Fairfax County VA: diverse and well off

Fairfax County, VA, is both racially/ethnically diverse and well off.  The County’s May, 2023 Strategic Plan is focused on making the City economically accessible and culturally rich.

40% of households speak other than English at home.

The median household income is close to $100,000 vs close to $50,000 nationally.

Challenges to the surge of immigrants

The Biden Administration’s system of admitting 30,000 persons a month through the parole system is being challenged by both Republicans and Democrats.

As of now, about 200,000 persons have been admitted from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua. And Cuba. Texas and other states are suing to stop the program.

New York State, in particular New York City, has received in the past year some 100,000 persons who are either parole beneficiaries of asylum applicants.  Asylum applicants have to wait 150 before applying for a work permit. Parole beneficiaries do not have a formal waiting period, but still have to apply. (The “non-immigrant” work application form is I-765). Lack of work permits greatly complicates how governments manage influxes of migrants and impacts on the well being of the migrants themselves.

New York State Governor Hochul has been pressuring the Biden Administration to speed up work authorizations for asylum applicants and parolees.

Here is an article which describes the how New York City is struggling to respond to housing and other issues of the migration surge. Only a small share of recent arrivals have come by way of initiatives of the governors of Texas and Florida.


When unauthorized persons are not legally able to drive

There are 19, mostly blue states, which provide to unauthorized persons documents to allow them to drive. (Go here).  Wisconsin is one of 31 states which do not provide a satisfactory document to permit them to drive. A Propublica report captures the actual experience of law enforcement dealing with unauthorized persons: a lot of informal accommodation.

Normally, states require a would-be driver to prove identity and age, usually with documents like a birth certificate, passport, or Social Security card, pass required written and driving tests, and have lawful immigration status if not a U.S. citizen. The REAL ID standards for state-issued documentation such as driver’s license requires proof of legal status (The mandatory adherence to REAL ID for states is now in 2025). Thus a state needs to create another document, valid in that state alone, to enable unauthorized persons to drive.

A typical instance of where this authorization is valuable is for rural dairy workers, who do not have access to public transportation and need to drive to work, get groceries, etc. Propublica reports on dairy workers in Wisconsin.

From the Propublica article: Elected district attorneys in several counties have stopped bringing criminal charges against people caught driving without a license; both Democrat and Republican prosecutors say they want to dedicate their limited resources to crimes with victims.

And in four counties in southwestern Wisconsin, community advocates worked with local law enforcement agencies and dairy farmers a few years ago to create identification cards that workers could show officers during traffic stops to prove that they worked in the area and, potentially, keep those encounters from escalating.

“It did not prevent them from getting a ticket, but it prevented them from being handcuffed and hauled off to jail,” said Shirley Barnes, the recently retired co-director of the MultiCultural Outreach Program in Dodgeville. “The fact is, all the police officers in all of these counties know exactly where these people work. They know it is local farmers who are employing these people.”

Example of an authorizing law, Massachusetts: Massachusetts license for otherwise eligible individuals who present proof of identity, date of birth and state residence. Prohibits inquiries and recording of an applicant or license holder, citizenship or immigration status, with limited exceptions. Includes confidentialities provisions.

Rise of the college educated foreign born workforce

This post summarizes a lot of demographic data on foreign-born persons and their educational attainment. The overall trend in most demographic data shows that our immigrant populations is gradually aligning with the U.S. born population in economic and social characteristics. Let’s see how that happens or doesn’t happen with regard to education among workers.

Prime working age (25-54) increasingly foreign-born. The U.S. born workforce declined 2005 – 2022 from 82.6 million to 81.1 million, while the foreign born workforce for these age group increased 28% from 16 million to 20.6 million.

The percentage of prime working age worker who are foreign born has increased in these years from 19% to 25%.

Major shifts in the distribution of education status. The large numbers of person with very low formal education, a phenomenon of the Latino surge in the 1980s – mid 2000, have been partly eclipsed by the (1) the rise in education in all parts of the world, and (2) the surge in the past 15 years of Asian immigrants, who are relatively well educated.

Low education is becoming rarer overall. Between 2005 and 2022, the number of U.S born persons with less than a high school degree declined by almost half, to 3.6 million, while the group among foreign born did not decline – but did not increase.  In 2005, 44% of this education population was foreign born; today it is 58%.  The poorest educated Americans over about 60% foreign born. In 2005, 15% of the total foreign population had less than a HS education; today it is closer to 10% — still higher than for total U.S. born persons, which is about 1% now.

Foreign born by origin 1965 to 2065


From Pew Research: Asian Americans are projected to be the nation’s largest immigrant group by the middle of the century. Single-race, non-Hispanic Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group in the country, surpassing Hispanics in 2055. By then, Asians are expected to make up 36% of all U.S. immigrants, while Hispanics will make up 34%, according to population projections from the Pew Research Center.

