Canada No. 1 for Migrants, U.S. in Sixth Place

Given the contrast in media coverage and political discourse in both countries, would have expected a larger gap:

Canada and the U.S. remained among the most-accepting countries in the world for migrants in 2019. In fact, with a score of 8.46 (out of a possible 9.0) on Gallup’s second administration of its Migrant Acceptance Index, Canada, for the first time, led the rest of the world. The U.S. ranked sixth, with a score of 7.95.

Most-Accepting Countries for Migrants
Migrant Acceptance Index
Canada 8.46
Iceland 8.41
New Zealand 8.32
Australia 8.28
Sierra Leone 8.14
United States 7.95
Burkina Faso* 7.93
Sweden 7.92
Chad* 7.91
Ireland* 7.88
Rwanda 7.88
*Country not on the list in 2016-2017

The index is based on three questions that Gallup asked in 140 countries in 2016 and 2017 and updated again in 145 countries in 2019. The questions ask whether people think migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbors and marrying into their families are good things or bad things.

The index is a sum of the points across the three questions, with a maximum possible score of 9.0 (all three are good things) and a minimum possible score of zero (all three are bad things). The higher the score, the more accepting the population is of migrants.

Both Canada and the U.S., which have long histories as receiving countries for migrants, made the most-accepting list in 2017 as well. Migration policies in each country have taken different paths since then, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opening Canada’s doors even wider, as President Donald Trump has tried to shut doors in the U.S. However, the acceptance of migrants among residents in each country has remained resolute and relatively unchanged from where they stood three years ago.

In Canada, residents almost universally saw migrants living in their country (94%) and being in their neighborhoods (95%) as good things, while more than nine in 10 (91%) said a migrant marrying into their family would be a good thing. Most Americans said the same, although not nearly to the same degree as Canadians. Nine in 10 (90%) said a migrant living in their neighborhood would be a good thing, and similar percentages said migrants living in their country (87%) and marrying into their families (85%) would be good things.

Migrant Acceptance Continues to Follow Political Fault Lines

As in 2017, migrant acceptance in both countries continues to be polarized. In the U.S., those who approved of Trump’s job performance scored a 7.10 out of a possible 9.0 on the Migrant Acceptance Index, while those who disapproved scored an 8.59 on the index. In Canada, those who approved of Trudeau’s job performance scored an 8.73, while the score was 8.21 among those who disapproved.

The same relationships persist, although not to the same degree, looking at approval of the country’s leadership in general.

Political Divides on Migration in Canada, U.S.
Migrant Acceptance Index
Approve of Trump 7.10
Disapprove of Trump 8.59
Approve of country’s leadership 7.10
Disapprove of country’s leadership 8.49
Approve of Trudeau 8.73
Disapprove of Trudeau 8.21
Approve of country’s leadership 8.59
Disapprove of country’s leadership 8.31

In the U.S., interestingly, there are differences in migrant acceptance among those who personally identified most with their city and country where they live (8.16) compared with those who identified most with their race or religion (7.69). In Canada, there were no differences in migrant acceptance based on how people identified themselves.

Most Educated in Each Country Are Most Accepting

For the most part, as it did in 2017, people’s acceptance of migrants follow the same patterns in both Canada and the U.S.: Acceptance is higher among those with the most education and among those living in urban areas.

Interestingly, the patterns by age in the two countries are different. In the U.S., acceptance was highest among the youngest Americans and then declined with age. Among Americans between the ages of 15 and 29, the index score was 8.34; it measured nearly a full point lower among those aged 65 and older (7.37). In Canada, there were no real statistical differences by age group.

Migrant Acceptance by Age in the U.S., Canada
Migrant Acceptance Index
15-29 8.34
30-44 8.11
45-54 8.04
55-64 7.79
65+ 7.37
15-29* 8.32
30-44 8.54
45-54 8.53
55-64 8.41
65+ 8.51
*Difference not significant because of smaller sample sizes

Bottom Line

Both Canada and the U.S. have long histories as receiving countries, but over the past several years, policies in each country have moved in opposite directions. Until the pandemic forced Canada to slow immigration to a trickle, the country was poised to admit more than 1 million permanent residents between 2019 and 2021, with targets increasing every year. In the U.S., the Trump administration is estimated to have cut legal immigration by almost half since taking office.

However, it appears that these changes in policies haven’t drastically changed most people’s acceptance of migrants. Residents in each country, and particularly in Canada, are accepting of the migrants who will continue to play a huge role in shaping their country’s future.


And for a broader take:

Global tolerance of migrants declined between 2016 and 2019, Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Indexrevealed on Wednesday.

The survey showed that several of the least tolerant countries were from the EU. Member states met Wednesday to discuss a new joint migration policy.

The report gave countries scores based on the attitudes of respondents to the idea of migrants living in their country, moving into their neighborhood and marrying into their family. The average score globally fell from 5.34 in 2016 to 5.21 in 2019. Nne was the highest possible result.

The largest drop in tolerant attitudes towards migrants was seen in South America, where several countries have experienced a large influx of refugees from Venezuela. In Colombia, which bore the brunt of the exodus, the percentage of respondents with a positive view of migrants living in the country plummeted from 61% to 29%.

Belgium and Switzerland had some of the largest decreases in tolerant attitudes. Belgium, home to the European Parliament, saw its score fall by 1.33.

EU member states Hungary, Croatia, Latvia and Slovakia were among the top ten least accepting countries according to the poll, with a further four Balkan countries making it onto the list.

Another country which has played a significant role in the EU’s immigration policy was also revealed to have largely negative attitudes towards immigration. Turkey, which became home to some 4 million refugees as part of a deal with the European bloc, was the 10th least accepting country for migrants according to the data collected by Gallup.

However, one eastern European country with a traditionally low tolerance of immigration saw an increase in positive and tolerant attitudes. A share of 42% of Polish respondents said that they considered migrants living in the country as something good, up from 29% three years prior.

Which countries are most tolerant of immigration?

Canada topped the list for the countries most accepting of immigration — 94% of respondents had positive views of immigrants living in their country, followed by Iceland and New Zealand. Within the EU, only Sweden and Ireland made it into the top 10.

Despite a series of anti-immigration policies by President Donald Trump’s administration in the US, the country came in sixth place for its generally pro-immigration attitudes. When asked about immigrants moving into their neighborhood, 90% of US respondents said this was a good thing.

Among those who supported Trump, the average score was 7.1 out of nine. The biggest difference was between the younger and older generations with 16- to 29-year-olds scoring 8.34 and those older than 65 scoring around one point less, at 7.37.

How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap

Good data-based analysis:

Joeller Stanton used to be an assistant teacher at a private school in Baltimore and made about $30,000 a year. In mid-March, when the pandemic was just starting, her school closed for what was supposed to be two weeks. “Up to that point, we were under the impression that it wasn’t that serious, that everything was going to be OK,” Stanton recalls.

But as schools in Maryland switched to virtual learning indefinitely, Stanton was let go from her job. She received her last paycheck in March. “I had about $300 savings that was basically gone by the end of March,” she says.

She says she applied for unemployment but was denied initially. And by April, she had no money to pay for rent and utilities, and was struggling to put food on the table for her two children.

Stanton, who is Black, is caught up in a huge wave of economic stress hitting Americans, especially people of color.

Sixty percent of Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began, according to a national poll released this week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That includes 41% who say they’ve used up most or all their savings, while an additional 10% had no savings before the outbreak.

Latinos and Native Americans are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Seventy-two percent of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents say their households are facing serious financial problems, compared with 36% of whites.

“The thing that immediately struck me was how large the gap was by race for the people who said they were facing serious problems,” says Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute.

The pandemic’s disproportionate financial impact on communities of color reflects — and is worsening — existing racial disparities in wealth, she adds.

Struggles with income, housing, food

“The three groups that are being just ravaged by this epidemic are reporting unbelievable problems of just trying to cope with their day-to-day lives,” says Robert Blendon, professor emeritus of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who oversaw the poll.

Thirty-two percent of Latino and 28% of Black respondents say they’re having problems paying rent or mortgages. About a third of respondents in both groups were struggling to pay credit cards or other loans. And 26% of Latino and Native American respondents say they struggle to afford food, while 22% of Black respondents do.

Among households that reported they lost income, survival is even more of a challenge. For Black respondents, 40% say they’re struggling to pay rent or mortgage, and 43% say they’re having trouble paying utilities. For Latino households that lost income, 46% say they’re struggling to pay mortgage or rent. About a third of both Black and Latino respondents who lost household income said they’re struggling to pay for food.

The fact that many minority groups are also experiencing higher rates of coronavirus infections makes it even harder for them to cope financially, Blendon adds.

“You have people who don’t have savings, they can’t pay bills,” he says. “And then you’re going to tell them, ‘Well, somebody in the household tested positive, nobody can go work.’ How are they going to keep their lives going?”

