Wall debate obscures other struggles at the border
By COLLEEN LONG and ELLIOT SPAGAT
Saturday, January 5
SAN DIEGO (AP) — In Washington, it’s all about the wall. At the border, it’s only part of the story.
Border authorities are struggling with outdated facilities ill-equipped to handle the growing increase in family migrants, resulting in immigrants being released onto the streets every day. The immigration court system is so clogged that some wait years for their cases to be resolved, and lacks funding to pay for basic things like in-person translators. An increase in sick children arriving at the border is putting a strain on medical resources.
But the Washington debate has focused almost exclusively on the $5 billion in wall spending that President Donald Trump wants. Other proposals being discussed keep the rest of the Homeland Security department funding at existing levels.
“The wall is a tool. Unfortunately even if it’s implemented across the border it isn’t a solution to all the problems,” said Victor M. Manjarrez, a former Border Patrol chief with more than 20 years of experience, now a professor at the University of Texas-El Paso.
Trump has suggested migrants won’t bother to come if he gets his way, making other immigration issues less problematic. Walls and fencing currently blanket about one-third of the border — mostly built under President George W. Bush — and the president wants to extend and fortify them. But contracting, designing and building new wall systems complete with updated technology could take years.
Trump met Friday with Congressional leaders who said the president threatened the shutdown could go on for “years.” Trump later said he’d considered using executive authority to get a wall built on the border.
“You can call it a barrier, you can call it whatever you want,” Trump said a day earlier, flanked by immigration union heads. “But essentially we need protection in our country. We’re going to make it good. The people of our country want it.”
Meanwhile, the House passed a bill Thursday evening to fund the government without the $5 billion, with new Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the wall an “immorality.”
The debate overlooks major bottlenecks in the immigration system as more families and children traveling alone turn themselves in to authorities to seek asylum, instead of trying to elude capture as almost everyone did just a few years ago. In some cases, migrants are climbing existing border fence and seeking out agents to surrender.
The backlog in immigration courts has more than doubled to 1.1 million cases since shortly before Trump took office, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Families and children now account for about six of 10 Border Patrol arrests, but there are only about 3,300 family detention beds and the number of unaccompanied children in government care has soared under Trump.
Border crossers are stuck in short-term holding cells for days and there has been a spike in sick migrant children, including two who died in custody.
In addition, the wall will do little to address the issue of visa overstays — when immigrants come to the country legally and remain here after their papers expire. Authorities say there were nearly 740,000 overstays during a recent 12-month period.
And border agents continue to struggle with growing numbers children and families. Officials say they are stopping about 2,000 people a day, more than 60 percent children and families, higher than during many periods under President Barack Obama. They referred 451 cases to a medical provider from Dec. 22 to Dec. 30, more than half children.
David Aguilar, the Border Patrol chief from 2004 to 2010 and a former acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said agencies that oversee long-term immigration custody need more funding to immediately step in after the Border Patrol makes an arrest. He says the agency is “overwhelmed” in dealing with all the children and families coming across the border now, much different from 1990s and 2000s.
“The demographics and the flows that are crossing the southern border are very different from the demographics and flows when we built the original walls … back in 2006 and 2008,” he said.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, said stations were not built to manage the crush of families coming over. The wall was important, he said, but so were these other issues. He said they needed budgeting for medical care and mental health care for children in their facilities.
Trump has significantly increased the number of immigration judges but, A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said it came without enough support staff. About a week before the shutdown, judges were told the courts ran out of money for many in-person translators and that, as a result, it would have to reach them telephonically. A hearing that might last three minutes would last 20 minutes.
The shutdown is already having an impact on the immigration system. E-Verify, the online government system where employees can confirm eligibility of their employees to work legally in the U.S. is down.
Courts were only functioning for those who were detained. Other cases will be reset for a date once funding resumes, according to the website for the courts, which are overseen by the Department of Justice.
