Public Displeasure With Immigration Misses Benefits That Newcomers Bring

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s immigration levels. A majority of those who are dissatisfied call for a decrease in immigration levels. Concerns over immigration levels in the United States usually focus on the purported negative impact immigrants have on the nation’s labor market and entitlement programs. Plenty of evidence, however, points to the exact opposite reality.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with immigration levels in this country. That figure is up six percentage points from 2014, but lower than the high-water mark of 72 percent, which was set in 2008.

The timing of the record dissatisfaction level is telling. In 2008, the nation sank into its worst recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment swelling, businesses failing and a swooning stock market battering retirement savings. As a result, advocates for reduced immigration frequently repeat that immigrants (supposedly) flood a weak labor market and thus make it harder for Americans to find work. They also claim that immigration booms depress wages, and that immigrants lean heavily on social services such as welfare.

There may be a limited truth to effects on the labor market and social services, but the impact is decidedly short-term. The longer-term impact of cutting immigration levels would be much greater — and overwhelmingly negative. According to the White House, the U.S. economy would lose $80 billion in economic output, the nation’s deficits would grow by $40 billion over the next 10 years, and the Social Security Trust Fund would be shortchanged $50 billion if the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are not granted a path to citizenship.

By contrast, a 2013 Center for American Progress study concluded that providing legal status to undocumented immigrants living in the United States would increase the gross domestic product by $832 billion over 10 years. In addition, researchers predicted that the total personal income of all Americans would increase by $470 billion during the same period.

Especially now that the U.S. economy has revived, with unemployment levels dropping to pre-recession levels, the increasing demand for labor has not always been satisfied. The agricultural sector, with its heavy reliance on immigrant farm workers, and the technology sector, with its demand for highly skilled foreign-born workers, are two notably hard-hit industries.

But perhaps the biggest argument for immigration concerns the long-term need to keep the nation’s entitlement programs financially sound. A shrinking labor pool is bad enough, but one that is aging at the same time is even worse. The U.S. population itself is aging, but the nation has been very good at attracting young immigrants to help balance the labor market, to increase payments to entitlement programs such as Social Security and to keep retirement ages from being raised even more than they already have been.

[footer block_id=’902′]

In Wake of Executive Action, Focus Falls on Arrests for Immigration Offenses

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

In November, President Obama announced that he was taking executive action to defer the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. His decision may have set a new direction for immigration policy in the United States. And if it is allowed to stand, it will be interesting to see how the president’s measures impacts federal law enforcement efforts to deal with immigration offenses.

Judging by the most recent available statistics, any departure from current policy on deportations would be significant. The latest Justice Department analysis shows that immigration offenses made up almost exactly half of all federal arrests made in 2012. More specifically, out of a total of 172,248 suspects who were arrested for a federal offense, 85,458 (or 49.6 percent) were booked for immigration offenses, such as illegal entry, illegal re-entry, alien smuggling and visa fraud.

The newest, preliminary data suggest that the pace of arrests did not slow in either 2013 or 2014. Indeed, the newer figures show that arrests for illegal entry and illegal re-entry picked up over the last two years. The number of arrests for immigration offenses have been on a steady upward trajectory since 8,777 federal immigration arrests were recorded in 1994. And the previous high was set in 2009, when 84,749 people were booked.

According to the philosophy that the White House shared when the president announced his executive action on immigration, the administration would be targeting “felons, not families” for deportation, shielding up to five million undocumented immigrants from an expedited exit from the United States. And it is probably safe to say that those who would be considered families are heavily concentrated among the 60 percent of undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for 10 years or longer.

If put into action, the decision to defer deportations could translate into a measurable drop in federal convictions. Immigration offenses have fueled the bulk of growth in the total number of felons sentenced in courts — 48 percent, as opposed to the second leading contributing factor, convictions for drug offenses, which were responsible for 22 percent of the growth.

But a significant drop in in the number of deportation proceedings could have perhaps its biggest and most beneficial impact on the Treasury. Estimates claim that it costs $8,318 to deport an immigrant. Multiply that figure by the conservative number of four million undocumented immigrants whose deportation would be deferred under the president’s measures, and one would be talking about some serious savings — $33.272 billion, to be exact.

And going one major step further, if none of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants were deported from the United States, the country would save $91.498 billion, which is quite a tidy sum, indeed.

