Storefront Coyotes

Meet the con artists who “help” immigrants with their visa problems—and who will get rich if Congress passes a “tough” immigration reform bill.

For more than a decade, Loma International Business Group, Inc., operated out of the seventh floor of the elegant stone building in downtown Baltimore known as “Baltimore’s First Skyscraper.” Loma’s owners, Manuel and Lola Alban, seemed to fit in well with the lawyers, accountants, and government officials who also had offices in the building. Manuel Alban advertised himself as an attorney, and the couple purported to offer legal services to immigrants, particularly from Honduras and El Salvador, who were looking for help in dealing with their immigration status. Over the course of a decade, the Albans filed immigration paperwork for more than 600 clients, charging each hundreds of dollars for their work.

In June 2011, a federal judge shut down Loma for deceptive practices. According to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Manuel Alban was not an attorney, nor were the Albans authorized to provide immigration services, as they claimed. Moreover, more than half of the immigration applications they filed were rejected or denied, often because they filed the wrong form or failed to pay a fee. Collectively, the Albans bilked their clients of tens of thousands of dollars.

The Albans succeeded by using word-of-mouth advertising and preying on their clients’ vulnerability. “Since most consumers have limited English skills,” said the FTC’s complaint, “they place their trust in the Albans to select, prepare, and file the necessary English language immigration forms.”

They also succeeded by exploiting the Byzantine complexity of the immigration system, which is too intimidating for most laypeople to navigate on their own. Jackie Vimo of the New York Immigration Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, calls immigration law “second only to the tax code for complexity.” She says her group “strongly advises against” clients applying for an immigration benefit on their own, because the stakes for immigrants are so high. Says immigration lawyer Rachel Van Wormer, “You put the wrong things on your form, and you could be deportable.”

Talk of immigration reform is moving closer to reality, and the legislation that emerges from Congress will determine whether the treacherous path that immigrants already face becomes more dangerous still. While politicians jockey to craft a “tough” bill that piles on hurdles and paperwork for immigrants, unscrupulous entrepreneurs like the Albans are likely salivating over the opportunities.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Three Ways to Bring Manufacturing Back to America

The much-ballyhooed “in-sourcing” trend is real enough. But it won’t amount to much unless Washington acts.

Via Washington Monthly

In January 2012, President Barack Obama convened nineteen CEOs and business leaders at a White House forum to tout a potentially promising new phenomenon: instead of “shipping jobs overseas,” U.S. companies were bringing them back. “[W]hat these companies represent is a source of optimism and enormous potential for the future of America,” Obama said. “What they have in common is that they’re part of a hopeful trend: they are bringing jobs back
to America.”

Anecdotally, the record is impressive. A number of major companies—including some of the same firms that first took flak for “offshoring” jobs to China—are now expanding their manufacturing operations stateside. General Electric, for example, says it has created 16,000 new U.S. jobs since 2009, including jobs at a new locomotive plant in Fort Worth, Texas; a solar panel factory in Aurora, Colorado; and an engine manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. The company’s recent revival of Appliance Park, in Louisville, Kentucky, as a maker of high-end refrigerators, was the subject of high-profile coverage, including a recent piece in the Atlantic.

Other companies that have seemingly caught the “reshoring” wave are appliance maker Whirlpool (which rejected sites in Mexico in favor of Tennessee), and iconic brands like Intel, Canon, Caterpillar, and DuPont. All of these firms have reported expanding or building new U.S. facilities in the last few years. In December 2012, computing giant Apple announced it would bring some Mac production back to America, investing about $100 million to do so.

So given these recent wins, can “insourcing” save America’s economy?

No. And yes. On one hand, insourcing is unlikely to be the magic elixir for a job market that’s only slowly gaining steam more than three years after the official end of the Great Recession. Only some jobs are coming back, and not in nearly large enough numbers to reverse the overall decline in U.S. manufacturing employment. While manufacturing gained about 530,000 jobs between January 2010 and December 2012, America is still 7.5 million manufacturing jobs down from its last peak in 1979. Even if reshoring picks up steam, manufacturing employment is unlikely to recapture the heights of the 1950s, when more than one in three employed Americans worked the line.

Nevertheless, policymakers should encourage insourcing as much as possible, even if net job growth might be a fraction of what’s been lost. At stake is something much broader—America’s future capacity for innovation.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Where Are the Women Wonks?

