Reforming temporary worker programs

A coalition of worker advocates issued a report this month, The American Dream Up for Sale, an indictment of abuses in temporary worker programs in the United States. Go here for an announcement of the report.
The collation include the International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG), a diverse coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, AFT, the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. (CDM), Farmworker Justice, Global Workers Justice Alliance, National Guestworker Alliance, Southern Poverty Law Center and other international and national organizations.
The New York Times ran an editorial about these abuses today.

The transformation of Mexican farm labor supply to the U.s.

Only 2% of California’s farm labor is U.S.- born. Foreign workers, mainly Mexicans, are essential for California’s production of labor intensive agriculture. (For a list of the major “FVH” farm products, such as avocados, grapes and lettuce, go here.)
Two very recent studies from US Davis and US Sacramento examine the impact of shorter supplies of low wage farm workers from Mexico.
A new study from the University of California at Davis reports on shifts in agriculture in Mexico that may be affecting the supply of Mexican farm workers in the United States.
Mexican food distribution is increasing through large retailers, such as Walmart. These large merchandisers have “strict quality, quantity and timing standards” that small family farms cannot easily meet. This is leading to more industrial farm production.
Supermarkets think cross-border, not locally. Thus Californian food will be sold in Mexican stores in one season, and Mexican food in Californian stores in another season.
The net effect of these and other changes is to tighten the supply of Mexican low wage farm labor to work in either Mexico or the U.S. (Mexico now imports farm labor from Guatemala.)
MPI reports that farm labor costs in the U.S. are rising. When the farm unions rose in California (think Cesar Chaves) in the 1960s, farm worker wages rose by 40%. If farm wages increase significantly, the MPI predicts more mechanization (which is already picking a lot of wine grapes) and shift towards importing farm produce that cannot be easily mechanize.
A study from the University of California in Sacramento (“The End of Farm Labor Abundance”) says that “New data from the Mexico National Rural Household Survey reveal that the same shift out of farm work that characterized U.S. farm labor history is well underway in Mexico. Meanwhile, the demand for farm and non-farm workers in Mexico is rising, and a combination of recession and border enforcement has discouraged new Mexico-to-U.S. migration. The decline in foreign farm labor supply to the United States has far-reaching implications for farm production, immigration policy, and rural poverty in California and other labor-intensive agricultural regions.”
The UC Davis study (see the powerpoint here) says that farm productivity in Mexico has risen by 300% since 2003, leading to a 25% decline in the workforce along more production.
The report quotes Passel of The Pew Hispanic Center: “The supply of Mexican labor available to work in the United States has fallen due to a sharp decrease in Mexico’s total fertility rate and employment growth in Mexico.”
What happens when mechanization comes into California farms? Fewer low skilled workers, more high skilled workers, and hard from low skilled workers to transition up.

Nine principles of immigration reform

On November 29, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a list of principles of immigration reform. Here they are:
1. Normalize status of illegal immigrants: Require the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to register with the federal government, submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, learn English and American civics, and pay taxes to contribute fully and legally to our economy and earn a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.
2. Unite families: Protect the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of bi-national, same-sex couples, by reducing the family backlogs and keeping spouses, parents, and children together.
3. STEM program: Attract the best and the brightest investors, innovators, and skilled professionals, including those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies, to help strengthen our economy, create jobs, nnd build a brighter future for all Americans.
4. DREAM Act: Build on the extraordinary success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and incorporates DREAMers, those who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and are Americans but for a piece of paper—into the mainstream of life in the United States through a path to citizenship so that America benefits from their scholastic achievements, military service and pursuit of their dreams.
5. Ag industry: Include a balanced, workable solution for the agriculture industry that ensures agricultural workers have a route to citizenship and employers have the workers and American agriculture continues to lead in our global economy.
6. Labor protections for immigrant workers: End the exploitation of U.S. and immigrant workers by providing sufficient, safe, and legal avenues for foreign workers to fill legitimate gaps in our workforce, with full labor rights, protection from discrimination, and a reasonable path to permanency that lifts up wages and working conditions for both native and foreign-born workers and their families.

