Immigrant-related higher ed enrollment

Here are some figures for immigrant-related students in higher ed now. Immigrant-origin students accounted for 60% of the increase in all post-secondary education students between 2000 to 2018. These are not international students (who total about 1.1 million higher ed students).

The President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration found that fewer than half of the estimated 454,000 undocumented students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities were eligible for DACA.

Can unauthorized students access state colleges? This portal shows how each state is recognizing unauthorized students regarding tuition and financial aid for state higher ed. Three very large states – CA, NY and TX – provide “comprehensive access.” Only three states – AL, GA and SC – prohibit access to state colleges. About 20 states are restrictive to some degree, 16 states offer comprehensive access, and the rest either have no policy are in the middle. I personally doubt meaningfulness of this analysis for many states.

The size of the immigrant-related higher ed population. From the Alliance: The United States is home to 5.3 million immigrant-origin students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions. First-generation immigrants, individuals born abroad who immigrated to the U.S, account for 1.7 million students. Second-generation immigrants, persons born in the U.S. to one or more immigrants parents, account for 3.6 million students.

Why today’s Mexican border crisis is part of a predictable pattern

Here are pretty extensive excerpts from an insightful article by Cristobal Ramón , Yari Gutierrez on our chronic vulnerability to migrant surges at borders. The 2018 – 2019 surge under Trump was larger than what we are seeing now. In both cases we have been entirely reactive rather than proactive. (Go here for a summary of asylum in the U.S.)

The U.S. applies stringent border policies such as interdiction and detention to deter large flows of migrants who are fleeing humanitarian or political crises in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States. However, these measures usually fail to meet these goals since they do not impact the root causes of these migrant flows or establish protocols for managing sudden shifts in migration patterns, showing that active management of migrant flows requires strategies that extend beyond border deterrence to handle humanitarian crises.

Our asylum system dates from the Refugee Act of 1980. The Act did not anticipate that future waves of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border would overwhelm the new system, leaving the U.S. government without measures to shift resources to manage sudden upsurges in asylum requests.

This issue first emerged in 1979 and 1980 when 25,000 asylum seekers from Cuba and Haiti arrived in Florida during what is known as the Mariel Boatlift, when the Fidel Castro regime’s decision to allow Cubans to leave the country precipitated the exodus of 125,000 individuals from Cuba and another 25,000 Haitians fleeing the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier arrived in South Florida. For the Haitians the U.S. focused on interdiction at sea.

In 2014, there was increase in the number of unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in Central America arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Obama tried to coordinate with the Mexican government and built detention centers.

In response to a steady rise in family unit apprehensions in 2018, Trump sent the armed forces to the border, separated families at the border, and curtailed the ability of unauthorized immigrants to access asylum. Despite the severity of these measures, family unit apprehensions continued to increase through the end of 2018.

Congress should consider making these two policy areas a core component of the nation’s humanitarian system, including hiring more immigration judges, establishing protocols to rapidly shift asylum resources to the U.S. border, and maintaining programs that strengthen human security in countries migrants are fleeing.

From History Shows the U.S. Doesn’t Do Well at Preparing for Migration Crises
By Cristobal Ramón , Yari Gutierrez Jan 22, 2019

Immigrants and health status in New York City

A study was just released on the health risks and immigrant demographics in Brooklyn and Queens, by census district. The studied correlated health outcomes with social and economic conditions such as poverty status, ability to speak English, level of education, housing conditions, and health insurance. “The healthcare literature show a high degree of correlation: if a neighborhood has one or two of the health indicators described here, they are likely to be vulnerable on the other measures.”

The study focused on non-naturalized immigrants. Naturalized immigrants have health status which is similar to U.S. born persons.

These are findings of just one area in Brooklyn: Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights. This is in southwest Brooklyn, near Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Gravesend Bay

About 40 percent (48,000) of the residents in this neighborhood are immigrants, of which 28,000 are naturalized citizens. On average, naturalized citizens in this neighborhood have lived in the United States twice as long as noncitizens (30 years compared to 15 years). About 15,000, or 12 percent, of the total population in Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights live in mixed-status households, with at least one member of the household being undocumented.

Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights has the highest poverty rate of all the neighborhoods in Brooklyn. One-third (33 percent) of noncitizens are in poverty compared to 24 percent for all noncitizens in Brooklyn. Other striking disparities are the number of noncitizens in Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights without a high school education (40 percent) and those living in overcrowded housing (17 percent). This neighborhood has relatively lower rankings for percent without health insurance (ranked 12) and undocumented (ranked 8).