Stanton’s sister, who works for the city government, got COVID-19 earlier this year and had to isolate in her basement. “She had a cough, and she couldn’t eat because her taste buds were completely gone,” Stanton says. “I would cook meals, and I would take it to the basement, put it down on the floor for her.”

Luckily, she says, no one else in the family — including her 82-year-old mother and her 7-year-old son, who has asthma — got infected.

But Stanton says she has lost a sister-in-law to the disease and had a friend in coma for six weeks on a ventilator. She knows of many others in her community who have died.

And most of her co-workers and friends are out of work.

Worsening existing disparities

Even during the economic recovery of recent years, minority groups were lagging behind, says Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute. “There were significant racial disparities in wages, significant racial disparities in unemployment, significant racial disparities in the kinds of jobs people held.”

Black, Latino and Native American workers were more likely to have jobs that were lost during the pandemic, Wilson says. A Harvard University analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, released in July, found that 58% of Latino and 53% of Black households experienced loss in earnings early in the pandemic. Wilson’s own research has shown that Latino workers have been particularly affected by job losses during the pandemic.

Wilson adds that people in these groups are also more likely to have jobs that didn’t allow them to work from the safety of their homes, therefore putting them more at risk of getting infected. And they’re also less likely to have substantial savings. As a result, it makes it harder for them to weather times of economic downturn, she says.

Wilson says she worries that the pandemic is worsening racial disparities.

“We’re going to see coming out of this pandemic an expansion of the racial wealth gap,” she says. “We saw the same kind of thing in the Great Recession in 2007-2008 — in particular then with the extensive foreclosures in communities of color and the loss of housing wealth.”

“You just pray”

The pandemic forced Stanton to give up her rental home back in April. But she says she was fortunate not to end up homeless, thanks to her sister.

“My sister helped me get a storage unit,” Stanton says. “I moved my furniture into a storage unit. And I moved in with my sister, me and my two kids — my 11-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old son.”

She is grateful to have a roof over her head, but money, she says, is still tight.

She now gets $280 a week from the state of Maryland as unemployment, but it doesn’t go far.

“The first thing I buy is any personal hygiene items me or my kids need,” she says. She buys food, above what food stamps get her; she pays her phone bill and covers her sister’s utility bills. “That’s my only way of telling her, ‘Thank you,’ to show her that I appreciate what she’s doing.”

What little she has left, she buys a treat or two for her children, who have mostly been stuck indoors since the pandemic began: “Just trying to keep them happy,” she says.

But she’s far from happy herself. She hasn’t been able to find a new job because of the nature of remote learning. “They don’t need an assistant right now because the kids are not physically in the building,” she says.

And even if she did find a job, she worries she’d have to use pay to cover child care. Her kids are now also learning virtually from home and need constant supervision.

Stanton says the only way she copes with her daily struggles is through faith. “A lot of prayer and a lot of patience,” she says. “I try not to let things bother me because I don’t want to become depressed. So, you know, you just pray. I hope this is all over soon.”

Source: How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap

Voters’ Attitudes About Race and Gender Are Even More Divided Than in 2016

Source: Voters’ Attitudes About Race and Gender Are Even More Divided Than in 2016

Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves

While much of Glavin’s commentary is appropriate, he overstates IMO the contrast between the USA and Canada, given that all the big companies he lists as being complicit, have a large American retail presence with comparable sourcing issues. Not too mention Disney’s Mulan shot in Xinjiang.

So while American laws may be better, is the reality?

It’s positively uplifting, you could say, that owing to the protests and riots and presidential election-year shouting about systemic racism and police violence in the United States, quite a few Canadians seem to have developed an acutely attentive awareness of the history of Black slavery in America and its enduring legacy. Perhaps not so heartwarming is that the throngs of earnest protesters turning out for all those Black Lives Matter rallies across Canada are wearing clothes made by slaves.

That Canadians of even the most advanced progressive sophistication give every appearance of being completely oblivious to this ugly irony is even less uplifting. An entire summer of American-style protests about the wickedness of racism and capitalism has come and gone without any obvious notice that Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Adidas, Esprit, Calvin Klein, Nike, UNIQLO, H&M, Lacoste and quite a few other globe-spanning corporations are demonstrably implicated in slavery, child labour, and forced-labour production in prisons and detention centres and sweatshops from Dhaka to Urumqi.

In July, the International Confederation of Trade Unions joined with 180 human rights and Uyghur advocacy organizations to launch an ambitious campaign to bring all this to light and to bring forced Uyghur labour to an end. It’s hard to say whether the campaign has gained much traction. Perhaps they should pull down some statues.

At least the U.S. Congress has been doing its bit. The bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would build on existing U.S. prohibitions on the import of slave-made goods, and the proposed Slave-Free Business Certification Act is an even tougher law, promising penalties of up to $500 million.

Canadians, however – for all our boasts about being unstained by the original American sin of slavery – have long been global laggards in the cause of slavery’s abolition. Unlike the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Norway and so on, Canada has no specific legislation aimed at banning the import of goods produced by forced labour. World Vision Canada reckons that forced labour or child labour is implicated in $34 billion in products imported into Canada annually.

It is doubly embarrassing – maybe this is why it’s been the subject of nearly no public notice at all – that it’s taking the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, to drag Canada into the world’s anti-slavery camp. Effective July 1, USMCA requires Canada to amend the Customs tariff laws to impose prohibitions on the importation of goods produced wholly or in part by forced labour.The USMCA’s forced-labour provisions should be expected to put wind in the sails of an effort by Liberal MP John McKay and Quebec Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne that has been marooned in a procedural tidepool of committee hearings and on-again, off-again consultations for two years. Their proposed law, the Modern Slavery Act, would force corporations to show that their supply chains are free of forced labour, on pain of fines of up to $250,000.

Because the Americans were already in compliance with the UMSCA’s forced-labour provisions, on July 1 they hit the ground running. U.S. law already allows for the seizure of goods and criminal charges for violators, and just this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was preparing to block imports of cotton from Xinjiang, where almost all of China’s cotton fields are located. One in five garments worldwide contains cotton from Xinjiang.

The U.S. import bans are expected to also include tomato products and human hair, and computer parts from Hefei Bitland Information Technology. Products from the Lop County Industrial Park and Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center are headed for banned list, following the July 1 seizure of several tons of hair extensions shipped to the U.S. believed to have been “harvested” from Uyghur women by the Lop County Meixin Hair Products Company. The U.S. State Department has also warned Walmart, Amazon and the Apple corporation that they face severe legal risks over their supply chains associated with Xinjiang.

According to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index, Canada is vulnerable to slave-labour contamination in supply chains involving nearly $10 billion worth of laptop computers and mobile phones annually imported from China and Malaysia, and $6 billion worth of apparel imports. Several other supply chains are suspect, including gold from Peru and sugarcane from Brazil.

While Canada has been noticeably absent in the global struggle against slavery, there is one Canadian bright spot, involving a particularly grotesque Canadian embarrassment.

The bright spot: Last March, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three Eritrean refugees could sue the Vancouver-based mining company Nevsun Resources for engaging in slavery and committing crimes against humanity at the notorious Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in Eritrea, co-owned by Nevsun and the Eritrean dictatorship. The three plaintiffs in the case say they were conscripted into the military and forced to work at the mine for 11, 14 and 17 years respectively, and that they were tortured and made to put in 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week.

The embarrassment: Four years ago, when a UN commission of inquiry confirmed reports of abuse at the mine so grotesque as to amount to crimes against humanity, it turned out that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board owned 1.5 million shares of Bevsun Resources. In 2018, Nevsun’s shareholders agreed to sell the company for $1.86 billion to China’s Zijin Mining Group.

Perhaps Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should take a knee.

Source: Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves

Black, Native American, and Fighting for Recognition in Indian Country

Of interest:

Ron Graham never had to prove to anyone that he was Black. But he has spent more than 30 years haunting tribal offices and genealogical archives, fighting for recognition that he is also a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“We’re African-American,” Mr. Graham, 55, said. “But we’re Native American also.”

His family history is part of a little-known saga of bondage, blood and belonging within tribal nations, one that stretches from the Trail of Tears to this summer of uprisings in America’s streets over racial injustice.

His ancestors are known as Creek Freedmen. They were among the thousands of African-Americans who were once enslaved by tribal members in the South and who migrated to Oklahoma when the tribes were forced off their homelands and marched west in the 1830s.

In treaties signed after the Civil War, they won freedom and were promised tribal citizenship and an equal stake in the tribes’ lands and fortunes. But what followed were broken promises, exclusions and painful fights over whether tens of thousands of their descendants should now be recognized as tribal members.

Some of the descendants have won lawsuits seeking inclusion in the Cherokee Nation. Some gained nominal citizenship as Seminoles, but said they could not access tribal services. Others, like Mr. Graham, have nothing.

