Diversity Expansion Underscores New Census Estimates

June 26th, 2017 by Romona Paden

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show all race and ethnic groups grew year-over-year from June 30, 2015, through June 30, 2016. Those categorized in the white demographic increased at the slowest rate while non-white Hispanics, Asians, and people who identify as multiracial grew much more rapidly in comparison.

Census numbers show both the Asian population and people self-identifying as multiracial grew at a rate of 3 percent, now accounting for 21 million and 8.5 million, respectively. The Hispanic population grew by 2 percent to reach 57.5 million while black population growth ticked at 1.2 percent to reach 47 million.

These numbers contrast to white population growth rate of less than one-hundredth of 1 percent, to reach the current 198 million headcount. However, Census projections show whites will continue to comprise the majority of the population through 2040.

Interestingly, reported Pew Research Center numbers say President Trump’s primary support in the 2016 election was strongest among white voters who felt “left behind in an increasingly diverse country,” according to a Yahoo News story. Interestingly, white voter turnout for the election increased while black turnout dropped and the non-white electorate remained flat compared to the 2012 election.

“Any sort of impact on politics may be several decades in the future,” says Pew Hispanic research director Mark Hugo.

In Texas, Hispanic teens are driving a large portion of the state’s growth, according to a Texas Tribune report on Census numbers. More than half of the population growth in Texas since 2010 is the result of a growth of the Hispanic population, which is spread throughout the state. Of the 2.7 million increase in the Texas population since 2010, only around 444,000 are categorized as part of the white demographic while more than three times that number– 1.4 million– were categorized as Hispanic. All but 11 of Texas counties saw Hispanic growth while only a handful of the counties didn’t experience a decline in the white population.

Demographic shifts in the state of Texas, according to The Tribune’s report, means “population growth among Texans of color, particularly Hispanics, sets up the state to face significant political and economic repercussions in the coming years.”

In particular is the state’s next redistricting cycle after the 2020 census. State lawmakers rejigger congressional boundaries and legislative districts based on those numbers.

Additional factors in the growth trajectory include workforce implications as well as public education where bilingual needs continue to grow. Among the issues around education is the educational achievement gap between students of color and white students. Unless the gap is closed, students behind the curve who age into the workforce could hurt the state’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining businesses.

In other areas of the country, California counts both the largest number of white and nonwhite Hispanics in its population– 30 million and 15.3 million, respectively. New Mexico counts the highest percentage of non-white Hispanics in its population– 48.5 percent. In Maine, 97 percent of the population is white.

WH Tech Talk Spawns Immigration Policy Conversations

June 21st, 2017 by Romona Paden

As Silicon Valley WH Tech Talk Spawns Immigration Policy Conversationsexecutives and investors assemble at the White House for discussions around government and technology, industry titans chime in on immigration policy. Representatives from  Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and more than a dozen other companies hope to influence Trump Administration policy to allow more highly-skilled workers to immigrate to the United States.

“Left unaddressed, the issue poses a growing threat to several sectors including tech,” according to economists at The Conference Board, a business membership and research association. The organization calls on leaders for a “course correction” through consideration of an updated “policy blueprint.”

One particular sticking point around immigration emphasized by The Conference Board centers on the low volume of permanent residency status issued to immigrants admitted through employment-based visa programs. Accounting for only 14 percent of those immigrants awarded permanent residency in 2015, the number pales in comparison to the 65 percent of permanent residents in 2015 admitted based on family reunification. The lack of emphasis on the impact to the labor force creates an immigration system where “many immigrant workers are underemployed.”

According to a CNBC report that cites an unnamed source, Apple CEO Tim Cook describes tech companies as “nervous” about the president’s current approach to immigration. Tech industry workers, Cook reportedly told the president, are “nervous” about their status and it “would be great” if the president could “send them a signal.”

