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Immigration is (still) a labor market story

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The long shadows of people waiting in line to cross the U.S. border are stretched across the sidewalk and the wall of a building.

TIJUANA, MEXICO - MARCH 22: People wait in line on their way to cross the southern border into the United States near the San Ysidro Port of Entry on March 22, 2022 in Tijuana, Mexico. March 21 marked the two-year anniversary of Title 42, the controversial pandemic-era border policy enacted by President Trump, which cites COVID-19 as the reason to rapidly expel asylum seekers at the U.S. border. Title 42 remains in effect with the Biden administration facing pressure from Democrats to end its use. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) Mario Tama/Getty Images

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In today’s show, we flag one economic benchmark investors are watching, then dive into some recent stories that highlight the unequal ways the U.S. grants immigrant and refugee status. Don’t forget, what happens at the border impacts our labor force. Speaking of work, employees nationwide are voting on unionization. Finally, a new study validates dog owners’ premonitions about their special pups and makes us smile.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Have a question or comment about something you heard on the show? Email us at or leave us a voice message at 508-827-6278, or 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart May 2, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams: Not Washington cool enough. But I am Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense in my non-Washington coolness.

Kai Ryssdal: Fair enough. I’m just non-everywhere not cool. Anyway, I’m Kai Ryssdal, thanks for joining us on this Monday, we will do the standard fare a little bit of news. Maybe it makes me smile. Although full disclosure right at the top. I don’t have one. Because ain’t nothing made me smile today. And then we’re gonna go. So we will begin with the news. You want to start? You start. How about you start?

Kimberly Adams: Sure, I thought – it’s not exactly like a today thing. It’s more of an ongoing issue that I’ve been watching. And NBC had a story out, I guess it was a couple of days ago, just sort of highlighting the difference between how Afghan refugees and Ukrainian refugees are being treated in this country and really many other places. But here in the US in particular, that, you know, the Afghan refugees, including many who worked with the United States during the war, have to go through this, you know, shortened process, compared to many other people seeking asylum or trying to become refugees coming into this country, but still not nearly as expedited, as some of the Ukrainians coming into this country. And a lot of the people who worked with Afghans during the war are getting incredibly frustrated. And there are some interesting statistics in this piece I’m trying to pull down. So for example, Afghans who wants to try to come into the country who haven’t made it there yet have to pay like an administrative fee of $575 to try to enter the US on humanitarian grounds. Ukrainians don’t have to pay that administrative fee. And for reference, the median annual per capita income in Afghanistan is about $400, you can apply to get that fee waived. But if there’s no indication of how often that happens, and just a lot of the people, including many veterans, who are working, trying to get their former colleagues into this country, have really been complaining about that. Now, that’s just the difference between Afghan refugees and people seeking asylum compared to Ukrainians. Not even looking at all of the migrants coming from South America or Africa or other parts of the world, who are trying to get into the country, and who have an even longer process to try to gain entry. This also gets us to the ongoing fight over whether or not Title 42 is going to remain in place and for a flashback there, Title 42 was this COVID era restriction that basically said the United States could block people from coming into the country, even if they were seeking asylum, even if they were refugees, even if they felt like they were at risk because of the health concerns of the pandemic. And so this was something put into place during the Trump administration. And it was used to expel more than a million migrants at the southern border, according to the story in Politico, and the administration announced it was going to end the use of Title 42. And, you know, happens to have occurred around the time that they were getting a lot of flack for, you know, sort of speeding up the process of Ukrainian refugees while blocking lots of other to be frank brown people at the border. And so the administration said they were going to end Title 42. Lots of people on both sides of the aisle didn’t like this idea. Democrats didn’t want the optics of a surge in migrations just leading up to the midterms. Republicans generally were opposed to lifting it in general. But the Biden administration said that it was going to go ahead and do do this anyway, and the use of title 42 By May the 23rd. However, last week, a US District Court in the Western District of Louisiana, said that he would side with Republican states in keeping the order preserved that fight is still ongoing. But last week,  Biden said it was going to comply. So I’m fascinated to see how this plays out. And I mentioned this on the podcast before but for as much as people complain about the staffing shortage and the worker shortage in this country, I am often surprised how opposed people are to immigration.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, so look, immigration is a labor market story, first of all, right. It’s just a huge freakin labor market story. But but to your Title 42 point and the backing and forth thing that we’ve been doing now for generations about about immigration in this society. I think immigration is even maybe more than national defense. I think immigration is the singular abdication of congressional responsibility policy issue, that we’ve got in this country.

