Immigration policies are often driven by prejudices. In a recent paper, we argue that immigration prejudices in receiving economies tend to be self-fulfilling. In particular, anti-immigrant attitudes sustain restrictive policies that lower the economic benefits of immigration by reducing the quality of the migrant labor force, thus reinforcing initial prejudices. This suggests that immigration reforms in receiving economies, such as the one presently discussed in the U.S., have long term economic implications. We elaborate on this point in three simple steps.
In 2010, I wrote a blog on the situation of the H1-B visas. At that time, the slow recovery of the US economy was affecting the hiring of high-skilled immigrants. Now, that the U.S.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Technology bridges distance and borders. Individuals today can keep in touch with their friends and family in completely new ways — regardless of where they live. We explored these international connections through Facebook and found some trends — some predictable, some wholly unexpected, and some still inexplicable.
Who can explain the strong link between the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest countries in the heart of Africa, and Ecuador? The reason the Central African Republic might be good friends with Kazakhstan is likewise mysterious to us.” READ MORE
Migration flows in both directions between the United States and Mexico have diminished according to recent statistics released by the Mexican and United States governments.
Mexican immigration to the United States began to decline in the mid-2006, and that pattern has continued into 2010. The Pew Hispanic Center analysis of Mexican government data indicates that the number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than one million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010. Rand Corporation also found that the Mexican immigrants returning to Mexico have not increased despite the crisis.
Right after the holiday season Greece announced their controversial plan to build a 12 km long wall to stop the flood of illegal immigrants to the EU. The wall will cover only a fraction of the total length of the border and is aimed to be built in the area that is worst affected by illegal border crossings estimated to amount to 350 people every day, making Greece the leading entry point of illegal immigrants to the EU. As provocative as it may sound, in an economy that is suffering from severe difficulties and rampaging unemployment figures, blocking immigrants from entering is becoming one of the priority political actions to moderate fiscal expenses that is visible to the domestic population. Even though opponents have raised loud objections against the project, according to a recent poll 59 percent of the Greeks approved of the plan. And one has to admit it has an intuitive appeal of simplicity and logic: once you close the drain the flow will stop. Yet, as simple as it may sound, this is not how it works.
The World Bank’s Social Development Department (SDV) and Migration and Remittances Unit hosted a brown bag lunch (BBL) on state fragility, forced displacement, and survival migration on September 21, 2010. Dr. Alexander Betts from the University of Oxford presented a compelling argument on the need for innovative institutional approaches to displacement and forced migration as a development challenge. In today’s world of internal conflicts, state and societal fragility, and climate-related threats to food security, constant movements of people are not only associated with political persecution (“refugees”) or the mere desire to improve livelihoods (“economic migrants”), but also with a concept called “survival migration.” According to Dr Betts, this concept refers to people who are forced to move outside of their countries of origin because of an existential threat to their liberty, security, or livelihood systems. Such people do not fall within the existing conventions and agreements related to displaced people. Case studies conducted in Angola, Botswana, among others, illustrate that these migrants are extremely vulnerable groups and that their human rights are often violated in host countries.
Continuing the conversation on the question, 'Who am I?'.
Raju Jan Singh:
Who am I? Where is home?
I am from everywhere. Part of my family comes from Malawi. My mother is from Belgium, my father from India. I have an aunt in Australia and an uncle in Canada. My wife is French and my kids have probably turned American. I was born in Switzerland and now live in Cameroon. So where is home? With such a mix, I feel nowhere really at home, but at the same time I feel myself at home everywhere.
Knowledge product innovation in ECA: The case of MIRPAL
It is almost eighteen months since World Bank Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region launched a program of knowledge sharing in the post crisis environment for countries heavily dependent on remittances and looking for ways to address the
Due to the global recession, migration to the EU slowed down in 2009, for a net migration of 1,464,059 in 2008 to 857,186 in 2009 (a 40% decline). The reduction in migration flows is due to employment losses in countries of destination (especially Spain, Italy, UK) and to more restrictive immigration policies devised by European countries (e.g. UK points system, Italy prohibition on access to health service for undocumented migrants, Spain’s reduction in the number of positions available for immigrants).
“Name’s John. Hi!” he said.
“Thanks. Glad to meet you. My name is Dilip,” I replied as I put my carry-on bag on the seat and moved aside the pillow and the blanket to make space for myself. After a hectic week at Dakar, I was hoping the seat next to me would be empty. But it wasn’t.
John, my co-traveler, was short, brown, and middle-aged. There was a nondescript baseball hat on his head through which his pony tail hung behind him, long, more pepper than salt. He was wearing brown jeans and blue shirt. He had taken off his shoes and was wearing socks from the travel kit provided by the airline.
“Yes. And from Washington DC, to New Mexico.” He said he lived in the Navajo Nation just south of Colorado.
“Are you returning from the game in South Africa?” I asked.
“Yeah. The first time I saw a soccer game in my life. It was great. I’m a coal miner, in New Mexico. My company sent me to watch the World Cup. We were 150 of us from all over the world. We were there for 5 days.”
I opened the overhead locker to put my bag in before the take-off. “Is that your vuvuzela?” I asked.
“No. Probably belongs to the lady over there.”
“Football, or soccer, is the number one game in the world,” I said.
Immigration reforms are the focus in the UK elections and in the USA Senate elections for this year. Both countries are yet to come to grips with the need to develop consistent policy frameworks in which immigrants can effectively and productively utilize their skills, knowledge, and previous work experience. Both countries are trying to identify measures on how to better deal with undocumented migrants and how to devise laws for low-skilled workers and for high-skilled workers.
