THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Analyzes The Trump/GOP Push For “Merit-Based” Immigration!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/trump-cotton-perdue-merit-based-immigration-system/518985/

Alvarez writes:

“President Trump’s proposal to shift towards a “merit-based” immigration system would upend an approach that has existed for half a century.

Since the 1960s, the United States’ immigration system has largely based entry on family ties, giving preference to those with relatives who are citizens. But in his first address to a joint session of Congress in February, Donald Trump proposed moving away from that policy, focusing instead on an immigration system that would prioritize high-skilled immigrants.

Trump and his advisors have argued that the current levels of immigration harm American workers by lowering wages and preventing assimilation. A merit-based system, restrictionist advocates believe, would help lower immigration rates and ensure that the immigrants who do come are high-skilled workers who never need public assistance. “The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” Trump said in his speech to Congress.

While the president has yet to offer details, a merit-based system would pose its own challenges to economic prosperity. Critics believe that  a merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers could hurt the economy by harming industries that rely on low-skill immigrant labor, and that fears that immigrants are not assimilating or are overly reliant on the social safety net are overblown.

The first example of the U.S. establishing qualifications for new immigrants was in 1917, when the government imposed a literacy test on those seeking to enter the country. In the 1960s, Congress lifted restrictions that heavily curtailed immigration from non-European nations, and reshaped the immigration system toward prioritizing admission of close relatives of immigrants already living in the United States. The overwhelming majority of immigrants are now admitted through that family-preference system, which significantly changed the ethnic composition of U.S. immigrant population by admitting more Latin American and Asian immigrants.

In 2015, for example, of the more than one million legal permanent residents admitted, “44 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, [and] 20 percent entered through a family-sponsored preference,” according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. Only 14 percent of those admitted came through a job-based preference. The “merit-based” immigration system, in theory, would increase the latter figure, as it would prioritize those who are highly educated and therefore considered more employable.

Such a policy would likely limit the supply of low-skilled workers, and might allow the administration to filter which immigrants it chooses to admit. And a merit-based immigration system could also help realize a longtime conservative policy goal—a reduction in the number of immigrants admitted overall.

Some Republican lawmakers have already pushed for legislation that would limit legal immigration. Last month, Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced legislation that would cut the number of immigrants legally admitted to the United States in half. It would do so in part by limiting the number of family members immigrants can sponsor for citizenship, a policy long sought by immigration restrictionist groups.

Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports curtailing immigration, said a merit-based approach could reduce the flow of immigrants coming into the United States. “The merit-system is also a surrogate for moving away from a system that the country doesn’t really get to control and regulate how many come in every year and who they are because of chain migration, the family-preference system,” Stein said, adding that a points system would be one part of the whole.

Nevertheless, assessing “merit” is difficult. A system that deliberately excluded low-skilled workers might raise labor costs in industries that rely on those workers, increasing prices for consumers but boosting wages for workers.”

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Read the full article at the link.

Third-year law student Saurabh Gupta introduced this article as part of our class discussion of “Family-Based Immigration” during my Immigration Law and Policy class at Georgetown Law last week. Needless to say, it provoked a lively and informative discussion, with students exploring the arguments on both sides as well of the practicalities of running such a system on a larger scale.

PWS

06-10-17

Administration’s Enforcement Policies: More Arrests, Fewer Removals — Backlogs Grow!

https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/05/under-trump-immigrants-arrests-are-up-but-deportation-is-down/527103/

Aria Bendix reports in The Atlantic:

“Notably, Trump’s second executive order also expands the number of undocumented immigrants who are considered “priorities for removal.” Under the new legislation, any undocumented immigrant who poses a “risk to public safety or national security” qualifies as a priority. This marks a significant departure from the Obama administration, which designated immigrants convicted of serious crimes—including gang members, convicted felons, or those convicted of multiple misdemeanors—as priorities. In January, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association called Trump’s plan “a blueprint for mass deportation”—a claim both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have denounced.

In February, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly released two memos describing how Trump’s executive orders would be enforced in the U.S. According to Wednesday’s ICE report, Kelly “has made it clear that ICE will no longer exempt any class of individuals from removal proceedings if they are found to be in the country illegally.” Despite these new security measures, Homan told reporters that deportations have actually declined by 12 percent under the Trump administration. This is because more undocumented immigrants are being arrested in the interior of the country rather than along the border. As a result, they often face lengthy hearings in the nation’s immigration court system.”

