How Immigrants Helped Boost American Jobs in the Midwest

Tory Johnson  recently reported on Immigration Impact that in the Rust Belt region of the United States, for example, owe much of their economic and population growth in recent years to immigrants, according to a recent report by the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition and New American Economy (NAE), a non-partisan coalition of mayors and business leaders from across the United States. Research has repeatedly found that population decline, due to aging and native residents moving away, hurts local economies by shrinking the tax base and hampering business and job creation.

Many cities in the Great Lakes region—comprising Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York (excluding New York City metro area)—have experienced this economic and population decline. Whereas the U.S. population grew 14.2 percent between 2000 and 2015, the overall population of the Great Lakes region only increased by 4.3 percent during that time. And yet much of this growth was driven by immigrants.

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Judge Sides with Philadelphia in ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Case

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, left, accompanied by City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante, speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the U.S. government from withholding a major grant that pays for public safety equipment because Philadelphia is a “sanctuary city.” (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

The Associated Press reports on a decision issued yesterday by a federal judge that blocked the U.S. government from withholding more than $1 million in funding for public safety equipment from the city of Philadelphia for being a “sanctuary city.” In his decision, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson wrote “there is no conflict of any significance” between the federal government’s need to carry out immigration enforcement and the “city’s promotion of health and safety.” The decision follows others made by federal judges in recent months to block the Department of Justice’s efforts to cut federal public safety funds received by “sanctuary cities.”

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said in his decision that he weighed the public interest and possible harm that could come from withholding such funds.

“Both the federal government and the city of Philadelphia have important interests at stake here and the court does not minimize either of their concerns,” the judge wrote. “In this case, given Philadelphia’s unique approach to meshing the legitimate needs of the federal government to remove criminal aliens with the City’s promotion of health and safety, there is no conflict of any significance.”

Baylson is the latest in a number of federal judges around the country to block efforts by the Department of Justice to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities.”

Last month, a U.S. district judge in Chicago denied a request by the DOJ to lift a national freeze on the policy. And a Seattle judge declined to throw out a lawsuit brought by Seattle and Portland, Oregon, calling the DOJ’s threats “unconstitutionally coercive.”

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Ninth Circuit Allows Part of Travel Ban 3.0 to Go into Effect

David McNew/Getty Images

On Monday November 13th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit restored the latest travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump. Jonathan Turley, who has criticized the challenges to the travel ban, opines here that “the Ninth Circuit is on solid ground in ruling the government can bar entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries with no connections to the United States.”

The connection to the United States are defined as family relationships which  include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.  The term can also include and “formal, documented” relationships with U.S.-based entities such as universities and resettlement agencies.

The decision reverses parts of the lower court decision by U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu.

For more details, click here and here.

A Detailed Account of the Dismantling of DACA

The recent deposition of Gene Hamilton offers a rare glimpse of an Administration official candidly discussing the development of a major policy area.
Photograph by Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty

Jonathan Blitzer recently reported in The New Yorker  insights into the operations within the Trump administration that culminated with the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

A handful of officials in the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security have spent the past year attempting to realize President Trump’s vision of an America that is less welcoming of foreigners. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff; Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General; and Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, have led this effort. A crucial role has also been played by a lesser-known figure: Gene Hamilton, a lawyer in his mid-thirties who works as a top aide to Sessions at the Justice Department. Federal officials, congressional staffers, advocacy groups, and think-tank researchers know that Hamilton has helped shape Trump’s various travel bans, changes to refugee policies, and the implementation of an aggressive new approach to immigration enforcement. And yet, as one immigration lawyer told me of Hamilton, “he’s had such a light footprint.” Hamilton has rarely spoken to the press, and his relatively short career means that few can claim to know the exact nature of his beliefs or goals.

Last week, I obtained a two-hundred-and-thirty-five-page transcript of a deposition that Hamilton was compelled to give, in late October, as part of a federal lawsuit over the Administration’s handling of DACA, the Obama-era program that protected from deportation some eight hundred thousand undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. The lawsuit was brought by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. The groups’ argument is that, while the government may have been within its power to cancel DACA, the manner in which it did so—suddenly, and without warning—violated the rights of the people who relied on DACA for work permits, student loans, and other benefits. During the proceeding, Hamilton was pushed to describe the part he’d played in various Administration decisions. Over four hours, he detailed his interactions with senior officials such as Kelly and Miller, shared his personal views on immigration policy, and acknowledged, notably, that he’d been the author of the September 5th D.H.S. memo that formally terminated DACA. And, while Hamilton was careful not to answer more than he had to, the transcript offers a rare glimpse of an Administration official candidly discussing the development of a major area of policy.

More details on this story, click here.

