Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Politics of Immigration” Co-author Featured in Swiss Weekly

Jane Guskin is quoted extensively in an article run in August by the Swiss German-language newsweekly WOZ. The full article is available in German at

Below is a translation of the section where Guskin is quoted.

The "Coming Out" of an Undocumented Immigrant

Ever since Donald Trump became US President, the eleven million paperless people have been living in greater fear than ever before. A lot is at stake, especially for undocumented youths like Cecilia.

By Caspar Shaller, WOZ
August 16, 2018
...Many [undocumented immigrants] have had bad experiences with going public, says Jane Guskin. She researches global migration at the City University of New York, has been active in the asylum rights movement since the 1980s, and is co-author of the book The Politics of Immigration, which is considered a standard leftist reference book on US immigration policy. She suggests meeting in a Bengali restaurant in Queens, the urban district with the highest foreign-born population density in the country.

"When Daca was introduced, there was great skepticism in the community," says Guskin. "To qualify, you had to tell the state where you live and work, where you go to school." Many were afraid that this information could be used against them. "It turns out they were right," says Guskin grimly. "Some people go to the immigration office for their annual appointment and are picked up and deported by the ICE agency!"

American media are full of reports of the consequences of this uncertainty: Mexican citizens storm the consulates to renew their passports so they can quickly leave the US in an emergency. The head of a large New York hospital reported at a press conference that migrants were shunning health care institutions. Instead, they would place injured or sick relatives in front of the emergency room door and run away. And because the hurdles are high, the number of new applications for Daca has fallen sharply. "It costs $ 500 to apply. How can you pay for it if you have to work off the books?" Guskin asks. In addition, the forms are so complex that only lawyers can fill them out.

Anyway, Daca is just a poor compromise, says the longtime activist Guskin. There is no path to naturalization. No one is really willing to improve the legal situation of migrants. For decades the Republicans have been presenting themselves as protectors of an idealized America "from the foreign hordes," but in practice they have shown increasing interest in allowing a steady influx of cheap labor -- "completely disenfranchised, of course," says Guskin. "No one sets up a union or demands a minimum wage if the boss can threaten to call the immigration police."

This deception of the xenophobic Republican base was one of the reasons for Trump's electoral success. The Democrats, on the other hand, like to see themselves as defenders of minorities. But in reality, hardly any concrete action followed the inclusive rhetoric. At most there might be some little goodies before elections, if Democrats wanted to secure the votes of Latinos and Latinas. This is one of the reasons why many young migrants feel that the concept of "Dreamers" has become politically exploited. In the last elections less Latinas and Latinos voted for Hillary Clinton than expected.

"Obama, a Democrat, was the president who has deported the most people in US history," says Guskin. During his tenure, more than three million people were expelled. These mass deportations, the extension of the prison system and the militarization of the borders do not make Obama appear in the eyes of many migrants as the savior he is for many liberal Americans. He even introduced a fingerprint for migrants. The director of a migration organization told the New York Review of Books magazine: "Obama built this machine and then handed the keys to a maniac."...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Immigration: Looking Ahead to 2019

It’s clear that immigration issues will continue to occupy much of the political discourse next year, and so will misinformation. A lot will depend on how effectively people at the grassroots work to counter the myths and distortions.

This fall we participated in five dialogues on immigration in the New York City area. We’re hoping to do more next year; please contact us at if you’re interested in sponsoring an event. But we don’t want to be the only ones: we’d like to see as many people as possible holding their own dialogues. You can watch a full dialogue, sponsored by the multi-ethnic human rights organization Families For Freedom in New York on November 29 (the orientation is corrected after the first six and a half minutes). But remember: no two dialogues are the same. The participants on November 29 were mostly immigrants or sympathizers; other dialogues include people with opposing views, which we need take seriously and address with respect.

There are many other educational resources. One is a series of email “lessons” offered by the Pew Research Center this fall. These deal with basic facts about immigration: the actual number of immigrants, how many have legal status and how many don’t, the longterm demographic effects, and how opinions on immigration have shifted over the years. People might be surprised to learn how often the facts run counter to the general impressions people have. Go here to have the emails sent to you.
So what do we need a wall for? To keep them from leaving?
Interestingly, the Pew course is already a little out of date. While the media continue to talk about the “influx” of undocumented immigrants, Pew’s latest study of the undocumented population indicates that it has continued to fall—from an estimated high of 12.2 million in 2007 to some 10.7 million in 2016.

