Friday, November 23, 2007


147 – just keep that number in the back of your mind for the time being – I'll get back to it's significance a little later on . … but for now, just file it away somewhere where we can find it when we need it.

For almost three years now, anti-immigrant forces have been ratcheting up their message of opposition to anything short of deportation and/or attrition for the approximately 12 mil unauthorized immigrants currently living and working in the US, coupled with increased militarization and "security" along the southern border as the only way to solve their self-defined "immigration crisis." Armed with talking points crafted by Republican right-wing spinmeisters like Frank Luntz and zero-population-growth advocacy groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA, pundits, politicians and talking-heads have hit the airwaves with a constant barrage of misinformation and distortion.

By now we all know the drill.

They claim they don't oppose immigration …just "illegal" immigration. There's no need for sweeping comprehensive reforms …because we have perfectly good laws, it's just that the government refuses to enforce them. It's not about the immigrants themselves … but rather respect for the "rule of law." And those who wish to enter this country "legally" have a clear path to do, so it's only those wishing to skirt the law and "take advantage of our generosity" that are creating all the problems and need to be harshly dealt with … the mantras are repeated ad nauseam until ingrained into the collective American psyche.

But like all right-wing propaganda, this current fairy tale about immigration being the cause of all ills, and the need for a simple, quick fix, is based upon a foundation of lies and misdirection. It is only the newest in a long line of right-wing efforts to steer the American people in a direction that runs contrary to logic and their own best interests. From Colin Powell at the UN displaying cartoon pictures of mobile WMD labs, to Bush telling us why the "privatizing " Social Security is good for working Americans, or Reagan explaining how giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans would cause wealth to "trickle down" to those lower on the economic ladder, the history of right-wing lies, deception, and failure goes back more than twenty-five years. And the current hysteria over invading hordes of disease-ridden, uneducated criminals, streaming over the southern border to steal our jobs and destroy our American way of life is no more based in reality than Mr Powell's cartoons were.

But, I have neither the time nor inclination to attempt to debunk every ridiculous talking point, and to do so would require volumes that the average reader would soon tire of. But one talking point that can quickly and easily be put to rest is the one about the US having the most "generous Immigration policy in the world" providing a clear "legal" path for all "good immigrants" willing to take it. …this is simply a fallacy, a tall-tail like Washington and his cherry tree taught to impressionable children to instill pride and patriotism.

Essentially our current immigration is broken in two key aspects. The first being the laws themselves, the second being their enforcement and implementation.

A recent NYT article demonstrated the problems within the bureaucracy set up to administer immigration policy.

Immigration authorities are swamped in new bureaucratic backlogs resulting from an unanticipated flood last summer of applications for citizenship and for residence visas, officials said.

In July and August alone, the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency received 2.5 million applications, including petitions for naturalization as well as for the entire range of immigrant visas. That was more than double the total applications it received in the same two months in 2006, said a spokesman, Bill Wright.

In the 2007 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the agency received 1.4 million petitions from legal immigrants to become United States citizens, about double the number of naturalization petitions in the 2006 fiscal year, Mr. Wright said.

Immigration officials said it could take more than a year to decide many of the recent applications.

The processing backlogs are different from the visa backlogs that have burdened the United States immigration system for years. Because of annual limits on all green cards, immigrants from some countries like Mexico and the Philippines often have to wait decades for visas to become available. Now the agency has fallen behind on the bureaucratic work of logging in applications and deciding whether to grant visas or allow immigrants to become United States citizens


But this inefficiency is not a new phenomenon and the problems go beyond the procedural to include infrastructure problems like computer systems unable to communicate with each other.

Aging, incompatible systems and outdated processes have contributed to a backlog of approximately 1 million people waiting for a decision from the department's Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau. Computer problems at its Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau caused a snafu in which student visa holders were jailed overnight or barred from entering the United States.


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s systems have come in for particular criticism from outside analysts and government auditors, who say these are simply not up to the task of serving the public, especially when coupled with a continuing reliance on paper forms. In some cases, for instance, information typed into one computer must be manually retyped into a second or third.

"All filings are paper-based, which means that everything you submit has to be keyed into the computer, which of course opens up the additional possibility of error, slows the process down and prevents some processes from being automated," said Crystal Williams, deputy director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.


One problem is that applications for different types of immigration status are saved in separate records. These aren't interlinked, which means an application for a H1-B visa is not tied to the same person's application for a green card--causing more paperwork and delays, until the two records can be matched by hand.


