Half of pop growth in U.S. is by immigrants

The share of U.S. population growth attributable to immigrants hit 48% for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, up from 35% in fiscal 2011.

The general fertility rate in 2017 for women age 15 to 44 was 60.2 births per 1,000 women—the lowest since the government began tracking it more than a century ago, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia drew on immigration for more than half of their growth last fiscal year, including Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The figures encompass people moving to and from the U.S., including an influx from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Migration from Puerto Rico is counted as immigration by the Census Bureau though the island is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens.

Since 2010, the biggest share of immigrants—41%—has come from Asia, according to separate census figures. A fifth, or 21%, has come from Mexico and Central America.

From the Wall Street Journal.

Deported to Mexico


Politico reported on a deportation of a father in New York City back to his Mexican state of origin, Puebla, which is southeast and east of Mexico City. The authors wrote, “Numbers alone can’t capture what it’s like to spend years or decades building a life, finding work, starting a family—only to be torn away and made to return to the violent and impoverished place you fled.”

Jorge Vargas, now back in living with his mother in the town of Santa Lucia, says, “Since I was deported, I hardly leave my room. All of my old friends are now involved in gangs and drugs, so I stay home.”

Now 28, he lived in New York from age 15 to 27. Just when he was on the verge of qualifying for DACA, having passed the biometrics screening, and just after his wife had given birth to their son, he was arrested by ICE in April 2017 on his way to work and was deported within a month. The name of his newborn son, Joandri, whom he hasn’t seen in almost two years, is tattooed on his arm.

An estimated 1 million undocumented Poblanos live in the United States—one of the largest communities of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the country. Roughly half of those million Poblanos are in New York, where areas like Corona, Queens, have earned the nickname Puebla York. Puebla is the only Mexican state that has a New York office devoted to immigrants, and every year, the Puebla government sponsors reunions of Poblano families, who are allowed to visit their undocumented relatives in the United States on temporary visas for three weeks.

Those who leave Puebla escape the dire poverty of a state where most families earn an average of US $70 a month. More than 60 percent of Puebla’s 6 million people live below the poverty line; many Poblanos resign to labor under the control of cartels in order to stay above it. Meanwhile, an undocumented Mexican construction worker in New York can earn more in a day than he would make in a month in Puebla. Most Poblanos in the United States send much of their earnings back to family below the border.

Why aren’t Dem candidates talking about immigration?

The only Democratic presidential candidate who has a platform for immigration reform is former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. Not only is Castro calling for a reversal of Trump’s Muslim ban and wall spending; he also wants to decriminalize of the very act of crossing the border illegally. Unauthorized border crossings were first criminalized in 1929.

Castro proposes scaling back the existing enforcement regime by ending the use of for-profit detention facilities, breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dialling back Customs and Border Protection’s mandate to act within the United States, and refocussing deportation efforts on people who are convicted of serious crimes or considered a threat to national security.

But his proposal contains few concrete suggestions for the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented or for the reform of the existing system for legal immigration.

From The New Yorker

One author on immigration and threats to liberal democracy

“The People vs. Democracy,” by Harvard’s Kennedy School faculty member Yascha Mounk, says that for much of the 20th Century, capped by the collapse of communism, the political system of liberal democracy flourished. That system marries formal democracy of popular elections with liberal institutions that guarantee the rule of law and individual liberties. The popularity of this system (in, say, Poland and Hungary after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in western Europe and in the U.S.) was the result of three constraints against an underlying high risk of political chaos: Rising incomes, cultural hegemony in countries, and mass communication that was controlled by the political and financial elite. These three constraints are now largely gone, due to economic underperformance for most people, immigration and the internet. As a result, it is much easier now for people to express their desire for authoritarian figures who say they can fix everything, non-objection to military rule, removal of liberal institutions such as an independent court system and independent media, and hostility to immigrants.

My comment: the traditional destinations of immigrants, mainly the Northeast, some large mid-west cities, and the West Coast, have a high tolerance for cultural diversity. The rise in immigration since the 1960s was managed fairly well. The main opposition to immigration today is from inland, more rural communities which until the 1990s did not experience much immigration in the 20th C.

National opinions about immigration

Pew Research surveyed 18 countries for opinions about immigration. In 10 of the countries surveyed, majorities view immigrants as a strength rather than a burden. Among them are some of the largest migrant receiving countries in the world: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia (each hosting more than 7 million immigrants in 2017).

The table shows five countries. It leaves out some countries which are extremely hostile to immigration, including Hungary and Isreal.

By contrast, majorities in five countries surveyed – Hungary, Greece, South Africa, Russia and Israel – see immigrants as a burden to their countries. With the exception of Russia, these countries each have fewer than 5 million immigrants.

Meanwhile, public opinion on the impact of immigrants is divided in the Netherlands. In Italy and Poland, more say immigrants are a burden, while substantial shares in these countries do not lean one way or the other (31% and 20% respectively).