Finally, for last-minute shoppers: Do you need a present for someone who has questions about immigration policy? There’s still time to order The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers here, or else from your favorite bookseller.

Update, 12/19/18: Pew Research has now revised its email course to reflect the new data on the undocumented population.

Monday, December 17, 2018

December 18th: Drop the Charges!

December 16, 2018

On December 18th, International Migrants Day, join us in calling on the US Attorney's Office to drop all charges against No More Deaths volunteers.  Nine volunteers are currently facing federal charges and lengthy jail sentences for their work providing humanitarian aid in the borderlands. Elizabeth Strange has the power to drop the charges and cease these prosecutions immediately.  Join us in demanding an end to federal harassment and prosecution of aid workers.

For more information:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Watch the November 29 Families For Freedom Participatory Dialogue

On November 29 Families For Freedom sponsored a participatory dialogue on deportation and immigration detention with the co-authors of The Politics of Immigration. The event was live-streamed and can be viewed on the Families For Freedom Facebook page.

Many thanks to Families For Freedom for giving us the opportunity to be part of this intense discussion. With the present intense focus on immigration, it’s more important than ever for people to share their views and experiences. We look forward to facilitating more dialogues like this one next years, and we encourage other people and groups to schedule their own discussions.   

Not all dialogues are the same. The November 29 group included a number of people who were able to talk about their personal experiences with detention and deportation. Other dialogues have involved people who expressed very different views on immigration. For us the goal is to get these various ideas out in the open so that people can check them against their own experiences and those that others have had.

Note: the view is vertical at the beginning, but it’s corrected after a few minutes.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Immigration Dialogues: Fall 2018 Calendar

Join Families for Freedom for a participatory dialogue around immigration enforcement, detention and deportation with Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers. We will discuss the state of immigration—with a focus on enforcement, detention, and the relationship between the immigration and criminal legal systems—in our current political environment. Come with questions!

Thursday, November 29, 2018, 6:30 pm–8:00 pm, at The People's Forum, 320 West 37th Street, New York, New York 10018. Hosted by Families for Freedom. Info: .

Earlier this Fall...
October 10Immigration Dialogue at Suffolk County Community College
Delve into tough questions about immigration with the authors of The Politics of Immigration.

Wednesday, October 10, 9:30 am-10:45 am and 11:00 am-12:15 pm, at I-115, Islip Arts Building, Suffolk County Community College, Ammerman Campus, 533 College Rd, Selden, NY 11784. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by Office of Campus Activities, Student Leadership Development, and Foreign Languages and ESL. For information, call 631-451-4117 or the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding,

October 29: Deep Dive Into Immigration, Part 1
Immigration history with Columbia University professor Mae Ngai, a national authority on the subject,. The three-part series is an exploration into our immigration laws and how they have been applied over the years, the role immigration has played in our country, and the reality of immigration today.

Monday, October 29, 6:00 pm-7:30 pm, at Forest Hills Public Library, 108-19 71st Avenue, Forest Hills, NY 11375718-268-7934.  Sponsored by Let's Talk Democracy         

Bring your questions and thoughts about immigration to this participatory workshop facilitated by Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers.  Together we will strengthen our skills to engage more effectively in productive dialogue.

Friday, November 2, 6:30 pm, at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Soul Cafe, 7420 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11029. RSVP: Southwest Brooklyn Lutheran Council,

November 8: Deep Dive Into Immigration, Part 2
“Getting at the Roots, with Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration. The three-part series is an exploration into our immigration laws and how they have been applied over the years, the role immigration has played in our country, and the reality of immigration today.

Thursday, November 8, 6:00 pm-7:30 pm, at Forest Hills Public Library, 108-19 71st Avenue, Forest Hills, NY 11375718-268-7934.  Sponsored by Let's Talk Democracy  

“The Money Question," with Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration. The three-part series is an exploration into our immigration laws and how they have been applied over the years, the role immigration has played in our country, and the reality of immigration today.

