Dept. of Labor helps illegal workers in Katrina clean up to get paid

Today’s Wall Street Journal (no link available) reports that the U.S. Dept. of Labor has been actively supporting efforts by illegal workers to get paid for their work from employers who have stiffed them. Credit much of the effort to coordination between the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (no link found) and the Dept. of Labor. For instance, “In February, the Labor Department, acting on worker complaints partly compiled by activists from a Mississippi-based advocacy group, collected nearly $142,000 in back pay from a subcontractor working for Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., for Mr. Hernandez and almost 120 other workers. KBR says it didn’t have a direct relationship with the subcontractor responsible for paying the workers.” In fact, the offending employer was a sub-contractor of a sub-contractor.
The article goes on:

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Can the U.S. reduce its illegal immigrant population by attrition?

A study issued by the Center for Immigration Studies thinks so. “Attrition Through Enforcement: A Cost-Effective Strategy to Shrink the Illegal Population,” estimates that half of the illegal population can be reduced in five years by spending on average $400 million a year, or $2 billion. That comes to annual reductions of 1.5 million persons a year.
Elements of the strategy include using IRS data to track back to illegal workers who file tax returns; much stricter enforcement of work status verification rules (the I-9 form); state and local laws to discourage illegal settlement; tighter border entry-exit record keeping; doubling ICE enforcement resources by $120 million a year; inducing states to pass laws prohibiting the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Personal observation: This plan smacks of police-state thinking: opening up of IRS files, coordination of state and local law enforcement, and massive ICE enforcement action. Nonetheless it is worth a cold blooded examination of this along with all other proposals to address the issue of illegal immigrants. I remain strongly in favor of the approach being taken by the Senate Judiciary committee.

Illegal immigrants want to stay, become U.S. citizens

In an earlier posting, I reported that the National Immigration Forum surveyed several hundred Spanish speaking undocumented workers in late 2005, and released the results at the end of March. That posting mainly addressed their use of documentation for work. This posting addresses preparation and desire to become American citizens. In short, the vast majority does wish to stay here and become citizens. A large minority of them is here with their spouses and/or children.
The results:

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Federal government unable to enforce immigration laws effectively

The National Journal has run an analysis of Bush Administration’s struggle to enforce laws pertaining to illegal immigrants. These are 11 to 12 million people, and the government has 325 agents dedicated to rounding them up, and 28,000 holding cells for them. According to the article, the government reported that last year it deported 200,000 persons. However, some 500,000 slipped in illegally. And some 100,000 caught by the government last year disappeared prior to deportation – they were released pending deportation proceedings. Washington is trying to get more expedited deportations (without an judicial review). I doubt the 200,000 figure. I suspect that it includes a lot of people who were nabbed at borders and thus had not penetrated into the United States. The article excerpted below has information on resources used, persons arrested, and the judicial system.
The article, “Washington’s immigration law mess,” reports:

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Nursing shortages: foreign workers to fill them?

The United States employs about 2 million nurses, 60% of them in hospitals. We need more. A South Korean newspaper reports that 10,000 South Korean nurses are “likely be hired as nurses at U.S. hospitals over the next five years, a South Korean state firm said Friday. [It] said it plans to sign a contract with San Francisco-based worker dispatch company HRS Global and New York-based St. John’s Riverside Hospital…” In 2000 new nursing graduates totaled about 76,000, down from 95,000 in 1993. Based on current staffing requirements, there is today a shortage of about 125,000 nurses, as noted in this report. (A 300,000 shortage figure sometimes heard seems to be a substantial exaggeration.) Domestic graduations are not expected to increase. What would happen if nurses were paid 20% more?
Here’s the plan:

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What is behind the ICE initiative on illegal immigrants