Homeland Security statement about the Mexican border

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a statement on March 16 about the situation on the Mexican border. Here are a few exceprts. The numbers below are 96,974 apprehensions at the border in Feb 2021. The prior high was in May, 2019, at 132, 956.

We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children. We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children. We have more work to do.

This is not new. We have experienced migration surges before – in 2019, 2014, and before then as well. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing.

Single adults (68,732 in Feb 2021). Single adults from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are swiftly expelled to Mexico….The expulsion of single adults does not pose an operational challenge for the Border Patrol because of the speed and minimal processing burden of their expulsion.

Families (18,945 in Feb 2021). Families apprehended at the southwest border are also currently being expelled

Unaccompanied children 9,297 in Feb 2021). A child who is under the age of 18 and not accompanied by their parent or legal guardian is considered under the law to be an unaccompanied child. We are encountering six- and seven-year-old children, for example, arriving at our border without an adult.

In more than 80 percent of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40 percent of cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian. These are children being reunited with their families who will care for them.

The children then go through immigration proceedings where they are able to present a claim for relief under the law.

The Border Patrol facilities have become crowded with children and the 72-hour timeframe for the transfer of children from the Border Patrol to HHS is not always met. HHS has not had the capacity to intake the number of unaccompanied children we have been encountering

Farm workers and immigration reform

Farming, especially corporate produce farming, is heavily dependent on immigrant labor. Temporary farmworker visas (the H-2A visa) are up. Over half of farm workers, some half million, are estimated to be unauthorized.

To protect its farm workforce, the state of California has made a special effort to get these workers vaccinated. Per the NY Times, “The challenges to getting farmworkers vaccinated go well beyond worries about their immigration status. The odds of being able to sign up for a vaccine online are low in a population that often lacks broadband access and faces language barriers. Many cannot easily reach vaccination sites in urban areas because they do not have reliable transportation or the ability to leave work in the middle of the day.”

The Biden immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. aims to protect all workers, including unauthorized from exploitation. Per Politico, over 70 percent of federal labor standards investigations of farms found violations, including wage theft and inadequate housing and transportation, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. “It’s pretty clear that the lack of a legal status leads to the ability for employers to break the law against you without much worry of getting in trouble,” Costa said. “They fear retaliation and can’t speak up in the workplace because that could lead to their deportation and they’re afraid to report violations to government officials because they don’t want to interact with officials over deportation fears.”

Higher education attainment of immigrants

Immigrant education creates a hour-glass profile. Immigrants in the U.S. as a whole have lower levels of education than the U.S.-born population. This average lower level is very influenced the Mexican and Central American immigration in the 1990 – 2007 period. Since then, the immigration flow of persons with little formal education slowed considerably, while immigration from Asia, with higher educational status, increased. Today, the average education of recent immigrants is very likely higher than that of U.S. born persons. (Go here.) The table below is for 2018.

The college-educated immigranyt population is especially notable in California, where 31% of the entire college educated population is foreign-born. Nationwide, foreign born workers were 34% of college educated workers in computers and mathematics and 25% in architecture and engineering. By comparison, immigrants comprise 17% of the entire workforce and 14% of the entire population. (Go here.)

More migrants at the Mexican US border

The Wall Street Journal headline on March 9 reads, “ Young Central American Migrants See Biden Era as Chance to Enter U.S. The new administration is trying to ease Trump’s border policies without sparking a fresh wave of migrants. There was a total of 100,441 border apprehensions in February, an increase from January’s 78,442.  9,457 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the border in February, a sharp increase from January’s 5,858 and the highest number since May 2019.

The article profiles a mother tempted to go with her daughter to the border:

In the Guatemalan Mayan town of Colotenango, migration has picked up in recent months after a lull during the pandemic, according to Gloria Velásquez, a single mother whose income depends on remittances from four of her six siblings in the U.S.

“People here say it is a good moment to leave, to be at the border,” said Ms. Velásquez, 32. “The rumor is that children are allowed to enter.” She said she has been considering going with her 10-year-old daughter Helen Ixchel, or sending her alone.

