Hate crimes in US reach highest level in more than a decade

Of note (still less than the previous high in 2008) so not all attributable to Trump. Canadian police-reported hate crimes 2019 numbers not yet out:

Hate crimes in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade as federal officials also recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s, according to an FBI report released Monday.

There were 51 hate crime murders in 2019, which includes 22 people who were killed in a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in the border city of El Paso, Texas, the report said. The suspect in that August 2019 shooting, which left two dozen other people injured, was charged with both state and federal crimes in what authorities said was an attempt to scare Hispanics into leaving the United States.

There were 7,314 hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before — and approaching the 7,783 of 2008. The FBI’s annual report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation, among other categories.

Some of the 2019 increases may be the result of better reporting by police departments, but law enforcement officials and advocacy groups don’t doubt that hate crimes are on the rise. The Justice Department has for years been specifically prioritizing hate crime prosecutions.

The data also shows there was a nearly 7% increase in religion-based hate crimes, with 953 reports of crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions last year, up from 835 the year before. The FBI said the number of hate crimes against African Americans dropped slightly to 1,930, from 1,943.

Anti-Hispanic hate crimes, however, rose to 527 in 2019, from 485 in 2018. And the total number of hate crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation stayed relatively stable, with one fewer crime reported last year, compared with the year before, though there were 20 more hate crimes against gay men reported.

As the data was made public on Monday, advocacy groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, called on Congress and law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to improve data collection and reporting of hate crimes. Critics have long warned that the data may be incomplete, in part because it is based on voluntary reporting by police agencies across the country.

Last year, only 2,172 law enforcement agencies out of about 15,000 participating agencies across the country reported hate crime data to the FBI, the bureau said. And while the number of agencies reporting hate crimes increased, the number of agencies participating in the program actually dropped from the year before. A large number of police agencies appeared not to submit any hate crime data, which has been a consistent struggle for Justice Department officials.

“The total severity of the impact and damage caused by hate crimes cannot be fully measured without complete participation in the FBI’s data collection process,” the Anti-Defamation League’s president, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.

An Associated Press investigation in 2016 found that more than 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments across the country had not submitted a single hate crime report for the FBI’s annual crime tally during the previous six years.

Greenblatt also said America must “remove the barriers that too often prevent people in marginalized communities – the individuals most likely to suffer hate crimes – from reporting hate-based incidents,” a sentiment shared by other advocates.

“The FBI’s report is another reminder that we have much work to do to address hate in America,” said Margaret Huang, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Source: Hate crimes in US reach highest level in more than a decade

Religious Freedom Arguments Give Rise To Executive Order Battle

As in so many policy areas, partisan gridlock:

Key government policies on religious freedom and discrimination, once set through legislation, are increasingly dictated by presidential orders, meaning they shift capriciously from one administration to the next.

In 2014, advocates for LGBTQ rights cheered when President Obama unilaterally issued an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in their hiring practices on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Four years later, the Trump administration weakened that order with another unilateral movedirecting that contractors facing a discrimination claim under Obama’s order should be entitled to a “religious exemption.”

The Labor Department then proposed a rule that would give the directive the force of law and permit faith-based contractors to give hiring preference to individuals with particular religious beliefs, such as an opposition to same sex unions or transgender identities.

That time, it was conservatives who were pleased.

Such back-and-forth executive orders are now set to continue under President-elect Joe Biden, who has promised to reverse President Trump’s hiring directives.

Behind the dueling orders is a deep disagreement over the meaning of the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. Conservatives say the right to “free exercise” of religion means people and organizations should be able to act on their religious objections to abortion, same sex marriage, or accommodation policies for transgender individuals.

Others say the First Amendment’s prohibition against the “establishment” of a religion means that religion-based arguments should not be used to justify discrimination or the denial of civil rights or basic human services.

Such conflicts in the past have been resolved through legislative remedies. Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. Both measures had bipartisan support, but that consensus has since broken down.

Health care and nondiscrimination became so partisan,” says Holly Hollman, general counsel at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “We’ve kind of lost our shared definition and commitment to religious liberty in ways that make it harder to legislate.”

The prospect of a divided government in 2021, with Joe Biden in the White House and possibly a Republican-led Senate, means that consensus around religious freedom issues may continue to be elusive.

“Given the gridlock, we’re going to see more unilateral action from the executive branch, whether it be regulatory action or executive orders,” says Ryan Anderson, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who writes often on religious freedom issues.

Following his 2014 order barring discriminatory hiring practices by federal contractors, Obama issued guidance in 2016 that required schools to protect transgender students from harassment and to accommodate their identities with respect to pronouns and bathrooms.

That guidance, however, was rescinded shortly after Trump was inaugurated, when his administration told school districts that the relevant policies were more properly established by state and local authorities.

Three months later, Trump issued a sweeping order “promoting free speech and religious liberty.” The order called for weaker enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which bars tax-exempt religious groups from endorsing political candidates. It also instructed government agencies to consider new regulations to address “conscience-based objections” to the provision of certain health care services, and it directed the Attorney General to issue guidance to all federal agencies on what religious liberty protections require.

