USA: Criminal Illegal Immigration Rates Fall Along the Border

Of note:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just announced that they have encountered 1,431,179 people out of 1,960,519 total enforcement actions in FY2021 along the borders of the United States. When it comes to immigration enforcement, the two components of CBP are the Office of Field Operations and the Border Patrol. Relative to the 478,648 individuals encountered by CBP in FY2020, the number of individuals encountered is up by a factor of three in FY2021. Although the number of individuals encounters by CBP rose enormously in FY2021, the rate of criminals among them dropped to new lows.

CBP defines criminal noncitizens (they used to be called criminal aliens) as individuals who are not U.S. citizens and who have been convicted of crimes here or abroad if the conviction is for conduct which is also a crime in the United States. The CBP data also include noncitizens and U.S. citizens who are arrested as a result of being wanted by other law enforcement agencies. So as to not exclude any criminal illegal immigrants through unintentional omission, this blog post counts all apprehensions of criminals by CBP as noncitizen illegal immigrants. This results in an overcount of illegal immigrant criminals, but it’s better to make errors that overcount illegal immigrant criminality rather than errors that undercount it. In 2016, about 6.4 percent of all illegal immigrant individuals encountered by CBP were criminals. In FY2021, only about 1.9 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended by CBP were criminals (Figure 1).

The absolute number of criminal illegal immigrants encountered by CBP also fell from FY2016 to FY2021, but not in every year. In FY2016, CBP encountered 38,758 criminals out of approximately 607,761 individuals encountered. In FY 2021, CBP encountered 28,213 criminals out of 1,431,179 total illegal immigrants encountered. During that time, the number of illegal immigrants encountered by CBP increased by 236 percent and the number of criminals encountered fell by over 27 percent. In some of the intervening years, the absolute number of criminal illegal immigrants rose, but it generally trended downward.

It’s remarkable that such a vast increase in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended in FY2021 included a lower percentage of criminals than earlier years. Perhaps the supply of criminal illegal immigrants seeking to enter the United States is relatively inelastic and massive changes in the number of individuals seeking to enter unlawfully or ask for asylum are non‐​criminals. In other words, reforms in U.S. immigrant policy that could attract more illegal immigrants or changes in foreign conditions that prompt mass migration do not seem to much affect the flow of criminals.

Many Americans want to keep the border closed, increase harsh border security methods, or restrict asylum because they fear that those encountered are criminals. Based on data supplied by CBP, the criminal illegal immigrant proportion of all encounters along the border are lower in FY2021 than in previous years despite the large increase in the number of encounters. Illegal immigration is a serious problem that imposes high costs on Americans and migrants, but it does not pose a serious criminal threat.

Source: Criminal Illegal Immigration Rates Fall Along the Border

Americans Conflate Border Chaos and Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

Of note (irregular crossings at Roxham Road in Canada provoke similar reactions):

A new poll released by Quinnipiac shows strong disapproval of President Biden’s immigration and border policies. According to the poll, 25 percent of respondents approve and 67 percent disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration issues. Similarly, 23 percent approve and 67 percent disapprove of his handling of the situation on the Mexican border. This poll offers deep insights into how Americans think about immigration and ways for the Biden administration to get out of its chaotic immigration and border mess.

First, the similarity between the polling numbers suggests that Americans conflate what happens on the border with all of immigration policy. Of course, immigration policy is more than just border security. Legal immigration, such as allowing immigrants and migrants to legally come here from abroad, is the most important portion of immigration policy. Second, Americans are deeply concerned about border security issues. Apprehensions of immigrants along the border are up substantially over earlier years. The recent debacle over Haitian arrivals, the government’s heavy‐​handed response, and the certainty of future border arrivals from around the world feed the justified public perception of chaos along the border.

Border chaos makes Americans more opposed to immigration, both legal and illegal. As I’ve written before, there is a convincing academic literature on how public perceptions of chaos and illegal immigration reduce support for legal immigration around the world. When people feel like their government has lost control of immigration, voters are more likely to oppose legal immigration. That’s why the public’s opinion of immigration and the Mexican border are virtually identical in the Quinnipiac poll.

Smart commentators have noticed that the Quinnipiac questions do not indicate precisely what people disapprove of in Biden’s immigration policies. They’ve pointed out that Biden has pursued Trump’s immigration policies with some minor changes, many of which are more restrictive than Trump’s. There is evidence for this in other polls where a trend has emerged that those who are dissatisfied with immigration levels are increasingly dissatisfied because the numbers are too low – although more who are dissatisfied still want less immigration. Perhaps, these commentators claim, people are upset at Biden’s restrictive policies and harsh enforcement along the border? Unfortunately, that interpretation is too clever by half.