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Doesn’t seem like increasing Immigration Court backlogs is sound enforcement policy. But, other reports suggest that the FEAR strategy is prompting undocumented residents to leave the US. So, perhaps from that standpoint it is succeeding.

THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Gives The Real Scoop On Trump’s Failed Border Wall & Other Plans For Border Enforcement!

https://apple.news/ANv1VbtW7RSeRiPNUodE0rA

 

“Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, said on Tuesday that the administration will replace segments of chain-link fencing with a 20-foot-tall steel fence along the southern border, despite Congress refusal to fund the president’s border wall in its spending bill.
Trump, for his part, has claimed that the administration is “beginning to build the wall,” which was a central plank of his presidential campaign, saying that “we’re putting up a lot of new wall in certain areas.” Mulvaney elaborated Tuesday that there is funding to “replace cyclone fencing with 20-foot high steel wall.” He declined repeated questions from White House reporters about where along the border the fencing would go, or how many miles it would cover.
He was apparently referring to a provision in the spending bill unveiled by Congress earlier this week, which falls well short of the president’s repeated pledges. The bill allocates a little more than $341 million “to replace approximately 40 miles of existing primary pedestrian and vehicle border fencing along the southwest border using previously deployed and operationally effective designs, such as currently deployed steel bollard designs, that prioritize agent safety; and to add gates to existing barriers.” According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, existing vehicle and pedestrian fencing along the border averaged somewhere between $1 and $3.9 million to erect. The budget allocation implies that replacing that fencing with a steel-bollard design would cost $8.5 million per mile.
In 2006, President George W. Bush authorized the construction of a 700-mile wall of double layer fencing under the Secure Fence Act. Still, to seal off the border entirely, the wall would have to extend roughly 2,000 miles. And that’s a costly endeavor. According to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security, the wall’s price tag could be as much as $21.6 billion.

So far, the administration has only secured funds to improve existing fencing. When pressed on whether that was the most effective way to spend funds, Mulvaney said, “There are certain places where technology will also help.” He also noted that constructing a wall along the entire southern border “is a several year process.”
Building a wall along the southern border is a difficult task, and that may be especially true for the administration as it tries to close off the border in new areas. Mulvaney suggested that the administration will also prepare  for land acquisition. During the Bush years, the administration focused on areas where most of the land belonged to the federal government, but along the Texas-Mexico border, much of  the land is private property, raising the issue of eminent domain. Republicans have expressed concerns over the use of eminent domain, which some argue is an example of big government overreach, setting up a whole separate challenge for the White House.”

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Read Priscilla’s complete article at the link!  Trump just can’t admit that his really bad idea is — a really bad idea! And it’s not just Dems and advocates who think so!!

PWS

05-02-17

TRUMP’S “DISSING” OF MEXICO MIGHT BACKFIRE — BIG TIME! — If Mexico Plays The “China Card” The U.S. Might Regret Electing A Bully As President!

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/05/mexicos-revenge/521451/

Franklin Foer writes in The Atlantic:

“The Mexico–U.S. border is long, but the history of close cooperation across it is short. As recently as the 1980s, the countries barely contained their feelings of mutual contempt. Mexico didn’t care for the United States’ anticommunist policy in Central America, especially its support of Nicaraguan rebels. In 1983, President Miguel de la Madrid obliquely warned the Reagan administration against “shows of force which threaten to touch off a conflagration.” Relations further unraveled following the murder of the DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Former Mexican police officers aided drug traffickers who kidnapped and mercilessly tortured Camarena, drilling a hole in his skull and leaving his corpse in the Michoacán countryside. The Reagan administration reacted with fury at what it perceived as Mexican indifference to Camarena’s disappearance, all but shutting down the border for about a week. The episode seemed a return to the fraught days of the 1920s, when Calvin Coolidge’s administration derided “Soviet Mexico” and Hearst newspapers ginned up pretexts for a U.S. invasion.

. . . .

Once the threat of Soviet expansion into the Western Hemisphere vanished, the United States paid less-careful attention to Latin America. It passively ceded vast markets to the Chinese, who were hunting for natural resources to feed their sprouting factories and build their metropolises. The Chinese invested heavily in places like Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela, discreetly flexing soft power as they funded new roads, refineries, and railways. From 2000 to 2013, China’s bilateral trade with Latin America increased by 2,300 percent, according to one calculation. A raft of recently inked deals forms the architecture for China to double its annual trade with the region, to $500 billion, by the middle of the next decade. Mexico, however, has remained a grand exception to this grand strategy. China has had many reasons for its restrained approach in Mexico, including the fact that Mexico lacks most of the export commodities that have attracted China to other Latin American countries. But Mexico also happens to be the one spot in Latin America where the United States would respond with alarm to a heavy Chinese presence.