Among the agencies responding quickly to the order was the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where a conservative activist, Roger Severino, was put in charge of a “conscience and religious freedom division” under that department’s Office of Civil Rights, which Severino directs.

“Every agency has a civil rights office in the federal government,” Severino noted last month in a video presentation. “Not every agency, until now, had a religious freedom office. And now we do.”

Over the course of his term in office, Trump has taken a variety of unilateral steps to promote a conservative view of religious freedom, many of which a Biden administration might be inclined to reverse.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) have both issued detailed lists of the executive actions they expect to see Biden take in the area of religious freedom, perhaps beginning with a broad order similar to the one Trump issued.

“We would like to see the Biden administration sign an executive order to restore and protect religious freedom for all Americans,” says Rachel Lazer, the AU president, “and make clear that religious freedom should operate as a shield to protect us and not as a sword to license discrimination.”

Some of Trump’s executive actions will be easier than others to reverse. The directive to weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment could be countered simply by mandating strengthened enforcement. Other issues could be settled through the courts.

An HHS-issued “conscience rule” that would allow health care workers to refuse to provide medical services that conflict with their moral and religious beliefs has faced several court challenges and is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The AU’s Lazer says a Biden administration could simply decline to defend the rule.

“We would expect that the Biden administration would not carry forward with any type of appeal,” Lazer says. “[That] would cut that off at the knees.”

Some of Trump’s directives would be vigorously defended by outside groups, however, particularly where they concern sexuality and marriage.

“There are a variety of religious traditions that hold viewpoints on this question,” says Ryan Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation. “Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics, evangelicals, Latter Day Saints, Muslims, and various people who accept the Genesis creation story are going to have strong convictions about male and female.”

Under President-elect Biden, Anderson says, “the government might be asking us to violate those convictions. If we’re going to be pluralistic, how do we navigate those disagreements?”

Even if a Biden administration manages to undo some of the government directives that reflected conservative interpretations of religious freedom principles, other groups could go to court with similar claims, using the same arguments.

“The undoing would give rise to legal challenges,” warns Louise Melling, the deputy legal director at ACLU.

Such challenges are likely to get a more favorable hearing, given the installation of more conservative judges in federal courts across the country and a newly powerful conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The court is clearly in the midst of reconceiving some of our religion statutes and the constitution, I think,” Melling says.

With that prospect, battles over religious freedom are likely to continue, no matter the presidential administration.

Source: Religious Freedom Arguments Give Rise To Executive Order Battle

Erna Paris: A rigid belief in freedom is driving France and the U.S. to tragedy

Complements the NYTimes interview (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/15/business/media/macron-france-terrorism-american-islam.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage):

When my children were young, derisive “Newfie” jokes were all the rage. I didn’t allow them in my house; I’d lived in France as a student and learned enough about pre-war history to know that plural societies can exist peacefully only within an ethos of mutual respect.

Which is why both France and the United States have evolved into tragic political entities. Both their foundational ideologies are dangerously anachronistic.

Take the recent atrocities in France following the conduct of a teacher who pulled out the same caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that provoked major violence in the past. There is no possible excuse for his monstrous medieval-style murder, or for the others that occurred after. But to understand circumstance is neither to assign blame nor to condone violence, a fact historians must constantly emphasize. That France houses almost six million Muslims, the largest population in the West, makes it critical to understand the impact of the Prophet Mohammed caricatures in that country.

The contemporary world will remain a mix of ethnicities and religions as migrations increasingly reshape societies, but when it comes to pluralism, France has a twofold problem. First is its commitment to rigid secularism – a foundational ideology that dates back to the French Revolution of 1789. Second is an absolutist view of free speech that is detrimental to society.

French secularism, which mandates that the public sphere be religiously homogeneous or “neutral,” effectively nullifies one’s right to be accepted for who one is. If you wear a hijab, for example, you cannot be a teacher of children, among other public professions. Your religious obligation to dress in certain ways may “offend” the majority. If you do follow your spiritual beliefs, you will be considered an unassimilated “other” – a second-rate faux citizen who rejects the values of the French Republic.

Complicating this problematic ideology is the aggressive abuse of free speech – a foundation of democracy – to incite social tensions. A teacher who relies on unfettered free speech to teach about Islam through ugly caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed is being knowingly provocative, especially when he facetiously suggests that anyone who might be offended leave the room. This is not an innocent moment. Let us imagine Berlin in 1934, for example. Hitler is in power, but Jewish children still attend school. In the name of free speech and high-level permission, the teacher pulls out examples of Julius Streicher’s caricatures of Jews and suggests that anyone who might be offended leave the room. Such scenarios risk toxic consequences.

There are limits to free speech, as we acknowledge in Canada. In 1990, in the case of James Keegstra, an Alberta teacher who propagated anti-Semitism in his classroom, the Supreme Court upheld the Criminal Code provision prohibiting the wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group. And for good reason. Plural societies are inherently fragile.

Like the French, many Americans hold rigid commitments to absolute free speech – and to freedom in general. But it is precisely this foundational ideology of libertarian freedom that is propelling what was the world’s most admired nation into tragedy.

