2008 Elections and immigration reform

Focus on three things. One, the share of voting age population that is Hispanic went from 7% in 2000 to 9% in 2006. Two, four states with populations at least 25% Hispanic hold 104 of the 270 electoral votes needed for presidential candidate victory. Three, the immigration issue unites pretty much the entire Hispanic population in America.
These states are AZ (28% Hispanic), CA (35%), NM (43%) and TX (35%). And we’re not counting the 58 electoral votes in FL (19% Hispanic) and NY (16%).
The Politico website talks about the political perils of the Republicans in immigration reform. “….Another high-profile Capitol Hill debate, coming right after the bitter 2006 discussion, over treatment of the thousands of legal and illegal immigrants in the country could crystallize Hispanics’ views about the political parties for a generation, providing a critical advantage to one of them.”
It goes on:
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization, Hispanic voters represented nearly 9 percent of the voting-age population in 2006, up from just over 7 percent in 2000. A 2006 study by Strategic Telemetry, a Democratic research group, predicted that Hispanics will remain the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, accounting for 44 percent of the growth in the nation’s voting-age population by 2020, compared with 14 percent for blacks.
— PFR: Both McCain and Giuliani (in a February 2000 Meet the Press interview) has spoken out strongly in favor of inclusion of Hispanic immigrants through immigration reform.
Back to Politico:
The Democratic National Committee supported a move by Nevada to insert its primary caucuses between those held in Iowa and New Hampshire largely because it would give Latinos a greater voice in the nomination process.
Indeed, Democrats are convinced that if their party can gain an edge with Hispanic voters, they can break the Republican presidential-year hold on several western states, including Nevada and Colorado. That could offset their own party’s loss of strength in the South.

Regional sources of Mexican workers in U.S.

The Atlantic Monthly (subscription required) has an article in its April 2007 edition called “The Mexican Connection.” I have posted on this before (search for “remittance”). The main contribution of this article is to pinpoint the regional sources of many of U.S. based workers — states immediately northwest of Mexico City: “ Five predominantly rural Mexican states—Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas—send a disproportionately large number of emigrants to the United States. Their links to the U.S. date back a century, to when American mining and railroad companies recruited workers from these regions to offset reductions in Chinese and Japanese immigration. Home to less than a third of Mexico’s population, they receive 44 percent of Mexico’s remittances.”
The Mexican Connection
by Matthew Quirk
Among the crumbling adobe shacks of rural Mexico, two-story California- style housing developments are rising. In the tiny city of Tlacolula, plots of land that sold for about $10,000 in 1994 now cost $60,000. Like the towns where they are going up, the new developments are partly empty. The home owners are among the many Mexican workers—nearly one in seven overall, and half the adult population of some communities, such as La Purísima and San Juan Mixtepec—who are in the United States. Typically working low-wage jobs, they send home much of their pay (41 percent on average, or $300 a month) to support families left behind and build a better life for their return.
Remittances to Mexico exceed $20 billion a year.[Actually $25B – PFR] By 2003, they had become the nation’s second-largest source of external finance, ahead of tourism and foreign investment and just behind oil exports. That same year, then-President Vicente Fox noted that the roughly 20 million Mexican-origin workers in America create a larger gross product than Mexico itself. [This cannot be a correct figures – it is too large. There may be 20 million total Mexican-born people in the U.S. including children. – PFR]
Worldwide, remittances have surpassed direct aid in volume, and international development institutions (along with the governments of many less- developed countries) have recently seized upon them as a key to economic growth in the global South. The United States is the largest source of remittances—Saudi Arabia, with its armies of serflike guest workers, is No. 2—and Mexico the largest recipient of U.S. funds.

Continue reading Regional sources of Mexican workers in U.S.

sweat shop in New Bedford MA busted, 350 illegal workers out of work

Workers Comp Insider, the best workers comp blog in the country, reports on and analyzes a story in the Boston Globe about a raid on a sweast shoop which made military supplies.
According to jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider, “Affidavits allege that Insolia preferred to hire illegal immigrants because they were desperate for jobs and willing to put up with atrocious working conditions. He even helped them secure forged identity papers, referring them to vendors who would produce the documents for about $120. As for the working conditions, workers were routinely denied overtime pay, docked 15 minutes for every minute late and fined for talking on the job or spending more than two minutes in the plant’s “squalid” rest rooms. Sure, but at least the vests and backpacks were made in America!”

