Unlike Trump, Biden Plan Welcomes Immigrant Scientists And Engineers

Of note given likely impact on relative attractiveness of Canada compared to USA but degree not known:

Although Donald Trump said he favored “merit-based” immigration, his policy team never seemed to find high-skilled foreign nationals it wanted to let work in the United States. In contrast, the Biden administration has proposed new policies that take the opposite approach.

Announced January 21, 2022, the new Biden policies can be divided into four general areas. Each holds the potential for making America more welcoming for talented foreign-born individuals at a time when human capital and innovation have never been more valuable to a nation.

Improved National Interest Waivers For Employment-Based Immigrants: As reported earlier in an article previewing immigration in 2022, new guidance for “National Interest Waivers” in the employment-based second preference could be a significant improvement for many immigrants. “The USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities,” according to a Biden administration fact sheet describing the new policies. “This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers.”

The new guidance could expand the use of national interest waivers for immigrant entrepreneurs and potentially for a broader range of highly skilled individuals with expertise in science, engineering and other fields. The narrow interpretation in current USCIS guidance has frustrated immigrants since using such waivers allows foreign nationals to “self-petition.” That means (per USCIS) “they do not need an employer to sponsor them.” National interest waivers can also be a relief from the Department of Labor’s lengthy labor certification process. 

(See here for the USCIS policy manual update on national interest waivers.)MORE FOR YOUNATO’s Technology Innovation Initiatives Are Moving Into High GearAI 50 2021: America’s Most Promising Artificial Intelligence CompaniesImpossible Foods’ CEO Says Going Public Is ‘Inevitable.’ So Why Have Most Of 2021’s Food Listings Spoiled?

Updating O-1A Visas: “O-1A [are for] individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry),” according to USCIS. However, in the past, USCIS has adopted a narrow view of who is eligible for the visas. A Biden administration official said on background the new policy is expected to expand significantly the eligibility for O-1A visas in STEM fields. (See here for the USCIS policy manual update on O-1A visas.)

“In this update, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as Ph.D. holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields,” according to the fact sheet. “The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.”

Dan Berger of Curran, Berger & Kludt thinks the new O-1A guidance will be helpful. “O-1 visas had become more difficult to obtain,” he said in an interview. “New guidance is helpful to clarify how the statutory criteria apply to STEM fields and the modern world. Many of the criteria were written before the internet age.”

Expanding Eligibility For STEM OPT: As discussed here, the Biden administration has expanded eligibility for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows international students to gain practical experience for 12 months and an additional 24 months in a STEM field. Many international students would not come to America without OPT and the ability to work in their field, including the potential later to obtain H-1B status and an employment-based green card. 

In a Federal Register notice (January 21, 2022), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, “The Secretary of Homeland Security is amending the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List [for OPT] by adding 22 qualifying fields of study.” The fields include Cloud Computing, Anthrozoology, Climate Science, Mathematical Economics, Business Analytics, Data Visualization, Financial Analytics and others. (More details are available in the Federal Register notice.)

Expanded Programs For J-1 Exchange Visitors: The Biden administration has also proposed two expansions in the use of J-1 visas that may represent new routes to America for individuals in STEM fields. “The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an ‘Early Career STEM Research Initiative,’ to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses,” according to the administration’s fact sheet. “ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.” 

Without reviewing text on the new J-1 policies, Lynden Melmed, a partner at Berry Appleman & Leiden and former chief counsel for USCIS, said the changes could be quite positive. He also views the other policy proposals favorably.

“Immigration is often about fitting square pegs into round holes, and that won’t ever change,” he said in an interview. “But over the years, the policy guidance and procedures have become so inflexible that we risk losing employees who are working in developing fields critical to national security. The guidance on O-1 visas and foreign students restores some sanity to the process.”

“Expanding the number of STEM fields is long overdue and very welcome,” he said. “DHS took a careful approach when it first issued the STEM list. Today’s announcement is key because it signals the government will try to keep up with the rapidly changing academic environment.” 

Statistics on international students help illustrate why the Biden approach aimed at attracting international students makes more sense than the Trump administration’s restrictive policies. “At U.S. universities, foreign nationals account for 82% of the full-time graduate students in petroleum engineering, 74% in electrical engineering, 72% in computer and information sciences, 71% in industrial and manufacturing engineering, 70% in statistics” and over 50% in many other fields, according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis. “At many U.S. universities, the data show it would be difficult to maintain important graduate programs without international students.”

The State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services still need to improve processing, and Congress must enact many immigration reforms. Notable reforms would include increasing the number of employment-based green cards and H-1B visas and eliminating the per-country limit for employer-sponsored immigrants. 

It is easy to forget the Trump administration’s generally hostile policies toward foreign-born scientists and engineers. In 2020, Donald Trump blocked the entry to the United States of employment-based immigrants and H-1B visa holders via proclamations, and it took unfavorable court rulings on H-1B visas for USCIS finally to end four years of restrictive immigration policies against employers. Should the same policy team return to the White House in 2025, the goal on foreign talent likely won’t be to shut the barn door tighter but to dismantle the barn and close down the farm.