The trigger has been COVID-19 and the politicization of mask-wearing. In a recent study at Stanford University that quantified infections stemming from Donald Trump’s maskless campaign rallies, it was estimated that there were at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths as a result of 18 rallies the President held between June and September.

American “rugged individualism” was first popularized by Herbert Hoover in 1928 when he compared his compatriots to a European philosophy of “paternalism and state socialism,” but the ideology can likely be traced back to the 1776 War of Independence from the British, followed by the cowboy ethos of opening up the West, coupled with a distrust of government oversight. But the downside of libertarian freedom has been a lack of commitment to the public good.

Foreheads furrowed when former San Francisco baseball hero, Aubrey Huff, announced in June that he would “rather die from the coronavirus than wear a damn mask,” and in May when a guard in a store in Flint, Mich., was shot dead after telling a woman that her child had to wear a mask. Both these events expose the tragedy of freedom paired with a weak concept of commonality.

In Canada, our national narrative has shifted over the past century from xenophobia to multiculturalism. How fortunate we are. Sadly, rigid foundational ideologies are likely to continue to threaten social peace as the 21st century progresses.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-a-rigid-belief-in-freedom-is-driving-france-and-the-us-to-tragedy/

Biden Wants Census To See ‘Invisible’ Groups: LGBTQ, Middle Eastern, North African

Of note:

As the incoming Biden administration prepares for office, the Census Bureau is already looking ahead to changes for the 2030 count.

While Biden’s transition team has not announced any specific policies yet for the next once-a-decade tally of the country’s residents, the president-elect’s campaign has previewed what could end up on the new administration’s agenda. They include ideas that gained steam during the Obama administration but stalled after President Trump took office.

Biden will direct federal agencies to “improve their collection efforts, including enhancing demographic information around race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status,” Jamal Brown, the national press secretary for the Biden-Harris campaign, told NPR in a statement before the election.

Here are two specific policy proposals that could change how LGBTQ people and people with roots in the Middle East or North Africa can identify themselves for the next census and future federal surveys, and could give policymakers and researchers better insight into the U.S. population.

Census questions about sexual orientation and gender identity

One proposal by the Biden campaign would require the Census Bureau to gather voluntary information about people’s sexual orientation and gender identity through its census forms and survey questionnaires — a policy that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris supported as a senator.

There are currently no reliable national-level data about how many LGBTQ people live in the U.S., and that, many public policy experts say, makes it difficult to know whether the government is fully meeting the needs of LGBTQ groups. A change on this year’s census form is expected to generate the most comprehensive demographic information to date about same-sex couples who live together in the U.S., but other LGBTQ groups, including transgender and non-binary people, will be left out.

During the Obama administration, four federal agencies asked the bureau to start asking a sample of households questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on the bureau’s American Community Survey. That survey, which goes out to about 1 in 38 households every year, is considered a testing ground for the decennial census, which every household has to complete.

The Census Bureau, however, stopped working on the request after the Trump administration came into office, specifically after the Justice Department — which had said it needed the data to better enforce civil rights protections for LGBTQ people — backed down from its ask.

Under federal law, the bureau cannot release any census information identifying individuals until 72 years after it is collected. It can, however, put out anonymized data about demographic groups at levels as specific as neighborhoods.

Some data privacy experts have flagged concerns that this data could be used against LGBTQ people.

Biden’s campaign website says that the president-elect will “ensure” that federal agencies collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity are “vigorously enforcing appropriate privacy protections.”

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau has started conducting research on potential questions and response options on the Current Population Survey it carries out monthly for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cultural and generational differences in how people describe their sexual orientation and gender identity make the wording on forms especially key to avoiding undercounts and overestimates of LGBTQ people, a working group formed by federal agencies during the Obama administration found.

A census check box for people with Middle Eastern or North African roots

Another Biden campaign proposal is creating a new category on census forms for people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent, including Arab Americans.

A person with “origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa” is officially categorized as white in data about race and ethnicity released by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies, according to the U.S. government’s current standards.

Some advocates for MENA groups in the U.S., however, have long pushed for a check box of their own on census forms.

In a report about research on collecting race and ethnicity information, Census Bureau researchers wrote that in 2010, focus group participants with Middle Eastern or North African roots “often did not know how to respond and/or felt excluded” when presented with the current census racial categories, which are set by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Including the terms “Lebanese” and “Egyptian” as examples under the white racial category — as they were on this year’s census form — was seen as “wrong or incorrect” by the focus group members.

During the Obama administration, the bureau recommended creating a separate response option for “Middle Eastern or North African” on the 2020 census form as part of a broader overhaul of the questions about race and Hispanic origin. The change would have likely produced more accurate data about people with MENA origins, while shrinking the share of people checking the “White” or “Some other race” box on the census, the bureau’s testing in 2015 suggests.

But the efforts to create a MENA category stopped in 2018 under the Trump administration. After decades of waiting for the addition, the move was bittersweet for some longtime advocates who were worried about how the rollout could have been perceived in the wake of Trump issuing travel bans that targeted people from Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa such as Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Still, earlier this year, that decision prompted an awkward exchange between Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, a Trump appointee who joined the bureau in 2019, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan whose parents are Palestinian immigrants to the U.S.