Top immigrant occupations

About 17% of American jobs are filled by foreign-born workers. These jobs form an hourglass outline: highly paid workers in information technology and medical sciences, and lowly paid jobs such as in farming and construction laborers.  Jobs with low wages that are filled by many foreign-born workers tend to require little or no English proficiency — salon workers and farm workers, for instance.

Look for rising foreign-born work percentages in jobs that pay well but do not require much formal education and proficiency in English — examples being roofing and truck driving.

The graphic below separates out six jobs with extremely high foreign-born worker participation — one of th six is highly compensated –medical scientists.

Selected jobs with high foreign-born participation

From here and here.

Letter from two former American ambassadors

“If you thought the caravans were bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet” was written on April 9 by James Nealon, former US Ambassador to Honduras and John Feeley, a former US Ambassador.


So you hate undocumented and irregular migration from Central America? Well you’re going to hate it more now that the President has cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the countries from which the families and children we’re seeing at the southwest border are fleeing.

We have to ask ourselves, after seeing illegal border crossings drop to historic lows in 2017, why are we seeing a spike now? Three reasons: First, because we have a booming economy. As long as U.S. per capita GDP is 25 times that of Honduras, and as long as there are more jobs than job seekers, there will be a significant pull factor.

Second, though things have gotten better in the Northern Triangle (the murder rate in Honduras has been more than halved since 2012), all politics is local. For many people living in conflictive communities or rural poverty, things haven’t gotten better enough, quickly enough to meet their rising expectations.

And third, and maybe most importantly, the President doesn’t get that his own rhetoric is helping fuel the current surge of migrants at the border. The smugglers use the President’s own bombastic words as proof that the border is going to close and that if they don’t go now, it will be too late.

The reason we have “catch and release”, in which asylum seekers are released into the United States pending a far-in-the-future court date to adjudicate their case, is because those courts have a backlog of 800,000 cases. So rather than making a decision on an asylum request in real time, and repatriating those found not to have a valid case, everyone who makes a claim gets in, at least for awhile.

Rather than spend billions on a wall, rather than close the border, rather than cut off foreign assistance meant to fix the problem, why don’t we spend the resources necessary to fix the immigration courts? We wouldn’t tolerate an 800,000 case backlog at the DMV, so why should we tolerate it at the border?

The crisis at the Mexican border

Excellent summary of the crisis by the NY Times:

The immigration courts now have more than 800,000 pending cases; each one takes an average of 700 days to process. And because laws and court rulings aimed at protecting children prohibit jailing young people for more than 20 days, families are often simply released. They are dropped off at downtown bus stations.

At the current pace of nearly 100,000 migrants each month, officials say more than a million people will have tried to cross the border in a 12-month period. Some of those arriving today will have a strong legal case to stay under international refugee treaties and federal asylum laws, but most won’t have a formal asylum hearing until 2021.

The flow of migrant families has reached record levels, with February totals 560 percent above those for the same period last year. As many as 27,000 children are expected to cross the border and enter the immigration enforcement system in April alone.

Relating to the Status of Refugees, nations agreed to allow anyone to seek asylum, even if they entered a country illegally. The agreements defined a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Determining whether an applicant receives asylum was left up to individual nations, but in the United States, the international obligations and the standards for asylum were largely incorporated into American immigration law beginning with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Only about 20 percent of asylum seekers ultimately win the right to live and work in the United States by proving that they would face persecution in their home countries.

Out of nearly 100,000 credible fear interviews during the year that ended in September of 2018, an asylum officer confirmed a credible fear 74,677 times — a nearly 75 percent approval rate. A senior Trump administration official vowed on Tuesday to dramatically reduce that rate by making the standards tougher.

Trump creating an opportunity for Democrats to lead on immigration

The president’s purge of Homeland Security leadership this week does two things: first, that whatever might be called the Administration’s immigration policy has become hostage to a Mexican border enforcement policy, one which the courts have repeatedly curtailed and to a fight with the countries of origin for migrants at the border. Second, the shakeup is punishing the congressional Republicans, who are more attuned to the complexities of immigration on America’s main streets. Congressional Republicans have no independent voice on immigration.

This gives to congressional Democrats an opportunity to show leadership on immigration – something they have avoided — and likely will continue to avoid. Is there any Democratic presidential candidate whose immigration views are known, much less designed to lead as opposed to react?

An immigration policy needs to take into account three things: the impact on the United States, the impact on the countries of origin, and the migrants themselves.  Democrats have a golden opportunity to articulate a constructive, achievable approach to all three.

The Democrats could show (probably will not) an awareness of both the pluses and minuses of immigration today in America. The minuses generally involve problems in cultural integration.  They could show (this will be easy) a better understanding of how to work with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the key countries of origins. And they could give a lot more attention to crafting immigration policies which place the right emphasis on who is admitted (limiting family related immigration to immediate family and expanding economic categories of immigrants).