German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Well, if one wants to reach non-Muslims (the intent), beer mats are not a bad way to go about it:

A scheme to promote better understanding of Islam in Germany has run into controversy — after Muslim groups objected to the use of beer mats to provide information.

Under the scheme, beer mats are provided to pubs and restaurants with questions about Islam. On the reverse is an internet link to the answers.

Rather than using formal German, the beer mats are printed in regional dialect for each city, complete with local slang.

Typical questions include “Mohammed, what was he like?” and “What is it with Muslims and pork?”

The scheme has run in a number of German cities since it was first launched in 2016, and the beer mats have been translated into three dialects.

But a bid to introduce it in the small central German town of Maintal, close to Frankfurt, has run into opposition from local Muslims, who say beer mats are an inappropriate way to educate people about a religion that forbids alcohol.

“They could have used postcards, or adverts on the side of a bus. Why did it have to be the pub?” Salih Tasdirek, the head of the local foreigners’ advisory council, told Spiegel magazine.

The local council has defended the scheme. “We wanted to bring big social issues into conversation,” said Verena Strub, the council’s integration officer.

“I can understand if someone associates beer mats with alcohol, but not that anyone would associate Islam with alcohol just because the questions are on beer mats.”

The scheme is the work of Orient Network, a small German NGO that promotes interfaith understanding.

“We wanted to give answers in local language to the questions that our members, mostly Islamic scholars, are always asked,” said Raban Kluger, the scheme’s main organiser. “It is not our intention to associate alcohol with Islam.”

The questions and answers on the beer mats were all drawn up by Muslims and checked by Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Mr Kluger said.

Tens of thousands of beerm ats featuring the questions have been printed. So far, they have been translated into the local dialects of Saxony, the Baden region, and Hesse, where Maintal is located.

Source: German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Trump’s Worthwhile Canadian Initiative vs New Trump administration policy is eugenics for immigrants

Two very contrasting views of the Trump administration’s immigration proposals, starting with the National Review in favour:

Donald Trump has associated himself with the radical idea that the United States should have a legal-immigration system like that of Canada.

He unveiled an immigration plan on Thursday that would emphasize skills, moving us closer to the Canadian model from our current, foolishly monomaniacal focus on family reunification.

The problem with letting immigrants bring in all sort of relatives is that it makes the immigration system random, and effectively takes control over picking and choosing who will come here out of our hands. The Trump plan would limit family immigration to immediate family — spouses and minor children — and eliminate the visa lottery, which is just as arbitrary as it sounds.

Instead, the emphasis would be on a point system and higher-skilled immigrants with extraordinary talents, professional vocations, and academic accomplishments.

The plan also includes an array of welcome enforcement measures, although it’s not clear yet if it includes the most important of all, an E-Verify system for employers that would do much to turn off the jobs magnet drawing illegal immigrants here.

There is a lot to commend in the plan. It would be a significant step toward making our immigration system more rational. With so many people around the world desperate to come here, it is insane that we aren’t choosing the immigrants who best serve our interests. Under the plan, we would favor the immigrants best-suited to thriving in a 21st-century economy, and English and civics tests would select for immigrants with the best chance of easily assimilating.

It is something of a breakthrough to have an administration that considers the interests of American workers in formulating immigration policy and doesn’t want to continue to flood the lower end of the labor market with greater numbers of low-skilled immigrants, a persistent feature of so-called comprehensive immigration reforms.

Our complaint is that the plan doesn’t call for lower numbers of legal immigrants given the historic wave of immigration that has continued unabated for decades now. But the enforcement measures, especially if they include e-Verify, should reduce the flow of new illegal immigrants and diminish the current illegal population, reducing the level of immigration overall.

Also, it would have been better if Trump had come into office with a plan along these lines ready to be immediately written into legislation when Republicans controlled Congress. If so, with the right horse-trading and a deft touch, it might have been possible to get important reforms written and signed into law.

As it is, this is largely a campaign document, and a commendable one.

Source: Trump’s Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter takes a strong stand, excessively so IMO, on “merit-based” approaches. Labelling it as “eugenics” is so over the top that it undermines a more reasonable approach that has a blended approach between economic, family and refugee immigrants (as in Canada):

Last week, the estuary where politics and religion mingle was dominated by discussions about abortion, and I will have more to say on that later this week. But, today, I would like to focus on President Donald Trump’s rollout of a new approach to immigration policy. One of the central objectives of the policy proposal will be to implement a “merit-based” system for admitting immigrants legally, rather than the current system which prioritizes family members of those already here.

Ironically, Trump entrusted the policy rollout on Capitol Hill to a member of his own family, Jared Kushner, who met with Senators May 16 and left them with the impression he is clueless when it comes to the issue. The Washington Post cited an individual “familiar with the meeting” who said: “He’s in his own little world. He didn’t give many details about what was in [his plan]. … And there were a number of instances where people had to step in and answer questions because he couldn’t.” Maybe young Kushner should go back to making peace in the Mideast.

The idea of turning to a “merit-based” system that prioritizes migrants with special skills and high levels of education is already supported by some hardline Republican senators. Sens. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, David Perdue of Georgia, and Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced the RAISE Act last month. Their proposal also reduced legal immigration over time, something Trump apparently does not want to do at this time. But, the core idea is the same.

“Our current immigration system is broken and is not meeting the needs of our growing economy,” said Perdue in a press release announcing the introduction of the legislation. “If we want to continue to be the global economic leader, we have to welcome the best and brightest from around the world who wish to come to the United States legally to work and make a better life for themselves. This will require a skills-based immigration system that is pro-growth and pro-worker. The RAISE Act is proven to work and is still the only plan that responds to the needs of our economy, while preserving quality jobs and wages for American workers.”

See, the needs of the “the economy” are more important than the needs of any families that might wish to be reunited. Or, so say these “pro-family” senators, two of whom garnered a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council last year. Hawley was not yet a senator, but I would be willing to bet he will earn a 100 percent rating this session.

One of the cornerstones of Catholic social doctrine is that the family and its rights precede the state and its rights. Indeed, all four pillars of Catholic social doctrine — human dignity, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity — rise or fall based on how a society fosters family life.

There is no constitutional requirement that a public policy cohere with Catholic moral teaching, to be sure. But, let’s call this “merit-based” system what it is: Eugenics for immigrants. In its earlier iteration, eugenics aimed to prevent those deemed to lack “merit” from procreating. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thundered Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1927, before eugenics got a bad name at Auschwitz.

Now, corporate America gets to play the part of deciding who does and does not get to be treated with that equal human dignity both the Gospel and the Constitution take as their most basic premise. Corporate America tells the government what kind of foreign workers it needs, and the government lets those workers move to the front of the line. Why should the needs of the impersonal “economy,” or the needs of the corporate titans who hide behind economic theories, take precedence over our moral values? Christian moral theology recognizes that the people with the greatest claim on society and government are those in need, not those with special skills. An immigrant is a human person. Is the president and his party saying that the proper assessment of “merit” is an economic assessment, not a moral one? What about an unborn immigrant child? Do they lack the “merit” human dignity confers?

The U.S. bishops were quick to put out a letter, signed by four relevant committee chairmen, voicing their opposition to a bill that would confer equal rights to members of the LGBT community. The statement they did issue is totally inadequate.

“While we appreciate that the President is looking to address problems in our immigration system, we oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops’ conference. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system. As Pope Francis notes: ‘Family is the place in which we are formed as persons. Each family is a brick that builds society.’ ”

I do not recall them acknowledging the good faith of those who support the Equality Act. And, really, what is there to “appreciate” about this president’s attempts “to address problems in our immigration system”? After all, it is heavy with racism and, in the event, likely to affect mostly our coreligionists from Central America. Many Catholics come to Washington every January to protest Roe v. Wade. Will they come to Washington in similar numbers to protest this social Darwinism?

One expects this kind of morally asinine behavior from the president, but I confess I am surprised that so many conservative members of Congress support this kind of “merit-based” immigration system. They are not stupid people. They are not immoral people. They are people for whom a commitment to Christian faith, and the values that flow therefrom, has been wildly distorted by its entanglement with the Republican Party. They are equally a threat to what is best about our American experiment and most precious about our Christian heritage. This embrace of eugenics for immigrants is only the latest evidence of how great that threat is.