Immigration lawyers said that will only worsen the already overwhelming backlog. Immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney said he expects cases in Charlotte, North Carolina will be moved to 2020 because this year’s docket is already full.
“The situation is a lose-lose,” he said.
In contrast, the funding problems have only minimally affected the U.S. government agency tasked with reviewing immigrants’ applications for green cards and other benefits. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is a fee-based agency, said its offices are open and immigrants should attend appointments as expected.
Long reported from Washington, DC. Associated Press Writer Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, Calif. contributed to this report.
White right? How demographics is changing US politics
January 7, 2019
Author: Monica Duffy Toft, Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Disclosure statement: Monica Duffy Toft does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Tufts University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
When Donald Trump was campaigning to become the U.S. president, much of the discussion about his growing popularity focused on so-called “angry white males,” who had been struggling through years of declining economic opportunities. Their frustration led some of them to adopt and espouse white supremacist ideology.
In many media portrayals, these men, their anger and their sometimes extreme views on how to return to economic and political relevance were treated as a new phenomenon.
But as a scholar of demography and civil war, I can say definitively that none of this is actually new. Declining opportunities for white males and racist ideology have long been features of U.S. politics, from at least the 1930s until now.
So, the real question is, why are we seeing an upsurge of white nativism among white males now – a nativism which combines anger over lost status with a historically bankrupt white supremacist ideology?
Lagging whites, growing minorities
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data, all racial and ethnic minorities are growing faster than whites. Interestingly, one of the fastest growing groups in this country is “mixed race” (full disclosure: my children are such, being both Mexican- and Irish-American).
Still, at 198 million, non-Hispanic whites remained the largest group of Americans in 2014; followed by Hispanics at 55.4 million, and blacks or African-Americans at 42 million. Those who identified with two or more races stood at just under 8 million.
The Census Bureau projects the crossover point at which the non-Hispanic white population will no longer be a majority will occur in 2044. In fact, no one group will comprise a majority. We will become a plural nation of different ethnic and racial groups.
Demography and democracy
That powerful shift in the makeup of the U.S. population has created ideal conditions for a political backlash against people of color, including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and especially immigrants of color.
One prominent example: President Trump’s lament that the U.S. was being overwhelmed by immigrants from “s-hole countries,” rather than from places like Norway.
The backlash also extends to the political leaders who support minorities’ right to be accepted and respected as Americans.
These communities of color remain in the minority. But already in some states, white voters as distinct from all whites are in the minority, and nationally, whites are unlikely to remain in the majority for long.
In California, for example, non-white populations now make up 62 percent of the population, with Hispanic and white populations at near parity at 38 percent each.
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are among three southern states where the gap between Hispanic minorities and white majorities is closing. Like Florida, these are also states with difficult-to-seal borders and with well-established immigrant communities.
Politics and population shifts
For two decades, I have been studying how population shifts across nation-states have led to their collapse. In some cases, those collapses have been violent, such as in Lebanon in the 1970s and the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Now, demographic dynamics we previously witnessed in “other” or “developing” states are happening in the U.S.
In places where white people have been a demographic majority, white nativism – characterized by the longing for a period when whites were dominant political and economically – arises when some of the majority white population fears for the loss of its stature relative to non-white populations. And in the U.S., non-whites have higher birth rates and make up the bulk of new immigrants.
As populations shift in democracies, the key question is which group challenges these changes, when – and how? Is it the expanding minority or the declining majority? Is it a combination of fear and desire for change emanating from both the declining majority and rising minority?
Fighting for lost dominance
My research reveals that it is the declining majority that tends to act aggressively, often imagining it must preempt a rising minority. Simply put, declining majorities don’t want to yield their status or hegemony.
This turns demographic shifts into a struggle about power and dominance, with elements of the majority refusing to cede ground to emergent new pluralities and majorities that might displace them.
