He’s Gotta Have It

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President Trump has been insistent that Congress give him money to build a wall on the southern border — that structure of concrete or steel slats that will somehow magically stop illegal immigration (even though, these days, most undocumented immigrants arrive with visas and do not depart when their visa expires).

Thanks to a lengthy Washington Post article published on February 8th by a team of journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winner David Farenthold, we learned there is something else Mr. Trump must have. At the same time that Donald Trump has staked his presidency on building The Wall, he has staked his business success on the availability of undocumented workers he is trying to keep out as president.

The Post article tells the story of the undocumented workers who tended grounds, provided housekeeping services and worked in the kitchen of Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. The article notes that, in the estimation of the workers interviewed, more than 100 undocumented workers labored at the Bedminster golf course at one time. And Bedminster is not the only Trump property that employed undocumented workers. Continue reading “He’s Gotta Have It”

When do we give them a break?

There have been a pair of reports released recently with new estimates of the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. A report by the Pew Research Center, released in November, provides a wealth of information on the size and demographic characteristics of the undocumented population as of 2016. These estimates are compared to population estimates calculated in 2007.

Another report by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) takes a look at trends in the undocumented population between 2010 and 2017.

The headline is that the undocumented immigrant population has declined significantly. Pew estimated the undocumented population to be 10.7 million in 2016 — down from its 2007 peak of 12.2 million. It is as low as it has been since 2004. The estimate includes individuals who are now living with temporary protection from deportation through two programs — Temporary Protected Status (TPS), covering approximately 317,000 people, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects approximately 700,000 persons from deportation. The Trump administration is trying to end both of these programs.

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Source: Pew Research

According to Pew, undocumented immigrants now make up less than a quarter (24 percent) of the total immigrant population in the U.S., down from 2007 when it was nearly a third (30 percent).

The decline is attributed primarily to a sharp decline in the number of Mexicans entering without authorization, and the departure of Mexican undocumented immigrants. CMS estimated that, since 2010, the undocumented Mexican population has declined by 1.3 million and, in 2017 for the first time, undocumented immigrants from Mexico constituted less than half of the U.S. undocumented population. Continue reading “When do we give them a break?”

The Missing One Percent

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Recently, Robert Samuelson wrote a column for the Washington Post in which he discussed different projections for future economic growth. On the one hand, he noted that a recent White House economic report includes a projection of 3 percent economic growth per year for years to come.

On the other hand, most economists project slower growth. In part, this is due to the slow growth projected for the U.S. labor force. As Samuelson illustrates, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting labor force growth of 0.5 percent annually over the next 10 years. Productivity growth is projected to be 1.3 percent annually. Adding these together gets economic growth to 1.8 percent per year—more than one percent short of the White House’s rosy projections.

What Samuelson does not talk about in his column is immigration.

Continue reading “The Missing One Percent”

Immigrants in our Armed Forces

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Immigrants have been serving in our armed forces since the beginning of our republic. At times, a significant portion of our military was foreign-born. Roughly a quarter of the Union Army during the Civil War was foreign-born. Our military force was 18 percent immigrant in World War I. During World War II, Congress made it easier for immigrants serving in the military to become naturalized citizens.

In 2015, about 40,000 immigrants were serving in our armed forces, and about 5,000 noncitizens enlist each year. Approximately 11 percent of all veterans are either foreign-born, or came from families where at least one parent was an immigrant. About 20 percent of our Medal of Honor winners are immigrants.

Military service has always been a tool for integration, as military service offers equal opportunities for promotion, future education, and skills training.

Willing and Able Recruits Barred from Service

Immigrants will continue to be an important component of the armed forces in the future. With the economy continuing to recover from the Great Recession of the late 2000s, there are more opportunities in civilian markets, and military recruiters are having more difficulty finding eligible young people willing to serve. For a variety of reasons, only 13 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds were eligible to serve in 2015. Of a total target recruitment population of 33.4 million, the Army estimates that just 0.4 percent would be qualified and willing to serve, according to the Army Times.

Despite a more challenging recruitment environment, a large number of potential recruits are kept from enlisting in the military. These are young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, and have grown up here. Many of these individuals would be eligible for the DREAM Act, which provides a path to legal status through military service (as well as education). Congress has failed to pass the measure on several attempts in the last decade, and the bill is again before Congress. Many high-ranking military officials have supported the DREAM Act in the past, as it would add to the pool of potential recruits the military needs. Continue reading “Immigrants in our Armed Forces”

In Wake of NY Attack, Opportunists Call for End of Diversity Program

 

Hudson River Park, Manhattan
Hudson River Park, Manhattan

On October 31, an individual drove a pickup truck on a bike path in New York City, killing eight in an act of terrorism. The driver of the truck, Sayfullo Saipov, was a U.S. legal permanent resident originally from Uzbekistan. Mr. Saipov came to the U.S. after winning a visa through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery program.

