Britain Apologizes to Caribbeans Who’ve Lived in Britain for Decades

As recently as last week, Mrs. May’s office said she had no plan to meet separately with them to address the issue.

But she reversed course and on Tuesday, she met with 12 Caribbean Commonwealth leaders, and apologized. “We are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” she said.

Until last week, the Home Office, the agency that administers immigration policy, had advised Caribbean-born residents to hire lawyers, which many of them cannot afford. This week, the Home Office dropped that stance, announcing a dedicated team to help people sort out their immigration status free of charge, and promising resolutions in two weeks, rather than the months it has taken in the past.

The prime minister’s office even suggested that the government might reimburse people for expenses incurred during their struggles to secure legal status. But no one knows the scope of the problem.

Neither the government nor its critics know how many people belong to the “Windrush generation,” those who migrated legally from British colonies or former colonies between 1948 and 1973. They do not know how many are unable to prove that they are in the country legally, how many have faced dire consequences as a result or whether any have been wrongly deported.

The stories of mistreatment began with left-leaning publications, but spread to right-leaning news media outlets. The Times of London, usually friendly to the Conservative Party, editorialized on Tuesday that the prime minister’s policies suffered from “the corrosive assumption that immigrants are a problem rather than a benefit.”

On Monday, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, endured a torrent of abuse in the House of Commons. “Some of the way they have been treated has been wrong, has been appalling, and I am sorry,” Ms. Rudd said.

The most emotional statement came from David Lammy, a Labour member of Parliament whose parents immigrated to Britain from Guyana.

“It is inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush generation to have suffered so long in this condition,” Mr. Lammy said. “This is a day of national shame.”

He and other opposition lawmakers demanded that Ms. Rudd say how many people had been wrongly deported to Caribbean countries they barely remembered from childhood. She insisted that as far as she knew, none had been.


Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, center, talked with reporters in London about the plight of Caribbeans who have lived in Britain legally for decades but have trouble documenting their status.

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Unlike most European countries, Britain does not have a national identity card, and many people do not have passports, which require proving one’s identity and residence. Until recent years, routine aspects of British life required little documentation.

That changed in 2012, when the government sharply tightened immigration controls, requiring people to prove their identity and legal status in the country in order to get a job, rent an apartment, receive free medical care, open a bank account or enroll in school, among other things. Enforcement of those rules increased in the ensuing years.

The politician most closely associated with those policies is Mrs. May, who instituted them when she was home secretary.

“The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants,” she said in 2012.

Her opponents frequently throw that line back at her, charging that she has applied a “hostile environment” policy to all immigration, legal or illegal.

More than two million citizens of other European Union countries are believed to live in Britain, thanks to European Union rules that ease movement across borders. That fact spurred many people to vote for Britain’s exit from the European Union in a 2016 referendum, and Conservative lawmakers have promised new migration controls once Britain leaves the bloc.

Mrs. May has said that European Union citizens already in Britain will not be deported, but many of them, mistrustful of the government and wary of the anti-immigrant mood, have already left or are contemplating leaving.

The Windrush generation dates to 1948, when British law granted a form of citizenship to people from the colonies. They were encouraged to move to Britain to fill a labor shortage and could migrate without any immigration controls.

The first large group from the West Indies, almost 500 people, arrived that year on the Empire Windrush, a passenger liner, and the name stuck to an entire generation.

In 1962, British law changed to end the automatic right of entry. During the 1960s and 1970s, as the Caribbean colonies gained independence — giving their people different citizenship — a series of British laws further tightened immigration controls.

One of those laws provided that anyone from a former colony who resided legally in Britain before Jan. 1, 1973, could remain indefinitely. More than half a million people, primarily from the Caribbean, fall into that category, and most eventually acquired British citizenship, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

According to a government survey, more than 50,000 of those people say they are not British citizens, “but it’s hard to know what that means, really,” said Madeleine Sumption, director of the observatory. “You have people who believe that they are U.K. nationals and don’t realize that they are not. But there are also people who may in fact be U.K. citizens but don’t know.”

