Canada trims back immigration

Canada is a top-rank immigrant country in two ways: it has an agency tasked to thoughtfully plan and oversee the economic and social impact of immigration, and it has a relatively very high rate of immigration. Its permanent immigration flow is, proportional to the U.S. three times as high as the U.S.

It has a Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (Marc Miller) and the Ministry regularly issues a plan. Here is the announcement of the 2024-2025.

Miller is stabilizing permanent immigration at 500,000 while cutting back temporary visa issuance.  The publicly stated reason is to ease a crisis in housing availability and costs

He plans to reduce the number of temporary residents to 5% of the population, down from the current 6.2%.

It is exceptionally hard to estimate the number of temporary visa holders in the U.S. Including students enrolled in degree granting schools, I guess that the number of such visa holders might be less than 2% of the U.S. population.

Canada’s cut back will affect students, workers and asylum seekers.  Temporary worker rolls will decline by 20-30%.

There are now 2.5 million temporary residents in Canada, up from about one million in 2021.

Maine’s workforce and the role of immigrants

Nationwide, the annual increase in the prime working age population (25 – 54 years old) is very low, about 0.4% a year (go here and here).  Most of the increase will be foreign-born. Let’s look at Maine and what is it doing about its workforce by appealing to immigrants. It just set up an Office of New Americans.

.Maine’s current population of 1.32 million. The working age population is growing by about 3,000 year.

Maine has 56,000 foreign born individuals (go here). 10% of greater Portland and Lewiston-Auburn are immigrants. The percentage of immigrants who are working age is higher in Maine than for the total population. If it can attract slightly more immigrants than in the past, they might add 2,000 new foreign-born workers a year.’

That is why the state government is expanding English language education, increasing access to legal representation, expanding pathways to licensure and economic participation.

Update on Cupertino

The City of Cupertino, California, has been an epicenter of educated Asian immigration for some time. Here is a profile I posted in 2018. Since then, the percentage of households which are Asian has grown from 65% to 70% (population estimates July 2022).  54% of residents are foreign born, 62% speak other than English at home.  83% of those 25 years or older have at least a bachelor’s degree, The median household income is $225,000. The median sale price of a home in March, 2024 was $3.3 million.

Non-English spoken at home

Around 20% – 25% of American households predominantly speak other than Engish at home. The most popular are Spanish: 13.5% of all American households; top four East Asian languages: 7.1%; next four languages combined: 2.7%.

About about 60% of Hispanic households report speaking Spanish at home more than English.  The percentage is highest among immigrant Hispanic households  and decreases across successive generations born in the United States. Among first generation Hispanic households, 75% speak Spanish predominantly at home; among second generation, about 35%.

 

American service sector and its impact on the world — the role of immigrants

While our manufacturing base of workers in the country is influential around the world, some key service sectors have an outsized, even dominating, role in the world. And this would not take place without the presence of foreign-born workers. For these four subsectors of the service economy, each of which has a major impact on how the world perceives the United States, employment of foreign-born workers averages around 30-60%, while the share of foreign-born workers throughout the economy is 18% (which will rise due to working age demographic trends).

Their impact on the world includes not only the delivery of services globally from the U.S., but also the development of key service industries in countries, including emerging countries, of foreign-born workers who worked at some time in the U.S. A good example of this is how the Indian IT sector grew.

Computer sciences: The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey found that 63% of computer scientists and software engineers in the U.S. were foreign-born. In the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, over 60% of workers were foreign-born.

Healthcare research:  About 30% of medical researchers are foreign-born. These workers are employed in the pharmaceutical industry and in research centers.

Entertainment (Arts, entertainment, and recreation): According to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America in 2017, around 33% of the workforce in the broader U.S. motion picture and television industry were foreign-born.

Education: In the 2020-2021 academic year, around 50% of full-time graduate students in engineering programs in the U.S. were temporary student visa holders.   American Mathematical Society (AMS) found in 2015 that around 54% of doctoral faculty in mathematics departments at U.S. public universities were born outside the United States.

highly educated foreign born by country

Note the high education status of Nigerians. The Indian figure may be elevated by a large number of temporary (H-1B) workers. India provides close to 20%, and China 10%, of all foreign born post grad degree holders in the U.S.

Visualization of foreign born persons in the U.S.

