New Clues On What Immigration Will Look Like In A Second Trump Term

Hopefully just a theoretical exercise:

What would it mean for U.S. immigration policy if, on January 20, 2025, Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States? Many people expect a crackdown on illegal immigration. However, recent clues and past actions indicate the more significant impact of a second Trump presidency would be on legal immigration, including the admission of refugees, family immigrants and high-skilled professionals.

Personnel Is Policy: “Former President Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his ‘America First’ ideology . . . The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as “Schedule F,” according to Axios. The publication also reported American Moment, a pro-Trump group, wants to replace current federal workers with “applicants who want to cut not just illegal but also legal immigration into the U.S.”

It is easy to see how this would result in more restrictive immigration policies. After White House adviser Stephen Miller received pushback the first year he reduced the annual refugee cap, at least one career government employee was reassigned so the individual could not interfere in the future, according to Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear.

With the power to hire and fire civil servants, Trump officials could fill the federal government with anti-immigrant personnel. If immigrants, businesses and attorneys complain now about U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they should consider what agency processing would look like after an anti-immigrant litmus test is imposed on USCIS employees during a Trump-Miller second term.

Trump Likely To Fail Again To Reduce Illegal Immigration: In a second term, in the name of combating illegal immigration, Trump administration officials would attempt to enact nearly every restrictive immigration measure considered in recent years. This would include eliminating the practical ability to apply for asylum after crossing the southern border, building more of “the wall,” increasing the use of expedited removal and other policies.

Given that Donald Trump failed to reduce illegal immigration the first time around, there is no reason to believe similar policies would succeed if tried again. During the Trump administration, between FY 2016 and FY 2019, apprehensions at the Southwest border (a proxy for illegal entry) increasedfrom 408,870 to 851,508—a rise of more than 100 percent. While the Covid-19 pandemic caused apprehensions to decline for several months starting in March 2020, by August and September 2020, apprehensions had resumed at the approximate level of illegal entry seen during the same months in FY 2019. In short, Donald Trump’s policies failed to reduce illegal immigration and were enacted at a great human cost, particularly for parents and children separated at the border.

The Biden administration, in large measure, continued Trump’s border policies, namely Title 42, which allows individuals to be expelled without further processing. Title 42 is supposed to be a public health measure but has been used to prevent many people from applying for asylum. The policies have boosted Border Patrol apprehensions and encouraged people to enter unlawfully, often multiple times, likely making the border more problematic. A federal judge has ordered the Biden administration to keep Title 42 in place.

Department of Homeland Security reports show over the years tighter enforcement has significantly increased the number of immigrants who use human smugglers to cross the border (i.e., virtually everyone crossing now employs smugglers). The policies have also resulted in an increased loss of life. In July 2022, 53 immigrants suffocated inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio.

Opposition To Legal Immigration: Ironically, the Trump administration is likely to try every measure to combat illegal entry but the one proven effective in reducing illegal entry: Making it easier to enter and work legally in the United States.

Research from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that a significant increase in the lawful admission of farm workers during the 1950s under the Bracero Program dramatically reduced illegal entry to America. Based on apprehensions at the border, unlawful entry across the southwest border declined by 95% between 1953 and 1959, as farm workers entered legally in greater numbers.

Trump Immigration Policies Will Likely Decimate Long-Term U.S. Economic Growth: Labor force growth is a crucial part of economic growth, without which Americans grow poorer or see their standard of living stagnate.

Those who argued that Donald Trump was only concerned about limiting illegal immigration have a problem—it’s not true. Unlike any president before him, Trump made broad use of executive authority under section 212(f) to restrict legal immigration and suspend the entry of many categories of immigrants and temporary visa holders. In 2020, this prevented the entry of workers and professionals on temporary visas, and immigrants on family, employment-based and Diversity visas. He also set the lowest refugee admissions ceiling of any president.

Given another term, expect refugee admissions to be extremely low and for Trump to use section 212(f) to bypass Congress and block the entry of many immigrants and visa holders. The ban on immigration from a number of majority Muslim countries could return.

The impact of Trump’s policies would be devastating to the nation’s future economic growth. A National Foundation for American Policy analysis concluded if Trump’s policies had continued, legal immigration would have been reduced in half, and “average annual labor force growth would be approximately 59% lower than compared to a policy of no immigration reductions.”

In 2021 and 2022, America saw the negative results of Trump’s immigration policies, with an estimated 2 million immigrant workers missing from the U.S. labor force blamed for reducing U.S. economic output and contributing to inflation. Another four years of similar policies would likely produce more negative results, potentially longer term, if enacted by legislation.

Trump Likely To Push More International Students And High-Skilled Professionals Away From The U.S.:During the Trump administration, many international students diverted away from the United States, primarily to Canada, and employers saw denial rates for H-1B petitions skyrocket. Expect America to lose talent in even more significant numbers should the entire Trump immigration agenda against highly educated foreign nationals come to fruition.

Businesses and universities should expect every idea or regulation the Trump administration failed to implement to be tried again. That would mean:

– New limits on who qualifies for an H-1B petition and how (and where) an H-1B visa holder can work;

– Requiring employers to pay well above-market wages for H-1B visa holders and employees sponsored for permanent residence;

– New restrictions on international students and Optional Practical Training (OPT), and other policies.

There is no evidence such policies would help U.S. workers or American students—the evidence shows the opposite would be true. The harm to the U.S. economy and future innovation would be real.

Between 2017 and 2020, attorneys representing businesses, universities and immigrant rights organizations successfully blocked several Trump policies. That task would become much more difficult the second time around since former Trump officials would have learned from their mistakes and have a fresh four years to implement restrictive immigration policies.

What Would A Different Republican President Do? A different Republican president, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, would likely adopt many of Trump’s policies on illegal immigration. However, DeSantis (or another Republican) might not allow Stephen Miller back in the White House. Without Miller, a different Republican president could adopt policies on legal immigration more consistent with the views of mainstream economists, particularly given the potential for Republican inroads with Asian and Latino voters.

New Limits On The Freedom Of Americans: Trump’s most significant policies will restrict legal immigration, which, economists note, will harm innovation and reduce economic growth in America. But the impact will be broader.

“An immigration restriction is a government ban on a wide variety of economic activities by natives,” according toeconomist Michael Clemens. By that standard, a second Trump term would mean less freedom for consumers who wish to enjoy products and services offered by immigrants, Americans who hope to sponsor family members and employers who want to hire foreign-born scientists and engineers to compete in the global economy.

Source: New Clues On What Immigration Will Look Like In A Second Trump Term

New evidence disputes Trump administration’s citizenship question rationale

No suprise:

Previously unreleased internal communications indicate the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census with the goal of affecting congressional apportionment, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The documents appear to contradict statements made under oath by then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who told the committee that the push for a citizenship question was unrelated to apportionment and the reason for adding it was to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The nearly 500 documents include several drafts of an August 2017 memorandum prepared by a Commerce Department lawyer and political appointee, James Uthmeier, in which he initially warned that using a citizenship question for apportionment would probably be illegal and violate the constitution, the report said.

Source: New evidence disputes Trump administration’s citizenship question rationale

Revelations Show Trump Immigration Policy Was Supposed To Be Harsher

Of note:

While Donald Trump was president, reporters published shocking revelations about his administration’s conduct of U.S. immigration policy. It turns out reporters missed a few items. Former Cabinet officials and others have revealed immigration policy during the Trump administration was intended to be much harsher, including placing a quarter-million soldiers on the U.S.-Mexico border, enacting crueler measures to separate families and targeting children for deportation at American schools.