Thursday, November 15, 6:00 pm-7:30 pm, at Forest Hills Public Library, 108-19 71st Avenue, Forest Hills, NY 11375718-268-7934.  Sponsored by Let's Talk Democracy  

For more on immigration dialogues:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Updates: Border Encuentro, Sanctuary Caravan, “Resistance at Tule Lake,” Farmworker Organizing

SOA Watch Border Encuentro 2018

Time is flying and in less than 2 months we will converge at the US/Mexico border in ambos Nogales for our 3rd SOA Watch Border Encuentro this November 16-18: Dismantle Border Imperialism! Struggle, Create, Power to the People!

As we continue planning for this year's 3rd Encuentro, we want to share important updates with you, including our promotional video created by Olmeca, the weekend schedule of events and ways to support our largest annual gathering. We are excited to share our demands for this year, and invite you to join us in generating the biggest possible impact alongside other coalition groups and allies by endorsing this year's Encuentro.

More information at:

Join the Sanctuary Caravan

The New Sanctuary Coalition is resolved to choose the side of liberty and equality. We are resolved to sacrifice in solidarity with those leaders of liberty and pioneers of equality who are nonviolently asserting their right to migrate by moving their caravan of brave souls across the U.S./Mexican border. We are resolved to form a U.S. Caravan of supporters who will meet the Central American Caravan in Mexico, witness their movement, and accompany them into the U.S. At the border, we will assist those seeking entry with their demands to enter the US without losing their liberty.[…]

More information at:

"Resistance at Tule Lake" is Now Available on DVD & iTunes!

The documentary on resistance to the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans has screened in
over 20 cities across the country since its premiere at CAAMFest 2017. The maker are still getting requests for more ways people can see Resistan.ce at Tule Lake.

The film is now available on DVD and iTunes! Demand for the film has been so high on the Netflix queue that they also jumped on board and are now offering the film for disc rental.

More information at:

The Cross-Border Farmworker Rebellion

Workers in the berry fields of the United States and Mexico have the same transnational employers. Now, farmworker unions in those two nations have begun to work together.

The union card. Photo: David Bacon
By David Bacon, The American Prospect
October 31, 2018
Surrounded by blueberry and alfalfa fields near Sumas, Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border, a group of workers last week stood in a circle behind a trailer, itemizing a long list of complaints about the grower they work for. Lorenzo Sanchez, the oldest, pointed to the trailer his family rents for $800 a month. On one side, the wooden steps and porch have rotted through. “The toilet backs up,” he said. “Water leaks in when it rains. The stove doesn't work.”[…]

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The US Must Take Responsibility for Asylum Seekers and the History That Drives Them

Anyone who has followed the history of US involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean knows that the current crises in the region are absolutely “our problem.”

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
November 10, 2018
Most people are capable of holding two or more conflicting ideas on any given issue. Immigration is no exception.

A large segment of the US public was horrified in May and June when they saw the Trump administration snatching toddlers away from Central American mothers who arrived at the US border seeking asylum. Many would still be appalled if they knew that the White House is seeking to continue the practice in a different form. Most undoubtedly feel genuine sympathy for young people trying to escape violent gangs or abusive partners. Still, a lot of these same sympathetic Americans don’t actually want the asylum seekers to come here.[...]

Photo: Pedro Pardo, AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Excerpt: Is Birthright Citizenship a “Magnet” for Unauthorized Immigration?

On October 30 Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that he would introduce legislation to challenge birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. “[I]t has become a magnet for illegal immigration in modern times,” the senator claimed. Many immigration opponents have asserted this, but they’re rarely challenged to provide proof.

We take a look at the available evidence in The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, second edition, Chapter 4, “Why Can’t They Just ‘Get Legal’?”:

Children born in the United States are U.S. citizens, even if their parents are out-of-status immigrants. Opponents of immigration like to call such children “anchor babies,” implying that immigrant parents use their U.S.-born children as a way to establish themselves here. In July 2010 Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed on Fox News that unauthorized women come to the United States simply to “drop and leave” their babies.