That sort of alarm is just the thing some Mexicans would now like to provoke. What Mexican analysts have called the “China card”—a threat to align with America’s greatest competitor—is an extreme retaliatory option. Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda told me he considers it an implausible expression of “machismo.” Unfortunately, Trump has elevated machismo to foreign-policy doctrine, making it far more likely that other countries will embrace the same ethos in response. And while a tighter Chinese–Mexican relationship would fly in the face of recent economic history, Trump may have already set it in motion.

The painful early days of the Trump administration have reminded Mexico of a core economic weakness: The country depends far too heavily on the American market. “Mexico is realizing that it has been overexposed to the U.S., and it’s now trying to hedge its bets,” says Kevin Gallagher, an economist at Boston University who specializes in Latin America. “Any country where 80 percent of exports go to the U.S., it’s a danger.” Even with a friendly American president, Mexico would be looking to loosen its economic tether to its neighbor. The presence of Trump, with his brusque talk of tariffs and promises of economic nationalism, makes that an urgent task.Until recently, a Mexican–Chinese rapprochement would have been unthinkable. Mexico has long steered clear of China, greeting even limited Chinese interest in the country with wariness. It rightly considered China its primary competition for American consumers. Immediately after nafta went into effect in 1994, the Mexican economy enjoyed a boom in trade and investment. (A flourishing U.S. economy and an inevitable turn in Mexico’s business cycle helped account for these years of growth too.) Then, in 2001, the World Trade Organization admitted China, propelling the country further into the global economy. Many Mexican factories could no longer compete; jobs disappeared practically overnight.Mexico’s hesitance to do business with the Chinese was also a tribute to the country’s relationship with the “Yanquis.” A former Mexican government official told me that Barack Obama’s administration urged his country to steer clear of Chinese investment in energy and infrastructure projects. These conversations were a prologue to the government’s decision to scuttle a $3.7 billion contract with a Chinese-led consortium to build a bullet train linking Mexico City with Querétaro, a booming industrial center. The cancellation was a fairly selfless gesture, considering the sorry state of Mexican infrastructure, and it certainly displeased the Chinese.

But China has played the long game, and its patience has proved farsighted. The reason so many Chinese are ascending to the middle class is that wages have tripled over the past decade. The average hourly wage in Chinese manufacturing is now $3.60. Over that same period of time, hourly manufacturing wages in Mexico have fallen to $2.10. Even taking into account the extraordinary productivity of Chinese factories—not to mention the expense that comes with Mexico’s far greater fidelity to the rules of international trade—Mexico increasingly looks like a sensible place for Chinese firms to set up shop, particularly given its proximity to China’s biggest export market.Mexico began quietly welcoming a greater Chinese presence even before the American presidential election. In October, China’s state-run media promised that the two countries “would elevate military ties to [a] new high” and described the possibility of joint operations, training, and logistical support. A month and a half later, Mexico sold a Chinese oil company access to two massive patches of deepwater oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. And in February, the billionaire Carlos Slim, a near-perfect barometer of the Mexican business elite’s mood, partnered with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile to produce SUVs in Hidalgo, a deal that will ultimately result in the production of 40,000 vehicles a year. These were not desultory developments. As Beijing’s ambassador to Mexico City put it in December, with the American election clearly on the brain: “We are sure that cooperation is going to be much strengthened.”. . . .

Not so long ago—for most of the postwar era, in fact—the United States and Mexico were an old couple who lived barely intersecting lives, hardly talking, despite inhabiting the same abode. Then the strangest thing happened: The couple started chatting. They found they actually liked each other; they became codependent. Now, with Trump’s angry talk and the Mexican resentment it stirs, the best hope for the persistence of this improved relationship is inertia—the interlocking supply chain that crosses the border and won’t easily pull apart, the agricultural exports that flow in both directions, all the bureaucratic cooperation. Unwinding this relationship would be ugly and painful, a strategic blunder of the highest order, a gift to America’s enemies, a gaping vulnerability for the homeland that Donald Trump professes to protect, a very messy divorce.”

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Remember, folks, you read about the potential “Chinexico” disaster first on Courtside! http://wp.me/p8eeJm-AF

Pretty scary when we elect a President who might understand even less about the global politico-economic situation than a retired U.S. Immigration Judge!