But now, a landmark Supreme Court decision for tribal sovereignty has breathed new life into their fight.

In July, the Supreme Court recognized a huge portion of eastern Oklahoma as reservation land under the terms of an 1866 treaty. The same treaty also guaranteed that freed slaves and their descendants would “have and enjoy all the rights and privileges of native citizens.”

To groups of their descendants, the logic was simple: If the United States still had to honor treaty promises it made to tribal nations, then tribal nations had to keep their word to the descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes.

“We’re making noise,” said Marilyn Vann, a Cherokee citizen and president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Ms. Vann estimated that there was a diaspora of some 160,000 descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes, many of them living in Oklahoma. There are groups representing descendants from each of the five tribes who meet to share sepia photographs of ancestors, compare genealogical records and plan protests.

Ms. Vann added: “There are chiefs who’d like to get rid of what they think of as the Freedmen problem. We have our rights.”

Now, as they file lawsuits in federal and tribal courts, they say they are fighting for tribal benefits including access to jobs, health care at tribal clinics and hospitals, housing, scholarship funds for their children and the right to vote in tribal elections. But also for something more fundamental: “My identity,” Mr. Graham said.

In a statement, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation said that the issue of the status of the descendants of enslaved people raised thorny questions about tribal citizenship that “cut to the core of self-determination.” They said the tribes had fundamental rights to run their own governments and decide for themselves who qualifies as a citizen. Some said that a reconciliation commission would be a better way to resolve the issue, rather than an edict from Congress.

“Many of our citizens feel that identity is at the heart of this issue and that blood lineage is essential to protecting it,” the Muscogee Nation said. “But, on the other hand, the grave injustice done to the slaves owned by some Creeks has to be acknowledged and discussed.”

The fight is unfolding as Oklahoma grapples with another bloody chapter of its history: A white mob’s massacre and destruction of a thriving Black neighborhood in Tulsa in 1921. Many of the Tulsa victims were descendants of people formerly enslaved by the tribes, activists say. This summer, crews excavated a suspected mass burial site searching for remains, and survivors and descendants of the victims recently sued the city.

The legacy of anti-Black racism in tribal nations can be a fraught, uncomfortable topic, one that forces communities who have suffered centuries of land theft, colonialism and genocide to confront the darker corners of their own past. Several tribal officials declined interview requests to discuss the issue.

“When we have that difficult history to deal with, we don’t talk about it,” said Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation. About 7,000 descendants of Freedmen were incorporated into the Cherokee Nation after a federal judge ruled in 2017 that they had tribal citizenship rights. That history is “a stain on the Cherokee Nation we’ve got to remove,” the chief said.

Spanish and English colonizers enslaved Native people across the Americas. But tribes in Alabama, Georgia and Florida also adopted the practice themselves, enslaving African-Americans to work on cotton plantations and in homes. When the United States government forcibly removed the Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Muscogee people to Oklahoma, their slaves also made the deadly march or were transported west in boats, according to historians.

The Civil War and the question of slavery divided tribes, with some fighting for the Union and other tribal members declaring loyalty to the Confederacy. Some enslavers retreated to Arkansas or Texas to escape skirmishes and raids. Black Indians joined the Union or Confederate armies, and later escaped to freedom in Kansas.

“It’s a history that still divides our citizens over what rights the descendants of those Freedmen should have, as well as the larger conversation concerning who is ‘legitimately’ Cherokee,” Rebecca Nagle, a Cherokee writer and host of the podcast “This Land,” wrote this summer after the Cherokee Nation removed two Confederate war memorials in eastern Oklahoma. “We need to do more to confront that history within our tribe.”

The Freedmen were granted tribal citizenship — and in some cases “an equal interest in the soil and national funds” of the tribe — in the treaties that Oklahoma’s tribes signed with the federal government after the Civil War, in which the tribes were forced to cede huge portions of their land to the government.

On the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, there were once three “colored” tribal towns that formed their own small governments. Despite segregation and racist legal structures, Freedmen served as council members, ministers, judges. Jesse Franklin, who was born a slave in Alabama in 1817, was named to the Creek Supreme Court in 1874 — some 93 years before Thurgood Marshall ascended to the United States Supreme Court.

But their descendants say they were edited out of existence over the past half-century by tribal constitutions and other laws denying them citizenship because they were not citizens by blood, or because they or their ancestors had been placed on a roster of ineligible people when government agents began sorting Oklahoma’s tribes into “citizens” and “Freedmen” in the 1890s.

Sharon Lenzy Scott said her mother was stripped of her Creek citizenship when a new constitution was passed in 1979, and spent the next 20 years until her death trying to ensure that her family never forgot.

“She called all her children into the living room and said, ‘I’m going to tell you who you are, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not,” Ms. Scott said. “She knew who she was.”

The N.A.A.C.P. has weighed in to support the descendants of those formerly enslaved by the tribes, and some members of Congress have proposed legislation that would sever ties between the United States and the Creek Nation, or withhold housing money from other tribes, until the descendants are granted tribal citizenship.

But to some tribal leaders, those threats undermine tribal sovereignty.

Gary Batton, the chief of the Choctaw Nation, wrote in a June letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that he objected to any legislative maneuvering, and said the “Freedmen issue is a problem caused by the United States, not the Choctaw Nation.”

“America should solve its own problems,” Chief Batton wrote.

Still, the descendants’ cause has supporters among tribal members. Eli Grayson, a Muscogee (Creek) citizen whose family once owned slaves, said the Freedmen’s descendants had been excluded for too long.

“These Freedmen lives don’t matter,” he said, echoing the Black Lives Matter mantra.

Mr. Graham said he has been petitioning for his Muscogee (Creek) status since he went to a tribal citizenship office in 1983 and told the office workers that his father was Theodore “Blue” Graham, who spoke the Creek language and went to traditional stomp dances. On that long-ago day, he said, the clerk told him his father had been nothing but a slave: “It tore my heart out.”

Mr. Graham can speak a few shards of Creek himself, enough to say “Come to dinner” or teach his children “Mvto” for thank you. He has come to dislike the term Freedmen, calling it a pejorative relic.

He would like, one day, to just be a citizen of his tribe.

Racial authoritarianism in US democracy

Bit of a dense read but nevertheless a reminder of the lingering influence of the past on the present:

Recently, casual and savage violence of police against peaceful protesters and images of police in military gear sweeping up residents into unmarked vans has led journalists to question whether U.S. democracy is in peril. Many observers described these recent actions as authoritarian. But racial authoritarianism has been central to citizenship and governance of race-class subjugated communities throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. It describes state oppression such that groups of residents live under extremely divergent experiences of government and laws. Yet when police engage in excessive surveillance, incursions on civil liberties, and arbitrary force as a matter of routine patrol, many scholars of American politics are reluctant to consider it a violation of democracy and instead deem them aberrations in an otherwise functioning democracy. This mischaracterization is not limited only to intellectual discourse but also affects the public sphere. By obscuring evidence of racial authoritarianism, reforms will not land where needed. Procedural reform is useful when we are simply improving policing, not ridding democracy of authoritarian practices.

Racial authoritarian governance has deeply shaped our institutions, political arrangements, and state development, and virtually every racial justice movement over the past 100 years has tried to expose its operation, challenge it, and seek freedom from it (1). Coterminous with democracy in the United States, racially authoritarian patterns are reproduced and innovated after periods of democratic expansion in the United States. Since the 1960s, policing has been the primary administrative tool of racial authoritarianism: One segment of the population effectively lives under a different set of rules and, as a result, experiences differential power and citizenship.

Although many Black intellectuals and citizens have understood how authoritarian power operates on citizens within a democracy, scholars of U.S. politics largely overlook state power to coerce, surveil, and enact violence often by police authorities and treat it as unimportant to theorizing our democracy. Starting from the assumption of a liberal tradition and examining deviations from a mostly pluralistic polity, they document evidence of democratic retreat only when political competition is curtailed and trust in governing institutions erodes, despite overwhelming evidence of racial authoritarianism. This view, stretching from the field’s defining scholars to the present day, is housed within a polity that was increasingly turning to, and expanding, its coercive instruments of surveillance, predation, violent intimidation, and confinement, concentrated on race-class subjugated residents.

The result is a substantive and substantial narrowing: By failing to consider the possibility of widespread, coherent, and racially targeted authoritarian practices, the focus in academic debates becomes improving aspects of democratic quality and the distribution and delivery of democratic goods—more representation, more votes, more responsive policy—while rendering invisible the lack of autonomy and freedom, and the vulnerability to state violence and illegal takings, that characterizes the experience of U.S. democracy for those experiencing its more authoritarian aspects. We should augment our understanding, theories, and measurement to encompass or reconcile the presence of such authoritarian practices within U.S. democracy. In addition to measuring democratic performance through national indicators such as free and fair elections, we should also include local coercive practices concentrated on subgroups of the population.

