U.S. Senators Oppose U.S. Reduction in Refugee Admissions for Fiscal 2020 

As reported in a prior post. President Trump has reduced the number of refugee admissions to the U.S. for Fiscal 2020 (October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020) to 18,000.

Now a group of 10 Democratic U.S. senators have voiced opposition to that reduction. They are Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN), Cory Booker (NJ) and Kamala Harris (CA)—all of whom are candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020—plus Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT), Christopher Coons (DE), Richard Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Mazie Hirono (HI), Patrick Leahy (VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).[1]

First, they say the new quota “could effectively—and perhaps intentionally—damage our long-term capacity to resettle refugees” in the U.S. The new quota “could effectively end” the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program by “starving the infrastructure built by resettlement agencies” that helps “refugees integrate into U..S. communities.” Already because of previous reductions in this quota by the Trump Administration, “approximately 100 offices operated by “ such agencies (as of April 2019) have closed.

Second, “the administration’s allocation of refugee admissions among particular categories of individuals could render it impossible to meet even the depressed cap of 18,000 refugees.” One example is the 4,000 for Iraqis, where because of lengthy U.S. security checks very few already are being admitted. Another example is the 7,500 allocated for others appears to exclude individuals referred by the U.N.

Third, another threat to the continued operation of refugee resettlement is  the President’s executive order’s stating “that refugees may only be resettled ‘in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments have consented to receive refugees. . . . This requirement undoubtedly cause disruptions and disputes in the refugee settlement process—which, incidentally, already includes a consultation process with state and local officials. Moreover, permitting state and local jurisdictions to drive refugee policy subverts over a century of binding Supreme court precedent . . . that immigration policy . . . is uniquely within the purview of the federal government.”

They concluded, “We are facing the most significant displacement and refugee crisis in modern history. Reaffirming our historic role as the world’s humanitarian leader in this moment is not just about promoting our values. It is about protecting our security interests.”

The senators, therefore, requested a briefing about the new, lower quota. in their joint letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan.

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[1] Letter, Senators Blumenthal, et al. to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan (Nov. 6, 2019); Senator Feinstein, Feinstein, Harris, Leahy Lead Judiciary Democrats Urging Briefing Following Latest Trump Admin Move to Restrict Refugees (Nov. 6, 2019); Senator Harris, Harris, Leahy Lead Judiciary Democrats Urging Briefing Following Latest Trump Admin Move to Restrict Refugees (Nov. 6, 2019); Rao, Senator Klobuchar, other senators oppose reduction in refugees, StarTribune (Nov. 10, 2019); Senator Leahy, Harris and Leahy Lead Judiciary Democrats Urging Briefing Following Latest Trump Admin Move to Restrict Refugees (Nov. 6, 2019).

 

Voters Approve  School Bond Referenda in Worthington, Minnesota  

On November 5, the voters  in the Independent School District of Worthington, Minnesota approved, 1,780 to 1,644, a $ 33.7 million school bonding proposal to construct a new intermediate school with additional $5 million funding from the District’s general fund. The voters also approved, 1,760 to 1,662, the district’s proposal to refinance $14 million in debt so that agriculture property becomes eligible for tax credit.[1]

This outcome was attributable, in part, to a get-out-the-vote effort led by a local group, Seeds of Change. It mobilized “immigrant families, whose children sit in the majority of the desks in those crowded schools, . . . door knocking, phone banking, translating ballots into some of the 37 languages their neighbors speak.” One of these volunteers, “Aida Simon, who works several days a week as a translator at the crowded middle school her children attend, . . . said the election result made her feel like she belonged in Worthington. ‘It felt like this is my town, my community. I’m going nowhere,” she said. “This is where I’m going to raise my kids and I’m going to invest all I have.’”

The District’s Superintendent, John Landgaard, said, he was “thrilled” that the vote will allow the needs of the students and staff to be met. “Supporting our kids is important.” Similar thoughts were voiced by the chairperson of the District’s board, Brad Shaffer. These approvals came after four other bonding proposals had been defeated, 2016-2019.

Background on these schools and bonding proposals was set forth in a lengthy article in the Sunday StarTribune before the voting.[2] It noted, “As recently as 20 years ago, more than three-fourths of Worthington’s residents were white. Today, 60% are people of color, as well as 70% of the students in the school district. Much of the shift stems from the rush of immigrants who arrived here seeking work, many of them finding it at JBS Pork, a slaughterhouse on the edge of town that employs 2,400 workers.”