The tech meeting, initiated by special advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner through his Office of American Innovation, organized around 10 workshops on topics like cybersecurity, analytics, and improvements in government service access. The New York Times describes the White House focus on innovation as an enormous opportunity for Silicon Valley, considering the $80 billion the federal government spends each year on information technology– much of which is outdated. Tech companies stand to gain with modernization efforts that could consolidate 6,100 federal data centers that could be moved to cloud computing.

Still, organizations like The Conference Board see immigration as the unavoidable “elephant in the room” reflective of a dearth of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals and an uncompetitive temporary employment-based admissions process under the H-1B visa program.

For his part, President Trump also sees immigration and technology and intricately tied. According to the CNBC report, the president “wants to see comprehensive immigration reform and urged the CEOs to call their senators and congressmen to push for it.”

New York Immigration Court Backlog Grows

June 19th, 2017 by Romona Paden

As one prong of the Trump administration’s efforts in addressing immigration issues centers on the judiciary aspects, resources are draining from New York City’s immigration courts– the busiest in the nation with a current backlog of some 80,000 cases. With an emphasis on the southern border, immigration judges temporarily re-assigned to hear cases in Texas and Louisiana means the docket backlog in New York courts continues to grow.

According to a National Public Radio report, at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been reassigned temporarily to hear cases in Texas and Louisiana. The re-assignments began in March.

The court backlog of immigration cases more than doubled under the Obama Administration with presidential moves to deport more people. However, since President Trump took office in January, the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border has declined dramatically.

For immigrants living in the New York area, the average wait time for a hearing on an immigration case is more than two years. Hearings for these immigrants often center on issues of family or spousal reunification.

For those immigrants appearing in southern courtrooms, the wait time hovers at around one month. These cases often involve the cases of immigrants held in detention and who crossed the border illegally.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge, says the emphasis on the southern border is intended to provide a visible federal presence in an effort to dissuade illegal crossings.

“Nobody cares what’s happening on the home docket,” he says. “It’s all about showing presence on the border.”

Another federal judge, Andrew Arthur, adds that deporting immigrants who are in the United States illegally provides an immediate feedback to friends and associates in south-of-the-border countries, ultimately adding more discouragement around illegal crossing.

As reported in 2015, the immigration caseload jumped by close to 160 percent since 2007. At the crux of this increase were the deluges of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in record-breaking numbers.  The massive increase pushed some low-priority hearings out to 2019.

The Trump Administration aims to add 50 immigration judges to the judiciary to bring the total closer to 300 judges in the immigration courts.

DACA Approvals Continue Under Trump

June 14th, 2017 by Romona Paden

DACA Approvals Continue Under TrumpDespite calling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) an “unconstitutional executive amnesty” during his campaign, new approvals to the program continue under President Trump. Additionally, in the first three months of 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) statistics show 17,000 new DACA applicant approvals. Additionally, the agency renewed 107,000 work permits for current DACA immigrants with expiring permissions.

“The new figures make clear that the deferred-action program for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children– often known as “dreamers”– has continued at a robust pace under Trump,” according to The Washington Post. Concern among immigration advocates had been the administration would target work permit holders for deportation, the publication reports.

While some of his conservative supporters see the continued approvals and extensions as a failure to follow through on a significant campaign pledge, President Trump touts his tough border and enforcement approach as responsible for a significant drop in the number of undocumented people coming into the country.

Administration enforcement guidelines broaden the pool of people identified for removal on a priority basis.

“While we still welcome legal immigrants to the tune of 1 million a year,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in early June, “we are no longer a friendly environment for illegal border crossers.”

The DACA program, instituted under executive order by President Obama in 2012, is popular among Hispanic and Asian immigrants. Thus far, more than 750,000 immigrants have participated.

The DACA program is open to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before age 16, giving them a chance to stay in the country to study or work when certain conditions are met, including the lack of a serious criminal conviction. Approved DACA applicants receive a work permit and are protected from deportation for a period of two years, after which the status can be renewed.