Usually the family finds a “trusted person” in the community, who is often a deported migrant who knows the route well, to bring the children to the border, with the hopes they can reunite with relatives in the U.S., Ms. Velásquez said. But she said she has been postponing the decision as she considers the journey to be too dangerous.

Haydee Garcia, who manages a program to stop minors from migrating north for the Save the Children charity in Joyabaj, another Guatemalan municipality, said that in the past few months, more people are considering making the journey to the U.S.

Rebuilding the refugee program

From an editorial in the Washington Post about reversing Trump’s destructive policy on refugees, and Biden’s goal of accepting 125,000 refugees in FY 2022 beginning in October:

In 2018, for the first time in decades, another country, Canada, resettled more refugees than the United States. In fiscal 2020, representing Mr. Trump’s final year in office, fewer than 12,000 refugees were admitted, down from nearly 85,000 in President Barack Obama’s final year.

Across the country, long-established agencies, faith-based and otherwise, spent most of the four years of the Trump administration laying off resettlement workers and closing local offices. To cite one such example: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had more than 70 refugee resettlement offices when Mr. Trump took office. Today, it has 40, and many of those have trimmed their staffs given the unprecedented cuts by the Trump administration, which slowed refugee admissions to a trickle. Nationwide, about a third of roughly 300 offices that provided resettlement services for refugees were shuttered during Mr. Trump’s time in office; hundreds of Americans, dedicated to helping desperate people from nations reeling from war and disaster to rebuild their lives, were laid off. That expertise has been lost and will take time to regain.

No group of immigrants to this country is more thoroughly vetted than refugees, who are screened by the United Nations and then intensely vetted by U.S. officials, often for years, before they are eligible for admission and selected for resettlement. Once they arrive, an extensive network of nonprofit organizations and volunteers hustle to help them with jobs, housing, language training, medical services and schools.

Guest worker program for U.S.?

The concept of a long-term guest worker visa is rarely discussed in the U.S. These visas would create a middle ground between temporary work visas and citizenship or permanent residency. I think the concept is very hard for Americans to consider because we are at least overtly opposed to the idea of some kind of second class citizenship or permanent residency.

Here is an excerpt from a report based on round table discussions held in Wisconsin and Texas:

The participants also made suggestions for introducing new temporary programs or expanding existing ones for migrant workers. They proposed ideas that could expand the scope of the existing H-2A temporary agricultural visa and H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa programs.
A man from Wisconsin said more temporary programs for lower skilled occupations could provide incentives for undocumented immigrants to enter the country legally:

“One thing that ought to be done—there should be some middle ground between permanent resident status and being undocumented. I think there has to be a way for people to come here to work and be legal without the expectations that they’re going to become citizens or become permanent residents. I think a lot of people come here to work and send money back. I would like to see low skilled workers have some limited visa so they can work or earn a living and be documented to the extent monitored … that would give them a way to be here legally, pay their taxes, social services, and healthcare. I see great benefit in that.”

Another participant from Texas floated a proposal that mirrored temporaryto-permanent systems in European countries, such as Germany where non-citizens can access permanent status after living in these countries for a specific number of years. He said, “Whoever wants to come legally, give them a period of one year to prove to the government that they can establish themselves in the U.S., stay with clear criminal histories, and show they are productive and engaged in the community.”

From Turning Challenges Into Opportunities: Perspectives on Immigration in Texas and Wisconsin during the 2020 Election Year

Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was enacted by the prior Democratic-controlled House In December, 2019, and was re-introduced this week. This and the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 are the two major immigration related legislative initiatives underway.

Farmworker-related legislation has been sought by a coalition of worker advocates and employer-based farm associations for some time. They are responding to a crisis in farm labor supply.

Some highlights of the bill:

Temporary legalization. A program for agricultural workers in the United States (and their spouses and minor children) to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment. Provides a process for farm workers to seek Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status—a temporary status for those who have worked at least 180 days in agriculture over the last 2 years. CAW status can be renewed indefinitely with continued farm work (at least 100 days per year).

Green card for current long-term workers. Those who want to stay can earn a path to a green card by paying a $1,000 fine and engaging in additional agricultural work: Workers with 10 years of agricultural work prior to the date of enactment must complete 4 additional years of such work. Workers with less than 10 years of agricultural work prior to the date of enactment must complete 8 additional years of such work.

Temporary workers. Reforms the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers.
Electronic Verification of the Agricultural Workforce. A mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment,

Here is another summary.