Trump’s revenge on California: The Census – POLITICO

The US Census and the fear regarding the possible  impact of the addition of a citizenship question on California and other states:

Fear is rising among Democrats over the prospect that President Donald Trump’s hard line on immigration might ultimately cost California a seat in Congress during the upcoming round of reapportionment.

Top Democrats here are increasingly worried the administration’s restrictive policies — and the potential inclusion of a question about citizenship on the next U.S. census — could scare whole swaths of California’s large immigrant population away from participating in the decennial count, resulting in an undercount that could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade and, perhaps, the loss of one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The fears are well-founded: According to the population formula used by Congress to distribute House seats every 10 years, California is currently on the bubble in 2020, on the verge of losing a seat for the first time in its history.

California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, on Wednesday proposed spending more than $40 million on the state’s own census-related outreach efforts to avoid that fate.

“There’s a lot of fear” about the census count, said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., the voter data firm used by both Republicans and Democrats in California. “The state is starting to get together resources, because it does have an actual direct impact … on state revenues if we have a severe undercount.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told POLITICO the Trump administration’s management of the census could have “devastating effects” on his state.

“The citizenship question is just the latest red flag — maybe one of the biggest — but just the latest red flag,” Padilla said.

Angst about the 2020 census took hold nationally long before the Justice Department urged the U.S. Census Bureau last month to ask people about their citizenship, a request first reported by ProPublica. The bureau has been hampered by management questions and funding shortages that voting-rights advocates fear could hinder efforts to reach immigrants and other hard-to-count groups.

Those populations are especially prevalent in California. And even before Trump’s latest broadside at immigrant communities — asking why the United States should admit people from “shithole countries” — Democrats and voting-rights advocates warned that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration could chill participation.

“It’s already a toxic environment coming forward from D.C.,” said Daniel Zingale, of the nonpartisan advocacy group The California Endowment. “When you add up all of these things — the abandonment of competent leadership, the proposed citizenship question, the hostile environment toward a state like ours and our diverse population, it is perceived here as a less than act of good faith coming from Washington, D.C.”

Zingale added, “I think Californians have never felt less represented in the national capital than we’re feeling right now.”

According to a study last month by Virginia-based Election Data Services, California could come “very close” to losing a congressional seat following the 2020 census regardless of immigrant participation in the count, a result of the state’s flattening population growth.

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas could all gain seats, according to the study, while eight or nine states, including New York, Illinois and West Virginia, could each lose one.

Yet uncertainty about demographic changes and the Trump administration’s handling of the census continues to cloud those projections. Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, cautioned in a prepared statement that “the change in administration and the lack of a Census Director could have a profound impact on how well the 2020 Census is conducted, and therefore the counts that are available for apportionment.”

The prospect of losing a congressional seat is a familiar predicament in Rust Belt states. But it’s unheard of in California, which has added 42 House seats since 1920 due to nearly nonstop population growth. In such a solidly blue state, the loss of a seat would have a disproportionate impact on the Democratic Party.

“If millions of non-citizens refuse to participate in the US Census, the Democrats will take [a] massive political beating,” Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide, wrote in the Fox & Hounds political blog last week. “That’s because electoral districts must be drawn based on population. The non-citizen population resides in heavily Democratic areas; if they are not counted, those areas will not have sufficient population to support Democratic congressional and legislative districts, especially in the big cities.”

Garry South, a longtime Democratic strategist, accused the White House of “trying to turn [the census] into essentially a gerrymandering process.”

The Trump administration has not yet moved to add a citizenship question to the census. And many Republicans, who have long called for its inclusion, downplayed concerns about a significant undercount in California or any other state.

Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and member of the Republican National Committee, said that “by the time we have to get closer to actually performing [the census] … this is the type of thing where there’s a legion of bureaucrats who are tasked with doing this” and “it gets done somehow.”

In a state where Democrats control every statewide office and overwhelming majorities in the Legislature, Dhillon said Democrats can only blame themselves if California loses a House seat. More people would come to California or stay here, she said, if taxes and other regulatory burdens were not so high.

Taking aim at one liberal firebrand, Dhillon said, “My only request is if we end up losing a seat, if it could be taken from Maxine Waters’ congressional district.”

The results of the 2020 census on California’s congressional representation (which could also mean the loss of a vote in the Electoral College) will not be felt until after the next presidential election — an eternity in politics. But California politicians are acutely aware of the significance of the count, having been stung by the census before.

Following the 1990 census, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that a higher undercount in California than in other states — with difficulty counting non-white people, young people and renters, among others — “likely cost California one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and at least $2 billion in federal funds during the 1990s.”

Ten years later, the state undertook a more aggressive outreach effort of its own. In an effort similar to what California Democrats are contemplating today, the state employed local organizations to promote the census in their communities and financed a multilingual, multimedia advertising campaign.



Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

This is a good long article outlining the efforts made to increase citizenship take-up of low-income immigrants in New York (the US Citizenship and Immigration Service also has a fee waiver program, Canada does not despite high fees CAD 630 for adults):

Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is an emotional moment for many immigrants, and for good reason: it is the culmination of an often arduous process and many years of striving. Citizenship also opens a new chapter marked by possibility, from better job prospects to full participation in civic life.