People who moved to Britain from 1948 to 1962, when migration was unrestricted, might not have any documentation of their arrival or their residence before 1973. Many believe they are full-fledged British citizens; experts say their status is not completely clear, though their legal right to live in Britain is undisputed.

Adults who migrated from 1962 to 1972 received documentation when they arrived, but still might not have anything proving residence before 1973. And if they brought children with them, those children — now in middle age or older — might not have ever had any immigration or other paperwork in their own names.

Ms. Rudd vowed in Parliament that the government would help people find documentary evidence of their legal status.

But Chuka Umunna, a Labour lawmaker, asked a question for which no one had a ready answer: “What if the evidence doesn’t exist?”

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Justice Ginsburg Urges New Citizens to Make America Better

Despite the contentious climate surrounding immigration — and who gets admission to the country — Justice Ginsburg made no mention of the Trump administration in her remarks. The Supreme Court will hear arguments this year about the legality of President Trump’s travel ban; in a December Supreme Court decision that allowed the third version to continue during the legal challenges, both Justices Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Justice Ginsburg will mark her 25th year on the bench in August.

After officiating at the ceremony, she went upstairs in the museum for a private talk with young fellows from the Immigrant Justice Corps, a program for immigration lawyers and practitioners founded in New York by Robert A. Katzmann, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

To preside over a naturalization ceremony at the historical society was Justice Ginsburg’s idea.

She said in a statement that she had read a New York Times article about a program at the historical society for citizenship applicants. “I thought it was a grand idea,” Justice Ginsburg said. “So, I wrote to N.Y.H.S. and said if ever I am in town when they had a naturalization ceremony, I would be glad to participate.”


Jennifer Esteres Cruz, center, was one of 201 new citizens at the ceremony. Justice Ginsburg told them, “We are a nation made strong by people like you.”

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The Citizenship Project offers free classes to green card holders who are studying for the naturalization test, involving art, documents and artifacts at the museum. Since it began in July 2017, more than 600 people have completed the classes, said its president, Louise Mirrer, and the museum hopes to reach 1,000 by July.

Ms. Mirrer was struck by the compact, powerful civics lesson Justice Ginsburg delivered. “She was careful to present this nation as one that is heavily into self-improvement,” Ms. Mirrer said.

In her remarks Justice Ginsburg detailed the evolving history of representation and inclusion, from the preamble to the Constitution to the abolition of slavery to the amendments that allowed women and blacks to vote.

“Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than other nations, but rather in her ability to repair her faults,” Justice Ginsburg said.

Justice Ginsburg acknowledged that the United States was at its outset an imperfect union, and is still beset by poverty, low voting numbers and by the “struggle to achieve greater understanding of each other across racial, religious and socio-economic lines.”

She urged its newest citizens to vote and to foster unity. “We have made huge progress, but the work of perfection is scarcely done,” she said.

As a champion of women’s rights and equality, Justice Ginsburg proved inspirational to men and women in the audience. Pranitha Mantrala, 35, a physician originally from India, said the message was clear: “I think we can achieve anything.”

She became a citizen along with her husband, Srikanth Ambati, 38, who is a pediatric cancer specialist at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “It meant a lot for me, especially her parents coming from such a background, and her going into such a high profession,” Dr. Mantrala said. “It’s adorable.”

Yusif Abubakari, 42, born in Ghana, was struck by Justice Ginsburg’s “humbleness,” he said. “She is supposed to be at home but she came because of me, because of us, and that make me feel so special today,” Mr. Abubakari, adding, “May God bless her and give her more life and prosperity.”

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Here’s Why an Accurate Census Count Is So Important

States including Texas, Florida, Colorado and Oregon are projected to gain seats after the 2020 numbers are in. Illinois, Ohio, New York and West Virginia are among the states expected to lose seats. An undercount could shift those projections.

Lawmakers also use census data to draw congressional district boundaries within states, an often-controversial process that can help decide partisan control of the House. Census data also underpin state legislative districts and local boundaries like City Councils and school boards.