Most citizen children of undocumented immigrants are actually born some time after their parents have settled in the United States, according to a study of babies born to immigrants from March 2009 to March 2010. Just 9 percent of the out-of-status parents had arrived in 2008 or later; most had been in the United States for a number of years when the babies were born—30 percent had arrived between 2004 and 2007, and 61 percent arrived before 2004. For its October 2005 survey, Bendixen & Associates asked undocumented immigrants to give their reasons for migrating to the United States. The respondents overwhelmingly cited work opportunities; having “anchor babies” didn’t even rate a mention.

In any case, having a U.S. citizen child doesn’t help undocumented immigrants gain legal status, or even protect them from deportation. U.S. citizens have to be at least twenty-one years old to sponsor their parents for legal residency. Each year, thousands of people who have U.S.-born children are deported, leaving families shattered. A 2012 study by the New York University School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic found that 87 percent of New York City immigration cases involving parents of U.S. citizen children between 2005 and 2010 ended in deportation….

If we ended birthright citizenship, what status would the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants have? Would they also be undocumented? In that case, ending birthright citizenship would increase the number of undocumented people in the country; the undocumented population would be at least 44 percent larger by 2050, according to a projection by the nonprofit Migration Policy Institute project. In other words, revoking the country’s long tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born here would expand and make permanent an underclass of vulnerable, easily exploited people without full rights—very much like the U.S. South under Jim Crow laws or South Africa under apartheid.

[We’re occasionally posting excerpts from the second edition of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers. You can order here or from your favorite bookseller.]

Friday, October 26, 2018

How can we make “Abolish ICE” a Reality?

Two of the immigrant rights movement’s historic demands provide a basis for actually closing the agency, and beyond that for building a movement to demand more fundamental changes.

By David L. Wilson, MR Online
October 25, 2018
Over the past few months immigrant rights activism has come to be defined largely by a demand to “abolish ICE.” The drive to close down Immigration and Customs Enforcement—a Department of Homeland Security agency responsible for internal enforcement of immigration laws—has figured in headlines, garnered support from activists and a few Democratic politicians, and provoked furious denunciations from conservatives. But despite the attention there seems to be little agreement on what’s meant by the phrase, or on how to turn it into a reality.[...]

Read the full article:

DSA members protest in New York, June 2018. Photo: Marty Goodman

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Immigration Dialogue: Enforcement, Detention & Deportation

Join Families for Freedom for a participatory dialogue around immigration enforcement, detention and deportation with Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers.

Thursday, November 29, 2018
6:30 pm–8:00 pm
The People's Forum

We will discuss the state of immigration—with a focus on enforcement, detention, and the relationship between the immigration and criminal legal systems—in our current political environment.

Come with questions!

Hosted by Families for Freedom

For more on immigration dialogues:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Families For Freedom: “Fight to Win”

This is an excerpt from the Families For Freedom newsletter for September, treating the important issue of activist approaches to local ICE detention contracts. To subscribe, email; you can contribute to FFF here.)—TPOI editor.

Fight to Win
September 28, 2018

In early September, Hudson County announced their intent to phase out their detention contract with ICE by 2020. The news came after concerted efforts by local faith-based and advocacy groups to end the contract, and a lawsuit filed by the ACLU that targeted the Freeholders' shady actions in trying to get the contract renewed without community input.

The potential cancellation of ICE's contract in Hudson represents political strength: it would not be possible without growing support in our movement against immigration detention, if ICE's name did not now correctly represent malice and evil to the general public. Yet at the same time, it counteracts another win that also represented political strength, the establishment of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. On the one hand, the win of access to indispensable legal representation; on the other, the win of building political power among allies outside.

Critics of the phase-out are concerned that people detained in Hudson will be moved to remote detention centers, far from their families and attorneys. NYIFUP lawyers have come out in strong opposition to the planned phase-out on these grounds. In support of their position stand previous incidents, like when trans women incarcerated by ICE in Santa Ana City Jail, close to a dense network of support and services groups, were moved far away to a remote facility in rural New Mexico. Supporters of the Hudson contract ending—and of the growing number of other similar successes around the country—are behind it because of the political momentum it both creates and represents.

Beyond these two positions, there is also the question of efficacy. One of the organizations involved in the campaign against the Hudson contract stated that in order to abolish ICE "we must destroy ICE's capacity to incarcerate people." The statement is noble but the problem with it lies in the fact that this political win does not affect ICE's ability to incarcerate people. Anything that we can do to hinder ICE—to make 'em bleed—is absolutely worth doing, but we must understand that contracts with local jails and private prison companies come and go, whether in scandal or in silence.