The Census has prepared an interactive graphic which shows, by country of origin, the number of foreign born persons by state, by percentage of that state’s population — and much more. For instance, close to 3% of New Jersey’s population was born in India. Nationwide, 48% of Nigerians in the U.S. arrived since 2010; but only 25% of Russians, most of whom arrived much earlier.  63% of El Salvadorans are not naturalized. About half of Mexicans in the U.S. have less than a high school degree.

The MS-13 gang, born in Los Angeles, deported to El Salvador

Matt Lakeman does a deep dive into the influence of deported Low Angeles gang members on criminal, particularly gang, violence in El Salvador.  Here is a long posting which summarizes Lakeman’s long article. The essential argument is that Los Angeles gangs of El Salvadorans, mainly M-13, set up business in El Salvador after being deported, though El Salvador was already a very violent country.

As Lakeman writes, in 1995, El Salvador had a homicide rate of 139 per 100,000, the highest in the world and one of the highest rates recorded in modern history. The national US homicide rate peaked in 1980 at 10.2. The 2023 rate was about 5.5, which is very high for a wealthy Western country (others mostly under 1.0).

While the murder rate in El Salvador fell quickly after 1995, it remained the highest on average in the world for much the following years, ranging between 40 and 107 from 2002 to 2018, typically beating out other highly murderous countries like Jamaica, Honduras and Brazil.  But in 2023, El Salvador’s official murder rate dropped to 2.4 per 100,000, putting it in the league of Lithuania, Montenegro, and Canada. The rates of El Salvador’s neighbors, Guatemala and Honduras, remain 5-10X higher.

Congress under President Bill Clinton passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). American crime had just peaked in the early 1990s and anti-immigrant sentiment was flaring up, so bipartisan support arose for a new set of rules designed to combat both with harsher laws and more deportations, particularly of immigrants with criminal records.

Thus, from 1998 to 2014, the United States deported 300,000 immigrants to Central America, tens of thousands of whom had criminal records. El Salvador was particularly impacted:

El Salvador before the 1990s was a savagely violent country due to repression by military dictatorships and civil war, which ended in 1992.  Fighting inflicted something like 80,000 dead (between military and civilian casualties) and more than half a million displaced.  More than one million Salvadorans fled the country throughout the war, close to one quarter of the total population. About half went to neighboring nations, though they were not particularly stable at the time. The rest went to the United States. From 1980 to 1990, the Salvadoran population in the US rose from 94,000 to 465,000. Immigrants tend to settle wherever their past countrymen settled, so most Salvadorans ended up in Los Angeles.

Summarizing the argument of deportations causing criminal violence

The theory of deportations causing a rise in violence from gangs argues that prior to deportations from the U.S., El Salvador had minimal organized crime presence aside from small street gangs and narco cartels keeping a low profile. However, the deportations injected tens of thousands of gang-affiliated Salvadorans with criminal records into the country. These deportees brought their gang culture and criminal experience, rapidly expanding the ranks of gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18 by recruiting from an impoverished, war-scarred population.

Many deportees, lacking support, rejoined or reformed gangs upon return. A power vacuum from the new civilian police force, surplus of ex-soldiers and weapons after a long civil war, and lack of major cartel presence (such was in Colombia) enabled the American gangs to absorb local gangs. By 2016, an estimated 60,000-70,000 Salvadorans belonged to gangs controlling 94% of municipalities and costing the economy billions annually.

El Salvadoran gangs in the U.S.

Lakeman provides an account of the origins and evolution of the Salvadoran gang, MS-13, in Los Angeles. The gang emerged from the plight of Salvadoran refugee children and teenagers, who found themselves in a harsh environment, facing harassment from other gangs, and with little parental supervision.

(MS” stands for Mara, a slang term used in El Salvador meaning “gang” or “crew,” and Salvatrucha, the Salvadoran immigrants who formed the gang initially. “13” is a symbolic number representing the 13th letter of the alphabet, “M,” which stands for the Mexican Mafia, a powerful prison gang in California with which MS-13 had ties in its early days.)

Initially, MS-13 was formed by Salvadoran youth who adopted heavy metal aesthetics and Satanic imagery to protect themselves from Mexican gangs like Barrio 18. They gained a reputation for brutality, using machetes as their signature weapon, and engaging in devil worship.

Despite growing criminal sophistication, MS-13’s membership remained predominantly young, with many joining before the age of 15, attracted by the sense of community, protection, and belonging the gang offered to these displaced and vulnerable children. Lakeman highlights how the youth and traumatic backgrounds of MS-13 members contributed to their brutality and the gang’s allure.