Yet for many immigrants who aspire to become U.S. citizens, that moment never arrives. Since the 1970s, naturalization rates in the United States have lagged behind those of other major host countries. It’s a striking disparity given that the vast majority of immigrants in the United States express interest in . And since gaining citizenship often boosts immigrants’ social mobility and integration, the fact that so many are left behind points to a troubling loss of solidarity for their host communities.

What holds them back? Why are some immigrants more likely than others to complete the naturalization process?

New research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, in collaboration with researchers at George Mason University and the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, provides the first concrete evidence of a major barrier to citizenship for low-income immigrants. The findings help explain why citizenship-promotion efforts face significant challenges, and they provide a blueprint for solutions to ensure that all immigrants have equal access to citizenship and its benefits.

A Life-Changing Program

In seeking to understand disparities in naturalization patterns, previous studies have focused on the immigrants themselves—individual characteristics like language skills, resources, or country of origin. Here, the researchers considered an external factor out of immigrants’ control: the high costs of the citizenship application process.

For many low-income immigrants, the price tag is daunting: $725 just to file the application, plus hundreds or even thousands more if you need English classes or consultations with immigration lawyers. Charitable organizations have stepped up to provide free language training, legal advice, and help navigating the paperwork. But the application fee has only become more burdensome, rising by 800 percent in real terms since 1985, when it was $35 (or $80.25 in today’s dollars). The federal government offers a fee waiver for the poorest immigrants—those with incomes below 150% of the poverty line—but for many others who aren’t destitute but struggle to make ends meet, that fee alone can put citizenship out of reach.

To address this potentially pivotal financial obstacle, IPL teamed up with the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) and two funders dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers, Robin Hood, and New York Community Trust. Together they developed an innovative, public-private program called NaturalizeNY, which offers low-income immigrants an opportunity to win a voucher covering the naturalization application fee.

Veyom Bahl, a managing director at Robin Hood, said, “Robin Hood is proud to partner with the world-class researchers at the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab. Like us, they are committed to helping families build a strong footing for a new life in the United States. This research will help foundations, community-based organizations, and policymakers alike re-think how we invest in our communities for maximum impact.”

NaturalizeNY also connects registrants with application assistance from ONA’s network of nonprofit service providers. New York’s leading immigrant service organizations, including CUNY Citizenship Now!, Hispanic Federation, and Catholic Charities, were also integral in promoting and implementing the program.

“This was a truly first-of-a-kind program, where a state agency, philanthropies, academics, and nonprofits created a way to provide direct financial support to help low-income immigrants apply for citizenship. The Immigration Policy Lab was excited to partner in its design and evaluation so everyone involved could understand its impact on immigrants and the New York community,” said Michael Hotard, an IPL program manager.

New York is home to the nation’s second-largest immigrant population, and its metro area has about 160,000 low-income immigrants eligible for citizenship. With a registration website in seven languages, NaturalizeNY focused on relatively poor New Yorkers who, by virtue of income or lack of eligibility for government benefits like food stamps or cash assistance, did not qualify for the existing federal fee waiver program.

NaturalizeNY used a lottery to award the 336 available vouchers, leaving 527 registrants without one. By following the two groups to see how many completed the citizenship application, researchers could measure the power of financial assistance, and in turn determine how much the costs may discourage others from naturalizing.

The results were unequivocal: the vouchers roughly doubled the application rate, from 37 percent among those without a voucher to 78 percent among recipients. The vouchers proved particularly effective for those who registered in Spanish; their application rate rose by 51 percent compared to a 36 percent rise among English speakers.

“Because NaturalizeNY uses a lottery system to equitably distribute vouchers to eligible registrants, for the first time we have clear causal evidence as to the effect of application fee vouchers on citizenship decisions. The magnitude of the effect suggests that it’s a critical lever to improve low-income immigrants’ access to citizenship”, said Jens Hainmueller, a professor of political science at Stanford and IPL co-director.

The Deeper Challenges of Poverty

For the poorest immigrants, however, even eliminating the application cost isn’t necessarily enough to pave the way toward citizenship. They may not know that they’re eligible for a fee waiver, or they may find the process too difficult if they’re working several jobs, caring for children or elderly relatives, or unable to get assistance with the application.

Do these kinds of disadvantages keep these immigrants from becoming citizens? To find out, researchers identified 1,760 immigrants who registered for NaturalizeNY but weren’t entered into the lottery because they likely qualified for the federal fee waiver. While the voucher group’s average annual household income was $19,000 per person, this group’s average was just $7,500. Everyone in this group received a message during registration informing them that, based on their responses, they likely could apply for citizenship without cost and that assistance was available. 1,124 then received various “nudges” encouraging them to apply and to visit a local service provider for help navigating the process.

These nudges mimicked the real-world interventions many groups rely on to reach immigrants in need: emails, phone calls, text messages, an official letter by regular mail, and a $10 MetroCard intended to allay the cost of commuting to a service provider. Yet none of these encouragements made a significant difference in application rates beyond the 44 percent for those who received no additional encouragements.

In follow-up surveys, many participants said they had been too busy to apply. But when researchers returned to the data, they found that busyness couldn’t be the whole answer: the nudges were just as ineffective for single people as for members of large households, and for those of working age and retirement age.