Back in 2009-10, after people detained in Varick Street in Manhattan went on hunger strikes to draw attention to horrific conditions there, the jail stopped incarcerating people, many of whom would not be jailed in Hudson. But this decision was made by ICE, and its purpose was to get away from local scrutiny. More recently, in the wake of an 18-month-old baby being killed by her contact with the detention and deportation system, the City of Eloy pulled their contract with ICE for a family detention in South Texas. This too was a decision supported by ICE, and the contract has now been redrawn, this time with the city of Dilley, TX.

Across the country, more counties and cities are folding detention contracts with ICE, both under public pressure and without it. But as long as ending such contracts doesn't get people free, we have to ask ourselves what value these closures have. In contrast to ending contracts that promote information sharing between local law enforcement and ICE, or legislation barring ICE from certain areas, cancelling detention contracts more than likely just means relocating jails. Abolition doesn't mean the transporting of incarcerated people from county to county, nor the opportunity for new profit to be spun from immiseration; it means no more people locked up. What value do these campaigns have if the results resemble ICE's own past actions, and fail to promote political power among those incarcerated in these facilities?

To that point, it is noteworthy that in the debate that has unfolded about whether this closure is of value, the voices of the directly affected have been relatively absent.

Lawyers in movement are often correctly criticized for failing to see the forest for the trees, for working timidly within what's presently possible instead of pushing the boundaries of what is possible. But the concerns and criticisms raised by the lawyers here need not lead to a purely reformist attitude, focused only on procedural justice instead of actual justice. The concerns invite us who believe in abolishing ICE and the entire prison industrial complex to continue asking the question: how can we be effective? How do we ensure our fights are changing the conditions people suffer under, and not providing an outlet for the moral outrage of spectators? How do we fight to win?

Deep Dive Into Immigration, Part 1: Mae Ngai on the History of Immigration

Please join us for an important and timely exploration into our immigration laws and how they have been applied over the years, the role immigration has played in our country, and the reality of immigration today.

Monday, October 29, 2018, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
At Forest Hills Public Library
(718) 268-7934
E F M R to 71/Continental Ave.
LIRR | Q23 Q60 Q64

Mae Ngai, a national authority on the history of immigration and professor at Columbia University, will kick off our three-week series on immigration.

Sponsor: Let's Talk Democracy

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Immigrant Rights: Dialogue in a Time of Crisis/ Los Derechos de los Migrantes

 A participatory workshop [Español abajo]

Friday, November 2, 2018, 6:30 pm
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd

Bring your questions and thoughts about immigration to this participatory workshop facilitated by Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers.  Together we will strengthen our skills to engage more effectively in productive dialogue when people ask questions such as:

·        Why do so many people come here “illegally”? Why don't they just wait in line?
·        If someone committed a crime in this country, why shouldn't they be deported?
·        Don't unauthorized immigrants push down wages for everyone?
·        Can we really afford to have so many immigrants here?

The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Second Edition)
“The Politics of Immigration brilliantly interrogates this urgent subject that defines our time.”
—Ron Hayduk, San Francisco State University

(Event organized by Southwest Brooklyn Lutheran Council sub-committee)

Dialogo y taller participativo en medio de esta crisis

 Viernes, Noviembre 2, @ 6:30 pm
 Iglesia Luterana del Buen Pastor
7420 4th Avenue, Soul Café, Brooklyn, NY  11209

Comunidad, traigan sus inquietudes, preocupaciones y participen en este taller facilitado por  Jane Guskin y David Wilson, escritores del libro Las politicas Migratorias: Preguntas y Respuestas. A través de este taller fortaleceremos de una manera más efectiva nuestras habilidades, conocimientos y diálogos cuando se nos pregunte:

  • Por qué viene migra gente a los Estados Unidos de manera ilegal? Por qué no se forman y esperan su turno?
  • Sí alguien ha cometido un crimen en este país -Estados Unidos-, por qué no deberían ser deportados?
  • Cómo los inmigrantes sin autorización de empleo afectan negativamente el salario de los demás trabajadores? 
  • Es sustentable para nuestra economia tener tantos inmigrantes con nosotros?