Although some residents had resisted spending more money on the schools for these newcomers, “Many residents praise the new arrivals, noting the economic and cultural vitality they bring to the city. At least 50 local businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, auto shops and accounting firms, are owned by immigrants. Downtown houses several Mexican restaurants, Asian and Hispanic food markets, and stores selling imported goods. And each day around 4 p.m., after the early shift has let out at JBS, families stream into Panaderia Mi Tierra, a Latino bakery, where they pluck pastries from glass cases.”

“In the downtown, all the storefronts are full and it’s busy,” said Sharon Johnson, a lifelong resident who owns a downtown jewelry store and also serves as director of community education. “The cultures we are exposed to through music and food and art have really made this a wonderful place to live.”

“Bill Keitel owns Buffalo Billfold Co., a leather goods shop, and also owns rental property. “As a landlord, if I didn’t have these immigrants, my property values would plummet — as would everybody’s,” he said. “I look on them as our salvation, not our problem.”

Although many farmers in the school district opposed the bonding, one of them, Matt Widboom, voiced support. He said, ““It’s a lot [of money], but it’s an investment.” The county (Nobles)  and Worthington are among the few places in rural Minnesota that are rapidly growing, and education will be a key to sustaining the growth. “There are two jobs for every person in Nobles County. We don’t have the people to fill the jobs. We need to retain these kids.”

Congratulations to Worthington for welcoming these immigrants. [3]

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[1] Sobotka, All area school referendums approved by voters, The Globe (Nov. 5, 2019); Sobotka, UPDATED, District 518 voters approve all three referendum questions, The Globe (Nov. 5, 2019).Brooks, After all-out push, students get a ‘yes’ vote on Worthington schools, StarTribune (Nov. 6, 2019); Miller, Minn. town split over immigration agrees on sixth try to expand overcrowded schools, Wash. Post (Nov. 6, 2019.

[2] Reinan, Worthington, Minn., schools a test of immigration policy, StarTribune (Nov. 3, 2019).

[3] See also these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Minnesota’s Challenges of Declining, Aging Population (Oct. 2, 2019); Worthington’s Mayor Defends His City (Oct. 3, 2019); Immigrants’ Stories from Worthington Minnesota (Oct. 21, 2019).

 

Immigrants’ Stories from Worthington, Minnesota 

A previous post reviewed the Mayor of Worthington Minnesota’s defense of its large population of immigrants. Now, Andrea Durate-Alonso, a resident of that town and an American daughter of Mexican immigrants, has created an inspiring online collection of stories by the immigrants in that town. [1]

Her collection, entitled “Stories from Unheard Voices,” was prompted by her desire to debunk Donald Trump’s calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” in his 2016 presidential campaign. It documents an ”oral history” of the town’s immigrants: “Why did they come here? What are they escaping from? And how do their journeys shape the lives of their children?” Her interviews focus on individual experiences and empower the immigrants and their children to own their narratives and “feel human, to feel like they’re more than just undocumented, they’re more than just . . .immigrant[s]. They’re . . . actual human being[s] with feelings, with . . .emotions, who are more than just these other identities that they have.”

One of her interviewees, Elizabeth Coriolan, a Haitian-American, said it was a struggle for her to live in the town. “We have such a diverse environment around us in so many cultures. We can appreciate their art, their food, their language, their people, but in the same sense we hide them just so the Caucasians don’t feel uncomfortable.”

Another woman, named Teresa, left Mexico so her daughter could undergo surgery for a cancerous mole. She stayed, she said, “One comes to work, to fight, to get ahead to help also the family that one has in Mexico. I am already old, but my children here have a great future.”

Collecting these stories also has enabled Duarte-Alonso to re-evaluate her own life. “As a light-skinned Latina, she said she had privileges growing up.” Yet some said she was not “black enough” to be a Latina while others said she was not “white enough” to be white.

Duarte-Alonso was born in Dodge City, Kansas and with her father later moved to Worthington, after which she attended St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. There she obtained a scholarship which helped fund her creation of this website.

Conclusion

Muchas gracias and felicitaciones, Andrea! Great idea to create this important contribution for  the people of Worthington, the State of Minnesota, the U.S., and the home countries of these human beings. I wish you every success as you continue your life’s journey!