Handing out federal and state dollars

The federal government bases a large amount of its spending decisions on census data. Researchers concluded last year that in the 2015 fiscal year, 132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.


The calculation for determining congressional districts is based on total resident population — which means citizens and non-citizens alike.

Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

Influencing business decisions

To sell products and services, companies large and small need good information on the location of potential customers and how much money they might have to spend. The census provides the highest-quality and most consistent information on such items, and businesses have come to depend on it to make critical choices.

Census data help companies decide where to locate distribution centers to best serve their customers, where to expand or locate new stores and where they have the best chance of seeing a high return on investment. That is why business groups have been particularly concerned about the integrity of that data.

“The 2020 census is used to help construct many other data products produced by the federal government,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who writes frequently on the importance of census data for policymakers and the private sector.

“Some of those products are heavily used by businesses when determining where to open new stores and expand operations, or even what items to put on their shelves. This affects retail businesses, for sure, but businesses in many other sectors as well,” he added.

Planning for various health and wellness programs

Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning.

Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does.

“It’s getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “The addition of the citizenship question will make the enumerators’ jobs even harder by heightening privacy concerns and reducing participation among immigrants, who may fear the information will be used to harm them or their families.”

Gaming out Social Security

An undercount in the census could also impact forecasts about Social Security payouts, which are already increasing as a share of the federal government’s revenue.

When Congress plans for the costs of the country’s Social Security needs, lawmakers rely upon demographic projection about the population’s future: the number of children expected to be born, the number of people expected to die, and the number of people expected to immigrate. If baseline data regarding the current population are inaccurate, future projections could be skewed, causing financial challenges down the line.

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When the Elderly Call for Help, a ‘Chain’ Immigrant Often Answers

But economists do not necessarily agree.

Those who study immigration and labor patterns have questioned the wisdom of restricting family-based immigration, a crucial source of low-skilled workers, many of whom hail from countries like Mexico and the Philippines, where Ms. Mangayan, 47, is from.

“In any plausible future scenario, the U.S. needs far more new low-skilled workers than high-skilled workers,” said Michael Clemens, an economist at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, “so many that it will be impossible for native labor to fill all those jobs, even if native workers wanted to.”

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, among the 10 occupations expected to grow the most through 2026, only three require university degrees, all of them digital or data-focused: software developers, statisticians and mathematicians.

The two that will require the most new workers: personal care and home health aides, with 1.2 million new positions between them.

About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and more than half will need long-term care, according to the Pew Research Center. Already, home-care agencies and elderly-care facilities are struggling to recruit.

“If one of our aides is sick or has an emergency, it’s very difficult to find a backup,” said Kevin Smith, the president of Best of Care in the Boston area, who taps into the large Haitian and Brazilian communities in Massachusetts.


Ms. Mangayan, who married an American and is now a citizen, earns $29,000 a year taking care of elderly residents.

Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

In 2017, 26 percent of personal care aides and home health aides were foreign born, a high, according to an analysis of official data by Brian Schaitkin, a senior economist at the Conference Board. In New York, 62 percent of home aides were foreign born. In California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, foreigners represented nearly half of them.

Lupe Mercado, a Mexican immigrant who works for an agency called 24Hr HomeCare in Los Angeles, has endeared herself to clients with dementia who initially cursed and flung food at her. One of them recently died holding her hand, Ms. Mercado noted, brandishing a picture of the woman on her cellphone.

On a recent afternoon, she doted on Olive Tanaka, 92. “I’m spoiled by her,” said Ms. Tanaka, a line dancer in her day who is now widowed, blind in one eye and needs round-the-clock care since suffering a fall.

Having entered the United States illegally, Ms. Mercado benefited from a 1986 amnesty law signed by President Ronald Reagan, obtaining a green card and eventually becoming a citizen.

“It doesn’t pay so much but I love my job,” said Ms. Mercado, who earns $12 an hour, and supplements her pay by taking private clients on her days off.

