Monday, July 11, 2011

Border Guard Bob Pivots 180

Border Guard Bob really is our Rosetta Stone.  Years and years ago when Bob was just a glint in the eyes of some folks Downtown I got to see the storyboards of the whole campaign before they were introduced to the public.  I really was aghast.  The whole 'Border Guard' meme is just such an unwelcoming image.  My direct comment to the folks was that only in immigrant-less Pittsburgh would anyone even consider such a character for what the goal was.  The verbatim and immediate response was probably the ultimate example of the groupthink we often have going on here: "But the focus groups loved him".  I have always wondered who comprised those focus groups, but it seems that one could have been today's Allegheny County Council.  (not that Allegheny County Council had even been formed back at the time)

That all just came to mind reading another little news item that all but goes unnoticed on a Saturday in the summer: County works to bar illegal alien workers.   Agree with it, or disagree, it is one of those things that deserves a few orders of magnitude more discussion then again our notorious cupcakes... but likely will not be noticed much at all. It is good to see that Allegheny County council is being proactive in solving a problem that may not be our problem at all.

Again.. agree with the idea or not, at least understand where the Pittsburgh region stands with regards to immigration.  By any metric you want to come up with, among large metro areas we are about immigrant-free as you get.  Not zero, but in terms of sheer immigrant flows we rank last. Period.  If you think something has changed with that factoid for us over the last decade, the graph at the bottom is a comparison of foreign born immigration by metro areas, but is limited to just to those who entered the US since 2000.  That gives us a metric of comparison for recent international immigration and yes, we are unmoved from the bottom position.

That ranking does not even take into account the consistent finding that among the immigrants that do come to Pittsburgh are among the most highly educated in the nation.  That or the international  students who are here and part of that foreign born population and are also most likely here on perfectly valid student visas. You have to believe the higher educated groups are far less likely to be here without proper visas and documentation than the group of folks that new law is intended to target. In any ranking of immigrants with less than a bachelors degree for example and we will compare even lower relative to all the other metro areas.. We obviously can't rank lower than last..  we will just be an even further outlier on the bottom end of that graph.    If you really consider who that law is aiming to impact, we rank not just lowest, but lowest among the lowest in terms of immigrant flows into the region.  The point is that if needed to pick the one place in the entire country least impacted by foreign workers it is likely us..  and there is no sign the trend is really about to shift in any qualitatively significant way.

So what impact can a law like this have?  All this really does is place us in a group with regions like Altoona which rated a New York Times article a while ago: Altoona with no immigrant problem, decides to solve it.

If county council really thinks they have time to address problems that don't exist, you think they might want to occasionally address some real looming problems they generally ignore.

Anyway, the graphic:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Changing the subject ... howzabout a post on the vaccine manufacturing plant that was once touted for Hazelwood? UPMC flak and former state legislator Sean Logan is scheduled to speak to the community tomorrow night to explain why UPMC has decided to not pursue the project. The federal govt. pulling $200 million from its funding probably had something to do with it, but what I'd like to know is how UPMC and Cong. Doyle arrived at the 1,000 jobs figure that they said the project would deliver. For some reason, Hazelwood residents thought the project was going to save them. How did they ever get that idea?

Monday, July 11, 2011 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous n'at said...

It's wishful thinking based on the paradox of protecting prevailing wage and lawful contractors from unscrupulous contractors which do not pay prevailing wage to their illegal workers.

The bigger issue, as found by the GAO, are nonunion wages (86% of workers) not being reported to the Depart. of Labor for inclusion in the Prevailing Wage determination.

Laughable: Instead of reporting wage rates that would obviously reduce the prevailing wage, businesses lobby to repeal Prevailing Wage simply because they would warrant unwanted scrutiny if they submitted their wage rates to the government.

Monday, July 11, 2011 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger RoboticGhost said...

While the County tilts at windmills, it's worth considering that the illegal immigrant population is not only small in Pittsburgh, much of it is simply invisible because the illegal immigrants look like any random person from Bethel Park or Munhall. They blend in with with the smallish eastern European refugee population, work cash jobs cleaning office buildings, or rehabbing older houses in gentrifying neighborhoods. Some of them are double refugees or escaped sex slaves. I know quite a few, and they work very hard to stay invisible. They avoided the Census, not they would have counted towards anything more than a blip, don't go to hospitals, and keep a low profile in general. Many of these folks quietly enter the system as the years go by. The patterns differ than Central and South American immigration for cultural reasons and because the scale is different. The County might as well draft legislation requiring beekeepers to hop around on one foot for an hour or so every day. All that's accomplished here is making life a little more difficult for a handful of hard luck types who already go out of the way to avoid causing trouble.

Monday, July 11, 2011 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

All that's accomplished here is making life a little more difficult for a handful of hard luck types who already go out of the way to avoid causing trouble.

Three cheers for subverting minimum wage laws and dodging income taxes.

Monday, July 11, 2011 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

What was really accomplished was throwing a bone to the construction unions. There are quite a few illegals working doing concrete, drywall, painting, roofing, and other labor-intensive construction work. The unions are barking so the politicos threw them a bone..."Hey we are doing what we can"

Some live here under the radar like RoboticGhost said, others are trucked in when the work is there.

Monday, July 11, 2011 3:15:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

The issue of what immigrants might not be counted in any census program is too big a topic to really get into here in detail but consider a couple things. There is no reason at all to think the folks who might be missed by the census are more numerous here in Pittsburgh than elsewhere. So there may be folks uncounted here, but there certainly are uncounted folks in those other places as well. I am pretty sure it is actually harder to 'hide' here in Pittsburgh where the immigrant numbers are so low. The population in question are so large in some areas that they don't stand out as they do here and I know there are folks here calling USCIS for every Spanish speaker they hear as ridiculous as that may be. Even illegal immigrants from European countries tend to be caught here for similar reasons. There was a bust of a Russian gas station owner bringing in illegal workers a few years ago. Stuff like that just would never raise to the level of suspicion or action in so many other places. I suspect the 'uncounted' issue actually works to make the disparity between Pittsburgh immigrant flows and elsewhere appear smaller than it really is.

Monday, July 11, 2011 6:06:00 PM  
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