The new House immigration bill

The Immigration Forum has analyzed the new House bill on immigration: The Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act (H.R. 7372) introduced on February 15, 2024 by a bipartisan group of House members. Below is a condensed version of the Forum’s analysis. In a nut shell, the bill expands expulsion authority, provides for but then qualifies humanitarian exceptions, imposes “Remain in Mexico” (which requires Mexican agreement), and does not increase immigration staffing, needed both to handle current volume and to reduce the backlog. Funding for Ukraine, Israel and West Asian national security is included.

The Immigration Forum’s analysis (condensed):

The bill includes changes to border security and asylum policies, along with $66.32 billion in national security spending. Key provisions require immigration officers to expel migrants at the southern border for one year, give the DHS Secretary authority to suspend entry of migrants, limit transferring detained migrants, and restart the Migrant Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”) program. Exceptions allow migrants with credible fear of persecution or torture to be screened by asylum officers.

However, the bill provides no funding to reduce asylum backlogs. A concerning provision allows DHS to override humanitarian protections and categorically bar asylum seekers. The bill also restricts use of funds to transfer migrants for medical care or to avoid overcrowding.

To process migrants at ports of entry, it requires determining safe processing capacity per location and prioritizing those with disabilities, medical needs or fear of persecution. While seeking to enhance border security, the bill risks undermining humanitarian protections and due process for migrants.

Key concerns include expanded expulsion authority, barriers to asylum, and limits on migrant transfers needed for health and safety. The legislation comes as an alternative to a failed Senate bipartisan immigration deal, signalling continued partisan disagreement over immigration reform.


Who is attending college?

The chart below shows that Asian participation at college soars far above other groups. Also that white participation is only moderately more than that of Blacks and Hispanics. 

The rise of the college-attending Hispanic population is quite notable. Pew Research says, “In 1980, there were about 470,000 Latinos enrolled at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, accounting for 4% of all students. By 2000, Latino enrollment had increased to 1.5 million, or 10% of all students. And by 2020, 3.7 million Latinos were enrolled, accounting for a fifth of all postsecondary student.”

This trend is consistent with other socio-economic trends that bring Hispanics closer to the mainstream of American society. I have noted this trend, in particular here.

Global higher education quality, migration and innovation

I have posted on global talent pool, and the role of the U.S. as a – the -premier concentration of higher education in the world, notwithstanding the rise in higher education in the developing nations, and the high production of STEM graduates in China. My postings include here, here and here. I refer to Australia’s higher education network as an export industry. Here is a projection of the number of college graduates in the world through 2050.

Now there is a comprehensive analysis of highed ed quality in the world.

Researchers here measured college graduate quality—the average human capital of a college’s graduates—for graduates from 2,800 colleges in 48 countries. The study reveals significant global disparities in college graduate quality, correlating higher quality with the wealth of nations. Richer countries boast higher quality college graduates, with a comparison between the U.S. and India indicating that top universities in wealthier nations produce graduates of 52% higher quality. Both relative and absolute rankings confirm this trend, highlighting the advantage of larger nations with more institutions. The implications of these findings are profound for understanding development dynamics, as the quality of college graduates plays a critical role in a nation’s human capital, affecting productivity, innovation, and economic growth.

Developed countries not only have higher average human capital among college graduates but also benefit from selective migration, amplifying disparities. The study underscores the importance of college graduate quality in accounting for cross-country income differences, suggesting that human capital variations significantly contribute to these discrepancies. Furthermore, higher quality graduates are more likely to engage in entrepreneurship, innovation, and executive roles, factors crucial for development.


EB-5 abuses, including Jay Peak

Sheelah Kolhatkar writes an article in the New Yorker about abuses in the EB-5 program.  She focuses on the Jay Peak project, near the Vermont border with Canada. The following is a condensed summary of the article:

The article examines the fraud scandal involving Bill Stenger’s ambitious expansion of Vermont’s Jay Peak ski resort, which was funded primarily through the EB-5 visa program.

Under this program, foreign investors and their families obtain green cards by investing $500,000+ in projects that create American jobs. Stenger and his partner Ariel Quiros raised $350 million from EB-5 investors but misused over half the money. Quiros funneled funds to himself while Stenger allegedly promoted false jobs numbers and ignored the fraud.

While the Vermont project failed, the article notes that EB-5 funding has benefited other developments when used properly. For example, it helped complete construction at Sugarbush ski resort when it ran out of conventional financing after the 2008 recession, saving 860 jobs. However, people also creatively exploited aspects of the program.

