Saturday, October 31, 2009

Global Flows

An extremely well done videographic that demonstrates the majoe global immigration trends and that also shows the power of remittances. It is true that the US might have over 25 million immigrants residing within its borders but that represents only around 12 % of the total immigrants in the world. Please also note that most immigrants do not move to different continents but usually stay within their own. Obviously this is also true of North America.
Total estimated remittances from the US totaled around $86 billion. That goes to illustrate, one more time ,that the Neo Classical theory of immigration does not explain many of the motives for migration.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Data

The following , just released by the Department of Homeland Security should be of interest to us in this class about Immigration. The most important “revelation” of this data is that not all foreign born residents of the United States are interested in acquiring the US citizenship. A large segment of the current stock of “permanent legal resident” have been in the country for over thirty years and yet they have not applied for US citizenship although they are legally entitled to do so. The data also makes it very clear that the states of California and New York are still the major destination for LPR’s. Another noteworthy statistic is the fact that although Mexican LPR’s form the largest ethnic group within the LPR’s yet the next three groups are from Asia. Hispanics are the largest group but yet they do not form a majority that is expected to be feared,
You should also note that the Department of Homeland Security considers all those who have entered into the US prior to 1980 to be eligible for legal residency. Please also note that the data has been adjusted to account for mortality and emigration.

Total number of legal permanent residents as of January 1, 2008:……………12,600,000
One half of the above obtained LPR status after the year 2000

LPR’s who have met all conditions that are required to naturalize……………8,200,000

LPR’s by country of birth:
Mexico...............................................26.9 %

Almost 2/3 of the LPR’s live in Californa, New York, Texas and Florida

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Brookings-Duke recommendations and its critics

You were informed a few weeks ago about what was billed to be a major Immigration Study released by the Brookings Institute and Duke University. I believe that the actual study has been posted to BB.
Well, as is often the case, such studies do not live up to their billings. The following is the critique of the study in question by the Immigration Policy Center , IPC. Read both the original and its critique and then decide which side has done a better job.


The report that emerged from this process focuses on six principles:

•Reduce Illegal Immigration by Linking Workplace Verification and Legalization. The Roundtable proposed a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants who had been in the U.S. 5 years or longer, and a mandatory employment verification system with a secure ID. By linking the issues of workplace enforcement and legalization, the Roundtable believed that both those who want legalization and those that want additional enforcement would be incentivized to cooperate with one another.

•Reorient Immigrant Admissions Criteria. The Roundtable focused on maintaining the current level of legal immigration; however the balance of future immigration must be shifted away from family-based immigration and toward high-skilled employment-based immigration. They propose to limit family immigration to the “nuclear family” which does not include adult children or siblings. They also recommend the diversity visa program be eliminated.

•Rationalize Temporary Worker Programs. The Roundtable recommends replacing temporary visas with non-renewable, 5-year provisional visas that do not tie workers to a single employer. Provisional visa holders would have the option to obtain permanent status after 5 years.

•Establish an Independent Standing Commission on Immigration. The report recommends creation of a commission “to provide the deliberative forum that immigration policy has lacked.” It would allow for immigration to be dealt with on a regular basis and to escape the adversarial culture that has emerged.

•Promote the Assimilation and Integration of New Americans. The authors recommend the creation of a new Office of New Americans to oversee and coordinate efforts to integrate and assimilate immigrants into American society.

•Engage Mexico. The Roundtable called for enhanced cooperation with Mexico on issues ranging from law enforcement to immigration.

Despite their valiant efforts, the Brookings/Kenan report falls short in its analysis of the current immigration dilemma. In several ways, the impact of the report’s recommendations would be inconsistent with the very principles the authors put forward. For example:

Maintaining current levels and being flexible: The Roundtable acknowledges that “America needs an immigration policy that responds to the labor requirements of employers…” Yet while calling for a more flexible system, the authors also insist on maintaining current levels of legal permanent immigration without any explanation of why the current number is the correct number.

Legalization and ending undocumented immigration: An arbitrary 5 year cut off date for the legalization program guarantees that a large number of immigrants—30%—would not qualify and would therefore remain unauthorized or try to legalize despite not having proper evidence of residency, thus failing to resolve the problem. A legalization program that invites fraud and leaves a large undocumented population is hardly a recipe for success.

