“While Washington waffles, I’m not waiting”

I never thought I’d be quoting California governor Jerry Brown but in some rare good news for immigration reform, he signed into law sweeping new reforms yesterday.  Here are the major reforms, set to go into force in January 2014:

1. “Immigrants in this country illegally would have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to be eligible for a 48-hour hold and transfer to U.S. immigration authorities for possible deportation.”

2. “Undocumented immigrants can be licensed as lawyers.”

3. “It will be a crime for employers to “induce fear” by threatening to report a person’s immigration status and allow for the suspension or revocation of employers’ business licenses if they retaliate against employees because of citizenship or immigration status.”

4. “There will be a new policy to allow people to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.”

The article goes on to not that while many other states have enacted similar reforms, the impact of California’s actions could be especially dramatic since nearly 20% of illegal immigrants in the US are thought to reside there.

It’s nice for a change to wake up to some good news about government action.

Border Patrol Body Slam

The New York Times has a great video  with the above title.  Apparently a lucha-libre wrestler that goes by the name of Blue Demon Jr. (real name unknown) is “a self-proclaimed defender of Mexican immigrants [who] does battle against wrestlers who portray US border patrol agents.”

The guy is a genius.  Who could be a bigger villain than la migra?


Making immigration reform personal



The NY Times has a good article today called “Immigrants Reach Beyond a Legal Barrier for a Reunion.”  The above photo, taken from the article, is heart wrenching. It shows the reunion of a young woman and her mother at the border in Nogales. The mother was deported 6 years ago and the daughter isn’t allowed to leave the US and legally return. There were three such reunions that day between deported parents and kids left behind in the US.

The children are part of a group called Dreamers, which advocates for immigration reform. As this article explains, they are “commonly referred to as “DREAMers” because they comprise most (though not all) of the individuals who meet the general requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.”

The good thing about sad photos such as this is that it makes immigration reform real and personal to many Americans who might be against reform (or at least are neutral).  The more people recognize that these are real families that are being torn apart by our immigration policies, the more support I think there will be for serious change. Or at least I’m hoping so.

Willingness to work?

One of my favorite writers on migration issues, Michael Clemens, just released a study  called “International Harvest: A Case Study of How Foreign Workers Help American Farms Grow Crops – and the Economy.”  A Washington Post article (“North Carolina needed 6,500 farm workers. Only 7 Americans stuck it out”) does a good job of summarizing it’s main findings, although the entire study is well worth reading.

2 of the most striking findings are that (1) American workers won’t take the type of farm jobs that immigrants often work.  Take this table, for example:



In 2011, the unemployment rate in North Carolina was quite high at 10.51%, which meant that there were more than 489,000 American workers in the state actively looking for a job. Of that group, only 268 were asked to be referred to manual labor jobs with the  North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA).  And of those 268, only 163 showed up for work.  This gets us to striking finding #2.  Of the Americans that did start work, only 7 finished the season.  Here is another excellent figure showing the willingness of native workers versus immigrants to tough it out over the season.


Now, I’m not making fun of the American workers who didn’t last the full season.  I think I’d be more like this guy, who didn’t even make it more than a day (chronicled in the LA Times with the apt title “A day in the strawberry fields seems like forever”).  But then again, I am all in favor of immigration.


A Singaporean strategy for increasing the fertility rate

In my Global Economic Relations course, we are currently discussing the economic benefits of free labor mobility.   One of the students mentioned that a lot of rich countries have low birth rates (often under the replacement level) and used Singapore as an example.

I explained to my students the creative (and often racist) ways in which the Singaporean government has encouraged people to have more babies. As noted in this 2006 article, Prime Minister Lee set up an institution in 1984 called the Social Development Unit (a perfect year to create such  an Orwellian sounding agency), which would find innovative ways to get young people to procreate.  He was worried that the well-educated women (who typically were of Chinese heritage) were not having babies, while the lesser educated women of Malay descent were procreating much more rapidly.

So what did the SDU try?

1. “Increased financial incentives to encourage bigger families, amounting to cash gifts of S$3000 (US$1889) for the first child and savings of up to S$18,000 each for the third and fourth child.”

2. Tax rebates

3. Tax cuts on maids plus more childcare and maternity benefits.

4. “Offer graduate women with three children priority in securing places at the top nursery schools, an advantage in helping children get ahead at school, university and in the workplace.”

5. Set up “love cruises” for singles!

6. “Speed-dating and online dating services, along with an agony aunt called Dr Love.”

Somehow all of those awesome ideas didn’t make Singaporean couples want to procreate.  So now the government has paired up with Mentos (huh?) to urge citizens to do their patriotic duty and make babies on “National Night.”  You truly cannot make this stuff up.

Here is the article on this awesome new campaign, but even better is the video itself.  Check it out in all its glory.  Wow.

I guess just allowing more young people to immigrate there is out of the question?