Category Archives: Immigration

Foreign-Born Wage and Salary Workers in the US Labor Force and Unions

Source: Chuncui Velma Fan and Jeanne Batalova, Migration Policy Institute, August 2007

Labor unions have departed from their historical skepticism of immigrant workers as the overall number of wage and salary immigrant workers and their proportion in the labor unions have increased. Instead, labor unions have become an important force in support of proimmigrant policies.

This Spotlight looks at the available data on immigrant workers and unions, highlighting variations in union representation rates of immigrant workers across industrial sectors.

1995 – 2005: Foreign-Born Latinos Make Progress on Wages

Source: Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Hispanic Center, August 21, 2007

Foreign-born Latino workers made notable progress between 1995 and 2005 when ranked by hourly wage. The proportion of foreign-born Latino workers in the lowest quintile of the wage distribution decreased to 36% from 42% while many workers moved into the middle quintiles, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Newly arrived Hispanic workers also were much less likely to be low-wage earners in 2005 than in 1995, in part because they were older, better educated and more likely to be employed in construction than in agriculture. Yet despite the clear movement into the middle range of the wage distribution, many foreign-born Latinos remain low-wage earners. Even though the share of Latino workers at the low end decreased, in absolute numbers this population grew by 1.2 million between 1995 and 2005.

Foreign-born workers in general did well during that time period, though there were significant differences among them. While Latino workers moved out of the low end of the wage distribution and into the middle, Asians significantly boosted their presence in the high-wage workforce.

Immigrants and Health Care — At the Intersection of Two Broken Systems

Source: Susan Okie, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 357 no. 6, August 9, 2007

For recent immigrants — especially the estimated 12 million who are here illegally — seeking health care often involves daunting encounters with a fragmented, bewildering, and hostile system. The reason most immigrants come here is to work and earn money; on average, they are younger and healthier than native-born Americans, and they tend to avoid going to the doctor. Many work for employers who don’t offer health insurance, and they can’t afford insurance premiums or medical care. They face language and cultural barriers, and many illegal immigrants fear that visiting a hospital or clinic may draw the attention of immigration officials. Although anti-immigrant sentiment is fueled by the belief that immigrants can obtain federal benefits, 1996 welfare-reform legislation greatly restricted immigrants’ access to programs such as Medicaid, shifting most health care responsibility to state and local governments. The law requires that immigrants wait 5 years after obtaining lawful permanent residency (a “green card”) to apply for federal benefits. In response, some states and localities — for instance, Illinois, New York, the District of Columbia, and certain California counties — have used their own funds to expand health insurance coverage even for undocumented immigrant children and pregnant women with low incomes. Other states, however, such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia, have passed laws making it even more difficult for noncitizens to gain access to health services.
See also:
Terra Firma — A Journey from Migrant Farm Labor to Neurosurgery

DHS Announces It Has Finalized “Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter” Rule

Source: National Immigration Law Center, August 10, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it has finalized its rule entitled “Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter.”

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, August 13, 2007, and will become effective thirty days after the publication. The rule sets forth the steps employers should take if they want to avail themselves of the “safe harbor procedures” upon receipt of a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or DHS.

See also:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Safe Harbor for Employers Who Receive
a No-Match Letter

Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Final Rule
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) insert letter
Department of Homeland Security fact sheet about no-match letters

Crackdown: Immigration Pressures Are Rearranging Politics in More than One State Capitol

Source: Josh Goodman, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 10, July 2007

When the subject of illegal immigration comes up, the states you think about first are Texas and California. Maybe Arizona. But, as of July 1, it is Georgia, a full thousand miles from the Mexican border, that is at the center of the immigration debate in the United States.

That’s because SB 529, its new immigration law now taking effect, is the most stringent statute of its kind anywhere in the country. It is the sort of law that immigration hard-liners would like to see enacted on a national basis. Under its provisions, state and local government agencies have to verify the legal residency of benefit recipients. Many employers will have to do the same whenever they make a hiring decision. Law enforcement officers are given authority to crack down on human trafficking and fake documents. In sum, SB 529 touches every facet of state policy that relates to illegal immigrants.

The central question about the law is, obviously, whether it will work as intended and reduce the impact of undocumented newcomers on the state. But an equally important question is whether the political situation that led to SB 529 can be sustained and replicated in other places. The topic of illegal immigration has bedeviled virtually every state legislature and the U.S. Congress for years, without much substantive result. What made Georgia different was a populist uprising that all but forced the legislature to crack down on the undocumented community. If that sort of pressure gains momentum elsewhere, the near future may portend a series of state laws as strict as Georgia’s — even if Congress manages to pass an immigration bill of its own. Oklahoma and Colorado have both enacted laws with some provisions similar to SB 529 — the question is how many states will follow.

