New EU pact on asylum

On December 20, the EU agreed on a policy which will have the effect of restricting asylum.  This new policy, which has been in the works for some time, roughly parallels the movement in the U.S. toward amnesty restrictions now being hashed out in the Senate.

Background: The number of persons seeking asylum in the EU rose from about 200,000 in 2010 to 900,000 in 2022. Much of the increase is due to the emigration of Ukrainians. This wave comes after a surge from elsewhere. The Arab Spring in 2011 and the Syrian Civil War triggered a substantial increase in asylum seekers, culminating in the 2015 European migrant crisis, when one million persons crossed into the EU with asylum claims. Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, which was annually in the low 1,000s 10 years ago, have risen to over 50,000 in recent years.

According to the NY Times, the new agreement among the 27 participating countries, worked on for three years, aims to make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers and to limit entry of migrants into the bloc. It spreads the cost of asylum applications throughout the EU, most directly affecting Greece and Italy, It seeks to give governments a greater sense of control over their borders while bolstering the E.U.’s role in migration management — treating it as a European issue, not just a national one.

The pact stipulates that rapid assessments of whether a person is eligible for asylum will take place at borders. It would make it harder for asylum seekers to move on from the countries they arrive in — while offering further support to those nations through a so-called “solidarity mechanism.”


Amnesty International blasted the agreement, saying that it will almost certainly cause more people to be put into de facto detention at EU borders. There will be reduced safeguards for people seeking asylum in the EU, with more people channelled through substandard border asylum procedures, rather than receiving a fair and full assessment of their asylum claims.

Also see Reuters reports here and here.

Why are first generation Hispanics healthier?

Hispanic Americans experience lower rates of certain health issues compared to non-Hispanic whites, sometimes referred to as the “Hispanic paradox.”  The better performance in some key diseases appears to be present in first generation but not later generations.

Hispanic immigrants have lower all-cause, heart disease and cancer mortality compared to US-born non-Hispanic whites. However, US-born Hispanics had similar or worse mortality rates. The age-adjusted death rate for heart disease is about 30% lower.

Among low-income Hispanic subgroups in New York City, being foreign-born is associated with lower prevalence of multiple chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Hispanic patients have 13-30% lower diagnosis rates for five common cancers compared to non-Hispanic whites.

These better rates appear to disappear in second and later generations. Why? One explanation is diet – later generations eat more processed food. Also proposed is that the first generation has closer community and family ties, which presumably keep people healthy,  First generation Hispanics smoke less.  There is a proposal that those who immigration are self-selected relatively tougher, fitter.

The best analysis of the generation discrepancy is here.

Discrimination against Asian Americans

Pew Research has polled Asian Americans about their perceptions of discrimination. The questions did not include employment or housing.)  This is what they found:

78% of Asian adults have been treated as a foreigner in some way, even if they are U.S. born. This includes Asian adults who say that in day-to-day encounters with strangers in the U.S., someone has told them to go back to their home country, acted like they can’t speak English, criticized them for speaking a language other than English in public, or mispronounced their name.

63% of Asian adults have experienced incidents where people assume they are a model minority. This includes Asian Americans who say that in day-to-day encounters with strangers in the U.S., people have assumed that they are good at math and science or that they are not creative thinkers.

35% of South Asian adults say they have been held back at a security checkpoint for a secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity. This is higher than the shares among Southeast (15%) and East (14%) Asian adults. Additionally, Asian American Muslims are more likely than some other major religious groups to say this has happened to them.

32% of Asian adults say they know another Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About half or more of U.S.-born Asian adults and immigrants who came to the U.S. as children (generation 1 1/2) say they have been called offensive names in daily interactions with strangers.

Trump on immigration

According to Politico, Donald Trump spoke on December 16 in New Hampshire about immigration:

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country,” the former president said. “They’ve poisoned mental institutions and prisons all over the world. Not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world they’re coming into our country from Africa, from Asia.”



The Border/amnesty negotiation and Republican’s ambivalence

It is Thursday December 14. Senate Republicans and the White House are reportedly negotiating a border/amnesty deal aiming to complete before the holiday break. The leading newspapers don’t mention House Republican involvement. It is not clear to me if House Republicans want a deal.

The crush at the border is due to one thing: the easy chance for migrants to game the amnesty system. I understand that immigration courts approve only about 30% of appeals. Even were the acceptance rate 10%, people will stay crowd at the border as they expect to get permission to stay in the U.S. for years before their case comes up.  To stay, to work (legally or illegally) for several years, with the prospect of abandoning your case and joining the unauthorized workforce; perhaps get lucky by a immigration reform bill granting permanent residency – for many these are attractive scenarios relative to their other options. This is of course not to deny there are many valid amnesty cases – the courts show that to be the case.

For the Republicans, passage of a law which severely cuts down on this gaming, for instance by requiring applicants to file in a third country, and to deny application rights to those who enter outside of the formal ports of entry – if such a law passed, traffic to the border will drop instantly and the immediate border crisis will evaporate. I do not believe that Congressional Republicans want this to happen – they do not want draconian measures to pass.