Stephen Miller’s Plan To Send ICE Agents To Identify Children To Deport At U.S. Schools: In a new bookdescribing her years during the Trump administration, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revealed a plan by Stephen Miller to identify children at school for deportation under the pretext of checking for gang members. “There was also the overreach and bad ideas we stopped from occurring,” writes DeVos. “Stephen Miller, President Trump’s policy guru, summoned Nate and Ebony from my team to the White House for a discussion. After failing to properly clear them through White House security, Miller’s aides took them to a nearby restaurant (Cosi, for those who know the area) to have their meeting.

“Over the din of patrons slurping lattes and crunching salads, Miller’s men described a plan to put U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents into schools under the pretext of identifying MS-13 gang members. The plan was, when agents checked students’ citizenship status for the alleged purpose of identifying gang ties, they could identify undocumented students and deport them. Not only was the prospect of this chilling, but it was also patently illegal. Nate and Ebony turned them down cold. But that didn’t stop Stephen Miller from subsequently calling me to get my thoughts on the idea. They were the same as Nate and Ebony’s: no. Just no.” (Emphasis in the original.)

DeVos is correct to characterize the plan as “chilling.” Once word spread that federal agents planned to check immigration status at schools, many children, not only undocumented students but native-born children with undocumented parents or siblings, likely would have stopped attending school and foregone their education. Do not be surprised if such a policy reemerges in some form in the future.

Stephen Miller’s Plan To Place The Equivalent Of Half The U.S. Army At The Southern Border: In FY 2020, the U.S. Army had approximately 480,000 soldiers, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. According to former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Stephen Miller wanted to put more than half of the U.S. Army (or its equivalent) on the U.S.-Mexico border—and had taken steps to make it happen.

“We’re in a meeting, waiting for the president to come out,” Esper told Norah O’Donnell during an interview on 60 Minutes. “We’re standing around the Resolute Desk. And he’s behind me. And this voice just starts talking about caravans are coming. And, ‘We need to get troops to the border.’ And, ‘We need a quarter-million troops.’ And I think he’s joking. And then I turn around and I look at him and these—and these deadpan eyes. Clearly, he is not joking.

“He repeats, ‘No, we need a quarter-million troops,’” Esper said. “And I just turn squarely around to him, face him, and say, ‘I don’t have a quarter-million troops to send on some ridiculous mission to the border.’”

Esper asked his chief of staff and General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make sure Miller had not already set a plan in motion. “Milley comes back days later and the door opens up and he’s waving a document that’s in hand. And he says something like, ‘secretary, you’re not gonna believe this.’ And that’s when he explains to me that, yes, they were working. That we had developed a plan, initial concept of how this might happen. And I was just flabbergasted that, not only was the idea proposed, but that people—people in my department were working on it.”

“I gave General Milley specific instruction to tell NORTHCOM, Northern Command, to stop working on it, to cease and desist. And that if anybody had any questions, you tell them they should call me direct. I never got a phone call,” said Esper. “It was dead and it died, as it should.”

There is no need to place troops on the U.S. border. The United States could reduce the number of people who enter the country unlawfully by admitting more temporary workers. National Foundation for American Policy research found admitting more Mexican farmworkers via the Bracero program reduced illegal entry (apprehensions) at the border by 95% between 1953 and 1959. Such a reduction in illegal immigration would be accomplished without cost to taxpayers and would not weaken or interfere with other national defense priorities.

Efforts To Punish Parents And Children At The Border: “The U.S. government separated more than 3,000 children from their parents along the Mexican border in May and June 2018, the peak of President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy to prosecute adults for the misdemeanor offense of crossing the border illegally,” according to Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post. “DHS officials say more than 5,500 children were separated in all.”

“On May 10, 2018, Matthew Albence, then a high-rankingofficial at ICE, wrote in a memo to other officials at the agency that he was worried that parents would be returned to their children in Border Patrol stations too quickly after going to criminal court,” writes Sacchetti, on June 8, 2022, citing emails that became available to attorneys for migrants who were separated from their children by the policy. “Albence said CBP [Customs and Border Protection] should work with ICE to prevent this from happening,’ such as by taking the children themselves to ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement] ‘at an accelerated pace’ or bringing the adults directly to ICE from criminal court, instead of returning them to their children.”

The Trump administration ended its family-separation at the border in June 2018 after a public outcry that tearing children away from their parents was cruel. The revelations from previously undisclosed emails show Trump officials thought the policy was not cruel enough.

These three reports remind us that the Trump administration’s immigration policies were often cruel and unusual. The revelations indicate if the same individuals get a second chance, the policies revealed since Donald Trump left office may return along with new and likely harsher immigration policies.

Source: Revelations Show Trump Immigration Policy Was Supposed To Be Harsher

The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

Useful stats. MPI had a very good webinar assessing the Biden administration immigration policy and program changes. Lot more happening through executive orders (close to 300 in the past year, about 100 related to reversing Trump administration measures) than the high level debates would indicate:

Legal immigration collapsed in the last year of the Trump administration. The number of green cards issued abroad were declining prior to the pandemic, partly for policy and other reasons, but the American government’s overreaction to COVID-19 caused immigration to collapse as we’ve detailed here, here, here, here, and here.

Since President Biden took office in January 2021, the recovery of legal immigration has been much slower than we anticipated. The new vaccine mandate for immigrants (as we’re seeing in other countries with the Novak Djokovic scandal), the remaining closure of many embassies and consulates that reduce interviews for visas and their subsequent issuance, the delayed release of extra visas approved by Congress, and additional haphazardly imposed travel restrictions have greatly reduced the scope of legal immigration.

Despite those restrictions, the number of legal immigrant visas issued abroad has partly recovered from a low of 697 (that’s not a typo) in May 2020 to 35,647 in November 2021 (Figure 1). That’s 16 percent below the average of 42,390 immigrant visas issued monthly from January 2017 through February 2020, during Trump’s presidency but prior to COVID-19. December 2021 and January 2022 will likely show lower numbers.

As bad as the numbers for immigrant visas are, the number of non‐​immigrant visas issued abroad every month is even worse. Non‐​immigrant visas are for students, temporary workers, tourists, and others who can temporarily travel to the United States or reside here for a specific time and purpose. Figure 2 shows that 40,939 were issued in May 2020, the low point of the series, down from a monthly average of 738,642 from January 2017 through February 2020 – a 95 percent decline. The numbers have since climbed to a paltry 391,022 in November 2021 – far shy of their pre‐​pandemic numbers.

The Biden administration needs to rapidly reverse this situation, recover the lost visas through legislation, and go even further or the U.S. economy will suffer long run drags on its growth.

Source: The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

USA ICE: How Immigration Enforcement Lowered Birth Weights

Having watched Immigration Nation, understandable:

Since 2002, counties across the U.S. have entered into agreements with Immigrations and Custom Enforcement to deputize local police officers to perform a range of ICE duties.

New research shows that in one county in North Carolina, the program negatively affected birth outcomes, including lowering average birth weights and decreasing the use of prenatal services by parents.

“Regardless of how you feel about immigration policies, it’s important to realize that there may be other effects that perhaps weren’t intended, but nevertheless have real consequences,” says Christina Gibson-Davis, a professor of public policy at Duke University and one of the authors of the peer-reviewed study. “Health at birth has real downstream effects — it’s related to lower earnings and worse health for adults.”

Immigration has historically been under the purview of the federal government, but in the last few decades, enforcement responsibilities have increasingly been delegated to local police and sheriff’s offices. Some local governments, loosely called “sanctuary cities,” refuse to participate in a number of ways. Others, let’s call them “anti-sanctuary cities,” jump at the chance to prove their tough-on-immigration bonafides. One way they do this is through what are known as 287g agreements.

Mecklenburg County pioneered the use of this program in 2006 to cast a wide net for undocumented immigrants under then-sheriff Jim Pendergraph, who later went on to join ICE’s ranks.