[footer block_id=’902′]

Potential Human Migration Caused by Climate Change Pressures International Conference Attendees

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Climate change represents a slew of looming global crises: the destruction of ecosystems, extinction of species and rising sea levels, just to begin. And a warmer planet can also be expected to cause upheavals in human settlements that will lead to mass migrations from heavily impacted countries and thus, often, immigration into countries less adversely impacted.

Migration induced by weather phenomena is nothing new in the history of the planet. In 2008, for example, 20 million people were displaced by extreme weather events. By comparison, in the same year, 4.6 million people were forced to relocate due to conflict and violence. And when one analyzes a longer period of time, gradual environmental changes can have an even greater impact; in the last 30 years, to take one example, 1.6 billion people have been affected by droughts.

And the forecasts for future migrations blamed on the weather are bleak. Indeed, it has been estimated that there will be 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, with 200 million migrants being the most frequently cited figure. Whatever the eventual total turns out to be, these environmental migrants will be moving either within their own countries or across borders on a permanent or temporary basis. Strikingly, the 200 million figure is equivalent to the current estimate of international migrants in the world.

Immigration motivated by climate change was high on the agenda at the 20th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was held in Lima, Peru on December 1-12, 2014. At the Lima conference, nearly 200 countries met and drafted an agreement on climate change. By its terms, every participating nation will be required to produce, in the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan for reducing emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from hydrocarbons such as coal, gas and oil.

While the Lima agreement is set to be signed in Paris in December 2015, the new country-specific plans under the accord will not be enacted until 2020. Most climate experts estimate that at best, the actions will cut emissions by about half of what would be needed to halt a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature.

To put that temperature in perspective, scientists say that, at a 3.6 degree increase, the planet will experience irreversibly dangerous effects, such as melting sea ice, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and food and water shortages — all of which will trigger mass migrations of people as well as environmental degradation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the Lima conference, expressed guarded optimism over the accord that was reached: “Nobody here thinks an agreement will be a silver bullet that eliminates this threat. But we can’t get anywhere without an agreement.”

[footer block_id=’902′]

High Percentage of Undocumented Immigrant Indians Will Be Allowed to Stay in U.S.

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

When President Obama issued his executive order on immigration in November, estimates on the number of undocumented immigrants who would be spared deportation ranged between four and five million. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from the policy change are from Latin America, especially Mexico and Central America, though the number of undocumented immigrants from India is significant.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s most recent statistics are from 2012, and they counted 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Fifty-nine percent were from Mexico, with El Salvador (6 percent), Guatemala (5 percent), Honduras (3 percent) and Philippines (3 percent) rounding out the top five countries of origin.

India was the sixth leading source of undocumented immigrants in the United States as of 2012. Interestingly, when one focuses only on the numbers and percentages of unauthorized immigrants who will be able to avail themselves of the terms of the president’s executive order, India’s rank rises dramatically. 

Roughly 44 percent of the 5.9 million Mexicans who are in this country illegally will benefit from the executive action, and 37 percent of the generously estimated 450,000 undocumented Indians in this country will benefit from the policy change.

With 37 percent of all undocumented immigrants — 170,000 of the 450,000 total — able to stay in the United States under the executive action, India vaults into second place, behind only Mexico, on its percentage of unauthorized immigrants who will qualify for the new non-deportation policy.

A large portion of the unauthorized immigrants in the United States from Mexico and other Latin American countries enter the country undocumented. By contrast, most current unauthorized immigrants from India were originally documented when they entered the United States. Later, these Indian nationals lost their status when their visas expired but remained in the country.

Under United States Citizenship and Immigration Services rules, when immigrants who have been allowed to enter the United States on a work-related visa — such as the H-1B visa — loses their job, they must find alternate employment and transfer their visa within a specific time period. If they do not, they lose their status. 

Along with related L-1 visa holders, many Indians who legally entered the United States to work in the technology industry lost their jobs during the Great Recession and were not able to find new work, losing their status in the process.

In addition to the estimated 170,000 Indians who will be able to remain in the United States under the president’s executive order, another 13,500 are shielded from deportation under current law. Also, the policy change will permit many spouses and children of undocumented immigrants from India to apply for a waiver from illegal status — and eventually, apply for a green card.

[footer block_id=’902′]

Though Beneficial, Obama’s Immigration Initiative Will Have Limited Economic Impact

By | Citizenship and Naturalization, Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

When signing his executive order on immigration November 21, President Barack Obama bypassed Congress, initiating a long sought reform. But evidence suggests that the reforms will benefit some sectors more than others, and may even be the source of increased competition in the labor market, marginalizing the overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The last time there was a significant overhaul of the immigration rules in the United States was under the Reagan administration in 1986. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granted approximately 1.7 million undocumented persons lawful permanent residency. In addition, it permitted roughly 1 million farm workers to apply for higher legal status, an impact that the current administration’s reform could emulate.