A Trenchant Rebuttal

Once we look beyond democracy’s formal structures, institutions, and rules to the lived experiences of political authority, we see that they pose a sharp contrast, and a trenchant rebuttal, to the conventional understandings of liberal democracy. For example, drawing on the largest database of narrative accounts of policing in U.S. cities after the Baltimore uprising of 2015, we see that U.S. residents have a sophisticated understanding of the actual operation of democracy and are witnesses to its relationship to authoritarian practices (2). Stopped by police, subject to violation of privacy and displays of force, routine seizure of resources, and unable to freely assemble because of police occupation of their neighborhoods, they described being effectively outside the provisions of the main text of U.S. democracy—the Constitution:

“But every black and every Hispanic that gets stopped, especially here in LA, they asked to get out their car…okay. And it’s a difference. When you’re telling me, you’re going to go and say, ‘Oh you’re just nitpicking, you’re crying, you’re complaining.’ But we live this. You see? We live it” [(2), p. 1162].

“They’re paid to protect and serve but they’re not protecting us, they’re not serving us, they’re killing us and eliminating us” [(2), p. 1160].

Police have long proscribed the movement of Black communities and engaged in racial and social control. When historians interviewed several thousand Black Americans who had lived under Jim Crow (state and local laws that enforced racial segregation and disenfranchisement in the U.S. South) in the 1930s and 1940s, police were understood to be guardians of white democracy (3). They described orientations similar to conversations about life decades later. For example, how police goaded Black people into displays of force: “They would come and mess with you in order for you to say something … This gave them an excuse to hit you, you know” (3). State violence through police was witnessed, as well as the absence of accountability when police executed Black people.

When we look to narrative accounts and the undemocratic practices they reveal, we may be better equipped to anticipate critical ruptures in political life. State practices of policing, surveillance, and impunity that are quotidian for racially subjugated people, when popularized, become worrying signs of an authoritarian turn.

Hiding in Plain View

Despite racial authoritarianism’s glaring presence in experiential accounts of U.S. democracy, it has been hiding in plain view in the field of political science. In a field responsible for constructing metrics on democratic stability and political behavior, our failure to theorize racial authoritarianism has had consequences for how U.S. democracy is conceived by the public and policy-makers.

There are several reasons why racial authoritarianism in the United States has, for so long, gone unnamed by our field. One reason is because scholars tend to discount knowledge derived from a bottom-up approach (actual citizen experience), which may obscure our understanding of how government authority is actually experienced. Empirical research on democracy leans heavily on quantifiable indices (such as the Polity Index) and nationally representative survey samples. These measures are useful tools for comparative analysis and standardized snapshots for change over time, but they do not leave room for citizens to define democratic deficits on their own terms or through their own experiential accounts. When we use narrative accounts as the lens through which we view U.S. democracy, racial authoritarianism comes clearly into focus.

Relatedly, scholars tend to fixate on nationally representative institutions and political activities such as voting and operate from an overly narrow definition of authoritarian practices (executive power grabs, direct police collusion, and limited political competition). But the focus on executive overreach can be misleading in a political system as decentralized as the United States, where local governments have high levels of autonomy over police authority in particular. Without a focus on the local or subnational level, it is easy to overlook the ways in which U.S. federalism facilitates racial authoritarianism.

Third, for scholars who have written about modern policing practices, there is no shortage of analysis of their racially disparate outcomes (1). But students of political science have tended to examine the coercion, occupation, subjectivity, and extraction that constitute what we call racial authoritarianism in isolation from democracy. We tend to analyze racialized policing within a separate literature on incarceration and criminal justice; but why should we not also analyze it in the literature on democratic transitions, subnational or group-based authoritarianism, and political violence?

If the field of political science sequestered police repression from questions of democracy, historical Black thinkers did not. An understanding of racial authoritarianism—although completely absent in mainstream scholarship—animated historical Black theorizations that contested U.S. democracy’s hard line boundary from authoritarian modes of governance. They saw police violence and power as a central instrument upholding the differentiated citizenship key to the operation of democracy in the United States. For example, in 1966 James Baldwin wrote, “I have witnessed and endured the brutality of the police many more times than once—but, of course, I cannot prove it. I cannot prove it because the Police Department investigates itself, quite as though it were answerable only to itself. But it cannot be allowed to be answerable only to itself. It must be made to answer to the community which pays it, and which it is legally sworn to protect, and if American Negroes are not a part of the American community, then all of the American professions are a fraud” (4).

This brings us to the final reason, which is that we have been working from foundations of a discipline that has segregated and isolated Black knowledge. For example, our field’s most vaunted scholar of American democracy, Robert Dahl, theorized civic life through a case study in New Haven during a period of mass racial upheaval across northern U.S. cities (5). Yet, Dahl’s account portrayed a democracy that subjugated Black citizens did not live and had never taken part in. Political science scholars have typically examined democratic deficits as a question of who is represented and how; they tend to focus on exclusion from political participation or social citizenship, or hindrances on the ability of citizens to have equal influence (6).

Scholarly treatises flowed from Dahl’s conceptions but stood uneasily alongside a chorus of Black intellectuals, folk leaders, and activists that contested the clean distinction between democracy and authoritarian rule. Instead of describing pluralism, polyarchy, and liberalism, they called attention to undemocratic legacies, visible and unapologetically practiced on their streets.

That mainstream approaches have hardened into deep scholarly grooves has had consequences. Today, students learn about authoritarianism abroad. We are taught American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is singular for its old constitution, institutional arrangements such as federalism, lack of feudalism, and weaker welfare state, not because we have a racial authoritarianism distinct from any other nation in the western world. When we do recognize authoritarian governance in the United States, it is a past relic, confined to the post-emancipation U.S. South where Black disenfranchisement, one-party rule, and explicit political violence reigned but was eventually overcome. And when scholars present evidence of democratic backsliding in contemporary U.S. politics, they ignore the expansion of racial repression, focusing instead on polarization, distrust in institutions, and extreme income inequality—all of which themselves derive from or are linked to racial authoritarianism.

Promising Frameworks

How can scholars study authoritarian modes of governance within democratic states? What can attending to racial authoritarianism teach us about the nature and evolution of U.S. democracy? Fortunately, there are promising theories on which we can build. A few scholars have pointed to the possibility that authoritarian practices co-exist within formally democratic states and institutions. King and Smith have argued that U.S. democracy was formed through the contestation of liberal egalitarian ideologies and illiberal, ascriptive hierarchy (7). Miller describes “racialized state failure” in which U.S. federalism and racism interact to create conditions comparable with those of failed states (such as extreme levels of homicide, state violence, and imprisonment) (8). Hanchard reminds us that the most celebrated democracies, back to ancient Athens, had the longest histories of racial slavery, subjugation, imperialism, police terror, and highly unequal labor regimes (9). He argues against typical stances in our field that tend to ignore the coexistence of democracy and ethnoracial hierarchy and that the former’s institutional development was shaped by the latter: “The seemingly straightforward genealogy that reduces democracy to its formal and performative elements ignores how coercion, empire, and forced labor have been deeply intertwined in democratic experiments in the Greek city-states and in contemporary societies” [(10), p. 68].

The literature on the relatively recent democratization of the United States also offers an opening. Scholars of U.S. and comparative political development have long understood one-party rule in the South before the Second Reconstruction (1945–1968) as authoritarian. Mickey has analyzed these “authoritarian enclaves,” that “created and regulated racially separate—and significantly unfree—civic spheres” [(10), p. 5]. Gibson has described subnational authoritarianism in the United States as compatible with, and enabled by, federal democratic institutions before the Second Reconstruction (11). However, scholars stop shy of theorizing the persistence or reemergence of authoritarian practices after the fall of territorial subnational authoritarianism in the 1960s.

Last, we can learn from scholars working outside the United States who have analyzed and provided theories to explain conditions that aid the endurance of coercive institutions in democracies, including the police, who further “stratify citizenship” along the dimensions of race, class, and geography by failing to protect citizens, serving instead the interests of the state and engaging in extralegal force (12). In countries with histories of military rule, norms of police violence endure in the transition to democracy. During dictatorships, even the middle classes are subject to state and police repression, but this falls away under democratic reforms; ironically, the rise of democracy helps concentrate police violence on poor and raced groups. Citizens being “outlaws” in Bolivia—unprotected by police and law but also subject to its capricious regulation—draws parallel to Black communities in the United States experiencing “legal estrangement” (13, 14). How might scholars better connect racial authoritarianism across democracies?

Unlike Latin American cases, where authoritarian practices predated and then survived democratic openings, in the United States, authoritarian policing tended to develop after democratic expansions. State power to surveil and confine citizens increased in response to a wave of democratization in both the First (1863–1877) and Second Reconstruction . On the heels of the abolition of slavery, new forms of repression evolved, including the leasing of Black convict labor; after the voting, civil rights, and fair housing acts of the 1960s, racially targeted policing practices grew on nearly every indicator (1). Scholars should account for whether and why police power and Black mass imprisonment have tended to grow in relation to periods of formal democratization.