“That so many ended up not applying indicates that challenges to naturalization run deeper than financial constraints,” said Duncan Lawrence, IPL executive director. “It’s clear that we have more to learn about what sorts of cost-effective nudges may or may not work. Raising awareness of the fee waiver itself may be an important piece of the puzzle, and we are actively working to understand how learning about the fee waiver affects application rates.”

Citizenship and Social Mobility

For policymakers looking to address social inequality and give low-income immigrants a potential pathway to the middle class, the voucher results speak volumes. The current naturalization system imposes prohibitive costs on exactly those immigrants who might stand to benefit the most from the opportunities citizenship brings.

NaturalizeNY could inspire other cities and states to create similar public-private partnerships. ONA director Laura Gonzalez-Murphy emphasized the project’s actionable insights, saying, “The New York State Office for New Americans Opportunity Centers are leaders on the ground, establishing strong relationships and trust with immigrants and refugees from across the world. We are always eager to eliminate barriers for these individuals and help them on their path to citizenship. Thanks to our partners, including Stanford, George Mason, and SUNY Albany, we now have a unique project to paint a real picture of the current immigration system and see where opportunities for positive change may arise.”

At the federal level, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently lowered the fee for applicants between 150 and 200 percent of the poverty level. As this research illustrates, however, the financial barrier remains decisive for low-income immigrants above that range. Expanding this tiered system, with wealthier applicants paying more, would allow USCIS to cover its administrative costs while keeping citizenship affordable for all.

These are relatively simple projects to fund and administer, and they have a potentially big long-term payoff: if becoming an American citizen makes immigrants more likely to pursue higher education, start a business, or enter a profession, then boosting naturalization rates would make for better integrated, more prosperous communities.

Source: Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

USA: Every immigration proposal in one chart | PBS

Great and helpful chart – click on link to access:

via Every immigration proposal in one chart | PBS NewsHour

USA: Adding Citizenship Question Risks ‘Bad Count’ For 2020 Census, Experts Warn

The best analysis and description I have seen regarding the concerns (non-issue in Canadian Census):

Many census experts say adding a citizenship question could throw a wrench into an already-complicated project.

“It certainly raises the level of risk of getting a bad count or a count that doesn’t that fairly represent everyone,” says John Thompson, a former Census Bureau director who left the agency last year.

Asking about citizenship is not new to the census. Census takers first asked about it in 1820 to tally up the number of “foreigners not naturalized.” While the topic has been included in questionnaires for smaller Census Bureau surveys, the last time all U.S. households were asked about it was in 1950, when the questionnaire included “If foreign born, is the person naturalized?

Over the years, Republican lawmakers in Congress have introduced proposals calling for citizenship questions to reappear on census questionnaires, including former Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Some experts fear, however, that reintroducing a citizenship question to all census participants in 2020 could discourage people from participating at a time of growing distrust in sharing personal information with the government.

In a recent memo written by Census Bureau staffers, researchers said that survey takers conducting field tests last year noticed a “new phenomenon” of increased fear among immigrant participants, many of whom referenced concerns about the “Muslim ban” and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Respondents reported being told by community leaders not to open the door without a warrant signed by a judge,” the researchers wrote in the memo, adding that they saw “respondents falsifying names, dates of birth, and other information on household rosters.”

A ‘chilling effect’?

Democratic lawmakers say they’re worried that a citizenship question would dampen census participation among not only non-citizen immigrants but also U.S. citizens from mixed-status families, who may worry about putting immigrant relatives without legal status at risk if they answer the government’s questions.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, has received a letter from a group of Democratic senators calling the Justice Department’s request “deeply troubling.” The signers include Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and two members of the Senate committee with oversight of the Census Bureau — Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

“This chilling effect could lead to broad inaccuracies across the board, from how congressional districts are drawn to how government funds are distributed,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Commerce Department declined to comment on the letter.

Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any data identifying an individual. But federal agencies and researchers can request census data on specific population groups.

“As we learn more and more about the ability to combine data from diverse sources, assuring protection of identities is known to be a very difficult task,” says Robert Groves, who served as the Census Bureau’s director under President Barack Obama until 2012.

These privacy concerns could raise costs for the Census Bureau, which sends census takers to visit households that do not initially respond to questionnaires. The Government Accountability Office has described this follow-up work the bureau’s “largest and most costly field operation.” For the 2010 census, it cost more than $2 billion in today’s dollars to visit around 50 million addresses, according to a recent GAO report.

A case for better data?

Many civil rights advocates are questioning the Justice Department’s reasoning for requesting a citizenship question.

Since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, the federal government has enforced the law’s Section 2 protections against racial discrimination in voting using estimates of the number of voting-age citizens in the U.S. Those estimates have been based on data from either a small sample group of census participants who completed the so-called “long-form” questionnaire or, as in recent years, from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is sent every year to about one in 38 households.

“As I know from my prior experience as the chief government enforcer of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department has never needed to add this new question to the decennial census to enforce the Voting Rights Act before,” Vanita Gupta, who served in the Justice Department under President Obama and is now the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, writes in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Michael Li, a voting rights attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, adds: “None of the civil rights groups that routinely bring Section 2 claims around the country have been hankering for this change.”