7. Border protection:
Ensure smart and reasonable enforcement that protects our borders and fosters commerce by targeting serious criminals and real threats at our northern and southern borders and promotes the safe and legitimate movement of people and goods at our ports of entry and which are essential to our economy.
8. Verification: Establish a workable employment verification system that prevents unlawful employment and rewards employers and employees who play by the rules, while protecting Americans’ right to work and their privacy.
9. Access to Citizenship: Renew our commitment to citizenship, to ensure all workers pay their fair share of taxes, fully integrate into our way of life and bear the same responsibilities as all Americans and reaffirms our shared belief that the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution is a fundamental freedom that must be preserved.

Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less

According to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, “The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.”
This is the conclusion from a study issued today, and summarized in a press release as follows:
The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.
The report is based on the Center’s analysis of data from five different Mexican government sources and four U.S. government sources. The Mexican data come from the Mexican Decennial Censuses (Censos de Población y Vivienda), the Mexican Population Counts (Conteos de Población y Vivienda), the National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (Encuesta Nacional de la Dinámica Demográfica or ENADID), the National Survey of Occupation and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo or ENOE), and the Survey on Migration at the Northern Border of Mexico (Encuesta sobre Migración en la Frontera Norte de México or EMIF-Norte). The U.S. data come from the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Among the report’s key findings:
In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.
In the five-year period a decade earlier (1995 to 2000), about 3 million Mexicans had immigrated to the U.S. and fewer than 700,000 Mexicans and their U.S. born-children had moved from the U.S. to Mexico.
This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S.—to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. Over the same period the number of authorized Mexican immigrants rose modestly, from 5.6 million in 2007 to 5.8 million in 2011.
Mexicans now comprise about 58% of the unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. They also account for 30% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest country of origin for U.S. immigrants, China, accounts for just 5% of the nation’s stock of nearly 40 million immigrants.
Apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross the border illegally have plummeted by more than 70% in recent years, from more than 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011—a likely indication that fewer unauthorized immigrants are trying to cross. This decline has occurred at a time when funding in the U.S. for border enforcement—including more agents and more fencing—has risen sharply.
As apprehensions at the border have declined, deportations of unauthorized Mexican immigrants—some of them picked up at work or after being arrested for other criminal violations—have risen to record levels. In 2010, nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants—73% of them Mexicans—were deported by U.S. authorities.
Although most unauthorized Mexican immigrants sent home by U.S. authorities say they plan to try to return, a growing share say they will not try to come back to the U.S. According to a survey by Mexican authorities of repatriated immigrants, 20% of labor migrants in 2010 said they would not return, compared with just 7% in 2005.
Looking back over the entire span of U.S. history, no country has ever sent as many immigrants to this country as Mexico has in the past four decades. However, when measured not in absolute numbers but as a share of the immigrant population at the time, immigration waves from Germany and Ireland in the late 19th century equaled or exceeded the modern wave from Mexico.