Gibson-Davis, who studies the effect of public policy on low-income families, wanted to test how this county’s 287g agreement might impact birth outcomes, given that social and economic disadvantages of parents are often visible in the health of their newborns.

She and her colleagues compiled data from state birth certificates between 2004 and 2006 and compared birth outcomes before and after the introduction of the policy in Mecklenburg County, where the city of Charlotte is based. They also compared the findings with other North Carolina regions that did not enter into 287g agreements.

After controlling for other factors through a statistical analysis, the researchers found that babies in Mecklenburg County weighed 58.54 grams (a little more than two ounces)less on average than before the policy change. This effect corresponded with an increase in the share of children who were small for their gestational age at birth and a decrease in prenatal care utilization by parents.

“We feel pretty confident that we’ve identified … what we call the ‘causal impact,’” Gibson-Davis says. The effect “wasn’t because of changes in the population necessarily, or some other factor that might have been happening at the same time.”

The researchers didn’t test the reasons for this outcome, but they can make some educated guesses.

“There is a large [body of] literature that suggests that stress can have negative effects on the fetus when it’s in utero, so though we can’t identify the exact cause, stress may be one reason for our findings,” Gibson-Davis says. As to the decrease in prenatal care, Gibson-Davis says those who feared the attention of ICE authorities may be less likely to risk going to a doctor.

The researchers also found that the effects were more pronounced for foreign-born mothers with a lower level of education, which they believe signals a couple of things: One, this group may be more likely to be undocumented; and two, it may include parents who have “fewer resources with which to buffer stress,” Gibson-Davis says. (Data on citizenship status was not included in the study.)

The findings add to a body of research on the adverse health effects of aggressive local immigration enforcement. Other studies have found that Latina and Hispanic pregnant women tend to seek less prenatal care because they lack trust in authorities, and that Latino immigrants report lower mental well-being.

The rationale from Trump-era officials for 287g agreements — a version of which continues to be up on the ICE web page about the program — is that they enhance “the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies.” But other research has called this goal into question. Studies have found that 287g agreements don’t reduce crimes and can actually deter immigrants from reporting crime. They can also lead to racial profiling complaints and cause a “chilling effect,” prompting immigrants fearful of increased enforcement in their communities to withdraw from public life, including by frequenting businesses or seeking education services that they need. All of this could play a role in the health outcomes Gibson-Davis studied in her research.

The number of 287(g) agreements multiplied exponentially during the Trump administration. From 2017 to 2018, they doubled from 35 to more than 70. By the time Trump left office, the number of these agreements had jumped to 150. A new Governmental Accountability Office report found that the program’s rapid expansion under Trump took place without adequate oversight, tracking or training.

Immigration Hard-Liner Files Reveal 40-Year Bid Behind Trump’s Census Obsession

Good long read of the history behind undercounting the US population in the census:

Even before taking office, former President Donald Trump’s administration obsessed over the U.S. census.

From a failed bid for a citizenship question to a presidential memo about unauthorized immigrants that was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, its moves over the past four years followed a playbook first drawn up more than four decades ago by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 1979, the hard-line group that became the most influential advocate for extreme restrictions on immigration launched a campaign that has held onto one consistent goal — obtaining an official count of unauthorized immigrants through the census to radically reshape Congress, the Electoral College and public policy.

Starting with a lawsuit filed weeks before the official start of the 1980 census, FAIR documented its strategy in a paper trail that NPR has reviewed in the organization’s archives at the George Washington University, as well as those of FAIR’s founder at the University of Michigan.

“It’s always been on the agenda,” Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, tells NPR, noting that it’s “very possible” that, as early as November 2016, the group discussed with Trump officials the possibility of excluding unauthorized immigrants from a key set of 2020 census results.

To some, it may seem curious that part of Trump’s agenda zeroed in on an often overlooked government tally of every person living in the U.S.

But census numbers hold what Trump has always wanted — power.

That power comes in the form of 435 votes in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Once a decade, those votes are up for grabs among the states based on new census numbers. The more residents included in a state’s population count, the more of a say it has for the next 10 years in how federal laws are made and how the next occupant of the White House is chosen.

The Constitution has spelled out specific instructions for the census. Not just citizens or voters, but “persons” who reside in the states are supposed to be counted. Congress eventually codified the 14th Amendment’s language into federal law that calls for the “whole number of persons” living in each state and the “tabulation of total population” to be used when reapportioning House seats and electoral votes.

Census counting does have a thorny history. Before the Civil War, the fifth sentence of the country’s founding document required an enslaved person to be counted as “three fifths” of a free person. And it was just before the 1940 census that the Census Bureau determined the phrase “excluding Indians not taxed” could no longer omit some American Indians from the apportionment counts.

But since the first U.S. head count in 1790, this has been an unwavering truth: No resident has ever been left out because of immigration status.

Trump officials attempted to break with that 230-year precedent. The administration, like FAIR, wanted to subtract unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, taking power away from those residents and the communities where they live.

One of President Biden’s first executive orders officially quashed the Trump memo that called for that extraordinary change.

But during the Trump years, FAIR came closer to getting that count of unauthorized immigrants than it has ever before.

A page out of an old playbook

The start of the Trump administration’s four-year census saga centered around a hotly contested question: Is this person a citizen of the United States?

Trump officials wanted to use the census to directly ask for the citizenship status of every person living in every household in the country for the first time in U.S. history. That proposal has long been considered anathema to best practices for a complete and accurate head count, and the administration was not up front about exactly why it wanted to add the question to the 2020 census.

Many opponents of that citizenship question argued it was originally intended to depress census participation. Under federal law, no government agency or court can use personal information collected by the Census Bureau against anyone. But a long history of distrust of the census has made many noncitizens, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other historically undercounted groups wary of telling the government their household’s citizenship status.

Some of the question’s critics also pointed to a scheme concocted by a GOP redistricting mastermind, Thomas Hofeller, to use the neighborhood block-level citizenship data the question would generate to politically benefit Republicans and “Non-Hispanic Whites” in state and local elections for years to come.

To Roger Conner, who led FAIR until 1988 as the group’s first executive director, it was clear that the Trump administration had another goal in mind — to change how congressional seats and electoral votes are reapportioned in order to curtail the political representation of areas where unauthorized immigrants live.

“I was saying to myself, ‘This is perfectly obvious. Why can’t someone figure out what’s going on?’ ” Conner says, recalling the Trump administration’s push for a citizenship question. “I assume that’s because they thought it was not in their interest to let everybody know what their strategy was.”

That strategy (which the administration never directly connected to apportionment until Trump’s memo was released years later) began percolating through Trump’s world even before he took office.

During the 2016 campaign, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — an immigration hard-liner who has worked as a counsel to FAIR’s legal arm and was described by FAIR’s president as an “invaluable asset” to Trump’s immigration team — discussed a census citizenship question with campaign officials.

Shortly after the inauguration in 2017, Kobach talked about the question with Trump, then-chief strategist Steve Bannon and then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, according to Kobach’s testimony to congressional investigators.

Kobach later urged Wilbur Ross, the Trump-appointed commerce secretary overseeing the bureau, to add a specially-worded citizenship question to the census. It should also ask about immigration status, Kobach suggested in an email, so that the responses could address “the problem that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.”

Other internal emails released for the lawsuits over the question show that the reapportionment of congressional seats was top of mind for Ross shortly after taking over the Commerce Department. In a March 2017 message from fellow Trump appointee Earl Comstock with the subject line “Your Question on the Census,” Ross received a link to a Census Bureau webpage that answered: “Are undocumented residents (aliens) in the 50 states included in the apportionment population counts?”

“Yes,” the bureau’s official response said.