Still, in its letter to the Census Bureau, the Justice Department argues that citizenship data collected through the census, which is conducted with every household in the U.S., would be more comprehensive than the data from the American Community Survey’s smaller sample of participants.

“I think the Justice Department is right in saying that they need accurate small-area statistics for certain voting rights cases, especially on citizenship,” says Thompson, a former Census Bureau director.

But he adds that he finds it “strange” that the Justice Department’s request did not acknowledge the potential risks from adding a citizenship question.

“It could very well introduce a large undercount of the non-citizen population, but I don’t think anyone knows that,” Thompson says. “But if I were making decisions, before I would put it on the census, I would want to know that.”

Asked if there’s any opportunity to know that at this point through research, he replied: “I don’t think so.”

There are more than two years until the next Census Day, which is scheduled for April 1, 2020. But the bureau faces a strict timeline until then to prepare for the count. It must submit all of the 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of March, the same month it is set to collect responses in Rhode Island’s Providence County in the last scheduled field test of how the 2020 census will be conducted.

If the Census Bureau does not include a citizenship question in its upcoming report to Congress, federal law does give Secretary Ross some wiggle room. Before the upcoming headcount begins, he can submit a separate report to add the question if he “finds new circumstances exist which necessitate” the change.

Source: Adding Citizenship Question Risks ‘Bad Count’ For 2020 Census, Experts Warn

Birth tourism brings Russian baby boom to Miami – NBC News

As in the case of similar debates in Canada, the conversation largely occurs based on anecdotal evidence rather than hard data (see my analysis of the push by the Conservative government against birthright citizenship and the relatively small numbers involved What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone).

The estimated annual numbers – 36,000 according to The Center for Immigration Studies which wants stricter limits on immigration – is small compared to the overall number of births of about four million (2015), or about 0.9 percent:

Lured by the charm of little Havana or the glamour of South Beach, some 15 million tourists visit Miami every year.

But for a growing number of Russian women, the draw isn’t sunny beaches or pulsing nightclubs. It’s U.S. citizenship for their newborn children.

In Moscow, it’s a status symbol to have a Miami-born baby, and social media is full of Russian women boasting of their little americantsy.

“It’s really common,” said Ekaterina Kuznetsova, 29. “When I was taking the plane to come here, it was not only me. It was four or five women flying here.”

Ekaterina was one of dozens of Russian birth tourists NBC News spoke to over the past four months about a round-trip journey that costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes them away from home for weeks or months.

Why do they come?

“American passport is a big plus for the baby. Why not?” Olesia Reshetova, 31, told NBC News.

“And the doctors, the level of education,” Kuznetsova added.

The weather doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s a very comfortable place for staying in wintertime,” Oleysa Suhareva said.

It’s not just the Russians who are coming. Chinese moms-to-be have been flocking to Southern California to give birth for years.

What they are doing is completely legal, as long as they don’t lie on any immigration or insurance paperwork. In fact, it’s protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says anyone born on American soil is automatically a citizen.

The child gets a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S. And when they turn 21 they can sponsor their parents’ application for an American green card.

As president, Donald Trump has indicated he is opposed to so-called chain migration, which gives U.S. citizens the right to sponsor relatives, because of recent terror attacks. And as a candidate, he called for an end to birthright citizenship, declaring it in one of his first policy papers the “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.”

“You have to get rid of it,” he said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “They’re having a baby and all of a sudden — nobody knows — the baby is here. You have no choice.”

In a twist, as the Daily Beast first reported, condo buildings that bear the Trump name are the most popular for the out-of-town obstetric patients, although the units are subleased from the individual owners and it’s not clear if building management is aware.

There is no indication that Trump or the Trump Organization is profiting directly from birth tourism; the company and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Roman Bokeria, the state director of the Florida Association of Realtors told NBC News that Trump- branded buildings in the Sunny Isles Beach area north of Miami are particularly popular with the Russian birth tourists and Russian immigrants.

“Sunny Isles beach has a nickname — Little Russia — because people who are moving from Russian-speaking countries to America, they want … a familiar environment.”

“They go across the street, they have Russian market, Russian doctor, Russian lawyer,” he added. “It’s very comfortable for them.”

Reshetova came to Miami to have her first child, hiring an agency to help arrange her trip. The services — which can include finding apartments and doctors and obtaining visas — don’t come cheap. She expects to pay close to $50,000, and some packages run as high as $100,000. Bokeria says some landlords ask for six months rent up front.

One firm, Miami Mama, says it brings about 100 Russian and Russian-speaking clients to the U.S. per year, 30 percent of them repeat clients. The owners are Irina and Konstantin Lubnevskiy, who bought Miami Mama after using the firm to have two American children themselves.

The couple says they counsel clients to be completely transparent with U.S. immigration officials that they’re expecting.

“We tell every client, ‘You have the documents, you have to tell the truth. This is America. They like the truth here,'” Konstantin said.

“I would like the American people to understand they don’t have to worry,” he added. “Those who come here want to become part of the American people.”

But Miami Mami has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement. In June, it was raided by the FBI, and an employee was convicted of making false statements on passport applications. The owners say they knew nothing about it, fired the worker and their business license was renewed.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case, and the FBI said it could not discuss “an active investigation.”