The Biden administration sees international education and innovation much differently from its predecessor, and the context from which these new policies have been proposed is clear. America is viewed as losing ground to China and other countries in the battle for talent. The latest proposals show the U.S. government is now attempting to join this battle and encourage talented foreign-born scientists and engineers to become part of the U.S. economy and the nation.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2022/01/21/unlike-trump-biden-plan-welcomes-immigrant-scientists-and-engineers/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&sh=3a3612d955f6

One in 10 Black people living in the U.S. are immigrants, new study shows

By way of comparison, the percent of Blacks in Canada who are immigrants is 52 percent:

The demographics of America’s Black population are in the middle of a major shift, with 1 in 10 having been born outside the United States. That’s 4.6 million Americans, a figure that is projected to grow to 9.5 million by 2060, according to the findings of a Pew Research Center study published Thursday.

“When we talk about the nation’s Black population, we have to understand it is one that is changing and becoming even more diverse than it already was, and immigrants are a big part of that story and so the immigrant experience is a growing part of the experience of Black Americans today,” said Mark Lopez, Pew’s director of race and ethnicity research.

Black immigrants and their American-born children make up 21 percent of the nation’s Black population, with an increasing number of migrants coming from Africa, according to the report. Lopez said it’s a group that often is overlooked in discussions about immigration.

Source: One in 10 Black people living in the U.S. are immigrants, new study shows

H-1B Visa Denial Rates Plunge After Trump Immigration Policies End

Not surprising. Will see if this reverses some of the preference of some high skilled immigrants for Canada that emerged during the Trump years:

H-1B denial rates have returned to pre-Trump levels after court decisions and a legal settlement ended the Trump administration’s restrictive policies, according to a new report. The changes started in the fourth quarter of FY 2020, while Donald Trump was still president, following a legal settlement with the business group ITServe Alliance and judges declaring the Trump administration’s policies unlawful. The lower denial rates continued through FY 2021 because the Biden administration abided by the legal settlement and did not introduce new restrictions.

“The denial rate for new H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2021 dropped to 4%, far lower than the denial rate of 24% in FY 2018, 21% in FY 2019 and 13% in FY 2020,” according to a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). “The Trump administration managed to carry out what judges determined to be unlawful policies for nearly four years, and the policies imposed significant costs on employers, visa holders and the U.S. economy, likely contributing to more work and talent moving to other countries.”

H-1B petitions for “initial” employment are for new employment, normally a case for companies that counts against the H-1B annual limit. The FY 2020 denial rate would have been higher if not for the legal settlement. Court rulings also stopped U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from continuing to impose new restrictions on who qualified for an H-1B specialty occupation.

The low H-1B denial rates in FY 2021 show the Trump administration’s anti-immigration approach was an aberration. “NFAP found the denial rates in FY 2021 and FY 2015 to be similar for employers, meaning the Trump years were an aberration due to imposing restrictive policies that courts found to be unlawful,” according to the report. “For several companies, particularly those that provide information technology (IT) services or other business services to U.S. companies, the denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment was far lower in FY 2021 than in FY 2020.”

H-1B temporary visas typically are the only practical way for a high-skilled foreign national, including an international student, to work long-term in the United States and have an opportunity to become an employment-based immigrant and a U.S. citizen. Many founders of billion-dollar companies and individuals who created the vaccines and delivered medical care that has saved the lives of Americans during the pandemic have used H-1B visas and employment-based green cards, notes NFAP.

Among the findings in the NFAP analysis:

–     “The denial rate for H-1B petitions for continuing employment was 2% in FY 2021, much lower than the 12% denial rate in FY 2018 and FY 2019 and the lowest level since data on H-1B denial rates became available. H-1B petitions for ‘continuing’ employment are usually extensions for existing employees at the same company or an H-1B visa holder changing to a new employer. The denial rate for H-1B petitions for continuing employment was 7% in FY 2020 but would have been higher if not for the impact in the fourth quarter of the court decisions and the legal settlement. In recent history, the 7% denial rate was still high compared to the 3% denial rate for H-1B petitions for continuing employment each year between FY 2011 and FY 2015.

–     “Much of the increase in denials for continuing employment during the Trump administration was due to an October 2017 memo that instructed adjudicators to no longer ‘give deference to the findings of a previously approved petition.’ Many extensions of H-1B status were reviewed under a new, more restrictive standard based on policies that judges later determined to be unlawful. Employers and attorneys have credited USCIS Director Ur Jaddou and the Biden administration for rescinding the October 2017 memo.

–     Amazon had the most approved H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2021 with 6,182. Amazon also had the most new H-1B petitions approved in FY 2020. Infosys had the second most H-1B petitions in FY 2021 approved for initial employment (5,256), followed by TCS (3,063), Wipro (2,121) Cognizant (1,481), Google (1,453), IBM (1,402), HCL America (1,299) and Microsoft (1,240).