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[1] Feshir, ‘Unheard Voices’ in Worthington now have their say, MPR News (Oct. 21, 2019); Stories from Unheard Voices (2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prominent Economist Says Cuts in U.S. Immigration Threaten U.S. Economy and Innovation   

Austan Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a former adviser to President Barack Obama, asserts, “The long-run health of the United States economy is in serious danger from a self-inflicted wound: the Trump administration’s big cuts in immigration.” [1]

First, he cites last year’s 70 percent decline in immigration to only 200,000 people, a principal cause of which was the Trump Administration’s “restrictions as well as the unwelcoming tone set by the president himself,” which will be exacerbated by its reduction of this year’s refugee quota to 30,000.

Second, Goolsbee says, “The impact of low immigration on the American economy will be profoundly negative, both now and in the future.”

He explains that the “growth rate of the economy comes from two parts: income growth per capita and population growth.” (Emphasis added.) However, the U.S. and other advanced economies are experiencing declining birthrates and aging populations. “The only way the United States [so far] has avoided the demographic pressure facing other rich countries is through immigration.”

“Without sustained immigration, [U.S.] economic growth will be notably slower.” Moreover, “lower immigration portends big problems because the basic American retirement system — Social Security and Medicare — relies on workers to pay for retirees, and the entire expansion of the work force over the next 15 years will come from immigration. Lower immigration rates will mean serious funding shortfalls for older Americans.”

Moreover, “evidence increasingly says having immigrants here makes workers born in the United States more successful.” These “immigrants start companies at twice the rate of native Americans.” There also is evidence that immigrants help foster innovation. “The essence of knowledge work is building on others’ ideas, and having fewer creative people from different backgrounds in the United States undermined the entire enterprise” under U.S. immigration laws of the 1920s that “were designed to block the entry of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and from Asia in order to preserve the ethnic ‘character’ of the United States.”

In short: “Making outsiders feel unwelcome, blocking asylum seekers or putting their children in cages may succeed in reducing the flow of immigration to the United States. But the American economy will suffer.”

Conclusion

This article provides additional evidence for this blog’s  consistent argument about the U.S. need for more immigrants. [2]

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[1] Goolsbee, Sharp Cuts in Immigration Threaten U.S. Economy and Innovation, N.Y. Times (Oct. 11, 2019).

[2] See, e.g., these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: More Warnings of the Problems Facing U.S. Aging, Declining Population (Aug. 14, 2019); Another Report About U.S. Need for More Immigrants (Aug. 25, 2019); Minnesota’s Challenges of Declining, Aging Population (Oct. 2, 2019); Worthington’s Mayor Defends City (Oct. 3, 2019).

 

 

 

Worthington’s Mayor Defends His City  

The prior post discussed controversies surrounding Worthington, Minnesota in the southwest corner of the State. Now we thank the city’s Mayor, Mike Kuhle, for his robust defense of the city. Here are his main points.[1]

“Worthington’s immigration benefits far, far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. The ‘bus driver’ article [in the Washington Post], as it has become known, does not fairly represent the effects of immigration on our community.”

“Since the early 2000s, we have grown from a town of 10,000 mostly Caucasian residents to a population of more than 13,000. While most communities outside of the metropolitan areas have struggled to grow or even maintain populations, Worthington is moving ahead, in a variety of ways.

“Economic development”

“Worthington has 47 minority-owned small businesses that contribute to our tax base and provide jobs for our community. They pay real estate taxes either directly or through the rent they pay to landlords. The wages these businesses pay reverberate throughout our entire community. Our main street for the most part is filled with tenants and is thriving. I have been through communities that have main streets with a lot of vacant buildings. Not Worthington.”

“The JBS pork processing plant has grown because of the available workforce in our community. Its economic impact on our community and surrounding area is around $100 million in the form of wages, real estate taxes, sales taxes and hogs purchased from farmers within 100 miles of Worthington. Approximately 24,000 hogs are processed each day, from which the farmers benefit financially. The crops they grow that are turned into feed help to increase the value of their products. The hog facilities needed to grow the animals to meet the demand of JBS are an important source of income as well.”

“The ag bioscience/animal vaccine sector is thriving in Worthington as well.”

“Immigration has helped to provide badly needed employees for these businesses and the surrounding area. The farming community has benefited from the availability of immigrant workers. Without immigrants moving to Worthington, we would likely be a community in decline.”

Cultural diversity

“Worthington has about 12 different cultures represented, from Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America. Our dining options are among the best in our region. Diversity is a good thing for our community and surrounding area, much as it was back in the early 1900s. Back then, the influx of immigrants mostly from Europe helped our community and the entire nation grow and prosper. Change and growth are a good thing.”