Deportations to El Salvador

This graph shows the annual deportations of El Salvadorans from the U.S. between 1990 and 2015.

When the gangs migrated to El Salvador

MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs in El Salvador operated extensive extortion rackets, demanding “protection” payments from businesses of all sizes, even setting up checkpoints to charge fees for entering their territory. They marked their turf with pervasive graffiti and exercised judicial roles, sometimes fairly but often cruelly. Though female members existed, joining typically required being “beaten in” or enduring a gang rape.

Despite constantly incarcerated leadership, the gangs became increasingly sophisticated, developing hierarchies, record-keeping, accounting systems, and diplomacy with narco gangs for lucrative drug trafficking roles. Funds went towards operational costs like bribes, legal fees, businesses, and the brutal war between MS-13 and Barrio 18 over territory. This decades-long war not only saw gang-on-gang killings to control extortion rackets, but widespread civilian murders – for refusing payments, disrespect, or being caught in the crossfire. The violence terrorized El Salvador, causing tens of thousands of deaths and severely damaging the economy.

However, the El Salvador was not a paradise. 

The author writes that El Salvador’s murder rate peaked before the influx of Salvadoran criminal deportees. The US started to increase deportations in 1996 with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and then really started to ramp up deportations in 2003; but throughout that 1996-2003, the murder rate plummeted from 139 to a low of 47 in 2002. This means that El Salvador’s crime rate went down as more criminals came to the country.

In other words, El Salvador’s worst crime years came from non-gang affiliated Salvadorans. Lakeman tried to look into this but have found absolutely no explanations for who was doing all this killing in the late 1990s. His best guess is that there were a lot of reprisals and general lawlessness in the aftermath of the civil war that ended in 1992.

Looking at the post-2003 era, there also doesn’t seem to be much correlation between the number of gang members in El Salvador and the murder rate. Gang member estimates are hard to find, but the peak was likely either in 2015 or 2018. Yet the murder rate was generally parabolic until a peak in 2015 and then went into a fairly fast decline.

Nontheless, there is evidence that though the gangs committed an outsized proportion of criminal behavior, non-gang criminality is still a major factor in El Salvador. A report from the National Civil Police from around 2005 estimated that 60% of criminal activity came from the gangs.

 

 

 

 

The role of immigrant workers in strategic industries

Conner O’Brien (@cojobrien) has studied the role of immigrant workers in strategic industries. He writes, “As we climb the educational ladder in strategic industries, we find immigrants are increasingly important. 36% of strategic industry workers with a graduate degree are foreign-born.  25% with only a college degree are foreign born, and 15% of those without college degree are foreign born.” Not surpisingly, foreign born workers in strategic industries earn on average more than do U.S-born workers ($106K vs. $91K).

Among foreign born workers in strategic industries with at least a BA, 29% are from India; 13% from China.

Over the past 20 years, all industries have become more dependent on graduate degree holders, but the dependency in strategic industries much more so. Strategic industries make heavy use of computer scientists and scientific researchers.

What are strategic industries? O’Brien’s study says, “We identify Census-defined industries as strategically significant if they intersect with Brookings Metro’s Advanced Industries definition, using the Census Bureau’s NAICS crosswalk. Brookings defines advanced industries as those that are both in the top fifth of industries by R&D spending per worker and are above average in their use of STEM workers. We then examine the workforces of these industries using 2018-2022 five-year American Community Survey (ACS) microdata.

The industries identified encompass nearly 20 million workers and range from software to shipbuilding. Strategic industries are disproportionately in manufacturing and professional services, which combine for 83 percent of employment. In non-strategic sectors, these two categories combined employ only nine percent of workers.”

 

Construction increasingly depends on immigrant workers

The deaths of six immigrant workers in the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore on March 26 shines a light on the critical role of foreign-born labor in construction. Foreign-born labor may not be formally well educated but they increasingly provide the muscle for much of construction, repair and maintenance.  These are some of the highest paying jobs for workers without advanced formal skills and without English proficiency.

The latest American Community Survey data of 2022 show that 11.8 million workers, including self-employed and temporarily unemployed, comprised the construction workforce in 2022. Out of these, 8.9 million were native-born, and 2.9 million or 25% were foreign-born, the highest number of immigrant workers in construction ever recorded by the ACS. (Go here).

In New York and New Jersey, 37% of the construction workforce were foreign born, according to a 2020 report br the the National Association of Home Builders. Nationwide, the growth of the U.S. born construction workforce has lagged well behind that of the foreign-born workforce. (Go here).