Category Archives: Immigration

Skilled Immigration, Innovation, and the Wages of Native-Born Americans

Source: Asadul Islam, Faridul Islam and Chau Nguyen, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Volume 56, Issue 3, July 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The paper examines the effects of skilled immigration on wages that can be credited to immigrants’ contribution to innovation. Using both individual and state-level datasets from the United States, we find a significant and positive effect of immigration on wages that is attributable to skilled immigrants’ contribution to innovation. Our results confirm previous findings that immigrants contribute substantially to the host economy’s innovation, which is a major driver of technological progress and productivity growth. When we augment the analysis to an immigration–innovation–wages nexus, the results suggest that as the share of skilled immigrants in a particular skill group increases, the wages of both natives and immigrants in that group also get a positive boost. We also identify evidence in favor of a positive spillover effect of skilled immigrants on a state’s wage level of all workers, including those who do not directly contribute to innovation.

The Immigration Effect

Source: Lena Groeger, ProPublica, July 19, 2017

There’s a Way for President Trump to Boost the Economy by Four Percent, But He Probably Won’t Like It.

President Trump has promised to increase U.S. economic growth – in fact, he’s banking on it. The budget he proposed to Congress in May assumes a 3 percent growth rate, and the White House website promises a return to 4 percent annual economic growth. Both predictions are far higher than the roughly 2 percent growth rate assumed by the Congressional Budget Office or the Federal Reserve.

In fact, most economists doubt that a 3 to 4 percent growth rate is possible at all without some fundamental policy shift. Sustained periods of such high growth haven’t occurred since the tech boom of the 1990’s and, before that, the baby boomers entering the workforce in the 1960’s. But according to a new analysis, there is a quick route to high growth: a massive increase in immigration.

In an analysis for ProPublica, Adam Ozimek and Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics, an independent economics firm, estimated that for every 1 percent increase in U.S. population made of immigrants, GDP rises 1.15 percent. So a simple way to get to Trump’s 4 percent GDP bump? Take in about 8 million net immigrants per year. To show you what that really looks like, we’ve charted the effect below. You can see for yourself what might happen to the economy if we increased immigration to the highest rates in history or dropped it to zero – and everything in between….

Organizing in Red America

Source: Dissent Magazine, Summer 2017

Articles include:
Left in the Middle
Michael Kazin

….The good news is that a left does exist in Red America—and, amid the failures of the Trump administration, appears to be growing. Its adherents may share, in whole or in part, the cultural proclivities of the more numerous conservatives who live there. But they are arguing and organizing for many of the same demands as are their counterparts in places like New York City and Los Angeles; they are also busy defending the same people at risk from Trump and his allies in Congress and their own states. In this special section of Dissent, you will learn about some of those activists and a few of the politicians who share their goals…..

Working Too Hard for Too Little: An Interview with Senator Sherrod Brown
Michael Kazin

….This spring, the senator issued a lengthy document, “Working Too Hard for Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America,” which lays out a set of innovative ideas about how to raise wages, make jobs more secure, and compel employers to adhere to decent standards on the job. In late April, Michael Kazin interviewed the senator in his office on Capitol Hill…..

Mississippi Autoworkers Mobilize
Michelle Chen

The workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, had high hopes when the state-of-the-art factory complex moved in fourteen years ago to a small, majority black town where more than a quarter of residents live in poverty and decent jobs are scarce. …. After fourteen years at the plant, he says, “People are hurting inside of my factory.” His fellow coworkers have been concerned by what they see as increasingly unstable working conditions and general deterioration in benefits and safety protections. A few years ago they campaigned to organize with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Since then, he says, the workers have faced growing hostility from management for seeking to unionize, which only confirms its disrespect for a community that’s invested decades of public funding and faith in Nissan’s promise of stable manufacturing careers. ….

Birmingham’s Fight For a Living Wage
Scott Douglas

The election of Donald Trump has turned our attention to the politics of white working-class people, particularly in the states that voted for him last fall. But progressives should not ignore the activism of the black working class in many of those same red states. ….

The Next Operation Dixie
Sarah Jaffe

The election of Donald Trump has led to a lot of soul-searching on the left. In particular, the narrative since the election has focused on Trump’s appeal to working people, and whether this reflects an inherent racism among the so-called “white working class” or a failure of liberals and the left to speak to their economic concerns.

While the divide between “red” and “blue” states is often overstated (just ask the Republican governors of Massachusetts and Illinois), the Deep South has always lagged behind in union organizing. The failure of the CIO’s “Operation Dixie” in the late 1940s and concerted campaigns to divide black workers from white workers in law and on the shop floor left southern workers with fewer rights, lower wages, and, without unions to press their case, with less political representation. Yet there have always been exceptions, unions and organizations that have fought against great odds to build power for workers in the South, and with the accession of Trump, they can offer us advice for how to move forward when workers’ rights are under attack and racism being fomented from the highest levels of government. Dissent’s Sarah Jaffe spoke with three labor organizers from the South about their experiences and what can be learned from their successes….

Standing With Immigrants in Nebraska
Julie Greene

…. Many states have been transformed by immigration in recent decades, but some are better prepared than others to cope with the crisis. Take my home state of Nebraska. A solidly red state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in more than half a century, Nebraska has nonetheless seen the flowering of a pro-immigrant political culture. Over the past six years, activists across the state built a coalition that has made it possible to confront the harsh words and actions of the Trump administration head on. Examining what they did and how they did it can offer lessons for activists beyond the Great Plains. ….