Anemic, Distorted, Dire

The United States is now and has historically been characterized by high levels of state control of and violence toward racially subjugated groups alongside formal political freedom. Just as racial slavery defined U.S. democracy historically, racial authoritarianism continues to define the practices of our democracy. In the current political moment, recognition of the fraying of democratic institutions has collided with a movement for Black liberation from police atrocities. Scholars often do the work of making such a connection legible more broadly. But if scholars continue to keep the former separate from the latter by ignoring racial authoritarianism, we will continue to have an anemic and distorted conception of U.S. democracy, with potentially dire consequences for policy. It is perhaps unsurprising that the media has followed suit, presenting racialized policing as distinct from democratic backsliding, linked only by the executive’s rhetoric and actions.

Political scientists prepare and educate the next generation of civic leaders, teachers, policy-makers, pollsters, and change agents; by representing to them democracy in this way, we give them a half-truth, a flawed understanding of U.S. democracy, which may shrink policy agendas and political discourse more broadly. The analysis and description of democratic frameworks—and, for example, backsliding—influences the media and carries weight in policy circles (15). Thus, it is essential that political scientists continue to offer theories for understanding democracy with attention to its actual practice in heavily policed communities, so as not to squander an opportunity to improve it.

Source: Racial authoritarianism in US democracy

China’s Population To Drop By Half, Immigration Helps U.S. Labor Force

Of note:

China’s population is projected to drop by half by 2100, calling into question the country’s future economic growth in the face of a sharp decline in its labor force. In contrast, America’s population and labor force is likely to be sustained if the Trump administration’s policy of reducing U.S. immigration level is reversed.

The population of China is projected to decline from 1.4 billion in 2017 to 732 million by 2100, a drop of 48%, according to a new report published in the medical journal The Lancet and authored by University of Washington School of Medicine Professor Stein Emil Vollset and 23 coauthors. The number of people of working age in China is expected to plummet. The report forecasts a decline of 64% for China’s population aged 20–24 years. That is the prime age for a country’s military, the authors note.

“In raw numbers, China’s labor force has been declining over the last decade, but they have more than made up for numbers with higher levels of education,” said Mark Regets, a labor economist and senior fellow at the National Foundation for American Policy. “They cannot keep doing that as their population falls by half.”

Regets notes that population size is only one source of national power, but it makes a difference whether your population is slowly increasing or is declining. “A falling population has serious implications for the average age in society,” said Regets. “In percentage terms, the size of the labor force will fall even more than the size of the population.”

Much of the Trump administration’s response to China is based not only on the country’s size but concern about the Chinese government’s ability to direct investment through industrial policy. Economists who study China believe such “ability” has harmed the country’s economy.

Economist Nicholas Lardy, the author of The State Strikes Back, writes that a significant factor in China’s economic slowdown “is the slowing pace of economic reform, reflected in the growing role of the state in resource allocation and deteriorating financial performance of state companies.” Lardy notes, “Under the leadership of President Xi, state industrial policy increasingly displaced the market-oriented economic reform program advanced in the Third Plenum document.”

Trump administration efforts at implementing a U.S. industrial policy during the coronavirus pandemic have so far resulted in scandal and questionable use of taxpayer money. White House adviser Peter Navarro, who has been a chief critic of China, has attempted to implement what some would consider a Chinese-style direction of resources during the pandemic.

“On Monday, the administration terminated one contract that Navarro had directly negotiated – for 42,900 Philips ventilators,” according to the Washington Post. “A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said the cancellation was ‘subject to internal HHS investigation and legal review.’ The contract had been criticized by a House oversight subcommittee, which concluded that the government had overpaid for the ventilators by $500 million. The cancellation came after another transaction Navarro championed, a government loan to fund Eastman Kodak’s transformation into a drugmaker, unraveled and became embroiled in a securities investigation. The watchdog panel says it is broadening its inquiry to examine all of Navarro’s deals.”

Like China, America faces its own aging population issues but immigration can address many of them if immigration levels are returned to those in place before Donald Trump took office. The number of legal immigrants will decline by 49% (or 581,845) between FY 2016 and FY 2021 due to Trump administration policies, according to an analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy. “Average annual labor force growth, a key component of the nation’s economic growth, will be approximately 59% lower as a result of the administration’s immigration policies, if the policies continue,” concludes the analysis. “Economic growth is crucial to improving the standard of living, which means lower levels of legal immigration carry significant consequences for Americans.”

Economists Pia Orrenius and Chloe Smith of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found that without immigration, the U.S. economy would struggle to grow: “The economy expands with growth in the labor force and its productivity. Due to the retirement of baby boomers and population aging in general, immigration will play an even larger role in workforce growth going forward than it has in the past. Absent offsetting increases in productivity growth, less immigration will, therefore, translate directly into slower gross domestic product growth.”

The Lancet study, which is based on pre-Trump immigration projections for the United States, estimates the U.S. population will increase slightly from 325 million in 2017 to 336 million in 2100: “In our reference scenario, despite fertility rates lower than the replacement level, immigration sustained the U.S. workforce.”

“[L]liberal immigration policies in the USA have faced a political backlash in recent years, which threatens the country’s potential to sustain population and economic growth,” according to the authors of The Lancet study. “The optimal strategy for economic growth, fiscal stability, and geopolitical security is liberal immigration with effective assimilation into these societies.”

In discussing economic size and global political influence and power, TheLancet authors write, “Nations that sustain their working-age populations over the long-term through migration, such as Canada, Australia, and the USA, would fare well.” Observers cannot miss the irony that the Trump administration’s self-described “nationalist” immigration policy would severely weaken America’s future and the country’s place in the world.

Source: China’s Population To Drop By Half, Immigration Helps U.S. Labor Force

Analysis | U.S. Expats Can’t Renounce Their Citizenship Fast Enough

The most in-depth article and analysis of the data regarding Americans renouncing their citizenship:

The swearing in of new citizens often makes news in the U.S., especially if it happens in unusual circumstances such as one party’s national convention. Much less reported are the many citizenship renunciations by Americans, and the travails leading up to these life decisions. Almost all those giving up their U.S. nationality are expats. And for each renouncer going through the ordeal, there are countless others thinking about it. Why?

One recent press release in particular has caused quite a stir. It suggested that, after “a steep decline” in recent years, renunciations in the first half of this year soared to 5,816, more than twice as many as gave up their passport in all of 2019. The implication, as reported breathlessly in the American media, was that expats, already fed up with President Donald Trump, finally despaired over his mishandling of Covid-19 and quit. Other factors were cited as merely secondary.

But these renunciation numbers are notoriously flawed. They’re based on a list of names of renouncers published every quarter by the Internal Revenue Service — experts call this a form of “doxxing.” That list lags in time and jumbles data. In reality, most embassies and consulates stopped making renunciation appointments this spring, owing to the pandemic. And the dip in prior years, according to experts, was due to backlogs and underreporting.

By the best estimates (see chart), renunciations have been rising since 2010, when the Obama administration passed the notorious Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), inflicting misery on U.S. expats everywhere. In 2014, the government raised the renunciation fee from $450 to $2,350. Undeterred, expats kept at it. The American bureaucracy then indirectly slowed the pace with red tape in the first three Trump years. But we’re back on trend in 2020.

Now, it may be true that most expats aren’t crazy about Trump. Americans abroad tend to be cosmopolitan professionals, often married to foreigners or following international career paths. Watching their home country in their host nation’s news, or talking about it at local dinner parties, has stopped being fun. The images occasionally evoke a banana republic succumbing to pestilence while arming for civil war.

But that’s clearly not the reason why so many expats have been trying to drop their nationality for the past decade. Instead, as I described last year, it’s the nightmare of American tax and financial reporting, in which any accounts or assets deemed in Washington, D.C. to be “foreign” are automatically suspect, requiring extra disclosures that can be ruinous in time, expense and peace of mind.

The U.S. is almost unique in the world in taxing based on citizenship rather than residency. It’s also uniquely parochial in being unable or unwilling to distinguish between, say, a rich American living stateside and stashing money offshore and, for example, a middle-class American married to a German and teaching elementary school in Berlin. The hell starts with that conflation.

Before 2010 America’s citizen-based taxation didn’t necessarily disrupt the lives of expats like this school teacher. That’s because few expats even knew about the horrendously complex reporting rules or bothered with them. But FATCA required them to make new and redundant disclosures or face the prospect of tens of thousands of dollars in fines or even prison. It also required their foreign banks, brokers and insurers to report on them to the IRS, or face draconian sanctions.