In Manhattan, Hudson Yards raised over $1.2 billion in EB-5 money for what became the most expensive real estate project ever. It qualified for cheap EB-5 financing meant for high unemployment areas through gerrymandered census tracts awkwardly connecting wealthy and poor neighborhoods. Similarly, developers completed a $150 million Waldorf-Astoria in Beverly Hills using a dubious redrawn map. In Las Vegas, nearly $1 billion in EB-5 funds built the Chinese-themed Resorts World hotel and casino complex. The article also mentions EB-5 projects involving Kushner family luxury apartment towers in New Jersey and China.

So while some worthy projects used EB-5 properly, the program’s lack of oversight and desperation of foreign investors for green cards lent itself greatly to abuse. Large fees gave middlemen incentive to downplay risks and encourage questionable deals. The Vermont officials’ failed monitoring of Jay Peak exemplified the widespread lack of governmental scrutiny. Other EB-5 fraud cases like the Chicago hotel scheme that cost Chinese investors $156 million further showed vulnerabilities.

Ultimately the article examines the difficulty of revitalizing struggling rural economies, the tendency for EB-5 projects to cluster in big cities, and questions around Stenger’s motivations. Despite raising huge sums, the Jay Peak scheme failed to deliver the promised transformation or expected returns. The resort sold for far less than what went into its expansion. While parts operate normally, its future remains financially dubious. The hole still undeveloped in downtown Newport where buildings were to arise serves as a daily visual reminder of the jobs and revival that never materialized.

Polling puts immigration as top concern

A January 22 2024 Harvard Harris poll shows that, compared to January 2022, when asked what is the most important issue facing the country, 38% of Republicans picked immigration in 2022 and 50% in 2024; for Democrats, the vote rose from 10% to 18%; for Independents, the vote went from 19% to 37%.  Overall, immigration was the top concern in 2024 at 37%,up from 23% in 2022.

However, when asked in 2024 what was personally the most important issue, the vote for immigration was lower: Republican 27%, Democrats 9% and Independents 18%.

In 2024, 81% of Republicans said that the problem at the border was getting worse, compated to 45% of Democrats and 68% of Independents.

Concern about immigration within the Republican party is much higher among New Hampshire primary Trump voters, 79%  of whom said it was the most important issue, vs. 20% of Haley voters. (The choices were foreign policy, abortion, immigration and the economy).

The immigration reform efforts in 2007 and 2013 that failed

A retrospective analysis of the last serious bi-partisan efforts at immigration reform, in 2007 and  2013, which failed thanks to intense opposition by right wing Republicans.


When George W. Bush was re-elected president in 2004 with significant Hispanic support, he saw an opening for an immigration overhaul and a signature second-term achievement. He began pressing for action in 2006 in an Oval Office address.

[The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was a bipartisan effort led by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain. It proposed a path to legalization for many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including those who had been in the country for over 5 years and met certain conditions like learning English and paying fees and fines. The bill also proposed increases in legal immigration, a temporary guest worker program, and increased enforcement including border fencing. The compromise bill was the result of months of bipartisan negotiations and won initial Senate approval, but ultimately failed to overcome a filibuster and receive final passage in the Senate in June 2007 due in part to opposition from voters and interest groups on multiple fronts.]


The next big push came in 2013 and 2014. The re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 had exposed declining Republican appeal to Hispanic voters and persuaded party leaders that they must embrace an immigration overhaul to halt that slide.

While talks quietly got underway in the House, a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” emerged in the Senate. On the Republican side, it included John McCain of Arizona; Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star with Hispanic and conservative credibility; and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Democratic participants included Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Mr. Durbin and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

What emerged from months of deliberations was the 1,200-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

[The legislation proposed major changes to immigration policy. It sought to increase border security by adding fences, surveillance drones, and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents. It proposed a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, requiring them to pay fines and back taxes, learn English, and wait 10 years for a green card. The bill expanded opportunities for highly educated immigrants, allocating 55,000 new visas for those with advanced degrees. It also established a guest worker program for lower-skilled workers in agriculture, while mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers. The bill aimed to reduce backlogs in family reunification visas. It also sought to promote economic development in Mexico to reduce illegal immigration.]

In contrast to 2007, the bill cleared the Senate with surprising strength, attracting 68 votes, including 14 Republicans and all Democrats. Mr. Schumer said at the time that the level of support would force the House to take up the issue, a dynamic similar to today, when senators hope a solid Senate vote will propel any plan over House Republican resistance.

