Saturday, February 13, 2010

Immigration News Roundup - 2/13/2010

1. Deaths on the Frontera Up From Last Year: The Arizona immigrant rights group, Coalición de Derechos Humanos reports that: "The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2009 has reached 61. The data is comprised of medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, and is an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of failed U.S. border and immigration policies. This count includes forty (40) males, four (4) females, and seventeen (17) individuals of unknown gender. Approximately forty-seven (47) of the recovered individuals remain unknown, which is approximately 77% of the total recovered thus far this fiscal year. This number is a dramatic increase from last year, when the total of recovered remains as of January 31, 2009 was forty-five (45). In addition, approximately twenty-three (23)- approximately 38% - of the remains were skeletal; last year, there were 13 skeletal remains (approximately 29%) at the same time last year. The continued increase in the recovery of skeletal remains indicates that more and more individuals are being funneled into more isolated and desolate terrain of the Arizona-Sonora border."

2. Immigration and Wages: The Economic Policy Institute reports that there is broad agreement among economists that immigration has a small but positive impact on the average wages of workers born in the United States: while new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which creates more jobs. However, economists remain divided over the impact of immigration on specific groups of U.S. workers, particularly those with low levels of education. In the new paper Immigration and Wages, Economist Heidi Shierholz finds that recent immigration has boosted relative weekly wages for native-born workers at all levels of education, including those with less than a high-school education.

3.Immigration Reform, the Latino Vote and the 2010 Elections: Any Democrats who believe that Latino voters are on standby for them better think twice. And Republicans who believe that they can afford to alienate a growing voter base should guess again. How Democrats and Republicans handle, or don’t handle, immigration reform matters. Forty competitive races across the country could hinge on Latino voter turnout, as shown in a new report released this week by America's Voice, "The Power of the Latino Vote in America." If immigration reform becomes a broken promise by the Obama administration, Latino voters could sit out of the upcoming midterm elections or vote Republican.

4. Decline in Number of Undocumented Immigrants: A report that America’s undocumented immigrant population declined by almost 1 million in one year is fomenting hot debate about why it is happening, whether the statistics are correct, and how the numbers should affect US immigration reform. The number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States dropped to 10.6 million in 2009 from 11.6 million in 2008, the sharpest decrease in 30 years and a second straight year of decline, according to a Department of Homeland Security report, Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009, released this week. Pro-immigrant groups tend to attribute the decline to the recession and lack of employment opportunities; anti-immigrant groups believe the decrease proves the effectiveness of beefed-up border control and enforcement.

5. New Guest-Worker Rules Seek to Increase Wages: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced new rules on Thursday for the temporary immigrant farm workers program (H-2A visa category), saying they would raise wages and strengthen labor protections for foreign and American workers. Under the new rules, growers will no longer be able to attest that they tried to find American workers to fill jobs given to migrants, but will have to prove they conducted job searches...Labor officials said Thursday that the method of calculating wages for temporary foreign workers introduced by the Bush administration had reduced farm workers’ wages by an average of a dollar an hour in the year they were in effect. The new rules, which take effect on March 15, revert to the prior method for setting wages...The rules restore the role of state workforce agencies in carrying out inspections of farms seeking temporary foreign workers, including mandatory inspection of the housing that employers are required to provide.

One of the highest ranking Hispanics in the labor movement, SEIU Vice-President Eliseo Medina, praised the new ruling: "SEIU applauds Secretary Solis and DOL for acting swiftly to restore fairness and order to our nation's agricultural workforce, who suffered reduced wages and degraded working conditions under changes made during the Bush Administration. As a result of Secretary Solis' leadership, these new rules will help reverse the race to the bottom by employers who game a broken system to profit on the backs of some of our nation's lowest-paid workers." Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers union, also welcomed the ruling: “The United Farm Workers applauds Secretary Solis for restoring protections for imported farm workers that had been in effect since the Reagan administration. This is a great victory for all farm workers.”

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