Monday, January 10, 2022

Immigration Reform Is Still Possible — With a Strong Social Movement

Rally at SCOTUS Photo: Tom Williams/ Cq-Roll/Getty Images
2021 didn’t bring anything like the progress many immigrants and their allies were hoping for. But sustained grassroots organizing could turn the situation around in 2022.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout

January 10, 2022

A year ago, it seemed possible that the country might get its first truly positive immigration reform since the 1986 “Reagan amnesty.”

The incoming Biden administration was proposing legislation that would allow most of the country’s 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status. The outlines were subsequently included in the Build Back Better bill, but the Democrats had to pare the reform back in order to win approval from the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, under the arcane Senate reconciliation process. The Democrats’ most recent proposal was just a limited parole for some 6.5 million immigrants, and even that concession wasn’t enough for MacDonough. She nixed the plan on December 16.[…]

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Rally at SCOTUS Photo: Tom Williams/ Cq-Roll/Getty Images

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Are There “Foreigners” in the U.S. Working Class?

Judis, who has decades of experience on the U.S. left, succeeded in setting forth a clear and concise formulation of a socialist position in favor of immigration restrictions. In doing so, he inadvertently demonstrated how completely detached that position is from reality.

By David L. Wilson, MR Online

January 3, 2022

The libertarian magazine Reason ran an eye-catching headline in its August-September issue: “How Mass Immigration Stopped American Socialism.”

The article itself doesn’t do much more than reveal its authors’ ignorance about socialism and about socialist labor organizing in the early twentieth century, but it highlights a problem that has troubled U.S. socialists for more than a century. Pro-immigrant positions are natural for leftists; they have no trouble recognizing the dehumanization and the appeals to racism and xenophobia that underlie rightwing rhetoric against “open borders” and “illegal aliens.” But does socialist support for immigrants’ rights drive away U.S.-born workers?[…]

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Immigrants and supporters march on May Day. Photo: David Bacon

Thursday, December 9, 2021

My Conversation With a Coup Plotter

I found myself wondering how someone as obviously intelligent and well-educated as Eastman could present such flimsy arguments. Was he just lying, or had rightwing ideology warped his mind to the point where he could believe what he was writing?

By David L. Wilson, CounterPunch

John C. Eastman Photo: Public Domain
December 9, 2021

Claremont Institute legal scholar John Eastman is now best known for his efforts to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election, but in August 2015 he was still a professor at the Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law and someone whose legal opinions the New York Times considered worthy of publication.

The occasion back then was a proposal from candidate Donald Trump to end birthright citizenship. The current requirement that children born here be recognized as U.S. citizens was “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration,” he argued.[…]

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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Media Don’t Factcheck Right-Wing Migration Myths

[T]his imbalance is typical of much corporate media immigration coverage. Right-wing media figures and Republican politicians get little pushback when they promote evidence-free, often absurd claims about incentives for unauthorized immigration.

By David L. Wilson, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

December 1, 2021

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked a bizarre question at President Joe Biden’s November 3 press briefing. The president seemed to misunderstand the question, which referred to potential settlements of a lawsuit stemming from the Trump administration’s notorious 2017–18 family separation policy. Biden bungled his response, apparently calling reports about the settlement “garbage.”

Not surprisingly, the media ran with the story of Biden’s blunder. Doocy’s question, on the other hand, was mostly ignored or played down.[…]

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Photo: Los Angeles Times


Saturday, October 30, 2021

The “border crisis” numbers don’t add up

 ...[T]he “border crisis” narrative ignores several important differences between 2000 and 2021—the number of successful border crossings, the legal situation of the migrants who arrive, and the impact of a global pandemic.

By David L. Wilson, MR Online

October 29, 2021

In July, environmental activist Laiken Jordahl tweeted out a short video featuring what he called “the almighty border wall,” a section of fence at the Coronado National Forest in Arizona. The fence there includes several gates that need to be kept open at times of heavy rain. Without them, explained Jordahl, a staffer at Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity, debris would accumulate behind the structure and floodwaters would eventually knock the wall down.

The gates were wide open. The only barrier was a few strands of barbed wire: anyone could easily have clipped the wire and walked through. No Border Patrol agents were in sight; neither were any would-be migrants.[…]

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The Border Wall. Photo: David Bacon

Monday, October 25, 2021

What’s the Relation Between Border Apprehensions and Unauthorized Entries? Part 4

Now we can return to our original questions: does this year’s increase in border apprehensions mean that more undocumented migrants are settling here? Is it comparable to the border crossings in years like 2000?

