Category Archives: Immigration

Basic Pilot / E-Verify – Why Mandatory Employer Participation Will Hurt Workers, Businesses, and the Struggling U.S. Economy

Source: National Immigration Law Project, February 2009

Basic Pilot/E-Verify is a voluntary Internet-based program whose purpose is to allow employers to electronically verify the information that workers present to prove their employment eligibility by accessing information in databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). As of January 8, 2009, approximately 100,000 employers were enrolled in Basic Pilot/EVerify — slightly more than 1 percent of the approximately 7.4 million employers in the U.S. Only half of those enrolled, however, actually use the program.

While Basic Pilot/E-Verify often is portrayed as the magic bullet that would curb the hiring of unauthorized workers, since its inception in 1997 the program has been plagued by multitude problems that adversely affect both workers and businesses. Numerous entities, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG), and a research firm under contract with DHS, have found that Basic Pilot/E-Verify has significant weaknesses, including (1) its reliance on government databases that have unacceptably high error rates and (2) employer misuse of the program to take adverse actions against workers.

Hispanics and the Economic Downturn: Housing Woes and Remittance Cuts

Source: Mark Hugo Lopez,  Gretchen Livingston, Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Hispanic Center, January 8, 2009

Like the U.S. population as a whole, Latinos are feeling the sting of the economic downturn. Almost one-in-ten (9%) Latino homeowners say they missed a mortgage payment or were unable to make a full payment and 3% say they received a foreclosure notice in the past year, according to a new national survey of 1,540 Latino adults conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center. Moreover, more than six-in-ten (62%) Latino homeowners say there have been foreclosures in their neighborhood over the past year, and 36% say they are worried that their own home may go into foreclosure. This figure rises to 53% among foreign-born Latino homeowners.

Undocumented Worker Employment and Firm Survival

Source: J. David Brown, Julie L. Hotchkiss, Myriam Quispe-Agnoli, IZA Discussion Papers, DP3936, January 2009

Do firms employing undocumented workers have a competitive advantage? Using administrative data from the state of Georgia, this paper investigates the incidence of undocumented worker employment across firms and how it affects firm survival. Firms are found to engage in herding behavior, being more likely to employ undocumented workers if competitors do. Rivals’ undocumented employment harms firms’ ability to survive, while firms’ own undocumented employment strongly enhances their survival prospects. This suggests that firms enjoy cost savings from employing lower-paid undocumented workers at wages less than their marginal revenue product. The herding behavior and competitive effects are found to be much weaker in geographically broad product markets, where firms have the option to shift labor-intensive production out of state or abroad.

Immigration Reform: An Intergovernmental Imperative

Source: Nadia Rubaii-Barrett, ICMA, January 2009

From the summary:
The report discusses
the positive and negative impacts on the United States of an increasing
rate of immigration, the disadvantages of the current piecemeal
approach to policy, and the pressing need for viable policies and
practices that address these issues. Based on comprehensive primary and
secondary research, including a survey of more than 500 professional
local government administrators that was administered in the summer of
2008, the report guides the reader through a brief history of U.S.
immigration policies at the local and national levels.  The report also
provides detailed information on immigration practices, including a
series of abbreviated case studies of more than a dozen communities,
which reflect the range of experiences shared by local government
management professionals.

Immigration and Social Security

Source: Paul N. Van de Water, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, November 20, 2008

Increases in immigration tend to improve the financial status of the Social Security program by a modest amount. Estimates by both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Social Security actuaries belie contentions that legalizing some undocumented immigrants, or increasing immigration in general, would impair the solvency of Social Security

One-in-Five and Growing Fast: A Profile of Hispanic Public School Students

Source: Rick Fry and Felisa Gonzales, Pew Hispanic Center, August 26, 2008

From the summary:
The number of Hispanic students in the nation’s public schools nearly doubled from 1990 to 2006, accounting for 60% of the total growth in public school enrollments over that period. There are now approximately 10 million Hispanic students in the nation’s public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools; they make up about one-in-five public school students in the United States. In 1990, just one-in-eight public school students were Hispanic.

Wages For H-2B Workers Set Lower Than The Prevailing Wage

Source: Denice Velez, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, August 13, 2008

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sets the wage that must be offered to U.S. workers before employers can request temporary immigrant workers under the H-2B visa program. By law, the H-2B wage must be high enough so as not to adversely affect the wages of similarly employed U.S. workers, and so DOL regulations require employers to pay these immigrants the area’s prevailing wage.

However, examination of seven of the occupations most commonly filled by H-2B workers, including construction and grounds maintenance, in 15* states in 2007 shows that in almost every case, H-2B certified wages were lower than the prevailing wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 64% of cases, the DOL-certified wage fell below 75% of the mean hourly wage.

The Impact of Immigration on Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 1994-2006

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, EBRI Notes, Vol. 29, No. 8, August 2008

From the executive summary:
• Research on immigration and the uninsured: Research is mixed on how immigration has contributed to the increase in the uninsured population: One study concluded that immigrants who arrived between 1994-1998 accounted for the majority of the growth in the uninsured population, but a similar study concluded that they are not a significant reason for the growth of the uninsured.

• Federal law contributes to uninsured immigrants: The relative lack of employment-based health coverage for immigrants is compounded by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, which imposed a five-year ban on receipt of health and other public programs by most newly arrived legal immigrants.

• Statistics on uninsured immigrants: More than 12 million immigrants in the United States were uninsured in 2006, accounting for almost 27 percent of all uninsured individuals in the country. Immigrants accounted for 43 percent of the increase in the uninsured between 1994-1998, but 92 percent of the growth between 1998-2003, presumably because of PRWORA restrictions. Over the entire 1994-2006 period, immigrants accounted for 55 percent of the increase in the uninsured. The ranks of the uninsured are likely to grow as immigration continues to increase.

Pinkertons at DHS

Source: T.A. Frank, Washington Monthly, Vol. 40 no. 5, May/June/July 2008

Are immigration busts undermining U.S. labor law?

…In fact, there’s disturbing evidence to suggest that unscrupulous employers are leaning heavily on ICE to threaten their employees. Some of the most damning statistics come from a 2004 report by Professor Michael Wishnie of Yale Law School. In a remarkable study of all workplace raids – 184 in all – conducted by federal immigration enforcement in the New York City area over a thirty-month period, Wishnie found that over half were on workplaces officially embroiled in labor disputes.

No matter how you feel about illegal immigration, this is bad news for U.S. workers. Normally, when a factory breaks health and safety rules, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finds out about the violations thanks to employee tips and subsequent interviews. Likewise, when a factory fails to pay minimum wage or overtime, inspectors from federal or state labor departments can normally depend on employee cooperation. If employees don’t answer questions honestly, or if they run away the moment inspectors enter a building, then investigations go nowhere. And if labor officials are unable to enforce wage and safety standards properly, then law-abiding companies and legal workers suffer too, placed at an unfair disadvantage to rogue competitors.

But the damage goes beyond that. Illegal employees who fear deportation are far easier to exploit than legal ones who don’t fear it. Owners can work illegal employees harder, subject them to more dangerous conditions, and pay them less money. So why not hire as many as possible? (To be sure, none of this would apply if employer sanctions for hiring illegal workers were heavy, but in reality they are light- and rarely imposed.) In this way, the so called “job magnet,” the main driver of illegal immigration, remains as powerful as ever. Perversely, then, the occasional ICE bust can make illegal workers even more appealing to employers than legal immigrants or American citizens.