Misery loves company

As you probably know, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has invited Donald Trump to a meeting today in Mexico City.  It’s hard to fathom Peña Nieto’s motives for this invitation, except maybe to distract attention away from his plagiarism scandal.  The Twitter-verse has been having a field day with the news.  Here are some of my favorites from this morning (I’m sure there will be more):

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S***y ideas flow downhill

Breitbart reports that the idea of a border wall is catching on in Mexico, but not the one Trump is proposing:

“The editorial board of El Mañana, one of the largest newspapers in the border state of Tamaulipas, penned a piece called ‘Yes to the Border Wall … but in Mexico’s South.'”

According to the editorial board, “Mexico’s southeast has two borders; one with Guatemala and one with Belize, that do not provide any benefit, but on the contrary only problems are brought by these crossing points that are being used for the new invasion.”

I recognize that the illegal immigration on Mexico’s southern border brings with it a number of serious problem, but referring to this as “the new invasion” is (1) scare mongering that won’t lead anywhere good and (2) is sadly reminiscent of what we are hearing up north these days.  I guess s*** does flow downhill (or in this case, down south).


Resistance is futile

The most recent issue of the NBER Digest has a non-technical summary of an interesting paper published in 2015.  Here’s the reference and a link to the full text of the piece:

Blau, Francine, “Immigrants and gender roles: assimilation vs. culture,” IZA Journal of Migration 4.1 (2015): 1-21.

Blau investigates the degree of assimilation in the US by focusing on the fertility and labor supply choices of female immigrants who come from countries with high fertility and low participation rates.  She finds that assimilation does happen, albeit relatively slowly.  Here’s a graph showing the rate of assimilation when it comes to female labor supply:


Interestingly, Blau also finds that assimilation rates may increase in the future.  Specifically, “immigrant source countries may become more similar to the United States, thus reducing the effect of source country gender roles on the behavior of first- and second-generation immigrant women. This has already begun to happen with respect to fertility. The fertility of immigrant women relative to natives has been falling rapidly in the most recent immigrant cohorts.”





Pretending to Fix what you don’t want to Fix? The US Immigration System

The Washington Post has one of the most scandalous stories of government inefficiency and ineptitude that I’ve read in a while (and that’s saying something).  Apparently, ten years ago government officials made the wise decision to digitize the immigration system.  The project as supposed to cost a half a billion dollars and take 8 years.  Instead, it is two years overdue and is scheduled to take another 4 years and cost $3.1 billion.  And what do we have to show for all this time and money?  Almost nothing.  Seriously.

The Post reports that of the 95 forms that are supposed to be digitized, the crack technology group on this project has managed to make only one electronic.  One!  That is one expensive form, given that they’ve already spent $1 billion of the $.5 billion in their budget (that is one soft budget constraint!).

And what is this one important document that they’ve digitized?

“The sole form now available for electronic filing is an application for renewing or replacing a lost “green card” — the document given to legal permanent residents.”

And does this system work well for at least this one form?  We want to make sure we get our $1 billion worth.

“Government documents show that scores of immigrants who applied online waited up to a year or never received their new cards, disrupting their plans to work, attend school and travel.”

At first this made me think of the old Soviet joke that “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”  But then I remembered the billion dollars!

I think Adriana Maestas summed up the situation best in one of the best tweets I’ve seen on our immigration system.

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It does make you wonder.

“Finland’s No Good”

It’s funny that we expect refugees to be happy wherever they land in Europe, figuring it has to be better than where they’ve fled.  And while the latter is probably true, the former is not.  Yahoo has a story documenting refugee disenchantment with Finland:

Hundreds of predominantly Iraqi migrants who have travelled through Europe to reach Finland are turning back, saying they don’t want to stay in the sparsely-populated country on Europe’s northern frontier because it’s too cold and boring.  Migrants have in recent weeks been crossing back into Sweden at the Haparanda-Tornio border just an hour’s drive south of the Arctic Circle, and Finnish authorities have seen a rise in the number of cancelled asylum applications.”

“You can tell the world I hate Finland. It’s too cold, there’s no tea, no restaurants, no bars, nobody on the streets, only cars,” 22-year-old Muhammed told AFP. 

Of course some Finns haven’t exactly been very welcoming of the refugees.  For example:

a. “Around 40 demonstrators — including one dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit — threw fireworks at a bus transporting asylum seekers to a new reception centre in the southern city of Lahti.”

b. “A 50-year-old man threw a petrol bomb at an emergency housing facility for asylum seekers.”

c. Quotes like this: “The flow from the border has been out of control. I have been scared and have avoided going shopping in the evenings because we don’t know who these people are,” said one 66 year old pensioner.

I wonder what the Finns who want to keep the paradise that is Finland all to themselves will think when they realize many Iraqi and Syrian refugees cannot wait to leave.  Will they be offended or happy? (or both?)  It sounds like a situation that will sort itself out naturally, although Sweden might not be too happy about it because the refugees are flooding back to that country after the disappointment that was Finland.

Legalize them?