–     “Processing issues likely inflated the number of approved H-1B petitions for the top employers. In the USCIS data, H-1B petitions are counted in the fiscal year they are approved, not in the cap year the H-1B visa holder begins to work. NFAP determined approximately 18,000 more petitions were approved for initial employment in FY 2021 compared to FY 2020, possibly due to USCIS processing issues in FY 2020 caused by the pandemic and the higher denial rate in 2020. Another caveat to the numbers is that, according to attorneys, in FY 2019 and FY 2020 during the Trump administration, USCIS held or delayed H-1B applications for many IT services companies, which would have inflated the number of approved H-1B petitions for those companies in FY 2021.

–     “The top employers of approved H-1B petitions in FY 2021 were also among the fastest-growing employers of U.S. workers, providing evidence that companies that employ H-1B visa holders also seek out and employ U.S. workers in significant numbers. The information on the significant hiring of U.S. workers by employers of H-1B professionals helps demonstrate the fallacies of the zero-sum argument about high-skilled foreign nationals ‘taking’ American jobs, particularly since economists have found hiring high-skilled personnel complements other high-skilled jobs as well as other types of employment at a company and in the economy.

–     “At U.S. universities, only approximately 25% of the full-time graduate students in electrical engineering and computer and information sciences are U.S. students.”

Source: H-1B Visa Denial Rates Plunge After Trump Immigration Policies End

USA: Southeast Asians are underrepresented in STEM. The label ‘Asian’ boxes them out more

The impact of overly broad groupings. In contrast, Canadian visible minorities have 7 groupings of Asian: Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Korean, Japanese, West Asian (but of course, considerable differences within most of these groups):

When Kao Lee Yang received a nomination from her university for the Gilliam Fellowship by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and math, she was thrilled. She’s spent years working toward her doctorate in Alzheimer’s research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Yang is Asian American, and more specifically is Hmong American, part of a small minority in the United States with just 327,000 people.

Though the Hmong population in the U.S. is growing, Hmong Americans are still underrepresented in STEM fields and have lower education rates and higher poverty rates overall, compared to the U.S. population at large.

For example, while 24% of all Asians in the U.S. have obtained an additional degree after college, and 13% of all Americans have, just 6% of Hmong Americans have, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2019 analysis of Census Bureau data. To add to that, a very low percentage of Hmong Americans actually go into STEM fields.

That’s why Yang said she was “blindsided” when HHMI emailed her academic adviser saying she wasn’t eligible for the fellowship because she didn’t meet their requirements for who is considered underrepresented.

Though the National Institutes of Health acknowledges that underrepresentation can be determined on a “case by case” basis, people who identify as Asian or white are not seen as underrepresentedin STEM, according to standards set by the NIH.

That means certain fellowships, grant funding and educational opportunities that are meant for underrepresented groups, such as Latino, Black, and Indigenous people, for example, are not always extended toward Asian American applicants. The opportunities are designed to elevate groups who are historically marginalized and make sure STEM workplaces are more inclusive and equitable.

So Yang, who said she has never met another Hmong scientist in her field, said it made no sense to her that she wasn’t considered underrepresented.

“I was dumbfounded,” Yang said. “I did wonder how HHMI came to that determination when I have had such a hard time finding other Hmong American scientists and scientific spaces.”

Yang isn’t the only one who’s experienced the contradictions that come with falling under the broad category of “Asian” in government data collection. Asian Americans have been calling attention to the issue for decades.

Hmong, Vietnamese, Filipino, Laotian, and Cambodian Americans all fall under the broad category of Asian, but their experiences the U.S. when it comes to things like education levels can vary greatly from other Asian groups such as Chinese, Korean, Indian and Japanese. Some South Asian groups such as Bhutanese and Burmese also face lower levels of educational attainment.

Because of the way HHMI looked at Asian Americans as one group, Yang was not considered to be underrepresented — effectively shutting her out from an opportunity that claims to be for someone exactly like her.

Why advocates say more nuanced data is important

“Is every Asian American group underrepresented in higher education? Obviously that’s not the case,” said Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland and a co-founder of AAPI Data.

“Indian and Chinese students are the largest groups applying to these programs. And while they do often face implicit bias on campuses, they’re not facing systemic exclusion to access to higher education,” Wong said.

Wong has been advocating for data disaggregation in the Asian American community for years.

Disaggregation would involve collecting more specific data on Asian sub-groups so that a person’s country of origin is apparent, rather than just grouping people together from the entire continent. The data would show specifically if someone was Vietnamese American, or Cambodian American, for example, rather than simply classifying them as Asian.

That kind of detail would allow policymakers, health care professionals, educators and even institutions such as the NIH to better examine the nuances of different Asian populations, because different groups have different needs, experiences and beliefs. The same argument has been made for other racial groups, too, particularly Latinos.

Wong said the issue isn’t just about collecting better data — it’s about justice and civil rights, too.

“This is both a data quality issue and a data justice issue,” she said.

She said lumping all Asian Americans together in one racial category effectively reduces the experience of millions of people — not just when it comes to assessing job or educational candidates, but also for anyone trying to understand their political beliefs, education level, incomeinequality and health outcomes as well. For example, data on the broad category of Asian Americans show that a vast majority are Democratic voters. But if the data is further broken down, it reveals that Vietnamese Americans tend to have far more conservative views and more often identify as Republican.

