Archive for the ‘Immigration Reform legislation’ Category

Coronavirus and non-citizen immigrants

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

In 2017, there were 22 million noncitizens residing in the United States, accounting for about 7% of the total U.S. population. Noncitizens include lawfully present and undocumented immigrants.

Their healthcare coverage:

Noncitizens are significantly more likely than citizens to be uninsured. Among the nonelderly population, 23% of lawfully present immigrants and more than four in ten (45%) undocumented immigrants are uninsured compared to less than one in ten (8%) citizens. (go here.)

The stricter public charge rule, which went into effect on February, well cause many of these people to withdraw from Medicaid and other financial and health assistance program. (go here).

Paid sick leave coverage:

There is no survey on which non-citizen immigrants enjoy paid sick leave. However, many of these persons (including in all likelihood most undocumented workers – 8 million) are low wage earners, and 47% of the lowest quarter of workers in wage earnings have paid sick leave compared to 90% of the top quarter (private sector).  More info on paid sick leave issues is here.

Sanders’ ambivalence on immigration

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Bernie Sander’s position on immigration reflects a deep skepticism about globalization. He has taken positions to support the legal and economic protections of low wage immigrants, is squarely in favor of granting unauthorized workers citizenship status “within five years,” and supporting family reunification-related immigration But (per his website) he takes no position on immigration of skilled workers and guest worker programs. And he opposed NAFTA, which led to more integration of the Mexican and American economies including their workforces.

If president, I expect that he will attempt to reverse all of Trump’s executive orders but also take the position that immigrants take jobs from Americans.

His historical record on immigration reflects the ambiguous position of Democrats on immigration. Unions until the 2000s often were opposed to immigration that appeared to compete with Americans for jobs. Democrats became increasingly more supportive of immigration. After 2010, Democrat turned. much more positive than Republicans about immigration (prior post here).

He voted against 2007 immigration bill, even though it promised legal status for unauthorized immigrants. The failure of passage resulted in the almost complete breakdown in bipartisan approach to immigration and to the extensive use of executive orders by Obama and then Trump to make immigration reform without Congressional approval. His vote supports the notion that Sander is not one to work toward compromise on difficult issues.

The bill was the last serious effort for some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, and compromise between the goal of normalization of status and enforcement. Supporters included Senator Kennedy and the senate Dem and Rep leadership. (An analysis of the bill is here.)

Vox writes that “Sanders broke with prominent Democrats to oppose a key comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the US. He opposed measures to increase the number of guest workers and offer green cards to citizens of countries with low levels of immigration. And he once voted for an amendment supporting a group of vigilantes that sought to take immigration enforcement into their own hands along the border (though he has since disavowed the group.)”

Update on severe restrictions on asylum processing at Mexican border

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

The Trump administration has severely restricted asylum entries through the Mexican border. There are many initiatives. I’ve identified five of them here with their current legal status as of February 28.

The broader context: For El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala., total asylum cases averaged around 2,500 a year for many years until the shot up starting in the mid 2010s and reached around 30,000 in 2019. (This is counting by fiscal year of the decision of an immigration court, likely in Houston or San Diego). Very few had come from Mexico but even those surged up. These four countries over the past 20 years have accounted for about 25% of total asylum decisions, compared to about 19% from China. But China’s volume has been pretty stable.

This started before Trump. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that more individuals from the Northern Triangle region sought affirmative asylum in the United States between 2013 to 2015 than in the previous 15 years combined, and the volume has since gone up much more. (from here.)

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the administration’s action in four prongs listed below (I added a fifth):

Third-Country Ban (“Asylum Ban 2.0”): Migrants who cross through another country en route to the U.S. without applying for asylum in that nation aren’t eligible for U.S. asylum, essentially making all border crossers other than Mexican nationals ineligible.  This policy was implemented in July, 2019.  Status: in September, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld this policy.

Remain in Mexico: In 2019, the administration sent more than 61,000 migrants back across the border, where they are required to live in dangerous Mexican border cities as they await U.S. court dates. Status:  on February 28 a federal appeals court temporarily blocked this provision, which the administration began to implement in November, 2019.

Safe Third-Country Agreements: About 1,000 asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S. border have been flown to Guatemala, where they were told to apply for asylum. The administration signed “safe third-country” agreements with these three nations to accept asylum seekers from elsewhere. Status: The first arrangement was made in July 2019 (Guatemala) and began transporting persons in November, 2019.