Encounters and Admissions

On October 22 Customs and Border Enforcement (CBP) released fiscal 2021’s final number for migrants apprehended or expelled at the southwestern border: 1,734,686. This breaks down into 75,480 arriving at ports of entry and 1,659,206 crossing the border between ports of entry. The number is historically high, surpassing the 1,643,679 apprehended at that border in 2000. Still, there’s no reason to think that 1,734,686 migrants have been added to the U.S. undocumented population.


In fact, 1,063,526 of the migrants were immediately expelled under Title 42 of the U.S. health code, and another 128,851 were sent back through expedited removal, reinstatement of removal, voluntary return, or the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).


This leaves 542,309 border crossers admitted to the country, but the actual number is probably lower: 47,671 of these migrants still didn’t have a final disposition when CBP collected the data at the end of September, so some had probably been deported. The migrants admitted were almost all members of family units or as minors without their parents who were allowed to seek asylum: a total of 479,728 family unit members and 149,033 children without their parents were apprehended at the border. Note that seeking asylum is specifically protected by U.S. law, so it’s inaccurate to refer to asylum seekers’ entry as “illegal.”


Many thousands of the 542,309 migrants admitted to the country are undoubtedly now in immigration detention. The government doesn’t seem to have made the number available at this time.


The “Gotaways” and Overstays

There’s also a certain number of migrants who entered by crossing the border without being apprehended.


In Part 3 we estimated that the current apprehension rate was something like 80 percent. Applying this rate to the 1,659,206 migrants encountered at the border, we estimate that 414,802 migrants may have crossed the border without being apprehended, more than double the estimated numbers in 2016. But CBP seems to have a lower estimate: three anonymous CBP officials told the Washington Post in April that about 1,000 were crossing each day without being apprehended—which would come to 365,000 for the fiscal year.


Depending on how we count these “gotaways,” the total number of migrants joining the undocumented population through the southwestern border would be at most between 907,309 and 957,111.


But not all undocumented immigrants enter through the border. In Part 2 we cited estimates that as many as 66 percent of the new arrivals in 2016 were overstays. But this year’s number of overstays can’t be anything like the 306,000 to 320,000 we calculated for 2016.


Just as the pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted other migration patterns, it has dramatically changed the number of possible overstays. The US government has restricted travel from the areas that provided the most visitors in the past—China, the Schengen zone, the UK, India, Brazil—while much land entry from Mexico and Canada is also restricted. The result, according to 2021 policy brief from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), is an 80 percent drop in the number of visitors with non-immigrant visas.


Source: AILA 2021 Policy Brief

Applying the reduction in visas to the number of overstays from 2016, we get an estimate of just 61,000 or 62,000 overstays for all of fiscal 2021. But this is probably an underestimate, since more than 200,000 of the visas were presumably for H-2A temporary farmworkers; these are largely Mexicans, who have a high rate of overstays. To compensate for this, we round the overstays up to 120,000.

The Final Numbers

If we add overstays to the projected successful border crossers through September, we get between 1,127,309 and 1,177,111 migrants entering the undocumented population this fiscal year.


This is definitely higher than the unauthorized entries in recent years 2016, but still in line with the entries in each year from 1994 to 2006, and despite the media’s comparisons to 2000, below the estimated 1,389,322 entries for that year. As Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey, an expert on immigration patterns, noted earlier this year, the current increase could be a return to the pattern that characterized most of the last five decades, or it may show the effects of the COVID pandemic, which created economic hardships pushing more Mexican workers to cross the border and more people coming from relatively distant countries to seek asylum.


And we don’t yet know how the pandemic may have affected the number of migrants leaving the undocumented population. CMS’s estimate for 2016 was 771,000. If that number left this year, the total increase in the undocumented population would be less than 500,000.


In other words, despite ominous warnings about “illegal aliens” and a “border crisis,” this year’s the rate of unauthorized entry is probably less than it was in the early 2000s and may just represent a temporary effect of the global pandemic.


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Sunday, October 24, 2021

What’s the Relation Between Border Apprehensions and Unauthorized Entries? Part 3

In Part 2 we saw how to break down each year’s unauthorized arrivals into the overstays and the migrants that entered successfully through borders, almost always the southwestern border. But there are two groups of border crossers who join the unauthorized population: the migrants who entered without being apprehended, and the migrants who were apprehended but were allowed to remain—that is, were admitted temporarily to pursue claims for a legal status. (These migrants are still subject to deportation if they fail to win their cases.)