Kimberly Adams: Say more about that.

Kai Ryssdal: Well, not – well, so first of all, just writ large, Congress does not like to make decisions, right. Decisions made in running this economy and running this society and running our body politic are difficult. They’re supposed to be difficult, because we have many competing interests. But what Congress has done is said, “Oh, no, we’re not doing anything, except for letting the president figure it out.” And then the president of either party gets dumped on by the other party, while members of Congress go “Oh, yeah, no, I don’t like immigration, or I want more immigration,” or whatever. But they they singularly refused to take a stand, right? And look to to say that it’s an abdication of responsibility, even greater than national security is quite something because, you know, we’ve been running for 22 years now on an authorization for the use of military force from from September 11th. That has gotten us in all kinds of trouble and has killed thousands of Americans. I just, I don’t – I have no stomach for Congress these days. Truly.

Kimberly Adams: I gather that from, from talking to you.

Kai Ryssdal:Sorry. Sorry.

Kimberly Adams: That’s okay.

Kai Ryssdal: Sorry.

Kimberly Adams: But what’s your news?

Kai Ryssdal: Anyways that what I think, that’s what I think. Okay, two super quick and not at all immigration-related things. But one labor market thing, which is this. Much talk in the last number of weeks and months about unionization drives, we’ve seen it at Starbucks. Also at Amazon, there was a big Amazon unionization win for the workers. Last month in New York, and now one in Staten Island. Another one in Staten Island, rather, has voted to not unionized by a vote of two to one. And look, there’s going to be revotes and all kinds of things because, well, because lawyers are getting involved. Right, but because companies have a great deal of latitude under the NLRB rules. And because workers I don’t believe are going to stop trying to unionize at Amazon. The story will go on, but it’s, Amazon’s kind of one and one now. And it’s just a thing we got to watch because as we’ve talked about many a time unionization is not not in gross numbers, but in perception and in trend on the rise in this economy, especially since pandemic so that’s number one. Yes, what?

Kimberly Adams: Well, I got – I was trying to find, I’m not sure if it’s in my Twitter, DMS or if you know, Elon Musk has already snatched it or if it exists elsewhere. But somebody wrote me a while back asking, you know, if it mattered, that these shops are unionizing one by one, like one Amazon warehouse at a time and one Starbucks at a time, and and how that compares to labor movements of the past. And does it make a difference? Maybe that’s a deep dive we should do in the future we can ask Meghan or something.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s actually a good one. Because, yeah, totally. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know the answer to that. But there are people out there who do. Yeah, that’s a good one. All right. The other one, it’s a little it’s a little dorky. It’s a little weedy but the yield on the U.S. Treasury – well, you know, yield on the US Treasury note the 10 year US Treasury hit 3.002 today, I don’t usually take it out to the tens, hundreds, thousands of have a decimal place. Sorry, I had to count. I’m not a math guy.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah I was double checking too, on my fingers.

Kai Ryssdal: But it’s of note because it’s the highest it’s been in three years, we should say historically, it’s still really, really low. But here we are in a rising rate environment, right, on Wednesday, Jay Powell is going to come out of that meeting and say, tada, the federal funds rate, the rate that the Fed controls is going up half a percentage point. So interest rates are gonna go up, 30 year fixed rate mortgage now five and a half percent. So that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening. And the bond market is saying, “oh, yeah, okay. Okay, we’re gonna send those yields up.” So just, you know, full timestamp, a little, little data point, I suppose. And those …

Kimberly Adams: In a very telling anecdote of my life, I was having a fascinating conversation with someone at a party on Saturday night about municipal bonds in this interest rate environment. Now, I don’t know what that says out about me.

Kai Ryssdal: Wow. You gotta get out more, that’s the name of that game.

Kimberly Adams: The worst part I was out.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s a very fair point. That’s a very fair point.

Kimberly Adams:  Let’s get back with a Make Me Smile.