Source: New Trump administration policy is eugenics for immigrants

How an immigration crackdown is hurting UK startups

Long read to note:

The two people who sat down in reception without an appointment would not leave the startup’s office until the end of the day.

Two months later, a letter followed informing the company it had been suspended from the United Kingdom’s register of licensed sponsors, the database of companies the government has approved to employee foreign workers. The business had 20 working days from the typed date to make “representations” and submit “evidence” and “supporting documents” to counter the “believed” infractions spread across 12 pages, threaded through with copious references to paragraphs, annexes and bullet points culled from the Home Office‘s official guidance for sponsors.

Early in the new year another letter arrived, and an assessment process that had begun with an unannounced visit one autumn morning delivered its final verdict: The revocation of Metail‘s sponsor license with immediate effect.

“There is no right of appeal against this decision,” warns paragraph 64 of the 22-page decision letter — in text which the sponsor compliance unit has seen fit to highlight in bold. “Whilst your client can no longer recruit sponsored workers under Tier 2 and 5 of the Points Based system, they can continue to recruit UK and EEA workers as well as non-EEA nationals that have the right to work in the UK. The revocation of the license does not stop a business from trading,” the letter concludes. Tier 2 is the general work visa for regular employees, while Tier 5 is for temporary workers.

The government department that oversees the UK’s immigration system gets to have — and frame — the last word.

London-based Metail is a decade-plus veteran of the virtual fitting room space, its founders having spied early potential to commercialize computer vision technology to enable individualized sales assistance for online clothes and fashion shopping. It now sells services to retailers including photorealistic 3D body models to power virtual try-ons; algorithmic size recommendations; and garment visualization to speed up and simplify the process of showcasing fashion products online.

In the story below, we’ll look at how Metail’s situation sits within wider issues facing startups in the United Kingdom today. We also dig into the details of the company’s encounters with immigration rules, and what startups in the UK can do to hire the people they need without similar problems, in this article for Extra Crunch subscribers.

Metail has approached research-heavy innovation in the field of 3D visualization with determined conviction in transformative commercial potential, tucking $32 million in VC funding under its belt over the years, and growing its team to 40 people (including 11 PhDs) at a head office in London and a research hub located close to Cambridge University where its British founder studied economics in the late ’90s. It’s also racked up an IP portfolio that spans computer vision, photography, mechanics, image processing and machine learning — with 20 patents granted in the UK, Europe and the US, and a similar number pending. Years of 3D modeling expertise and a substantial war-chest of patents might, reasonably, make Metail an acquisition target for an ecommerce giant like Amazon that’s looking to shave further friction off of online transactions.

Nothing in its company or business history leaps out to suggest it fits the bill as a “threat to UK immigration control.” But that’s what the language of the Home Office’s correspondence asserts — and then indelibly inks in its final decision.

“I took them into a meeting room. And at that point, they hand me a bunch of documents and say: ‘We’re here to see and understand about your sponsored migrants.’ So at the beginning, the language is all very dehumanizing,” says Metail founder and CEO Tom Adeyoola, recounting the morning of the unannounced visit. They hand me a bit of material which includes the sentence ‘you’ll be allowed a toilet break every two hours’. And I’m like, ‘am I being arrested?! What’s going on?’

“Then they ask ‘are your sponsored migrants here?’ I said I don’t know, I don’t manage them directly. I only had two.

“‘Can we see your lease? Can we see your accounts?’ Genuinely everything. ‘Can we see proof that this is your office?’ I was like, well you’re in the office… So [it was] very much a box-ticking exercise.

And then the interview process going through with [the HR manager] was effectively ‘why have you hired sponsored migrants over the settled workers? Talk me through your process about how you track everybody in the organization?’

“‘What happens when they are not in one day? What happens when they’re not in at work the second day?’

“A bit of this thing was like an assumption that they’re not human beings but they’re like prisoners on the run.”

Immediate effects

The January 31 decision letter, which TechCrunch has reviewed, shows how the Home Office is fast-tracking anti-immigrant outcomes. In a short paragraph, the Home Office says it considered and dismissed an alternative outcome — of downgrading, not revoking, the license and issuing an “action plan” to rectify issues identified during the audit. Instead, it said an immediate end to the license was appropriate due to the “seriousness” of the non-compliance with “sponsor duties”.

The decision focused on one of the two employees Metail had working on a Tier 2 visa, who we’ll call Alex (not their real name). In essence, Alex was a legal immigrant had worked their way into a mid-level promotion by learning on the job, as should happen regularly at any good early-stage startup. The Home Office, however, perceived the promotion to have been given to someone without proper qualifications, over potential native-born candidates. We detail the full saga over on Extra Crunch, along with the takeaways that other startups can learn from.

For Metail, the situation suddenly became about its own existence and not just the fate of one hardworking younger employee.

Metail’s other Tier 2 sponsor visa was for Dr. Yu Chen, who is originally from China, and leads the startup’s research efforts based at its Cambridge office. Chen has been with the business for around seven years — starting his relationship with Metail projects while still working on his computer vision PhD at Cambridge University.

Adeyoola describes him as “critical” to the business, a sentiment Chen confirms when we chat — albeit more modestly summing up his contribution as “quite theoretically involved in all these critical algorithms and key technologies developed by this organization since the very beginning”.

A major first concern for Adeyoola was what the loss of Metail’s sponsor license meant for Chen — and by extension Metail’s ability to continue business-critical research work.

The Home Office letter provided no guidance on specific knock-on impacts. And the lawyers Metail contacted for advice weren’t sure. “Our lawyers told us that that was the implication. In their revocation notice, they do not tell you what it means explicitly. You have to figure that out for yourself,” says Adeyoola. “Hence it is confusing and unclear.”

The lawyers advised Chen’s employment be suspended to keep the rest of the company safe — which instantly threw up further questions.

“Can I suspend his employment with pay or not with pay? Because the Home Office had his passport and they’ve had his passport since he’d applied for indefinite leave to remain in October and in January he still hadn’t had his passport back. He can’t go anywhere or do anything, so backward and forth it worked out that, yeah, we could suspend him with pay. But he couldn’t be seen at that time to be doing any work — and he’s critical for us.

“We had government R&D grants, he runs all our research — so I was like well we’re going to have to talk to the government and add an extension to that project.”

They had to tell everybody in the office that while Chen’s employment was suspended they weren’t allowed to talk to him. “He wasn’t allowed to use Slack,” Adeyoola recounts. “So if you were going to talk to him you had to meet him off-premise.”

“Nobody knows whether you can normally work,” says Chen of the uncertainty around his status at that point. “Are you just allowed to stay at home legally but not allowed to work? Lot of question marks. It’s a very, very rare scenario I think.”

Adeyoola says he was also concerned whether Metail having its sponsor license suspended might negatively impact Chen’s in-train application for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ in the UK — which he had applied for in October, before the sponsor license suspension letter landed, having been in the UK the requisite ten years by then. And because, ironically enough, he had been “panicking” a bit about his future status as a result of Brexit.

Metail used an online email checking service, available via a Home Office portal, which suggested Chen could, in fact, work while the company license was suspended. At the same time Adeyoola had reached out to Chen’s local MP for help confirming his status — and with the aid of a political side-channel did manage to get it firmly confirmed in writing from the Home Office that Chen could still work while the license was suspended.

“We had to operate on lowest common denominator basis until we had written notice. Because systems operate on a ‘with prejudice’ basis,” says Adeyoola of the week Chen had been suspended from work.

“It was not in the letter. There was nothing in the letter about what it means for your people. Again, the human aspect of it seems to be the last thing on their mind. I think that’s part of the indoctrination of the people there — so they’re highly process-ified and trained so that they do their job.”

Chen’s period of suspension turned out to be mercifully brief, although that was purely due to lucky timing. Had he waited a month or so longer to lodge the original paperwork for his indefinite leave to remain, then his situation and Metail’s could have panned out very differently.

“In my case, I was just lucky because I started to apply for indefinite leave to remain before this stuff blew up,” he says, saying he filed the application around nine months before his Tier 2 visa was due to apply.

Nearly six months after filing for it in October, Chen’s indefinite leave to remain came through.

But by that time Metail’s sponsor license had gone. Now they wouldn’t be able to hire more people like Chen without overcoming major hurdles.