The result, historically, follows a general pattern: The declining majority resorts to various forms of apartheid, including changes to voting laws, voter suppression and new restrictions on immigrants, and requirements for citizenship.
Examples include Israel’s successive moves to tighten the definition of who is a Jew; Britain’s 2016 referendum on membership in the European Union (for working-class Brits, the immigrants of “color” were Pakistanis and Poles); and the new U.S. ban on immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries.
Only rarely do a declining majority’s efforts to maintain dominance escalate to violence or state collapse, as was the case with the Soviet Union.
From demographic to political decline
Mirroring the decline in fortunes of the “angry white male” who supported President Trump is the declining fortunes of the Republican Party.
The current U.S. president leads a minority political party whose membership has been in decline for over two decades.
President Trump lost the general election by over 3 million votes. The number of U.S. citizens of voting age who identify as Republicans has dropped steadily since 1994, compared to those who identify as Democrat or Independent.
The GOP has managed its decline in exactly the same way a declining white majority population might have done: It has resorted to extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression, calls for limits on immigration, and now citizenship restrictions.
The president’s angry rhetoric has arguably been responsible for fomenting a rise in overt bigotry, and in rare but an increasing number of cases, violence against non-white immigrants, and ethnic, religious, disabled and LGBTQ minorities. In one documented case, a 56 year-old Trump supporter named Cesar Sayoc mailed a series of bombs to “Trump critics.” His van, in which he had apparently been living, was covered with often violent imagery directed against people of color and political opponents of President Trump, including a sticker featuring then-Representative Nancy Pelosi with rifle-scope crosshairs superimposed.
The partisan divide is further fueled by the conflict over whether non-white immigration is a threat to U.S. security and prosperity.
Immigration to the U.S. has been fairly constant since 1990.
What has changed is the number of refugees fleeing civil wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria who are coming to the U.S. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people in the world – a population greater than that of the U.K. – of which about one-third, 25.4 million, are refugees.
The numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers has been increasing since 2013. At the end of 2013, the U.S. hosted 348,005 people of concern – which includes refugees and asylum-seekers. By the end of 2017, that number rose to 929,850, with asylum-seekers responsible for the significant increase.
The research shows that immigrants are a net drain on national resources for the first few years they are here. But after those first years, the costs and benefits of their participation balance out.
White nativism: Why now?
Though economic opportunity – and specifically the decline in blue-collar jobs capable of supporting a family – affects the popularity of white nativism, it does not explain its timing.
The “why now” of white nativism is due to decades of demographic decline for white Americans combined with a serious decline in public education standards that leads to unwarranted nostalgia and openness to conspiracy theories.
Add to that the charismatic leadership of Donald J. Trump, who attached white majority fears of status loss with criminalizing immigrants of color. That has stoked the flames of an already smoking fire.
Fact check: How many people are enslaved in the world today?
January 7, 2019
Author: Monti Datta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond
Disclosure statement: Monti Datta was a consultant with the Walk Free Foundation from 2013 to 2016.
Partners: University of Richmond provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Modern slavery is a crime against humanity. Although some types of enslavement, like sex trafficking, are widely known, others hide in plain sight. Enslavement happens in many industries – including restaurants, domestic work, electronics, construction, textiles, steel and seafood.
But exactly how many people live in slavery today? Whether it’s measuring modern slavery in the U.S. or across the globe, there are different, inconsistent, estimates.
As someone who researches modern slavery, I know that calculating its prevalence is like finding a needle in a haystack. A valid figure is elusive – and yet essential for better policies to free enslaved persons and help them make the difficult transition to liberation.
Defining modern slavery
Definitions of modern slavery have shifted over time.
In 1926, the League of Nations defined slavery as the “status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.” The U.N. broadened this definition in 1956 to include forced marriage and more protections for women’s rights.
Things changed again in 2000. The U.N. introduced the term “trafficking in persons” and omitted references of forced marriage from the widely adopted Palermo Protocol. But by 2013, the U.N. General Assembly recognized forced marriage as a form of enslavement.