But when Ross officially announced a citizenship question in 2018 as a late addition to the 2020 census form, it didn’t come with Kobach’s apportionment reasoning or checkboxes about immigration status. Instead, Ross used the Voting Rights Act to publicly justify the question, claiming the responses would help the Justice Department better enforce the civil rights era-law and protect “minority population voting rights.”

More than a year later, the Supreme Court rejected that justification for appearing to be “contrived” and blocked the question from appearing on the 2020 census.

After threatening to delay the census in the wake of his Supreme Court loss, Trump issued an executive order in July 2019 that directed other federal agencies to share their citizenship records with the Census Bureau, which was already under orders from Ross to use records to produce anonymized, block-level data about the U.S. citizenship status of every adult living in the U.S. that states could use for redistricting.

Buried within Trump’s order about citizenship data was a new policy of developing “complete and accurate” data on “illegal aliens in the country” that did not attract much attention at the time. Existing estimates by the Department of Homeland Security and academic researchers, the order said, are not reliable enough to “evaluate” policy proposals about enforcing immigration laws and changing eligibility rules for public benefits.

“Data tabulating both the overall population and the citizen population could be combined with records of aliens lawfully present in the country to generate an estimate of the aggregate number of aliens unlawfully present in each State,” said Trump’s order, which Biden reversed last month.

At the White House Rose Garden announcement for Trump’s directive, the then-head of the Justice Department, William Barr, made no direct mention of how the DOJ could use the data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Instead, Barr made sure to highlight how the data “may be relevant” to a lawsuit filed in 2018 by the state of Alabama “over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes.”

FAIR’s underground beginnings

These signals from the Trump administration echoed arguments FAIR first made more than 40 years ago.

Toward the end of the 1970s, FAIR was a fledgling advocacy group desperate to emerge from a windowless basement office in Washington, D.C., as a national voice.

The U.S. was more than a decade into major demographic shifts: A greater and greater share of people living inside the U.S. were born elsewhere, and a predominantly white population was becoming less so.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 had ended an earlier quota system that favored people from Northern and Western Europe, while also imposing the first caps on the number of people allowed to enter from Mexico and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. The landmark law, along with the end of a legal program for temporary farmworkers from Mexico, helped usher in a rise in immigration, both legal and illegal, from Latin America, Asia and other parts of the world.

That led John Tanton — an eye doctor from a mostly white resort town along Lake Michigan who held a particular interest in population control as a form of environmentalism — to start FAIR.

The group’s calls for an end to illegal immigration and fewer legal pathways for newcomers were not met with fanfare.

“We were obviously very small fish in a very big pond, and so got little attention,” Tanton later recalled in an oral history interview that touched on FAIR’s early days working underground with less than a handful of staffers.

To try to make a splash, FAIR went to court in December 1979.

Its federal lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter’s administration called for a citizenship question to be included on both the long and short versions of the 1980 census form. The responses, FAIR argued, would generate a count of noncitizens that could eventually produce a state-by-state tally of unauthorized immigrants by matching noncitizens with green cards to government records.

Concerned about persistent undercounts, some census advocates at the time focused their energy on encouraging unauthorized immigrants to participate in the count.

Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, recalls reading a 1979 newspaper article about that effort and says FAIR sued partly out of concern that including unauthorized immigrants in the apportionment counts would increase the political power of “institutions that would favor the perpetuation, the expansion of immigration.”

Roger Conner, shown here in 1981, led the Federation for American Immigration Reform as its first executive director until 1988. Now a woodworker in Nashville, Tenn., Conner condemns Trump officials’ efforts to alter census apportionment counts. “I can only understand it as a pure expression of racism and evil,” Conner says. “And yet I have to own I took this same position 40 years ago.”

Still, in a 1980 statement to the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigation, Conner wrote that while FAIR wants unauthorized immigrants excluded from apportionment, it also “supports and encourages a full and accurate counting of illegal immigrants in the 1980 Census.”

“This is a difficult and perhaps impossible undertaking,” Conner added, “but it should nevertheless be worthwhile to attempt to gather more accurate information than we now possess about the number and characteristics of illegal immigrants within the United States.”

Finding lawyers in Washington willing to make FAIR’s arguments in court, though, was not easy.

“I had to explain to them why limiting immigration was the right thing, and FAIR wasn’t a racist group,” Conner explained in a 1989 oral history interview documented in the organization’s archives. “It was a lost cause.”

“The language of the Constitution is not ambiguous”

FAIR’s last-minute lawsuit eventually paid off in terms of media attention. It garnered a radio segment on NPR’s Morning Edition and a front-page, below-the-fold story in The New York Times, among other news coverage.

But the case was tossed out of a lower court, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. FAIR and the other plaintiffs did not have a right to sue, the three-judge panel of the lower court in D.C. ruled. And their case, the panel noted, appeared “very weak on the merits.”

“The language of the Constitution is not ambiguous,” the judges wrote in their opinion. “It requires the counting of the ‘whole number of persons’ for apportionment purposes, and while illegal aliens were not a component of the population at the time the Constitution was adopted, they are clearly ‘persons.’ ”

Going back to the 1920s, the judges pointed out, there have been multiple attempts to leave unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens out of the apportionment counts. But with no change to the country’s founding document, they have all failed. Their opinion quotes the remarks of Rep. Emanuel Celler, a Democrat from New York, during a 1940 House debate over whether unauthorized immigrants could be omitted:

“The Constitution says that all persons shall be counted. I cannot quarrel with the founding fathers. They said that all should be counted. We count the convicts who are just as dangerous and just as bad as the Communists or as the Nazis, as those aliens here illegally, and I would not come here and have the temerity to say that the convicts shall be excluded, if the founding fathers say they shall be included. The only way we can exclude them would be to pass a constitutional amendment.”

Sen. David Reed, a Republican from Pennsylvania, came to the same conclusion more than a decade earlier in the 1920s.

After the 1920 census, reapportioning House seats was so heated, in fact, that for the first time in U.S. history the process didn’t happen at all that decade. The Republican majority of a mostly rural Congress stalled on the constitutional mandate, refusing to use numbers that confirmed the U.S. had become a predominantly urban nation.

Weeks before lawmakers passed the 1929 law that turned reapportionment into an automatic process after the 1930 count, Reed took part in a Senate debate over whether “aliens,” including unauthorized immigrants, could be excluded from the counts.

Reed was a namesake and architect of the Johnson-Reed Act, also known as the Immigration Act of 1924 that was designed to suppress people from Eastern and Southern Europe, and completely stop people from Asia, from immigrating to the U.S.

“I disagree to the bottom of my heart,” Reed emphasized on the Senate floor, with the Constitution’s original framers and the 14th Amendment’s drafters choosing to use the term “persons” in their apportionment instructions instead of “citizens” or “voters who actually have cast their votes at the last general election.”

But Reed could not support a bill amendment for excluding unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens because, the senator said, “the oath which we take to support the Constitution includes the obligation to support it when we dislike its provisions as well as when we are in sympathy with them.”

“It is literally now or never”

Despite losing in the courts, FAIR tried to muster support for more legal action after its 1979 lawsuit.

Tanton, FAIR’s founder, looked for donors to stand up a $50,000 a year litigation program. In a 1980 letter written to a potential funder before FAIR’s appeal ended, Tanton said that if their census lawsuit failed, “illegals will have Representatives beholden to them, effectively foreclosing any chance of stemming their influx. It is literally now or never: the decision rests on those of us who understand the problem.”

The census lawsuit was a tool for getting “middle America” to support FAIR’s work, Tanton later explained in a 1981 letter to an attorney who helped start the group’s litigation program, by showing them that immigration was a “problem” not just for states like Texas, California and Florida.

In the same letter, Tanton floated the possibility of also pushing for the exclusion of green card holders, who are authorized to permanently stay in the U.S., and carrying out “citizen-only reapportionment,” which “would further sweeten FAIR’s prospects by shifting seats away from areas where politicians are compromised by an immigrant constituency.”