But even if Congress were willing to expend the necessary funds to upgrade systems and supply the manpower needed to expedite the millions of applications already in the queue and awaiting processing, the major flaws in immigration policy would still exists.

Flaws codified into law that almost ensure that for the vast majority of would-be immigrants there is simply no legal path to take.

Here is where that number - 147 - comes into play, and why I asked that it be kept in the back of the mind.

I few weeks ago the annual Yearbook of immigration statistics from the Department of Homeland security came out listing every green card, work visa, tourist visa etc. issued for the past year. It's about as dry and boring a report as one could managed to muddle through …but it supplies invaluable insight into what is really going on with the dysfunctional immigration system.

In 2006 the government issued a little over 1.2 million green cards to new immigrants to live in the US legally. Additionally, 1.7 million more non-immigrant visas were issued to temporary workers and their family members to work in the US (1/2 million more than the number of green cards issued to new permanent residents, a troubling statistic unto itself).

So at face value it appears that there is amble opportunity for those wishing to enter the country permanently to do so legally. But as Mark Twain said there are three kinds of lies "lies, damn lies, and statistics" ..and in this case one must delve into the numbers to see what story they really tell.

Of the 1.2 million green cards issued last year, 581,106 of those went to wives, children and parents of current US citizens. And additional 222,225 went to various other family members of citizens and legal residents, for a total of 2/3 of all green cards going to someone who already had a US citizen or resident relative.

Additionally, out of the 1.2 million green cards issued, only 447,016 were "new arrivals", the vast majority … 819,248 were already living in the US legally with a temporary status of one sort or another and simply readjusted their status last year to permanent status. And while these two categories obviously overlap, simple analysis shows that the true number of new immigrants without US citizen relatives is in fact quote low.

The next largest category of immigrants after the "family based" status were those who entered as "employment based immigrants". 159,081 immigrants were awarded green cards last year to legally work in the US. ( 12.6% of all immigrants). The vast majority of them being immigrants with high skills, "specialty skills" "extraordinary skills" or "advanced degrees".

This is codified into the system.

The yearly cap on unskilled workers is placed at a 5000 maximum. This despite the fact that according to the Dept. of Labor, the US economy produces between 400,000 and 500,000 new low-skilled jobs a year and the vast majority of the nearly ½ mil unauthorized workers who enter the country each year find work in these unskilled sectors.

But as unrealistic as the 5000 cap appears, the situation is actually far worse.

Last year the total number of unskilled workers allowed into the US legally was roughly half the official cap: 2513. Out of nearly 3 million people allowed to enter the country either as temporary workers or stay as legal residents, only 2513 were unskilled workers.

But here comes that number I asked you to keep in the back of your mind ….remember it 147?…

Of the 2513 unskilled workers allotted green cards last year, 2366 were already here living and working in the US. They simply "readjusted" their status to permanent residents (most likely from some temporary worker status) …that leaves 147

147 new un-skilled workers without US citizen or legal resident family already here were allowed to enter the US last year legally and receive green cards.

147 out of 1,266,264.

147 …so tell me again how there is a legal path for all who are willing to work and wait patiently.

How long is one expected to wait… because if the ½ a million who enter each year through improper channels were to go home and wait patiently for their turn, it would take over 3000 years before they would get that chance when only 147 are allowed in each a year.

But the rhetoric will most likely continue, despite all factual evidence to the contrary. Lou Dobbs will nightly inform his minion that only the shiftless and slovenly disregard the law. O'Rielly will bluster away how he "respects and supports" those who "do it the right way" and Rush will whine that reform isn't fair to all those "waiting in line"…But disingenuous blowhards and misleading experts cannot change the truth, or hide the facts. The current immigration laws, and the systems in place to enforce them, are woefully inadequate and all the wall building, workplace raids, deporting and incarcerating will not change that fact…and until they are addressed rationally and reasonably the "immigration crisis" will never end.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this careful analysis of the facts. You have nailed the essential point: that the unskilled workers on whose labor the country depends have no legal way of entering the country.

99% of agricultural workers are undocumented.

It is shameful that we the American people are permitting the people who feed us to live in a limbo of fear, and to be used as scapegoats for the soak-the-poor policies of the Republican adminsitration (and its Democratic enablers).

Undocumented immigrants must be given a path to normalize their status, and the Immigration Service must be funded and administered in such a way to eliminate the bureaucratic backlogs.