A hostile environment for immigration

A photograph of the UK prime minister, Theresa May, smiles down at the reader of the Wikipedia page for the Home Office hostile environment policy.

As smiles go, it’s more rictus grin than welcoming sparkle. Which is appropriate because, as the page explains, the then-home secretary presided over the introduction of the current hostile environment, as the coalition government sought to deliver on a Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2010 to reduce net immigration to 1990 levels — aka “tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”.

The policy boils down to: deport first, hear appeals later. One infamous application of it during May’s tenure as home secretary saw vans driven around multicultural areas of London, bearing adverts with the slogan ‘Go Home’. The idea, criticized at the time as a racist dog-whistle, was to convince illegal workers to deport themselves by making them feel unwelcome.

Summarizing the broader policy intent in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper in early 2012, May told the right-leaning broadsheet: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”

Associated measures introduced to further the hostile environment have included a requirement that landlords, employers, banks and the UK’s National Health Service carry out ID checks to determine whether a tenant, worker, customer or patient has a legal right to be in the UK, co-opting businesses and non-government entities into policing immigration via the medium of extra bureaucracy.

But in seeking to make life horribly difficult for workers who are in the UK without authorization, the government has also created a compliance nightmare for legal migration.

A Channel 4 TV report last year highlighted two cases of highly skilled Pakistani migrants who, after more than a decade in the UK had applied for indefinite leave to remain — only to be told they must leave instead. The Home Office cited small adjustments to their tax returns as grounds to order them out, apparently relying on a clause that allows it to remove people it decides to be of ‘bad character’.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg where the human impact of the Home Office’s hostile environment is concerned. There have been a number of major scandals related to the policy’s application. The most high profile touches Windrush generation migrants, who came to the UK between 1948 and the early 1970s — after the British Nationality Act gave citizens of UK colonies the right to settle in the country but without providing them with documentary evidence of their permanent right to remain.

The combination of thousands of legal but undocumented migrants — many originally from the Caribbean — and a Home Office instructed to take a hostile stance that pushes for deportations in order to shrink net migration has led to scores of settled UK citizens with a legal right to be in the country being pushed out or deported illegally by the government.

The Windrush scandal eventually claimed the scalp of May’s successor at the Home Office, Amber Rudd, who resigned as home secretary in April 2018 after being forced to admit to “inadvertently” misleading a parliamentary committee about targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Rudd had claimed the Home Office did not have such targets. That statement was contradicted by a letter she wrote to the prime minister that was obtained and published by The Guardian newspaper — in which she promised to oversee the forced or voluntary departure of 10% more people than May had during her time at the Home Office by switching resource away from crime-fighting to immigration enforcement programs.

May chose Sajid Javid to be Rudd’s replacement as home secretary. And while he has sought to distance himself from the hostile environment rhetoric — saying he prefers to talk about a “compliant environment” for immigration — the reality is the architect of the policy remains (for now) head of the government in which he serves.

Her government has not directly repeated the 2010 Conservative Party manifesto pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands”. But an immigration white paper published at the end of last year retraced the same rhetoric — talking about reducing “annual net migration to sustainable levels as set out in the Conservative party manifesto, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have consistently seen over the last two decades”.

It’s clear that controlling immigration remains right at the top of the government’s policy agenda, and is bearing out in how policies are enforced today.

Austerity and the Brexit divide

As UK prime minister, May is also in charge of delivering Brexit. And here she has made ending freedom of movement for European Union citizens another immutable red-line of her approach — repeatedly claiming it’s necessary to ‘take back control’ of the UK’s borders to deliver on the Brexit vote.

Brexit the UK’s 2016 referendum to exit the European Union saw around 52% of those who cast a ballot voting to leave, or around 17.4 million people out of a total population of approximately 65.6M.

May’s interpretation of that result has been to claim citizens voted to end free movement of EU people and workers, despite there being no such specific detail on the ballot paper. (The referendum question simply asked whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave.)

So her vision of a post-Brexit future will require UK businesses which want to recruit EU workers needing a sponsor license and relevant visas for all such hires. This will mean UK businesses hiring from outside the settled worker pool will have to expose more of their inner workings to the rules and regulations of the immigration system — with all the compliance cost and risk that entails.

From the outside looking in it might seem odd that the Conservative Party a formidable political force that likes to claim it can be trusted to manage the economy, and which is traditionally associated with being more closely aligned with the interests of the private sector is presiding over policies that drive up compliance bureaucracy for companies while simultaneously increasing their recruitment costs and squeezing their ability to access a broader talent pool.

But the traditional politics of right and left do seem to be in flux in the UK, as indeed they are elsewhere.

This is perhaps in part linked to the aging demographic of the Conservative Party’s base. (One disputed guesstimate, put out by a right-leaning think tank in 2017, suggested that the average age of a member of the party is 72; whatever the exact figure, no one disputes it skews old.)

The UK’s position in Europe as a major economy, with a low unemployment rate and English as its first language has also historically served to make the country an attractive destination for EU workers to settle. Hundreds of thousands of EU migrants arrived in the UK annually between mid 2014 to mid 2016, prior to the Brexit vote. Post-referendum, EU immigration dropped to 74,000 last year (even as net migration to the UK has not reduced).

That locus has long been a major benefit to UK businesses and startups, and so to the wider economy. But once it got geared into years of austerity politics — also introduced by the Conservative-led government in the wake of the 2008 financial crash — the country’s success as a worker and talent magnet started to butt up against and even drive rising resentment among sections of the population that have not felt any economic benefit from the concentrated wealth of high tech hubs like London.

Against a backdrop of growing inequality in UK society and sparser access to publicly funded resources, it has been all too easy for right-wing populists to re-channel resentment linked to government austerity cuts — framing immigration as a drain on services and pointing the finger of blame at migrants by encouraging the idea that they have a lesser claim than natural UK-born citizens to essential but now inadequately resourced public services.

This cynical scapegoating glosses over the fact that public services have been systematically and deliberately underfunded by austerity politics. But, at the same time, research that suggests EU migrants are in fact a net benefit to the UK economy has little comfort to offer those who feel economically excluded by default.

One interesting component of the UK’s Brexit vote split is that it appears to cut not so much along traditional left/right political lines but across educational divides, with researchsuggesting that pro-Brexit voters were more likely to live in areas with lower overall educational attainment.

High tech hubs and startup businesses are therefore in the awkward position of risking exacerbating the same sort of societal divide. They can be seen as driving the automation of traditional jobs, creating work that’s more specialized which in turn makes employable skills harder to attain from a low skills base, and concentrating opportunity and wealth in the hands of fewer people. Hence the needs of startups are becoming more difficult for politicians to prioritize.

There’s no doubt the politics of austerity has supercharged UK inequality as service cuts have hit hardest at the regional margins where wider economic gains were always the least profound and first to evaporate under pressure. While rising competition for scarcer state-funded resources has created perfect conditions for scapegoating migration.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank earlier this month, at the launch of a five-year review into factors driving UK societal inequality, also warned that widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunities are undermining trust in democracy.

All of which makes responding to Brexit a political minefield for the UK government. The Brexit crisis seems to require a bold, society-wide re-engineering that attacks inequality of opportunity, radically invests in education, reskilling and upskilling to grow participation in the digital economy, and a tax policy that works to dilute concentrated wealth to ensure economic benefits are more fairly redistributed. None of which, it’s fair to say, is terrain traditionally associated with Conservative politics. (Though, in recent years, there have been attempts to claw in more tax from profit-shifting tech giants.)

Instead, the government’s top-line answer to the Brexit conundrum has, first and foremost, been to attack immigration. Playing to the lie that inequality is a simple numbers game based on population figures.

It’s not a strategy that properly addresses the question of how to manage wealth, resources and opportunity in an increasingly digital (and divided) world — to ensure it’s more equally and fairly distributed so that society as a whole benefits, rather than just a fabulously wealthy techno-elite getting richer.

Yet the government is badging its planned post-Brexit immigration reforms as a ‘Britain first’ overhaul that will create a system that’s “fair to working people here at home”, as the prime minister puts it. “It will mean we can reduce the number of people coming to this country, as we promised, and it will give British business an incentive to train our own young people,” runs her introduction to the immigration white paperpublished at the back end of last year, when Brexit was still marching towards a March 29 deadline.