The Quinnipiac poll breaks down responses by political party. Democrats, who are more pro‐​immigration, support Biden’s policies while more immigration‐​skeptical Republicans oppose it. We’d see the opposite if the disapproval registered in the Quinnipiac poll were about Biden’s anti‐​immigration policies. The only confounding poll result is that 51 percent of respondents disapproved of deporting some Haitians without allowing them to apply for asylum, with 49 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats approving. This result is evidence that people are more supportive of immigration when people know how the immigration and enforcement systems actually operate.

Decoupling the immigration issue from the U.S.-Mexico border is key to liberalizing immigration. Candidate Biden ran on the most pro‐​immigration platform since Lincoln’s platform in 1864. If he wants to pursue those policies, his administration will have to reduce perceptions of chaos along the border.

How can he do that?

The first step is to recognize that more enforcement won’t reduce the perceptions of chaos. Even if 100 percent of illegal border crossers are returned or removed from the United States, the images of people crossing will continue to fuel the perceptions of chaos. With more enforcement, we’d even have more images and stories of chaos. The second step is realizing that few people are animated by opposition to legal immigration numbers. Sure, there are some organizations run by population control radicals like NumbersUSA that wants to reduce legal immigration, but they are not the norm. The third step is finding ways for these border crossers to enter legally and in an orderly fashion through ports of entry. By doing so, the scary images appearing in the media will disappear and the public will correctly perceive a vast reduction in chaos. Border Patrol agents can then focus their limited resources on intercepting actual security threats rather than asylum seekers and otherwise law‐​abiding illegal border crossers.

A streamlined parole process run at U.S. embassies and consulates far away from the border, expanded guest worker visa programs, and more green cards would channel many of the would‐​be border crossers into the legal immigration system and away from crossing between ports of entry. More importantly, such systems would allow vetting of migrants.

Opposition to immigration and the border chaos is mostly not a reflexive nativist reaction to immigrants. Americans like immigrants and are generally very welcoming, but Americans are rightly alarmed by chaos. For libertarians and many others, chaos is a sign of government failure and an indication that liberalization will reduce illegal immigration and chaos as it has in the past. For most Americans, their reaction to chaos is to be opposed to anything related to the cause of that chaos. This is the immigration Catch‐​22: Liberalization is required to get control over the border but border chaos politically prevents liberalization. The Biden administration can break that Catch‐​22 only by liberalizing first and incurring that political cost upfront. The political benefits for the Biden administration as well as the economic, social, and security benefits to U.S. society of a bold pro‐​immigration policy would be delayed but also much larger. As the Quinnipiac numbers show, Biden doesn’t have much to lose by following this approach.

Source: Americans Conflate Border Chaos and Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

USA: Public Opinion Shifts in a Pro-Immigration Direction

Of note. Dysfunctional US political system does not translate shift into political action:

Since 1965, Gallup has been polling Americans about whether they want immigration levels to decrease, increase, or remain the same. Last year, the percentage of Americans who want to increase immigration rose above the percentage who want to decrease it for the first time. In 2021, that shift held with more respondents again supporting increasing immigration than decreasing it (Figure 1). The support for increasing legal immigration may have narrowed in 2021 to 33 percent from 35 percent in 2020, but the changes are so small that they are likely statistically insignificant.

Consistent with the general rise in support for increasing immigration, a large majority of Americans still believe that immigration is a good thing for the United States (Figure 2). Just like in Figure 1, the percentage saying it’s a good thing has declined by 2 percentage points but that is a small shift a statistically insignificant shift. Although this is consistent with pro‐​immigration policy views, it also includes those who like the current level of immigration.

However, an even more important shift has continued in U.S. opinion about immigration. Since 2001, Gallup has asked this question: “(Asked of those dissatisfied with level of immigration into U.S.) Would you like to see the level of immigration in this country increased, decreased or remain about the same?” Respondents who are dissatisfied with the level of immigration are increasingly likely to be dissatisfied because they think that there is too little immigration. I wrote about this last year but the trend has grown in 2021 (Figure 3). In 2020, 26 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the level of immigration and they wanted to decrease immigration. By 2021, that percentage had fallen to 19 percent. The percent of those who were dissatisfied and wanted an increase stayed about the same and the percent of those satisfied climbed slightly.