Getting out the facts, as you are doing, is the first step. Many Americans are already steeped in the racist hate of scapegosting, but many are not.

Anonymous said...

You know, there is so much misunderstanding about how the immigration system works or (doesn’t work). Out of a thousands comments posted on the topic of immigration perhaps one actually reflects a correct understanding of the situation. You know how many hundreds of times I have read the comment “why cant they just do it the right way” as if applying for a legal status was as easy as walking to the post office to get a passport photo taken. If they don’t understand the near impossibility of getting and maintaining a legal status, they don’t understand the issue. So many of the arguments supporting draconian immigration policies are founded truly bogus assumptions.

In what is probably a futile effort, I have begun to compile a library of mini-articles about immigration. They are small and concise enough to be posted on an online discussion. They are based on citable sources and cover topics that are routinely misrepresented, such as language proficiency, etc. I know there is no way I can convince the rabidly anti-immigrant, but perhaps there will be others who are actually seeking real information. Perhaps you could condense the very striking statistics you discovered into a mini-article and make it easy for people to quote and share your research during online blog conversations.

JP said...

You know, this here is the crux of the entire so-called immigration problem. Politicians are using this as a wedge issue because honestly, only one side of the story is being told, from the media (thanks Lou) from the hatemongers and the legions of organized anti-immigrant forces in this country. Every time I read comments on immigration-related articles, the comments are 10 to 1 in favor of the hate-mongering anti-immigrants. There is so much misinformation that even the smartest, best informed people I know are woefully clueless about the situation.

I'm glad to read the articles in Migra Matters and just wish that a) it had a wider readership and b) there were more blogs like it.

I think we need to focus on the economic realities... as that is the only thing that can overcome the emotion and vitriol being heaped on by the other side. Demand (of labor) in the US greatly exceeds the Supply. Supply in Mexico greatly exceeds the demand in Mexico. 147 visas are granted every year to fill the labor needs of this country. That just doesn't make any sense.

Weaver said...

This Century, the U.S. civilian noninstitutional population has grown almost 16 million people.

New Jobs for Men? 241,134

New Jobs for Women? 4,254,265

Where are the jobs for these immigrants legal or otherwise? Could it be that they under-cut the labor rate of mortgage holding U.S. Citizens?

Men 16 and over:
Employment-population ratio June, 2000 = 72%
Employment-population ratio June, 2007 = 69.8%
Increase in civilian noninstitutional population (June, 2000 – June, 2007) = 5,858,000
Increase Employment (Jobs, June, 2000 – June, 2007) = 241,134
Jobs required to attain June, 2000 Employment-population ratio of 72% = 5,616,866

Additional jobless persons
June, 2007 Unemployment Level – Men = 3,829,000 (4.7%)

Women 16 and over:
Employment-population ratio June, 2000 = 57.5%
Employment-population ratio June, 2007 = 56.7%
Increase in civilian noninstitutional population (June, 2000 – June, 2007) = 9,063,000
Increase Employment (Jobs: June, 2000 – June, 2007) = 4,254,265
Jobs required to attain June, 2000 Employment-population ratio of 57.5% = 4,808,735

Additional jobless persons:
June, 2007 Unemployment Level – Women = 3,104,000 (4.4%)

RonF said...

147 …so tell me again how there is a legal path for all who are willing to work and wait patiently.

Who said there is?

Who said there should be?

Duke1676 said...

Weaver said:

Could it be that they under-cut the labor rate of mortgage holding U.S. Citizens?

Well no, not if you read the myriad of studies, articles and books that explain how job creation and labor economics is not based on a finite, zero-sum, model. It's not as if there are only x number of jobs and each one filled by an immigrant becomes makes that number x-1. If that was the case each time a child graduated from high school or college they would have to "steal" a job from a current worker in order to find employment.

The labor market, like the economy, is fluid, creating and eliminating jobs on a constant basis according to market flows. It also doesn't run on a simplistic "supply and demand" model that states that if the supply of labor increases, wages must go down.

But now to the bigger question.

Why is it that you tech industry H1b opponents constantly conflate the situation with the current increases in LEGAL guest worker programs like H1b and L1, with the broader issue of unauthorized migration of mostly un-skilled workers and immigration reform in general?

While many in the pro-migrant movement vehemently oppose guest worker programs of all stripes, and call for their total elimination, you H1b opponents chose instead to align yourselves with the far-right, eliminationist forces in this debate.