The government making reducing net migration both flagship policy and political success metric has the knock-on effect of heaping cost, administrative burden and operational risk on UK startups — which rely, like all high tech businesses, on access to skills and talent to develop and scale commercial ideas.

But in the new austerity-fuelled Brexit political reality, the UK government not being overly supportive of the needs of talent-thirsty businesses seems to be the order of the day. Even as, on the other hand, other bits of opportune government rhetoric talk about Britain being “open for business” — or wanting the country to be the best place in the world to build a tech business.

Another government claim — that the planned “skills-based” future approach to immigration will allow businesses to cherry pick the very best talent from all over the globe — does not credibly stack up against the Conservative Party’s overarching push to shrink net migration.

The political reality, certainly for now, is that the ‘compliant’ environment approach to immigration is a euphemist label atop the same openly hostile policy that has slammed doors on people and businesses.

“I want to be able to hire great talented people with drive, enthusiasm and dynamism. I don’t want my choices to be restricted and if they are going to continue to be restricted we’ll have to look at other ways of maintaining the talent pool” says Adeyoola, discussing how he feels after Metail’s brush with the ‘compliant environment’.

“I’d love to just be able to hire the best person for the job… often a lot of that comes from people who want to come and make a life here. They have greater drive. So you get higher quality so you want to be able to hire those people if they come up.

“I think, unfortunately for us, we’re going to see fewer and fewer of them. Because if stuff continues the way it’s continuing, well we’ve already seen net migration from Europe fall dramatically over the last three years. In part that’s Brexit, in part that’s also because eastern European nations are flourishing… so the prospects are the other way. That’s just generally how things work. Great people move to great places.

”Just through going through this process it’s cost me money,” he adds of the audit and everything it triggered. “Real money in legal fees… lost time through weeks of work and effort from people inside the organization… We’re having to restrict the talent pool we can hire from… We’re going to have to spend more money on recruiters to find the right people… It is all just negative… The Brexit argument has always been Brexit will mean fewer EU which means we can have more people from outside… Well, that’s not how the immigration rules work now.

“You’re trying desperately to keep people from outside out. So I can’t believe that, post-Brexit you’re going to loosen the rules… So this whole thing about ‘fewer EU, more commonwealth and more everywhere else’ is not believable.”

Towards politically charged borders

Change is coming for the UK’s immigration system. But if the government executes on May’s version of Brexit — which intends to end freedom of movement for EU citizens — it will require UK businesses to interface with the Home Office if they wish to recruit almost any skilled individual from overseas.

Simply put, the same set of rules will apply to EU and non-EU migrants in the future. With the caveat that it remains possible for any post-Brexit trade deals that the UK might ink to include agreements with certain countries to carve out distinct offers related to work visas.

Per its white paper, the government has said it will simplify immigration requirements, as part of the shift to a single, “skills-based future immigration system” post-Brexit, slated from 2021 onwards.

Planned changes include removing the cap on skilled workers, which has — in years past — put another hard limit on startups hiring skilled migrants as, up until doctors and nurses were excluded from the quota last summer, it kept getting hit each month — limiting how many visas were available to businesses.

The government has also said it will do away with the requirement that employers advertise jobs to settled workers. So no more resident labour market test — aka the process which helped skewer Metail’s sponsor license.

Instead, for skilled workers, the plan is to apply a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 (including those with lower, intermediate level skills than now) — using pay as a lever to discourage migrant workers from being used to undercut wages. So no more forcing businesses to undertake an arduous, lengthy and risky (from a compliance point of view) process of advertising to settled workers in case one can be found for a vacancy.

Although the 2021 timeline for introducing the skills-based system that’s written into the immigration policy paper was contingent on the UK leaving the EU on March 29 this year.  Whereas Brexit still has yet to happen. So the implementation date for any post-Brexit immigration reforms remains as equally uncertain and moveable a ‘feast’ as Brexit itself.

“Cost certainly won’t go away,” says Charlie Pring, a senior counsel who specializes in immigration work for law firm Taylor Wessing, of the planned reforms. “The red tape will go away a little bit from 2021 when they rework this new one-size fits all system that will cover Europeans and non-Europeans — because they’re going to scrap the cap and they’re going to scrap advertising. And they’re also going to lower the skill level as well — so almost like A-level qualified jobs rather than graduate one jobs. So it’ll be mid-level jobs as well as graduate ones. But that’s still best part of two years away — so until then employers have got to lump it.”

The immigration system that remains in force has been designed to make the process of sponsoring migrant workers akin to a tax on businesses — with associated cost, complexity and uncertainty designed to discourage recruitment of non-UK workers.

For startups, Pring (who to be clear did not advise Metail) sees costs as the biggest challenge — “because the visa fees are so high”. He also points out the fees scale with the company. Once a startup is “no longer deemed to be a small” by the Home Office there’s “a higher skills tax to the government as well. So that’s a real issue”.

Startups don’t get any kind of compliance break based on the fact they’re trying to be innovative, develop new skills, tap novel technologies and create new business models. The same skeptical compliance can also be seen operating across the board — whether a business entails low tech seasonal fruit picking or is a high growth potential AI startup with a wealth of PhD expertise and patented technologies.

Nor does the Home Office have any remit to actively support sponsors to help them understand how to fulfil all the various knotted requirements of an immigration system that can be charitably described as opaque and confusing.

On the contrary, the government’s goal of shrinking annual migration creates a political counter-incentive for immigration rules to be complex and unclear. Encouraging enforcement to be aggressive and confrontational — and for compliance officers to hunt for reasons to find and penalize failure.

UK startups that sponsor migrants should understand they remain at risk of falling foul of the charged politics swirling around immigration — and having all their sponsored visas liquidated and business penalized by a system that, parts of which the government’s own policy plan concedes are not working as intended.

Even with reform looming, the future for entrepreneurs in the UK looks no less uncertain — if, as the government intends, free access to the EU talent pool goes away after Brexit. That will give the Home Office far greater control over migration, and therefore a much bigger say over who businesses can and cannot hire — putting its hands on cost and skill levers which can be used to control migrant flow.

Here’s Pring again: “The government is deliberately funneling people through into Tier 2 [visas]. If they push everybody through Tier 2, which is what they want, that’s the way they control skill level and salary level because you can only get a Tier 2 visa if the job is skilled enough and you’re paying enough for it. So it enables the government to put an element of control onto the visa numbers. And even though they’re not [generally] capping the numbers… they are through the backdoor deterring people from applying by making it difficult to qualify and ramping up the visa fees.”

The UK’s future immigration system is also being fashioned by a Conservative government that sees itself under siege from populist, anti-immigration forces, and is led — at least for now — by a prime minister famed for her frosty welcome for migrants.

Without a radical change of government and/or political direction it’s hard to imagine those levers being flipped in a more startup-friendly direction.

Entrepreneurs in the UK should therefore be forgiven for feeling they have little reason to smile and plenty to worry about. Rising costs for accessing talent and growing political risk is certainly not the kind of scale they love to dream of.

Source: How an immigration crackdown is hurting UK startups

Companies That Rely On US Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

Same issues arose from the Canadian business community with respect to the 2011 National Household Survey, given the adverse impact on demographic and other data, particularly in smaller geographic areas:

Some critics of the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 census are coming from a group that tends to stay away from politically heated issues — business leaders.

From longtime corporations like Levi Strauss & Co. to upstarts like Warby Parker, some companies say that including the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — could harm not only next year’s national head count, but also their bottom line.

How governments use census data is a common refrain in the lead-up to a constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. The new population counts, gathered once a decade, are used to determine how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed among the states. They also guide how hundreds of billions in federal tax dollars are spread around the country to fund public services.

What is often less visible is how the census data undergird decisions made by large and small businesses across the country. The demographic information the census collects — including the age, sex, race, ethnicity and housing status of all U.S. residents — informs business owners about who their existing and future customers are, which new products and services those markets may want and where to build new locations.

Weeks before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the citizenship question last month, more than two dozen companies and business groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the question. Its potential impact on the accuracy of census data, especially about immigrants and people of color, is drawing concern from both Lyft and Uber, as well as Levi Strauss, Warby Parker and Univision.