Integration and the family: The authors dedicate an entire section of their report to integration and assimilation, yet their recommendations to severely cut family immigration fly in the face of successful integration. Researchers have shown that immigrant families provide vital emotional, psychological, and cultural resources that shelter and sustain family members and aid in their integration into U.S. society. Shifting the balance from family to employment-based immigration would remove one of the most important ways we have of integrating immigrants.

False dichotomy between family- and employment-based immigration: By trading family-based visas for highly-skilled employment-based visas, the authors fail to acknowledge that immigrants who come on family visas are workers and contribute to the economy. Research shows that the incomes of family-based immigrants tend to grow more rapidly than the incomes of employment-based immigrants. In fact, the incomes of the two groups tend to equalize over time. Because of their unique backgrounds and abilities, family-based immigrants are more likely to adapt to the evolving demands of the labor market and less likely than employment-based immigrants to compete with the native-born for jobs. Family-based immigrants are also entrepreneurial; broad family linkages are critical because they provide immigrants with the “social capital” to pool financial resources and to start and manage a wide range of small- and medium-sized businesses that would otherwise not be economically viable.

Future immigration and enforcement: The authors clearly want to reform the immigration system in a way that ends undocumented immigration as we know it. However, the way they envision future immigration would appear to invite future unauthorized immigration, thus failing to resolve our current dilemma and making future enforcement even more difficult. By eliminating, or failing to include, legal channels for close family members and lower-skilled workers, the incentive for these individuals to immigration illegally increases, thus repeating the problems of IRCA.

According to Galston, Pickus and Skerry, “During our deliberations, we came to recognize that we would never resolve our principled disagreements. Nonetheless, progress at the policy level turned out to be possible, and the results fruitful.” If the Brookings/Kenan report proves one thing, it is that immigration policy is extremely complex, and even the best intentions could have harmful unintended consequences

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Please register your reactions to the 4 hour special that CNN aired on October 21 and October 22 under the comments section of this post. Thank you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

H1N1 is under orders to Spare the Undocumented.

When the latest efforts to reform the US health care system were being formulated very few, if any, expected the issue of undocumented immigrants to play a major role. Well, welcome to American politics 101 where the fear of alienating some voters leads to the adoption of hybrid positions that are impossible to explain. What better illustration of the above than the fact that both sides of the aisle are willing to see the US withhold offering vaccination against swine flu to undocumented population.

I was flabbergasted when I watched our president, Barak Obama, a Peace Nobel laureate nonetheless, get himself tied up in knots when he was attempting to explain the administrations policy regarding the H1N1 flu shot. He tried to explain with a straight face that the US must consider making an exception in this case since the children of the illegal immigrants will inevitably get in contact with our own toddlers.

Yes, you heard it right, we should inoculate undocumented children, not because the vaccine could spare them from catching influenza and possibly death but we should allow them to get vaccinated only because not to do so might infect our precious children. To make things even worse, no one has raised an objection to this monstrosity of a policy.
I have a better solution Mr. President, maybe we should make it illegal for these children to be seen within say thirty feet of a legal US resident. That way we will not have to worry about providing this expensive service of vaccination when the annual deficit is only 1.4 trillion dollars. You know what they say, every penny counts.

And what about the parents of these children? If they are not permitted to get the vaccine then is it acceptable to have them suffer the ill effects of the virus that they might transmit to their children who are not in contact with other US kids? If a sizable number of the illegal population gets sick then what happens to the various businesses that depend on their cheap uninsured labour?

Oh, the webs that we weave when we try to justify the unjustifiable.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Assimilation II.

A serious epistemological discussion is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. Yet we need , as a prelude to the forthcoming discussion in this post, to be reminded that the conflict between reality and perception has preoccupied philosophers and political scientists for years. Can we ever know reality and if so how do we measure it? What is perception and does it need to be based on reality? Which is more important in shaping decisions and in policy making? Well, as you might have already guessed there are those who advocate one side and then there are some who advocate the other.

What does all of this have to do with immigration you ask? I would suggest that in this area, immigration, perception is crucially important in explaining some of the policies and tensions that we are witnessing world wide. If we are to limit ourselves only to the US vis a vis Europe then my hypothesis is that the US looks upon itself as a country of immigrants while France, Germany and the UK do not. Whether the actual numbers support that perception is not important. As a result of the above I would also suggest the US ends up in dealing with immigration problems in a completely different way than the Europeans. The US is more open to accepting others who do not conform to the majority and as a result does not fear diversity. The Germans, on the other hand; and the French and British; are not as comfortable with diverse culture and so view different practices as an assault or at least an affront on the values of the majority.

