Immigration over the past seven years was the highest for any seven-year period in American history, bringing 10.3 million new immigrants, more than half of them without legal status, according to an analysis of census data released today by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.
One in eight people living in the United States is an immigrant, the survey found, for a total of 37.9 million people — the highest level since the 1920s.
The survey was conducted by Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the center, which advocates reduced immigration.
Mr. Camarota has been active in the national immigration debate. Independent demographers disputed some of the survey’s conclusions, but not Mr. Camarota’s methods of data analysis.
I’ve seen criticisms of the CIS but I’d rather see critiques of the analysis. The data are the data; the motives of the analyzers, while illuminating, don’t refute the findings.
There’s a certain amount of handwringing going on in the blogosphere about the findings but surely they’re no surprise. Anyone with eyes or ears has certainly noticed that we’ve got a lot of immigrants around these days.
I think (hope, anyway) that I’ve been pretty consistent in the opinion about immigration that I’ve expressed here. I don’t think that we have an immigration problem in the United States. To the extent that we do have a problem we have a problem with Mexican immigration or, more precisely, immigration that comes via Mexico since much of our Central and South American immigration comes via Mexico. I also believe that our Mexican immigration program will tend to take care of itself—Mexican demographics nearly guarantees it.
However, I do think that the concern that we’re seeing in the country about immigration is understandable. We’re experiencing the highest rate of immigration since the turn of the 20th century when millions of southern and eastern Europeans came here and created much of our current immigration folklore and romanticism. That immigration motivated our current public school system as a means of aculturating the children of the new arrivals and the system of quotas that prevailed until the 1960’s. I suspect we’ll see a similarly strong reaction this time around. The immigration is certain to have unexpected consequences both from the new arrivals themselves as I’ve commented on before and the reaction to them.
I also think that we’re imprudent to cede our immigration policy to another country as we have done with respect to Mexico especially when that policy is as socially damaging as the current one is to Mexico. But that’s a problem we really need to negotiate with the Mexican government. I wonder if the next administration will be as reluctant to do that as this one has been?
I think we should pay more serious attention to assimilation than we have recently. I tend to agree with what my friend John Burgess said last night that the stewpot is a better metaphor for our attitude towards assimilation than the salad bowl is. I also think that social pressure is the best tool for accomplishing that. There’s a difference between tolerance and being a patsy.
I do have a modest proposal for reform of immigration. The federal government should pay 100% of the cost of educating children of immigrants who qualify for Title I. If the states can’t enforce immigration law, it’s only fair that they be reimbursed for the consequences of what the federal government fails to do. BTW whatever happened to that promise of no unfunded mandates from the federal government?
Immigration is an issue that elected officials of both parties dearly want to avoid. It does not help either incumbent Democrats or Republicans for the very simple reason that the opinion of the American people as a whole on the subject of immigration differs so markedly from that of Democratic and Republican politicians (and other elites). While the presidential aspirants may be able to avoid the subject for the primaries, I doubt they’ll be able to continue that into the general election. The importance of the issue to independents, needed by both Democrats and Republicans for victory, will likely preclude that.
By the way our immigration rate and percentage of immigrants in the population is double that of France and has been for our entire history. We can take it.