There is no official data on birth tourism in the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants stricter limits on immigration, estimates there are 36,000 babies born in the U.S. to foreign nationals a year, though the numbers could be substantially lower. Florida says births in the state by all foreign nationals who live outside the United States have jumped 200 percent since 2000.

Customs and Border Protection says there are no laws governing whether pregnant foreign nationals can enter the country or give birth here.

“However, if a pregnant woman or anyone else uses fraud or deception to obtain a visa or gain admission to the United States, that would constitute a criminal act,” the agency said.

When federal agents raided California “maternity hotels” catering to Chinese clients in 2015, authorities said in court papers that some of the families falsely claimed they were indigent and got reduced hospital rates.

In Miami, the Jackson Health System said 72 percent of international maternity patients — who represented 8 percent of all patients giving birth last year — pay with insurance or through a pre-arranged package.

via Birth tourism brings Russian baby boom to Miami – NBC News

The Trump administration pushes for a change that could derail the census – The Washington Post

Hard for a Canadian to understand what the fuss is about as citizenship has been a regular question on the Canadian Census for some time (although I do appreciate concerns about it being a last minute addition without testing):

PERHAPS NO institution is more important to the functioning of American democracy than the census, the once-a-decade count of the U.S. population that determines congressional representation — and where billions in federal dollars will be spent. Yet both the GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration have hobbled the 2020 Census effort, which is entering its crucial final stages. Lawmakers have underfunded the Census Bureau, the White House has mismanaged the agency, and now the Justice Department is pushing for a change that could skew the count in Republicans’ favor.

Investigative reporting organization ProPublica disclosed last week that a Justice Department official formally asked the Census Bureau to add a question to the 2020 Census. Adding any question at this stage would be dicey, given that the bureau often runs extensive field tests before fiddling with its forms, ensuring that last-minute changes do not throw off its counting efforts. Worse, the Justice Department requested that the bureau inquire about people’s citizenship status. This threatens to sabotage the 2020 count.

Asking about citizenship status would drive down response rates. Since its inception, the census has not only counted voters; it has taken a precise snapshot of everyone in the country. This helps government agencies to direct scarce dollars, and businesses to guide investment decisions. It is also crucial for doling out congressional representation. As the Supreme Court recently underscored, the Constitution requires that congressional seats be apportioned to states according to their total populations, not only their voting populations. Asking about citizenship status would deter undocumented people — or even legal immigrants who fear how far the Trump administration’s crackdown on foreigners will extend — from returning census forms. Many states — particularly blue states — could end up shortchanged.

The bureau’s charge to count everyone does not change when fewer people fill out their census forms. In that circumstance, the federal government would have to send out census takers to knock on doors and talk to neighbors. Costs would rise substantially, even for a potentially less accurate count. Congress’s shortsighted underfunding of the bureau has, perversely, already resulted in cost overruns, as investments in new techniques and technology were not made. Adding another challenge for the bureau to overcome could require lawmakers to pony up even more last-minute cash to save the count.

The Justice Department argues that it would be helpful in voting-rights cases to have reliable and accurate information on the voting-eligible population that extends far down into states and localities, collected simultaneously with other census statistics. Yet the department has relied on other, separately gathered census information about the voting-eligible population over the past decade. More exact data collected along with the rest of the decennial census would no doubt be helpful to Justice Department lawyers, but that interest is not as substantial as the threat that asking about citizenship status poses to the integrity of the count.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross should refuse to add a citizenship status question to the 2020 Census. If he does not, Congress should reject the change.

via The Trump administration pushes for a change that could derail the census – The Washington Post

As Trump Tightens Legal Immigration, Canada Woos Tech Firms – The New York Times

Another story on the Canadian immigration advantage:

A Flatiron district artificial intelligence start-up was recently looking to expand, adding new engineers who happened to know a niche computer language.

The people it hired hail from Morocco, Belarus, France, Georgia and Canada. But they are not working in New York. They are in Montreal, where immigration policies make it possible to get work permits within two weeks, and the Canadian tech industry is aggressively trying to woo foreign companies.

“It’s becoming less and less sexy to be going to the United States,” said Tim Delisle, 26, a founder of the start-up Datalogue, which uses artificial intelligence to prepare and synthesize data for other businesses. He added that skilled foreign workers crave the greater stability that he said immigrants have in Canada compared with the United States.

While much attention has been paid to President Trump’s policies cracking down on illegal immigration, the administration has also moved to restrict legal immigration, especially in the tech industry, which draws many workers from abroad. In April, Mr. Trump introduced an executive order, Buy American and Hire American, which included requests to reform a visa program known as H-1B as a way to benefit American workers.

The program awards 85,000 temporary visas annually to highly skilled foreign workers in what are deemed “specialty” occupations through a lottery. Between application and legal fees, the process of applying for one H-1B visa can cost a company up to $6,000, lawyers say, and can take months; it is also as uncertain as roulette, with hundreds of thousands of applicants for the spots.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security published a set of proposed rule changes that would make the visas even harder to qualify for, to ensure that only “the best and brightest” foreign workers were selected. It also hoped to eliminate a work permit for spouses of some of these visa holders.

In contrast, Canada’s immigration agency in June started the Global Skills Strategy for high-skilled workers from abroad to get a work permit in two weeks.