“We don’t view this as a political situation at all,” says Christine Pierce, the senior vice president of data science at Nielsen — a major data analytics company in the business world that filed its own brief with the high court. “We see this as one that is around sound research and good science.”

Next year, the Trump administration wants to use the census to ask about the citizenship status of every person in every household in the country through a question approved by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau. The collected responses, the administration maintains, would be used to better enforce Voting Rights Act protections against discrimination of racial and language minorities.

Researchers at the Census Bureau, however, recommended against adding a question, which they said would produce citizenship information that’s less accurate and more expensive than existing government data. The question could bump up the cost of the 2020 census by at least $121 million, according to the bureau’s latest estimates.

Three federal judges have issued orders blocking the question, and the issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are expected to issue their ruling by the end of June.

“No substitute for a good census”

In the meantime, Nielsen and other companies are pushing back against the administration’s efforts.

Pierce says asking about a topic as sensitive as a person’s citizenship status is likely to discourage some people from participating in the head count. It’s also important, she adds, to test changes to a survey before implementing them.

The Census Bureau had not conducted a field test of a 2020 census form with a citizenship question before Ross decided to include the question.

Pierce emphasized these points last year in an affidavit for the New York-based lawsuits over the citizenship question. Through the court filing, she testified that Ross mischaracterized comments she made in a phone conversation they had that was later cited in Ross’ memo announcing his decision to add the question.

“If there is an undercount, that could carry through to our audience estimates and could mean that people will make decisions based on data that isn’t as accurate as it should be,” Pierce says, referring to the TV ratings that Nielsen produces using census data.

That data, Nielsen estimates, are tied to $90 billion in TV and video advertising.

“There’s just no substitute for a good census and having that count be as thorough as possible,” Pierce says.

Data that affect “our day-to-day lives”

The ride-hailing app Lyft is worried that an inaccurate census could mean that some communities may not get their fair share in federal funding for roads and public transportation over the next 10 years.

“That is a direct impact on our business because it means that those roads will end up being more clogged up and those people will have a harder time getting around,” says Anthony Foxx, a former U.S. secretary of transportation during the Obama administration who now serves as Lyft’s chief policy officer.

“This data that comes out of the census is not just some bureaucratic government data that sits in a vault somewhere that no one sees. It’s actually data that affects our day-to-day lives,” says Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Univision’s executive vice president of government and corporate affairs.

Census Bureau research suggests including the question would discourage Latinos and Latinas from responding. Herrera-Flanigan is concerned that could lead to an undercount of Latinx residents.

“It’s a big lift”

Still, Univision is planning to talk up next year’s census on its TV programs. The children’s talent show Pequeños Gigantes recently featured a segment with kids attempting to explain what a census is.

“Regardless of what happens in the courts, we are going to be pushing people to know about the importance of the census and actually do it,” Herrera-Flanigan says. “It’s a big lift.”

It’s also tricky ground for businesses to navigate — especially after President Trump has tweeted his support of the citizenship question.

“The American people deserve to know who is in this Country,” Trump tweeted the day after the Supreme Court hearing.

At a public meeting earlier this month, Census Bureau official Burton Reist noted the bureau is running into hurdles trying to recruit businesses to promote the census.

“We had a meeting with McDonald’s, but that was a year ago. And we’ve had a hard time getting anything to come from it,” he explained to members of the bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.

In response, Arturo Vargas — who leads the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, a member of the committee — said business leaders have told him they’re reluctant to promote a census that has become so “politicized” by the Commerce Department’s efforts to get a citizenship question added.

“This is now something that, even though it’s such a fundamental aspect of our democracy, that they themselves are not willing to be associated with something that is so controversial now,” Vargas said.

Reist said, so far, a promotional partnership is “underway” between the bureau and the J.M. Smucker Company.

NPR has confirmed the bureau is also in discussions with Procter & Gamble, the company behind Pampers, Luvs and other brands.

Since speaking with the bureau early last year, McDonald’s has “not made any decisions on this at this time,” a spokesperson for the company, Lauren Altmin, said in an email.

Source: Companies That Rely On Census Data Worry Citizenship Question Will Hurt

Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

The government clearly dropped the ball on the revised citizenship guide as it is now too close to the election to be released without it being perceived as overtly political. The current guide, Discover Canada, also has a political aspect to some of its messaging.

The delay also means not fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation 93:

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including call upon the officials and host countries of information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”

The other related TRC recommendation 94, calling for a change in the oath to add “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” has also been missed by the government (while including the change in an omnibus budget bill would be highly inappropriate, hard to see how this would be anymore inappropriate to other measures included in the recent budget):

A promised overhaul of Canada’s citizenship guide remains a work in progress with just months left in the Liberal government’s mandate.

That leaves newcomers to the country with the existing guide — which is riddled with historical gaps and outdated information — as their primary document for preparing for the citizenship test.

The government is revamping the 68-page Discover Canada document, last updated in 2012, to better reflect diversity and to include more “meaningful content” about the history and rights of Indigenous people and the residential school experience.

With just five months to go before the federal election, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said a launch date still has not been set and offered no specific explanation for the delay.

“We are committed to getting the citizenship guide right, and that includes consulting with as many stakeholders [as possible] on the proposed changes. This work is ongoing,” said Mathieu Genest. “We are listening to experts, stakeholders and community representatives, because what we want to do is take the politics out of the guide.”

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said it’s “incomprehensible” that the guide is taking this long to roll out.

“Our major concern is that newcomers be presented with a fair and balanced picture of Canada that acknowledges the problems in Canadian and current reality, and how that affects Indigenous people and racialized people. When we fail to provide an accurate picture of our country, it’s a disservice to the country as a whole as well as to the newcomers,” she said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had recommended revising information materials for newcomers and the citizenship test to reflect “a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the treaties and the history of residential schools.”

Historical gaps, outdated information

Until the new guide is released, newcomers will have to use the existing guide to study for the citizenship test. It contains limited information on the legacy of residential schools, outdated information on things like population numbers and lyrics to the national anthem that have since been changed by Parliament to make them more gender-neutral.

Calling the delay “astounding,” NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said it’s unacceptable that there’s still incorrect, outdated information in the guide.

“You want our newcomers to know the wording to our national anthem. It’s embarrassing to have in our citizenship guide this kind of misinformation,” she said.

Kwan said she is puzzled by the delay, given that MPs were consulted on it two years ago and an early draft was leaked last year to The Canadian Press.

“I certainly think that with the citizenship guide, we can take the opportunity to ensure that new Canadians, newcomers understand our history, the good, bad and the ugly, and … fully appreciate the history of Canada, most certainly around the issue of Indigenous people,” she said. “To give full recognition to that, I think, is very important.”

Plan was to release guide in 2017

A draft copy of the revised guide obtained by The Canadian Press showed a reference to the illegal practice of female genital mutilation had been dropped. CP also reported that the Liberals hoped to have the new guide in place for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Last fall, CBC News reported that the updated citizenship guide would, in fact, include a warning to newcomers about female genital mutilation.

The issue had become politically charged, with Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel repeatedly pressing Hussen on the topic. She also sponsored an e-petition in the House of Commons on the matter.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Zool Suleman said the government likely thought the updating exercise would be easier than it turned out to be. He said the citizenship guide reflects the priorities and values of the government that writes it, and helps to define how people see the country.

Political tilt on focus

The previous Conservative government tilted the guide’s wording toward military history and rights and the responsibilities of citizenship, while the Liberal government appears to be inclined to explain Indigenous reconciliation and multiculturalism, Suleman said.

“Given that we have an election coming up, there’s probably a calculus about whether it’s worth releasing a new guide, which inevitably will make some people happy and other people unhappy,” he said.

Dory Jade, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said he believes it’s better to take the time to get it right instead of rushing it for political reasons.

“I personally believe the bureaucratic machine requires more time to do such a job and the government did not foresee that in their promise,” he said, noting that the Conservative government also took a long time to finish its update.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the revamp is focused on several key areas:

  • Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for language that better reflects the perspectives and history of Indigenous peoples of Canada.
  • Showcasing Canada’s cultural diversity and commitment to official languages.
  • Presenting the social evolution of civic rights and freedoms for LGBT, women and people with disabilities.
  • Using language that is more accessible for second-language learners and structuring the document so the newcomer can more easily identify the main points of each chapter.