Bringing Power to the People: The Unlikely Case for Utility Populism
Kate Aronoff

One glaring omission in the postmortem handwringing about the 2016 election is the fact that most poor people in America—of all races and genders—simply didn’t vote. They were prevented from doing so by a number of structural barriers—voting restrictions, second and third jobs, far-flung polling locations—as well as a lack of excitement about two parties they saw as having abandoned them.

Enter: twenty-first-century electric cooperatives, a perhaps unlikely player in the contest for power between progressives and conservatives in the heart of so-called Trump country in rural America.

If there’s one thing poor, rural communities tend to have in common, it’s where they get their power—not political power, but actual electricity. Over 900 rural electric cooperatives (RECs)—owned and operated by their members—stretch through forty-seven states, serving 42 million ratepayers and 11 percent of the country’s demand for electricity. They also serve 93 percent of the country’s “persistent poverty counties,” 85 percent of which lie in non-metropolitan areas. REC service areas encompass everything from isolated farm homes to mountain hollers to small cities, with the highest concentrations in the South, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. And they might just offer an opportunity to curb the right and the climate crisis alike…..

Philadelphia Union Wins Equal Pay for Immigrant Nurses

Source: Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, May 5, 2017

It started when a few nurses at Temple University Hospital told stewards that they weren’t being paid for their experience.

One of the first to speak up was Jessy Palathinkal, who had become a nurse in India in 1990. She got her U.S. nursing license when she moved here in 1995. But when she started working at Temple, her placement on the pay scale was as though those five years of nursing never happened.

She asked why. Human Resources told her the hospital didn’t count years of experience in foreign countries.

“I was feeling a little bit upset. I had all the certification,” Palathinkal said. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s not right, but what can I do?’”

What Palathinkal did was tell her shop steward. The steward told officers of their union, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP). And the officers started asking around to see whether anyone else was affected.

They put out a call in their monthly newsletter—did anyone else think that their pay was incorrect for their level of experience? Three more nurses had the same complaint.

Four nurses joined a class-action grievance. Management denied it. That’s when union officers decided this was a hospital-wide issue…..

The State Effect: Theorizing Immigration Politics in Arizona

Source: Emine Fidan Elcioglu, Social Problems, Vol. 64 no. 2, May 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How do perceptions of the state shape social movements’ strategies? Drawing on 16 months of participant observation and 70 interviews with activists in Arizona, this article illustrates how the politics of immigration plays out at the grassroots level as a struggle between expanding and restricting the state. Pro-immigrant activists in this study contended that the problem of undocumented migration resulted from the state’s unchecked coercive power. Experiencing this strong-state effect, pro-immigrant activists’ tactics focused on limiting the state’s reach and reinforcing society’s capacity to resist the state. Meanwhile, immigration restrictionist activists attributed the problem of undocumented immigration to the state’s feebleness as a policing entity. In response to this weak-state effect, restrictionist tactics tried to expand the state’s scope and build society’s ability to aid the state. The article concludes by discussing how the strong/weak-state effect framework helps illuminate the field of social relations in which an activist group is embedded and provides an avenue for exploring the relationship between state practices and social movements.

Health Care Workers Bring Sanctuary Movement into the Union

Source: Porfirio Quintano, Labor Notes, April 13, 2017

I had no money and spoke no English when I illegally crossed the border into California 23 years ago, but I worked hard and fought for the right to stay here.

Had I made that harrowing journey this year, I’m sure I’d be deported right back into the crosshairs of the Honduran government’s death squads that had targeted me and many other community organizers.

Instead I quickly won a grant of political asylum—and later received full American citizenship.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. At the San Francisco hospital where I work, nine out of 10 members of my union are foreign-born. We never ask anyone about their immigration status, but I know several green card holders who are getting ready to apply for citizenship now that their place in America seems less secure.

People might think the Bay Area is one big protective cocoon for immigrants, but that’s not the case. The suburb where I live is not a sanctuary city. And my elected county sheriff contracts with the Department of Homeland Security to house people awaiting deportation hearings.

Who can my co-workers count on if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents come looking for them or their family members? Our union, thankfully…..

Abolishing Immigration Prisons

Source: César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 245, 2017

From the abstract:
The United States has a long and inglorious history of coercive state practices of social control that are motivated, explicitly or implicitly, by race. From chattel slavery to modern incarceration, state actors have regularly marginalized, demonized, and exploited people racialized as nonwhite. Immigration imprisonment—the practice of confining people because of a suspected or confirmed immigration law violation—fits neatly into this ignoble tradition. The United States’ half million immigration prisoners, who are overwhelmingly Latino, were almost all pushed and pulled to leave their countries of origin in part by policies promoted or supported by the United States. Yet, once here, Latin American migrants are relegated to a legal system that treats them as confineable based merely on their status.

Even worse is that the practice of immigration imprisonment, as designed and operated, has stripped migrants of their inherent dignity as humans and has instead commodified them into a source of revenue. For immigration prisoners, the prison operates as a means of segregation and stigmatization: immigration prisoners are segregated from the political community and perceived to be dangerous. For other migrants who, for the time being at least, avoid imprisonment, the prison symbolizes the state’s brute power. For the vast network of interested parties who have invested deeply in immigration imprisonment, the prison marks the location of production. Paid according to the number of people locked up, private prisons and local governments profit from human bondage. Meanwhile, opportunistic politicians reap political rewards by pointing to barbed wire perimeters and sizeable prison populations as evidence of their efforts to protect the nation.

This Article is the first to argue that immigration imprisonment is inherently indefensible and should be abolished. The United States should instead adopt an alternative moral framework of migrants and migration that is grounded in history and attuned to human fallibility. Doing so will help discourage harmful immigration rhetoric steeped in myths of migrant criminality and will foster better understanding of migrants and their reasons for coming to the United States.