“That is, excuse my English, goddamn fast,” said Hubert Bolduc, the chief executive of Montreal International, a public-private partnership that recruits foreign companies to move to Canada and offers support once they arrive in Montreal. “We’ve been loving government on this because we know it’s a talent game.”

In 2017, the organization conducted eight international recruiting missions, in London, Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its directors have made several informal visits to New York, where it came this month to woo a video game company.

With the Trump administration’s immigration policies, “We’re almost saying, ‘Don’t come,’” said Sunil Hirani, the co-founder of trueEx, an electronic global interest rates exchange, also in the Flatiron neighborhood. He came to New York as a child 40 years ago from India. “How can you have a ‘Come to New York City’ program if the people of New York City are going to get kicked out? How do you sell that?”

Last year, trueEx’s chief executive and president, Karen O’Connor, was looking at options to expand the company’s computer engineer group. A consortium related to Montreal International invited her to Canada for a visit that made her feel like a foreign dignitary, she said. There was the elegant lunch, the precisely coordinated meetings with potential business partners and a visit to the Montreal Stock Exchange.

Ms. O’Connor said the 50-person company could save more than $1 million in wages if it hired engineers based in Montreal. In part, that was because the cost of living was far less compared with New York and because the company could qualify for certain tax benefits.

But after Mr. Trump was elected, trueEx hesitated, to gauge the climate; now, it is again considering expanding north of the border in 2018, Ms. O’Connor said, in part because it got a spot site visit from the Department of Homeland Security this summer to verify employment records for its H-1B visa holders. They were in order, but the company’s executives found the process nerve-racking.


Datalogue’s founders, Tim Delisle, left, and Bryan Russett, in their Montreal office. “It’s becoming less and less sexy to be going to the United States,” Mr. Delisle said. CreditRenaud Philippe for The New York Times

“My advice to other companies would be: Hold on for dear life, but explore other options,” Mr. Hirani said.

But John Miano, a lawyer who represents American workers who say that they have lost jobs unfairly to low-skilled H-1B visa holders, thought it was “posturing” for companies to say they are moving north of the border to find the best talent. “The problem is, you got to go to Canada,” Mr. Miano said. “The reality is, the place to do business is still the United States.”

Datalogue’s expansion to Montreal, Mr. Delisle’s hometown, evolved swiftly. He and a partner founded Datalogue in 2016 at Cornell Tech in Manhattan and were lucky when a tech mogul, Charles E. Phillips Jr., the chief executive of Infor, gave him two desks on the fifth floor of Infor’s elegantly restored Flatiron headquarters.

By spring 2017, Datalogue had grown to five employees and had raised $1.5 million in seed funding. But to bring in more engineers would have cost thousands of dollars in visa fees, Mr. Delisle said, and even then, the process would not be guaranteed. Canada has a burgeoning artificial intelligence sector, and the company opened its Montreal office in April in the trendy Mile End neighborhood; it raised another $1.5 million in seed funding by November.

Still, Mr. Delisle said that his company has better access to customers in New York, and for that reason he has kept seven employees there for sales and marketing.

While tech is still thriving in New York, where it is the fastest-growing industry in the city, losing offices or whole companies to Canada could be a concern, said Kevin Ryan, an entrepreneur who had founded a half-dozen start-ups. The multiplier effect of the start-up world is a powerful one.

“When someone decides not to come here to join a start-up, and they go to Toronto, some of them may break off and start a new company across the street,” he said. “The wider impact will be felt, literally, for decades.”

Mr. Delisle agreed. “I’m not necessarily scared for New York; there’s phenomenal programs there,” he said. “I am more scared for the broader policies being applied right now.”

According to the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy group, immigration has always been central to the economy of New York. Forty-eight percent of the city’s small-business owners are immigrants, and 45 percent of the work force in the city is foreign-born.

“The No. 1 priority of business today is where they can get the talent they need from the global talent pool,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, the chief executive of the group. “There’s not much a locality can do to incentivize, but we can try to keep the global pipeline open.”

Stimulating the city economy was the impetus for New York City’s Economic Development Corporation to create a program called International Innovators Initiative, or IN2NYC. The idea was to provide H-1B visas that were exempt from the government-imposed cap because entrepreneurs would work in partnership with city universities.

The program was announced in the spring of 2016 and received 144 applications in the first round. The second round, coming on the heels of the Trump administration’s travel ban, attracted half that number. The program received only 41 this fall.

Perhaps even more telling is the small number of foreign entrepreneurs who received visas: six. The IN2NYC program had envisioned at least 25 working at once, but the process, officials say, has been delayed by government challenges to the visas.

One company that was initially rejected has appealed — and set up shop in Canada while it is waiting for a decision.

via As Trump Tightens Legal Immigration, Canada Woos Tech Firms – The New York Times

Haitian asylum seekers are about to test Canada’s refugee system in a big way –

Test for the government in terms of public confidence in the immigration system and the degree to which its outreach and other efforts, particularly in dealing with claims expeditiously, succeed in reducing the flow:

A sixth borough of New York City might just exist; it could be a realm called Limbo. Twenty thousand Haitians live throughout other neighbourhoods but in a state of temporariness, waiting every couple of years to see if the federal government will allow them to renew their temporary protective status—and stay in the United States—for a processing fee of US$495 per person.