According to records in FAIR’s archives, though, the group stayed focused on the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants. One of FAIR’s attorneys tried to persuade the states of Indiana and Missouri, which each lost a vote in the House and Electoral College after the 1980 census, as well as Alabama and Georgia, to sue over the apportionment results, and Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, worked on selling the idea to the organization’s board of directors.

“This lawsuit, with a potential for altering the 1984 Presidential election, will garner an inordinate amount of publicity,” Conner wrote in an internal memo that year, suggesting the attention would be “extremely useful as a device to shift the news media focus” toward “the problems caused by illegal migration” and away from criticism of a FAIR-backed proposal for sanctions against employers who hire unauthorized immigrants.

Even so, it would take four more years before FAIR filed its second lawsuit over census apportionment counts. In 1988, it challenged the administration of former President Ronald Reagan over its plans for the 1990 census. This time, FAIR was joined by the states of Alabama, Kansas and Pennsylvania, as well as a more high-profile lead plaintiff — U.S. Rep. Tom Ridge, the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who later became the state’s governor and the country’s first homeland security secretary.

In an attempt to recruit lawmakers to their cause, FAIR targeted delegations from states that were projected to lose House seats if the apportionment counts were altered to leave out unauthorized immigrants. FAIR emphasized that if successful, the lawsuit would not hurt states’ bottom lines. Unauthorized immigrants would still be counted in the census numbers used to guide the distribution of federal grants to states, just not in the counts for dividing up House seats and electoral votes.

But the outcome in court turned out the same: The case was dismissed without a trial.

Still, Tanton was not ready to give up. Months after that loss in 1989, Tanton wrote a letter to the head of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, about a news report on the likelihood of Michigan losing two House seats after the 1990 census.

“This stirs the pot,” Tanton said, “and again makes me wonder about refiling the census suit[,] say from Michigan, after the results are announced and before apportionment takes place when the actual shift of seats will be known. How complex would this be?”

“Trying to stop” the “browning of America”

The year before FAIR lost its second attempt to exclude unauthorized immigrants through the courts, Tanton came under public scrutiny. A 1988 article in The Arizona Republic revealed that he had denigrated Latinos and warned of a “Latin onslaught” in a memo written for an immigration conference.

“How will we make the transition from a dominant non-Hispanic society with a Spanish influence to a dominant Spanish society with non-Hispanic influence?” asked Tanton, who, until he died in July 2019, was listed on FAIR’s website as a member of its national board of advisers. “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”

“What they were trying to stop was the browning of America,” says Arnoldo Torres, who was a vocal critic of FAIR’s policies as the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens until 1985.

Among FAIR’s policy positions — which over the years have included opposing pathways to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and ending the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship — altering the census apportionment counts was “not the issue that they led off with,” but was “always an undercurrent,” Torres recalls. “This was not a passing fancy.”

“They were in for the long haul. They knew they were not going to get it right away,” Torres says. “They knew eventually that the tide would change.”

In the meantime, FAIR developed plans to change the apportionment process and get a count of unauthorized immigrants through the two other branches of government, having so far failed in the courts. An internal report prepared for FAIR’s board of directors in October 1987 called it a “three-pronged approach.”

One strategy included lobbying Congress to require the Census Bureau to “differentiate illegal aliens from citizens and legal residents on its questionnaire” for the head count, Simin Yazdgerdi, FAIR’s then-director of government relations, wrote in the report.

During an August 1987 strategy session, FAIR determined its legislative strategy “should be conducted quietly so that the courts would not be tempted to a) delay making a decision until Congress had acted; or b) use any negative legislative history (i.e., floor statements, testimony) against us,” according to an internal memo by Yazdgerdi.

“Emphasize how Republicans will be hurt most by inclusion of illegal aliens,” the memo specified about how to persuade the Reagan administration’s Justice Department and Office of Management and Budget to “influence” the Census Bureau.

While FAIR may have expected a more receptive audience among GOP members, support for omitting unauthorized immigrants from apportionment did not fall neatly along party lines in the 1980s.

In fact, among the plaintiffs joining Rep. Ridge in FAIR’s lawsuit before the 1990 census were House Democrats from Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Before the suit was filed, Ridge and Democratic Rep. Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut spearheaded a 1987 House bill that called for excluding unauthorized immigrants and including U.S. military and civilian Defense Department employees stationed abroad, who at the time were not expected to be counted for apportionment.

In 1988, the Justice Department told lawmakers that it opposed the bill because excluding unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, it concluded, is unconstitutional. “If it were passed, we would recommend that the President veto it,” wrote then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Thomas Boyd, a Reagan appointee.

The House bill stayed stuck in committee, but it had bipartisan support, including from Democratic cosponsors from Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.

“It’s hard to explain to people. The Democrats were aligned with organized labor [and] didn’t want immigrants,” says Antonia Hernández, who opposed FAIR on immigration policy as president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for close to two decades beginning in 1985. MALDEF tried to intervene in FAIR’s 1988 lawsuit to defend the inclusion of unauthorized immigrants in apportionment counts.

As for the third prong of FAIR’s strategy, the group mapped out the possibility of a “favorable White House decision” that would instruct the Census Bureau to collect information on people’s immigration status, according to the group’s 1987 board report. But that path did not open until Trump became president 30 years later.

“The efforts have been clumsy”

After the 1990 census, FAIR shifted its focus toward Congress given its lack of headway in the courts and with presidential administrations.

“You don’t want to involve yourself in quixotic efforts that are doomed to fail,” says Stein, the group’s president who first joined FAIR in 1982.

But FAIR’s calculations changed after Trump won.

After entering office, the Trump administration put in place many hard-line immigration proposals long championed by FAIR and the network of organizations that grew from it — including cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. down to historic lows. Former FAIR staffers, including Julie Kirchner, who became the ombudsman at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after running FAIR for nearly a decade as its executive director, also joined the administration’s ranks.

Though Trump’s White House press office did not respond to NPR’s questions about whether the administration consulted with FAIR on its push to exclude unauthorized immigrants from apportionment counts, Stein says: “It was certainly part of our legislative plan for the new administration back in November of 2016.”

Hernández, MALDEF’s former president, says that the lack of comprehensive immigration reform helped thrust the apportionment issue front and center during the Trump administration. “It’s just gained steam and gained steam,” Hernández says.

In the decades since its basement beginnings, FAIR has expanded into a suite of offices near the U.S. Capitol, across the street from the office of the USCIS director. FAIR’s staff, including its legal arm, now totals 36, according to spokesperson Matthew Tragesser.

With the Trump administration in power, FAIR gained an invaluable advantage — a ready and willing partner inside the federal government during the final 2020 census planning stages.

“What they haven’t been yet able to do through the courts, they’ve been able to do through the executive branch,” Hernández says. “And they’ve been in such a hurry to do something, the efforts have been clumsy.”

The administration’s inconsistency was on full display during the citizenship question lawsuits. Public statements about Voting Rights Act enforcement fronted behind-the-scenes discussions about altering census numbers for House seat reapportionment.

A redacted August 2017 email appeared to foreshadow what became the administration’s ultimate strategy — citing a 1992 Supreme Court rulingto argue that the president has the discretion to decide whether to include unauthorized immigrants in the apportionment counts.

“Ultimately, we do not make decisions on how the data should be used for apportionment, that is for Congress (or possibly the President) to decide,” wrote then-Commerce Department attorney James Uthmeier. “I think that’s our hook here.”

Then, while testifying under oath about the citizenship question in 2018, Trump officials could not avoid bringing up apportionment.