Prompt Asylum Claim Review: The administration funnels other asylum seekers into this program, under which they are held and given just days to make their claim, a time frame that lawyers say makes it hard to mount a successful case. Status: this policy, called PACR, was initiated in October, 2019.

Crossing illegally bars asylum status: the administration began to implement this in 2019. Status: In August a federal court ruled this to be illegal.

Extensive details on these and other Mexican border measures are here

Why was Nigeria added?

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Why did the Trump Administration add Nigeria to the travel ban?

The press reported that “Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said during a call with reporters that the six countries failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, which necessitated the new restrictions. The problems Wolf cited ranged from sub-par passport technology to a failure to sufficiently exchange information on terrorism suspects and criminals.

It is one of the few countries with an estimated temporary visa overstay rate of 10%. But that was not one of the reasons cited by DHS.

The Nigerian Foreign Minister was “blindsided” by the ban.

NY Times columnist Jamelle Douie thinks that Trump is trying to bring back the Immigration Act of 1924, which essentially barred Asians and African from migrating to the U.S. “Which is to say that it does not matter that Nigeria isn’t much of a national security threat or that Nigerians are among the most successful immigrants to the United States, surpassing native-born Americans in income and educational attainment. What matters is that they’re black and African and, for Trump, at the bottom of a racial hierarchy.”

Impact of new “Public Charge” rule – part 1

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

In October 2018, the Trump administration issued its plan to toughen the public charge rule, which is one guide to reviewing applications for Green Cards. With the federal court decision that approved the new rule, it is to go into effect on February 24.

The rule was revised to prevent immigration be people who would be a drag on the economy.

Opponents described how many American citizens could not pass the new rule.

About half of all U.S.-born citizens would likely be deemed a public charge — and by extension and implication, considered a drag on the United States — if this definition were applied to them.

*In just a single year, 1 in 4 U.S.-born citizens receive a benefit included in the final rule’s public charge definition.

*If one considers benefit receipt of the U.S.-born citizens over the 1997-2017 period, some 41 to 48 percent received one of the benefits included in the final rule’s public charge definition.

*If data covered U.S.-born citizens over the course of their full lifetimes, receipt of benefits included in the new rule would be about half of the population.

*A significant share of individuals working in the United States — 15 percent — receive one of the benefits included in the new rule in just a single year. These are workers upon whom our economy relies.

” having family income below 125 percent of the poverty line — about $31,375 for a family of four, which is more than twice what full-time work at the federal minimum wage pays in the United States — would count against an individual in the public charge determination.

The expired definition of public charge is, by contrast, far narrower. In a single year, just 5 percent of U.S.-born citizens and 1 percent of individuals working in the United States meet the current benefit-related criteria in the public charge determination.

How the new rule expands the definition of public charge:

First, it broadens the list of public benefit programs considered in a public charge determination to include health coverage through Medicaid (with limited exceptions), food assistance through SNAP (food stamps), and housing assistance (Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Rental Assistance, and other subsidized housing programs).

Second, instead of looking at whether more than half of a person’s income comes (or would likely come in the future) from cash assistance tied to need, as they do now, immigration authorities will determine, using several enumerated factors, whether an individual is “more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits” for a certain time period (to be codified in 8 C.F.R. § 212.22(a))—even if the benefits reflect only a small share of an immigrant’s total income.

From a deposition by Danilo Trisi, submitted as part of a suit to block the new rule.

Also go here for another analysis.

Go here for the DHS’ press release on January 30.

EB-5 reforms, update

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Selling green cards to foreigners in exchange of their investing in building projects in areas needing investment has been dominated by real estate developers who use tortured rationales to build in affluent areas, and sometimes mis-appropriate the funds. This is a good case of an obscure government program captured by vested interests, including the President’s relatives. Reforms that have been sought are years are likely to be killed this winter.

The EB-5 program, first introduced in the early 1990s, provides green cards to foreigners who invest in the U.S. The program has incurred big scandals in the past few years. They include a $84 million dollar fraud in Vermont due to negligent state oversight (Jay Peak), a $40 million scandal in Miami (Palm House), and the Kushner family abuse of EB-F in some New Jersey projects for affluent condo buyers.