Two of three new construction jobs go to Hispanics

The Pew Hispanic Center released a factsheet that examines recent trends in the employment of Latino workers in the U.S. labor market and focuses specifically on the construction industry.
Hispanic workers landed two out of every three new construction jobs in 2006, according to the analysis. They benefited from strong employment growth in the industry even as the housing market endured a year-long slump. Indeed, the construction industry continues to be a key source of jobs for Hispanics and especially for those who are foreign born and recently arrived.
Hispanic employment increased by almost 1 million from 2005 to 2006. Even though Latinos account for only 13.6% of total employment, they accounted for 36.7% of the increase in employment. The comparatively high share of employment reflects demographic changes in the U.S. About 40% of the total increase in the working-age population (16 and older) in 2006 was Hispanic and of these three-fourths are foreign born Latino workers.
Foreign-born Latinos who arrived since 2000 were responsible for about 24% of the total increase in employment in the U.S. labor market last year. Estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center suggest that in recent years about two-thirds of the increase in the employment of recently-arrived Hispanic workers has been due to unauthorized migration.
The estimates in the fact sheet are derived from data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. Most of the data is from the Current Population Survey, a monthly Census Bureau survey of approximately 60,000 households. Monthly data are combined to create larger sample sizes and to conduct the analysis on either an annual or quarterly basis. The analysis is for 2004-2006.

Live-in domestic foreign in workers in the U.S.

Human rights Watch issued in June 2001 a 58 page report on the tens of thousands of foreign born workers to come to work in America as au pairs and maids. I am posting about it with thanks to Julie Ferguson for having brought it to my attention. These workers come under one of the following visa programs: A-3 if hired by diplomats, G-5 if hired by international organizations, and B-1 if hired by other foreigners or American citizens. Human Rights Watch finds that these workers are without legally enforceable work contracts, are not protected by American labor laws, and can easily be threatened with deportation by their employers. This report is a stunning expose of the problems these workers experience.

Data about the H-2A and H-2B temporary work visa programs

The Global Worker Alliance has on its webite some important facts about these programs. H-2A is for agricultural workers.H-2B is for forestry, landscaping and construction.
These are not to be confused with the H-1A program which brings over engineers and computer sciences, from which Intel and Microsoft and their like benefit. I have posted on all of these program before.
Go here for the Global Worker Alliance posting which includes source of data citations.
What the Global Worker Alliance reports:
The United States admits temporary (less than one year) foreign guestworkers through its H-2 program. H-2 visas workers are considered non-professional workers. H-2A visas are issued for seasonal agricultural workers. H-2B visas are issued for temporary non-agricultural workers. Industries that often use H-2B workers are forestry, construction, and landscaping.
H-2R visas are issued to persons who had been issued an H-2B visa within any of the previous three fiscal years. The H-2B and H-2R issuance totals for each nationality when added together produce the totals of H-2B temporary worker visas issued.
Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2A workers – 2006
Total H-2A Visas Issued 37,149
1. Mexico 34,195 [92% of total]
2. South Africa 1,054
3. Peru 841
4. Nicaragua 146
5. Guatemala 110
6. Australia 87
7. Romania 87
8. New Zealand 84
9. Haiti 78
10. Chile 64
Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2B workers – 2006
Total H-2B Visas Issued 71,687
1. Mexico 43,269 [60% of total]
2. Jamaica 4,727
3. Romania 2,752
4. Guatemala 2,605
5. South Africa 1,855
6. Philippines 1,590
7. Great Britain 1,504
8. Brazil 1,474
9. Bulgaria 1,108
10. Dominican Republic 853
Top Ten Countries of Origin for H-2R workers – 2006
Total H-2R Visas Issued 50,854
1. Mexico 36,723 [[72% of total]
2. Jamaica 8,402
3. Guatemala 2,356
4. Dominican Republic 490
5. Costa Rica 409
6. Romania 329
7. Honduras 328
8. New Zealand 305
9. Bulgaria 237
10. Australia 231

Digging into abuses of H-2A and H-2B temporary worker programs in U.S.

The Global Worker Alliance, about which I have posted in the past, is evolving into the leading advocate of temporary worker rights, especially for H-2A (agriculture) and H-2B (forestry, landscaping, etc.) workers. I have placed below its March 2007 report on a visit to Guatemala. The Aliiance is now training workers before they come, and documenting abuses of recruiters.
Reducing Guest Worker Exploitation in Guatemala
Global Workers has been persistently encouraging the United States Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Labor Ministry to take steps to reduce the rampant exploitation of the Guatemalan people who work in the US guest worker program. On a recent trip to Guatemala, both entities pledged to take major steps forward.
Global Workers met with the US Ambassador and the US Consul General in Guatemala and secured a commitment to change the practice of not informing guest workers about their rights or where to seek assistance. Soon the embassy should be providing the workers with a know-your rights hand out that Global Workers and Southern Poverty Law Center jointly crafted.
The Guatemalan labor ministry has invited Global Workers to provide a training on the US guest worker program. Building on the training, the ministry is pledging to crack down on the abuses by Guatemalan contractors. One such example is the procurement of false loans. Contractors force workers to sign contracts stating they have received loans, when in fact they have not. The contract is a form of bondage to guarantee the worker’s return.