In subway stations, a Brooklyn advocate named Herold Dasque distributes flyers asking New Yorkers to lobby government officials to extend the Haitian status America-wide, at least one more time. “You will have 50,000 Haitians who will try to go in hiding,” says Dasque about the consequences of terminating the designation. “They will not go to work, not go to church,” he says. “You don’t go outside.”

Dasque’s campaign didn’t sway the Department of Homeland Security. It announced in late November that it will end the temporary protective status for Haiti, though it will delay deportations until July 2019.

Since the U.S. first warned in May 2017 that it might end the protected status, thousands of asylum seekers, many of them Haitian, have headed for Canada. In 2018, even more are expected to follow, adding pressure to an already backlogged refugee processing system.

Canadian members of Parliament have already begun meeting face-to-face with Haitians and officials in New York, as well as in Florida, attempting to end illegal crossings into Canada—17,000 asylum claimants from around the world were intercepted by the RCMP this year.

Among the recipient cities and towns, Montreal converted its Olympic Stadium into an emergency shelter in August, and about two weeks before that the Canadian Forces set up tents in Cornwall, Ont. As Canada attempts to warn asylum seekers against going with the flow, 2018 may be the year Canada flips its metaphorical welcome mat.

“They have to be aware of the robust immigration law we have in Canada,” says MP Emmanuel Dubourg, a Quebecois Liberal who was born in Saint-Marc, Haiti, and moved to Canada at age 14. He recently travelled to New York where he spoke with city hall officials, held meetings at the Canadian consulate and did an interview with Radio Soleil, the local Haitian radio station. “The goal, it’s to inform them, to tell them what the consequences are if they cross the border illegally.” Canada welcomes immigrants, he tells them, but “it’s not a free ticket to cross the border like this.”

“I don’t even think people would go to that meeting,” says Jeffry House, a human rights lawyer in Toronto, about Ottawa’s outreach efforts. “The number of illegal people who would go to a library to hear some MPs talk about why it’s not a good idea to come—it doesn’t strike me as a crowd-pleaser.” In Montreal, Warren Creates, an immigration and refugee lawyer, also says the delegation won’t reverse the trend. “It’s not going to stop it; it’s not going to stem it; it’s not going to mitigate it,” says Creates. “They’re wise, these communities of people who are fearful. They’ve figured out where they need to go. They’ve figured out the path of least resistance.”

While the number of illegal border migrants is still relatively small, Canada’s refugee system is not equipped to process them. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) predicts that if its backlog grows as anticipated, claimants arriving in 2021 could wait 11 years for hearings. Between February and October, 6,304 Haitian refugee claims were referred to the IRB and just 298 cases were concluded.

Creates says most migrants won’t start presenting themselves at ports of entry, aware they’d be turned away at those sites due to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which allows Canada to turn back an asylum seeker coming from the U.S. who fails to make a claim first in that country, but only if he or she arrives at an official port of entry. “What worries me most is that in darkness, and storms and winter months, people ill-equipped and not properly clothed . . . they’re being forced into a procedure that they know will allow them entry into Canada and have this fair chance, but at the same time they’re risking their health and their lives.”

The delegation to New York, Creates says, only embellishes the Liberal image of taking action. Haitians will not agree to present themselves at official border crossings, as they are not travelling for business or pleasure, but rather for a home more certain than Limbo.

via Haitian asylum seekers are about to test Canada’s refugee system in a big way –

The White House Is Seeking a Major Shift of Opinion on Immigration

Moving towards the Canadian and Australian models given priority to the economic class with, of course, falsehoods regarding the percentage of immigrants in jailed (less than non-immigrants) and exaggerations regarding links to terror:

The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation’s largely family-based immigration system ahead of an all-out push next year to move toward a more merit-based structure.

The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State-inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. It is assembling data to bolster the argument that the current legal immigration system is not only ill-conceived, but dangerous and damaging to U.S. workers.

“We believe that data drives policy, and this data will help drive votes for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.

White House officials outlined their strategy this week exclusively to The Associated Press, and said the data demonstrates that changes are needed immediately. But their effort will play out in a difficult political climate, as even Republicans in Congress are leery of engaging in a major immigration debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media.

The administration was beginning its campaign Thursday with a blog post stressing key numbers: Department of Homeland Security data that shows nearly 9.3 million of the roughly 13 million total immigrants to the U.S. from 2005 to 2016 were following family members already in the United States. And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills.

Other planned releases: a report highlighting the number of immigrants in U.S. jails, assessments of the immigration court backlog and delays in processing asylum cases, and a paper on what the administration says is a nexus between immigration and terrorism.

Critics have questioned the administration’s selective use of sometimes misleading data in the past.

The proposed move away from family-based immigration would represent the most radical change to the U.S. immigration system in 30 years. It would end what critics and the White House refer to as “chain migration,” in which immigrants are allowed to bring a chain of family members to the country, and replace it with a points-based system that favors education and job potential — “merit” measures that have increasingly been embraced by some other countries, including Britain.

Gidley said that for those looking to make the case that the U.S. is ill-served by the current system, “transparency is their best friend.”