I have asked of some of the national leaders of the tech /immigration lobby this same question...and never seem to get an answer. How does opposing the normalization of the immigration status of millions of unauthorized low-skilled workers have anything whatsoever to do with the LEGAL importation of millions of high-skilled guestworkers? The only common denominator would be that they are foreign born...after that all the other economic and social comparisons are apples and oranges.

And it would appear that your unwillingness to limit you opposition to the guest worker programs you claim have had adverse effects in your industry, but rather to oppose all immigration whatsoever, says much about the true motives behind your campaigns.

RonF said...

Mr. Parker, you may be right; it may be very difficult to wend one's way through the immigration process and successfully legally enter America and later become either a resident alien or a citizen.

So what?

The immigration process exists to serve the United States, not the applicants for immigration. It may well have gross flaws that need to be fixed, but this does not create justification for people to break the law. There is no right to leave another country and enter the U.S.

JCTO said...


That is precisely the point. If the US needs unskilled labor (something most economists would agree with) then we NEED to provide a way to get that labor in here LEGALLY. You see this as focusing too much on the needs of immigrants, whereas I see it as focusing more on the labor needs of this country.

I see it as a situation similar to the Prohibition last century. The laws were inefficient and went counter to human nature and the laws were eventually repealed since they were impossible to enforce. I wouldn't have supported breaking the laws back then, and I don't support it now, but I do support revising the laws to reflect economic necessity.

In this case, the bureaucratic and poorly crafted immigration laws go counter to our OWN economic necessity by blocking the plentiful supply of labor just south of us, considering the extraordinarily high demand we have for an unskilled labor workforce for farming, construction and a myriad of other businesses. The country's growth depends on businesses of all kind who employ us, give us security (sometimes) and basically are what drive the economy. The lack of unskilled workers is a REAL problem due to demographics in this country (aging population, etc.) The same is happening in some Asian countries like Singapore, where they have to go to the Philippines to recruit unskilled labor. Luckily, we don't have to go anywhere, since there is a ready workforce just south of us.

It's not about them, Ron, its about us.

Anonymous said...

If we did it like Canada does, I wouldn't object. First the employer has to prove a need (no citizens available) for a worker for a specified length of time. The government recruits in the foreign land, fills the position and the worker is transported to Canada. No family is allowed to come alone. The workers are not allowed to apply for citizenship. When the "contract" is finished they are transported back to their homeland. That approach should make everyone happy.

Anonymous said...

Correction: No family is allowed to come ALONG.

RonF said...

That is precisely the point. If the US needs unskilled labor (something most economists would agree with) then we NEED to provide a way to get that labor in here LEGALLY. You see this as focusing too much on the needs of immigrants, whereas I see it as focusing more on the labor needs of this country.

I imagine that the U.S. needs unskilled labor. Whether that need can be fulfilled by the existing citizenry is an open question. Demand and supply may not be the only factor in the labor pool, but it's a big one. Remove the pool of labor that can be easily exploitable because of their status of being here illegally and let's see what the effects truly are. How much would employers be forced to raise wages? In what fashion would employers be forced to get creative and re-engineer products and processes to rely less on unskilled labor?

I'll be glad to focus on the labor needs of the U.S. But the presumption is that the status quo represents the true labor needs of the U.S. I don't agree. I think that it represents the desires of those making inordinate profits off of exploitable labor. As long as one American citizen is unemployed, no job that that citizen can do should be performed by an alien (whether illegal or legally resident). The U.S. is stronger when as many people as possible are contributing productive labor rather than consuming public resources.

Certainly government processes should be as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, the government has no competitors, so there are no market forces to compel efficiencies. Committing the resources to improve this process should have a priority proportional to the expected benefit to the U.S. by the improvement. Right now, I think that's a lower priority compared to the priority needed to enforce existing law regarding preventing people from coming into the country illegally and punishing the people who hire them. The latter is especially important. Choke off the source of jobs and there won't be nearly as many illegal border crossers to catch. The cozy deal between government and industry that has let employers off the hook needs to be broken up.

Weaver said...

Duke 1676 wrote:

"Well no, not if you read the myriad of studies, articles and books that explain how job creation and labor economics is not based on a finite, zero-sum, model. It's not as if there are only x number of jobs and each one filled by an immigrant becomes makes that number x-1. If that was the case each time a child graduated from high school or college they would have to "steal" a job from a current worker in order to find employment."