It is my impression that the ICE raid on a 5,000 workforce, IFCO, netting over 1,000 illegal workers and a large handful of middle and low level managers, is 90% bark and 10% bite. There are several compelling reasons why ICE would undertake this kind of action, and several more why it will be hard to repeat on a regular basis. ICE needs to show that it had not abandoned enforcement of the illegal worker provisions of law passed in the 1980s – IRCA. Another motivation at this time – though the raid was apparently a year in planning – is Karl Rovian. It is efficient way to challenge the easy-does-it demeanor of congressional Democrats regarding day-to-day enforcement. It may be effective in putting the Democrats on the defensive, on this one single issue of national visibility around which the party has coalesced around, speaking with a common voice.
And here are the reasons why I think that ICE can pull off at best just a few raids of magnitude. First, they consume a lot of resources, and ICE has only 325 agents assigned to immigration law enforcement. Second, they take time, many months, to plan. Third, ICE may have thought through the downsides of such raids. They will focus on low level managers because it is much more difficult to establish the culpability of senior executives. They will elicit sympathy from a potentially large number of parties such as churches.
The Bush Administration would, I believe, prefer to focus on illegal immigrants who have not obeyed orders to leave the country or who have committed crimes (many of which I expect are minor). One major barrier prevents this: the execution of such a search and arrest program requires the participation of local police forces, who not only have shown they have other priorities, but who also are not used to working with this population. I note that the Georgia law just passed went so far as to require local law enforcement personnel to be certified to enforce immigration law. One way or the other, the Administrator will get into a tussle with local law enforcement it is leans on them to implement a policy hatched in Washington.

ICE raids an employer, IFCO, for hiring illegal workers

ICE woke itself up from its indifference and made a aggressively publicized enforcement raid on an employer, pursuant of IRCA, Immigration Reform and Control Act. The Washington Post reported that ‘Federal agents on Wednesday arrested seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems, a manufacturer of crates and pallets, on criminal charges, and more than 1,100 people were arrested on administrative immigration charges at more than 40 IFCO sites in the U.S.” This is more of a publicity stunt, because ICE likely has no real resources to make many raids, but the raid might well work to temper the enthusiasm of many employers for hiring undocumented workers and to drive many employers more underground. According to the Post, ICE has only 325 agents to cover the entire country. I expect that raids of this size — in many company sites, apparently — will be rare.
The last enforcement action of this magnitude may have been the Tyson case, which I have written about here. That ended in no convictions of the company, but only of fall guys.

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New Georgia law on undocumented workers S. Bill 529: worth a look

Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue signed Senate Bill 529, Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, on April 17. This law includes some very interesting provisions which, in effect, codify the role of states in immigration status verification, employer and employee responsibilities, and the provision of public services to undocumented persons. The law surely contains some problematic language. However, I am impressed by the evenhandedness and reasonableness of many of the provisions. For instance, local law officials must be certified by the state in order to enforce federal immigration law; undocumented persons under 18 can presumably continue to receive public benefits; and persons 18 and over can continue to receive Good Samaritan services. There is a special section devoted to stemming human trafficking.
This may well become a model for other states. I have excerpted large sections of the law.
For a complete copy of the law, go here. For the summary provided by the Governor’s office, go here.
Governor’s Office fact sheet on the law: go here:
Excerpts from the law:

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How illegal workers get and use documentation

The National Immigration Forum surveyed several hundred Spanish speaking undocumented workers in late 2005, and released the results at the end of March. Some of the more interesting items involve the obtaining and use of several sources of documentation. Only a minority are paid in part or all by check, and only 39% of those have taxes deducted from their paychecks. Here are some interesting points:
Survey information: Survey was conducted in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago; Country of birth: 60% Mexican, the most divided evenly between Central and South America, with a small number of Dominicans; Duration in U.S. less than a year: 3%; 1 – 5 year, 42%; 6- 10 years, 34%; over 10 years, 21%; 74% never go back to home country. 75% work full time.
Identification used:
Home country driver’s license: 57%
Consular ID: 57%
Home country passport: 48%
Other kinds of documents: 45%
U.S. driver’s license: 13%
Other: 3%
What kind of documents did you need to show to your employer?
None: 67%
Facsimile of Social Security Card: 28%
Consular ID: 5%
Would you be able to prove that you have worked in the U.S?
Yes: 64%
No: 36%
How are you paid:
Cash only: 52%
Check: 21%
Check and cash: 28%
If you are paid in check, is money deducted from your pay check for taxes?
Yes: 39%
No: 61%

Another look at immigrant workers and declining labor force participation

The bumper sticker to this posting is that among several factors causing relatively fewer Americans to be employed or look for work, one of them is higher numbers of illegal workers. And one of the factors buried in the statistics of incremental decline in labor force rates is a positive one: not working in order to invest in education. Many young Americans continue to arrive at adulthood poorly educated, and they are vulnerable regardless of the presence of illegal workers. It is short-sighted to isolate the illegal workforce out of a more complex and more difficult set of conditions.

Continue reading Another look at immigrant workers and declining labor force participation