Immigration Convention Ditches Texas

June 12th, 2017 by Romona Paden

Immigration Convention Ditches Texas

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), a 15,000-member association of attorneys and law professors, plans to relocate next year’s three-day convention with an expected turnout of around 3,000 members. In its announcement about the change in venue from Grapevine, Texas, AILA characterizes the bill as “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive” that goes against the group’s mission.

When SB4 goes into effect in the fall, the immigration status of people who are detained or arrested is a fair-game topic. Additionally, the bill punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation to federal immigration agents.  Supporters of the new law say its benefit is in making the state safer through the crackdown on undocumented immigration. Those opposed to the bill say “vague language will lead to racial profiling and other discriminatory practices,” according to The Texas Tribune.

The AILA board decided on pulling out of the Texas venue out of concern that members “might not be willing to bring themselves or their families to Texas,” says Bill Stock, the organization’s president. “Our members are U.S. citizens and green card holders, but many of them come from ethnic communities where they felt that they would be unfairly targeted.”

Other fallout of SB4 include requests to organizers of the South by Southwest (SXSW)  mega conference, held each year in Austin, to move the hipster event out of the state. SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swanson says the conference will remain in Austin, but he and others will continue to speak out against the new law.

The cities of San Antonio, Austin and El Cenizo and El Paso County and Maverick County have all filed lawsuits in an effort to stop the bill from going into effect. On the other side of the issue, the state of Texas has filed a preemptive suit, asking a judge to declare the bill legal and constitutional.

Students Carry Passports to New Mexico Classrooms

June 7th, 2017 by Romona Paden

Citizen Children Cross Border to USA EducationSchools located in border states serve deported immigrant parents with U.S.-born children as families living in Mexico refuse to give up their children’s right to an education in the United States. Hastened by the need to navigate their mixed-citizenship families through President Trump’s immigrant deportation policies, schools in New Mexico, Texas and California educate kids who must carry their passports en route to their classrooms each day.

In Palomas, New Mexico, at Columbus Elementary, nearly two-thirds of the 700 students live in Mexican households. And, unlike schools in other states, the cost to attend Columbus Elementary is free.

For more than the past 40 years, the state constitution of New Mexico has guaranteed U.S. citizens a free education, regardless of where they live, according to a CNN report. Other state constitutions don’t hold the same student reach in their constitutions. In other words, a U.S. education in states other than New Mexico means paying private school tuition, something most Mexican families can’t afford.

While access to free public education in New Mexico is a godsend to a growing number of Mexican families, not everyone agrees with the approach. Keith Harris, First Vice-Chair of the Luna County Republican Party, for example, supports education access for U.S. kids but doesn’t agree to the zero cost element.

“They’re getting free tuition while other parents are paying taxes,” he says.

Columbus Elementary offers a bilingual education to students. Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America every morning in both English and Spanish. Each classroom posts three rules: Show respect; Make good decisions, and Solve problems.

Access to the school has proven critical in maintaining family cohesiveness, and it seems to be growing, says Armando Chavez, Columbus Elementary Principal.

“There is always a silver lining. This school is the silver lining,” Chavez says. But with the uptick in enrollment, Chavez is concerned about keeping up with the influx of students. “I worry about the longevity of this school.”

And although a kind of refuge for many, Columbus Elementary isn’t a place for the faint of heart, says Chavez. “You must have a no-excuses mentality if you’re going to lead this school,” saying student backgrounds encompass “pretty extreme cases.”

Internet Trends 2017 Report Stresses Immigration

June 5th, 2017 by Romona Paden

The Internet Trends 2017 Report, put out by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), stresses the importance of immigration in the technology sector. Data points put forward by the report’s author, Mary Meeker, show the important relationship between immigration and job growth within high-tech companies.

KPCP, a familiar name in Silicon Valley, placed early bets on now high-profile tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Twitter.