“Dr. Dillingham, do I look white to you?” Tlaib asked in February during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the census.

“Congresswoman, I think that if you tell me what you identify with,” Dillingham replied, “I think I would respect that.”

Tlaib went on to describe how the decision to not move forward with a MENA category for the 2020 census will make people living in the U.S. who identify as Middle Eastern or North African “invisible” for the next 10 years when new census data are used to distribute federal funding, conduct health research and determine what kind of language assistance communities need.

“Director,” Tlaib pushed back, “we need to get it right because I’m not white.”

Getting a MENA category right on the census will require the bureau to work through how to represent the diversity among people with origins in regions that have no universally agreed-upon borders.

Among the suggestions the bureau has received so far are to highlight “Kurdish” as an example of a transnational group and to include “Israeli” as an example to encourage people born in Israel or with Israeli ancestry to identify with the category on the form.

Source: Biden Wants Census To See ‘Invisible’ Groups: LGBTQ, Middle Eastern, North African

International recruitment [international students]– The US eagle could soar again

We shall whether there is a quick bounce or some longer-term scarring of the US as an attractive destination:

Just as recent articles have suggested that ‘kangaroos can bounce’ to reflect the potential resurgence as a favoured international student destination of Australia post-pandemic, there is every reason to believe the US eagle can soar under a Biden administration. 

In his acceptance speech as president-elect, Joe Biden said: “For American educators, it’s a great day for you all”, and that must include higher education institutions looking to regain their place as the favoured destination for international students. While there’s new hope and opportunity, it will be important to reflect on recent lessons and the changing world if the recovery is to last.

The good news is that President-Elect Biden was part of the administration that saw international student numbers rise 44.9%, from 623,119 to 903,127, between 2009-10 and 2016-17. A repeat of that performance would see enrolments grow to 1.26 million by 2025 from the 2018 base of 872,000. 

But there are three key steps that need to be taken – building recognition of the economic value of international students, ensuring understanding of the part they play in securing global soft power and getting the basics of visa and post-study work right. 

The creeping malaise of anti-science, alternative facts, reinvention of history and downright lying in recent years should be a sobering wake-up call for institutions. Their connection with the broader population and, perhaps ultimately, their place in society is challenged and nowhere more so than in the US. 

It is time to get serious about integration with communities, better communication, making sure that graduates get jobs and developing the country’s understanding of universities as generators of wealth. 

Economic benefits and soft power

International students contribute US$41 billion to the US economy and support more than 450,000 US jobs, but that story needs telling in the good times rather than waiting for the bad.  

In a 2016 report for NAFSA, Giovanni Peri and Gaetano Bassoestimated that the 10 states with the most international students – which, in addition to New York and California, include heartland states such as Ohio, Illinois and the swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania – stand to gain nearly US$8.3 billion in wages and US$283 million in state taxes. 

There are millions of jobs at stake for all Americans, including those who voted Republican, but the role of universities and their precarious financial future hardly registered on the election landscape.

US universities also need to point out more aggressively the ‘elephant in the room’ that is China. The ability of the US to dominate global economics and build strategic alliances is partly based on the soft power it is able to exercise through having US-educated leaders in government and industry around the world. 

Universities have helped the US into a position of power, but this has been eroded in recent years to the extent that the competition see an opportunity to strike. 

In 2018 Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, was explicit about the country’s ambition. He said: “We are still lagging behind the US on soft power … There are more than 300 world leaders, including presidents, prime ministers and ministers around the globe that graduated from US universities, but only a few foreign leaders that graduated from Chinese universities, so we still need to exercise effort to boost academic exchange and educate more political elites from other countries.” 

China’s long-term goal is to host 500,000 students by 2020 and it had reached 490,000 by 2017. It is currently the third most popular destination of study after the US and the UK and is within striking distance of the latter (it is expected to surpass the UK in the near future). 

The increasing quality of institutions and range of courses, often taught in English, have seen nearly 50% of international students in China now enrolled on degree programmes, including 75,800 graduate students.

Post-study work opportunities

The wider benefits of attracting international students and the way in which they support America’s global influence are two important factors and better communication of these is called for. But this requires long-term campaigns to win the hearts and minds of policy-makers and the public. More immediate benefit can come from simple wins in visa administration, work visas and post-study work opportunities.

Being able to work after completing a degree has been a driver of growth in Australia, Canada and the UK, and Optional Practical Training is an American version that, since 2008, has allowed students a 29-month post-study work period. Critically, the Obama administration expanded the number of eligible fields of study by about 90 to 400 in 2012. The numbers in the programme exploded from 94,919 in 2012-13 to 175,695 by 2016-17. 

While international students may not be at the top of Biden’s priority list and COVID-19 and reducing spiralling unemployment will undoubtedly take priority, one would think that Biden will be quick to relax travel restrictions and issue orders to be far more welcoming to international students, given they contribute US$41 billion to the US economy and support more than 450,000 US jobs.

Other visa priorities include:

• Increasing acceptance for student F1 visa applications. The 2019 student visa refusal rate of 35% is currently continuing to undermine recruitment.