In the UK, prime ministerial candidates have proposed the following approaches to undocumented migrants: 1) Gordon Brown’s proposal is to ban unskilled workers from outside Europe and cut the numbers of semi-skilled and skilled workers to enter into UK; 2) David Cameron proposes that “new countries that join the European Union should have transitional controls so not everyone can come at once. Regarding immigration from outside the European Union, there needs to be a cap”; and 3) Nick Clegg puts forward a proposal for "earned citizenship" for those who have lived illegally in Britain for at least 10 years, who speak English, who want to pay taxes and who want to play by the rules. (Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is promoting amnesty for undocumented workers.)
Saudi Arabia was the second largest sender of remittances (after the United States) from 1988 to 2006. In 2007 and 2008, it was displaced by Russia as the second largest sender of remittances (figure 1). Flows from Russia have increased rapidly in recent years, reaching $26.1 billions in 2008. However, this rapid growth was interrupted in 2009, when remittance outflows fell by 29% to $18.6 billions in 2009. We don't have 2009 outflows data for Saudi Arabia yet but based on inflows data from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines, Saudi Arabia's remittances outflows have not fallen much. Saudi Arabia was likely the second largest sender of remittances in 2009.
There are two possible explanations for why remittances from Saudi Arabia have been more stable than those from Russia (see Migration and Development Brief 12 for details). First, oil prices are more closely related to economic activity (thus, better employment prospects for migrants) in Russia than in Saudi Arabia. As major oil-exporters, both countries benefited from the surge in oil prices in the last few years. But only in Russia did remittance outflows move closely with oil prices (figure 2). This was not the case in Saudi Arabia, which has had ambitious development plans for a while and an aggressive counter-cyclical fiscal policy. Second, Russia’s borders with its neighbors are much more porous than those of Saudi Arabia, which enforces immigration quotas strictly. Russia’s porous borders have allowed migrants from neighboring countries to move in an out in response to changes in labor demand.
The slow recovery of the US economy is affecting the hiring of high-skilled immigrants. This lower demand is reflected in fewer applications for H1-B visas. The current annual cap is set at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 for holders of advanced degrees. The present crisis is exhibiting similar characteristics as the 1991 downturn: 1) Lower demand for new foreign high-skilled workers. US firms are not recruiting overseas; and 2) Lower demand for foreign high-skilled graduates of US universities.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) put out a statement on April 08, 2010 that “it has received approximately 13,500 H-1B petitions counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap during the first two weeks of April 2010.” (See USCIS - USCIS Continues to Accept FY 2011 H-1B Petitions). That’s far fewer than the 42,000 requests filed during the same period last year (See post). Unlike in previous years, foreign graduates of US universities are not finding jobs in US. The applications for foreign workers with advanced degrees have only reached 5,800 applications by April 15, 2010.
This is the second year that the annual quota for H1B visas has not been filled during the first week of April. Since the recession worsened in late 2008, the annual quota has remained open longer than in the previous years (see graph below). For the US 2010 fiscal year (the fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30), it took until December 21, 2009 to fill the quota (280 days). In 2009, it closed in one day and in 2008, it closed in two days. Only in 2004, when the quota was reduced from 195,000 to 65,000, there were still visa slots available as of October 1, 2003 (323 days). It seems that for the 2011 fiscal year, the annual quota will remain open longer than last year.
In addition to the temporary protected status and facilitation of remittances - see my earlier post, when government offices and banks resume functioning, Haiti could usefully tap its large diaspora's wealth for the reconstruction of community infrastructure and social projects. This could be done via the issuance of "diaspora bonds". By diaspora bond, I mean not only bonding between the diaspora and the homeland, but more specifically a financial instrument for attracting investment from the diaspora.
In the past diaspora bonds have been used by Israel and India to raise over $35 billion of development financing (see my article with Suhas Ketkar). Several countries - for example, Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka - are considering (or have issued) diaspora bonds recently to bridge financing gaps. Besides patriotism, diaspora members are usually more interested than foreign investors in investing in the home country. Not only Haitians abroad, but also foreign individuals interested in helping Haiti, even charitable institutions, are likely to be interested in these bonds. Offering a reasonable interest rate - a 5% tax-free dollar interest rate, for example - could attract a large number of Haitian investors who are getting close to zero interest rate on their deposits.
If 200,000 Haitians in the US, Canada and France were to invest $1,000 each in diaspora bonds, that would add up to $200 million. If these bonds were opened to friends of Haiti, including private charitable organizations, much larger sums can be raised. If the bond rating were enhanced to investment grade rating via guarantees from the multilateral and bilateral donors, then such bonds would even attract institutional investors.
A laudable measure that will benefit Haitians, more than any other aid and assistance, is the decision by the United States to grant them temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months. This will allow about 200,000 Haitians currently residing in the US without proper documents to live and work here legally, without a fear of deportation. It would also allow them to send money home quickly and efficiently through formal remittance channels.
Haiti receives between $1.5-1.8 billion in remittances each year (some estimates are even larger, over a half of its national income). If the TPS resulted in a 20 percent increase in the average remittance per migrant, we would expect an additional $360 million remittance flows to Haiti in 2010! What is more, if the TPS were to be extended once beyond the currently stipulated 18 months – the extension is almost certain to happen, judging by the history of extensions of the TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan – additional fund flows to Haiti would exceed a billion dollar over three years. That would be a billion dollar of financial help coupled with goodwill and advice, tailored to the needs of the recipient. Financial help in the form of remittances from family members abroad is always the first to arrive in times of distress. Remittances to Haiti this year will surge, as they have done whenever and wherever there has been a crisis or natural disaster (see paper).