The government has also pledged to update materials for newcomers and to amend the oath of citizenship to reflect respect for Indigenous rights. That change to the citizenship oath was also recommended by the TRC and included in Hussen’s Feb. 1, 2017 mandate letter.

Those initiatives are also still ongoing, according to Hussen’s office.

Source: Revamped citizenship guide still a work in progress as election nears

Colby Cosh: Vancouver’s birth-tourism issue could soon become Ottawa’s problem

More on birth tourism and good summary of some of the issues involved.

Will remain to see if the Conservatives decide to address the issue or not in their election platform or one of Andrew Scheer’s policy speeches beyond his earlier policy statement (SCHEER STATEMENT ON BIRTH TOURISM | Press & Media, “ending birth tourism will be among the objectives of our policy”):

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned

Is birthright citizenship doomed in Canada? An omen appeared in Friday morning’s Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal did some research and presented the paper with a number of examples of online advertising from Chinese websites that tout the benefits of intentionally delivering an anchor baby on Canadian soil.

The ads suggest that brokers are offering “one-stop shopping” for pregnant women: they promise to set up housing, transportation, and perinatal care, all so that the blessed event itself can happen in a comfortable, clean, high-quality Canadian hospital. This gives your child the golden ticket of Canadian citizenship — coming as it does with access to superior Canadian education, Canadian welfare and social insurance, and widespread visa-free international travel.

In turn, your Canadian infant can one day serve as your own access point for Canada’s family-reunification immigration stream. Or you may set your eyes on higher vistas: one ad says enticingly that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.” (The Sun says that it checked Johal’s translations from the Chinese.)

Last year there was a controversy over birth tourism when the Conservatives voted at their annual convention to eliminate automatic citizenship for the children of non-citizens born in Canada. This policy plank was contentious at the time, and the Conservatives were denounced for even discussing the issue. Nobody, of course, was willing to defend birth tourism as such. You would have to be a pretty extreme advocate of open borders to say, on being presented with Chinese ads for birth-tourism brokers, that these are legitimate businesses serving a noble purpose to the benefit of Canada. (Although it might be true!)

The complaint against the Conservatives was not that automatic “jus soli” citizenship for everybody born here makes sense as an eternal, universal principle, but that birth tourism just doesn’t happen enough to be a problem. The question now being raised — the question that Johal’s folder of ads is likely to emphasize — is whether anybody was really bothering to check.

In November, Andrew Griffith, a former senior bureaucrat in the federal Citizenship and Immigration department, did some research using hospital finance statistics from the Canadian Institution for Health Information (CIHI). Griffith found that the numbers of non-residents giving birth in Canadian hospitals was growing, that they are approaching 10 per cent of all births at a few urban hospitals, and that for one enormous outlier they are twice that. And, surprise! The outlier is the Richmond Hospital in Richmond, B.C.

These numbers are still not enormous (against a national background), and they include some births that obviously are not “tourism,” within families that are in Canada for study or business. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine a non-tourism explanation for the patterns Griffith found. The situation at the Richmond Hospital had already been noticed locally, and had become a pet issue of local Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido.

Johal challenged B.C.’s health minister, the former provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, on birth tourism in a legislature committee this week. Dix did not give the natural New Democrat answer that jus soli citizenship is sacred. He said he was concerned about the tourism issue, that he doesn’t support or favour birth tourism, and that only Ottawa can do something about it — “if they want to act.”

This does not sound to me like an issue that is likely to remain confined to B.C. in the long run, or to be easy for the federal Liberals to deflect if it emerges. It is hard to imagine the provinces being able to limit birth tourism at the hospital level: a woman standing in a Canadian emergency room in a pool of amniotic fluid is going to receive care whatever her own citizenship or other bona fides are. Preventing anchor-baby births by means of the visa process, Griffith acknowledges, “would be virtually impossible.” The humane solution to the problem, if it is a problem, must involve putting new restrictions on birthright citizenship.

Canada’s constitution does not specify automatic jus soli citizenship, explicitly or otherwise. The enterprising gadfly lawyer Rocco Galati tried to argue the opposite in a case that reached the Federal Court in 2015, and he got his head handed to him by Justice Donald Rennie, who piled up eons of British and Canadian law and concluded that “Nationality and citizenship are entirely statutory constructs.” Canada has tinkered with the rules concerning the children of its citizens born abroad several times, and now restricts “jus sanguinis” (inherited citizenship) to one generation in most cases.

It would be faintly ludicrous to suggest that we can make such a change affecting persons descended solely from undoubted Canadian citizens, but that children born in Canada to mere visitors cannot have their entitlement to auto-magical citizenship compromised or questioned. I sense, however, that making exactly this argument will be the initial instinct of a Trudeau government, if it comes to that.

Immigrants — many highly educated — are changing California for the better

Interesting how the debate over whether the US should adopt a “merit-based” system, market forces are already making the shift, with California, as always, being a trend setter:

Distracted by President Trump and his riled resisters, it’s easy to miss the big picture of foreign migration to California.

It’s the old story of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Portrayed in this forest grandeur is a new story in the long history of people uprooting and migrating to California chasing opportunities and dreams.

It is the story of many newly arrived immigrants — especially from Asia — being better educated than U.S.-born citizens.

They’re not starting at the bottom of the work ladder as Chinese laborers did 150 years ago when they risked life and limb to help build the Transcontinental Railroad through the granite Sierra.

True, many Latin Americans are still migrating here to work in the fields and harvest crops — although not nearly enough of them, farmers say — or wash dishes in four-star restaurants. But many of them also are much better educated than their predecessors.

“It’s the old story of immigrants coming to the U.S. and California seeking a better life for themselves and their children,” says Hans Johnson, an immigration and demographics expert at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

“What’s different now is the trend toward immigrants coming into California with high levels of education. The share of those who already have completed college is extremely high. Asian immigrants are the best educated group in California, better than U.S.-born. Immigrants from India are the single best educated group in our state.”

And the increasing education levels of Latin American migrants, Johnson says, “means there are fewer lower-skilled immigrants and a smaller pool of farm workers than there used to be.”

But California’s economy still relies on immigrants with little education, Johnson notes in a PPIC research paper released last week. The report is based on immigration figures through 2017, the latest available.

In 2017, Johnson reports, 32% of working-age California immigrants had not graduated from high school. They primarily worked in the agriculture and hospitality industries.

But that same year, 52% of working-age immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for five years or less had at least bachelor’s degrees — up 30 percentage points since 1990. In contrast, only 37% of U.S.-born Californians were college graduates — up just 10 points since 1990.

And in 2017, 55% of newly arrived immigrants were from Asia, roughly double the number from Latin America, 29%. The majority from Asia had at least a bachelor’s degree — and 80% of immigrants from India did.

Of all California workers with bachelor’s degrees, about 30% were immigrants. The overwhelming majority of college grads working in electronics and product manufacturing were immigrants.

What’s attracting them to California now is not railroad building, gold strikes or even farm harvests, but technology, especially in Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles basin.

“Silicon Valley is drawing in immigrants,” Johnson says.

There are five counties where more than a third of the population comprises immigrants. And the top three are in and around Silicon Valley: Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo. The other two are Alameda, across the bay from Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles.

The influx of college-educated immigrants couldn’t come at a better time. California needs these people to replace U.S.-born, college-educated baby boomers who are rapidly retiring, Johnson says. The U.S. birthrate hasn’t kept up with the retirement pace.

“The number of college grads leaving the labor market is at a record high,” Johnson says. “We’ve never seen in the history of California, or the U.S., such a large and highly educated cohort of people leaving the labor force. We need more highly educated workers in California.”

And many are arriving from foreign countries to fill the void.

There’s much more happening with immigration than border walls, family separations, caravans of refugees from violent Central America and demagogic diatribe.

In his research, Johnson concluded there are almost 11 million immigrants in California, about a quarter of the foreign-born population nationwide. That’s 27% of California’s population, more than double the percentage of foreign-born for the rest of the country.

Only about 14% of immigrants are in California illegally. That’s 1.5 million people, down from 2 million in 2010.

Half of California immigrants are from Latin America; 40% from Asia. The main countries of origin are Mexico (4.1 million), China (969,000), the Philippines (857,000), Vietnam (524,000) and India (507,000).