Rachel Sklar, a post-doctorate scholar in environmental health outcomes at the University of California San Francisco, is Filipino and says she has been denied an academic opportunity in the past because she falls under the “Asian American” category.

Sklar said Filipinos in the U.S. experience what’s called “downward intergenerational mobility.” In other words, U.S.-born Filipinos are less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree than their foreign-born parents. So efforts to boost groups struggling to obtain higher education should apply to Filipinos, Sklar said, but instead they’re hidden in the broader data on Asian Americans and educational achievement.

“The experiences of groups like Filipinos are just erased. They’re deemed invisible,” Sklar said.

More nuanced data could also be helpful to doctors treating Asian American patients, and policy makers making decisions about targeting health resources to different communities.

Sklar points out that Filipino women have high rates of hypertension and diabetes and other risk factors that can impact childbirth.

“Yet, because they’re grouped as Asians, they’re rarely considered for the types of resources that they need for safe birthing and pregnancy,” she said.

Questions of identity, and guilt

The dichotomy of being considered a minority by some institutions, but not by others, is emotionally confusing, as well.

Brittany Boribong, who was nominated to the Gilliam Fellowship in 2018 — the same one Yang was nominated for — had almost the same experience as Yang.

Boribong is Laotian American and the daughter of refugees. She and her brother are the first in her family to go to college, and she is the first to continue her education beyond a bachelor’s degree. While she was getting her doctorate at Virginia Tech, she was nominated by her school for the fellowship.

Like Yang, the fellowship told Boribong she wasn’t eligible. For her, it brought up a wave of guilt, like she was taking up an opportunity from someone else, a feeling she experienced while participating in a different fellowship for underrepresented people in STEM.

“I’m technically Asian American,” she said, but she couldn’t help thinking, “Do I belong here? Am I taking someone else’s spot? … I always felt like I snuck my way in, that I shouldn’t have been there.”

Being told by the Gilliam Fellowship that she wasn’t eligible was embarrassing, Boribong said, and it was the first time she had been told so bluntly she wasn’t underrepresented.

“I just look around the room and it’s like, where are the other Lao scientists? If I’m not considered a minority, then where are we?”

She and her advisor had to then go through the process of making a case that Boribong is underrepresented. Eventually, they did allow her nomination through, but it pushed her away from applying to other fellowships at HHMI.

There are growing calls for changing the way we collect data

Collecting more specific data about Asian Americans is something scholars and activists have been calling on for years, and it’s been picking up traction.

In November, lawmakers in New York re-upped their legislation calling for disaggregation of data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was presented with the same bill before he resigned from office but refused to sign it into law, citing logistical and financial issues of having to create new, uniform methods of collecting data, which is the most common opposition to data disaggregation. Others who have opposed efforts to disaggregate data have also cited privacy concerns, particularly related to immigrant communities, or said that it could divide different Asian groups.

But advocates of the law have pushed back against those concerns and are now asking Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign it into law.

“Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York represent 30+ different ethnicities and speak numerous languages. Failing to record & report that diversity is harmful,” State Sen. Julia Salazar, who co-sponsored the bill, tweeted.

When it comes to STEM academia in particular, the push for change has been incremental. Both Sklar and Boribong hadn’t realized how many others had gone through the same experience until Yang tweeted about her experience in October.

Elevating the conversation, though, might lead to some change. After Yang’s tweet spread on social media and after being questioned by NPR about their process of determining who is underrepresented, HHMI has updated their standards.

As of Nov. 12, the fellowship now said it recognizes “there are other ethnic populations who might be underrepresented but who are not currently designated as such by the federal government” and will “continue to consider” how they can better determine underrepresentation in STEM.

They’ve also extended the opportunity to Yang and a few others to complete their application, but Yang said she will not be moving forward with the process.

The larger problem that Sklar points out is that many other fellowships in STEM academia still take their guidance on diversity and representation from the NIH. The NIH, when asked by NPR, said they are required to take their guidance on race and ethnicity from the 1997 standards of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

But the OMB standards that same year also said the racial and ethnic groups that are outlined are a minimum base for gathering data, so agencies can go into further detail if they choose to. The Department of Health and Human Services guidance also said agencies are encouragedand can go into further detail. Plus, in 2012, a report to the NIH director outlined concerns about the lack of disaggregated data when it came to minority groups, specifically Latinos.

Sklar said if the NIH doesn’t change their process, she doesn’t expect much to change. In the meantime, she is focusing on what she can control: choosing to disaggregate the data she uses in her own scientific research.

For her, showing the vast differences in the Asian American population in her own research is proof in itself that the same should happen on a wider scale.

“The research needs to come first,” Sklar said, “And show that, ‘Wow, look at these experiences we’ve been making invisible just by glossing over and assuming a very heterogeneous group is actually homogeneous.'”