A team of researchers at NYU’s Stern School of Business closely tracks this program. Dem Senator Leahy and Rep Senator Grassley have been pushing for reforms, and in 2019 the two introduced a reform bill in June. Republican senators Graham, Cronyn, and Rounds are attempting to avoid he reforms through their own bill.

Reformers (such at the NYU team) focus on three issues: increasing the threshold of investment, strengthening incentives for investments to be in targeted areas (rural, urban distressed neighborhoods), and greater transparency to prevent diversion of funds by better management of regional EB-5 Centers.

A summary comparison of the proposed reforms and the counter-attack is here.

This 2015 Forbes article shows how threat of reforms spur demand by foreign investors.





Bi-partisan farmworker bill passes House

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

The House passed a bill on December 11 providing a path to citizenship for the more than one million farmworkers estimated to be in the U.S. illegally on a 260-165 vote, with 34 Republicans voting in favor of the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Senate is expected to ignore it.

The use of temporary farmworker visas (H-2A) has surged in the past ten years:

The bill is a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation, particularly on immigration, where Republicans have generally not supported a citizenship path for any unauthorized immigrants, and Democrats are increasingly loath to support new enforcement measures.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports it, the Heritage Foundation opposes it.

The bill (1) It would create a pathway to legalization for current unauthorized agricultural workers, including an eventual option to getting a green card. (2) It would reform modernize the existing H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program, which . And (3), it would require all agriculture employers to implement a reformed “E-Verify” program to ensure their workers are authorized.

I posted details of the bill here. Also go here. A breakdown of farm labor is here.


Iowan attitudes about unauthorized immigrants

Monday, November 4th, 2019

The Des Moines Register poll of Iowans in February 2018 reported strongly positive support for normalization of legal status among unauthorized immigrants. This poll is fairly consistent with other polls on the issue of how the U.S. should treat unauthorized residents, when the questions are slanted towards a positive response. 65% called a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers currently living in the country “a worthy goal.”81% said eventually extending citizenship to “Dreamers” — the group until recently protected by the executive action known as DACA — is a worthy goal.

Choking off immigration to Texas

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Dallas News columnist Rob Curran writes, “You don’t need a degree from the London School of Economics to know that almost every roofer and framer responsible for the heavy lifting in the North Texas building boom of the last decade was an immigrant. You don’t need to be an agronomist to know that pretty much every watermelon you buy in Central Market was harvested by a migrant laborer.

North Texans are among the biggest beneficiaries from this sweat subsidy. People have flocked to this region because a high standard of living comes at a relatively low cost. But middle-class Texans may not always be able to afford a maid, a lawn guy and a regular breakfast taco.

I spoke to one landscaper in North Texas who did not wish to be named. He employed a group of about seven Mexican-born laborers for 10 years. He periodically paid immigration lawyers to have their paperwork renewed — an expensive, but viable proposition. In 2017, the landscaper’s crew returned to Mexico, as usual, but the lawyers could not get them back in. After some pricey back-and-forth with immigration authorities, the landscaper was told that his crew had renewed their visas too many times.”

Two new Trump policies on refugees

Monday, October 14th, 2019

“The Darkening City on the Hill The Trump Administration Heightens Its Assault on Refugee Protection” — from this article by Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies.

On September 26, 2019, the White House released two long-anticipated decrees. Its Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement requires that both states and localities consent to the resettlement of refugees in a particular locality. If either refuses to consent, the Order provides that “refugees should not be resettled within that State or locality,”

In addition, the Order seems to require states and localities to take an affirmative step – as part of a yet-determined process – to consent to refugee placement. In other words, they must “opt in” to the program. If they do not, then the federal government would deem the jurisdiction unacceptable for resettlement.

Also on September 26, the administration released the President’s annual Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. This document announced the administration’s decision to limit refugee admissions to 18,000 in FY 2020, the lowest number in the 40-year history of the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

In his July 30, 1981 statement on US immigration and refugee policy, President Ronald Reagan committed to continuing “America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries” and that shares “the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.” He also acknowledged the importance of these policies to the nation’s interests. In his January 11, 1989 farewell address to the nation, Reagan spoke of the United States as a nation that had always stood as a beacon of freedom to the world’s refugees, but that this identity needed to be “rediscovered.” It needs to be rediscovered now as well, and before the Trump administration succeeds in fully dismantling one of the nation’s defining and proudest programs.