Public safety”

“We ranked as the third-safest city in the state of Minnesota in 2019 thanks to our police officers and Public Safety Director Troy Appel, who have reached out to the different ethnic groups and gained trust and relationships. They get involved with the community.”

Need for federal government solutions

“We need sensible solutions to the whole issue of immigration from the federal government, Congress and the president. Immigrants are vital to communities such as Worthington, as they provide employees and benefit us culturally.”

We “really need a better and faster pathway to citizenship. Some immigrants do not have a pathway to citizenship and are then forced into illegal status. An improved immigration system is vital to the future of Worthington and other communities.”

“In the end. immigrants just want a chance for a better life, and the children want to be united with their families. Worthington needs employees to grow and prosper.”

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[1]  Kuhle, Counterpoint: In Worthington, where I’m mayor, immigrants help us grow, thrive, StarTribune (Oct. 2, 2019).

 

Japan Shows Why U.S. Needs More Immigrants   

This blog consistently has argued for the U.S. needing more immigrants.[1] This argument is strengthened by looking at the problems being experienced by Japan with practically no immigration, as recounted by Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan political commentator with Japanese relatives. [2]

“Japan’s population is shrinking, with far-reaching consequences that seep into every corner of life here. . . . As the country ages and older people die with no one to replace them, neighborhoods across Japan are also slowly dying.”

Just one sign of this is the existence of “abandoned houses like the one blighting my in-laws’ street. . . .Such houses have “fallen badly into disrepair. None of the heirs seems interested in [them]: The taxes are too high, and there isn’t really a market for this kind of house anyway.]”

“As many as 8 million houses in Japan are vacant, and the trend is only deepening. Rural villages are disappearing, and more and more Japanese towns and suburbs have become ‘dying communities’ where children are a rare sight; authorities barely manage to find the care workers needed to look after legions of retirees.”

“A solid [Japanese] political consensus has rejected mass immigration here for as long as anyone can remember, leaving this one of the most homogeneous countries on earth. You can think of Japan as a kind of Trumpian paradise: an ethnically defined national community with few foreigners. And no future.” (Emphasis added.)

Japan has a “demographic collapse that has left the country a pale shadow of the economic powerhouse that made Americans paranoid a generation ago. A chronic dearth of new workers has left economic growth lagging for a generation, turning “japanification” into economic shorthand for decline. All that — plus the ossified 1950s gender roles that simply never went away here — has turned Japan into one of the least attractive places for women to have children. Low birth rates only compound the demographic death spiral.”

“The [Japanese] government has begun making more work permits available to foreign workers, but makes little effort to help them integrate. Visa rules force most foreign workers to apply for extensions frequently and prevent them from bringing their families. By all accounts, discrimination in housing is rife, as well as perfectly legal. The foreign workers who do come can’t fail to hear the message: Come, work, but don’t think you’re welcome to stay.”

In short, “economic imperatives and cultural consensus are at war in Japan . . . . It’s no longer possible for the country to continue to pretend it can get by without migrants. But it’s politically impossible to truly welcome them, either. The result is that more and more jobs simply stay vacant, not just in industry and agriculture but also in the kinds of elder-care jobs this aging country most desperately needs to fill.”

For the U.S., Japan is “a bright red warning sign of demographic meltdown, and an indictment of a society that has chosen homogeneity over progress. . . . [H]omogeneity leads to decline, while diversity offers at least a chance of ongoing vitality and prosperity.”

Japan also may have a positive message for the U.S.  After reviewing the many problems in U.S. “assisted-living” facilities, the author says, “Perhaps the United States can learn from Japan, which is a few decades ahead of us in grappling with how to care for its rapidly aging population. Japan created a national long-term-care insurance system that is mandatory. It is partly funded by the government but also by payroll taxes and additional insurance premiums charged to people age 40 and older. It is a family-based, community-based system, where the most popular services are heavily subsidized home help and adult day care. Japanese families still use nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but the emphasis is on supporting the elder population at home.” [3]

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[1] See, for example, these 2019 posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Another Report About U.S. Need for More Immigrants (Aug. 25, 2019); More Warnings of the Problems Facing U.S. Aging, Declining Population (Aug. 14, 2019); Additional Support for U.S. Needing More Immigrants (May 18, 2019); Trump Erroneously Says U.S. Is “Full,” (April 9, 2019); U.S. Construction Industry Needs More Immigrants (April 3, 2019); Businesses Need More Immigrants (Mar. 24, 2019);“America’s Farms Need Immigrants” (Mar. 22, 2019).

