million persons born in Central America reside in the US, Including 1.4 million El Salvadoreans, 1.1 million Guatemalans, 800,000 Hondurans, and 300,000 Nicaraguans.

These four are worse off than Mexicans in the U.S., much worse off than two other Central American immigrants from Costa Ricans and Panamanians. They have collectively been more numerous than Mexicans at the Mexican border, despite these four countries having a combined population one third of Mexico. The Biden administration will open an immigration processing centers in Guatemala within a few weeks. The administration has proposed additional economic aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Here is quick snap shot of these immigrants.

One fifth of El Salvadoreans live in the U.S. About 6% of Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans live in the U.S. In 2019 (before the pandemic) remittances to El Salvador were equivalent to 20% of the country’s GDP.

Limited English proficiency

Nearly all Central American immigrants speak a language other than English as their primary language. A greater share of the population had limited English proficiency (66%) than Asian-born immigrants (34%).

Working age

In 2021, 81% of Central American immigrants were of working age (18 to 64), higher than U.S. natives (59%). This means relatively more of them are in the labor force.


About 46% of Central Americans ages 25 and older had less than a high school diploma, versus 30% for persons from Mexico and 7% of U.S.-born adults as of 2021.  These rates are reflected in the poor education achievement in the countries of origin. For instance, the “gross high school enrollment” rate in Honduras is 60% vs. 89% in Costa Rica.


About 34% of Central Americans were naturalized U.S. citizens as of 2021, compared to 51% percent Mexican immigrants; including Hondurans (23%), Guatemalans (28%), and Salvadorans (36%).

Irregular legal status

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that approximately 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants from all of Central America resided in the United States as of 2019, accounting for approximately 19% of the total 11 million unauthorized immigrant population and about 50% of the immigrants from these countries in the U.S.  The top origin countries for unauthorized immigrants from Central America were El Salvador (741,000), Guatemala (724,000), and Honduras (490,000).

Go here for the MPI report.

Biden made border administration worse

In the June 19 issue of the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins wrote a 10,000-word description of migrant movement across the Mexican border. His reporting includes interviews with Columbians and Venezuelans who crossed the border, Border Patrol officers, politicians on the U.S. side of the border, human smugglers, former members of the Trump and Biden administration, advocates in opposing camps, and current Biden appointees. He writes that besides the very many persons who have crossed to apply for asylum, there were an estimated 1.6 million persons who crossed escaping detection in a 26 month period.

The picture he paints is of systems of border management and asylum management that are already severely stressed, and Biden and his early pro-immigrant aides who made the situation much worse. One gets the impression that during the 2020 campaign and after Biden and his aides, in effect, recklessly encouraged persons to cross the border to seek asylum. Applying for asylum virtually guarantees residency in the U.S. for five years or more due to court backlogs. And, once in, an asylum applicant can disappear. Sharp intelligence among would-be border crossers and smugglers saw, and continue to see, an opportunity.  The primary drivers of border crossing are the chance of staying in the U.S. for years (he says at one point ten years) due to asylum court backlog; insufficient border law enforcement, and clever smugglers.

Missing from the article is a close analysis of the politics of immigration reform.  Filkins implies that the political prospects for constructive reform are so poor as to not merit inspection.