Cool study forthcoming in AEJ Applied about how legal immigration status reduced recidivism of foreign prisoners in the EU. Here’s a link to an un-gated version of the paper.

Here’s the abstract:

We exploit exogenous variation in legal status following the Jan- uary 2007 European Union enlargement to estimate its effect on immigrant crime. We difference out unobserved time-varying fac- tors by i) comparing recidivism rates of immigrants from the “new” and “candidate” member countries; and ii) using arrest data on foreign detainees released upon a mass clemency that occurred in Italy in August 2006. The timing of the two events allows us to setup a difference-in-differences strategy. Legal status leads to a 50 percent reduction in recidivism, and explains one-half to two-thirds of the observed differences in crime rates between legal and illegal immigrants.

So the good news is that the identification scheme here is pretty darn good. The bad news is that to achieve this strong identification, the paper ends up studying a fairly small sample of foreign criminals:

We are left with 725 and 1,622 individuals in the treated and control groups, respectively.

Anti-immigration fail

Under this high standard, this upstanding citizen should be deported immediately:


Not sure if Mexico would take him though.  He seems so pleased with himself, totally unaware of the awesome irony of his well-crafted poster.  Trump, I think I found another one of your supporters.

h/t to _youhadonejob, one of my favorite tweeters.

The Constitution-Free Zone of the US


Chris Rickerd, Policy Counsel with the ACLU, recently wrote a depressing but important piece on US immigration policies that included the stark map above.

The Department of Homeland Security constantly refers to its “recent border crossers,” which as Rickert notes, gives the public the idea that DHS is actually apprehending would-be immigrants in the act of trying to cross.  The truth is much murkier.  In the Orwellian world that makes up the DHS, a “border removal” occurs “whenever ICE deports an individual within three years of entry – regardless of whether the initial entry was authorized – or whenever an individual is apprehended by Customs and Border Protection.”

Declaring people border crossers allows the Border Patrol to “bypass deportation hearings before a judge,” which would help to determine whether these people are legally in the US.

And in this Orwellian world, where language becomes meaningless, we should remember that “border” in Border Patrol-speak encompasses any part of the US that is “100 miles from any land or sea border, [which] includes entire states like Florida and Maine as well as almost all of the country’s top metropolitan areas.”

Here’s one of many sad examples of our immigration policies:

“After 8 years living in New Mexico, 16-year-old Sergio was picked up by Border Patrol on his way to harvest lettuce, 70 miles from the border. That morning his widowed mom, Esperanza, sent him out the door with a lunch. The next time she spoke with Sergio, he was more than a thousand miles away in Central Mexico, a country he knows little about. Sergio’s deportation hit his two younger brothers hard, especially six-year-old Israel. When he sees one of Sergio’s belongings around the house, he picks it up and asks Esperanza when she’ll bring Sergio back.”

For more on this, I’d again highly recommend Todd Miller’s Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security.

Gang terror, schools, & the exodus of Central American children

The Global Post has a recent article called “El Salvador gangs kill teachers over as little as a failing grade” that is both heartbreaking and terrifying.  As I’m sure you’ve heard, there has been a flood of children showing up on the US border since October.  Estimates are that “52,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have arrived at the US border…[and that]…about 1 in every 240 Salvadoran children has been detained at the US border.”  While there are a lot of factors involved, it seems that the terror and violence of gangs is at least one of the reasons for the exodus of the children.

The Post reports that in the last few years, “27 Salvadoran teachers have been killed, and thousands extorted, as gangs have gained hold over even remote areas of the country.”

The reason for the violence can be as prosaic as a bad grade.  Here is one chilling example:

Raul Antonio Parada, 54, principal of a grade and middle school in eastern El Salvador, was only two years short of retirement when he was murdered. On the afternoon of May 21, an approaching storm caused him to dismiss his students and teachers early, but he stayed behind in the mostly empty school, organizing papers. Gunmen entered about 5 p.m., found Parada in the director’s office, and shot him 10 times in the head and abdomen. 

Days later, Luis Alonso Sandoval, a 22-year-old member of a local MS-13 cell known as the Sailor Locos, was arrested and charged with aggravated homicide. Oscar Rene Melendez, the lead investigator on the case, said he had two theories about Parada’s murder. “It could have been related to extortion,” he said. Or it had to do with Parade’s high academic standards. “Some students associated with the gangs felt uncomfortable over issues with their grades, with his level of discipline,” Melendez said.

Gangs have infiltrated the school system and it is no longer provides kids a safe place away from the violence:

Gang members in El Salvador recruit even in grade schools, where parents themselves are often involved with gangs, known here as “maras.” Principals are forced to collect money from teachers to pay “la renta,” the cynical term for extortions, and many have found themselves caught between opposing gangs trying to extort the same school.  Zetino said one MS-13 gang member recently offered to provide his school protection from the rival Barrio 18 gang. “It’s a sick joke,” he said. “What security can they offer me? But they are that bold now.”

The children may not meet the official definition of “refugee” but just sending them back to their country seems heartless and cruel.  I’m not sure what the answer is but it’s likely going to take a lot of changes back home to stem this tide.