Why the average D.C. think tank event features five guys in suits.

Via Washington Monthly

Every day in Washington, D.C., brings numerous announcements about the various policy events, forums, and conferences around town that serve as meet-and-greets for the city’s thinking elite. In addition to a prepackaged muffin or a stale sandwich and some badly brewed coffee, these events typically feature a slate of experts on whatever topic is the focus. Also typically, most of these experts are men.

One recent big-name panel on money in politics, for example, featured seven white men (including the moderator) and just one woman: Jane Harman, the Woodrow Wilson Center resident and former congresswoman. Another recent all-day, all-star conference on economic policy included only twelve women among the fifty featured speakers.

Certainly, some of the most powerful people in policy today are women, such as the Center for American Progress’s president, Neera Tanden, and Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute. But male “brand-name” policy experts far outnumber the women. Men—white men—dominate the senior management at many of the most influential D.C. think tanks. And men—white men—dominate the ranks of “scholars” in many institutions.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Who Really Abandoned Dems?

Via Politico

Conventional wisdom is hardening on two fronts in the aftermath of the election—among Democrats about how to regain power and among Republicans about what to do with it.

Many Democrats argue, and now believe, that disenchanted liberal base voters were the ones who stayed home and that this election was a referendum on the economy. Many Republicans, on the other hand, now believe their own press about a definitive, albeit tea party-tinged, mandate.

Conventional wisdom, it turns out, is wrong.

The Obama voters who stayed home this year (the “droppers”) or who switched their vote to Republican (the “switchers”) are neither disgruntled and de-motivated liberals. Nor are they raging tea partiers.

Rather, they are overwhelmingly moderate to moderate conservative. Bipartisanship is what they demand. And the role of government, deficits and the economy are their major concerns.

 

Continue reading at Politico

What Democrats Need: A Moderate Surge

Via Politico

With the worries over an “ enthusiasm gap,” many Democrats are now contemplating a home-stretch election strategy focused on rousing the base. By carrying a left-leaning message, this argument goes, Democrats can reactivate liberal enthusiasm to equal the Tea Party’s passion.

A motivated base is indeed necessary if the Democrats are to keep their congressional majorities. But it’s not sufficient. In fact, in many of the most hotly contested Senate and House races, candidates who match President Barack Obama’s 2008 performance—as outstanding as it was—still won’t win.

In these races, the surge that Democrats need is not among liberals. They need moderate voters.

Continue reading at Politico

Build wealth, not entitlements

Via Politico

For much of the 20th century, progressives put their political capital into building a safety net to protect Americans against market excesses. They aimed for economic security from cradle to retirement.

Today, many on the left say that health care reform is just one more step in this effort.

But it would be a mistake for Democrats to make expanding the entitlement state the defining goal in the 21st century as well.

Rather, they should focus on a new signature cause: policies that build national and individual wealth. For Democrats, who may be more familiar with how to cut up the pie than increase its size, this marks a significant shift.

 

Continue reading at Politico

Making health reform work

Via Politico

With the passage of historic health care reform legislation, Democrats are rightly eager to explain what’s in the new law and ensure that Americans realize its immediate benefits. As Democrats see it, the more Americans learn the facts about reform, the more they will appreciate it.

But what could ultimately shape the public’s views are Americans’ direct experiences with reform. For better or for worse, health care reform — one of the greatest expansions of federal power in a half-century — occurred at a time of historically low trust in government. Opinion polls show barely one in five Americans believe the federal government does the right thing all or most of the time.

That means Democrats must now make the task of consumer-friendly reform its top priority.

The new reform bill is a carefully crafted and structurally elegant piece of legislation that could have profound impact on the security of middle-class Americans. It’s also legislation that demands the same degree of attention and detail in its implementation as it received in its drafting.

 

Continue reading at Politico

The Rules for the Middle Class Have Changed

Via Politico

At the 2004 Democratic Convention, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts thought he was speaking to the middle class when he invoked Dave McCune, the steelworker who “saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up and shipped thousands of miles away.” But on Election Day, Kerry lost middle-income voters by 6 points and the white middle class by a staggering 22 points.

Buried in this loss is a lesson for Democrats, the self-described party of the middle class. Democrats are correct in thinking that the middle class is anxious. But they have habitually lost middle-income voters because they misunderstand the sources of that anxiety. And what they offer in response seems out of touch with average people’s lives.

 

Continue reading at Politico