For True Immigration Reform, Hire Labor Inspectors, Not Border Guards (A Newsday Op-Ed)

June 27, 2013. A Newsday op-ed by David Dyssegaard Kallick stresses the need for labor standards enforcement as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Paying people off the books is, of course, illegal. But does it happen? We know it does.

The good news is that there’s no great mystery about how to stop it. Labor departments — at the state and federal level — are responsible for enforcing workplace standards. They are the ones who can ensure that employers are paying employees on the books, withholding payroll taxes, and paying into state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.

Unfortunately, as the number of border patrol agents around the country has soared in recent decades, the number of labor inspectors has shrunk — by 31 percent between 1980 and 2007, even though the labor force grew. At the same time, not coincidentally, the number of people being paid off the books — both immigrants who lack the proper documentation to work and others — has dramatically increased. There are now only around 1,000 labor inspectors to cover the entire country.



The Rise of the New Baltimoreans

June 28, 2013. In the Next American City Series, a piece on Baltimore focuses on the role of immigrants in the city’s economy.

“You want to create a context that’s welcoming to everyone,” says Kallick, “and a culture that’s welcoming to everyone seems particularly welcoming to immigrants.” A lowered likelihood of being aggressively questioned for immigration status, goes the thinking, might appeal to an immigrant in perfect compliance with the law as much as it might to an undocumented new arrival.

Under this approach, a city that is more welcoming sees its population grow. As it grows, its tax base broadens. As its tax base broadens, it helps to support the local economy, better educational resources and more policing. In turn, those effects make Baltimore more appealing not only to new immigrants, but also to native-born or long-tenured Americans living elsewhere in the U.S. Thus begins a spiraling in a positive direction. Immigration, in short, becomes part of a city’s population revitalization — but only part of it.



Want Smarter Immigration Enforcement? Start at the Workplace, Not the Border

June 26, 2013. On his blog, and in the Huffington Post, Jared Bernstein echoed the importance of labor standards enforcement as a key part of making immigration reform work, as David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative, had stressed in an op-ed piece in Newsday.

At this point, a large minority (Kallick says “as many as 45%”) of the undocumented immigrants already here entered legally and overstayed their visas.  As far as they’re concerned, border security shuts the barn door after the horse is out.

By making the E-verification system mandatory and harder to fool, the Senate bill moves the ball forward.  But as Kallick points out, “it doesn’t take an evil genius to figure out a way around these tightened processes: Employers could just hire workers off the books.”

The best way to lastingly stop this problem is think less about border agents and more about labor inspectors.

The estimated share of undocumented immigrants who are visa overstayers comes from this report of the Pew Hispanic Center.

Immigration Reform’s ‘Surge’: The Politics Works, but Will the Policy?

June 26, 2013. The Christian Science Monitor ran a story, also reprised in The Alaska Dispatch, about the massive spending on border security added to the Senate bill in its final days to gain Republican votes. The article quotes FPI David Dyssegaard Kallick on a more productive way to use enforcement dollars.

Or how about boosting the ranks of federal and state labor inspectors, suggests David Kallick of the liberal Fiscal Policy Institute. Such reinforcements not only would make sure the undocumented aren’t working off the books but also would help to see that other workplace protections are working properly. (Mr. Kallick notes that the number of federal labor inspectors has declined by 30 percent over the past two decades, even as the undocumented population has exploded almost fourfold over that time.)

The City Budget Should be a Force for Good

June 24, 2013. In an Op Ed, “The City Budget Should Be a Force for Good,” which was recently published by The Chief-Leader, FPI’s Deputy Director and Chief Economist James Parrott argues that the annual budget process should be about planning for the future and not just managing expenditures. He identifies and discusses four areas where the budget can be used to produce meaningful outcomes for all New Yorkers.

  1. The city needs to re-think the social-safety net and policies to combat poverty.
  2. City resources should be used to grow the economy by investing in human capital and infrastructure.
  3. The city should enhance the overall progressivity and efficiency of the city’s tax structure.
  4. Engaging the city workforce is more a question of management than one of budget.

Good fiscal stewardship means not only balancing the budget but investing in long-term solutions, re-thinking spending priorities, and enlisting labor as a partner. A more detailed version of Parrott’s critical analysis of the budget challenges facing the new administration is available on the website of Toward a 21st Century City for All, an initiative of the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Gannett News Service article on “Tax-Free New York” plan cites FPI report

June 23, 2013.  A Gannett News Service article on the NYS legislature’s adoption of a somewhat revised version of Governor Cuomo’s “Tax-Free New York” quotes from FPI’s recent report on this proposal on this proposal:

“New York State’s past experience with geographically-targeted business tax incentives should raise huge red flags regarding the efficacy of the proposal as an economic development strategy,” according to a report last week from the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed think tank.

The article by Gannett’s Albany Bureau Chief Joe Spector was published by several Gannett newspapers: Ithaca Journal, Elmira Star-Gazette, Poughkeepsie Journal, and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Report: Immigration Reform Will Create A More Productive Economy

June 19, 2013. Von Diaz reports on FPI’s analysis of the economic effects of immigration reform.

The FPI report perhaps isn’t the most provocative to come out in recent months, but it takes a balanced approach. Kallick doesn’t claim that legalizing undocumented immigrants will be the saving grace of the struggling U.S. economy. Rather, Kallick describes a measured approach, which he believes could lead to greater economic stability.

“I think that people sometimes exaggerate the potential consequences – positive or negative,” Kallick says. “I hope people will feel like there is a clear gain to all of us to having a context in which everyone who’s here has legal status.”


Reflejos – on FPI’s recent immigration report

June 16, 2013. A story by Reflejos on the FPI report about the economic impact of immigration reform.

The economic benefits of immigration reform should not be overstated. This would be a big benefit for undocumented immigrants, but would have modest benefits for the overall economy—we’re talking, after all, about just five percent of the overall labor force. But while the benefits should not be exaggerated, they are very real. As Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, “bringing millions of undocumented workers out of the economic shadows isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the efficient thing to do.”

Fiscal Policy Institute Makes Strong Economic Argument for Reform

June 14, 2013. The blog Redefining Welcome interviews David Dyssegaard Kallick about FPI’s recent report on immigration.

“Legalization is the right thing to do, not least because it is our only practical option. You simply can’t deport 11 million people. But, I think it’s important to know that this will also be good for the American economy. I wouldn’t overstate the gains. Undocumented immigrants make up five percent of the country’s labor force—that’s enough to matter, but not enough to dramatically swing the economy one way or the other.

“That said, a 10 percent improvement in their wages, a leveling of the playing field for businesses in regions and industries with undocumented workers, full and equal participation in systems for taxation and services—those will all help increase economic productivity.”

NY Suburbs Lead in Minority Population Growth

June 13, 2013. A Journal-News analysis of new Census data showed that Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam all saw a significant growth in the non-white share of the population, “some of the largest ethnic shifts in the Northeast.”

“The whole country is diversifying,” said David Kallick of the Manhattan-based Immigration Research Initiative. “The white population is growing older, and the younger population is much more multicultural and multi-ethnic than the older generation. That’s our future, ready or not.”

Growth among Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians is pushing minority populations higher in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties and other nearby suburbs.


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