That’s a tectonic shift. From 2001–2016, an average of 63 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the level of immigration. Only about 5 percent of respondents were dissatisfied and wanted to increase immigration levels and a whopping 44 percent of the dissatisfied wanted to decrease them (Figure 3). This began to change shortly after President Trump took office. From 2017–2020, an average of about 11 percent of respondents wanted to increase immigration levels while 28 percent were dissatisfied and wanted to decrease them. By the end of the Trump administration, there was still quite a gap among those dissatisfied with immigration, but it had narrowed.

We’re clearly seeing a shift in public opinion where those who dislike the current system are beginning to dislike it because it’s too restrictive. To the extent that we can believe surveys that measure opinions unexpressed through concrete actions like voting, this is a big shift. So far, virtually all of the political energy and enthusiasm has been for immigration restriction. Anti‐​immigration voters cared a lot more about this issue than pro‐​immigration voters. Now, the decline in the percent of respondents who are dissatisfied and who want less immigration is beginning to look like the collapse in anti‐​immigration sentiment that began in the mid‐​1990s (Figure 1).

One doubt I had about this change in behavior last year was that this increased pro‐​immigration opinion was just a reaction to President Trump and that it would fade out after he left office. In other words, I was worried that this was just an ephemeral liberal reaction of President Trump rather than a real and sustained change in opinion. But since the 2021 survey results show that only 19 percent of respondents are dissatisfied and want less immigration, a number 7 percentage points below the previous response in 2020, that is an indication that the pro‐​immigration sentiment of the American public is continuing to increase in the Biden administration. That improvement is especially surprising considering the rise in apprehensions along the border.

This appears to be a positive and sustainable change in American public opinion.

Source: Public Opinion Shifts in a Pro-Immigration Direction | Cato at … › blog › public-opinion-shifts-pro…

Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog

Cato Institute’s reply to the CIS post highlighting the limits of immigration in addressing an aging population ( Immigration and the Aging Society ). Not convinced. And like all immigration debates, the question is one of balance and understanding the limits of immigration in addressing ongoing policy and demographic issues:

The U.S. population is growing slowly and the average age of Americans is increasing as a result. Although the United States is not as old as other countries and likely to age better, the future looks demographically grim. Some social scientists and commentators think that boosting immigration can help delay or reverse those trends. Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, makes a series of silly argumentsagainst the notion that immigration can slow the aging of the U.S. population. Camarota’s points below are in quotes and my responses follow.

In reality, a significant body of research shows that the impact of immigration on population aging is small. While immigration can certainly make our population larger, it does not make us dramatically younger.

Camarota might be correct that the current and historically low rate of immigration to the United States doesn’t much lower the average age of the population, but that does not mean that immigration could not lower the average age if it were expanded. He merely shows that current U.S. immigration policy, which is very restrictive and much closer to his ideal level than mine, cannot much affect the average age. We shouldn’t expect a restrictive immigration system that allows in, at least prior to the immigration restrictions adopted by President Trump and partly maintained by President Biden (so far), a number of immigrants roughly equal to 0.3 percent of the population annually to have a big effect on the average age of the population. In 2018, 32 OECD countries had higher immigration flows as a percent of their populations and only five had lower flows, relative to the United States. Camarota’s point does not rebut the argument that expanded immigration would lower the average age and expand U.S. population.

But demographers have known for a long time that, absent truly gargantuan and ever‐​increasing rates of immigration, it isn’t actually possible for immigrants to undo or dramatically slow the overall aging of society. As Oxford demographer David Coleman observes, ‘it is already well known that [immigration] can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow.’

Do demographers know that? I looked up the source of the quote by David Coleman, former British MP and member of the Galton Institute. Camarota clipped a portion of a longer quote that makes a slightly different point. Coleman’s full quote is: “Although immigration can prevent population decline, it is already well known that it can only prevent population ageing at unprecedented, unsustainable and increasing levels of inflow, which would generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position [Camarota’s quote italicized].”

Coleman agrees that immigration can prevent population decline. He identifies two problems with more immigration: It would “generate rapid population growth and eventually displace the original population from its majority position.” Rapid population growth is one of the many goals of those of us who favor liberalized immigration, so I have no argument with Coleman there. We simply disagree as I believe that population growth is positive and he thinks it’s negative. When it comes to “displace the original population from its majority position,” Coleman means that immigrants and their descendants would eventually become the majority of the population in the United Kingdom at a high level of immigration.

There’s no good reason for Camarota to find that shocking as it has happened at least once in U.S. history. As sociologist Charles Hirschman pointed out, the population of the United States today would only be about 100 million if immigration had stopped in 1800. Since the current population is about 330 million, that means most Americans are immigrants or the descendants of post‐​1800 immigrants. That doesn’t mean that boosted immigration would be “unprecedented” or “unsustainable.” It sounds like a return to immigration normality for Americans.

