Tag: illegal immigration

Trump Is Against Legal Immigration Too

When I criticize Donald Trump’s immigration policy proposals, the most common response is some variant of “Trump is against ILLEGAL immigration, not LEGAL immigration.  Get your facts straight.”  Although Trump makes contradictory statements on many topics, allowing virtually any supporter to find a quote in support of his or her preferred policy position, Trump has been mostly consistent on legal immigration: He wants to cut it.

Here are Trump’s anti-legal immigration positions, in bold, pulled from his position paper:

1.      Immigration moderation.  Trump calls for a “pause” on the issuance of any new green cards to workers abroad so that “employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.”  Trump’s position paper is unclear on this point because immigrants on employment-based green cards are not the only green card holders who work in the United States – a majority of green card holders who enter through family categories work too.  In 2014, 61 percent of family-based immigrants came from abroad.  If Trump wanted to be sure that none of them would work in the United States then he would support cutting those 61 percent of family-based green cards, which are equal to 38.7 percent of all green cards issued in 2014. 

Trump’s policy statement could also mean that he only wants to restrict the issuance of employment-based green cards, a smaller numerical restriction but one that would cause more economic damage.  Of the 151,596 employment-based green cards issued in 2014, 86 percent went to folks already in the U.S. legally on other visas.  Those 14 percent of green cards that Trump would deny to workers abroad would likely just be reallocated to migrant workers already in the United States.  However, Trump’s proposed changes to the H-1B visa program (explained below) would greatly damage or destroy the feeder system that sends migrants to the employment-based green card. 

Thus, if Trump’s policy is adopted then the employment-based green cards may not decrease in number for a few years as those already on H-1Bs adjust their status.  After those years pass and as the number of H-1Bs fall and aren’t replaced by new ones because of the onerous restrictions, the number of new employment-based green cards will steadily drop and could hit zero.  If that happens then the total number of all green cards issued annually will drop by 14.9 percent. 

If employment-based green cards from abroad are cut off and those slots remain unfilled then this reform might only cut the number of all green cards by 2.2 percent.  If Trump’s plans produce the worst case scenario and exclude most family-based green cards and result in the end of the employment-based green card program, then it could end up cutting the number of all green cards issued annually by 53.7 percent – depending on how long he continues this policy.  Verdict: Anti-legal immigration.           

2.      Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs.  This policy proposal will reduce the number of legal skilled temporary migrant workers.  Just over 124,000 H-1Bs were approved in 2014 for initial employment in the United States, 85,000 of them for employment in firms and the rest in non-profit research institutions, with an average salary of $75,000.  If the minimum salary for H-1B visas was bumped up to $100,000 then the number of H-1Bs hired by private firms would decrease while they’d also shrink for research institutions – if this new wage regulation would apply to them. 

For initial H-1B employment, the 75th percentile for compensation is $81,000.  Even including all of the petitions for high wage workers that are rejected each year, this reform would significantly shrink the number of H-1B visas issued at an enormous economic cost.  Combined with additional rules and regulations, this reform would reduce the H-1B program to a shadow of itself.  Verdict: Anti-legal immigration. 

3.      Requirement to hire American workers first.  This policy would increase the regulatory cost for American firms hiring skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations.  Congress considered just such a policy for the H-1B visa in 1990 and rejected it because the regulatory costs would be so high.  Higher regulatory costs mean fewer migrants.  Verdict: Anti-legal immigration.

4.      Refugee program for American children.  This policy would raise the standards for refugees and asylum seekers in order, according to Trump’s position paper, to cut down on abuse and fraud.  However, higher standards won’t reduce actual oppression by foreign governments so this proposal will likely just result in more fraud and many people who meet the criteria being sent back to oppressive regimes. 

Deaths Along the Border

About 5000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe in 2014 and 2015.  Although drownings are moderating, the danger remains.  Illegally crossing the Mediterranean to Europe claims the lives of about 2 percent of all migrants who attempt the voyage.  The United States’ southwest border is also dangerous but less so.

Migrant Deaths along Southwest Border

    

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection      

Based on data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 6336 people died crossing the border from 1998 to 2014 (2015 data is unavailable).  The peak year of recorded deaths) was 2005 with 492 deaths.  In 2014, there were 307 deaths.  From 1998 to 2014, deaths averaged 0.04 percent of all apprehensions – a proxy measurement for the size of the unlawful immigrant flow.  2012 was the most dangerous year to cross when the number of deaths was equal to 0.13 percent of all apprehensions.  The most dangerous border sector during the whole period was Del Rio with deaths as a percentage of apprehensions at 0.046 percent that resulted in 458 deaths.  The Tucson sector’s death rate was 0.045 percent but there were 2507 deaths during the entire time period.     

Employers Ignore E-Verify

Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, and South Carolina have mandated E-Verify for all new hires in their state (see Table 1), which means that every time an employee is hired the employer must use the E-Verify system to check the worker’s ability to legally work.  In our recent Cato Institute policy analysis, Jim Harper and I document that employers are not using E-Verify despite the mandates in those states.  Washington Examiner reporter Sean Higgins wrote an excellent piece expanding on our findings.

Table 1 

E-Verify Mandate Dates

   

Alabama

Arizona

Mississippi

South Carolina

4/1/2012

1/1/2008

7/1/2011

7/1/2010

E-Verify Simply Does Not Work

Nearly twenty years ago, John J. Miller of the Center for Equal Opportunity and Stephen Moore, then the director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, published a study responding to the rising demand for immigration law enforcement.