Studies have found that the 1986 law raised the incomes of the erstwhile undocumented workers, but much of the increase was due to newly naturalized farmworkers finding work in better-paying jobs such as in construction or manufacturing. By the 1990s, just 4 percent of the farm workers were still employed in the agricultural sector. Shifts into other sectors resulted in wage gains of between 5 percent and 16 percent among former farm workers who had gained legal status.

Some groups, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, see the sector shifts resulting from the 1986 law as deleterious to the labor market if repeated by the 4 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants President Obama’s executive order will benefit. According to this critique, the Obama initiative will result in increased competition in the U.S. job market, affecting many citizens still unemployed or underemployed in the wake of the Great Recession.

Because the president’s executive order will be limited in scope, the White House estimates that it will boost the gross domestic product by less than 0.1 percent over the coming decades. Had Congress enacted the measure that the Democratic-controlled Senate passed last year, but died in the Republican-controlled House, it would have added another 0.33 percent per year in GDP growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

While the business community is generally supportive of immigration reform, the technology sector believes the president’s executive order falls short of helping essential skilled immigrant workers. That is because the Obama plan, though streamlining some of the rules governing the H-1B visa for skilled workers, does not lift the annual cap of 65,000 such visas.

Congressional action, not executive action, would be required to lift the ceiling on H-1B visas or other visas tailored for the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs, and to put in place comprehensive changes that a future president would be unable to reverse, as one could with Obama’s executive order. In order for immigration reform to have a more substantial positive impact on the U.S. economy, Congress would have to do what the president has implored it to do for years: pass a bill.

[footer block_id=’902′]

Growth in Indian-American Population Spurs Popularity of Cricket in United States

By | News & Press | No Comments

Baseball has long been considered America’s pastime. But another team sport played with a bat and ball is appearing in increasing evidence on playing fields in the United States. Cricket is an older, more universally popular sport, and its growth in the United States can be attributed in large part to the larger numbers of South Asians who have immigrated to this country.

Cricket can be traced back to 16th century England, where the first reference to the game was made in a 1598 court case, which spoke of a “creckett” match played in Guildford, Surrey in 1550. The first recorded match took place in Kent in 1646. As the game evolved into a competition of two 11-player, bat-and-ball teams arrayed against each other on a field, attempting to score runs through a series of innings, the sport’s popularity spread to many of England’s colonies, including Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, South Africa and India.

As Indian immigration to the United States has grown — there are now about 2.81 million Americans of Indian ancestry — cricket clubs in the United States have proliferated. On a geographic basis, major cricket clubs are found throughout the country, but year-round competition is clustered in Florida, Texas and California due to the warmer weather found in those states.

Cricket is played by women as well as men, and there are now 12 women’s cricket clubs alone in the United States.

Cricket is also played at colleges and universities in the United States. In those venues, the ethnic diversity of the game’s players is on full display. And because students from cricket-passionate countries are in strong evidence on American campuses — Indians, for example, are now the second-largest foreign student group in the United States — there is an ample supply of collegiate participants and fans for the sport.

The large number of Indians studying at American colleges and universities translates into a highly educated community — 40 percent of Indians in the United States have a master’s degree, doctorate or other professional degree, five times the national average. That fact, in turn, contributes to the U.S. Census Bureau’s finding that Indian Americans have the highest household income of all ethnic groups in the United States.

The wealthier the household income, the more disposable income a family has to spend on leisure activities, including sporting events. And with Indian-American household income leading the nation, the exclamation “play ball” could someday be heard on playing fields devoted to cricket as often as those to baseball.

[footer block_id=’903′]

Allure of U.S. Real Estate Attracts Indian Buyers

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

The acquisition of gold, and especially gold jewelry, has traditionally been the favored means by which Indians invest their discretionary income. But recent statistics demonstrate that for Indian citizens with the resources to do so, the purchase of American real estate has become the new golden opportunity for investment and savings.

Gold has long been the safe haven of choice for Indians looking for a place to park their cash and a way to avoid the uncertainties that swings in the stock market or currency fluctuations have presented. In recent years, investment in the United States, particularly in real estate, has appealed to foreign buyers looking for a similarly conservative, yet profitable, option. And as the bottom dropped out of many real estate markets in the United States during the recent recession, current purchase prices are very appealing.