There are four broad reasons why the demography doesn’t support the political credo. First, not all immigrants arrive young — in fact, a growing share are arriving at or near retirement age. Second, immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time. Third, immigrant fertility rates tend to converge with those of the native born. Fourth, to the extent that immigrants do have higher fertility rates than the native born, their children add to the dependent population — those too young or old to work.

Camarota’s first point is a curious criticism of the current restrictive immigration system. If this is his concern, why not just increase legal immigration opportunities for younger immigrants? Camarota’s second point somewhat answers that criticism – because “immigrants age just like everyone else, adding to the elderly population over time.” After all, newborn babies age too and will one day retire, which is a particularly poor argument against having children or increasing immigration.

Camarota’s third point is that immigrants assimilate. While a surprising admission from Camarota given his research, immigrants and their children still increase the population, and it takes time for immigrant fertility to approach that of natives – which he admits in his next point. Camarota’s fourth point is that immigrants have higher fertility rates that produce children who are also dependents.

To sum up, Camarota thinks that our current immigration system doesn’t help reduce the ratio of dependents to workers, immigrants age like everybody else, immigrant fertility shrinks too rapidly, and immigrant fertility doesn’t shrink fast enough.

The Census Bureau also estimates that, in 2060, 59% of the population will be of working age. Again, this is based on the assumption that net migration will amount to an average of 1.1 million each year. Under a zero‐​immigration scenario, just under 57% of the population would be of working age. In other words, while immigration is projected to add 75 million people to the American population by 2060, it will only increase the working‐​age share of the population by about two percentage points. Even if annual net immigration were expanded by 50% above what the Census Bureau projects, so that it averaged about 1.65 million a year, it would still only increase the working‐​age share of the population by three percentage points.

In other words, Camarota writes that the U.S. can increase immigration by 50 percent and have a working‐​age share of the population in 2060 similar to what it would otherwise be in 2027 or, on the extreme other side, 2060 America will look like Japan will in 2032. The percentage point spread is small, but the social, economic, and fiscal impacts are larger than they appear. Japan’s looming population collapse is terrifying and a few percentage points difference caused by expanded legal immigration can delay it for decades or longer. Even better, expanding legal immigration is a lot cheaper than birth subsidies.

You can read the rest of Camarota’s piece as it merely expands upon his points, offers some politically correct suggestions for reforming entitlement programs, and adds more figures. Nowhere does Camarota contest the obvious counterargument that immigration’s currently small effects on America’s age distribution result from very restrictive immigration policies.

The U.S. fiscal imbalance is a serious problem created by a poorly designed entitlement system. Declining U.S. fertility exacerbated the problem of the fiscal imbalance in a way that a well‐​designed system would not face. In addition to that, a growing population is correlated with increasing prosperity over the long term. More people mean more ideas, workers, consumers, investors, as well as potential friends, neighbors, and family members.

The worldwide and American increase in economic output from expanded legal immigration would be large and much of it could be captured to resolve the fiscal imbalance – at least for a few more generations. According to some estimates, massively expanded immigration would place the United States in an unassailable economic position. Allowing Americans and immigrants to interact as they see fit would also be a more ethical policy. In short, there are many reasons to support expanding legal immigration, and reversing expected US population decline is one of them, despite what Neo‐​Malthusians say.

Source: Immigration Can Offset US Population Decline | Cato at Liberty Blog

Is American Economic Freedom Determined by Ancestry, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Countries of Origin?

Interesting study and methodology by Cato Institute that counters some of the populist and academic rhetoric:

The best potential counter argument against vastly expanding legal immigration is that immigrants might bring the less-efficient economic institutions, political systems, or cultural mores of their homelands with them to the United States. Ultimately, the United States and other rich countries are prosperous because of our economic and political institutions with some variation potentially explained by culture.

Most immigrants come from poorer countries with worse economic institutions, especially as measured by the Economic Freedom of the World Index. My co-author Benjamin Powell and I investigated whether immigrants worsened domestic economic institutions in our new book Wretched Refuse? The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions, and we found it either to be unsupported by the evidence or that the evidence suggests that more immigration can sometimes increase economic freedom and improve institutions. There’s not much worry that immigrants would kill the institutional goose that the lays golden eggs of economic growth.

Some supporters of the so-called deep roots hypothesis, that events many thousands of years ago affected culture, genes, or both in such a way that our economic outcomes were basically determined long ago, are also worried that immigrants could undermine our institutions. Proponents of this view argue that it’s impossible for immigrants to not bring support for the bad economic institutions of their ancestral homelands with them. Although economic institutions have changed substantially over time, even recently in some countries, and the deep roots theory can’t explain why economic institutions change, it’s still a thoughtful counter argument.