Definitions matter because they influence how the public and policymakers interpret the issue. In a court of law, for instance, the term “human trafficking” might be more persuasive to jurors than a term like “slavery.”
For researchers, nuances also matter when it comes to estimating the number of people enslaved. Some organizations include forced marriage in their estimates of modern slavery; others do not.
Still others disagree about when harsh labor conditions merit the label “enslavement.” The International Labor Organization has said, “Not all children who are exposed to hazardous work are ‘slaves,’ and not all workers who don’t receive a fair wage are forced.”
Among published estimates of forced marriage, the numbers are staggering. Based on its calculations, UNICEF estimates that approximately 650 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
Slavery in the US today
Researchers have struggled to estimate the number of people enslaved within the U.S.
For over a decade, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has operated a hotline for any tips related to trafficking within America’s borders. In 2017, they documented 8,524 human trafficking cases, mostly in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Sex trafficking was the most common type of enslavement reported.
These hotline data are useful because they detail more of where and who is trafficked in America today. But the figures are not from a national survey. Anyone can call and report a tip. So, after a movie like “Taken,” there may be a spike in tips about sex trafficking from an anxious public.
In 2004, the U.S. State Department reported that, at any given moment, there were 14,500 to 17,500 people trafficked in the U.S. But this research could not be replicated and verified.
Some organizations suggest there could be upwards of 100,000 youth at risk for trafficking in the U.S. at any moment, but the National Academies of Sciences has debunked this.
Backing away from national figures, other researchers have begun to focus on trafficking hotspots, like along the U.S.-Mexico border. In one detailed study of 641 homeless youth and human trafficking in the U.S., more than 14 percent had been trafficked for sex. Another 8 percent had been trafficked for other types of forced labor.
For a long time, global and regional players that track this sort of data – often competing for the same funding or prestige – would seldom share their data.
This lack of cooperation explains how independent organizations may come up with different estimates.
For example, in 2005, the International Labor Organization estimated that 12.3 million persons were enslaved. Then, in 2012, it adjusted this figure to 21 million persons. The International Labor Organization has rarely published country-level results, instead focusing on regional figures.
In a desire to generate country-level estimates, the Walk Free Foundation launched The Global Slavery Index in 2013. The first index estimated 29.8 million persons enslaved. But this was later updated to 35.8 million, and then 45.8 million.
Each iteration of the Global Slavery Index and International Labor Organization figures reflected changes in their methods. Although these changes often reflected stronger methodologies, the changing estimates invited criticism.
Through new partnerships, more nonprofit organizations and countries are beginning to meet and share their data. Walk Free, the International Labor Organization and dozens of other state and nonstate actors came together in 2016 to form Alliance 8.7. In 2017, the coalition jointly estimated there were some 40 million people enslaved worldwide.
However, scholars from the outside don’t have access to the coalition’s raw data. This makes a critical analysis of the methodology a challenge.
Alliance 8.7 also held a conference in October of this year that established clearer guidelines on how to measure instances of enslavement.
Prior to this, researchers did not always agree on when a moment of enslavement should be counted. For example, a researcher might interview respondents about their prior experiences of forced labor. During that interview, a respondent might say that he had been a victim of forced labor in 1997. Should that be counted at the time of the survey or not counted since it happened so long ago?
Scholars are also getting more involved and applying novel estimation techniques that are cost-effective. There are also new data resources – like the Gallup World Poll, which now includes questions about modern slavery in its surveys in some developing countries. These surveys are based on random sample surveys – some of the best data collection methods around.
A valid estimate of slavery and trafficking worldwide remains the holy grail of modern slavery studies. The public may never know the true number of persons enslaved today, because modern slavery is a hidden crime. But more precise estimates can begin to shed more light on who is enslaved and where. If the public doesn’t know who today’s enslaved are and where they are, their presence will remain invisible.