Unsurprisingly, many foreign banks and brokers therefore stopped taking “U.S. persons” or green-card holders as customers. So American expats have increasingly been locked out of retail finance in their host countries.

Worse, the European Union then started passing laws with bureaucratically sublime names such as MiFID II and PRIIPs that imposed new rules on everything from mutual funds to life insurance. This scared the U.S. banks and brokers of American expats living in Europe, so they also started kicking out their customers with foreign addresses. Many Americans overseas are financially marooned.

In their desperation, several have been taking their struggle to the courts. Fabien Lehagre, a French citizen who is also an “accidental American” because he was born in California, wants to invoke the EU’s data-privacy laws to have FATCA declared illegal in Europe. A U.S.-British dual citizen calling herself “Jenny” is trying to crowdfund a legal odyssey to do something similar in the U.K. Another challenge is underway in Canada. Occasionally, there are even small victories.

But on the whole, Americans abroad feel ostracized by their own country. Like their fellow citizens back home, they’re caught up in the tribal clash between Republicans and Democrats. But when it comes to acknowledging the hardship of expats, the Democrats have mostly refused to listen. The GOP has since 2016 called for the abolition of FATCA and citizenship-based taxation in its platform. But the few Republicans who’ve tried to effect change have so far failed.

If the estimated 9 million Americans living abroad were recognized as a political geography, they would rank ahead of 40 states by population. Their ill treatment by the U.S. tax and compliance regime would be headline news, and probably solved in a bipartisan tweak of common sense. But they’re not a bloc. Like much about American democracy, this discrimination seems unfair. And yet, these millions of voices must be heard.

‘Racial Inequality May Be As Deadly As COVID-19,’ Analysis Finds

Yet another study, highlighting racial disparities in health:

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, mortality rates and life expectancy are far better for white Americans than they are for Black people during normal, non-pandemic years, according to an analysis published this weekin the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The analysis, which looked at U.S. mortality statistics back to 1900, finds an additional 1 million white Americans would have to die this year in order for their life expectancy to fall to the best-ever levels recorded for Black Americans — back in 2014. That year, the average life expectancy for African Americans was 75.3 years — similar to the average life expectancy for white Americans back in 1989, says study author Elizabeth Wrigley-Field.

“It’s as though Blacks have just missed out on the last three decades of [life expectancy] progress,” says Wrigley-Field, a demographer and infectious disease historian at the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota.

The findings underscore the pandemic scale of the racial inequalities in mortality in the U.S., she says.

“We don’t know what the ultimate scale of COVID-19 deaths is going to be,” Wrigley-Field says. “But what we can say is that white deaths to COVID would have to increase from what they are right now by a factor of [more than] five to make white death rates this year look like the best that Black death rates have ever been.”

She notes that 2014 was also the year when Black Americans had their lowest age-adjusted death rates on record — 1,061 deaths per 100,000. By comparison, for whites, the age-adjusted mortality rate was 899 per 100,000 in 2017 (the last year with available data). To match the lowestmortality rates on record for Black Americans, more than an additional 400,000 white Americans would have to die this year, her analysis found.

Thus far, COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on Black people and other communities of color. Black Americans have experienced the highest death rates from the pandemic — about 88.4 deaths per 100,000, compared to 40.4 per 100,000 for white Americans, according to data compiled by the APM Research Lab.

But there are also longstanding systemic reasons behind these racial health disparities, notes Dr. Utibe Essien, a health equity researcher with the University of Pittsburgh — factors that include Black Americans’ well-documented disparities in access to quality health care.

African Americans have higher rates of underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19. Black people in the U.S. also bear the burden of historic discrimination policies, Essien says, such as redlining policies in housing that limited African Americans’ ability to accumulate wealth through property ownership. And wealth is a significant driver of health, Essien notes.

“I think it’s important to … appreciate that the pandemic didn’t start something new, but that these disparities really, unfortunately, have been seen for decades, if not centuries,” he says.

Indeed, Wrigley-Field says she was inspired to carry out the current analysis after conducting an earlier study on regional mortality rates from infectious disease during the early 20th century. “The thing that we found that stunned us was that white deaths in 1918 during the flu pandemic” — which killed more than a half-million Americans — “were less than what Black deaths had been in every prior year.” A century later, she writes in her paper, “the basic fact endures that Black disadvantage is on the scale of the worst pandemics in modern U.S. history.”

Wrigley-Field says she hopes her analysis will help reframe the discussion in the U.S. about the kinds of policy changes that society can realistically embrace to address health disparities stemming from systemic racism.

“To me, this really changes the question about how we think about, ‘What are we willing to do to stop these deaths?’ ” she says. “Because we know what we’re willing to do to stop deaths from COVID. We’re basically willing to change every aspect of how we live, how we work, how we do our family lives, whether we travel, whether schools are in session. Absolutely everything is on the table. And all of that is controversial, but it’s actually all pretty popular, too. ”

“Meanwhile,” she says, “we have this similar or probably larger scale of deaths happening every year, just to Blacks. But proposals that would try to address that in some way are often very controversial. Most people do not support, for example, reparations. Most people do not support defunding the police, although the opinions about that are changing pretty quickly. … To me, these results, more than anything, just kind of reframe that question about what’s realistic.

“So what are the things that we think are unimaginable that would address racism that we have to similarly say, we have no choice but to do this because the scale of death that’s resulting is unacceptable?”

Source: ‘Racial Inequality May Be As Deadly As COVID-19,’ Analysis Finds

How the U.S. asylum system’s biases affect migrants’ chances

Good data-based analysis, showing how outcomes depend upon nationality, where seekers wait (what part of the country, whether in detention or not), and the judge assigned. Sean Rehaag continues his annual analysis with respect to outcome differences, showing wide variations between IRB Members, some explicable, some not:

For the world’s most vulnerable, protection in the United States has all but disappeared.

Wait times for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border that already seemed indefinite now seem impossible. Families struggle to find food and shelter to outlast a pandemic order with no end date.

Those who cross north are sent back to Mexico in a matter of hours — or even put onto planes back to the countries from which they fled — without any opportunity to explain why they came.

In its response to COVID-19, the Trump administration achieved what it long sought, a shutdown of the U.S. asylum system. And with new regulations introduced this summer, the administration has moved to squeeze out any real chance at refuge in case the pandemic order is lifted.

But even before the current president began his campaign against asylum in the United States, people often struggled to win protection — no matter how strong their cases appeared to be.

In its 40-year history, the system has chronically fallen short of its promise of safety.

The Trump administration has used statistics about grant rates to justify closing off access to asylum, saying that those who lose their cases are illegitimate asylum seekers.

The facts show a different story: Thousands of people turned away based not on the merits of their cases, but on the capriciousness of a system so riven with inequity that many outcomes seem little more than arbitrary.

A San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of 10 years of court outcomes uncovered many symptoms of the system’s biases — shortcomings that date to the system’s creation.

Numerous factors can sway a case’s result, calling into question the administration’s assertion that a denial means an asylum seeker was lying.

Where asylum seekers wait for their day in court can mean the difference between protection and deportation.

That “where” depends on two decisions mostly out of asylum seekers’ control — whether they are held in detention and in which part of the country their hearings are scheduled.

It can ultimately influence several other important factors: their chances of finding legal representation, the judge assigned and what legal precedents the judge must follow.

Outcomes also vary by nationality, discrepancies that cannot be fully explained by the human rights violations that vary from country to country.

Mixed into all of this are the tendencies of each judge. Even among judges at the same court, grant and deportation rates vary widely.

Stories of different outcomes for similar cases, even for family members fleeing the same danger, are common.

Not a simple yes or no

When people ask for protection at the border, they enter a maze of bureaucracy that is the U.S. asylum system.

Herding them along are thousands of federal employees and contractors — asylum officers, detention center guards, deportation officers, immigration judges, court interpreters and government attorneys.

The process is an adversarial one, with a goal of determining whether the person is deportable from the United States, not whether that person merits protection.

U.S. asylum law, based on international agreements, protects people who flee persecution based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a social group such as the LGBTQ community. Persecution must come directly from the government or from someone whom the government cannot or will not control.

In the decade of cases analyzed by the Union-Tribune, immigration judges granted asylum about 19% of the time.

These findings are based on roughly 146,300 immigration court cases with asylum applications filed that reached initial decisions from fiscal 2009 through 2018, excluding some asylum requests that didn’t originate at the border.

But asylum is not always a simple yes or no.

About a quarter of cases were closed without judges making decisions on the merits of the asylum applications. These closures generally meant that asylum seekers were allowed to stay, at least temporarily, in the United States.

Judges ordered deportations in nearly half of the total cases.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency within the Department of Justice responsible for immigration courts, did not respond to a request for comment about the various findings of the Union-Tribune’s investigation.

Where they wait

Asylum seekers often have little control over where their cases end up — and it’s not necessarily tied to where they arrived at the border.