Me: Note that when the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was enacted Europeans dominated the population of foreign born. The The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was enacted as the surge in Hispanic immigration began, much of it unauthorized. The 2018 financial crisis stopped the major Hispanic flow. By about 2013, recent Asian immigrants surpassed in number recent Hispanic immigrants.


Biden’s use of the parole system

The Biden Administration has reverted to using the “parole” system to manage some migrant flows into the United States.  As of this summer, some half million persons have entered the U.S. legally through parole.  Given as Biden’s use of the system includes private sponsorships of immigrants on a temporary basis, these initiatives present a major political commitment to in effect partly privatize the acceptance of immigrants from problem countries.

Here is a recent posting by me on the parole method of temporary entrance into the country. for a Congressional Research Service backgrounder on the system, go here. It is used primarily as a form of targeted humanitarian admission.  Parole has been used the past in 1956, for refugees from the Hungarian Revolution, for Cuban refugees in 1960, for the Mariel boatlift in 1980s. There is no notable use of parole for persons already in the U.S.

Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, to reduce encounters at the Mexican border (160,000 as of mid summer 2023)

It started in October 2022, then expanded in January 2023, a parole program for admission of these persons.  Since the start of the program. Up to 30,000 individuals per month from these countries who have a U.S.-based financial supporter, pass vetting and background checks, and meet other established criteria, may be eligible to come to the United States for a period of two years and receive work authorization.  160,000 citizens of these countries have entered the U.S. under this program (as of July 2023).  Mexican border encounters with these nationalities declined from a seven-day average of 3,453 encounters in mid-December 2022 to a seven-day average of 394 at the end of June 2023. Here is a DHS summary of the program. Here is a defense of the program.

CBP One App Program (130,000): introduced in January, 2023 for the Mexican border, this app based system is for anyone who qualifies for asylum; those accepted are put into parole status awaiting asylum review (which can legally happen only when a person is in the U.S.) (Go here.) This was introduced to reduce pressure on the border.

To admit Afghans after the withdrawal (77,000): In the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration introduced a parole program for qualified Afghans (a type of parole program called port parole). Typical with the administrative failure of the withdrawal, between January 1, 2020 to April 6, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the agency in charge of adjudicating humanitarian parole applications, received 44,785 applications where the applicant’s country of citizenship was Afghanistan, and only approved 114 of those applications, or less than 0.3%. (Go here.)

Ukraine (140,000): Here is what I wrote on 4/21/22: “the Biden administration implemented today United For Ukraine, an innovative approach to rapid refugee intake – authorizing households to directly accept Ukrainian refugees, bypassing the conventional channel of central intake and then assignment to one of the many resettlement organizations in the United States. In effect it is a private sponsor-based program, though it might not be formally stated as such.

This is a potentially explosive change in refugee acceptance. Enormous pressure will be put on Washington to expand a privatized refugee system to many comers. For instance, there are today in the United States about 5,000 Banyamulenges from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These people are under threat of genocide. We can expect that many of these people here will privately sponsor their relatives and others for refugee status.”


Business start ups and foreign born involvement

In one 2022 study, researchers analyzed data on more than a million firms that were founded between 2005 and 2010 and that survived for at least five years. They found that 0.83 percent of the immigrants in the US workforce launched a business during this period, compared with 0.46 percent of the native-born.  The databases examined include ones that tend to feature either large or small businesses. The pattern of higher entrepreneurship is apparent among all sizes of firms.

STEM related enterprises (involving computer and mathematical scientists, engineers, and life scientists): Some 18% of all workers are foreign-born. But the foreign born make up 23% of the STEM workforce with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Foreign-born workers make up 45% or more of all STEM workers with doctorates. level who work as. Thus it is not surprising that among firms started between 2005 and 2010, those with an immigrant founder were 35 percent more likely to have obtained a patent than those with only native-born founders.

In a 2023 study, researchers compared localities in the U.S. in terms of activity per capita in starting a firm.   They found a very wide variation in start ups among localities. Two factors were closely associated with higher than average start-up activity: the rate of college graduates and the rate of foreign-born persons.


Asian restaurants in the US: how many?

A report by Statista estimates there were approximately 89,000 Chinese restaurants in the US as of 2019. This suggests Chinese cuisine accounts for around 8-9% of all US restaurants. The same report estimates there were around 22,000 Indian restaurants and 12,500 Thai restaurants in 2019. Add other Asian nationalities, and it appears that about 12-15% of all restaurants, or perhaps 150,000, in the U.S. are Asian.