Source: Southeast Asians are underrepresented in STEM. The label ‘Asian’ boxes them out more

U.S. Trade And Immigration Policies Toward China Have Backfired

Of note, impact on visa restrictions on Chinese students and researchers:

When small children start playing chess they make one common mistake—they forget the other side gets to a make a move. That analogy describes U.S. policy toward China in three areas: trade, semiconductors and immigration. In all three areas, U.S. policies described by supporters as “tough” have backfired.

Innovation and International Students: Is it a good idea to let the FBI and members of the National Security Council develop innovation policies for the U.S. economy? Whether it’s a good idea or not, that is what’s happened when it comes to students, professors and researchers from China.

On May 29, 2020, Donald Trump issued presidential proclamation 10043 (PP10043) on the “Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).” The proclamation led the State Department to deny and revoke many visas for Chinese graduate students and researchers

At its core, the proclamation denies a visa to someone who studied at a particular university on a proscribed list, even if no negative information exists on the individual. The proclamation sweeps up many people who show no evidence of bad intent. Picture an American young person denied a visa to study in a foreign country because he or she attended MIT and professors at MIT have received Pentagon funds or U.S. government research grants.

At least hundreds and possibly thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers have been refused visas under the proclamation. Exact figures are unavailable because the State Department has not been forthcoming in releasing information despite many requests. Official figures would understate the proclamation’s impact because individuals who believe they will be denied visas would not even apply.

In a June 2020 interview conducted soon after the proclamation took effect, Jeffrey Gorsky, former Chief of the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the Visa Office in the State Department and an advisor to the National Foundation for American Policy, predicted the current impact. “There is already a longstanding program in place to vet potential students based on concerns over the transfer of sensitive technologies,” he said. “This proclamation will exclude persons from the United States based on past or minor associations with PRC entities even if the individuals pass the interagency clearance process. America will lose out on a valuable talent pool and the financial and scientific contributions these students make to U.S. universities and the United States.”

The policy is costly to the United States. Every 1,000 Ph.D.’s blocked in a year from U.S. universities costs an estimated $210 billion in the expected value of patents produced at universities over 10 years and nearly $1 billion in lost tuition over a decade, according to an analysisfrom the National Foundation for American Policy. That does not include other economic costs, such as the loss of highly productive scientists and engineers prevented from working in the U.S. economy or patents and innovations produced outside university settings. Approximately 75% of graduate students in computer science and electrical engineering at U.S. universities are international students, primarily from China and India.

As with trade, the Biden administration has continued the questionable policies on Chinese graduate students started by the Trump administration. A China expert on the current National Security Council staff has written favorably of the restrictions on international students from China. Immigration policy people who favor restrictions on international students, such as Trump adviser Stephen Miller, understood the proclamation would keep out many Chinese students. It’s not clear people with expertise on China understand enough about how visa policies are implemented to appreciate the significant negative impact of these policies on U.S. innovation.

Two recent reports question FBI investigations of Chinese-born professors at U.S. universities that have resulted in few successful criminal prosecutions.

“There is insufficient evidence that academic/economic espionage by Chinese nationals is a widespread problem at U.S. universities,” writes Rory Truex, an assistant professor at Princeton University, in a 2021 paper. “After 20 months of ongoing investigations in 2019 and 2020, the ‘China Initiative’—a Department of Justice (DOJ) effort—had brought formal charges at only ten U.S. universities or research institutions, and only three cases involved any evidence of espionage, theft, or transfer of intellectual property. Given that there are about 107,000 Chinese citizens in STEM [fields] at U.S. universities at the graduate level or above, current DOJ charges imply a criminality rate in this population of .0000934, less than 1/10,000.” (Formal charges are not convictions, and DOJ has dropped several cases.)

A recent investigation by the MIT Technology Review found the Department of Justice’s China Initiative investigations have devolved primarily into finding disclosure and paperwork violations. “The initiative’s focus increasingly has moved away from economic espionage and hacking cases to ‘research integrity’ issues, such as failures to fully disclose foreign affiliations on forms.”

The MIT Technology Review concluded: “Our reporting and analysis showed that the climate of fear created by the prosecutions has already pushed some talented scientists to leave the United States and made it more difficult for others to enter or stay, endangering America’s ability to attract new talent in science and technology from China and around the world.” A former U.S. attorney who helped create DOJ’s China Initiative during the Trump administration agreed with the MIT Technology Review critique.

The Thousand Talents recruitment program started by China’s government in 2008 encourages Chinese scientists overseas to return to China and, more generally, for talented Chinese-born scientists to work in China rather than the United States. It would seem current U.S. policies have backfired and support the long-term goals of the Chinese Communist Party to bring talent back to China.

Source: U.S. Trade And Immigration Policies Toward China Have Backfired

Papademetriou: More Immigration Is Inevitable, But Overcoming Its Challenges Isn’t

Good overview of the issues and perspectives, but hard to see how USA can overcome the divisions and politics involved:

With the Census Bureau reporting a significant dip in total U.S. fertility rates—and a correspondingly lower population growth—in the past decade, the specter of demographic and economic “decline” seems to be preoccupying many commentators. Two groups have dominated the debate. First, prophets of doom who have legitimate concerns about increasing old-age dependency ratios (the ratio of the population sixty-five years and over to the population aged fifteen to sixty-four, multiplied by a hundred) but who are also worried about the size of the GDP—rather than the much more meaningful GDP per capita—and apparently equate population size with the ability to project global power. The second group is most pro-immigration advocates and activists who see in the data an opportunity for much larger immigration intakes. As the positions of the two groups dovetail nicely, the political argument for much more immigration appears to be irresistible.