The IFCO guilty pleadings: what was behind them

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on Tuesday 2/27 ran an article about how ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) went after the executives at IFCO, the pallet manufacturer raided last year, for systematically hiring illegal workers. The article contains nuggets of information about ICE’s new strategy – which I have excerpted here. They include patiently collecting information in several states on manager communications; getting Social Security to cooperate in revealing huge mismatches of Soc Sec numbers; and planting an informant. (I have previously posted on IFCO.)
According to an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, five managers pleaded guilty:
James Rice, 37, of Houston, an executive regional general manager of the Netherlands-based IFCO Systems, pleaded guilty to conspiring to employ illegal workers. Robert Belvin, 43, of Stuart, Fla., a former general manager of the Albany IFCO plant, pleaded guilty to two felony conspiracy charges. They face up to 2 years in prison. Dario Salzano, 36, of Amsterdam, N.Y., Scott Dodge, 44, of Elmira, N.Y., and Michael Ames, 44, of Shrewsbury, Mass., each pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor. They could face up to six months in jail and $3,000 in fines for each undocumented worker employed, though they likely will get reduced terms because they cooperated, Sciocchetti said. Charges were pending against two other IFCO managers in Houston and Cincinnati.
Here in addition are some figures from the ICE Fact Sheet on the net:
* The number of criminal arrests in worksite enforcement cases has increased from a mere 25 in Fiscal Year 2002, the last full year under the old INS, to 716 during Fiscal Year 2006 under ICE..
* The number of individuals arrested on administrative immigration violations in worksite enforcement cases has increased from 485 in Fiscal Year 2002, the last full year under the old INS, to 3,667 during Fiscal Year 2006 under ICE.

Continue reading The IFCO guilty pleadings: what was behind them

Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program

“Low Pay and Broken Promises Greet Guest Workers” in the New York Times reports abuses on the United States guest worker program for agricultural workers, the H-2A program. I have posted on H-2A workers before, and also on a special H-2B forestry workers program. The articles focuses on recruitment abuses. “The guest worker program is not for contractors who feel they might be able to find work for other people,” said Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s for people who have a compelling need to bring in workers from abroad. There’s an enormous incentive for contractors to bring in as many people as possible, even when there isn’t enough work, because they often make money from recruitment fees.”
The article says, “Each year 120,000 foreign workers receive visas to do farm work or other low-skilled labor, usually for three to nine months. These programs grew out of the World War II bracero program, in which hundreds of thousands of Mexicans worked on farms and railroads, often in deplorable conditions.”
Labor experts say employers abuse guest workers far more than other workers because employers know they can ship them home the moment they complain. They also know these workers cannot seek other jobs if they are unhappy.
“I’d say a substantial majority of U.S. guest workers experience some abuses with their paycheck,” said David Griffith, a professor in the anthropology department at East Carolina University and author of the new book “American Guestworkers: Jamaicans and Mexicans in the U.S. Labor Market.” “It’s the recruitment process especially where they get cheated.”
The abuses take many forms. Guest workers often pay exorbitant fees and are frequently given fewer weeks of work and lower wages than promised. Many employers fail to make good on their commitment to pay transportation costs. The Thai workers, who were supposed to be paid $16,000 a year for three years, ended up earning a total of just $1,400 to $2,400. Most of the Thai workers had their passports taken away after they arrived, leaving them trapped.
“The program has been rife with abuses, even during the best of times,” said Cindy Hahamovitch, a history professor at the College of William and Mary, who is writing a book about guest workers. “There will never be enough inspectors to check every labor camp, contract and field.”
The article in full:

Continue reading Recruiter abuses in H-2A agriculture guest worker program

California labor law enforcement in the underground economy

There are at least two enforcement efforts at work in California to protect low wage immigrant workers, including illegal workers, from employer abuses. One I have already posted on here – an initiative to combat workers comp fraud. Another is the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition. Both of these initiatives enforce state and/or federal employment laws without necessarily closing down the targeted businesses.
Workcompcentral reported today an EEEC action: “Garment Industry Sweep Nets $454,600 in Fines.” The report: “A garment industry enforcement sweep by California’s underground economy task force netted $454,000 in fines and found five employers who lacked workers’ compensation coverage for 95 employees, the state Department of Industrial Relations announced Friday. The Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition’s (EEEC) Feb. 7-8 sweep resulted in 24 of 32 businesses inspected receiving a notice to discontinue and $454,600 in citations and projected penalties. Inspectors found five businesses that lacked comp coverage for workers.
Those businesses and other garment manufacturers were also cited for a variety of labor law violations.
After the sweep, Korean Garment Industry Association President Steve Kim initiated an outreach seminar to answer labor compliance questions and to help local garment manufacturers into compliance, the EEEC said. The seminar was held Thursday in Los Angeles.
The EEEC presentation included expert speakers from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The Employment Development Department and U.S. Department of Labor were also on hand to answer questions and provide information on workplace safety, wage and hour, payroll taxes, registration and other labor-related issues, the coalition said in a press release.
Below is a desription of the EEEC from its website:

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