 The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Second Edition)
Las Politicas Migratorias brillantemente da contestacion a interrogaciones de suma relevancia en nuestro tiempo” —Ron Hayduk, San Francisco State University
Mas información:
(Evento organizado por el comite del Consejo de Iglesias del Suroeste de Brooklyn)

For more on immigration dialogues:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Deep Dive Into Immigration, Parts 2 and 3: With Jane Guskin and David Wilson

Please join us for an important and timely exploration into our immigration laws and how they have been applied over the years, the role immigration has played in our country, and the reality of immigration today.

Forest Hills Public Library
(718) 268-7934
E F M R to 71/Continental Ave.
LIRR | Q23 Q60 Q64

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Getting at the Roots - Jane Guskin and David Wilson, authors of The Politics of Immigration, will discuss immigration today, including the global, political, and economic forces that shape migration; the racial and political implications of U.S. immigration law, policy, and practice; and related issues.

Thursday, November 15, 2018, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
The Money Question - Jane Guskin and David Wilson continue the immigration discussion with an examination of the relationship of immigrants to jobs and the economy.

Sponsor: Let's Talk Democracy

For more on immigration dialogues:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October 10: Immigration Dialogue at Suffolk County Community College

Delve into tough questions about immigration with the authors of The Politics of Immigration.

Why are people in other countries leaving their homes and coming here? What does it mean to be “illegal”? How do immigration raids, prisons, and border walls impact communities? Who suff­ers and who profits from our current system – and what would happen if we transformed it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
I-115, Islip Arts Building
Suffolk County Community College
A program of the Suffolk County Community College Undocumented Student Task Force, sponsored by Office of Campus Activities, Student Leadership Development, and Foreign Languages and ESL

For information, call 631-451-4117 or the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding,
Email the authors at

For more on immigration dialogues:

Saturday, October 6, 2018

WashPo “Migration ‘Crisis’” Piece Could Use Some Context

In a September 30 article, the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) covers a visit to Central America by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) head Kevin McAleenan. Miroff reports that border apprehensions of migrant families along the southwest border increased by 38 percent in August over the month before; he also notes that the number of Guatemalan families apprehended in fiscal 2018 is nearly double the number from the previous fiscal year.

Miroff is an excellent reporter who has broken a number of stories, notably on the child separation policy. But in common with most of the corporate media, his reporting often lacks context.

“Trump erupted earlier this year when border arrests skyrocketed,” he writes. It’s true that there was a major increase in asylum seeker arrests, but terms like “skyrocketed” reinforce the impression that alien hordes are pouring across the border. The rise in these arrests actually turns out to be a blip if we view it historically. Even with the new arrests, border apprehensions remain—and have remained for a decade—at their lowest level since before the majority of the current U.S. population was born.

Migration crisis? Washington Office on Latin America, from Border Patrol
The article also discusses push factors in Central America’s Northern Triangle, and warns that “[n]ew instability and political polarization in Guatemala could make things worse in the coming year” because of actions by corruption-prone President Jimmy Morales. “American officials have been hesitant to criticize Morales,” Miroff writes. He doesn’t mention that “American officials” have in fact backed every corrupt regime in Guatemala at least since a CIA-backed coup in 1954.

The biggest push factor in Guatemala appears to be poverty and malnutrition in the western highlands, a “crisis…exacerbated by consecutive years of drought and meager harvests.” There’s no mention of the serious possibility that global warming is behind the drought in Guatemala. Ironically, just two days earlier the Washington Post noted that the Trump administration has now admitted that, in the words of scientist Michael MacCracken, “human activities are going to lead to [a] rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it.”

All this context could have been added in a few words, with links. Its absence will lead less informed readers to assume that the flight of Central Americans from their own countries is “not our problem.” 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Great Reporting on Devin Nunes’s Family Farm, But the Analysis Falls Short

On September 30 Esquire posted a fascinating article by reporter Ryan Lizza about the Iowa farm
operated by the family of California Congress member Devin Nunes, a major Trump supporter. The family quietly moved most of its California dairy operations to this farm, located in the small town of Sibley, more than a decade ago. Lizza wondered why they had been so careful to avoid publicity about the move, so he went to Sibley to investigate.