More than half the most highly-valued private technology companies in existence in the United States with a value of $1 billion or more were founded by first-generation immigrants. Job creation at these companies amounts to 48,000 jobs. Meeker singles out in the report Indian immigrants Apoorva Mehta of Instacart, K.R. Sridhar of Bloom Energy, Laks Srini of Zenefits, Ragy Thomas of Sprinklr, Dhiraj Rajaram of MU Sigma and Jay Chaudhry of Zscaler. Others include Uber, SpaceX, AppNexus and FanDuel.

The report also extrapolates the top 60 percent of the most highly-valued tech companies in the country as founded by first- or second-generation Americans., which account for 1.5 million employees. Apple’s Steve Jobs, for instance, was a second-generation Syrian. Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, is a Russian-born first-generation American. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, is a second-generation Cuban and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, born is Brazil, is a first-generation American.

IT services company, Cognizant, which includes a large employee base in India, was founded by Francisco D’Souza and Kumar Mahadeva, who are of Indian and Sri Lankan origin respectively.

In the report, which Meeker presented at the end of May at a Re/code-sponsored conference, the venture capitalist incorporated 355 slides. Meeker placed particular emphasis on India this year.

While tech company awareness around the importance of immigrants is already high, the trends report could also be considered something of a warning flag. Since President Trump took office in January, policy around H-1B visas that are so vital to the industry has shifted toward protectionism, which tightens the supply of employees.

Additionally, H-1B employers have since seen a cost rise due to a fee increase around the visas introduced late last year.

Cuban Biz Billionaire Challenges Trump Immigration Policies

May 31st, 2017 by Romona Paden

A billionaire Cuban healthcare exec and results-driven immigration policy advocate, Mike Fernandez, challenges Trump Administration immigration policies with a funding initiative to provide legal help to undocumented individuals. Already backed with $5 million, Fernandez’ effort takes direct aim at increased enforcement measures adopted with Donald Trump’s presidency.

Fernandez, who left the Republican Party with Donald Trump’s party nomination, currently holds formal Independent Party affiliation. According to reports, Fernandez “joined forces with the Obama administration on their new Cuba policy.” With the newly-formed Immigration Partnership & Coalition (IMPAC) Fund, geared toward “fundraising for the defense of non-felon undocumented residents to protect families,”

Fernandez has already put in $1 million of his own money and has pledged an additional $4 million to the cause, which will pay organizations providing legal services to immigrants. Endorsements for the organization include Alonzo Mourning, a player for the Miami Heat, renowned Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón as well as celebrities Emilio and Gloria Estefan. The Miami Herald notes IMPAC board members as also including Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and CNN commentator, Ana Navarro.

With an ultimate funding goal of $10 million, IMPAC’s game plan begins in Florida and then is set to expand nationally.

“For weeks, Fernandez has been traveling the country to build his coalition and meet with political heavyweights and business people who have backed similar pro-immigration efforts,” according to The Herald.

Fernandez acknowledges Cuban-American uncaring characterizations about immigration, which stems from easy paths to citizenship for the group and that Cubans represent such a dominant part of the Miami population, making the city a kind of bubble.

“Most Cuban Americans who are here as immigrants have very little empathy,” Fernandez says. “And, if they do, they don’t show it towards others that have less than they do.”

The real point, Fernandez argues, is that America is a destination for immigrants because it offers opportunity.

“What made this country is not a unique ethnic group or religion. It’s not a country that uses its incredible military power to subdue them. It’s a country made of diversity,” he says, “It’s like two metals that you put together to come up with a stronger steel, and that’s where our advantage comes from.”

Six-Month TPS Extension for Haiti

May 30th, 2017 by Romona Paden

Six-Month TPS Extension for HaitiEligible Haitian nationals and eligible individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Haiti can extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation by six months– to Jan.22, 2018– by re-registering for the status by July 24, 2017. Along with the TPS re-registration, beneficiaries can also request a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD.)

“Although Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the January 2010 earthquake that prompted its designation,” according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) release, “conditions in Haiti supporting its designation continue to be met at this time.”