• Rescinding July 2020 guidance issued by immigration authorities which says that foreign students will no longer be able to stay in the country if their courses move fully online in the autumn.

• Rescinding the proposed policy that, if enacted, would limit international student visas for those born in countries associated with high visa overstay rates to either two or four years.

A ‘soaring eagle’ is not good news for the other dominant English-speaking study destinations. The US has always been the preferred destination for most international students who can afford to study there. It’s likely that Australia will remain highly competitive because of its proximity to Asia, the largest market of international students, but Canada and the UK are almost certain to feel the pressure of a resurgent US.

But there is good news all round for students when it comes to making the case for international higher education. The US could join the list of countries with well-ranked universities that are developing increasingly benevolent post-study work regimes, more flexible visa policies and innovative routes to study. 

They will also find smart institutions providing evidence of the return on investment for the degree by giving data-backed evidence of graduate career outcomes, both in country and for those returning home.

Louise Nicol is director of the Asia Careers Group. This piece forms part of a series in University World News, which last month featured “Canada, the squeezed middle”, which was preceded by “Australia, the comeback kid”. Within each article, Asia Careers Group aims to provide insight on the prospects for the world’s four largest destinations for inbound international students. Later this month we will be looking to the future of international higher education in the UK post-Brexit.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20201110092209150

The Census Is Not Over: What’s Ahead During The Biden Transition

To watch:

Counting has ended, but the 2020 census is not over yet — and it’s likely to get tangled in the fraught transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Some major final steps for this year’s national head count are set to take place while President Trump is still in office. That includes the release of the first set of results, legally due by Dec. 31, that are used to reapportion congressional seats among states and reset the Electoral College map for the next decade. Under federal law, the president is required by Jan. 10 to hand off those numbers to Congress for certification.

And the census continues to be mired in legal fights over the Trump administration’s push to alter the apportionment numbers, as well as last-minute decisions to shorten the schedule for the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the United States. A federal judge in California, plus Census Bureau employees themselves, said those changes risked serious data inaccuracies.

Once in office, the Biden administration is poised to start shaping the 2030 count and could reverse some of the Trump administration’s census-related moves. Perhaps most notably, Biden could stop the bureau from producing citizenship data the Trump administration requested that could be used to radically change state-level redistricting in a way that a prominent Republican strategist concluded would benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic white people.

“It’s probably no secret that the census is not top of mind for every administration on an ongoing basis,” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House Oversight subcommittee for the census who advised the Obama-Biden transition team in 2008. “But this time is really different because this census faced unprecedented challenges and then disruptions.”

In a statement to NPR before the election, Jamal Brown, the Biden campaign’s national press secretary, said that Biden “knows the critical importance of the census and how it touches every aspect of American life, from federal investments around health care, housing, and education, to how states redistrict and draw their congressional boundaries.”

Among the members of Biden’s transition agency review team for the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, are two census watchers who have been calling for more transparency as the bureau prepares to release the 2020 census results. They include Nancy Potok — who, during the Obama administration, served as a deputy director at the bureau and was later appointed to be the chief statistician within the White House Office of Management and Budget — and Denice Ross, a senior fellow with the National Conference on Citizenship who worked on data projects and policy in the Obama administration as a presidential innovation fellow and an adviser at OMB.

But before Biden officials can make any changes, there are some key questions about the census for the courts and Congress to answer in the final weeks of the Trump administration.

Can Trump change who is counted in numbers that determine House seats and the next Electoral College map?

The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in with its answer to that question after hearing oral arguments on Nov. 30.

So far, three lower courts have rejected the presidential memo Trump issued in July that calls for an unprecedented change — the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the census numbers used for determining each state’s share of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as each state’s Electoral College votes.

All of those three-judge panels unanimously found that carrying out the memo would violate a federal law requiring the president to deliver a report to Congress of “the whole number of persons in each State” as determined by the census. One of those panels also ruled that it would go against the 14th Amendment.

The Trump administration has been pushing the high court to rule before Dec. 31. That’s the legal deadline for the commerce secretary, who oversees the bureau, to give the president the first set of census results, which Trump wants to alter.

But it remains unclear, given all of the schedule changes the Trump administration has made, whether the Census Bureau can meet the Dec. 31 deadline and how that would affect the president’s ability to report numbers to Congress by Jan. 10. Any delays that push key steps in the congressional reapportionment process past the Jan. 20 inauguration could strip Trump of control over the count.

Last month, the bureau’s top career official in charge of the census, Al Fontenot, said the agency hasn’t committed to when it will wrap up processing and checking all of the information it has collected.

“We are trying to maintain the flexibility to get the job done in a quality way,” Fontenot said during a news briefing.

Justice Department attorneys say the administration hasn’t finalized how to accurately count unauthorized immigrants, aside from those in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, in order to exclude them from the apportionment numbers.

In July, Biden condemned Trump’s memo in a tweet, writing: “We won’t let him deny communities the funding and representation they deserve. Because in America, everyone counts.”

But Brown, the Biden campaign spokesperson, has not responded to NPR’s question about what the Biden administration would do if, before leaving office, Trump attempted to remove unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment numbers before giving them to Congress.

