Writing from rainy Washington, D.C., here’s the third installment of Niskanen’s new weekly migration blog. These three items caught my attention this week:

#1: The Economic Innovation Group (EIG) published a major new report on the demographic challenges America faces, and the role immigration policy can play to stem such demographic stagnation. The authors write, “Current skilled immigration policy largely benefits populous, booming metro areas but fails most heartland communities. A new program of place-based visas—let’s call them heartland visas—could become a powerful economic development tool.” The map below details the population loss throughout America’s heartland over the last decade.

Niskanen is supportive of placed-based visa reform; we published research exploring the legislative history of state-based guest worker programs and the power of newcomers to revitalize communities facing decline.

Takeaway: The EIG report lays out a compelling case for place-based visas, given the size and scope of population decline in communities across the country. Add the “heartland visa” the the laundry list of items Congress should debate this term.

#2: In a blog post this week, Michael Clemens, from the Center for Global Development, explores what halting aid to Central America would do in terms of migration to the north. His research finds that from 2011 to 2016, every ten additional homicides in the Northern Triangle caused six additional apprehensions of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) at the U.S. border. There was a connection between violence and migration. For example, aid programs that reduce violence may reduce UAC migration.

One aid program led to a 50 percent reduction in reports of homicides and large reductions in other crimes as well, through community policing, youth mentorship, and more. Clemens argued in 2018 that:

Strategically designing foreign aid programs to effectively reduce violence, building programs on the evidence we have and piloting other ideas of what might work, can help shape the migration flows—including deterring UACs from leaving home.  Greater cooperation with Northern Triangle partners can advance the US national interest. Leaving Central America to its fate will do the opposite.

Takeaway: The administration’s plan to cut aid from Northern Triangle countries will be devastating for the children and families living in the regions, and will likely have the opposite effect the administration wants — more people will be claiming asylum in America.

#3: A bipartisan group of 10 Texas lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna, expressing concern about the inability of USCIS to act in a ‘timely way to serve the Houston area” noting it’s a “hindrance to our regions future”.

They explain the average wait time for a green card application in Houston is 19.5 to 24 months, compared to much shorter wait times in Los Angeles and New York. Moreover, they add, applications for naturalizations suffer the same fate—more than double the time for Los Angeles and New York.

Ballooning processing times is not in anyone’s interest, and this letter shows bipartisan frustration with how this administration is devoting resources to immigration processing. This letter focuses on the Houston area, but a recent Boundless Immigration report finds that the worst 3 metro areas to become U.S. citizens are all in Texas.

Takeaway: Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the line to become naturalized.

Quote of the Week:

“Yes, we are in a crisis situation at the border — a humanitarian crisis, a refu­gee crisis. What Democrats are trying to deal with is: is this an immigration crisis? Is this about illegal immigration? Not really. Neither side is characterizing this accurately. But it’s absolutely, 100 percent true that every part of our border management system is beyond capacity and completely overwhelmed right now.” — Theresa Brown, Bipartisan Policy Center

Recommended Weekend Reading:

Exequiel Hernandez: The Missing Piece of the Economic Debate Over Immigration Reform

Doris Meissner & Sarah Pierce: Policy Solutions to Address Crisis at Border Exist, But Require Will and Staying Power to Execute

Sam Peak & Ryan Khurana: Secret Weapon: Immigrants Help America Keep Its Technological Edge

Adam Carter: ‘The Most Metal Thing I’ve Ever Done’: Metalheads Sponsoring Syrian Refugees

Jeremy L. Neufeld: How DHS Threatens to Trap Highly-Skilled Women at Home