Immigrant workers in four key sectors: brilliant analysis

The Migration Policy Institute has released an excellent study of immigrant worker participation in four major economic sectors: “Still an Hourglass? Immigrant workers in middle-skilled jobs”. The premise of the study is that during the last decade, the number of immigrants holding middle skill jumps jumped by 50%, and that the hourglass concept (the immigrant sector divided between high skilled, such as systems engineers and physicians, and low skilled) is not longer as true as it was in the late 20th Century. I am not sure how well this study proves the premise. But is contains intriguing insights into the role of immigrants in four sectors, which I will summarize.
The study considers a worker’s income of $30,000 to be a “family sustaining wage”. That amount is 60% of the median national household income of $50,000. the argument for using the $30,000 figure is buttressed by study by others of income levels and costs of living in Los Angeles.
Between 1990 and 2006, for the econo0my as a whole, immigrant workers increased by 118%, while native workers increased by 15%. The rate of job increases by sector, immigrant vs. native worker, as for health care 132% vs.40%; information technology 189% vs. 31%; construction 291% vs. 28%; and hospitality 134% vs 33%. Between 1990 and 2006, immigrant healthcare employment grew on average at 8% vs. 3% for native workers. BLS projects 25% job growth in healthcare between 2008 and 2018.
The percentage of immigrant vs. native workers with living wages were, for the economy as a whole 46% vs. 59%; for high skilled jobs 84% vs. 83%; middle skilled jobs 60% vs 72%; and low skilled jobs, 28% vs. 36.
for each sector, the percentage of immigrant workers with family sustaining wages vs native workers was about the same except for construction (2006 figures), where 65% of native workers and 39% of immigrant workers had family sustaining wages. In the hospitality sector, both classes of workers had about 22% in family sustaining wages.
Healthcare: between 1990 and 2006, immigrant licensed practical nurses grew by 230% vs. 44% for native workers. The figures for dental assistants were 179% vs. 40%.
Information Technology: The share of immigrant IT workers to total IT workers rose from 12% in 1990 to 20% in 2006. Immigrants on the whole had better jobs.
Construction: Middle skilled job growth among immigrant workers was strong. Let’s see if that was the case after 2006. Immigrant employment in construction fell 23% between the 3rd qtr of 2007 and 2009.
Hospitality: A low skilled job sector. In 2006, 78% of immigrants and 73% of natives held low skill jobs. In 2006, only 14% of immigrants in low skilled jobs and 50% of those in middle skilled jobs earned family sustaining wages. — higher (!) than among native born workers (10% and 46% respectively).

Raid at House of Raeford plant nabs 330 workers

I have posted before on the work safety and workers compensation problems of this largely immigrant-staffed poultry processing plant chain. On October 7, ICE raided its plant in Greenville, SC, arresting 330 workers. I have pasted below the Associated Press article for today, 10/12, about the aftermath of the raid.
Groups help families of SC poultry raid workers
GREENVILLE, S.C. Greenville-area residents and groups are working to help the families of more than 300 suspected illegal immigrants arrested in a raid at a poultry processing plant last week.
The Greenville News reported Sunday that the Alliance for Collaboration with the Hispanic Community and local residents have met to identify lawyers, counselors, educators and interpreters to help the families. They also are trying to raise money and find people to care for the children of the jailed workers.
Some 330 workers were arrested in a raid at the Columbia Farms plant in Greenville County. In addition, the U.S. Labor Department said the plant is under federal investigation for possible child labor violations following the arrests of suspected illegal immigrants, including six juveniles.
The plant is owned by Raeford, N.C.-based House of Raeford. The company has said it’s cooperating with authorities.
House of Raeford processes chickens and turkeys in eight plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan.
A regional coordinator for the Catholic Charities of the Piedmont Region, Gabriel Cuervo, said several churches also will help.

Assessment of economic benefits of migration to Australia

From the Australian Ministry of immigration and Citizenship, a report that the skills shortage in the country is being filled in part by immigration, with a positive economic result:
Friday 22 August 2008
A report by respected economic analyst Access Economics shows that new migrants to Australia deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the Commonwealth budget and the broader economy every year.
In a speech to the Australian Mines and Metals Association in Perth August 22 of this year, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said that the overall fiscal impact of migration is substantially positive and grows over time in real terms.
In its Migrant Fiscal Impact Model: 2008 Update, Access looked at the costs that migrants impose on health, education, welfare, employment and settlement services compared to the fiscal benefits from taxation and visa charges.
For the 2006-07 migration program, Access estimated a total benefit of $536 million in the first year, then another $856 million in year two, growing steadily over time to reach $1.34 billion by year 20.
‘Applying the same modelling to the 2007-08 migration program, the net fiscal benefit is $610 million in year one, $965 million in year two then growing to $1.5 billion by year 20,’ Senator Evans said.