Fewer Foreign Students Are Coming to U.S.


The University of Iowa campus in Iowa City in 2014. Experts said that an uncertain social and political climate in the United States was part of the reason for a decline in enrollment. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Stephanie Saul of the New York Times reports that the first new college class since the election of Donald J. Trump has arrived on campus, and new numbers confirm what the higher education industry had feared: Fewer foreign students are coming to the United States.

The number of newly arriving international students declined an average 7 percent in fall 2017, with 45 percent of campuses reporting drops in new international enrollment, according to a survey of nearly 500 campuses across the country by the Institute of International Education.

Experts cited an uncertain social and political climate in the United States as part of the reason for the decline in enrollment.

“It’s a mix of factors,” said Rajika Bhandari, head of research for the institute, which collects data on international students in cooperation with the State Department. “Concerns around the travel ban had a lot to do with concerns around personal safety based on a few incidents involving international students, and a generalized concern about whether they’re safe.”

Another reason for the decline is increasing competition from countries like Canada, Britain and Australia, said Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute.

The figures released Monday also included final numbers for 2016-2017, which show robust international enrollment, with a record 1.08 million international students in the United States, an increase of 85 percent from a decade earlier.

Much of the record was driven by 175,000 students who have remained in the United States after completing their degrees, in internship-type programs known as “optional practical training.”

The 2016-2017 figures, though, revealed that first-time international students dropped 3 percent, indicating that the decline had begun before President Trump took office.

The drop in new students signals potential financial difficulties for some small universities that have come to rely on money from foreign students, who provide an infusion of $39 billion into the United States economy each year.

Particularly hard hit are campuses in the Midwest, according to the institute.

At the University of Iowa, overall international enrollment this fall was 3,564, down from 4,100 in 2015.

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The Facts on America’s Immigrant and Visitor Vetting System

Following the attack in New York City, President Trump swiftly pivoted to promoting his longstanding immigration agenda. The Brennan Center for Justice provides everything you need to know about the security features of the U.S. visa system, one of the world’s toughest, and the changes sought by the Trump administration.

Trump said that he has “ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program” and also that he has begun the process of terminating the Diversity Visa Lottery program. The Brennan Center recently released a report on Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban, which examines the security features of the U.S. visa system, and discusses changes the Trump administration is making to them. Though it does not specifically discuss the Diversity Visa Lottery program, many security measures examined in the report are common to all visa programs. Here are a few highlights:

  • The U.S. visa vetting system is one of the world’s toughest. Applicants’ biographic data, photographs, and fingerprints are collected and screened against a range of national security databases that contain millions of entries and include classified information from federal, state, local, and foreign governments. Applicants must provide voluminous documentation to verify their identities and backgrounds. Immigrant visa applicants – those applying to stay permanently in the U.S. – are generally subject to more scrutiny than temporary visa applicants, including a medical examination and other screenings.

  • Though terrorist attacks committed by foreign-born persons are statistically very rare, the Department of Homeland Security has found that such cases often involve people who developed violent inclinations years after their entry into the U.S., meaning increased visa vetting would not have been useful. In fact, decades of counterterrorism research has not been able to confirm traits that could be used to identify people who have a propensity for terrorism. Over the decades, policies designed to investigate ideology “have proven to be poorly equipped to actually predict what people are going to do,” according to former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner.

  • Our safety is bolstered by visa vetting processes that are the product of study, not reaction, and are responsive to “specific, credible threats based on individualized information,” in the words of over 40 former high-level national security officials across the political spectrum. Broad, ham-handed policy responses based on stereotypes and intuitions rather than evidence harm the “strategic and national security interests of the United States,” corrode relationships with allies, and reinforce terrorist propaganda, according to those same officials.

  • As with policy in any other realm, there are tradeoffs – economic and cultural – to banning or increasing the hurdles to travel into the country. Given the current system’s existing rigor and low error rate, any attempts at recalibration should be based on careful study.

For more information, view a fact sheet on Extreme Vetting ‘Myths and Facts,’ and the full report on Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban.

Government Threatens Families, Communities with Looming Temporary Protected Status Decisions

Tory Johnson of Immigration Impact reports that the US is home to an estimated 325,000 individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a temporary immigration status granted to nationals of specifically designated countries that are facing an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Combined, more than 90 percent of these beneficiaries, or TPS holders, are from El Salvador (approximately 195,000), Honduras (approximately 57,000), and Haiti (approximately 50,000).

As the deadlines approach for the government to decide whether to extend or terminate several countries’ TPS designations, critical information about this sizable population has come to the forefront. This includes research on TPS holders’ social and financial contributions to American life, as well as the fiscal and social risks countries would face should the Trump administration choose to end El Salvador, Honduras, or Haiti’s designations for TPS.