“The more people know the real numbers, the more they’ll begin to understand that this is bad for American workers and this is bad for American security. And quite frankly, when these numbers come out in totality, we believe it’s going to be virtually impossible for Congress to ignore,” he said.

The public is sharply divided on the types of changes President Donald Trump is advocating.

A Quinnipiac University poll in August found that 48% of voters opposed a proposal that Trump has backed to cut the number of future legal immigrants in half and give priority to immigrants with job skills rather than those with family ties in this country. 44% of those polled — including 68% of Republicans — supported the idea.

The White House hopes to see Congress begin to take up the issue early in 2018 — though it has yet to begin discussions with congressional leaders over even the broad strokes of a legislative strategy, officials said.

Trump has laid out general principles for what he would like to see in an immigration bill in exchange for giving legal status to more than 700,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. These include the construction of a border wall, tougher enforcement measures and moving to a more merit-based legal immigration system. In September, Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix to allow the young immigrants known as “Dreamers” to stay in the country, creating an early-2018 crisis point he hopes will force Democrats to swallow some of his hardline demands.

Source: The White House Is Seeking a Major Shift of Opinion on Immigration

Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada

Another push factor for asylum seekers:

American authorities say an ongoing operation along their northern border has led them to revoke U.S.-issued travel visas for thousands of people, most of whom were headed to Canada to claim asylum.

Some, according to a U.S. State Department report, are associated with terrorist groups.

The revocations happened as part of what’s called Operation Northern Watch, which focuses on criminal activity such as visa fraud, human smuggling and terrorist threats at the Canada-U.S. border.

Since the operation began in January 2015, authorities have revoked approximately 2,400 visas that were issued from 85 different American diplomatic posts abroad.

“Although some suspects have committed crimes in the United States, the vast majority of the individuals referred through Operation Northern Watch are individuals intending to claim asylum in Canada or have already claimed asylum,” reads the annual report of the State Department’s diplomatic security service (DSS).

“Included in this group were individuals with ties to designated terrorist organizations.”

In an email, a U.S. State Department official told CBC News the DSS is unable to release information about the terrorist groups and any alleged ties people may have had with them.

The DSS also would not specify how many of the revoked visas belonged to people headed to Canada.

“When speaking to law enforcement, some of the identified subjects admitted that they either attempted to claim asylum in Canada or stated that it was their intention to claim asylum in Canada. For others, the diplomatic security service had reason to believe that they planned to claim asylum in Canada,” wrote the official.

The DSS says every prospective traveller to the United States undergoes extensive security screening but that in some cases “derogatory information” surfaces after someone enters the country.

In late October, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC News how Canadian officials had identified trends where documents identified from certain U.S. embassies and consulates are being misused.

“We have asked them to go back upstream and examine the pattern of these travel documents being issued and how come the people to whom they were issued appear to have had no intention of staying in the United States, but were simply using the documents as vehicles to get into the United States and then make a beeline for the Canadian border,” he said at the time.

Undermines narrative

National security expert Christian Leuprecht said Operation Northern Watch demonstrates how the U.S. understands and is acting on loopholes in its travel visa system.

“At the moment, the Americans realize there’s a Canadian dimension to this,” said Leuprecht, who teaches at Queen’s University and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Leuprecht said the annual report also undermines the long-standing narrative that people with ties to terrorist organizations easily enter Canada and head to the United States.

“There’s not really much of a problem in terms of people coming from Canada to the U.S., certainly not since 9/11, because of all the measures we’ve put in place. But we continue to have a challenge with people who are inadmissible and who have ties to illegal organizations, who find their way to the United States and then make their way to Canada,” he explained.

Karine Côté-Boucher, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal criminology school, cautions that terrorist ties aren’t always as scary as they sound.

“What are those ties? To know someone or [be] related to [someone], is sometimes enough to put you on a terrorist watch list. We have kids in Canada who are on no-fly lists right now,” she said.

Côté-Boucher added that just because someone used criminal means to enter Canada, does not mean they intend to do harm.

“Do they have criminal intent? That’s different, right? That’s a different question. There’s nothing in there that suggests to me that people have criminal intent in Canada,” she explained.

Travel visa harmonization

But Leuprecht believes, given the ongoing pattern of human migration, that it’s time for North American leaders to take a co-ordinated approach to travel visas to prevent people from abusing the travel visa system.

After all, he said, Canada and the U.S. already share data on land, sea and air ports of entry.

“We probably need to start sharing data on people who request visas into North America, show that we can jointly assess whether the claims that people are making and the intelligence people are providing are effective, because we can see that people are trying to exploit the travel regime,” he said.

For her part though, Côté-Boucher said she can’t see a good reason to give up sovereignty over who gets to come to Canada. She explained how she feels Canada’s tight border control mechanisms are partly responsible for the rise in irregular border crossings by migrants who are looking for a safe place to live.

“We have introduced so many border control mechanisms in North America right now that we have forced people to go through human smuggling networks, to go through visa fraud,” said Côté-Boucher.

As for Operation Northern Watch, the DSS initiative has already expanded beyond its offices in New York State to Minnesota and Detroit as well as its regional security offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, where it works with Canadian authorities.

No one from the Canadian departments of Public Safety or Immigration responded to requests for more information about the operation.

via Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada – Politics – CBC News