If Trump did that, it is also unclear whether the clerk of the House, which will remain under Democratic control, would certify those numbers.

Will Congress extend legal deadlines for reporting census results to allow for more quality checks?

That question has been hanging over the census since April, when the Trump administration first proposed four-month extensions to the legal deadlines for reporting the apportionment counts and redistricting data, which are due to the states by March 31.

Publicly backed at the time by Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, career officials at the bureau said that because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, they needed more time to tally the country’s residents and run quality checks on the results.

But the administration made an about-face in July and began pushing to end counting early, sticking with the original reporting schedule. The Supreme Court ultimately allowed the administration to cut counting short, leaving open the possibility for Trump to control the apportionment numbers even without winning reelection.

Faced with a shortened window for counting in their states, some Republican lawmakers in Congress began publicly supporting the Democratic-led push for deadline extensions.

But now that counting has stopped, it’s unclear if there’s enough bipartisan support for deadline extensions to be passed.

The bureau has already scaled back some quality checks, risking “serious errors,” career officials warned, that they may not have time to fix.

Some census advocates — including Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — are calling for Congress to pass deadline extensions during the lame-duck session to help ensure that the bureau has enough time to address any major errors it finds in the census results before they’re used to reapportion House seats.

“I think waiting until a new administration and new Congress to act would be too late for the census,” Gupta, a former Obama administration official, says. “A new administration and new Congress really would be in uncharted territory that would take time to navigate, conceivably creating a constitutional crisis that could be avoided if Congress gives the Census Bureau the time that it needs and the time that it asked for.”

Source: The Census Is Not Over: What’s Ahead During The Biden Transition

Trump administration’s revisions to the naturalization exam could make the test harder for immigrants seeking citizenship

Last gap of a lame-duck administration, still in denial and one easy to overturn. While there is always a case to update and revised citizenship processes, this is not the way to proceed.

Perhaps members of the administration could test themselves on their understanding of the Constitution and democratic principles and practices:

The Trump administration is planning to make the naturalization test, which immigrants must pass to become US citizens, longer, according to a draft memo obtained by CNN, a move that could make it more difficult and marks the latest in a string of actions intended to alter the citizenship process.

Last year, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the exam,announced that it was making changes to the civics portion of the test. The agency last launched revisions of the naturalization exam in 2009, “which implemented standardized test forms for both the English and civics test requirements,” according to a May 2019 memo. The memo also said the agency was in the process of formalizing a decennial revision process.

The agency appears to be nearing the finish line for its latest slate of changes. According to the memo, revisions include adding more civics test questions and topics, as well as changing the passing score. The exam generally consists of both an English test and civics test.

Over the course of his presidency, Donald Trump has tried to curtail legal immigration and doubled down on citizenship, teasing an end to birthright citizenship and attempting to include a citizenship question on the census. Earlier this year, his administration also moved to increase the cost of online naturalization applications from $640 to $1,160.

The naturalization exam is a crucial step to an immigrant’s path toward US citizenship. The planned revisions would stand to affect hundreds of thousands of immigrants who seek citizenship annually.

Currently, the exam features 100 civics questions. Hopeful American citizens are asked up to 10 of these during an interview and have to answer six correctly to pass. But the changes, according to the memo, include an increase in civics test questions from 10 to 20, and as such, changing the passing score to 12/20 instead of 6/10. The memo also says USCIS officers will ask all 20 questions, rather than stopping when an applicant reaches the passing score.

The updated test, according to the memo, “includes more questions that test applicants’ understanding of U.S. history and civics in line with the statutory standard than the current test.”

The agency says it added more topics touching on specific amendments to the Constitution, the “rationale for the legislative branch structure,” and an item on “American innovations.” It also includes more “why” questions, though it’s unclear what that entails.

It’s unclear when the agency will roll out the changes to the exam. USCIS declined to comment on the planned revisions.

“It’s not unprecedented to change the questions … what stands out to me is once again a desire to slow down the process and require more from immigrants,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, a non-profit group that advocates for the rights of immigrants, in part because it takes more to ask additional questions.

“This administration seems locked into an endless cycle of making the process more difficult and inevitably, discouraging more and more people from seeking citizenship and legal immigration benefits,” Reichlin-Melnick added.

USCIS, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, has been at the center of some of the administration’s most hardline immigration policies, notably policies that have made it exceedingly difficult for migrants to seek asylum in the US and the controversial “public charge” rule, which makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits.

Ken Cuccinelli, who now serves as the senior official performing the duties of the Homeland Security deputy secretary, brought the agency into a rare spotlight when he served as the acting USCIS director, working to rebrand it as an vetting agency, rather than a benefits agency.

“Updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans,” Cuccinelli said in a statement last year when the agency announced it would revise the exam.

USCIS has boasted about the number of people it naturalizes on a yearly basis. In fiscal year 2019, USCIS naturalized 834,000 new citizens, an 11-year high. But during the pandemic, naturalization ceremonies, which occur in person, were halted.

Even as Trump Cut Immigration, Immigrants Transformed U.S.

