How Australia, Canada and US abandoned race based immigration

From the 1960s continuing through the 1970s Australia (1966), Canada (1962) and the United States (1965) abandoned race base immigration laws.  Within ten years, Australia and Canada developed an employment-oriented immigration system. This 2020 Bipartisan Action Committee  report by Cris Ramón and Angelina Downs explains how this happened there and not in the U.S. Key to an employment-based system, the report says, is centralized policy making in the executive branch and heavy involvement of economic elites.   This political culture allows for drastic changes on policy based on evolving facts, and with the acceptance of the public. This is not present in the U.S.

In the United States, the die was cast in the 1965 immigration reform act, which conservatives in Congress tilted towards family based immigration expecting that this would allow European-heavy immigration to persists. Also, there was no investment in the Executive Branch towards creating a power to devise and manage an employment-oriented points system – as was the case in the other two countries.

In the United Kingdom, the open-ended immigration policy for Commonwealth members was shut down by acts during 1962 – 1971.  The “hostile environment policy” of recent years sought to extirpate Caribbean immigrants from the years before 1971.

What happened at the Mexican US border in 2021?

What happened at the Mexican border in FY 2021 (Oct 2020 – Sept 2021)? Government reports are impenetrable to the inexperienced reader, but analyses by others can be quite useful. In this posting I extract from a report by WOLA. (For backgound on WOLA, go here)

This is a much superior report than that of the Washington Examiner for FY 2021. The Pew Research report for is very good and should be read in conjunction with the WOLA report. Also see the Migration Policy Institute Report and the American Immigration Council.

CBP and its Border Patrol component “encountered”—that is, took into custody, at least briefly—more migrants than in any prior fiscal year. The agency reported encountering 1,734,686 undocumented people between October 2020 and September 2021. Of that number, 1,659,206 were encountered between official ports of entry by Border Patrol. That narrowly exceeds the 1,643,679 migrant apprehensions Border Patrol logged in 2000.

It is very likely, then, that a far larger number of additional migrants evaded capture in 2000 than did in 2021.

CBP reported that 26 percent of the migrants it encountered in September had already been encountered at least once before during fiscal 2021. That is way higher than the 14 percent “recidivism” average that the agency recorded between 2014 and 2019. (CBP does not have “recidivism” estimates from before 2005.)

The number of individual people encountered in 2021, then, was significantly fewer than 1.7 million…..the final number of individuals is probably about 1.15 million, which is larger—but not immensely larger—than 2019.

The reason for the increase in repeat crossings is “Title 42,” the pandemic border policy put into place by the Trump administration in March 2020, which the Biden administration has maintained. The year-end statistics show that CBP used Title 42 heavily in 2021. The agency expelled migrants, either into Mexico or by air to their home countries, on 1,063,526 occasions over the course of the year. That’s nearly 61 percent of all encountered migrants in 2021.

Most of those expelled were single adult migrants, who were subject to Title 42 provisions 84 percent of the time in 2021. As single adults are more likely to attempt repeat crossings, their overall “encounters” number is artificially high, with much double-counting.

The Biden administration stopped expelling children who arrived unaccompanied (and who are not Mexican) The number of unaccompanied children encountered in fiscal 2021 was 147,975.

More than 80 percent of encountered migrants came from Mexico or Central America’s “northern triangle” region (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). In recent months, though, an increasing number of migrants—an unprecedented 36 percent in September—came from other countries.

For the first time ever, more than half of family unit members encountered at the border in September were from countries other than Mexico or the northern triangle. September also saw a very sharp drop (45 percent) from August in arrivals of family members from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Citizens of countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle are expelled relatively rarely. That is because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must do so by air, to their home countries, which is costly. The result is a two-tier system in which some countries’ citizens are swiftly expelled without a chance to ask for protection, while others stand a strong chance of being released into the United States to pursue asylum claims.

Temporary skilled workers and the shift from Trump to Biden  

One of the three themes of the Biden’s administration’s approach to immigration is to boost the immigrationg of skilled workers. I decribe here what’s been happening.

Temporary use of skilled workers from overseas is a controversial topic, given as depending on the design and application of the temporary visa program, domestic workers can be thrown out of work to be replaced by foreign workers.  But the U.S. has a history going back to the 1950s of bringing in skilled workers on a temporary basis. My 2013 posting describes some of the history.

On balance, having a temporary system in place should enable employers to acquire skilled help to meet changing demand for certain skills, without having to rely only on permanent visas.  The H-1B program is the primary vehicle for employers to find these workers.

Congress sets annual caps to both temporary (85,000) and permanent employement-based (140,000) immigration.  Altering these caps is, of course, extremely arduous, witnessed by the struggle of Democrats to change other aspects of immigration law in this Congressional session. But the Executive Branch has a lot of descretion.  How these two channels behave and interact is explained in simple terms here.

