Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dusburg on the Mon / more on immigration

I didn't catch this when it came out, but thanks to Sam for noting that the New York Times Magazine mentioned Duisburg, Germany as a kind of "European Pittsburgh" last week. For any new readers I will point out again some of my pictures of Duisburg's Landscape Park.. which is kind of what the goal is for the Carrie Furnace site here in, except a lot bigger and a lot more open than anything in the US could ever be.


It's ironic that the Duisburg story mentioning Pittsburgh was really about immigration. If you read the story on immigration in the PG today you will realize just how strange immigration debates are here in Pittsburgh. It's hard not to see the similarities to the story I mentioned which was in the New Times last year on anti-immigrant efforts in Altoona. Both places have strident anti-immigrant politicians juxtaposed with populations uniquely devoid of recent immigrants.

The PG story focuses on Congressman Altmire who is said to be getting hit with a lot of public input on the issue. Yet the story points out the 4th congressional district is ~2.3% foreign born, which is one of the lowest percentages in the country. That number actually overstates the impact of immigration in his district. If you look a little more carefully at the data on immigration for PA's 4th Congressional District... of that 2.3%, less than a third arrived in the most recent decade and even of that number some are already naturalized citizens. It is even more pronounced for Pennsylvania's 12th house district which is also mentioned in the article. The data for that district shows that less than 2% are foreign born, and half of that population are already naturalized citizens.

Consider how many immigrants would have to come to Pittsburgh just to reach the proportion of population that was foreign born decades ago. Here is the percentage of population that is foreign born in the Pittsburgh region since 1940:

Just to parse numbers a bit. Here is a back of the envelope calculation: if Pittsburgh increased its rate of attracting immigrants 10 fold from where it is today, and that rate continued for a decade, and every last one of those immigrants stayed in the region, we would still be below the proportion of immigrants the region had 50 years ago. That is not an exaggeration.


Speaking of immigration. WashPost has a column today on immigrants in the military which is also worth a read:


Blogger EdHeath said...

The issue is a funny one. One thing about the illegal population in Pittsburgh is that I have not heard of a place, like a Home Depot or a Lowes, where contractors go to find day laborers. Nor have I heard of a similar place for farmers. Yet, when we had our roof trim painted last summer, I wondered greatly about the group that did it, as they sure did not seem to include many English speakers. As far as I knew, though, this group stayed together working for one contractor. Preparing taxes this past season, we did a few ITIN returns (the site where I worked was loosely connected with the Career Center at Jewish Family and Children’s Services), so now I know at least a few large chain hotels use illegal’s. And a Chinese co-worker of mine has assured me that all Chinese restaurants use illegal’s. I have also come to notice more Spanish speakers in the cheap places where I shop (Aldi, Walmart), although just speaking Spanish is hardly an indication of anything.

So, it is possible that the majority of illegal’s here come for a specific job that is already waiting for them. Now, the illegal’s whose taxes I prepared definitely had W-2’s, with tax with-holding and all. All their Social Security and Medicare taxes, by the way, go to the rest of us. They had state and (less often) municipality with-holding as well. We did *not* make any effort to find out whose social security number they were using on their W-2’s. But, based on my tiny experience, the population of illegal immigrants in Pittsburgh appears to be gainfully employed, contributing to the local economy and largely keeping their heads down. They seem so settled in jobs (to me), I would think they would not want to risk any sort of criminal enterprise, for fear of drawing undue attention to themselves. It also seems (to me) to be possible they are somewhat undercounted in local census numbers, as they might want to avoid any type of government contact.

Monday, June 04, 2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Sure there are undercounted undocumented immigrants here as everywhere. Yet I have to believe that the opportunities for undocumented immigrants to be inconspicuous are a lot lower here than most other regions.

Note I didn't say there weren't any such immigrants at all. That would be impossible. Some years ago there was a relatively high profile (for Pittsburgh that is) bust of undocumented Russian workers in town. but again, the fact that these few incidents rise to the level of media interest is the important point.

I take the point.. but worry people will jump to the inference that ITIN's are indicative of someone being undocumented. In a town with lots of foreign students and other foreign nationals who are not immigrants per se there are lots of people allowed to be here who are filing using ITIN's.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 12:35:00 AM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

Yeah, to be specific, the ITIN’s I was working on were actually more applications to obtain ITIN’s, the taxes we prepared were to be mailed in with a dummy number and the application materials to obtain an ITIN (an important step on the road to legal status). In fact, one group were entirely above board Burmese (Myanmar) refugees But I wouldn’t be surprised if the VITA shop were I was working was somewhat unique in doing those sorts of returns in the Pittsburgh area. Working at a couple of different Universities I would agree there are lots of foreign people here perfectly legally, paying taxes to the US.

I just wonder how many of the really low paying area jobs, like cleaning, have been staffed with some sort of immigrant labor, legal or otherwise. That’s long been of interest to me because certain offices and businesses make a show of trying to safeguard information, then allow underpaid, overworked individuals hours of access to that information.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 6:57:00 AM  
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