Though the Trump administration drastically changed where asylum seekers wait beginning in 2019, during the decade analyzed by the Union-Tribune the federal government had two main options.

If immigration officials decided to keep asylum seekers in custody, they were sent to detention centers around the country depending on bed space.

If released, they went wherever someone was willing to help them — a cousin in New York, a friend in Colorado, or an unknown sponsor linked to an advocacy group.

Where this fateful combination of circumstances takes an asylum seeker can make a big difference.

Based on the 10 years of case data analyzed by the Union-Tribune, a detained asylum seeker in Texas was 9.3 times more likely to be ordered deported than a non-detained asylum seeker in New York.

Nationwide, asylum seekers who remained in custody were ordered deported at a higher rate — in 74% of cases — compared with 44% for those who were never detained. Those who were initially detained and then released were ordered deported in 37% of cases.

Being detained doesn’t necessarily reflect anything about the legitimacy of an asylum seeker’s case or hint at a criminal past. Rather, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for immigration detention, has longstanding policies to keep many asylum seekers in custody regardless of their circumstances.

In or out of custody, the region where an asylum seeker ends up dictates what legal precedents will be used to decide their cases.

The example most widely cited by attorneys is the debate over the definition of what constitutes a “social group” for asylum purposes. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs Texas, along with Louisiana and Mississippi, has long used a narrow interpretation.

How courts define which categories count as social groups makes a difference for people whose persecution claims are based on their membership in a family, or as part of a broader group such as women fleeing domestic violence in countries that don’t protect them or as young men targeted for gang recruitment, among others.

Records show judges under the 5th Circuit ordered 3 in 4 asylum seekers deported from fiscal 2009 through 2018 — more than any other circuit in the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, judges in the 2nd Circuit, which guides case law in New York, Connecticut and Vermont, ordered fewer than 1 in 3 deported.

Judges in the 9th Circuit, which includes California, ordered just over 2 in 5 asylum seekers deported.

Location also dictates how many immigration attorneys, particularly those willing to work pro bono, are available. It is notoriously difficult for asylum seekers held in rural detention centers to find attorneys.

Asylum seekers who did not have representation were ordered deported in 60% of cases in the Union-Tribune analysis, compared with 42% for those with legal help.

Unlike cases in criminal courts, attorneys are not provided to those who cannot afford them — not even when the asylum seeker is a child.

Where they’re from

Geography plays a role in another way — the Union-Tribune’s analysis revealed disparities in outcomes based on nationality.

Part of that has to do with conditions in the country and whether they create reasons to flee that are clearly defined under asylum law.

But another part may have to do with biases and preconceptions in U.S. culture about that country.

This may help explain why asylum seekers from China are much more successful than those from Somalia.

Out of the 10 nationalities with the most asylum applications filed, those two countries of origin, both with long histories of human rights violations, are near the top of the list for grant rates. China ranks second, and Somalia ranks third.

And yet, the odds of asylum seekers from China being granted asylum were 2.2 times higher than those from Somalia, according to the Union-Tribune analysis.

This disparity might be explained by the outsized focus on China in U.S. media coverage and in federal government. China’s notorious treatment of Uighurs — an ethnic minority — and the country’s violent repression of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are just the latest examples of human rights violations in the public eye.

In contrast, the decades-long rampant human rights abuses in Somalia that have created hundreds of thousands of refugees do not often make front-page headlines.

Add in racism and xenophobia toward people from certain regions of the world, as well as potential anti-Muslim bias, said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law, and the potential for discrepancy grows.

“The relationship between the United States and the country you’re from is a big factor,” said Jeremy Slack, a University of Texas at El Paso professor and author of the book “Deported to Death.” “Chinese people get asylum right now much, much easier than most other countries because we like to poke China as a human rights abuser.”

China’s affiliation with communism is another likely influencer, especially after Congress, in 1996, made it easier for people fleeing the country because of its one-child policy to claim asylum.

These kinds of systemic biases regarding nationality have been in place since the asylum system was created.

In the early days, immigration officials who processed asylum requests relied on U.S. State Department recommendations for each individual case, guidance that was heavily influenced by U.S. foreign policy — in particular, the country’s war on communism.

Under the Reagan administration, Central Americans fleeing powerful communist leaders were granted asylum far more often than those fleeing right-leaning strongman governments because of the United States’ involvement in proxy wars in their countries.

“There was a refusal to recognize that the governments we were supporting were engaging in human rights violations,” said Lucas Guttentag, who teaches immigration law at Stanford University and Yale University.

This meant that Nicaraguan migrants, who were fleeing the left-wing Sandinistas, were granted asylum at a rate of 26%, according to a report published in the book “Threatened Peoples, Threatened Borders: World Migration Policy” in 1995, compared with Salvadorans at 2.6% and Guatemalans at 1.8%, who were fleeing right-wing regimes.

Guttentag was one of the lead attorneys in a lawsuit calling for an end to systemic discrimination based on U.S. foreign policy.

A 1990 settlement in the case allowed Salvadorans and Guatemalans to have their claims reassessed, and Congress made other changes to try to account for the system’s shortcomings.

But as the Union-Tribune’s data analysis suggests, systemic bias based on country of origin has not disappeared.

“It’s cynical to say this, but it needs to be said, which is even though the refugee definition is supposed to be applied in a neutral way, the same way to all nationalities, that has never been the case in the U.S.,” Musalo said.

The difference a judge makes

Even for nationalities with higher grant rates, family members fleeing the same persecution can be split apart by different results.

There are glaring examples among many Chinese families that sought asylum based on the country’s former one-child policy. On multiple occasions, immigration judges granted asylum to the father who was seeking refuge from forced abortions, but not the mother.

“It is difficult to imagine how a rational system of law could tolerate such inconsistent results,” appellate judges in the 2nd Circuit wrote in changing the outcome for a mother in one such case.

The difference for many of these families came down to which judges decided the cases.

The Union-Tribune found large differences in decisions among judges at the same immigration court, even when taking into account that asylum seekers held in detention facilities tend to be ordered deported at higher rates.

Take, for instance, the three judges in San Diego who heard mostly detained cases over the course of the decade analyzed by the Union-Tribune.

Judge Robert McSeveny had the highest deportation rate and ordered about 81% of asylum seekers before him deported. He also had the lowest grant rate at 13%.

Judge Carmene “Zsa Zsa” DePaolo ranked somewhere in the middle, ordering 41% deported. She granted asylum in about 55% of cases.

Judge Anthony Atenaide ordered about 20% deported and granted about 76% asylum.

These gaps between judges — some well over 60 percentage points — exist in courts across the United States.

“There shouldn’t be that much difference,” said Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge. “It’s hard to make sense out of the system because there are so many variables superimposed on each other.”

Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Assn. of Immigration Judges, said that different rates among judges should be expected.

There might be details in cases of two people fleeing the same harm in the same country that lead to different outcomes depending on how good their attorneys are — if they have them — as well as how much the government attorneys push back and what the judges’ own previous courtroom experiences are, she said.

Even in cases where details are exactly the same, Tabaddor said, judges can have different opinions.

“It’s not unusual for people looking at the same set of facts and same set of rules to have differing opinions about how much weight to give evidence and what the conclusion should be. That’s in every court,” Tabaddor said, pointing to differences among U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Judges’ grant rates are also influenced by their work history, according to a study from 2007 titled “Refugee Roulette” by researchers from Temple University and Georgetown University Law Center.

The Union-Tribune analysis corroborated this finding. Judges who previously worked as ICE attorneys — generally arguing in immigration court against asylum seekers and other immigrants requesting to stay in the U.S. — were about 1.4 times more likely to order asylum seekers deported during the decade analyzed.

A little more than half of immigration judges who heard cases analyzed by the Union-Tribune previously worked for ICE.

When they make the career switch, they go from one federal agency to another.

That’s because, like ICE employees, immigration judges work for the executive branch rather than the judicial branch.

The judges’ boss is the attorney general, the nation’s highest-ranking prosecutor in the Department of Justice.

Tabaddor and other leaders of the judges’ union have long argued that immigration courts should be part of the judicial branch instead — a solution that could help reduce the mistrust that many critics have toward the system.

“Why don’t you trust the judge?” Tabaddor said, addressing those critics. “It’s because you know the court is run by a law enforcement agency. You feel like the court is stacked. You feel like there’s something inherently wrong. And on those grounds I say, ‘You’re absolutely right.’”

A family separated

For one asylum seeker from Central Asia, this fateful lottery of circumstances could mean that he is deported while his family stays in the United States.

The Russian-speaking man, Mr. U, declined to fully identify himself, as well as the country that he fled, to protect family members he left behind. But he allowed the Union-Tribune to review his case files.

His experience navigating the system presents a striking example of how an asylum seeker’s physical location can impact other factors in a case — and ultimately the outcome.

Mr. U first entered the asylum system in San Diego.