John Gore — a Justice Department appointee at the time who testified that adding the citizenship question to census forms was not necessary for enforcing the Voting Rights Act — confirmed that when Jeff Sessions was U.S. attorney general, there was discussion at the highest levels of the DOJ about reapportioning House seats using “some other measure” than the total number of residents in each state.

Trump himself tied the push for a citizenship question to apportionment the same day the White House released the July 2020 presidential memo about excluding unauthorized immigrants. In a written statement, Trump said:

“Last summer in the Rose Garden, I told the American people that I would not back down in my effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population. Today, I am following through on that commitment by directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census.”

Some career Census Bureau officials suspected that Trump’s memo helped drive the administration to suddenly direct the bureau to rush counting last summer and cut back on quality checks for the 2020 census results, a report by the Commerce inspector general’s officerevealed. The administration appeared desperate to get a hold of census results before the end of Trump’s term in case Biden won the election.

Practical challenges

Despite posing serious threats to the count’s accuracy and the bureau’s credibility as a statistical agency, Trump’s memo, like the administration’s other census efforts, largely flew under the radar, frequently sidelined by other controversies.

At a press conference in July, hours after the release of a memo calling for the unprecedented exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment counts, not a single reporter asked Trump a question about the directive.

Weeks later, federal courts began declaring the memo unlawful and in some of the cases, unconstitutional as well. After the Supreme Court agreed to squeeze in a hearing for the Trump administration’s appeal last fall, though, the high court’s conservative majority ruled it was too early to weigh in.

In the end, timing and bureaucracy thwarted Trump’s plans to alter the latest state population counts. The administration tried to pressure the Census Bureau to prematurely end quality checks, which were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. But career civil servants postponed releasing the first set of census results after unearthing incomplete and duplicate responses.

As the inauguration of President Biden drew closer, another reality was setting in that made Trump’s apportionment plan practically impossible. The Census Bureau could only come up with reliable numbers for a fraction of the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S.

Still, even during its final days in office, the administration did not give up on trying to get state-by-state figures of unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens. A last-minute push by the Trump-appointed Census Bureau director, Steven Dillingham — as well as two controversial appointees, Nathaniel Cogley and Benjamin Overholtsparked whistleblower complaints about demands to produce “statistically indefensible” data, and Dillingham ultimately resigned.

Without a citizenship or immigration status question on the 2020 census forms, government records the Trump administration directed the bureau to use could only generate a state-by-state count of unauthorized immigrants in detention centers.

For the rest of the population, the bureau could produce estimates. But the methods it would have to use are saddled with “difficult-to-verify assumptions” and could “introduce substantial imprecision” to the census results, top career officials warned in a March 2020 memo.

“It is our professional judgement that these methods produce estimates of the undocumented foreign-born population at the state level that could inform policy makers,” but they may not be usable when reapportioning House seats because they require the use of statistical sampling, which is not allowed, wrote John Abowd, the bureau’s chief scientist, and Victoria Velkoff, associate director of the bureau’s demographic programs.

The bureau has also warned, for decades, that using the national head count to identify unauthorized immigrants could undermine public trust in the federal statistical agency. That, in turn, could exacerbate historical undercounts of immigrants and people of color and reduce their areas’ share of census-guided federal funding.

“We realize that our job would be made still harder … if we had an image of being an investigative unit,” Leo Estrada, who was serving as a special assistant to the bureau’s deputy director, told NPR in 1980 in response to FAIR’s first apportionment lawsuit.

Producing figures of unauthorized immigrants should be a “job for some other agency,” Estrada said.

The bureau has shelved the Trump administration’s project for creating unauthorized immigrant counts. But that work could play a role in the ongoing lawsuit by the state of Alabama and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from that state who voted against certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 election and told crowds at a rally before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that it was the day for “taking down names and kicking ass.”

Biden’s executive order has restored the longstanding policy of including all residents regardless of immigration status in apportionment counts. But Brooks and the office of Alabama State Attorney General Steve Marshall are still trying to convince U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to order unauthorized immigrants to be left out.

The future of “we the people”

For Conner, FAIR’s first executive director, it’s long past time to end this fight.

More than four decades after helping to launch FAIR’s campaign, Conner says he has since come to recognize the long ties many unauthorized immigrants have to the U.S.

“When you say ‘we the people of the United States,’ you have to include them,” Conner says.

Now a woodworker based in Nashville, Tenn., Conner condemns the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement for not focusing on deterring employers from hiring unauthorized workers.

“For this administration to take up the census lawsuit after they have subverted any effort to recognize the implicit invitation for immigrants to come undocumented to this country to work, to live,” Conner says, “I can only understand it as a pure expression of racism and evil. And yet I have to own I took this same position 40 years ago.”

FAIR, however, remains committed to changing who is counted in apportionment and obtaining numbers of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

“You want to have as much data as possible about the fiscal, environmental and societal impacts of immigration,” says Stein, FAIR’s president.

Stein acknowledges the stakes of bringing this issue before the highest court in the land. If the justices declared that reapportioning House seats and electoral votes without unauthorized immigrants is unconstitutional, FAIR would have to resort to advocating for a constitutional amendment, which Stein calls a “very heavy lift.”

But the Trump administration left office with no definitive Supreme Court ruling on its plan to alter counts that, according to the Constitution, must include the “whole number of persons in each state.”

That leaves the door open for Alabama’s lawsuit and any future legal challenges to test their limits in the courts. And as planning ramps up for the 2030 census, it leaves behind a lingering question: How much further could FAIR’s campaign go if another president in line with its ambitions enters the White House?

Source: Immigration Hard-Liner Files Reveal 40-Year Bid Behind Trump’s Census Obsession

Trump And Miller Left Biden With Unfinished Immigration Business

Of note:

Donald Trump, Stephen Miller and the rest of the Trump immigration squad left the Biden administration with a lot of unfinished business, only some of which has garnered newspaper headlines. The Biden administration has moved quickly on several high-profile issues, including protection for refugees and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. However, the list of immigration issues that requires attention after four years is long. Below are some of the most significant issues.

Stephen Miller’s Department of Labor Rule: Jyoti Bansal came to America on an H-1B visa. “I waited seven years for my employment-based green card [due to the per-country limit] and I wanted to leave my job and start a new company but couldn’t,” Bansal told me in an interview. “What is most frustrating about the green card process is you have no control over a major part of your life.”

In the final days of Donald Trump’s term, as part of a longstanding goal to price out of the U.S. labor market employment-based immigrants, international students and H-1B visa holders, White House adviser Stephen Miller and other members of the Trump immigration team pushed through a final rule on wages from the Department of Labor (DOL). The rule would significantly boost the required minimum or “prevailing” wage employers must pay employment-based immigrants and H-1B visa holders by 24% to 40% across a range of occupations, according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.

If the DOL rule had been in effect years ago, Jyoti Bansal likely would never have been able to come to America, nor would the many people who played critical roles in developing the Covid-19 vaccines and came to (or remained in) America on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards.

In 2007, Bansal received an employment authorization document (EAD) as part of the green card process. He later left his employer and started AppDynamics. The company, which monitors websites for clients such as HBO, has grown to employ over 2,000 people and was valued at $3.7 billion when Cisco acquired it in 2017.

The DOL final rule cites Donald Trump’s anti-immigration “Buy American and Hire American” executive order for the regulation’s “justification,” its “need” and the “Objectives of and Legal Basis for the Final Rule.” However, on January 25, 2021, President Biden revoked Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. In other words, the authority cited for the DOL final rule by Trump’s Department of Labor no longer exists. The nation’s leading anti-immigration group, which has called for a “permanent pause” on immigration to America, has praised the DOL rule. This should not be a difficult choice for the Biden administration on what to do with the rule.

An Agenda on International Students: It is too soon to expect a full agenda from the Biden administration on international students. Rescinding the DOL wage rule would help attract students, since the rule makes it far less likely international students could get a work visa or permanent residence in the United States. There are other pressing student issues.