These studies you mention, held relevance prior to the information age, when U.S. policy was to overheat the housing market with new economic immigrants. The sub-prime mortgage was invented to sustain the excessive immigration. The consequence has been the unprecedented devaluation of the USD and devastation the world wide financial markets.

The Census tells us that 2.4 million persons die in the U.S. every year. Census High School enrollment data suggests that 3,397,583 children are emancipated annually. Subtracting deaths, the domestic labor force grew by 7 million, with only an increase of 4.5 million jobs. The additional 9 million working age immigrants are generally "required" to remain employed during the (5yr) legal permanent resident period.

Duke 1676 also wrote:

"The labor market, like the economy, is fluid, creating and eliminating jobs on a constant basis according to market flows. It also doesn't run on a simplistic "supply and demand" model that states that if the supply of labor increases, wages must go down"

Yes, today's economists, who are funded by lobbyists, must abandon supply/demand in order to justify the desired conclusion. Yet, the hard-data proves the centuries old supply / demand rule...

Economics: Scarcity
The limited availability of resources are the foundation of Economics, which is concerned with the problem of using those available resources as efficiently as possible to achieve the maximum fulfillment of society's unlimited demands for goods and services.

As for the high-tech H-1B visa, we simply look at BLS computer-related occupations.

Growth in Computer-related occupations 2000-2006 = 326,600
12.36% of yr. 2000 employment.

H-1B initial computer-related employment approvals 2000-2006 = 328,968
12.45% of yr. 2000 employment.

Comp. Science Bachelor .Science Degrees (1) 2000-2006 = 313,219
11.85% of yr. 2000 employment.

(1) U.S. permanent resident B.S C.S.

Proving the excessive supply lowers wages
The Bottom of the Pay Scale
Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers

Furthermore, the H-1B and L-1 are primarily used by Offshore outsourcing specialists.

Top 20 H-1B Employer list 2006:

2006 H-1B and L-1 visas in Top 20 list -- Total visas = 48,159

Business Process Outsourcing Specialists (12)
Total H-1B and L-1 visas reported = 35,365
Percentage of "Top 20" Total = 73.43%

Accounting Services (2)
Total H-1B and L-1 visas reported = 2980
Percentage of "Top 20" Total = 6.19%

Producers of Tangible Goods (6)
Total H-1B and L-1 visas reported = 9814
Percentage of "Top 20" Total = 20.38%


Weaver said...

I'm still perplexed by Duke1676
"147" blog and following comment.

As for the 147, perhaps we are in agreement that guestworker programs have broken the green card system. Reportedly, 1.2 million in the green card backlog are guestworkers and family due to annual waivers.

Perhaps addressing just this paragraph from Duke1676:

"And it would appear that your unwillingness to limit you opposition to the guest worker programs you claim have had adverse effects in your industry, but rather to oppose all immigration whatsoever, says much about the true motives behind your campaigns."

"...true motives behind the campaigns."

Nope, not opposing all immigration, opposing immigration for economic gain. The true meaning of "free-trade" is the free movement of investment capital not the movement of human capital.

The commonality is not simply that they are immigrants, economic immigration retards capital investment abroad -- therefore causing the necessity to migrate.

The "job sharing" and layoffs that excessive immigration causes in the U.S. makes servicing a mortgage (on-time every month) nearly impossible over the 20 year period.

After a couple of late payments, refinancing in sub-prime is often times the only option to stave off foreclosure.

Furthermore, housing equity abroad cannot prosper when the working class migrates -- prolonging indefinitely the labor arbitrage duration.

The Employment Based green card system (with per country caps) was designed to encourage our trading partners to provide retirement programs for their workers.

As for the 12 million, I would support a witness protection program rather than a blanket amnesty -- those who will testify against an illegal employer should be granted protection by the prosecutor. The IRS would disallow the deduction of illegal-wages during the auditable period (3-7 yrs)

It's rather amusing how trickle- down is ridiculed, but the voodoo economics of "creative destruction" is swallowed hook-line and sinker.

RonF said...

What I might be willing to accept is that if an illegal alien turns themselves and their employer in, they get a grace period to get a new job if they need to. If that illegal alien also has not violated any laws other than those related to entering the U.S. and getting and maintaining a job, and if they've had a job and have been off of state or federal assistance for, say, 75% of the time they have been in the U.S., then they become eligible for permanent resident alien status and can remain in the U.S. as long as they wish. But no citizenship; the privilege of voting for those who make and enforce our laws cannot be given to someone who is here because they broke them.