His investigation quickly turned into something out of the old hardboiled detective genre, with sources suddenly clamming up and mysterious vehicles tailing Lizza as he drove around town. Eventually the mystery was solved: dairy farmers and others in the area seemed to be heavily dependent on undocumented labor to carry out their operations. Lizza was unable to establish anything about the Nunes family’s farm, but the presumption is that they too relied on unauthorized workers.

Rep. Nunes himself appears to be a moderate on immigration issues, but he’s been an important enabler of the Trump regime, which is committed to a ferocious anti-immigrant agenda. Sibley farmers seem to maintain a similar duality: they disagree with Trump and their Congress member, white supremacist Steve King, about immigration policy, yet they vote overwhelmingly for these men. “There is massive political hypocrisy at the center of this: Trump’s and King’s rural-farm supporters embrace anti-immigrant politicians while employing undocumented immigrants,” Lizza writes.

Lizza’s reporting is great, but his analysis isn’t especially deep. He notes that Iowa’s dairy farmers use undocumented labor to save money—“workers start at fourteen or fifteen dollars an hour, the first farmer said. If dairies had to use legal labor, they would likely have to raise that to eighteen or twenty dollars”—but he doesn’t explore how “illegality” forces these workers to accept lower wages. And he fails to ask who ultimately benefits from the exploitation of undocumented farm workers.

Following the Money

It’s actually not the farmers, Lizza notes: “many dairies wouldn’t survive” if they had to pay authorized workers. In other words, the farmers underpay their workforce because they are being squeezed by the large food processing and distribution corporations, which pocket the extra profits. So an obvious question would be whether these corporations or their CEOs make contributions to anti-immigrant politicians like Trump and King. Unfortunately, Lizza doesn’t raise this.

He also seems uninformed about guest worker programs. As Iowa’s farmers see it, the best option is bringing in H-2A workers; farmers can exploit these laborers just as easily as the current undocumented force but without the risk of fines or jail sentences for violating immigration law. However, dairy farming requires year-round employees, while the current H-2A programs only allow seasonal hiring. The farmers want to remove this limitation.

Lizza dismisses the idea as “a fantasy in the current environment; Trump, King, and their allies describe such policies as ‘amnesty.’” Apparently Lizza hasn’t been paying attention. It’s true that King opposes the H-2A expansion, but Trump’s all for it. “Guest workers, don’t we agree?” he ranted at an April rally. “We have to have them.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Researchers Claim the U.S. Has 22 Million Undocumented Immigrants

Authors of a controversial population study describe their methods
An academic paper published on September 21 by the academic journal PLOS One claims that as of 2016 the unauthorized population was between 16.2 million and 29.5 million. The number, proposed by three scholars associated with the Yale School of Management, is about twice as high as the estimated range of 10.8 million to 12.1 million used by most demographers, including those at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the Pew Research Center, and the government’s own Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

PLOS One simultaneously published a paper by MPI researchers sharply criticizing the Yale study.

Most demographers estimate the undocumented population’s size by applying a residual method to data from the Census Bureau, DHS, and DHS’s predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The data is compared to other public records to adjust for the well-known phenomenon of underreporting by undocumented immigrants. The Yale study takes a different approach: the researchers use government records and projections to estimate the inflow of unauthorized immigrants over the border and through overstays and then subtract an estimate of the immigrants’ outflow. (Some of the government’s estimates are discussed here and here.)

But as the MPI paper notes, it’s only in the past few years that DHS has been providing enough data on unauthorized inflows and outflows to justify estimates. The Yale study projects current estimates back to 1990, ignoring some of the major changes in immigration patterns that resulted from increased border enforcement over the 26 years from 1990 to 2016. The backwards projection method also means that any errors in the estimates for an earlier year are compounded in each subsequent year—in contrast to the residual method, which allows for researchers to make a fresh estimate each year.

The MPI study notes that the “residual method was put to the real-world test successfully in the 1980s,” when “estimates generated with this methodology” turned out to be “largely similar to the actual number of unauthorized immigrants who came forward to get legalized” through the 1986 amnesty. (We make the same point in the first chapter of The Politics of Immigration’s second edition.)