There are three different ways of estimating the number of migrants who entered the U.S. without being apprehended—the “gotaways,” in the Border Patrol’s actual official terminology..


The ACS-Based Apprehension Rate

The first method relies on estimates that demographers make for each year’s number of new arrivals in the undocumented population; they base these on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS; see Part 2). New arrivals consist of migrants who overstayed their visas, migrants who were apprehended at the border but were allowed to enter, and migrants who evaded apprehension.

For the number of new arrivals in 2016, for example, we can use the
2019 CMS report or Robert Warren’s 2018 report in combination with the unpublished CMS data we cited in Part 2. The 2019 report estimates 515,000 total arrivals to the undocumented population in 2016, while the unpublished CMS data puts the number at 623,000. From these estimates we can subtract the estimated overstays, 320,000 in the 2019 report and 306,000 in the 2018 report, to establish how many entered at a land border.


Next, we need to estimate the number of migrants that agents apprehended but allowed to enter the country. (As we noted in Part 1, these are mostly asylum seekers who are admitted to the country pursuant to two laws that establish procedures to adjudicate their claims. Many come as family units or unaccompanied minors, and this category started increasing significantly in 2014; for example, 77,674 family unit members and 59,692 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the southwestern border in 2016.)


Source: Congressional Research Service

The Border Patrol reported 408,870 apprehensions at the southwestern border in fiscal 2016, and 245,400 border crossers were removed that year, almost all from that same border. That leaves 163,470 migrants, mostly asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, who were admitted to the country after being apprehended. 

 Once we subtract the overstays and the admitted migrants from the total arrivals, we have a rough idea of how many migrants entered without being apprehended, and we can use this number to estimate the 2016 apprehension rate—that is, the percent of border crossers that DHS succeeded in apprehending.


Using the 2019 CMS report’s estimate of 515,000 total undocumented arrivals and subtract the 320,000 overstays and 163,470 admissions, we estimate that about 31,570 migrants evaded apprehension at the southwestern border in 2016. By adding this 31,570 to the 408,870 total apprehensions, we arrive at some 440,440 unauthorized crossings at that border. This gives us an apprehension rate of 93 percent.


If instead we use 2016 arrival number from the unpublished CMS estimates—623,000—and the overstay number from Warren’s 2018 report—306,000—then 317,000 migrants arrived by crossing the border without authorization. Subtracting the 163,470 admissions, we get 153,530 migrants who evaded apprehension. Adding this to total apprehension gives us an estimated 562,400 border crossers, with nearly 73 percent of them being apprehended.


Model-Based vs. Observational Apprehension Rates

The US government has a different way to estimate the number of unauthorized migrants who cross the border without being apprehended. In fact, it has two.


The government’s two methods are explained in an August 2020 DHS report on border metrics. One is a model-based apprehension rate that extrapolates from a survey the Colegio de la Frontera Norte takes of migrants who have recently attempted to cross the border. The other is an observational apprehension rate. This is extrapolated from Border Patrol observations of people crossing successfully and from evidence like footprints.


DHS reports on the model-based apprehension rate go back to fiscal 2000. This shows a dramatic increase, from as low as 32.5 percent in 2003 to a high of 83.9 percent in 2016, with a tendency to rise throughout the period. DHS didn’t start calculating the observational rate until 2006; it too shows a tendency to rise, but not nearly as much as the model-based rate. The lowest rate is 63.5 percent for 2006, while the highest is 79.4 in 2011 both and 2016.

Source: American Immigration Council 2021 Report

The model-based rates seem much too high for the early period. For example, the Border Patrol reported 1,643,679 apprehensions for 2000. The model-based apprehension rate for that year was 42.5 percent, so the number of successful border crossers would have reached some 2,224,000. But Warren and Warren’s estimates based on the ACS only show a total of 1,389,322 undocumented immigrants entering the country that year—and this includes both border crossers and overstays.


The observational rate seems to give a more convincing result, and the government’s two different apprehension rates have been close to each other since 2015, which suggests that that they may both be fairly reliable now. For example, the observational rate for 2016 was 79.4 percent, while that year’s model-based rate was 83.9 percent. Applying the observational rate to the 408,870 reported apprehensions, we would estimate that a total of 106,000 migrants crossed the border that year without being apprehended. The model-based rate would yield about 78,000 crossers who weren’t apprehended.

These rates from DHS are about halfway between the rates we calculated from the two different ACS-based estimates. This suggests that the actual rate now is somewhere around 80 percent.

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