If I am right, it is this attitude that raises the headdress and burqa to a level of confrontation in France and the United Kingdom while it is a non issue in the US. I have no doubt that a society as that of France, that is built on the formidable triad of liberty, equality and fraternity is very much of a secular society. But yet a liberal state is capable at times of taking illeberal actions. Moslem immigrants are presenting a major obstacle to integration and assimilation in Europe because the French essentially take pride in being the most secular society in the world and so they feel that the headdress and the burqa are a serious challenge to the idea of keeping religious practice out of the public square. The problem in this case is that for many fundamental moslems there is no separation between the civil and the religious. Sharia is the rule of Allah and must be followed by all. There is no duality. The US on the other hand, regards itself as a nation of immigrants and is willing to accept all sorts of different practices as long as these do not encroach on the glue that is required to keep the various pieces of the mosaic hanging together. It would be interesting to find out how far would the US be willing to stretch the principle of personal liberty ? Would there be ultimately a US backlash that would demand allegiance to nativists principles just as the Europeans seem to be demanding? Who is right in this case and who is wrong? Is secularism a principle that is to be trifled with? Is the perceived US permissiveness the answer? You decide.

I hope most of you would feel that you have an opion to express on this matter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is Assimilation Desirable?

Assimilation often becomes the main focus of any and all discussions about immigration. Most of the anti-immigrant groups and some of the sympathetic ones usually wind up in concluding that immigrants to the United States during the early part of the twentieth century assimilated better and at a faster rate into the US mainstream. Is such a conclusion accurate? Is it desirable? And above all is it possible to advocate such outcomes in the year 2009? May I suggest; and this is a purely subjective statement; that the answer to all the above three questions is a resounding NO.

Some academics have even developed measures for assimilation and their studies show that the current immigrants do assimilate just as rapidly as those of a hundred years ago. It is also to be noted that what the “restrictionists” mean when they speak of assimilation ought to be rejected since their conception is best described as a linear process instead of the realistic dynamics that change both the new arrivals and the natives at the same time. Furthermore, even if old fashioned traditional assimilation was possible a century ago it is no longer plausible for the simple reason that immigration is not presently undertaken with the sole expectation that it is to be permanent. Temporary immigration is what explains immigrant remittances and the “new economic theory of migration”.

Old fashioned assimilation, as a one way street, where the minority loses its identity in order to acquire the characteristics of the majority can succeed only in an undemocratic and hegemonic environment. We ought to celebrate its demise instead of decrying its death. Gracias amigos/as.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Fiscal Cost? :-)

A new Nobel season is upon us and as is often the case all the six awardees so far have been US citizens? So what is newsworthy about that you ask :-) it is the fact that two of the three winners in Medicine are immigrants and also two of the three winners in Physics are immigrants.
As you all well know by now, I do not put much stock into this idea of nationality, race or gender. But I am willing to make an exception, obviously for the purposes of the course :-), by asking the obvious question: Do you think that the benefits/surpluses garnered from such immigrants should be used to compensate for the so called fiscal deficit of the less fortunate immigrants?
PS: The Nobel season is not over yet, there might be much more to come over the next week.
The Nobel prize in Economics will be announced on the 12th.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And So It Goes

Immigration is not to be judged only by its short term fiscal burden on the Feds. Just note these three stories in the news

(1)We have all learned about one possible reason why Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. One member of the IOC grilled President Obama about the type of reception the foreign visitors are likely to receive at border entry points .He even went on to descibe the entry experiences into the US as being "harrowing". We should be very careful not to conclude that this was the reason that Chicagos' bid lost but there is no doubt that current US paranoia at the border has played a factor in the decision to award the 2016 Olympic games to Brazil.

(2) The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has two important cases on its docket. In "Padilla vs Kentucky" scheduled to be heard on Oct. 13, 2009 the court will decide whether a criminal defense attorney is obliged to inform foreign-born defendants about the potential impact of the criminal case on their immigration records. On Nov 10 the court will hear the arguments for "Kucena vs Holder" and has to rule on the federal courts' right of oversight in immigration cases. These two cases are being very closely watched by the immigrant community for any possible reversal in the courts' interpretation of immigration law.

(3) And last but not least the US Human Rights Record is again being questioned. (Wasn't Abu Ghraib enough?) It has been alleged that in many border areas, especially in Arizona, anti immigration vigilante groups have been spreading fear, chaos and mayhem in a number of border communities. As a result of the alleged abuses the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS has decided to accept hearing such cases against the US government.