But since 2010, most immigrants — 56% — have arrived from Asia; 29% from Latin America.

Illegal immigration from Mexico has tailed off and it has little to do with anything Trump has tried. It started early in President Obama’s administration and probably was partly due to his stepped-up deportations. But mainly it was because of a better job market in Mexico.

“Labor opportunities in Mexico have generally been improving,” the researcher says. “Population growth has slowed as birthrates have come way down. The number of new workers has declined dramatically, which translates into fewer people in the labor force.” And that means less competition for jobs.

Birthrates are falling because more women are working, he says. That’s happening in many developed countries, including ours.

Meanwhile, California’s technology hub is attracting a much-needed, highly educated workforce.

The state is changing for the better before our eyes. But probably few of us are noticing.

Source: Immigrants — many highly educated — are changing California for the better

Australia: Migrant groups hopeful for new dialogue after Fraser Anning’s political demise

Some reactions to the Australian election results, beyond the overall result:

With some of Australia’s most divisive politicians unsuccessful in this election, Australia’s Islamic community are hoping it will mean more productive political discussions around race.

Peter Doukas from the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia said his impression is that there has been a change in approach and he hopes the government will seize a new opportunity.

“We believe that this government has now an opportunity to embrace a more diverse agenda,” he told SBS News.

“We don’t want to see a return to the rhetoric that led to the Section 18C debates. We are hopeful that the departure of Fraser Anning and the reduction of Pauline Hanson’s presence in parliament will result in a more open and accepting debate of Australian multiculturalism, so we are looking forward to working with the Government to that effect.”

Bilal Rauf from the Australian National Imams’ Council said it would be important, going forward, the government leads for all of the country and promotes a more inclusive stance.

There’s also a sense of hope for a more rational debate, and narrative and dialogue in parliament with the departure of divisive political figures.

“There’s a sense of relief that some of the voices that have been there in the past that have really exploited an Islamophobic platform, will not be there going forward,” he said.

Mr Doukas has high hopes that progress will be made with the new parliament.

“The departure of the more extreme voices from the last parliament is encouraging. I believe Australians are decent people, and generally we are a multicultural country and a country that is accepting of multiculturalism and we look forward to the debates that will emerge from this parliament.”

But some Chinese leaders say they’re concerned their voices won’t be heard.

“If you look at the rhetoric of the Liberal party and the scare campaigns around immigration, I am myself the daughter of refugees, and for them, they’ve often feel like they’ve been shunned,” Cindy Tan, from the Chinese Australian Forum said.

“Surprise! Anyone was assuming that Labor would win, and here we have the other party, the government, winning with a big margin. It was a surprise,” Surinder Jain, the national vice president of the Hindu Council of Australia said.

Mr Jain says that within the Hindu community there have been mixed reactions to the news.

“Our community has people in both the camps. Most of the new migrants, they go for Labor. But once they’ve bought a house and a mortgage and economics becomes important, they go for Liberals, whereas some stick with their initial loyalties. So we have people in both camps. Some are happy, some are shocked, surprised. Some are elated.”

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s population plan to cut the permanent migration program from 190,000 to 160,000 places per year has Mr Doukas worried.

“Australia’s been built on immigration. Scott Morrison was an immigration minister at one point in his career and he would know as well as anyone else that the value of Australia is in its people and we would encourage the Government to review all policy which reduces our immigration impact as it has an economic impact,” he said.

Mr Jain says that while Australia’s transition to a multicultural community over several decades has been a challenge, he feels that there is a great deal of support for it – both from political parties and from the general public.

“From monoculture to multiculturalism has been a big change in Australia. I have seen over the last forty years how things have improved for us. There’s a very genuine desire in both the parties to make multiculturalism a success and most Australians are behind it.”

Source: Migrant groups hopeful for new dialogue after Fraser Anning’s political demise

Sunstein: Conformity and the Dangers of Group Polarization

How ideological and other bubbles become self-reinforcing and increase polarization, amplified by social media networks:

When people talk to one another, what happens? Do they compromise? Do they move toward moderation? The answer is now clear, and it is not what intuition would suggest: members of deliberating groups typically end up in a more extreme position, consistent with their tendencies before deliberation began. This is the phenomenon known as group polarization. Group polarization is the usual pattern with deliberating groups, having been found in hundreds of studies involving more than a dozen countries, including the United States, France, and Germany. It helps account for many terrible things, including terrorism, stoning, and “mobbing” in all its forms.

It follows that a group of people who think that immigration is a serious problem will, after discussion, think that immigration is a horribly serious problem; that those who approve of an ongoing war effort will, as a result of discussion, become still more enthusiastic about that effort; that people who dislike a nation’s leaders will dislike those leaders quite intensely after talking with one another; and that people who disapprove of the United States, and are suspicious of its intentions, will increase their disapproval and suspicion if they exchange points of view. Indeed, there is specific evidence of the latter phenomenon among citizens of France.

When like-minded people talk with one another, they usually end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before the conversation began. It should be readily apparent that enclaves of people, inclined to rebellion or even violence, might move sharply in that direction as a consequence of internal deliberations. Political extremism is often a product of group polarization.

In the United States, group polarization helped both Barack Obama and Donald Trump to ascend to the presidency. Speaking mostly with one another, Obama supporters and Trump supporters became intensely committed to their candidate. On Facebook and Twitter, we can see group polarization in action every hour, every minute, or every day. As enclaves of like-minded people proliferate online, group polarization becomes inevitable. Sports fans fall prey to group polarization; so do companies deciding whether to launch some new product. It should be easy to see that group polarization is at work on university campuses and in feuds, ethnic and international strife, and war.

One of the characteristic features of feuds is that members of a group embroiled in a feud tend to talk only to one another, fueling and amplifying their outrage, and solidifying their impression of the relevant people and events. Many social movements, both good and bad, become possible through the heightened effects of outrage; consider the civil rights movements of the 1960s (and the contemporary #MeToo movement). Social enclaves are breeding groups for group polarization, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

There is another point, of special importance for purposes of understanding extremism and tribalism: In deliberating groups, those with a minority position often silence themselves or otherwise have disproportionately little weight. The result can be “hidden profiles”—important information that is not shared within the group. Group members often have information but do not discuss it, and the result is to produce bad decisions (or even worse).

Consider a study of serious errors within working groups, both face-to-face and online.1 The purpose of the study was to see how groups might collaborate to make personnel decisions. Résumés for three candidates, applying for a marketing manager position, were placed before the groups. The attributes of the candidates were rigged by the experimenters so that one applicant was clearly the best for the job described. Packets of information were given to subjects, each containing a subset of information from the résumés, so that each group member had only part of the relevant information. The groups consisted of three people, some operating face-to-face, some operating online.

Two results were especially striking. First, group polarization was common, as groups ended up in a more extreme position in the same direction as the original thinking of their members. Second, almost none of the deliberating groups made what was conspicuously the right choice, because they failed to share information in a way that would permit the group to make an objective decision. Members tended to share positive information about the winning candidate and negative information about the losers, while also suppressing negative information about the winner and positive information about the losers. Their statements served to reinforce the movement toward a group consensus rather than to add new and different points or to promote debate.

This finding fits with the more general claim, backed by a lot of evidence, that groups tend to dwell on shared information and to neglect information that is held by few members. It should be unnecessary to emphasize that this tendency can lead to big blunders—in governments, in think tanks, and on the Left and the Right. To understand this particular point, it is helpful to explore the three mechanisms that produce group polarization: information, corroboration, and social comparison.

With respect to information, the simple point is that people usually respond to the arguments made by other people—and the “argument pool,” in any group with some initial disposition in one direction, will inevitably be skewed toward that disposition. A group whose members tend to think that Israel is the real aggressor in the Middle East conflict will tend to hear many arguments to that effect, and relatively few opposing views. It is almost inevitable that the group’s members will have heard some, but not all, of the arguments that emerge from the discussion. Having heard all of what is said, people are likely to move further in the anti-Israel direction. So too with a group whose members tend to oppose immigration: group members will hear a large number of arguments against immigration and a smaller number of arguments on its behalf. If people are listening, they will have a stronger conviction, in line with the same view with which they began, as a result of deliberation. An emphasis on limited argument pools also helps to explain the problem of “hidden profiles” and the greater discussion of shared information during group discussion. It is simply a statistical fact that when more people have a piece of information, there is a greater probability that it will be mentioned. Hidden profiles are a predictable result, to the detriment of the ultimate decision.