And it may well be. Unsurprisingly, both sides have their usual blinders firmly in place and frequently rely on hyperbole. But are their arguments based on sound analyses? And are they politically viable? As is typically the case with complex matters, the deep divisions about immigration intake (approximately two-thirds of whom are family members), and particularly the manner in which certain immigrants enter (illegally and increasingly by crashing the southern border), the political viability of increasing immigration substantially appears questionable. This political reality will persist at least until we reestablish legality and order at our borders, reform our immigration system to align much better—and more clearly—with our economic needs, and reach out to include the millions of U.S. workers who are not in the labor force. Investing in the education and training of such typically “forgotten” and marginalized potential workers, most of whom are traditional and immigrant-origin minorities and women, and assisting them to find their way into the active workforce, is an imperative not only to maintaining a just society but also to the long-term economic health and stability of the nation. It is also a prerequisite to giving the government the “license” to admit more immigrants without fueling greater divisions and the intolerance that such divisions generate.

Looking at the demography/immigration nexus more closely, the most sensible policy position is that those who worry about the size of the U.S. population first and foremost, need not worry so much. It is perfectly reasonable for policymakers, however, to be thinking harder about how to address persistent lower fertility because of its longer-term effects on faster aging populations, the fact that fewer people will be contributing to retirement support systems while progressively more will be gaining access to them, and, in the out years, about “negative demographic momentum,” whereby ever smaller numbers of women in child-bearing ages have fewer children—the citizen workers that will keep the economy humming and the broader society healthy.

But while size may matter, there are many things that matter much more. The first tier items include a well-educated workforce that invests in lifelong learning and public policies that encourage them to do so; a private sector that prizes both formal and informal (tacit) skills and experience and rewards workers for continuing to invest in themselves; gradually tweaking social policies to extend working lives, and hence delay the age that formal retirement begins—so that there is less anxiety about worker shortages; and, of course, much better health care systems that create the conditions for extending people’s working and post-retirement lives.

Easy? Not really but these are the types of initiatives that are at the heart of dynamic economies, long-term competitiveness, the liquidity of our retirement system, and healthier lives for older workers and retirees. After all, if most Americans are living longer and healthier lives, working lives must also be extended.

And what about immigration policy? If it were possible to set aside, at least temporarily, the political arguments of the extremists who advocate for far more or far less immigration, there is no escaping the reality that all high-income countries will increase immigration flows in the future. And “traditional” immigration countries, such as the United States, Canada, or Australia, will probably lead the way—as they do already. The policy (and political) questions then become how many and in which legal categories.

The “how many” is devilishly complex to answer. If we are to really fix our immigration system, and the broader issues that ail our country, the answer to that question is not a single number: it is rather a “target” that responds to the needs of the economy, addresses the reasonable expectations of U.S. citizens and green card holders to reunify with their closest relatives, and is broadly consistent with our humanitarian obligations.

Among these three classic migration streams, the one that appears most straightforward is the economic/labor market one. Yet, responding to the needs of the economy is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Greater openings to skilled and highly skilled and talented immigrants is a no-brainer. And few can disagree with such policies as long as employers play by the rules (in terms of wages, working conditions, appropriate advancement opportunities, minimizing the displacement of local workers, or “preferring” foreign workers over domestic ones) and robust training, education, and job placement opportunities for all workers are in place. Yet the understandable bias toward the high-end of the skills’ continuum will not be enough to address labor market realities, which range from skills and geographic mismatches to the imperative of addressing the unmet labor needs in several areas along the continuum of skills. Among them are many middle-skills (think of the health and elderly care sectors) and sectors that have long been abandoned by domestic workers (think of labor-intensive and perishable crops agriculture, herding or the dairy sector, and personal services of many types, among others).

But even these realities are contested terrain for many—which makes the near-consensus about the importance of greater openness to such workers, melt away the closer one gets to the bottom third of the labor market, where tenure is more tenuous, wages lower, working conditions more difficult, even dangerous, and less protected—in law (the non-applicability of the Fair Labor Standards Act in agriculture) and in fact (when it comes to the enforcement of applicable labor laws)—and the power disparity between worker and employer is most pronounced. These are issues that must be addressed, as is the balance between permanent immigration and properly and fairly administered temporary work visas.

None of this is easy. But at the end of the day, the essence of successful leadership is about demonstrating both courage and wisdom and thus creating political space for doing the difficult things that must be done. If leaders are not willing to make tough choices that hew closer to the national interest and resist the loudest voices at the extremes of both parties, they should make room for those who will.