Many TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have lived in the United States for decades. During this time, they have been regularly vetted by the government, submitting themselves to background checks every time their TPS has been renewed. Hondurans, for example, have passed these security checks 13 times.

In passing initial and continuous security checks, TPS holders receive temporary protection from deportation and access to a work permit. Though these benefits present barriers by being temporary in nature, TPS beneficiaries become active and contributing members of their communities and the nation.

The majority of both Salvadoran and Honduran TPS holders have lived in the United States for at least 20 years (51 and 63 percent, respectively), and 16 percent of Haitian TPS holders have resided in the country for at least two decades. In that time, many TPS holders settled and established families. For example, TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have an estimated 273,000 native-born U.S.-citizen children, and about 30 percent of TPS beneficiaries’ households have mortgages.

As a result of their work authorization, TPS beneficiaries also participate in the U.S. workforce at high rates. More than 80 percent of all TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti are active members of the U.S. labor force. These TPS holders support a range of industries, with the greatest shares in the construction, restaurant and food services, landscaping, childcare, hospitality, and grocery industries.

Through income and property taxes, Social Security and Medicare contributions, job creation, and spending TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have added value to the U.S. economy. Their contributions to the country’s GDP over the next decade total an estimated $164 billion. In the six states in which TPS holders from these countries are concentrated (California, Florida, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Maryland), they add between $1.2 and $2.7 billion dollars annually to each state’s GDP. Nationally and locally, most of these billions would be lost if TPS designations for their countries are terminated.

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Visa reviews ordered for those already living and working in the U.S.

H-1B visa petitions wait in a truck for delivery to a processing center.                                         Photo: EROS HOAGLAND, NYT

Trisha Thadani of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that under a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy issued Monday, foreigners applying for a visa extension will no longer be given “deference” if their job descriptions haven’t significantly changed. This means that regardless of how long a foreigner has been in the country, immigration officers must review the application as if it were new.

This is the first significant policy change ordered by Lee Francis Cissna, who was sworn in as director of the immigration agency this month.

It’s significant that the change is being made retroactively to people already living in the country and not just to new visa applicants, said William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Extensions are common for H-1B visas, which are heavily used in Silicon Valley to employ foreigners with specialized skills for a three-year period. It is a common path for an H-1B holder to apply for extensions — in one- to three-year increments — until they receive permanent residency through a green card.

Previously, if a foreigner’s job description was unchanged, immigration officials would approve the extension under a 2004 rule that instructed them to “defer to prior determinations of eligibility,” except in extreme circumstances.

“By eliminating deference to prior decisions, it opens the door (for officials) to say, ‘I’m changing the rule now, and you didn’t comply with it two years ago when it wasn’t a rule — but, tough,’” Stock said.

More than 250,000 H-1B holders filed for an extension in fiscal year 2016. That compares to about 213,000 in fiscal year 2015.

The immigration agency argued that deferring to previous decisions “had the unintended consequence of officers not discovering material errors in prior adjudications,” according to the memo. “While adjudicators may, of course, reach the same conclusion as in a prior decision, they are not compelled to do so as a default starting point.”

Immigration officials have already been cracking down on certain work visas by issuing an increased number of “requests for evidence,” in which an employer must provide additional proof that a foreigner is needed to fill a certain job.


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A California Conversation About Immigration


The premise of the Talking Across Borders project is that progress will come when we figure out how to talk about the issue with civility — and the warring sides at least listen to the concerns of people with whom they disagree.

Making that conversation happen is the mission of Spaceship Media, a Bay Area nonprofit whose aim is to use journalism to bridge divides and reduce polarization. The media partners in the new project include the Bay Area News Group, the Southern California News Group and Univision, a national Spanish-language TV network.

As part of the project, more than 60 people across California will take part in a closed Facebook group over the next month. About half of them support greater enforcement of immigration laws. About half oppose increased enforcement. A smattering of those in the group have staked out middle-ground positions.

During the monthlong discussion, participants will be able to suggest topics and questions for the group to address. The effort will be moderated by Spaceship Media founders Eve Pearlman and Jeremy Hay, two veteran journalists who will also prompt conversation. Reporters from the media partners will write about the project and supply research to inform the discussions.

Haitian Immigrants in the United States

Migration Information Source “Spotlight” on Haitian Immigrants in the United States reports that the number of Haitians in the United States has tripled since 1990, reaching 676,000 in 2015. Most Haitians entered the United States before 2010, the year of a devastating earthquake from which Haiti is still working to recover. This Spotlight article offers the latest data on Haitian immigrants, including the number holding Temporary Protected Status, top states and cities of residence, demographic information, and more.

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