A terrorist attack pretty much guarantees a chorus of political opportunists putting forth their ideas to cut immigration. This incident was no exception. Immigration hardliners in Congress wasted no time in calling for an end to the diversity visa lottery. And, no surprise, the President called for the elimination of the diversity visa.

Diversity Visa Origins and Purpose

The American immigration system favors immigrants with close family ties to the U.S., and most immigrants enter through the sponsorship of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident immigrant. Over time, our immigration stream became dominated by a relatively few countries. In 2015, for example, out of the 1,051,000 persons obtaining lawful permanent residence (“green cards”), 46 percent came from seven countries (Mexico, China, India, the Philippines, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam).

Except through employer sponsorship, there were few opportunities for nationals of most countries to come to the U.S. For example, although millions of Americans claim some Irish ancestry, the family linkages to Ireland are too remote to qualify for U.S. immigration. If you are Irish and have a grandparent who is a citizen of the U.S., you are out of luck—U.S. citizens may only sponsor spouses, parents, children (including adult children), and brothers and sisters. Because American ties to Ireland are generally more remote than the immediate family, very few Irish had an opportunity to immigrate. The same was true of other nationalities that gave us our immigrant heritage—including the countries from which individuals were brought involuntarily as slaves.

Continue reading “In Wake of NY Attack, Opportunists Call for End of Diversity Program”

“Sanctuary Cities” and Community Policing

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A version of the following was written as a backgrounder on the issue of “sanctuary cities,” prepared for a teach-in on the City of Takoma Park’s “sanctuary” ordinance on February 4, 2017. The event attracted more than 350 people. You can download a version of this issue brief as a PDF from this link.

Executive Order on Interior Enforcement

On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that would, in part, punish any local jurisdiction that has adopted certain community policing tactics designed to establish trust between local law enforcement and communities where there is a significant immigrant population.

The executive order included a section tilted “Sanctuary Jurisdictions.” The order stated in part: “It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with [federal law having to do with prohibiting jurisdictions from banning communication between local officers and federal immigration officers].” The order directs the Attorney General (AG) to “take appropriate enforcement action against any entity … which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law” and it directs the AG and Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that jurisdictions that do not comply are not eligible for federal grants.

Community Policing and Undocumented Immigrants

The term “sanctuary jurisdiction” has no legal or common definition, but states and localities that have some formal or informal policy limiting cooperation between their local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities are often called “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Many communities with significant immigrant populations have community policing policies to keep local law enforcement agencies out of the business of federal immigration enforcement. In doing so, they seek to build trust between local police and the community—including the immigrant community—so that community members feel they can safely approach police to report a crime or volunteer information about a crime. Public safety of the entire community is placed in jeopardy if immigrants fear the local police because they believe they will be deported.

A 2006 position paper by the Major Cities Chiefs states the problem for police:

Major urban areas throughout the nation are comprised of significant immigrant communities. … Local agencies are charged with protecting these diverse populations…. The reality is that undocumented immigrants are a significant part of the local populations major police agencies must protect, serve and police. Local agencies have worked very hard to build trust and a spirit of cooperation…. If the undocumented immigrant’s primary concern is that they will be deported …, then they will not come forward and provide needed assistance and cooperation.

Continue reading ““Sanctuary Cities” and Community Policing”

Rising Prices Make Housing Unaffordable for Immigrants in California Cities

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The California Immigrant Policy Center recently released its annual report on the economic contributions of immigrants to California’s economy. The contributions are huge–$715 billion, or one-third of the state’s total output. And the state’s total GDP makes it the sixth largest economy in the world. Undocumented immigrants alone contribute an amount equal to the entire output of the economy of Oklahoma.

The continued ability for immigrants in California to play such a crucial role in the economy is being undermined, however, by rising inequality and housing prices that are increasingly unaffordable for immigrants at the low end of the pay spectrum.

The study takes three examples of neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Francisco that traditionally housed an immigrant population and shows that, with housing costs rising in these neighborhoods, the immigrant population has been declining.

Read more of my summary of the California Immigrant Policy Center’s study over on Immigration Impact.

Photo credit: Luke Price under Creative Commons License 2.0.