To test whether there is support for it, we created a predicted economic freedom index for a hypothetical United States whose economic freedom is entirely a product of the economic freedom of the countries where immigrants and their ancestors came from. In other words, a native-born American of Irish descent and a native-born American of Italian descent would each support economic freedom in the United States to the extent that economic freedom exists in Ireland and Italy, respectively. For example, if half of a country’s population were of Irish ancestry and half were of Italian ancestry then the predicted economic freedom score of that country would be 7.82 ((8.13+7.51)/2) under this theory. Thus, we created an average weight of the U.S. population by ancestry, attributed the economic freedom scores of those countries to those Americans, and then took the weighted average of economic freedom for the United States in 1980 and 2019. The former date was the first year that the U.S. Census asked about ancestry.

We obtained ancestry data from the American Community Survey (ACS). We used the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index to gather data on the economic freedom of the United States and other countries over time. The EFW estimates a country’s economic freedom by looking at five variables: size of government, legal system and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation.

The ACS data is reported using either demonyms, broader regional terms, or ethnic terms. As a result, we had to interpret some proportionally. For example, if an ACS respondent said that he was “Eastern European,” we calculated his inherent EFW score as coming from all Eastern European countries proportionally. Similarly, we combined some terms together. For example, both English and Scottish were combined into British. We then applied the EFW score for the United Kingdom to them, since EFW is reported by country. The biggest challenge was apportioning the ancestry of Black Americans who are the descendants of slaves. We know the general area where they came from but not the specific countries. Thus, we followed the general methods here for allocating black American ancestry. The different allocations made in this study are listed in Table 1.

In order to perform later calculations, we needed to determine which countries were relevant to the study. To be relevant, ACS and EFW data needed to both be available in each year. Some countries did not qualify, but their exclusions did not impact the final result as they were generally smaller countries with few historical immigrants to the United States. All demonyms and ethnic terms were interpreted by their national association to match the ACS and EFW data, but this was straight-forward.

To predict the ancestry-only EFW score for the United States, we multiplied the proportion of the population of ancestry by the EFW score in that country for that year. We then simply added up the results.

If ancestry alone determined the United States’ EFW score, it would have had a score of 6.32 in 1980 and 7.46 for 2019. In reality, the United States’ EFW was 8.13 in 1980 and 8.22 for 2019 – 1.8 and 0.76 points higher than what the ancestry-only score would predict. The economic freedom of the United States is substantially higher than its ancestry adjusted EFW score would predict if the deep roots theory were correct. For example, if American ancestry determined our EFW score then we should have the economic freedom score of Hungary in 2019 (7.44) rather than the much higher actual score of 8.22.

Interestingly, the average EFW score of the ancestral homelands of Americans and immigrants has increased considerably over time from 6.32 to 7.45. If deep roots really did drive our economic destiny by affecting economic freedom, we should be much less concerned today than in the recent past, as the ancestral homelands of immigrant groups are much freer today than in the past.

Ancestry and country of origin are not destiny, at least not in the United States in these two years.

Source: Is American Economic Freedom Determined by Ancestry, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Countries of Origin?

USA: The Skill Level of Immigrants Is Rising | Cato at Liberty Blog

Of note, despite a relative lack of programs to encourage skilled immigration. Same trend in Canada but more of conscious policy and program choices:

A major immigration debate over the last several years is whether the U.S. immigration policy should be more meritocratic by attracting higher educated workers. President Trump supported such a system if it were pared with many fewer legal immigrants coming in while Democrats are mostly supportive of increasing all types of immigration. Although Congress did not pass a law to create a more meritocratic immigration system, new immigrants to the United States are increasingly skilled. In other words, the U.S. immigration system is becoming more meritocratic on its own.

The United States is an increasingly attractive place for highly educated immigrants. From all regions except for Africa, the share of immigrants arriving with a college degree has risen since 1995 while the share arriving with a high school degree or lower has dropped. Figure 1 shows the change in the proportion of recently arrived immigrants, 5 years in the United States or fewer, in different education groups between 1995 and 2020. Persons under 30 are excluded, as they are more likely to have not completed their education.

Some of these changes are striking. The proportion of recent immigrants from Central America with graduate degrees increased by more than 350 percent in 35 years, from 2 percent of recent immigrants in 1995 to 9.5 percent of recent immigrants in 2020. The share of new immigrants who are high school dropouts has declined or every region or origin from 1995 to 2020.