First, processing delays in Optional Practical Training (OPT) have bedeviled international students, particularly at the Texas Service Center Lockbox. Without a receipt, students can lose their status. (Attorneys have reported some improvements.) The Biden administration disbanded a last-minute effort by the Trump administration to establish a new unit to go after international students working on OPT, which may facilitate more targeted enforcement against bad actors, rather than a generalized effort against all students working on OPT.

Second, the Trump administration’s student policies left in place from 2020 may need to be adapted to the current situation. “After a concerted advocacy effort by the higher education community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that international students should ’continue to abide’ by emergency pandemic guidance that allows them to take all or some of their courses online,” according to a letter from the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We strongly support this guidance because without it, a large number of international students still in the United States during the pandemic would have had to take classes in person or leave–neither tenable as COVID cases rise and the pandemic is still prevalent.

“However, DHS has still not issued additional guidance that would allow all international students, including those who were not already enrolled during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 but have since enrolled or who will enroll, to enter and remain in the United States. Current guidance stipulates that if a new international student’s courses are online, they are prohibited from entering the United States or must depart the country. This policy is a substantial problem for programs with students living in different time zones.”

Universities would like updates to the policy, including “explicitly allowing initial international students to enter the country, as well as permitting existing students to remain in the United States when enrolled in online-only courses (as opposed to currently only allowing students enrolled in hybrid courses to enter).”

A recent survey found that during Fall 2020, “new enrollment of international students physically in the United States declined by 72%,” more than the 43% drop in foreign enrollment overall because students started online overseas.

If the Biden administration is looking for policy suggestions for a broader agenda on international students, NAFSA: Association of International Educators has put one together. The recommendations include a series of administrative and legislative actions to “establish a welcoming environment for international students and scholars.”

The Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders and Long USCIS Processing Times for Work Authorization: The Trump administration was unsuccessful in its plans to rescind the Obama administration’s rule on H-4 EAD (employment authorization document). A lawsuit (Kolluri v. USCIS) credibly alleges that USCIS put in place an unnecessary biometrics requirement to prevent the applicants, mostly women from India, from working in the United States. The California Service Center is taking up to two years to process an extension for work authorization. Another lawsuit charges current USCIS policies make it “mathematically” impossible for the spouses to continue working because extension applications cannot be processed in time.

Startup Visas and the International Entrepreneur Rule: The Biden administration’s outline on immigration legislation did not include a startup visa that would allow foreign nationals to gain green cards after demonstrating they have started a business that creates a threshold number of jobs. Congress can add that to any proposal. In the meantime, the administration can revive the International Entrepreneur Rule.

A letter from a coalition that includes the National Venture Capital Association,, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Immigration Forum and others asks DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Majorkas “to implement the International Entrepreneur Rule . . . . originally put in place at the end of the Obama Administration, would work similar to a Startup Visa by allowing world-class foreign entrepreneurs to launch high-growth companies in the United States by utilizing the parole authority of DHS.”

A new report from the Progressive Policy Institute finds implementing the International Entrepreneur Rule could lead to significant job creation. A study last year from the National Foundation for American Policy examined the international experience and concluded startup visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs can bring jobs and innovation to a country.

It may take years for the Biden administration to undo many of the immigration policies implemented over the last four years. Addressing some of the issues not making front-page news will improve the chances the effort will be successful.

Scoffield: Donald Trump’s policies helped Canada attract talented and diverse immigrants. Now it’s up to us

Good column, reminding us that immigration is about more than just economics and economic advantages and the challenges of a more welcoming approach to immigration in the USA compared to the previous administration:

This is a story about post-Trump immigration policy, Canada’s competitive advantage, diversity and the workforce of the future.

Nazanin Khazra, a young economics professor at the University of Toronto, is a precious commodity when seen through all those lenses.

But the bottom line is this: she has not seen her mother since the summer of 2016.

Khazra, 33, grew up in Tehran and moved to the United States to do postgraduate studies at the University of Illinois. But when Donald Trump became president in January 2017, one of his first acts was to shut down travel from Muslim-dominated countries including Iran.

It meant that Khazra really couldn’t go home for a visit without giving up her studies and moving back there for good. It also meant that her mother and her sisters couldn’t come to see her.

“It was a choice between family and the PhD I worked for, for 10 to 15 years,” she says.

She stuck it out and got her degree last year, but didn’t see her family the whole time Trump was in office. When the job offers came in, she had her pick of top universities in the United States. She chose the University of Toronto instead and moved there in time for the 2020-21 school year, on a five-year track to tenure.

She still hasn’t seen her mother but now it’s because of the pandemic, not the U.S. president. As soon as it’s safe to travel, she’ll finally be able to visit her mom. Then she’ll return to her adoptive home, where she fully intends to stay.

It’s an iconic success story for Canada’s immigration policy — an intelligent young woman of colour brightening the ranks of Canada’s economists and sticking around for the long run. Recruiters and government strategies that target highly skilled immigrants worked together to attract some of the best talent from around the world — and in particular, the United States under Trump. Canada’s employers and Canada’s economy all gain, and we are that much richer for the experience.

But for Khazra, it’s also a tragic story of human rights gone awry. And she is sharing her story so that point won’t be forgotten in our zeal to bring in the crème de la crème for the sake of the Canadian economy.

The election of Joe Biden, with his more open immigration policies, means Canada will once again face impossibly stiff competition for highly skilled workers, with warnings that the U.S.’s gains in immigration will be Canada’s losses. Khazra is worried we will treat immigration primarily as an economic variable — and not a facet of human rights, fairness and respect for people.

It’s a mistake, she says, to focus on how much Canada’s economy will be damaged by Biden’s quick removal of the Muslim ban and his embrace of immigration. She bristles when she hears that question in Canada, comparing it to asking whether the U.S. economy was hurt by the end of slavery.

The negative effect on the economy, she says, “is just a side factor.”

Instead, she turns the question on its head.

“The way that this question should be asked is the following: Does Canada’s clear and fair immigration policy have a positive effect on its economy? 

“And the answer is yes, because you have a higher diversity compared to other countries. You have a clear and fair immigration policy which is based on points and based on skills and talent and experience, and your economy is benefiting from basically absorbing this talent.”

Her insight speaks to the ongoing debate about how beneficial immigration is to the Canadian economy, and how much immigration is needed to keep economic growth on an even keel. While some experts and policy-makers argue that immigration fuels growth and we need lots more of it to enhance our prosperity, others argue that our standard of living can only be improved if we bring in top economic performers.

That debate loses sight of the fact that immigration shapes our culture, and diversity brings us immeasurable richness, says Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo.

While Skuterud is fully engaged in measuring and debating how immigration boosts growth (or doesn’t), he agrees with Khazra that immigration needs to be evaluated and shaped by criteria that go well beyond the economy.

“Why do we always have to make the argument that it’s beneficial for us economically? It’s much bigger than dollars and cents,” he says.

And, as Khazra says, in the end, that kind of broader appreciation of who is making their home in Canada can’t help but boost our well-being over time.

“You’re basically doing both. You’re respecting human rights and your economy is benefiting from having all these high-skilled workers.”


President Trump Reduced Legal Immigration. He Did Not Reduce Illegal Immigration

Usual solid analysis by Cato Institute:

President Trump entered the White House with the goal of reducing legal immigration by 63 percent. Trump was wildly successful in reducing legal immigration. By November 2020, the Trump administration reduced the number of green cards issued to people abroad by at least 418,453 and the number of non‐​immigrant visas by at least 11,178,668 during his first term through November 2020. President Trump also entered the White House with the goal of eliminating illegal immigration but Trump oversaw a virtual collapse in interior immigration enforcement and the stabilization of the illegal immigrant population. Thus, Trump succeeded in reduce legal immigration and failed to eliminate illegal immigration.