With respect to the power of corroboration, the intuition is simple: people who lack confidence, and who are unsure what they should think, tend to moderate their views. It is for this reason that cautious people, not knowing what to do, are likely to choose the midpoint between the relevant extremes. But if other people seem to share your view and corroborate your beliefs, you are likely to become more confident that you are correct—and hence to move in a more extreme direction. You might think that on a scale of one to ten, the likelihood that climate change is occurring is seven—but if most people in your group agree that climate  change is occurring, you might move up to nine.

In a wide variety of experimental contexts, people’s opinions have been shown to become more extreme simply because their view has been corroborated and because they have become confident after learning of the shared views of others. The existence of confirmation from others will strengthen confidence and hence strengthen extremity. It can also make for mobs.

With respect to social comparison, the starting point is that people want to be perceived favorably by other group members, and also to perceive themselves favorably. Their views may, to a greater or lesser extent, be a function of how they want to present themselves. Once people hear what others believe, they adjust their positions in the direction of the dominant position, to hold onto their preserved self-presentation. They may want to signal that they are politically correct, whatever that means in their group. For example, they might want to show that they are not cowardly or cautious, perhaps in an entrepreneurial group that disparages these characteristics, and hence they will frame their position so they do not appear as such by comparison to other group members. And after they hear what other people think, they might find they occupy a somewhat different position, in relation to the group, from what they hoped, and they shift accordingly.

If people believe they are somewhat more opposed to immigration than most people, they might shift a bit after finding themselves in a group of people who are strongly opposed to immigration, to maintain their preferred self-presentation. This phenomenon occurs all the time. People may wish, for example, not to seem too enthusiastic—or too restrained in their enthusiasm—for affirmative action, feminism, or an increase in expenditures on national defense; hence their views shift when they see what other group members think. The result is to press the group’s position toward one or another extreme, and also to induce shifts in individual members.

Note that an emphasis on social comparison gives a new and perhaps better explanation for the existence of hidden profiles and the failure to share certain information within a group. People might emphasize shared views and information, and downplay unusual perspectives and new evidence, simply from a fear of group rejection and a desire for general approval. In political institutions and in companies, there is an unfortunate implication: group members who care about one another’s approval, or who depend on one another for material or nonmaterial benefits, might well suppress highly relevant information.

Group polarization is not a social constant. It can be increased or decreased and even eliminated by certain features of group members or their situation.

First, extremists are especially prone to polarization. It is more probable that they will shift, and it is probable that they will shift more. When they start out at an extreme point and are placed in a group of like-minded people, they are likely to move especially far in the direction with which they started. There is a lesson here about the sources of terrorism and political violence in general. And because there is a link between confidence and extremism, the confidence of particular members also plays an important role; confident people are both more influential (the “confidence heuristic”) and more prone to polarization.

Second, if members of the group think they have a shared identity and a high degree of solidarity, there will be heightened polarization. One reason is that if people feel united by some factor (for example, politics or religious convictions), dissent will be dampened. If individual members tend to perceive one another as friendly, likeable, and similar to them, the size and likelihood of the shift will increase. The existence of affective ties reduces the number of diverse arguments and also intensifies social influences on choice.

One implication is that mistakes are likely to be increased when group members are united mostly through bonds of affection and not through concentration on a particular task; it is in the former case that alternative views will be less likely to find expression. Another implication is that people are less likely to shift if the point of view or direction advocated is being pushed by unlikeable or unfriendly group members. A sense of “group belongingness” affects the extent of polarization. In the same vein, physical spacing tends to reduce polarization; a sense of common fate and intra-group similarity tends to increase it, as does the introduction of a rival “outgroup.”

Over time, group polarization can be fortified because of “exit,” as members leave the group because they reject the direction in which things are heading. If exit is pervasive, the tendency to extremism will be greatly aggravated. The group will end up smaller, but its members will be both more like-minded and more willing to take extreme measures, and that very fact will mean that internal discussions will produce more extremism still. If the strongest loyalists are the only people who stay, the group’s median member will be more extreme, and deliberation will produce increasingly extreme movements.

We live in an era in which groups of people—on the Left, on the Right, in university departments, in religious institutions—often end up in a pitch of rage, seeing fellow members of the human species not as wrong but as enemies. Such groups may even embark on something like George Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate. When that happens, or when people go to extremes, there are many explanations. But group polarization unifies seemingly diverse phenomena. Extremism and mobbing are not so mysterious. On the contrary, they are predicable products of social interactions.

Source: Conformity and the Dangers of Group Polarization

Ads promote Canada’s benefits to would-be birth tourists

More on birth tourism and the related “industry:”

Ads urging women to come to Canada to give birth tout the value of providing their child with Canadian citizenship.

“Go to Canada to vacation and give birth to a child,” says one online ad targeting Mainland Chinese mothers. “U.S. rejected your visa? No problem! In fact, Canada is better!”

Ads tell women that going to Canada for automatic citizenship is a “gift” for their babies since their children will be able to get free education, cheap university tuition and student loans, according to translations provided by Liberal MLA Jas Johal and verified by Postmedia.

Under Canadian law, a child born in this country is entitled to Canadian citizenship.

The ads are being run by brokers offering “one-stop shopping” for women, with offers to put together packages including transportation, housing, meals, contracts, pre- and postnatal medical appointments, shopping and checking in at hospitals. The ads generally do not mention the broker’s fees.

Some of the ads tell women their offspring can sponsor their parents under family reunification plans once they are adults: “You want to retire in Canada, but you don’t meet the requirements?” asks one such online ad. “You can give birth to your child in Canada. When your child turns 18, your child can apply for the parents.”

Ads tout monthly government subsidies, Canadians’ visa-free entry to 200 countries, unemployment benefits, and that “Canadian passports mean immigration to the U.S.,” Johal said.

Others say birth tourism is ideal for people who “care about their children’s education.”

And in a reference to China’s long-standing policy that limits most couples to a single child, some of the ads suggest birth tourism is ideal for “people who would like to have several kids.

Johal, the Richmond-Queensborough MLA, said birth tourism offends a large proportion of his constituents who want the practice banned. And Health Minister Adrian Dix is looking for Ottawa to take a stand on the issue.

Johal said the latest numbers of births by non-residents, reported by Postmedia, are a wake-up call to all levels of government. There was a 24 per cent increase in births by non-resident mothers in B.C., to 837 babies in 2017-18.

“At its core, birth tourism debases the meaning of citizenship,” Johal said. “As a son of immigrants, and an immigrant to this country, let there be no doubt those of us who have come emigrated to Canada by following the rules are the ones who are most offended by this practice.”

Johal finds the content of many of the ads downright offensive: “When you come to this country and strive and sacrifice, you strengthen this country and the value of Canadian citizenship. Allowing affluent foreigners to essentially purchase a passport is not what this country is about.”

In a legislature committee this week, Johal asked Dix about birth tourism. Dix acknowledged his concerns about the growing numbers of foreign women coming to B.C. to have babies.

“I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it,” Dix stated. But it’s an issue, he said, that comes under federal jurisdiction since it’s a citizenship and immigration matter.

“I mean it’s time, if they want to act, that they should act,” he said of the federal Liberals. “Or alternatively, say they don’t want to act.”

Birth tourism is expected to become a federal election issue this fall.

The Conservatives want the law changed so that one parent must either be a landed immigrant or a Canadian citizen before a baby can gain citizenship.

Postmedia asked the federal immigration minister for comment about birth tourism and any possible changes to policies. But a spokeswoman said the federal government can’t “speculate” on that.

Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the birth-on-soil policy for citizenship has existed since 1947.

The 2019 federal budget has allocated $51.9 million over five years to improve oversight of immigration advisers, including those who deal with birth tourists. Some of the funds will be used to ensure that they aren’t telling women to misrepresent the purpose of their visitor visas.

Mathieu Genest, press secretary to Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said that the Conservatives had once proposed ending the citizenship-on-soil policy but that was “roundly rejected by Canadians.” Now the Conservatives have “backtracked” on their policy, he said.

Source: Ads promote Canada’s benefits to would-be birth tourists