PWS

04-234-17

 

 

 

THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Exposes Nation’s Largest Failing Court System: U.S. Immigration Court — Quoting Me: “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained, . . . .” — No Amount Of Resources Can Overcome Screwed Up Priorities, Political Meddling, & Management Problems Inherent In The Current “Designed To Fail” System — Due Processes Takes A Back Seat!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/trump-immigration-court-ice/523557/

Priscilla writes in an article that also contains quotes from highly respected DC area immigration practitioner Dree Collopy (emphasis added in below excerpt):

“Responding to the 2014 migrant wave, the Obama administration temporarily redirected immigration judges to the southern border to preside over removal proceedings and bond hearings, and review whether any individuals’ claims of fear of persecution were credible. Immigration cases being heard in other parts of the United States had to be put on hold, said Jeremy McKinney, an attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The surge was the first time we saw a deployment of immigration judges to the border, resulting in non-detained dockets in the United States getting much worse,” McKinney said, referring to cases that do not require detention. “That situation already put a strain on the interior immigration courts.”

The Justice Department, which hires judges for immigration courts, was also tied up by the budget sequester from 2011 to 2014, so there weren’t enough judges to try cases, he added. Over time, the backlog grew from around 327,000 cases at the end of the 2012 fiscal year to half a million in 2016.

Judge Paul Schmidt, who was appointed in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft, had around 10,000 immigration cases pending when he left his job last year. “When I retired, I was sending cases to 2022,” he told me. Schmidt, who primarily served in the Arlington Immigration Court in northern Virginia, was assigned to those not considered a priority—say, people who had traffic violations. The current national backlog, Schmidt said, largely consists of cases like the ones he handled.

The Trump administration has taken steps that could quicken the courts’ work. For one, ICE officers can now deport someone immediately, without a hearing, if they fit certain criteria and have lived in the United States for up to two years. Under the last administration, that timeline was up to two weeks, and the individual needed to be within 100 miles of the border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced, in a speech on the Arizona-Mexico border, that the Department of Justice will add 125 immigration judges to the bench over the next two years: 50 this year and 75 in 2018. He urged federal prosecutors to prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.”

“You have to give Sessions credit for this,” Schmidt said. “He took note of the 18-to-24-month cycle for filling judges and said he was going to streamline that.” The math still doesn’t exactly work out, however. “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained,” he said. Factor in the fact that it takes up to two years to become “fully productive,” he said, and altogether, it could take five to six years for the 125 new judges to cut down the backlog.

All the while, new cases will continue to come in as the administration enforces its new, broader policies on deportation. Newly detained individuals will be prioritized over other cases, which will be pushed further down the road. “I think it has a particular impact on asylum-seekers, because the sense of being in limbo really seems to prolong their trauma and their sense of statelessness that they have,” said Dree Collopy, an immigration lawyer in Washington, D.C. And hearing delays can affect asylum-seekers’ credibility, as well as evidence to support their cases: “Over time, especially when trauma is involved, memories begin to fade.” If a person can’t testify until years after entering the United States, “that can obviously cause problems.”

When Collopy first started practicing immigration law in 2007, cases generally would take about a year or two to complete. That’s no longer the case: “Now, it’s taking four or five years on average,” she told me. With the Trump administration rounding up undocumented immigrants quicker than courts can process cases, that delay isn’t likely to shorten.”

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Read Priscilla’s full article at the above link.

A “smart” strategy would address the 542,000 pending cases before piling on new priorities. Under a more rational policy, those in the current backlog with equities in the U.S., “clean records,” or only minor criminal histories, could be offered “prosecutorial discretion” (“PD”) and taken off the Immigration Court’s docket to make room for higher priority cases.

However, instead of encouraging more use of PD, which was starting to make some difference by the end of the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has basically made “everything” a potential “priority.” Moreover, as a “double whammy” the Administration has basically “disempowered” those at DHS who know the Immigration Court system the best, the local ICE Assistant Chief Counsel, from freely exercising PD to take non-criminal cases off the docket.

Ironically, at the same time, DHS appears to be giving line enforcement agents the “green light” to arrest just about anyone who might be removable for any reason. However, the line agents unlikely to understand the limitations of the current Immigration Court system and what is already “on the docket.”

The Immigration Court system is basically the opposite of most other law enforcement systems where prosecutors, rather than policemen or agents, determine what cases will be brought before the court. And, in most functioning court systems, the individual sitting judges control their own dockets, rather than having priorities set by politically-driven non-judicial bureaucrats in other places. It certainly appears to be a prescription for disaster. Stay tuned!