Source: More Immigration Is Inevitable, But Overcoming Its Challenges Isn’t

Khan: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Of interest:

When Tasneem Noor got on the stage at the Women’s Mosque of America in Los Angeles, she felt butterflies in her stomach. Facing about fifty women on praying rugs, ready to deliver a sermon – khutba in Arabic – she took a deep breath.

During the prayers, the women would follow Noor’s lead, but several would pray four more times after it ended, to make up for any potentially invalid prayers. That is the result of a 14-century-old disputed hadith, that leads some to believe women are forbidden to lead prayers and deliver sermons.

“I don’t mind,” Noor told me later. “Some people function better with rules.”

Noor, 37, is part of a quiet revolution in America: at the all women’s mosque, she was celebrating its five year anniversary of practicing the female imamat, a rare and often controversial practice in Islam.

Women aren’t even allowed to pray in many mosques across the world. In some mosques in the US, women may enter, but are often forced pray in separate rooms – leading some to call it the “penalty box”. Spiritual leaders that have pushed boundaries – by running mixed congregation mosques or running an LGBTQ mosque – have received death threats.

But at the Women’s Mosque of America, women are using their sermons to cover previously untouched topics like sexual violence, pregnancy loss and domestic violence.

One of Noor’s most memorable sermons happened in 2017 – a surprise, considering it was largely an improvisation. After a scheduling hitch left Noor with less than half of the 45-minutes she should have had, she shortened her talk and changed tack: leading the congregation into a meditation.

Source: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

MPI: Naturalized Citizens in the United States

Useful background:

Naturalization is perhaps the most powerful marker of immigrants’ integration, as they take the fullest step towards participation in the civic life of their new country by becoming citizens. In the United States, naturalized citizens have the same privileges and responsibilities as U.S.-born citizens, including the right to vote and similar access to government benefits and public-sector jobs. They also receive the ability to sponsor immediate family members for immigration and cannot be deported.

More than 613,700 immigrants naturalized during fiscal year (FY) 2020, fewer than at any other point in the last decade. This decline may be partly due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including delayed oath ceremonies; the FY 2020 number represented a 27 percent decline from the 843,600 naturalizations the prior year, which marked the largest number since FY 2008 (see Figure 1). Notably, trends for new naturalized citizens do not necessarily follow those for new lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Overall, there were 23.2 million naturalized U.S. citizens in the United States in 2019, the most recent reporting available, making up 52 percent of the overall immigrant population, which stood at 44.9 million.

Figure 1. New Naturalizations and New Lawful Permanent Residents, FY 1980-2020

Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics, various years), available online; DHS, “Legal Immigration and Adjustment of Status Report Fiscal Year 2020, Quarter 4,” accessed July 30, 2021.

In recent years, institutional factors such as processing times and case backlogs have affected the number of annual naturalizations, as have financial constraints in meeting the citizenship application fee of $725 and immigrants’ personal decisions about whether to apply. While the number of new naturalized citizens has fluctuated each year, processing wait times have increased. The average processing time for N-400 applications for naturalization increased to 11.5 months in FY 2021, up from 9.1 months in FY 2020 and about 10 months in FY 2019.

In order to become a citizen, applicants must meet a set of requirements outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act. These include maintaining lawful permanent residence, also known as getting a green card, for several years (generally five, though a green-card holder married to a U.S. citizen can naturalize after three years), proving basic proficiency in English and knowledge of U.S. history and government, and passing a background check to demonstrate good moral character. In addition to legal benefits, naturalized citizens also tend to have better economic outcomes than other immigrants, including higher incomes and rates of homeownership.

Using the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent 2019 American Community Survey [ACS]), and other sources, this Spotlight provides information on new naturalized citizens in the United States, including historical trends, characteristics of naturalized citizens, and the population potentially eligible for naturalization.

Source: http://my.migrationpolicy.org/salsa/track.jsp?v=2&c=RWMKmxNCrz2UlS%2FeRjM5hkPuFzZ27T2g

Share of World Population Allowed to Immigrate Legally to U.S. 85% Below Its Peak

Canada’s peak year for immigration in relation to its population was 1913, when over 400,000 arrived, or 5.2 percent of our total population of 7,632,000. In world population terms, that would be 22 per 100,000; today’s 400,000 is about 5 per 100,000. So not sure how meaningful this argument is but fun to work the numbers:

In fiscal year 2021, the share of the world population that the U.S. government permitted to immigrate legally to the United States was about 85 percent below its peak year of 1907 when 74 in 100,000 people became legal permanent residents of the United States. By 2021, that number had fallen to about 11 in 100,000—slightly lower than the 13 in 100,000 in 2019 or 16 in 100,000 in 2016.

Unlike those with various temporary statuses or no status, legal permanent residents are the only non‑U.S. citizens who may naturalize to become U.S. citizens. Measuring legal immigration as a share of the world’s population contextualizes potential immigrants’ actual opportunity to immigrate to the United States better than the absolute number of immigrants. No year has seen more than a fraction of a percent of the world’s population become U.S. legal permanent residents, but the share has declined, even as the desire to immigrate has increased.