Of note, the growth of immigration to non-traditional cities and states:

To grasp the impact of the latest great wave of immigration to the United States, consider the city of Grand Island, Neb.: More than 60 percent of public school students are nonwhite, and their families collectively speak 55 languages. During drop-off at Starr Elementary on a recent morning, parents bid their children goodbye in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.

“You wouldn’t expect to see so many languages spoken in a school district of 10,000,” said Tawana Grover, the school superintendent who arrived from Dallas four years ago. “When you hear Nebraska, you don’t think diversity. We’ve got the world right here in rural America.”

The students are the children of foreign-born workers who flocked to this town of 51,000 in the 1990s and 2000s to toil in the area’s meatpacking plants, where speaking English was less necessary than a willingness to do the grueling work.

They came to Nebraska from every corner of the globe: Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans who floated across the Rio Grande on inner tubes, in search of a better life; refugees who fled famine in South Sudan and war in Iraq to find safe haven; Salvadorans and Cambodians who spent years scratching for work in California and heard that jobs in Nebraska were plentiful and the cost of living low.

The story of how millions of immigrants since the 1970s have put down lasting rootsacross the country is by now well-known. What is less understood about President Trump’s four-year-long push to shut the borders and put “America First” is that his quest may prove ultimately a futile one. Even with one of the most severe declines in immigration since the 1920s, the country is on an irreversible course to becoming ever more diverse, and more dependent on immigrants and their children.

The president since the moment he took office issued a torrent of orders that reduced refugee admissions; narrowed who is eligible for asylum; made it more difficult to qualify for permanent residency or citizenship; tightened scrutiny of applicants for high-skilled worker visas and sought to limit the length of stay for international students. His policies slashed the number of migrants arrested and then released into the country from nearly 500,000 in fiscal 2019 to 15,000 in fiscal 2020.

The measures worked: “We are going to end the decade with lower immigration than in any decade since the ’70s,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who analyzed newly available census data.

The president-elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has pledged to reverse many of the measures. He has vowed to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, an Obama-era program that allowed young adults mainly brought to the United States illegally as children to remain, and to resume accepting refugees and asylum seekers in larger numbers.

He has also said he would introduce legislation to offer a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

Biden Has No Reason to Back Down on Immigration Now

From the libertarian Cato Institute which continues to provide good analysis of US immigration:

After Joe Biden won the Democratic Party nomination, he made no adjustments to his aggressively pro‐​immigration agenda. Some ideas—a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants—have long been standard Democratic Party positions, but Biden’s ideas went farbeyond this. Biden’s platform was probably as pro‐​immigrant as any winning candidate since Abraham Lincoln. Yet despite repeated attacks by President Trump, Biden stuck to his message—even on border and asylum issues which many see as the most difficult politically. With public opinion on immigration even further on his side than the presidential vote count, he has absolutely no reason to back down now.

Biden Stuck to a Pro‐​Immigrant Message

The most remarkable moment in this campaign for me as an immigration analyst was when President Trump attacked Biden in the second presidential debate for the Obama‐​Biden administration allowing what he calls “catch and release” of immigrants at the border. Rather than pivoting back to normal Democratic attacks about Trump’s child separation policy, Biden took Trump’s bait and launched into an extended defense of exactly what Trump was attacking him for—even going so far as to counter‐​attack Trump for forcing Central American asylum seekers to live homeless in dangerous cities in Mexico.

Without Trump’s anti‐​asylum policies, it is inevitable that the United States will have a very significant increase in immigrants requesting asylum. Of all the Trump policies, I believed—as many analysts still do—that these asylum restrictions would be the most difficult politically for Biden to end. Yet Biden took his few minutes on a national debate stage to assert that he’s willing to embrace greater acceptance of asylum seekers as a good thing. If the new administration accepts them all at ports of entry, grants them status and employment authorization, there will not even be the issue of immigrants breaking the law to create any potential political liability.

Little Reason to Change

Now that he appears to have beaten President Trump, will Biden suddenly reverse? It’s possible. It wouldn’t be the first time that Biden has flipped on immigration. But he absolutely no political reason to change. He won on a pro‐​immigrant message. House Democrats won on a pro‐​immigrant message.

Moreover, Biden is assuming office at a time when the public has never been more sympathetic to the pro‐​immigrant cause. For the first time in its 55‐​year history, Gallup’s immigration poll found more support for increasing than decreasing immigration (Figure 1). Support for immigration grows when Gallup only asks about legal immigration. More than three quarters tell Gallup that they believe immigration is a good thing. Pew Research Center pollsfind that large majorities reject that the arguments immigrants increase crime, that they tax the welfare state, and that they do not assimilate. Trump has actually lost ground even among Republicans on his anti‐​immigration message, as I explained here.

Even the old President Obama advisors who oversaw the most deportations ever and will likely resurface in a Biden administration understand that they have a mandate from Biden to gut and replace Trump’s anti‐​immigrant agenda in a way that they did not until very late in Obama’s term. I fully expect that the agencies will go beyond reversing them and create even better processes for immigrants—legal or otherwise. He will also push aggressively for Congress to enact legislation to create a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and expand legal immigration.