Figure 1 shows the monthly number of green cards issued to immigrants outside of the United States. In most years, about half of all green cards are issued to immigrants who already reside in the United States on another visa. Thus, the number of green cards issued to immigrants abroad is a better metric of the annual inflow of lawful permanent residents than the total number issued. Trump cut the average number of monthly green cards issued by 18.2 percent relative to Obama’s second term, but that average monthly decline hides the virtual end of legal immigration from April 2020 onward.

In response to the recession and the COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump virtually ended the issuance of green cards to people abroad. In the last 6 months of the 2020 fiscal year (April‐​September 2020) the U.S. government only issued about 29,000 green cards. In the same period in 2016, the U.S. government issued approximately 309,000 green cards. Compared to the last half of FY2016, the number of green cards issued in the last half of FY2020 fell by 90.5 percent (please see note at the end of this blog post for how I estimated these figures).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic during the period from January 2017‐​February 2020, the average number of green cards issued per month was only down about 0.5 percent under Trump compared to from January 2013‐​February 2016 under the Obama administration with cumulative numbers down just over 3.2 percent. Beginning in mid‐​to‐​late March, the Trump administration virtually halted the issuance of green cards to people abroad. Without the COVID-19 immigration restrictions unilaterally imposed by the President, the issuance of green cards to foreigners abroad would have barely declined relative to the second term of the Obama administration.

Figure 2 shows the monthly number of non‐​immigrant visas (NIVs) issued abroad. NIVs include tourist visas, work visas, student visas, and others that do not allow the migrant to naturalize. Trump cut the monthly average number of NIVs by about 27 percent relative to Obama’s second term, but that decline obscures the virtual end of NIVs from April 2020 onward.

As with immigrant visas, President Trump virtually ended NIV issuance in response to the recession and the COVID-19 outbreak. In the last 6 months of the 2020 fiscal year (April‐​September 2020) the U.S. government only issued 397,596 NIVs. In the same period in 2016, the U.S. government issued more than 5.6 million NIVs. Compared to the last half of FY2016, the number NIVs issued in the last half of FY2020 fell by almost 93 percent (please see note at the end of this blog post for how I estimated these figures).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, during the period from January 2017‐​February 2020, the average number of monthly NIVs issued was down about 12 percent under Trump compared to the January 2013‐​February 2016 period under the Obama administration and the cumulative numbers were down by just over 14 percent. Beginning in mid‐​to‐​late March, the Trump administration virtually halted the issuance of NIVs to people abroad. The COVID‐​19‐​related restrictions were the most severe and impactful part of Trump’s immigration policy.

Looking at the decline in the number of visas issued abroad under Trump through November 2020 compared to the second term of the Obama administration, Trump reduced the number of green cards issued by approximately 418,453 green cards and the number of NIVs issued by about 11,178,668. That’s a roughly 18 percent decline in the number of green cards issued abroad and approximately a 28 percent decline in the number of NIVs issued during Trump’s only term relative to Obama’s second term.

Although Trump succeeded in cutting legal immigration more than he initially planned, he oversaw the collapse of interior immigration enforcement. In 2020, the removal of illegal immigrants from the interior of the United States was the lowest as an absolute number and as a share of the illegal immigration population since ICE was created in 2003 (Figure 3). Trump failed to increase removals because local jurisdictions refused to cooperate with his administration, continuing a trend begun during the Obama administration in response to their deportation efforts. As a result, the population of illegal immigrants remained about the same as when he took office (Figure 4).

Research: The Cost of a Single US Immigration Restriction

Noteworthy analysis although may be correlation as much as causation:

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order(EO) significantly reducing the number of people eligible for non-immigrant work visas, arguing that due to high domestic unemployment during the pandemic, “the entry…of certain aliens as immigrants and nonimmigrants would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” This new restriction barred nearly 200,000 highly-skilled international workers — many of whomhold advanced degrees in STEM fields, and on whom U.S. companies rely to fill key talent gaps — from entering the U.S.

As researchers who study immigration and geographic mobility, were interested in examining the immediate impact of this EO on business. To that end, we conducted a study in which we tracked changes in stock price for all publicly traded Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. (a total of 471 firms) in the aftermath of the EO. We found that immediately after the new policy was announced, these companies’ market valuations dropped by about 0.45% — representing a total loss of around $100 billion. Moreover, these companies’ stock prices remained below their pre-EO levels for at least 10 days after the announcement, suggesting that the losses we’d identified represented a significant impact, not a temporary blip.

In addition, our research also found that this negative impact was much more pronounced for the 295 firms that had maintained or increased their reliance on foreign workers during the years prior to the EO (as measured by growth in each firm’s Labor Condition Application requests, a proxy for companies’ reliance on H-1B visa employees). Specifically, these companies experienced a drop in market valuation of 0.5-0.6%, while the companies whose reliance on foreign workers had decreased in recent years experienced a valuation drop of only 0.3% — meaning firms that relied more on foreign employees took almost twice as great a hit in the wake of the announcement. This suggests that the reductions in valuation we measured were in fact caused by the EO, rather than by other, unrelated economic disruptions (since other disruptions, such as the impact of the pandemic or political uncertainty, would presumably have affected all firms equally regardless of their reliance on foreign workers).

Our study was limited to the immediate aftermath of the EO, but our finding fits into a larger body of research suggesting that immigration restrictions can harm the U.S. economy in myriad ways. For example, one study reported that when firms hire fewer highly skilled immigrant workers, it actually leads them to hire fewer skilled workers overall, including both international and domestic employees. In addition, a comprehensive report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found in 2016 that “there is little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers.” The report went on to describe the value of immigrant labor in no uncertain terms, stating:

“The infusion by high-skilled immigration of human capital … has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation and technological change. The contribution of immigrants to human and physical capital formation, entrepreneurship, and innovation are essential to long-run sustained economic growth. Innovation carried out by immigrants also has the potential to increase the productivity of natives, very likely raising economic growth per capita. In short, the prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants.”

The list of research-backed downsides to restricting immigration goes on and on. Studies have shown that policies restricting U.S. firms’ ability to hire global talent for highly skilled positions can have a long-term, negative impact on those companies’ profits, productivity, innovation, and growth. There is also robust evidence suggesting that when multinational firms are unable to hire immigrant talent for their U.S. offices, they often resort to offshoring their activities to other nations, ultimately reducing their domestic hiring rates. Another study, conducted by one of us (Prithwiraj Choudhury) and Do Yoon Kim, documented the role of skilled immigrant workers in transferring novel ideas from their home countries to the U.S. The study found that teams with both immigrant and domestic employees benefited from combining their diverse ideas, exhibiting greater levels of innovation than teams without immigrant members.

Yet another study, conducted by two of us (Prithwiraj Choudhury and Dany Bahar) as well as Hillel Rapoport, examined the impact of immigration on a country’s technological innovation, finding that countries with more immigrants who filed patents in a given specialization were significantly more likely to become globally competitive in that specialization. This suggests that the Trump administration’s restriction on the immigration of highly skilled workers could have a lasting negative impact on America’s global competitiveness, significantly reducing productivity and innovation and impeding the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Especially in the midst of an economic crisis, the research clearly suggests that policymakers looking to support the American people should focus on easing — not increasing — human capital restrictions on businesses. Our study has shown that limiting firms’ ability to hire top global talent has an immediate negative impact on their valuations, adding yet another data point to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that restricting immigration to the U.S. harms the country’s economy and its citizens. We hope that these findings can inform the ongoing policy debate, and that they can inspire the incoming Biden administration to take a more productive approach to immigration policy in the months and years to come.

Source: Research: The Cost of a Single US Immigration Restriction