The Trump administration conducted an assault on the importation of skilled workers under the H-1B program. The details of its tactics, and of court decisions in 2020 which stopped some aspects of the assault, are complex, and can be perused here.

The long story of how Trump attempted to crush the temporary skilled worker program is told by Forbes Magazine’s Stuart Anderson, whose columns are source of some of the content in this posting.

As Anderson observes, H-1B visas are important because they generally represent the only practical way for high-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work long-term in the United States and have the chance to become employment-based immigrants and U.S. citizens.

Anderson is exaggerating here. There are, noted above, channels of employment based applications for Green Cards – the EB series, summarized here.  The Biden comprehensive immigration reform bill would keep family green cards flat but employment-related green cards by 285%. Some summary statistics trace the assault and aftermath. H-1B visa applications need to meet criteria set largely by executive action rather than by Congress. Before Trump application denial rates were in the single digits. Under Trump, due to its revising the criteria, they soared to over 20%. After court decisions, then dropped down in FY 2011 to 4%.

The denial rate for new H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2021 dropped to 4%, far lower than the denial rate of 24% in FY 2018, 21% in FY 2019 and 13% in FY 2020,

According to Anderson, employers and high-skilled foreign nationals still have many problems. In March 2021, employers filed over 300,000 H-1B registrations for only 85,000 petitions available under the FY 2022 H-1B cap. That means the U.S. government rejected more than 70% of H-1B registrations for high-skilled foreign nationals before an adjudicator evaluated the applications.

Median annual compensation for all approved H-1B beneficiaries in FY 2020 was $101,000, according to USCIS data, and 64% possess a master’s degree or higher. (Go here).


Biden’s immigration actions: three themes

Pew Research has published a comprehensive summary of the Biden administrations actions on immigration. Three themes stand out.

  1. The Trump administration took some 1,000 executive actions many of which Biden has been reversing.
  2. Desire to increase employment based immigration. One of the initiatives is the filing of a comprehensive reform bill.  Green card volume would go up to around 1.5 million, compared to one million pre-Trump and about 500,000 at the current rate.  Biden’s bill has gone nowhere. But during 2021 the administration sought to reverse Trump’s efforts to curtail economic immigration (which in part was forestalled by courts) and in January 2022 opened up more opportunities for foreign students and temporary visa holders to stay in the U.S. and work.
  3. Retain the highly controversial Trump Mexican border policies. For a depiction of Biden’s handling of Stay in Mexico policy, I posted here. For Biden’s Title 42 expulsion policy, I posted here.

For 85 year olds, race/ethnic demographics is like the U.S. 40 years ago

81% of persons 85 or older in 2016 were white, compared to whites being 61% of the total population. The last time the total population was 80% white was in 1980. For white 85 year olds, their concept of American demographics may be 40 years out of date. (Also here.)


Pew Research says that for white Americans, the most common age was 58, but 11 for Hispanics, 27 for Blacks and 29 for Asians. Among all racial and ethnic minorities, the most common age was 27.

One reason non-Hispanic whites are disproportionately older than other Americans is that they were the biggest population gainers from the post-World War II baby boom – an era before many of today’s minority immigrants entered the country. Data from 2018 here.

The median ages in 2019 were whites, 44; Hispanics, 29; Blacks, 34; and Asians, 37. States with the highest median ages are Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont which are among the very few states with whites accounting for well over 90% of the state’s population.

From here and here.

Non English spoken at home

One fifth of households in the U.S. speak a language other than or besides English at home. This rate has doubled since 1980. (these and other figures from 2018 Census surveys).

The rate in Los Angeles is 59%; East Los Angeles 88;Passaic, N.J. 78%; Providence, R.I. 50%; Germantown, Md. 46%; West Valley City, Utah 39%; Springdale, AR. 35%; and Troy, MI 34%

Languages with more than a million people who speak it at home in 2018 were Spanish (41.5 million), Chinese (3.5 million), Tagalog (1.8 million), Vietnamese (1.5 million), Arabic (1.3 million), French (1.2 million), and Korean (1.1 million). There are now more people who speak Spanish at home in the United States than in any country in Latin America with the exception of Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina.