He was separated from his 13-year-old son, as well as his adult stepson and his stepson’s wife, shortly after the family arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in 2017.

The physical separation meant their immigration court cases were split, as well.

Though their asylum claims were all tied to the stepson’s political activities, their separation would ultimately result in dramatically different asylum outcomes.

Mr. U would spend the remainder of his case locked up at Otay Mesa Detention Center while his son was taken to a facility for unaccompanied migrant children in Chicago.

His adult stepson and the stepson’s wife ended up at a detention facility in Adelanto, a few hours north. Mr. U did not know where they were.

The day before his trial, Mr. U got some of the best news he’d received since his arrival. He finally found a pro bono lawyer willing to take his case.

“I was very happy,” Mr. U told the Union-Tribune through a translator. “I had a new hope to see my son sooner.”

On the day of his trial, he handed the judge a written statement explaining that the attorney, who then worked at Catholic Charities, was unable to be in court that day because another client had a hearing.

The statement added that Mr. U’s adult stepson was also in immigration custody and that their cases were related. Mr. U hoped that his stepson could be a witness in his case.

Mr. U asked to postpone his trial for about a month and a half.

“I do not wish to prolong my case any longer than necessary,” Mr. U said in his statement. “My young child has been taken from me and is in the custody of the government far away. He is alone and without me, and I need to get back to him.”

Immigration Judge Scott Simpson insisted that Mr. U proceed with his trial that day without the attorney and without his stepson as a witness.

“You’ve been detained for over eight months,” Simpson told Mr. U, according to court records. “That’s ample time to find an attorney. So, there’s no good cause to continue any longer.”

On his own, Mr. U, who has a high school education, struggled to explain his story clearly to the judge.

The Russian interpreter also struggled to understand him, frequently interrupting the dialogue between Mr. U and Simpson to get clarifications.

Both Simpson and ICE attorney Guy Grande called out details from his testimony that were slightly different from what a fellow detainee had translated into English for Mr. U’s asylum application.

For instance, Mr. U testified that his wife had loaned money to someone, but his application said, “I lent” the money.

He also testified in court about an incident in which police threatened him that he did not mention in his application. His application did mention other instances of threats.

In the end, Simpson did not find him credible. He ordered Mr. U deported.

Mr. U felt fear flood his body, terrified what might wait for him in his country.

“It was a big shock and a hit for me. I immediately felt bad,” Mr. U said. “My blood pressure spiked, and my heart was hurting because I cannot return home.”

Simpson had the highest deportation rate of judges at Otay Mesa Detention Center, according to the Union-Tribune analysis.

The judge, who previously worked as an ICE attorney, ordered asylum seekers deported in more than 80% of the cases he heard. He granted relief in about 15%.

About a month after Simpson decided Mr. U’s case, the stepson and the stepson’s wife were granted asylum by a different judge. They did not have a lawyer either.

That judge, Ian Simons, had the highest grant rate and one of the lowest deportation rates among judges who heard cases at Adelanto at the time. He granted asylum in more than 30% of cases and ordered asylum seekers deported in over 60%.

Holding out for appeal

Appeals are an increasingly important part of the path toward protection, a reality often reflected in high reversal rates among some judges.

The Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA, part of the same agency in the Department of Justice that employs immigration judges, is the first step in the process.

In the cases analyzed by the Union-Tribune, the BIA told more than 1 in 5 judges nationwide that their decisions were wrong at least 20% of the time.

Judges with fewer than 25 appealed cases were not included in the analysis.

A reversal rate of 20% is a common measure when looking for red flags with judges’ decisions, according to University of San Diego law professor Shaun Martin.

Four judges had reversal rates of 40% or higher.

“A consistently high reversal rate like that would cause you to look very closely to see if the judge was doing something systemically wrong,” Martin said.

Cases appealed beyond the BIA go to the federal circuit courts of appeal, leaving the immigration court system and entering the traditional legal process in the judicial branch. Data analyzed by the Union-Tribune did not include those court decisions.

Attorneys worry that more and more asylum seekers will have to go to the circuit courts to be granted relief. Under Trump, most recent appointees to the BIA are former immigration judges who had some of the highest asylum denial rates in the nation.

Ten members of the current 23-person board are former immigration judges appointed to their positions during the Trump administration.

All but one had deportation rates of more than 70% in at least one of the courts where they heard cases during the decade analyzed by the Union-Tribune. Eight of them had asylum grant rates below 10%, including two judges who didn’t award a single grant of asylum while at a particular court.

The board includes two other Trump appointees who worked in the Office of Immigration Litigation in the Department of Justice, which argues against asylum seekers who have appealed their cases to federal circuit courts, and one Trump appointee who worked for ICE before the administration hired her as an assistant chief immigration judge and ultimately a board member.

Six board members were appointed under the Obama administration, and four were appointed by earlier administrations.

So much is riding on appeals that attorney Dree Collopy, who wrote a 1,680-page legal guide on asylum, encourages lawyers to make sure that the record created in immigration court is incredibly thorough.

“We honestly can’t depend on immigration courts or the Board of Immigration Appeals to give any kind of due process or meaningful review of asylum cases anymore,” Collopy said.

But navigating the appeals process can be daunting and often takes years. Those who are already detained usually stay in custody for the duration. Many give up before they get that far.

Mr. U is better positioned than many.

Because of the outcry over family separation at the border and a class-action lawsuit in San Diego, he was released from detention and reunited with his family in Chicago. And he has a pair of attorneys — Bardis Vakili with the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Luis Gonzalez, the attorney who’d originally agreed to take his case — working on his appeal.

They argued that Simpson denied Mr. U his right to an attorney, as well as his right to present evidence.

The BIA sided with Simpson.

Now Mr. U is waiting to find out if the 9th Circuit will change the outcome in his case.

He’s not allowed to work while he waits, so he has to depend on his stepson, who already has a green card.

He hopes to learn English and one day find a profession that will allow him to be useful to the country he wants to call home.

And he worries about the family members left behind.

Dwindling odds

Though asylum has become an increasingly polarized topic, building enough political will to make the system more equitable has historically been difficult.

“Asylum was always a political football,” said Ruth Wasem, who specialized in immigration policy at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service before becoming a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

The asylum system is part of a worldwide effort that grew out of failures to protect Jewish migrants during the Holocaust. It took the United States decades to fully codify its commitment to help victims of future atrocities.

Larry Gollub, a retired asylum officer, said that low grant rates are not proof that asylum seekers are filing frivolous or fraudulent claims.

“It’s just proof that they can’t meet the high standard for asylum,” Gollub said.

And they are struggling with the obstacles built into the system that make it less likely for them to win.


Immigration court records are collected, tracked and released monthly by the Executive Office for Immigration Review within the Department of Justice. The San Diego Union-Tribune used the June 2019 release in its analysis.

Since case information is entered manually, various columns throughout the more than 50 million rows of data in the various tables contained slight inconsistencies, and the Union-Tribune cleaned these entries when necessary.

The analysis includes any cases with asylum applications that were completed from fiscal 2009 through fiscal 2018. Cases flagged as legal permanent residents, rider cases, cases originating with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and cases that did not include either a charge of being present without admission or arriving without a valid entry document were excluded from the analysis. Cases with incomplete information on these distinctions remained in the analysis.

Judges who heard less than 50 cases in a particular location and nationalities with less than 100 cases during the 10-year period were excluded to prevent skewed results.

Judge work histories were gathered by the Union-Tribune based on summaries released by EOIR when the judge was hired. When necessary, histories were confirmed or clarified using news clippings, court records, law firm biographies, law school newsletters, and in some cases, contacting individuals directly.

With guidance from statisticians, the Union-Tribune performed various statistical tests, including logistic and multivariate regressions, to determine the significance of findings.

Case data and analyses steps can be found on the Union-Tribune’s GitHub page.

With few exceptions, most of the changes to the system since it was created have made the process more difficult for asylum seekers, particularly for those who come to the border.

Among recent changes is the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, which forces many asylum seekers to wait for their cases across the border.

Most recently, the administration published new rules that would narrow longstanding definitions in parts of asylum law and fundamentally shrink what options asylum seekers have if they manage to get their cases into immigration court. A second set of proposed rules would allow the government to bar people from asylum because of the pandemic.

The changes would further erode access to a system that is meant to function as part of an international screening process, one that determines which migrants should be recognized as refugees.

“I see our current moment as one of real crisis,” said Denise Gilman, co-director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. “Even as limited and paltry as the system was, we’re experiencing a moment of doubt as to whether it will even exist in any meaningful way.”

The Trump administration has argued that because the majority do not win their cases, many people applying for asylum do not have valid reasons to ask for help. Recent outcomes appear even lower than in previous years, partly because the administration changed the way outcome statistics are calculated in official reports.

Source: How the U.S. asylum system’s biases affect migrants’ chances