The same trend is true when comparing individual countries. Figure 2 shows the change in educational attainment from four of the top sending countries in 1995 and 2020. Mexican immigrants, who are often criticized as being low‐​educated and low‐​skilled, are now 2.4 times more likely to have received a bachelor’s degree at arrival than they were just 35 years ago.

Figure 3 shows that immigrants have higher high school dropout rates than natives, but immigrants who come here at a younger age (younger than 10) typically end up getting more education eventually.

Native‐​born Americans are not the only ones who benefit from more highly educated immigrants. The children of immigrants consistently earn more education than their parents, and since 2010, more than native‐​born Americans (Figure 4). Again, persons under 30 are excluded from analysis to avoid over‐​counting individuals with less than a high school education.

Congress did not create a merit‐​based immigration system as President Trump wanted, but we seem to be getting one nonetheless as immigrants become more skilled over time.

Source: The Skill Level of Immigrants Is Rising | Cato at Liberty Blog

The United States Should Welcome Immigrants from China

Interesting counter-intuitive take by Cato Institute. Not sure whether parallel with Cold War refugees fleeing communism but worth thinking about given Canadian concerns:

Competition with China is dominating America’s foreign policy discourse in a way reminiscent of Cold War hysteria. Our politics haven’t descended into McCarthyite crusades to purge federal departments of alleged communist infiltrators, but there are already examples of making policy out of paranoia.

In addition to fueling wasteful defense spending, fear of China has led policymakers to push for cuts to Chinese immigration. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) believes dramatically reducing immigration from China is necessary to protect against Chinese spies stealing American secrets. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) went so far as to block a bill allowing for Hong Kongers to get work permits and become refugees because he’s afraid of spies. President Biden has maintained the anti-Chinese immigration policies adopted by the Trump administration.

To the extent that China poses a serious threat to the United States, policymakers should be clamoring to liberalize immigration with China rather than restrict it. At the beginning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, American politicians ignored the Know-Nothings of their time and encouraged refugees from communist countries.

Starting with President Truman, who ordered the admission of 80,000 refugees from Soviet-occupied Poland, the Baltic countries, and from areas of Southern Europe where communist insurgencies were active in 1945, and ending with the Lautenberg Amendment of 1990, the U.S. government consistently liberalized refugee and asylum policy for those fleeing communism. They let in millions of refugees and asylum seekers from countries as varied as Hungary, China, Greece, the Soviet Union, and Cuba – the birthplace of Senator Cruz’s father.

Welcoming immigrants from communist countries produced important economic, political, moral, and propaganda victories during the Cold War that showcased the superiority of individual liberty and capitalism over communism. But modern policy makers are ignoring those victories today.

U.S. policymakers are worried about Chinese technology. One obvious response is to channel the most productive and educated Chinese citizens to our shores. Why don’t today’s policymakers learn from the past and liberalize Chinese immigration? Espionage is the main excuse, but immigration restrictions would do little to mitigate this threat and would produce negative unintended consequences down the road for America’s competition with China.

From 1990 to 2019, there were 1,485 people convicted of espionage or espionage-related crimes spying on U.S. soil. Of those, 184 were from China. Chinese-born spies stole economic secrets or intellectual property from private firms two-thirds of the time. Of the 46 firms that were the victims of economic espionage committed by Chinese spies on U.S. soil, 16 were the victims more than once – meaning that they decided that their expected espionage-related costs of hiring Chinese workers were lower than the benefits of hiring them.

Rarely were the stolen secrets related to national security. Chinese immigrant Xiaorong You was indicted for stealing a formula for a coating for the inside of Coke cans. Last year, Xin Wang, a Chinese-born visiting researcher at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) was arrested for the espionage-related crime of visa fraud because he did not inform U.S. immigration officials that he was still a medical technician in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said that Wang’s case “is another part of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to take advantage of our open society and exploit academic institutions.” At UCSF, Wang was researching obesity and metabolism, not weapons.

Some instances of espionage are serious, but many don’t have a connection to Chinese immigrants. American-born John Reece Roth, for instance, exported data on specialized plasma technology for use in drones that he had developed under a U.S. Air Force contract. We shouldn’t let the occasional case of Chinese espionage blind the government to the benefits of liberalizing immigration for those fleeing Communist China.

In contrast, Chinese immigrants are making huge contributions to research and development that will unlock economic and technological innovation going forward. In all STEM fields, there are around 46,000 Chinese undergraduates, about 41,000 master’s students, and an estimated 36,000 PhD students at U.S. universities. Immigration restrictions to deal with the manageable threat of espionage guarantees that many of them will return to China and that fewer will come in the future.