[2]  Toro, Japan is a Trumpian paradise of low immigration rates. It’s also a dying country, Wash. Post (Aug. 29, 2019).

[3]  Anand, How Not to Grow Old in America, N.Y. Times (Aug. 29, 2019).

 

Another Report About U.S. Need for More Immigrants

A New York Times article uses the need for employees in Miami’s restaurants to illustrate the U.S. need for more immigrants.[1]

“More immigrants have streamed into South Florida than to most American cities, and for decades, employers have relied on them to wash dishes, put up drywall and care for grandmothers. Still, there are not enough to fill Miami’s relentless boomtown demand for [restaurant] workers.”

“As unemployment rates nationwide have sunk to record lows, filching workers — from kitchens and construction sites, warehouses and Walmarts, truck cabs and nursing homes — has become routine. In cities like Miami that are magnets for immigrants, newcomers have filled some job openings, but employers across several industries and states insist that many more are needed for their businesses to function, let alone grow.”

“[M]ost economists say . . . that there is plenty of room [for immigrants]. Immigrants make the country richer, they argue. For example, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has advised Republican presidential candidates and now leads the conservative American Action Forum, says, “Without immigration, we shrink as a nation. . . .That’s because growth is driven by two ingredients: the size of the work force and how efficiently those workers produce things. And both are creeping well behind the postwar average.”

A key reason in this analysis is “Americans are having fewer babies. Birth rates fell last year to a three-decade low, ensuring that the next generation of native-born Americans will be smaller than the current one.”

Moreover, “using census data, the investment company the Blackstone Group estimates that without immigration, the working-age population between 25 and 64 years old would drop by 17 million by 2035. [Its Vice chairman of Private Wealth Solutions says,]“We really need immigrants. If we have a shrinking population, it’s going to be tough to have rising G.D.P.,” or gross domestic product.”

“At the moment, there are 7.3 million job openings nationwide and six million people unemployed. That gap is expected to widen as the number of retirees grows faster than the number of new workers.”

While some immigrants may take jobs from U.S. citizens, “they also help create jobs — by generating demand for goods and services like groceries, haircuts and homes.” In addition, “immigrants complement American workers. More educated women, for example, may decide to work if the availability of immigrants makes child care more affordable.”

This positive economic impact is seen in Dallas, Texas where 32.2% of all businesses are owned by immigrants while generating 55,000 jobs and nearly $495 million of business income. A study concluded that “immigrants tend to be more able, ambitious, aggressive and entrepreneurial than those who chose to stay in their place of origin.” [2]

Overhanging businesses, especially restaurants, in finding and hiring more workers is the legal risk of hiring undocumented individuals. In March and April of this year “the Social Security Administration sent letters to hundreds of thousands of business owners, notifying them that the names of some employees did not match the Social Security numbers on their tax forms.” In response some employers are planning to fire their undocumented workers or adopt more stringent hiring procedures such as using the E-Verify program to check the new hires’ documents. If, however, the employers ignore these “no-match” letters, a subsequent immigration audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement could conclude that they had “constructive knowledge” of their employees’ immigration status and thereby expose the employer to hefty fines and possible criminal charges. [3]

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[1] Cohen, Is Immigration at Its Limit? Not for Employers, N.Y.Times (Aug. 22, 2019). This blog consistently has argued that the U.S. needs more immigrants. See, for example, these 2019 posts to dwkcommentaries.com: More Warnings of the Problems Facing U.S. Aging, Declining Population (Aug. 14, 2019); Additional Support for U.S. Needing More Immigrants (May 18, 2019); Trump Erroneously Says U.S. Is “Full,” (April 9, 2019); U.S. Construction Industry Needs More Immigrants (April 3, 2019); Businesses Need More Immigrants (Mar. 24, 2019);“America’s Farms Need Immigrants” (Mar. 22, 2019).

[2] Vizcaino, ‘What do you lose if you don’t have anything?–Why 1 in 3 Dallas businesses are owned by immigrants, Dallas Morning News (Aug. 16, 2019)

[3] Yaffe-Bellany, Hiring Is Very Hard for Restaurants These Days. Now They May Have to Fire, N.Y. Times (Aug. 23, 2019).