How Will the Right Use the New Study?

Anti-immigrant forces have been relatively silent so far—probably because of the current media attention to various crises for the Trump administration—but it seems likely they’ll be citing the Yale study in the future: anti-immigrant groups and rightwing pundits have spent years exaggerating the size of the undocumented population. For example, author and TV personality Ann Coulter regularly puts the number of undocumented immigrants at 30 million.

The rightwing position already gets a good deal of popular support because of widespread misperceptions about immigration. In 2011 Transatlantic Trends researchers asked people in the United States to estimate the proportion of immigrants here. On average, U.S. respondents thought immigrants—naturalized, documented and undocumented—made up 37.8 percent of the U.S. population at a time when the actual proportion was under 14 percent. (If we used the Yale study's estimates, the total foreign-born population would still be less than 18 percent.)

Inflated rhetoric by politicians leads to inflated numbers in people’s minds, and the media often fail to counter this with coverage of some important statistics. How do Coulter and fellow pundit Michelle Malkin get away with their claim that the 11 million figure must be wrong? Their supposed evidence is that the number hasn’t changed over the last decade. This seems convincing because the media constantly report figures on border apprehensions. So the public knows that unauthorized migrants are continuing to enter the country, and it seems like a common-sense conclusion that the undocumented population must be increasing. The media rarely note that undocumented immigrants are also leaving, at the about same rate as they’re entering.

Interestingly, one leading immigration-restrictionist organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), immediately rejected the Yale study. A September 22 CIS article expressed agreement with the MPI’s critique and added some additional points. For example, CIS estimates that if the Yale figure was correct, the Department of Education’s 2014 count of children enrolled in schools would have been about 1 million higher. (The Southern Poverty Law Center lists CIS as an anti-immigrant hate group; however, CIS statistics tend to be accurate, although the group’s analysis of them is often questionable.)

Who Are the Study’s Authors?

The study’s authors seemed a little defensive in a September 21 video presentation posted by Yale Insights to explain their methods The authors insisted that they had no political agenda to promote. Co-author Edward H. Kaplan pointed out that the study could be used to counter efforts to depict undocumented immigrants as criminals, since if the undocumented population was doubled, the undocumented crime rate would fall in half.

(This might actually undercut the report. Based on statistics from Texas, the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh has determined that undocumented immigrants are convicted of crimes at a lower rate than the native born but at a higher rate than immigrants with legal status, who tend to be older, more affluent and less likely to be arrested. The Yale study would have the improbable result that undocumented immigrants have same conviction rate as authorized immigrants.)

Between them the Yale authors have expertise in statistics, management, economics and engineering, but none seem especially knowledgeable about demography or immigration issues. Publications by Kaplan and Jonathan S. Feinstein include studies on terrorism and counter-terrorism. Kaplan seems especially interested in the subject. One article “presents staffing models for covert counterterrorism agencies such as the New York City Police Department, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Britain's Security Service or the Israeli Shin Bet,” according to its abstract.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

No More Compromises: We Need Immigration Amnesty Now!

  A daughter hugs her immigrant mother. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
By David L. Wilson, Truthout
September 6, 2018
In mid-April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out a six-day operation in the New York metropolitan area, detaining a total of 225 people.

One month later, a young US citizen named Augustina stood in Manhattan’s Foley Square, a few hundred feet from ICE’s regional headquarters, and told a crowd of journalists and supporters how the series of raids — code-named “Operation Keep Safe” — had impacted her and her family. Claiming they were police, ICE agents “welcomed themselves in” at the family’s East Harlem apartment, she said, and led away her diabetic mother, who had lived in the United States for more than 30 years. As the oldest citizen left in the family, Augustina was now having to file for guardianship of her 12-year-old sister.

The media had covered the number of immigrants arrested in the April raid, Augustina noted, but not how it had affected their friends and relatives. “We’re not just numbers,” she said. “When will our undocumented families be recognized as human beings?”[...]

Read the full article:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Yes, We Make Mistakes!

We’ve spotted a few mistakes in the first printing of The Politics of Immigration's second edition, so we’ve added an errata page to the website. If you see any other factual errors, we’d be grateful if you notify us—and even more grateful if you include a link to your source.

You can write us at