Since a slim majority of Republicans think that immigration is bad for food, music and the arts, it seems like Democrats are taking much more advantage of this food diversity

Per Pew Research, Chinese restaurants are found in every state and in 70% of all U.S. counties. Every state and a third or more of all counties also have at least one Japanese (45%) or Thai (33%) restaurant.

Some 9% of Asian restaurants in the U.S. offer cuisines from multiple Asian origin groups. Nearly seven in every 10 of these establishments are combinations of Chinese or Japanese food, either with each other (36%) or with some other cuisine: 18% serve Chinese and Thai food, 15% serve Japanese and Thai food and 10% serve Japanese and Korean food. 78% of Pakistani restaurants in the U.S. also serve Indian food, but just 10% of Indian restaurants serve Pakistani food.

The popularity of Asian restaurants, in estimated order of numbers of them are: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Pakistani.

Here is a mouth-watering profile of Uyhgur restaurants in New York City.


National nursing shortage – contraints on producing more domestically

The average RN annual salary in the median state (for nursing salaries) today is $81,000. The median salary (combining all sorts of 3 million nurses) nationwide is $77,600. (Go here and here.)

There is a national nursing shortage….to frame an effective strategy to bring in immigrant nurses, we first have to streamline nursing education and placement.  (The same problem exists with STEM workers: the domestic pipeline needs to be improved.) Here is a quick assessment of the issue in one state, Massachusetts, drawn from an editorial in the Boston Globe:

The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association estimates that hospitals have 5,100 vacant nursing positions, forcing them to pay temporary staff. Vacancy rates exceed 25 percent in some specialties, as nurses are retiring and leaving the field due to burnout.

While hospitals need to create working conditions that retain qualified nurses, there is also a need to increase the pipeline of trained nurses.  Massachusetts’ nursing training programs — which graduated around 5,000 students in 2020 — cannot easily scale up to meet the demand. While state regulations limit the pace at which schools can grow, and relaxing those rules may be worth considering, the biggest barriers are a lack of faculty and of the clinical placements required for training.

The challenges with attracting faculty are nurses generally enter the profession because they want to do patient care and the salaries for practicing nurses are far higher than salaries for nursing educators, especially at public colleges.

“Each time I earned a degree, my salary went down,” said Judith Pare, director of nursing education at the Massachusetts Nurses Association and a clinical nursing professor at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Teachers are generally required to have a master’s degree or be working toward one — and those are also the nurses able to command the highest clinical salaries.

Another problem is finding hospitals willing to teach nursing students. Unlike the system for physicians, where medical schools partner with academic medical centers and doctors train medical students as part of their job, no such partnership exists for nursing. Instead, nursing schools pay clinical instructors, then partner hospitals let in those instructors with small groups of students.

Hospitals have limitations on how many students they can absorb….They have nursing shortages, nurses are overworked.

Endicott College developed a unique model with Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital where Endicott undergraduates work as nursing assistants at the hospitals, providing labor and a pipeline where students can do clinical placements and often find a post-graduation job.

There are new nursing schools opening. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a public college in North Adams, is opening a nursing school this fall. Several schools have started offering accelerated nursing programs to help certain populations — like students switching careers or majors — complete school more quickly. But without the ability to hire more faculty and find more hospital placements, expanding the number of trained nurses will be nearly impossible.



How do immigrant families get child care?

Immigrant communities rely for child care more on “family, friend and neighbor” ((FFN) than on licensed day care centers. This means that public programs to support child care, which are typically focused on licensed centers, missing much of the immigrant community.

A Migration Policy Institute study estimates that the majority of FFN caregivers have not received training or support, pointing to an acute need to expand services that are successfully reaching these caregivers. Spanish-speaking caregivers were considerably less likely to receive any kind of support than their English-speaking peers.

Other observations in the study:

One in four young children ages 5 and under in the United States lived in an immigrant family as of 2013, and one in three was a Dual Language Learner (DLL), meaning they had at least one parent who spoke a language other than English in the home. These children are disproportionately likely to be in family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) care rather than in formal center-based child care.

Because of the high cost of care, a lack of multilingual staff, rigid schedules, and limited programming that is culturally and linguistically responsive, formal child-care centers historically have not fully met the needs of immigrant communities, and particularly low-income immigrant communities. FFN care is by far the most common form of nonparental care in the United States. It is estimated that 60 percent of children in the United States, or approximately 5.2 million children, are in FFN care.

As of 2012, there were 3.77 million home-based providers caring for children under age 6. While data on the demographics and immigration status of the FFN caregiver population are sparse, research suggests that over the past ten years, much of the growth in the early childhood education workforce overall has occurred among new immigrant providers, who are significantly more likely to be employed in family child care than formal centers. Approximately 30 percent of homebased providers overall speak a language other than English.