Economic Mobility of Immigrants in the United States

Source: Ron Haskins, Economic Mobility Project, Pew Charitable Trusts, 2007

The idea of economic mobility in America often evokes a personal story. For many Americans, it is one of immigrant parents or grandparents, or even one’s own journey and arrival. In recent decades, immigration has been rising steadily, with nearly one million legal immigrants entering the country per year throughout the 1990s and in the early years of this century, compared to only about 300,000 per year in the 1960s. In addition to legal immigrants, it is estimated that about 500,000 illegal immigrants now arrive each year.

These numbers clearly show that the allure of the American Dream is alive and well. But is it actually working for today’s immigrants? How has immigrant economic mobility changed over time? And is immigrant economic mobility similar to that of U.S. citizens?

This report explains that the American engine of economic assimilation continues to be a powerful force, but the engine is incorporating a fundamentally different and larger pool of immigrants than it did in earlier generations. The shifting educational and economic profile of today’s immigrants is provoking difficult and important questions about the economic prospects for immigrants in America today.

See also:
Economic Mobility Fact Sheet

Getting Immigration Reform Right

By Ray Marshall, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, July-August 2007
(subscription required)

In a broad analysis of the nation’s past immigration policy mistakes, former labor secretary Ray Marshall puts his finger on this most delicate of issues. The United States needs and values its immigrants. But unless it gets policy right, argues Marshall, the number of illegal immigrants will have doubled in twenty years and the situation will be still harder to control. He presents hard-edged and practical solutions to the many issues.

Coming to America: What Life is Like for the 150,000 Guest Workers Who Toil in the US Today

Source: Felicia Mello, The Nation, Vol. 284 no. 25, June 25, 2007

These workers, along with more than 150,000 others from countries as close to the United States as Mexico and as far-flung as India and Thailand, are part of an army of foreign low-wage labor legally imported each year by American companies under a government program known as H-2. Created during World War II to provide workers of last resort for agriculture and other seasonal industries, the program has since grown dramatically amid rising demand from employers in a broad range of industries that were never envisioned when the program was created and that can only vaguely be described as seasonal. Guest workers make chocolate in Louisiana, staff hotel desks in Florida and mow lawns in Missouri. They toil in some of the country’s most difficult and dangerous industries, from shipbuilding to asbestos removal to forestry. While unfamiliar to most Americans, the program has become the template for an expanded guest-worker program now being hotly debated in Congress. Proponents of the plan argue that temporary labor visas give immigrants greater rights and protections while providing employers with a reliable labor force. Yet workers, labor organizers, lawyers and policy-makers say the history of the H-2 visa delivers a very different lesson. They charge that a program designed to open up the legal labor market and provide a piece of the American dream to immigrants has instead locked thousands of them into a modern-day form of indentured servitude. Congressman Charles Rangel has called guest-worker programs “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery.”

The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to State and Local Taxpayers

Source: Robert E. Rector, The Heritage Foundation, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Immigration of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives, Delivered May 17, 2007

In FY 2004 there were around 4.5 million low-skill immigrant households in the U.S. containing 15.9 million persons. About 60 percent of these low-skill immigrant households were headed by legal immigrants and 40 percent by illegal immigrants. The analysis presented here measures the total benefits and services received by these “low- skill immigrant households” compared to the total taxes paid.

In FY 2004, the average low skill immigrant household received $30,160 in direct benefits, means-tested benefits, education, and population-based services from all levels of government. By contrast, low-skill immigrant households paid only $10,573 in taxes in FY 2004. A household’s net fiscal deficit equals the cost of benefits and services received minus taxes paid. The average low-skill household had a fiscal deficit of $19,588 (expenditures of $30,160 minus $10,573 in taxes).

At the state and local level, the average low skill immigrant household received $14,145 in benefits and services and paid only $5,309 in taxes. The average low skill immigrant households imposed a net fiscal burden on state and local government of $8,836 per year.

The fiscal burden imposed by low skill immigrant households is slightly greater at the state and local level than at the federal level. The annual fiscal deficit for all 4.54 million low skill immigrant households at the state and local level in 2004 was $49.1 billion. Over the next ten years the state and local fiscal deficit caused by low skill immigrants on state and local governments will approach a half trillion dollars.