Sources: here and here

Internal migration in China was fundamental to its success

From Brad DeLong, economic historian at U.C. / Berkeley, who places the internal migration within the context of the past 60 years (from his substack blog):

For 40 years now, I have been a short-run China bull and a long run China bear. It has seemed clear to me, at every point in time. It is, of course, very clear and obvious that at each stage in the past I have been wrong.
China has, since 1980, at every point in time… been able to successfully rejigger its development model at each stage to continue economic progress. I think Barry Naughton’s periodization of post-Mao China is the most useful way of thinking about the stages of this process:
1. Agricultural de-communization
2. Labor-intensive manufactures in the Chinese countryside via [Town and Village Enterprises]
3. China’s cityscapes via retail decontrol
4. The drastic and painful 1996 to 2002 shrinkage of [state owned enterprises] work force by more than 40 percent— the flip side was that alternate businesses and ownership forms had reached sufficient scale to absorb the workers, land, and structures
5. Greatest of all: 200 million migrants flooded into the urban economy
6. The decision in 1998 to privatize urban housing
7. Finally, the decision to enter the WTO—the China-export shock

From here: The census in 2000 found that there were more than 120 million migrant workers in Chinese cities. More-recent estimates go as high as 200 million. This massive internal migration has appeared especially dramatic from a Chinese perspective because mobility was severely restricted in Maoist times, making it almost impossible for rural people to leave their villages.

The pull factors for rural migrants were to be found in the growing prosperity of the coastal zone, where China’s extraordinarily rapid economic growth has been concentrated. Some migrants went to established cities, where they worked as petty traders or in the service sector, as well as in manufacturing and the construction industry. Others were drawn to the new urban areas of the coastal zone, such as Shenzhen, where booming export industries created an ever-increasing demand for assembly-line labor.

Also from here: In 2009, there were 145 million rural-urban migrants in China, accounting for about 11 percent of the total population. Among them, an estimated 85 million to 100 million were born after 1980 — a period when three distinct government policies converged to shape the circumstances for increased rural-to-urban migration within China.

After its introduction in 1979, the controversial One Child Policy, which promoted late marriage and delayed child bearing and limited the number of children born in rural families to 1.5 (two for a first-born girl, otherwise one), was firmly implemented and shifted the vast rural China household structure — and thus, agricultural workforce — dramatically to fewer children.

Then in the mid-1980s, the Hukou System — a residence registration system devised in the 1950s to record and control internal migration and which ultimately hindered rural-to-urban movements — began to loosen in response to the demands of both the market and rural residents wishing to seek greater economic opportunity in cities.

Where are 11 million unauthorized persons living

In 1990, the distribution of foreign born in the U.S. was very roughly the same as in 1920: mainly California, the Northeast, and old industrial cities in the Midwest. Since then, immigrant populations spread out. States with the largest percentage increase in those speaking a foreign language at home from 1980 to 2018 are Nevada (up 1,088%), Georgia (952%), North Carolina ( 802%), Virginia (488%), Tennessee (459%), Arkansas (445%), Washington (up 432%), South Carolina (398%), Florida (393%), Utah (383%), and Oregon (380%).

A few states account for the great majority of non-English-at-home speakers. The states with the largest share of their populations speaking a foreign language at home in 2018 were California (45%), Texas (36%), New Mexico (34%), New Jersey (32%), New York and Nevada (each 31%), Florida (30%), Arizona and Hawaii (each 28%), and Massachusetts (24%).

From here. Graph data from here.

New York City’s new voter law for non-citizens

In December 2021, New York City authorized non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. This is by far the largest enfranchisement of non-citizens in the United States. (For an inventory of these laws, go here.) on January 10, a suit was filed saying the law violated New York State’s constitution.

In one fell swoop, the legally eligible voters in municipal elections rose from about 5.8 million by about 800,000, or 14%. Additionally, if unauthorized residents are considered, the rolls increase by an additional 7%. (These estimates I developed myself.) Roughly one fifth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s adult population is newly enfranchised.

This chart shows the size of several segments (in millions) of the foreign born population of the City.

(Here is data on the City’s population. Here is a breakdown of non-citizens by borough. Here is another analysis of the immigrant population of the city.)

The pie chart shows how the law affects the distribution of eligible voters.

Legally, anyone with a Green Card or a work visa who has resided in the City for at least 6 months is eligible (until the very end, the drafts called for just 3 months). (Here is the law in full. Here is the best analysis of the law.)

The law not only does not include any steps to verify legal status of persons registering as a voters, but also expressly bars the City from asking this information: “No inquiries shall be made as to the immigration status of potential municipal voter or municipal voter, other than to ascertain whether he or she qualifies to vote under this chapter. If such information is volunteered to any city employee, it will not be recorded or shared with any other federal, state, or local agency, except as otherwise required by law.”

The law requires the person to sign and affidavit saying “I meet all of the requirements to register to vote in New York State except for United States citizenship.” Misrepresentation penalties are relatively minor compared to what I would expect for voter fraud: a $500 penalty and up to a year in jail.

If U.S. pop trends were that of Japan…

Comparing population trending since 2009, if the decline in population in Japan were matched in the U.S. we would have a January 1, 2022 population 8% lower (or 304 million) than what we actually have — 332 million. If immigration had not stalled in the past few years, we might have 334- 335 million today.