.Hoping to rally House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner used a party retreat in January 2014 to unveil a set of immigration “principles” that were heavy on border security. They also omitted a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, but instead proposed allowing them to remain in the United States and work if they met certain tests, including paying taxes and admitting they broke the law. But within days, Mr. Boehner was backtracking under pressure from the right, and the effort stalled. Boehner refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.



An exceedingly wierd 24 hours

Helen Cox Richardson characterized the events yesterday, Monday February 5th, as exceedingly weird, when Republicans repudiated an immigration + national security bill that they helped to fashion Here are her remarks, compressed somewhat.

The Senate on Sunday, the 4th, unveiled a national security supplemental bill, the result of four months of bipartisan negotiations. The bill aimed to address multiple crises, including offering aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, alongside measures to secure the U.S. southern border. This move was partly in response to demands from extremist House Republicans, who insisted on border security measures as a condition for supporting the aid package. The bill proposed $60.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel, $10 billion in humanitarian aid for various crises, and approximately $20 billion for U.S. border security enhancements. These enhancements included hiring additional officials, expanding detention facilities, tighthening the overwhelmed amnesty system, and improving drug detection methods.

As Richardson wrote, “It appears the MAGA Republicans never really intended for such a measure to pass. They apparently thought that demanding that Congress agree to a border measure, which it has not been able to do now for decades, would kill the national security bill altogether. Certainly, once news began to spread that the negotiators were close to a deal, both former president Trump and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who said he was conferring with Trump, came out strongly against the measure even before anyone knew what was in it.”

The opposition to the bill, especially from MAGA Republicans, seemed to undermine efforts to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, a stance that not only affects international security but also the moral and strategic interests of the U.S. This opposition continued even though the bill included significant concessions to Republican demands for border security, showcasing a complex interplay of domestic politics and international security commitments. The rejection of the bill by key Republican figures, despite its potential passage in the House, highlighted deep divisions and the influence of Trump’s agenda on the Republican Party’s approach to national security and foreign policy.

Michele Hackman’s analysis of the Senate bill


This is a summary of Hackman’s analysis in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (2/5/24).It does not include the provision for aid to Ukraine and Israel, rather focuses on the immigration provisions.

Setting up a new process at the southern border

A new asylum determination system is proposed, designed to process migrants within approximately 90 days. This system applies to all migrants, regardless of their mode of entry into the U.S., with a focus on rapid screenings and potential detainment for adults, while families with minors would likely be monitored through devices. The process includes stringent initial screenings, with non-compliance leading to swift deportation. However, timelines for these procedures are flexible, with protections for those experiencing delays.

Creating a new expulsion authority

The bill suggests a temporary authority to limit asylum claims during surges in border crossings, inspired by the Title 42 policy. This measure allows the government to restrict border entries when illegal crossings exceed specific thresholds, aiming to prevent the overwhelming of detention capacities. Even during such shutdowns, a certain number of asylum appointments would still be processed, ensuring some level of access to asylum procedures.

Limiting humanitarian parole at the border

Restrictions are placed on the use of humanitarian parole at the southern border, focusing instead on legal entry points like airports for humanitarian reasons. This change aims to streamline border entries and maintain specific humanitarian programs for nationals from countries like Ukraine and Venezuela.

Expanding legal immigration

The legislation plans to increase the availability of Green Cards by 50,000 annually for five years, targeting both family reunification and employment-based categories. This expansion is intended to alleviate the backlog and long wait times currently faced by many immigrants, especially from high-demand countries.

Creating a path to citizenship for Afghan refugees

An Afghan Adjustment Act within the bill would offer a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for Afghan refugees evacuated during the U.S. military withdrawal, addressing the legal limbo many face.

Including a fix for ‘documented dreamers’

The bill proposes solutions for “documented dreamers,” children of legal immigrants who lose their status upon turning 21 due to Green Card backlogs. It aims to prevent these individuals from being forced out of the U.S. by allowing them to remain under their parents’ visa status until they can secure permanent residency.



Senate and House immigration bills

The Senate bill is available, to be read. Here are official summaries of the two competing immigration reform bills.

Senate’s Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act 2024 here.

See this instant analysis of the Senate bill and Republican response to it here by Austin Kocher

House Republican’s H.2 Secure the Border Act of 2023 here.

See this analysis of H.2 by the National Immigration Forum.