Kai Ryssdal: Totally true. Yeah, that’s the line. All right. Well, as y’all can tell, I’m a little cranky today. I’m a little cranky. So anyway, we’ll do we’ll do a little little do a little happy place there, Charlton and then we’ll move. What you got Ms. Adams?

Kimberly Adams: Well, this was kind of like for you in many ways, since I saw that neither one of us had anything. But now I have to find my link again. So this was a story in the Associated Press, but linking to a, you know, academic journal from Science about dogs and their traits. And so the headline is great. “Your dog’s personality may have little to do with its breed.” And so the takeaway, yes, yes, this is useful. The takeaway is the researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2150 of their dogs to look for patterns. They found that some behaviors such as howling, pointing and showing friendliness to human strangers, do have at least some genetic basis, but that inheritance isn’t strictly passed down along breed lines. So for example, they found Golden Retrievers that don’t retrieve.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh my god. Alright, so mine, mine is true to breed, she retrieves like it’s going out of style anyway. Okay, go on.

Kimberly Adams: Okay. Some breeds like Huskies, and beagles may show a greater tendency to hell. But many of these dogs don’t. Both the owner survey and genetic data showed and the researchers, this is a really key one, the researchers could find no genetic basis for aggressive behavior, nor a link to specific breeds. So stop picking on pit bulls.

Kai Ryssdal: Wow. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Stop picking pit bulls.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, pit bulls are so happy when they’re loved. Like the biggest smiles and happy faces. I love pit bulls. They’re so cute.

Kai Ryssdal: Good dogs.

Kimberly Adams: Smiles. Pitbulls have great smiles make me smile. There we go. There we go. Full circle.

Kai Ryssdal: And there we go. Boom. Done. Nicely done.

Kimberly Adams: What about your other dog?

Kai Ryssdal: Well, she’s kind of a mutt. She’s a little bit wiener dog. She’s a little bit pug. She’s a little standoffish, does no retrieving. You know? But she’s around. She’s 12. She’s still, she’s still hanging. Likes to bark as listeners to this podcast have heard.

Kimberly Adams: But Bons – Sorry, but Willow likes to retrieve right?

Kai Ryssdal: Oh my goodness. Yeah. Yeah. It’s crazy. When she when she was little we we were we would worry that we were wearing her out, right? We would just throw balls and balls and she would go and go and go and be huffing and puffing. And we’re like, Alright, we gotta stop. And she’s like, “No, no, no, and then she drops the ball at our feet.”

Kimberly Adams: Like, let’s go. Let’s go.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s right. That’s right. Oh, man, it’s not good for you. Anwyway. Anyway.

Kimberly Adams: It’s good for you. It’s good for you. And you should go and throw the ball for your dog. Because that’s it for today. We are going to be back tomorrow for a deep dive that kind I’ve really been wanting to do for a while now talking all about the Federal Reserve’s attempts note I say attempts, pre-COVID to try to close the gap between Black and white unemployment. And what exactly happened to that effort? And what’s going to happen to that effort as interest rates continue to go up. So we hope you’ll join us for that conversation it’s going to be really fascinating.

Kai Ryssdal: It’s super important because last time I checked, you know, Black unemployment is like twice white unemployment in this economy and it’s as rates go up it’s not getting any better.

Kimberly Adams: Generally is.

Kai Ryssdal: Just put it that way. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Good point. All right. So that’s that. Tell us what you thought about today’s show or anything else that crosses your mind, questions for Wednesday or what have you. You can send us a voice memo or an email to make me smart at marketplace that org or you can just call us. Leave a voice message there 508-U-B-SMART.

Kimberly Adams: To add an “oh yeah” tag. Make Me Smart is produced by Marisa Cabrera. Our intern is Tiffany Bui. Today’s program was engineered by Charlton Thorp.

Kai Ryssdal: Our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar the director of On Demand round here, is Donna Tam.

Kimberly Adams: Oh yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh yeah. Chika chika ahh.

Kimberly Adams: I gotta go back and watch that movie.

Kai Ryssdal: Bueller, Bueller anyone? I tried to get my kids to watch it the other day. Well, not the other day.

Kimberly Adams: They will not appreciate it.

Kai Ryssdal: They were – they were having nothing to do with it. I was like, “Guys, it’s such a great film.” “Dad, it’s boring. It’s really stupid.”

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