A more price-compelling U.S. real estate market has been reflected in the number of foreign buyers, Indians included, who have closed escrow for property in this country. A National Association of Realtors survey estimated that from April 2013 to March of this year, total sales to buyers from abroad stood at $92.2 billion, which represents a 35 percent increase over the previous year. As a result, foreign buyers now constitute 7 percent of all existing-home sales.

Among existing-home sales closed by foreign buyers, China accounted for the largest share of international buyers at 24 percent, followed by Canada at 15 percent, with India and the United Kingdom tied for third with a 6 percent share of the total each. Indian buyers spent $5.8 billion in the U.S. real estate market over the last measured year, up from $3.9 billion over the 12-month period before it.

The figures cited do not distinguish between immigrant buyers and international buyers of U.S. real estate who retain their foreign domiciles. While many international buyers invest in U.S. real estate due to political instability or a restrictive business environment in their home countries, Indian buyers more frequently invest with a longer-term or more practical perspective in mind.

Middle-aged Indians with children current comprise the largest demographic looking to purchase property in this country. Indian families most often invest in residential housing, either multi-unit buildings or single-family dwellings.

With the significant number of students from India who are studying stateside, the investment scenario becomes all the more compelling: families secure living quarters for their children while they are at college or, subsequent to graduation, working in America, and thereafter, either rent out the unit or retain it as a residence if the family chooses to immigrate to the United States.

[footer block_id=’902′]

U.S. Opens 2016 Applications for Diversity Visa Program Immigrants

By | News & Press | No Comments

The United States has often been compared to a “melting pot” or a “salad bowl” in its richness of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. 

Since colonial times, immigration has played a major role in American diversity, and U.S. immigration policy has increasingly favored a more even distribution in the national sources of immigration. One legislative manifestation of that policy objective can be seen in the Immigration Act of 1990, which mandated the nation’s Diversity Visa Program.

The Diversity Visa Program is drawn from Section 131 of the Immigration Act of 1990 as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the program, 55,000 Diversity Visas are set aside each year for persons from countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

Diversity Visas are distributed among six geographic regions. The greatest number of visas are reserved for nationals of countries with lower rates of immigration, but no single country may account for more than 7 percent of the available visas in a given year. In 1999, Congress reserved 5,000 of these visas to be made available for use under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act.

Each year, nationals from a predetermined list of countries that have been the source of at least 50,000 immigrants to the United States during the previous five years are excluded from entering the lottery for Diversity Visas.

The 2016 Diversity Visa Program opened its application process on October 1, 2014 and will close it on November 3, 2014. 

Natives of numerous countries are not eligible, their nations having exceeded the 50,000 immigrant threshold: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, the United Kingdom and its dependent territories, India, Vietnam, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and South Korea.

After the annual application period has ended, a computer-generated random draw determines which persons have been selected for Diversity Visas. Beginning May 5, 2015, applicants can check online to find out if their entry was selected. The Department of State notifies successful applicants and provides instructions on how to apply for visas for themselves and eligible family members.

All Diversity Visa applicants must possess at least a high school diploma earned in their native country or the United States, or they must have worked at least two years in a job that required two years or more of training, experience or education. A high school Graduate Equivalency Diploma, or GED, does not meet the education requirement standard. Applicants also must not have been deemed “inadmissible” due to criminal activity or if they are “likely to become a public charge.”

An applicant who has been selected in the lottery process is not guaranteed a green card; the State Department always selects more Diversity Visa winners than the total number allotted for that year.

Winners of the lottery are provided a number showing their ranking in line based on their region of origin.

[footer block_id=’903′]

American Sikhs Face Undue Violence and Persecution in Wake of 9/11 and Presence of ISIS Threats

By | News & Press | No Comments

The Indian Plate is officially considered a subcontinent. Its land mass is great enough to earn the subcontinental rank, but its cultural, religious and linguistic bounty really puts it really more in the league with other full-fledged continents. 

As a result, the Indian subcontinent sends immigrants from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds to the United States. From that rich tapestry, the Sikhs have emerged as one of the more interesting India-endemic groups, one that has been often misunderstood or maligned in countries they immigrate to as well as in India itself.

The Sikhs belong to a monotheistic faith that originated in the 15th century. Their homeland is centered in the Punjab region, which derives its name from a Punjabi corruption of two Persian words that mean “five waters,” referring to the five rivers of the region that are tributaries of the mighty Indus River.