PWS

04-21-17

NOTE: In an earlier version of this article I “blew” Priscilla’s name by calling her “Patricia.” My apologies. I’ve now corrected it.

THE ATLANTIC: Our Unhappy Immigration History — President Herbert Hoover’s Anti-Immigrant Policies Resulted In The “Mexican Repatriation” — U.S. Citizens Were The Majority Of Those Illegally Removed!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/americas-brutal-forgotten-history-of-illegal-deportations/517971/

Alex Wagner writes:

“Back in Hoover’s era, as America hung on the precipice of economic calamity—the Great Depression—the president was under enormous pressure to offer a solution for increasing unemployment, and to devise an emergency plan for the strained social safety net. Though he understood the pressing need to aid a crashing economy, Hoover resisted federal intervention, instead preferring a patchwork of piecemeal solutions, including the targeting of outsiders.
According to former California State Senator Joseph Dunn, who in 2004 began an investigation into the Hoover-era deportations, “the Republicans decided the way they were going to create jobs was by getting rid of anyone with a Mexican-sounding name.”

“Getting rid of” America’s Mexican population was a random, brutal effort. “For participating cities and counties, they would go through public employee rolls and look for Mexican-sounding names and then go and arrest and deport those people,” said Dunn. “And then there was a job opening!”

“We weren’t rounding up people who were Canadian,” he added. “It was an absolutely racially-motivated program to create jobs by getting rid of people.”

Why, specifically, men and women of Mexican heritage? Professor Francisco Balderrama, whose book, A Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s is the most definitive chronicle of the period (and, not coincidentally, one of the only ones), explained: “Mexican immigration was very recent. It goes back to that saying: Last hired, first fired. The attitude of many industrialists and agriculturalists was reflected in larger cities: A Mexican is a Mexican.” And that included even those citizens of Mexicans descent who were born in the U.S. “That is sort of key in understanding the psychic of the nation,” said Balderrama.

The so-called repatriation effort was, in large part, a misnomer, given the fact that as many as sixty percent of those sent to “home” Mexico were U.S. citizens: American-born children of Mexican-descent who had never before traveled south of the border. (Dunn noted, “I don’t know how you can repatriate someone to a country they’ve not been born or raised in.”)

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Pretty grotesque.  Where’s the apology? Where is the circumspection? Where its the humanity in the Administration’s new “immigrant scapegoating” program?

Thanks much to Nolan Rappaport for bringing this interesting, if disturbing, piece of immigration history to my attention.

PWS

03/06/17

The Atlantic: The Eternal Wall — Even Two Terms Might Not Be Enough To Complete “Trump’s Folly!”

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/02/21/president-trump-takes-very-nuanced-approach-to-daca-retention-see-the-video-clip-from-cnn/

Nolan Rappaport forwarded this very interesting piece by ADRIENNE LAFRANCE in The Atlantic:

“The construction of a massive wall along the border of the United States and Mexico is one of President Donald Trump’s central campaign promises. And it’s a promise he intends to keep.

Within days of taking the oath of office in January, Trump began laying the groundwork for the construction of a series of walls and fences that would span some 1,250 miles along the border. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo outlining its commitment to “begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall” to deter and prevent illegal entry into the United States. The memo follows an executive order in which Trump called for the wall’s “immediate construction.”

But how immediately can Trump’s wall be built?

One of the latest estimates, from an internal Department of Homeland Security report obtained by Reuters, is that the wall will take three-and-a-half years to build. The agency is aiming to seal the border in three phases of construction of fences and walls, completing its work by the end of 2020, Reuters reported.
But that estimate is almost certainly too ambitious, and for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s the fact that Congress still has to approve the bulk of the money for a project that is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars, according to several estimates.

Even if lawmakers approved that kind of cash this week, the wall almost certainly wouldn’t be complete by the end of Trump’s first term—or even a potential second term. The “iron law” of infrastructural megaprojects, according to a paper by Bent Flyvbjerg published in the Project Management Journal in 2014, is that they will go “over budget, over time, over and over again.”

This is obviously the case in projects where everything that can go wrong seemingly does (think: Boston’s infamous Big Dig highway project). But even for well-managed megaprojects, building major infrastructure always seems to take longer than estimates suggest. Sometimes that’s because a time estimate only pertains to the actual construction—not the time leading up to it, says Andrew Natsios, the director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University.”

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Gotta ask the obvious question:  Why not repair bridges and highways to somewhere rather than build a wall to nowhere?

PWS

02/21/17