Proponents of restricting immigration say the low wages in her field — and in other workplaces where immigrants have a foothold, like construction, farms, and restaurant kitchens — are a prime reason immigrants have begun to supplant American workers in the jobs.

Some of those other professions, too, face worker shortages. A survey in September by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 70 percent of construction firms were having difficulty finding bricklayers, roofers and electricians, among others. Last August, the restaurant and accommodation sector had 742,000 vacancies, a historic high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stemming the flow of low-skilled immigrants could put pressure on employers to raise wages, compelling many Americans, including millions who are chronically unemployed, to get back to work. “It may draw all these people, or some fraction of these people, into the labor force,” posited Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports curbs on immigration.

Indeed, more people would do blue-collar work they now shun if wages were higher — but not enough of them would, according to Chris Tilly, a labor economist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Wage is not the main issue. There are also expectations and status,” he said. “Not everybody wants to work with their hands touching people; not everybody will do dirty work.”

Supporters of an immigration overhaul cite other reasons the country should be choosier about whom it lets in. The Trump administration has also framed it as a national security issue, noting several cases where terror suspects came to the United States through family connections. Immigrants are also more likely to use welfare programs than native-born Americans, owing largely to their comparatively low skill levels upon arrival, the Center for Immigration Studies says, citing Census Bureau data.

Under a House bill introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, and supported by the White House, citizens and permanent residents, or green card holders, could continue to bring spouses and children under 18 into the United States. But they would no longer be able to sponsor parents, adult children, siblings, nephews and nieces.


Lupe Mercado, a caregiver originally from Mexico, helps Olive Tanaka during a walk near Ms. Tanaka’s home in Gardena, Calif.

Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

The bill would also create a point system for admission based on factors including education, English skills, and job offers in the United States, and it would cut the overall number of green cards awarded each year by half, to 500,000.

Employers who rely on immigrant labor are anxious about what will happen in Washington. Senior-care agencies in particular are worried because many are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare and so cannot, they say, easily raise wages to make their jobs more attractive to native-born workers.

If Congress makes it harder for relatives to immigrate, “Where are all these workers going to come from?” asked Patricia Will, the founder of Belmont Village, a Houston-based network of upscale facilities that employs 4,000 people in several states.

Ms. Mangayan, who makes $29,000 a year plus benefits at Belmont Village in Burbank, came to the United States in 1997 after marrying an American citizen, and she is now a citizen herself. She would have been able to immigrate under the proposed rules, though many of her co-workers would not.

Ms. Mangayan and her husband, a customer-service representative at the airport, earn enough to afford a $1,200-a-month two-bedroom apartment; their 23-year-old son’s college tuition; and occasional travel to the Philippines. Ms. Mangayan does hair to make extra money on the side.

Ms. Mangayan, who also has a 14-year-old daughter, said that one day, “I would like to have at least a condo.”

Not long after arriving for her 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift one recent afternoon, she was already darting from room to room.

In room 411, she improvised sign language to communicate with Bernard Bragg, an 89-year-old who achieved fame decades ago as a deaf-mute actor.

Mr. Bragg, asked what he thought of Ms. Mangayan, pointed to her, placed his hands over his heart and smiled lovingly. He then flapped his arms to suggest she was an angel.

Velma Vincent, in room 406, credited Ms. Mangayan with restoring her will to live and ability to walk after her husband died.

“I was a goner,” recalled Ms. Vincent, 88, who was resplendent in a bright-red blouse and white slacks with matching red necklace, earrings and nail polish. “Irma came in and encouraged me.”

Ms. Mangayan had coaxed Ms. Vincent to get out of her wheelchair, practice baby steps down the hall, going farther and farther each time. Soon, Ms. Vincent was mobile — and independent — with her walker, playing blackjack and Bingo, attending church and visiting Belmont Village’s beauty salon.

“My family will be forever grateful,” said her son, Bob Vincent. “that Irma emigrated from the Philippines to the United States, giving my mom a quality of life that she would not enjoy were it not for Irma.”

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