Individuals who request a new EAD during the 60-day re-registration period may receive an automatic 180-day extension from their current EAD expiration date. EAD extensions are only provided to those individuals requesting a new EAD. With an approved EAD request, beneficiaries receive a new EAD with a Jan. 22, 2018 expiration date.

“TPS beneficiaries are strongly encouraged to re-register and file their EAD applications as early as possible to avoid lapses in the documentation of employment authorization,” according to the release.

In order to re-register, TPS beneficiaries must submit these:

Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status (re-registrants don’t need to pay the Form I-821 application fee)

Biometric services fee (or a fee-waiver request) for those aged 14 or older

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether re-registrants want an EAD. Individuals must also include the Form I-765 application fee or fee waiver request only when an EAD is wanted. Re-registrants who don’t want an EAD must still submit the application, but the fee isn’t required.

Re-registrants requesting a fee waiver file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver or submit a written request for the fee waiver. Whether filed with the form or through a written request, applicants must provide accompanying documentation to support the request.

“USCIS will reject the TPS application of any applicant who fails to submit the required filing fee or a properly documented fee-waiver request.”

Additional guidance and eligibility information, as well as information on the application process and where to file for TPS for Haiti, is available at uscis.gov/tps.

Houston Immigration Settles; Drives City’s Diversity

May 24th, 2017 by Romona Paden

Houston Immigration Settles; Drives City’s Diversity

Contemporary Houston is comprised of established residents. Although the metro’s immigrant population grew at almost twice the national rate from 2000 through 2013, most of the city’s Latino growth “springs from children born to immigrants who arrived two or three decades ago,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The publication reports 51 percent of residents under age 20 in Harris County, where Houston is the county seat, are Latino. Only 19 percent of African-Americans in the city fall into the same age group.

“What’s happening is that the younger generations are more supportive of immigrants, and they are replacing the older residents, who are declining in numbers,” reports the Houston Chronicle. “For example, 37 percent of the baby boom generation and 35 percent of Gen Xers felt immigration into the country mostly threatens American culture, but only 13 percent of millennials agreed.”

Whites in Houston accounted for around 62 percent of the city’s population in 1970. Forty years later, in 2010, the group accounted for just over 25 percent of the population. During the same time frame, the Latino population grew from less than 11 percent of the population to around 44 percent of the population.

Houston’s normalcy of diversity presents “a whole new dynamic, in which minorities are no longer seen as outsiders.” The scenario means, according to Rice University sociology professor Stephen Klineberg, that the city is well-positioned “for success in building the connections to the global marketplace.”

While Klineberg and others applaud the diversity of Houston, others say the municipal melting pot is fraught with issues. Among the most pressing is the education in the area’s public schools, which now includes 70,000 students with limited English proficiency.

“The whole idea of having bilingual teachers and specific programs just to address those folks, I think, is overwhelmingly tilted in the wrong direction, says Sam Herrera. Herrera is outreach director of the political action committee Stop the Magnet, which supports deportation of undocumented immigrants.

While Houston promotes the diversity of its local culture, Texas state Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill designed to punish sanctuary cities and carries a low-tolerance stance on undocumented immigration. In the new law, for instance, local law enforcement officers are “allowed to ask about the immigration status during a lawful detention, such as a routine traffic stop,” according to The Times story. “Local entities that prohibit enforcement of immigration laws could be fined up to $25,000 a day.”

For Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the situation means he’s walking a political tightrope. Reports say Turner “has balked at ordering his police officers to take on the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)” in terms of carrying out immigration laws. However, the mayor is clear in saying “we will obey federal and state laws as long as those federal and state laws are consistent with the United States Supreme Court and consistent with the United States Constitution.”

The balance appears to be one embraced by the area as a whole. Rice University’s Klineberg says, “Houston has made up its mind. The city is increasingly prepared to accept and even to celebrate its burgeoning diversity.”

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