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An important work safety program for Brazilian workers in Massachusetts

As reported by C. Eduardo Siqueira MD, ScDm on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, governmental and non-profit forces have come together to improve work safety for immigrants from Brazil. I have posted often on Brazilian workers, and once posted on a leading Brazilian worker center in Boston. I have pasted below a summary of the worker death problem among Brazilians and of the coalition mobilized to do change things for the better.
Siqueria’s contact information is: Assistant Professor, Department of Community Health and Sustainability, UMass Lowell, 3 Solomont Way Suite 3, Lowell, MA 01854-5127 Ph: (978) 934-3147
The report:
Fatal Work- related Injuries among Brazilians in Massachusetts
This fact sheet summarizes information from Massachusetts on fatal work-related injuries among Brazilian-born workers.i Little information has been publicly available about fatal injuries among this group of workers to date. In Massachusetts, as in the U.S. as a whole, Hispanic workers have been found to have high rates of fatal work-related injuries compared to non-Hispanic white workers.1,2 However, deaths of Brazilian born-workers may or may not be included in the Hispanic fatality count and are not generally reported separately.ii

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A new information center for immigration issues

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has launched a more comprehensive information service for policy making and research about immigration.
The Migration Policy Institute describes itself as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide.” It is unveiling an initiative: the creation of a National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “The Center will connect government agency administrators, researchers, community leaders, service providers, the media, and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.”
The underlying goal appears to be to generate more positive support for pro-immigration policy at the federal level.
The MPI’s press release goes onto say:

As part of the launch of the Center, MPI is also unveiling its electronic resource center, which provides online information and analysis across more than a dozen integration subfields, and a new, cutting-edge data tool that provides instant access to the most current demographic and social information on the foreign born in each state. The electronic resource center provides “one-stop shopping” for individuals seeking information on integration topics ranging from proposed changes in the U.S. citizenship test and application fees to the performance of immigrant students in U.S. schools. And, with the click of a button, the new state data tool allows users to see data such as the percent change in the foreign-born population in Georgia from 1990 to 2005, or the top countries of origin for the foreign born in California, based on data from the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey.

Three broad demographic trends make the need to focus on integration clear. First, high numbers: Over half of new workers in the U.S. economy in the 1990s were immigrants. Second, the dispersal of immigrants to nontraditional receiving areas: The state with the fastest growth between 2000 and 2005 was South Carolina. Third, shifting legal status: The share of immigrants who are undocumented rose dramatically over the past decade, rising to almost 30 percent all U.S. immigrants

Full text copy of the press release:

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France’s new skilled labor focus on immigration

The Migration Policy Institute published a paper describing France’s new immigration law of 2006. Below are quotes from the study, which says that France is well aware that it must compete with other global players for international talent. Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia all actively recruit migrants and select them according to criteria that range from education and language skills to adaptability and age. I have already posted on Canadian policy and an extensive article in the Economist about the effort of other countries to recruit highly skilled labor (use “search” to find them.)
Comparisons between the U.S. and France
Population: U.S. 300 million France 61 million
Percentage foreign born: U.S. 12.5% France 10%
Unauthorized residents: U.S. 3% France 2%
Work based entry as % of total immigration: U.S. 22% France 11.9%
Family reunification as % of total immigration: U.S. 58% France 64%
Foreign students: U.S. 621,000 France 250,000
Students from abroad:
France has double per capita the number of foreign students and is trying to keep them in France to work. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of foreign students increased by 50 percent — a significantly larger increase than that which occurred in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, or the United States. (Australia is ahead of all in recruiting foreign students.) The new law would require foreign students to receive approval to study in France from their country of origin. Once in France, foreign students who receive a masters or higher degree would be allowed to pursue a “first professional experience” that contributes to the economic development of both France and the student’s country of origin
The law in general:
France introduced in July 24, 2006 a new immigration law with fur objectives: recruiting skilled workers; facilitating foreign students’ stay; tightening the rules on family reunification; and limiting access to residence and citizenship. In sum, it aims to overhaul France’s immigration system by giving the government new powers to encourage high-skilled migration, fight illegal migration more effectively, and restrict family immigration.
Although the new law does not take effect until early 2007, one of its pillars is already making itself felt. The number of people deported for not having the required documents reached nearly 13,000 by the end of July 2006, more than halfway to the Interior Ministry’s 2006 goal of 25,000, inciting protests from tens of thousands of French citizens.
The unrest illustrates that France will not have an easy transition to a selective immigration system that emphasizes employment-driven immigration at the expense of the 113,000 immigrants who arrive in France annually for family-related reasons and that carries out a robust campaign against illegal migration.
Skilled based immigration:

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