Potential Problem Areas

The most likely problem areas for Biden are on guest worker visas. Biden said he wanted to make the H-2A and H-2B guest worker programs for lesser skilled seasonal jobs less “cumbersome, bureaucratic, and inflexible.” Moreover, Biden “will support expanding the number of high‐​skilled visas.” But in both cases, he also falls into the erroneous labor union narrative that these visas can hurt U.S. workers and calls for strong enforcement of the “prevailing wage”—a made‐​up governmental minimum wage for foreign workers.

In the case of the H-1B skilled worker visa, Biden specifically calls for greater restrictions on “entry level wages”—which could effectively stop the hiring of foreign college graduates by U.S. companies. Since nearly all employer‐​sponsored foreign workers enter first on temporary visas, restricting them would do very significant harm to both employers, foreign workers, and U.S. workers in complementary positions.


Overall, Biden has given immigrant advocates a reason for optimism. He faced down President Trump’s attacks and doubled down on his pro‐​immigrant positions. He may impose new restrictions on guest workers and not follow through on every campaign promise, but he will restart a legal immigration system that has almost entirely been stopped by this administration, and he will generally make positive reforms beyond that.

Source: Biden Has No Reason to Back Down on Immigration Now

Heather Scoffield: Hey, election-weary Americans, Canada would love to take you in

Valid approach to target foreign nationals currently working or studying in the USA:

In the difficult, bewildering days right after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, then-vice-president Joe Biden made a quick trip to snowy Ottawa for a state dinner.

It’s worth remembering what he told Canadian leaders at the time: Canadians and Americans are deeply united in their values, Biden said, especially “the abhorrence of the abuse of power, whether it’s physical, economic or political, as well as the notion that every person deserves to be treated with dignity.

“It’s about dignity.”

The words were probably meant to console Canadians as much as to console himself at the turn of events and the coarsening of politics that a Trump victory would surely herald.

Fast-forward four years, and the day after the 2020 election was equally bewildering for many Canadians who could not digest the fact that, regardless of who the eventual president is, about half of American voters chose Trump for a second time.

But when we’re done reeling over the stark, pervasive divisions within the American electorate and move on to grappling with what next, perhaps we can put our own appreciation of dignity to good use, and make it work to our advantage — through immigration.

Just last week, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino set out a very ambitious plan for Canada: to boost immigration to never-seen-before levels and pull the country’s economic growth out of its funk.

“We are at a unique juncture in Canadian history. We are facing the challenge of our generation, and we will meet our moment,” Mendicino said. “Before the pandemic, our government’s goal to drive the economy forward through immigration was ambitious. Now, it is simply vital.”

Canada will aim to bring in 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years, partly to make up for lost ground during the pandemic but also raising the target substantially from previous plans. Instead of 351,000 people targeted for 2021, Ottawa is now aiming for 401,000. Instead of 361,000 in 2022, Ottawa hopes for 411,000.

For sure, there are many reasons to increase immigration. Family reunification and a safe haven for refugees are what dignified, decent countries do. But since the federal government’s overriding goal is to boost the economy, it’s time to take a strategic look at the U.S. landscape.

Of course, the move-to-Canada idea was all the rage after the 2016 election, and especially after Trump kicked off his term in power by cracking down on immigrants from specific countries — a move that prompted Justin Trudeau to famously tweet #WelcomeToCanada because “diversity is our strength.”

The Canadian dream bubbled up again on Wednesday in the media and on social media.

But initial efforts over the past few years to recruit large numbers of skilled immigrants from the ranks of disaffected Democrats didn’t really materialize.

We have a second chance this time around and can take steps, and have money, to make it happen.

“There is an opportunity there,” says Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo who specializes in immigration and labour.

Not all immigration automatically boosts Canada’s pace of growth, which is why Mendicino is putting more weight on the economic class of immigration than on family reunification and refugees. The hope is that by attracting skilled workers from other countries, Canada can expand the population of entrepreneurs, consumers, taxpayers, homebuyers, hard workers and wealth contributors in our economy.

People educated in the United States come with easily recognized credentials and are a quick fit into Canada’s labour market.

“If you want to leverage immigration for economic growth, you have to look at talent,” Skuterud says.

But Canada has long had stiff competition from the Americans next door in attracting those people, he adds, pointing to research that shows skilled immigrants to the United States prospering while those with a similar profile in Canada have struggled with lower wages.

Canada’s best bet to attract highly-skilled immigrants from the United States is to look there for foreigners and migrants, especially students and recent graduates, since they’re usually more mobile than the rest of the population, says Skuterud.

If Canada is to bolster growth over the long term, not just to recuperate from the pandemic but also to improve our standard of living and our ability to care for the most vulnerable in our society, we will need to make some bold, strategic moves to make our mark.

So much of Canada’s policy and recovery from the pandemic is in slow motion right now, waiting to see where Washington lands and how the U.S. political dynamic washes over the border.

Immigration is one area where we have already dared to stick our neck out and go our own way, at least in the targets and the rhetoric that comes from our political leaders. Dignity looks like a selling point these days.

Source: Heather Scoffield: Hey, election-weary Americans, Canada would love to take you in