While the emergence of a Sikh empire in the 18th century marked a period of unparalleled religious tolerance in India, there has been intermittent friction, even violence, between Sikhs and Mughals since its establishment — and later, tension with Muslims and Hindus. This friction was notably prominent in the period leading up to the partition of India in 1947. Sectarian strife involving the Sikhs truly picked up steam in the 1960s as the Sikhs lobbied for the creation of a Punjab state, which was eventually granted on a modified basis in 1966.

The 1970s marked another period of sectarian conflict, this time between Sikhs and Hindus. In large part, this tension was due to the perceived anti-Sikh bias of the ruling Congress Party. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assumed emergency powers in 1975 in reaction to the violence, which contributed to increased Sikh agitation for justice, spearheaded by the Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The tension culminated in a cascade of retributory strikes in 1984. Government forces attacked the Sikh-revered Golden Temple in Amritsar, where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale sought refuge. Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards four months later. A massacre of thousands of Sikhs throughout India followed immediately.

Fortunately, relations between Sikhs and Hindus have improved since the disastrous chain of events in 1984, but the times of trouble have contributed to a diaspora of Sikhs in the world. There are more than 19 million Sikhs in India and 27 million Sikhs worldwide. The most recent estimates rank the United Kingdom after India as having the largest population of Sikhs at 760,000. The United States is next at 500,000 Sikhs, followed by Canada with 468,000 Sikhs.

Imigration from India to other lands, unfortunately, has not spared the Sikhs from discrimination and violence. 

One of the tenets of Sikhism, the so-called “Five K’s” — the articles of faith that all baptized Sikhs are obliged to wear — includes one, called Kesh, for uncut hair, which prompts Sikhs to don their trademark turban, called a dastar. In the post-9/11 era, the Sikh wrapping of hair has drawn physical attacks by some people in who wrongly confuse them with Islamic extremists (many of whom wear turbans as well, though almost always of a different style).

The misguided and racist violence against Sikhs after the September 11 U.S. terrorist attacks has unfolded in a series of beatings and killings over the last 13 years. It was expressed most tragically in 2012, when six worshippers at a Sikh temple were gunned down outside a temple in Milwaukee. 

The current ISIS-spurred burst of violence in the Middle East has again drawn unwarranted negative attention to turban-wearing Sikhs.

The sentiments of many Sikhs who have integrated into American society can perhaps best be summarized by one Sikh-American named Vishavjit Singh, who has made it a mission to educate people about Sikhs and spread his message of tolerance among a variety of audiences. 

Singh recently recounted his reaction to one uncomfortable situation to a group of students at Alfred University, where he runs a special program called “Drawn to Diversity.” “People can think I’m not an American, they can tell me to go home to where I came from,” Singh told his student listeners. “And I say: ‘OK, I’ll go home tonight. I live here.”

[footer block_id=’902′]

Children's Immigration Crisis Continues

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Although numbers eased somewhat in July and August, the children’s immigration crisis remains the most pressing immigration issue of the day. 

Since October 2013, more than 52,000 children have been taken into custody. Most are from Central America, and a large proportion are not accompanied by parents or guardians. Their numbers represents a ten-fold increase from 2009. Twice as many unaccompanied children arrived this year than did in the last.

In large part, the current crisis is fueled by violence in Central America. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are all facing high levels of gang violence, which is closely related to the illegal drug trade. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 58 percent of the unaccompanied immigrant children are migrating for safety reasons.

This fact has led many organizations and officials, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to urge that the children be treated as refugees, even as immigration reform opponents blame the crisis on lax immigration policy and enforcement.

Other factors are also in play. For children from poor, rural parts of Guatemala and El Salvador, economic strain can provide the motivation to migrate. For those who already have family members in the United States, the desire to reunite with family may be central — especially because in Central America, the idea that children can easily reunite with U.S. relatives is prevalent.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the U.S. government cannot return migrant children from Central America to their home countries as easily and quickly as they can those from Mexico. This is a result of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a law designed to curb child trafficking. The law requires that children from Central America receive a court hearing before deportation.

Due to the influx of unaccompanied child immigrants, a years-long backlog has accumulated. Most children stay with U.S. relatives while they wait; the rest enter the foster care system.

Congressional sluggishness adds another layer of difficulty. This year, Congress has failed to pass anticipated immigration reform. In response, President Obama is expected to release an executive order which will address the child immigration crisis, as well as other aspects of immigration law.

[footer block_id=’903′]