There’s a Kirk Douglas film called Ace in the Hole, in which a washed up newspaper reporter prolongs another person’s life threatening crisis, and sabotages rescue efforts,  because to end the crisis puts an end to his ploy.   The amnesty crisis in the Republican’s ace in the hole.

Immigration and conservative response: evidence at the local level

There is some research that has explored a potential link between an increase in foreign-born population in American local communities and a shift toward political conservatism, though the findings are complex and mixed.

One of America’s most respected social scientists, Robert Putnam, at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has studied the social impact of ethnic diversity. The results shocked him so much that he withheld reporting them for years.  Fighting his personal pro-immigrant leanings, he concluded, “immigration and ethnic diversity challenge social solidarity and inhibit social capital.”

He describes social capital as a collective capacity to spark civic participation and trust, keys to building democracy. In his 2006 lecture, “E Pluribus Unum,” Putnam warned  “The more ethnically diverse a residential context is, the less we trust…” The more racially diverse a community, the less trust exists between neighbors. Even trust within groups is lower in more diverse settings.

Here is a fresh study which looked the local responses which the authors associate with the rise in the number of unauthorized immigrants.

“In response to newcomer unauthorized migrants, county vote share for the Republican party increased in  House and presidential elections. Local government agencies reduced total expenditure, divested in education, and increased relative spending in policing and the administration of justice. Migration creates formal job loss in the construction and hospitality and leisure sectors as jobs moved to the informal sector.  The arrival of newcomers caused an increase in the number of poor people. Established residents, display more outgroup bias. Newcomers generate population loss, especially among white residents.”

Here is the article, published November 2023

Senate Republican ideas for immigration reform

Most of the 17 points in this document involve very specific changes. Here are the ones which stand out for me:

“Safe third harbor”: makes aliens illegible for asylum if they have transited through at least one country outside their home country unless the aliens can show that they sought and were denied protection in each safe third country.

Parole reform: prohibits DHS from using broad class based criteria to grant humanitarian parole. Narrows the scope of the parole statute to clarify that payroll is to be used rarely. Limits grants and parole to one year with up to one year extension or shorter.

Family detention (referred to as “family unification”) requires that families with children are to be detained intact, vs the Flores settlement of  1997 which strictly limits the duration of detention of children.

Noteworthy is the absence of any effort to reduce the backlog of cases. About 70% of asylum cases are denied by immigration court. And the document does not address issues such as employment-based immigration.

Comment: The 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees doesn’t explicitly tells countries how to assess asylum applications; it requires them to apply the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention to refugees, which includes cooperation among countries on managing international refugees. The United States set for itself legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees by incorporating the definition of a refugee from the 1951 Convention into U.S. immigration law through the Refugee Act of 1980. U.S. law requires the asylum seeker to be physically present in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry. The law is silent on how or where the person has entered the U.S.

The Tory government in the UK has been blocked by courts from sending ayslee applicants to Rwanda for processing. Italy is arranging with Albania to house ayslee applicants to Italy.

New research shows climate change behind some Central American migration

The most pronounced association between climate change and migration involves the Sahel region of Africa (go here.) Now there is some evidence from Central America.

It has to do with drier weather adversely affecting those areas of Central America with a traditional dependence on agriculture for household income. The regions most affected by drier climate and out migration were southeastern and eastern Honduras, and most of El Salvador. There is not a complete and tight association between dryness and migration; however, the match overall is pretty good.

The Economist wrote: Using border-apprehension data from 2012 to 2018, researchers from the universities of Texas and Utah show that more people journey north when there is drier-than-usual weather during a growing season

Researchers found data on temperature and rainfall for Central American countries. By mapping the two they saw how drier-than-normal weather during growing seasons predicted emigration. Areas suffering from a particularly arid growing season saw 1.7 times more people travel to the United States than those with typical weather.

The impact of climate change on livelihoods is particularly acute in the Northern Triangle because large shares of the population are dependent on farming. According to data from the ILO, , 37% of Hondurans, 32% of Guatemalans and 30% of Salvadoreans of working age laboured in agriculture in 2012. Many other jobs also depend on the sector. Although by 2019 the share of people working in agriculture had fallen in all three countries, this drop is unlikely to cause migration to fall, since extreme weather events are becoming more common.

Thumbnail data on immigration courts FY 2023

Number of court cases resolved: 669,000 vs. average past 20 years of about 250,000. However, new cases were 1,448,000. Since 2000 it has taken an average of about 1,000 days for a case to be resolved.

Court ordered deportations: 39% of resolved court cases involved voluntary deportation or deportation in custody — 244,000, the highest number in over 20 years and significantly more than in Trump years.

Court backlog: end of FY23: 2,794,000, in increase of 1,533,000 since 2000.

From Trac