The federal government should use the Cold War immigration playbook to liberalize immigration with China. Congress should update the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which liberalized trade with non-market economies if they allowed emigration. That would end the Trump-era trade restrictions on China in exchange for the Chinese allowing the free emigration of Uighurs, other persecuted ethnic and religious minorities like Christians and Tibetans, and Hong Kongers. For the long term, expanded asylum options, green cards for all Chinese graduates of American universities, and allowing all educated Chinese immigrants to come here without restriction should all be on the table.

Liberalizing immigration with China is a net benefit for the United States and may even give America an edge in its competition with Beijing. Moreover, providing a safe haven for those fleeing totalitarian communism in China will be a tremendous moral victory for the United States.

Americans understood this during the Cold War. It’s time their children applied that lesson today.

Source: The United States Should Welcome Immigrants from China

New Cato Survey Helps Reframe the Debate Over Legal Immigration

Cato Institute’s summary of the key takeaways of their survey that will inform their future work, featured earlier:

My colleagues Emily Ekins and David Kemp just released an excellent new survey on how Americans view immigration and identity. We all worked together on crafting the questions for several months prior to publication and the results are very interesting. Below are some findings and some lessons that folks who support immigration should take to heart.

First, the survey shows that most people know almost nothing about immigration. Even basic facts elude them. About 14 percent of the U.S. population is foreign‐​born but the average respondent thinks that 40 percent of the country’s population is foreign‐​born. Immigrants were the most likely to think that the immigrant population of the United States is high, estimating that 56 percent of the country is foreign‐​born, while third generation and higher Americans estimated 36 percent.

The differences likely result from where the respondents reside in the United States. Immigrants live close to other immigrants and native‐​born Americans live close to other native‐​born Americans. For instance, about 27 percent of California’s population is foreign‐​born compared to just 1.5 percent in West Virginia. Those who live closer to other immigrants are probably more likely to overestimate the immigrant percentage of the population. Using those two states as examples, immigrants in California overestimated the foreign‐​born share of the population by about a factor of two, while third generation and higher Americans in West Virginia were off by a factor of 24. Regardless, native‐​born Americans and immigrants both overestimate the share of immigrants.

Second, focusing on understandable metrics when communicating how the legal immigration system functions is more effective. Americans can better conceptualize the handful of years it takes to wait for a green card than the borderline abstract large quantity of visas issued per year. For example, one of the survey questions asked how long it should take to immigrate to the United States. Eighty percent of respondents said that it should take five years or less to immigrate, and they may have chosen that number because the question prompted them with a mention of a five‐​year average. However, 52 percent of respondents said it should take less than five years. However, responses to another question revealed that 61 percent of respondents said they wanted fewer than one million immigrants a year – probably because one million is a large and abstract number that is difficult to visualize even though it’s a relatively small number of people compared to the roughly 330 million people living in the United States. By comparison, everybody understands what five years feels like and 80 percent of respondents answered that immigrants should wait five years or less for a green card. One lesson is that we should talk about immigration restrictions in terms of waiting times rather than numbers of visas. On the policy side, a maximum wait time for a visa without regard to the numerical caps would increase the number of visas issued without increasing the numerical caps on paper and be more rhetorically appealing. Fortunately, Cato proposed just such a reform in 2020.

Third, Americans care much less about job protectionism than we all thought. Two‐​thirds of respondents said that businesses should be “allowed to hire whoever they believe is best qualified for the job regardless of nationality.” This is great news because wage and job‐​protection regulations are responsible for a large percentage of the regulatory costs for sponsoring immigrants for employment‐​based green cards and other temporary work visas such as the H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B. Removing those regulations would face less popular backlash than many of us assumed.

Fourth, most Americans think that restrictive immigration laws cause illegal immigration. Forty‐​one percent said illegal immigration is caused by the legal immigration system being too restrictive and 19 percent said illegal immigrants were ineligible to apply. Most respondents are primed to understand that restrictions and government bureaucracy are the causes of illegal immigration.

Fifth, 56 percent said that simplifying the legal immigration process is a better way to deal with illegal immigration than building a border wall or increasing border security. This is incredibly good news for those of us who want to expand and liberalize legal immigration. Some findings in the field of political psychology suggest otherwise, that perceptions of chaos along the border influence voters to oppose immigration liberalization. Apparently, most people see chaos and their instinct is to support more enforcement and government control rather than liberalization. This creates a Catch‐​22 because the only way to get sustainable control over the border is through liberalization but liberalization can only be politically sustainable if voters think the border is under control. On the contrary, this survey result indicates that respondents are more open to liberalization as a means of border control than the political psychology literature suggests.