A National ID System: Big Brother’s Solution to Illegal Immigration” was the name of their Cato Institute policy analysis. They highlighted costs to the liberty of native-born Americans from systems that seek to root out illegal immigrants with identity cards and tracking. I reprised their study in a way and expanded on it seven years ago in “Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.”

When I saw Alex Nowrasteh’s research into the results of mandates to use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, I was delighted to see what experience makes available to backers of “internal enforcement” who don’t have our nation’s freedoms in mind. E-Verify simply does not work. That’s the upshot of our new study, “Checking E-Verify: The Costs and Consequences of a National Worker Screening Mandate.”

What Explains the Flow of Unlawful Immigration?

The flow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States has collapsed.  The apprehension of illegal immigrants by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the best proxy measurement of the flow of such people, along the Southwest Border is way down (see below). 

All Apprehensions on Southwest Border

                       

Source: Customs and Border Protection.

What explains this?  A number of factors are at play.  Economic conditions in the United States, economic or other conditions in other countries, and immigration enforcement all explain part of the decrease in unauthorized immigration over the years.    

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) gives most of the credit to beefed up immigration enforcement along the border.  Krikorian seconds a quote by Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the Migration Policy Institute, who says:

Every month or quarter that the economy continues to improve and unauthorized immigration doesn’t pick up supports the theory that border security is a bigger factor, and it’s less about the economy and we have moved into a new era.

But if immigration enforcement is the main reason why unauthorized immigration collapsed, why are the numbers of unlawful immigrants from countries Other than Mexico (OTMs) increasing?  CBP apprehensions don’t discriminate based on country of origin because they can’t tell where the immigrants are from until they’re apprehended.

Response to Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan of George Mason University posted some comments I sent him along with some questions about a recent blog post of his.  His questions are in quotes, my responses follow.  First, some background.

It’s important to separate immigration (permanent) from migration (temporary).  Much of what we think of as “immigration” is actually migration as many of them return home.  Dudley Baines (page 35) summarizes some estimates of return migration from America’s past.

Country/Region of Origin            Return Rates

Nordics                                     20%

English & Welsh                         40%

Portuguese                                30-40%

Austro-Hungarians & Poles          30-40%

Italians                                      40-50%           

 

Gould estimates a 60 percent return rate for Italians – similar to Mexican unauthorized immigrants from 1965-1985. 

There were three parts to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that all affected both immigration and migration.  The first part was the amnesty.  The second was employer sanctions through the I-9 form that was supposed to turn off the jobs magnet.  The third was increased border security to keep them out.  For the first two questions, I assume the rest of IRCA was passed.

Interpreting the New Deportation Statistics

Shortly before Christmas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report detailing deportations (henceforth “removals”) conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during fiscal year 2014.  Below I present the data on removals in historical context – combined with information from the Migration Policy Institute and Pew.  See my previous writings on this topic here and here.       

ICE deported 102,224 unauthorized immigrants from the interior of the United States in 2014, down from a peak of 188,422 in 2011.  Removals from the interior are distinct from removals of recent border crossers.  Removals from the interior peaked during the Obama administration and have since fallen to a level equal to that of 2007. 

Source: MPI and DHS.

The number of interior removals under the last six years of the Bush administration (the first two years are unavailable so far) was about 475,000.  From 2009-2014, the Obama administration removed about 950,000 from the interior of the United States.  

President Bush’s administration removed an average of about 276,000 unauthorized immigrants per year for the years available and an average of 79,000 of them annually were interior removals.  President Obama’s administration has removed an average of 405,000 unauthorized immigrants a year, an average of 158,000 of them annually were interior removals.  There were a large numbers of unknowns during the Bush administration that decreased as the years progressed. 

 

Source: MPI and DHS.

The Obama administration’s recent decrease in the number of interior removals is not the whole story.  The best way to measure the intensity of immigration enforcement is to look at the percentage of the unauthorized immigrant population removed in each year.  Based on estimates of the total size of the unauthorized immigrant population, 0.89 percent of that population was removed from the interior of the United States in 2014 – down from 1.15 percent in 2013. 

 

Source: MPI, Department of Homeland Security, Pew, Author’s Calculations. 

For every year for which data was available, the Bush administration removed an average of 0.7 percent of the interior unauthorized immigrant population.  President Obama’s administration has removed an average of 1.39 percent of the interior unauthorized immigrant population every year of his presidency – about twice the rate as under the Bush administration.  Even when focusing on interior removals, President Obama is still out-deporting President Bush based on the data available.

The unauthorized immigrant population increased under the Bush administration from 9.4 million in 2001 to a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 and then declined to 11.7 million in 2008.  During Obama’s administration, the number of unauthorized immigrants has, so far, stayed at or below 11.5 million.    

Obama’s interior removal statistics show a downward trend beginning in 2012 through to 2014.  The Obama administration has also focused immigration enforcement on criminal offenders (not all unlawful immigrants are criminals) but the data is a little difficult to disentangle for 2014 so I left it out of this blog post – stay tuned for a future one on that topic. 

The Obama administration has clearly not gutted interior immigration enforcement as their 2014 figures for interior removals are higher than they were for every year of the Bush administration except for 2007 and 2008.  

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