Figure 1 shows the number of new legal permanent residents to the United States as a share of the non‑U.S. world population from 1840 to 2021. The lines after 1952 reflect the fact that some immigrants could adjust to legal permanent residence while already the United States. The share of “new arrivals” who enter from abroad as permanent residents fell even more dramatically from its high—nearly 95 percent below its peak in 1907.

During the era of mostly free immigration prior to 1925, legal immigration fluctuated wildly based on world events and the U.S. economy. But after visas were capped, an unnatural consistency developed at a low level. The one anomaly is in the period of 1989 to 1991 when the immigrants legalized by the 1986 amnesty adjusted to legal permanent residence. This experience was a small window into the demand that would exist if the United States had retained free immigration.

Table 1 ranks the years based on the share of the world population immigrating to the United States. Out of the 182 years, fiscal year 2021 ranks 122nd in terms of total new legal permanent residents as a share of the world population and 167th in terms of newly arriving legal permanent residents from abroad—which means only 15 years saw fewer new arrivals as a share of the world population than 2021.

If the United States had retained the same level of new legal permanent residents as a percentage of the world population as it saw during 1900 to 1924—the 25 years before the borders were closed—from 1925 to 2021, 160 million immigrants would have received permanent residence, compared to the 51 million who did. The level of legal immigration for 2000 to 2021 would be about 2.7 times the rate it actually was, permitting about 62 million immigrants as opposed to 22 million.

It’s reasonable to suppose that the actual rate would be higher than this, had the United States maintained its earlier policies. It certainly looks like the trend before World War I was upward from peak to peak. Transportation has also decreased significantly in price as well. The upshot is that the United States has extremely closed borders relative to what a reasonable person would expect under an even relatively open immigration system. This fact also explains why the country is experiencing so much more illegal immigration than in the past. When legal immigration is closed off, illegal immigration becomes most people’s only option.

Source: Share of World Population Allowed to Immigrate Legally to U.S. 85% Below Its Peak

USA: The Rate of Successful Asylum Cases Shot Up This Year. But That’s Probably Not Due to Biden

Of note:

There’s been a significant uptick in the rate at which immigrants have been granted asylum since President Joe Biden took office, new research shows. But that likely has nothing to do with the new President’s policies.

Asylum case success rates jumped from 29% to 37% between Fiscal year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021, during which Biden took office, according to a new report published Wednesday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data and research organization at Syracuse University. Looking only at the period Biden has been in office, the success rate has been 40% — and as high as 47% in September.
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“The obvious inference is, oh, well this is because of Biden,” says Austin Kocher, assistant professor and researcher at TRAC. But, he notes, the Biden Administration has made no major policy changes that would influence how immigration judges rule in asylum cases.

Instead, Kocher says, the higher rate of asylum grants may be due to a confluence of factors. For example, more asylum seekers this past year have had legal representation — and, historically, having a lawyer significantly increases the odds of winning asylum. (The reason for the uptick in legal representation is unclear. One possibility, the researchers say, is that attorneys representing clients with particularly strong cases may have simply succeeded in pushing their cases to the front of the line.)

Another factor may be the nationality of the people whose cases were heard. For example, Chinese applicants have more frequently won asylum cases in the past, while Haitian or Central American nationals have had lower success rates. “The country that people are from goes a long way in determining who gets asylum,” Kocher says. Geopolitics and U.S. foreign policy goals have historically played a big role in shaping asylum decisions.

The absolute number of people being granted asylum remains low, largely because courts have yet to resume their pre-pandemic decision rates after COVID-19 shut down some court activity. “The immigration courts have absolutely not recovered at all, not even a fraction really,” Kocher says. “We still have only had barely more than than 2,000 cases completed a month even right up until the end of September [2021].”

Immigrants Waiting Years for a Decision

Immigration courts are roughly 1.5 million cases behind schedule, which means thousands of people have been waiting for years for their asylum requests to be decided by a judge.

A partial shut down of immigration courts beginning in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the U.S. exacerbated this backlog. Before COVID-19, immigration judges were deciding approximately 10,000 asylum cases per month, according to TRAC. That number dropped after the pandemic started. In April of 2020, judges were deciding fewer than 2,000 asylum cases per month.

In Fiscal Year 2021, which ended in September, just over 23,800 asylum cases were decided in court. That’s down from 60,000 cases that were decided in Fiscal Year 2020. Roughly 8,350 people won their asylum claim in FY21, about half the number of people who won their claims in FY20, according to TRAC, which analyzed data it received through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

An additional 400 people won some type of relief from deportation in FY21 that was not asylum, the researchers note.

In the meantime, asylum seekers will likely have to continue to endure long waiting periods before their cases are heard in court. Prior to the pandemic it was not uncommon for people to wait up to four years for a case to be heard.

“The key thing here in terms of what’s driving a lot of the data is really getting past the pandemic,” Kocher says. “Until the immigration courts are fully open, and society is fully back to normal there’s just no way that the courts are ever going to be able to really get through these cases.”

Source: The Rate of Successful Asylum Cases Shot Up This Year. But That’s Probably Not Due to Biden