There are many other fascinating findings in this Cato survey on immigration and identity and I recommend that you read and digest it all. However, the above findings are those that we will seek to most incorporate into our work.

Source: New Cato Survey Helps Reframe the Debate Over Legal Immigration

CATO Poll: 72% of Americans Say Immigrants Come to the United States for Jobs and to Improve Their Lives

The top level finding, with the report having a wealth of detail, with some of the same characteristics as in Canada such as age, education, political affiliation in terms of support or not for immigration:

The Cato Institute 2021 Immigration and Identity National Survey, a new national survey of 2,600 U.S. adults, finds that nearly three‐​fourths (72%) of Americans believe immigrants come to the United States to “find jobs and improve their lives” while 27% think immigrants come to obtain government services and welfare.


Support for More Immigration Is on the Rise

Support for more immigration has tripled from the mid‐​1990s when about 10% of the public supported more immigration and two‐​thirds wanted less. Today 29% of Americans want more, 38% want to maintain current levels, and 33% want less.

Chart 1


Democrats’ views largely account for this shift. Starting around 2008–2010, Democratic support for more immigration rose from about 20% to 47% today.


Source: Poll: 72% of Americans Say Immigrants Come to the United States for Jobs and to Improve Their Lives

Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Useful data and analysis, along with practical recommendations to streamline processes:

President Joe Biden rescinded Donald Trump’s presidential proclamation banning new immigrant visas for most new legal permanent residents coming from abroad. Trump justified the ban based on old, disproven economic protectionist arguments. He claimed immigrants would take jobs. During his campaign and in this proclamation, President Biden rejected this idea. Yet incongruously, he’s keeping an identical ban on temporary work visa holders.

The State Department issued nearly 290,000 fewer immigrant visas in the categories that the ban targeted during the year that it was in effect. If they are not from a country on which Biden has imposed a countrywide entry ban—mostly Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran—these immigrants will now be able to immigrate to the United States. This is great news for them and for the Americans with whom they plan to associate.

Altogether, the banned categories saw a 90 percent decline in visa issuances over the last year. The family‐​sponsored categories saw an average decline of 94 percent, while employees of U.S. businesses were least affected (partly due to a favorable court decision that exempted employees of members of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce). 83 percent of the banned immigrants were family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens were exempt from the ban, but they also saw a decline in the number of visas issued due to the travel restrictions. According to a government filing this month, the State Department had nearly 473,000 documentarily qualified family‐​based immigrant visa applicants—presumably some of these cases will ultimately turn into denials, but this will be a huge undertaking for the consulates to process.

Four ideas to help with this backlog (mostly borrowed from our one‐​time Cato author David Kubat):

  1. The government should use “parole‐​in‐​place” authority to waive the requirement to travel to consulate abroad for certain applicants who would otherwise be eligible to adjust in the United States if not for the fact that they initially entered without inspection (illegally).
  2. It should adjudicate applications for waivers on grounds of inadmissibility before conducting the interview to save time and streamline the process. Under the current process, the State Department waits until after they’ve taken your fingerprints, medical evaluation, and other documents and then get denied. Only then do you restart the many months‐​long process of trying again.
  3. It should allow for remote or virtual interviews to speed the interview process. Remote immigration court hearings are already happening.
  4. It should waive as many interviews as possible for applicants with no red flags and a history of travel to the United States.

As Figure 1 shows, the number of immigrant visas had already declined by more than a quarter before the pandemic. This means that even without the visa bans, the new administration will have to go further to rescind the numerous restrictions on legal immigration that led to that decline.

Of course, the other major visa ban—on the most common nonimmigrant work visa categories for skilled and seasonal nonagricultural workers—is still in effect. President Biden states in his order revoking the immigrant visa ban, “The suspension of entry…. does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States including…. industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.” These lines apply just as much to the nonimmigrant visa ban, yet Biden has chosen to keep it.

The nonimmigrant visa ban and immigrant visa backlog are just two of the numerous issues that Biden will have to address to get the legal immigration system back to what it was pre‐​Trump. There are also country‐​specific entry bans on Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran that lack any health basis. The public charge rule to keep out low‐​income immigrants is also still in force. USCIS has not reinstated its prior deference memo and so is still relitigating past approved petitions and applications in order to increase denials. The immigration forms still contain the bogus, vague, time‐​consuming, and expensive “extreme vetting” questions based on a faulty reading of the data on vetting failures. At the border, Border Patrol is still “expelling” asylum seekers under a political CDC order. The immigration courts and asylum process generally is still in chaos.

With this action, the president makes his first real attempt to reinstate the system to how it once was, but he’s not even 10 percent of the way there. Still, it’s a great first step.

Source: Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?