Immigration Politics.

After the Civil War, the stream of European immigrants to the United States turned into a flood. By 1890, 14.8 percent of the people living in the United States had been born abroad. Many “old-stock” Americans found this deeply disturbing. While the First World War temporarily choked down on emigration from Europe, a powerful movement for immigration restriction had sprung up. In the early Twenties, new laws imposed a system of quotas on future immigrants. Decades later various new laws eased restrictions on legal immigration, while a large number of Mexican and Central American immigrants had entered the country illegally. By 2015, 13.7 percent of the population had been born abroad. Demographers now project that this share of the population will grow. By 2015, 14.9 percent of the population may be foreign-born.[1] Is there some kind of “saturation point”?

Today, Americans aren’t opposed to immigration. OK, I have to qualify that a bit. As recently as 2013, a huge majority of Americans (73 percent) thought that immigration was good for America, while only 24 percent thought that it was bad.[2] However, one recent Pew poll found that only 45 percent of Americans believe that immigrants improve America—over the long run at least.[3] A majority (55 percent) of Democrats and a minority (31 percent) of Republicans believe that immigrants improve America. On the other hand, that means that 45 percent of Democrats either don’t think immigrants make the country better or they’re not sure. In addition, 34 percent of Democrats think that immigrants are making the economy worse. Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Tommy Carchetti should think about this. (See: Donald Trump in the general election.) On the other hand, the vast majority of Republicans either think that immigrants don’t make the country better or they aren’t sure. This is pretty bizarre within my own notion of what the Republican Party should be: an opportunity society that creams off the best and the brightest from all those sweat-soaked hell-holes around the globe. Of which there are a great many.

In a discombobulating perception, while at most (69 percent) Republicans (100-31=69) think immigrants do not make the country better, 71 percent of Republicans think that immigrants are making the economy worse. Apparently, at least 2 percent of Republicans think that immigrants are making the economy worse and also believe that this is good for the country. Probably some kind of sampling error. As in: Pew interviewed a bunch of idiots. Well, they get to vote so I suppose they deserve to be polled.

Still, there are intricacies to the issue that don’t always receive adequate discussion. For example, one tricky bit appears to be the difference between legal and illegal immigration. In November 2013, 63 percent of Americans favored a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. In contrast, 18 percent want all the illegals rounded up and shipped home.[4] In June 2014, the great majority (62 percent) of Americans favored granting full citizenship to illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements; 17 percent favored granting “green cards,” but not full citizenship; and 19 percent wanted them all deported.[5]

Also, the composition of immigration has been changing. In 2010, Mexicans amounted to 45 percent of the immigrants to the US. In 2012 this fell to 14 percent of immigrants. Who picked up the slack? India sent 12 percent, and China 10 percent, while other Asian countries sent 23 percent. That makes Asia, at a total of 45 percent, the current chief source of immigrants to the United States.[6] According to the Census Bureau, in 2013 alone, 147,000 people of Chinese origin migrated to the United States. This puts China in first-place in the list of countries sending migrants to the United States. In 2013, Mexico sent 125,000.[7]

Liberals are counting on Hispanics to vote en mass Democratic. It may not happen. About one-sixth of Hispanics (16 percent) now identify as evangelical Christians (who lean Republican). Another 18 percent express no religious affiliation. Religious Hispanics remain overwhelmingly Catholic (55 percent) but that number is noticeably down from where it was in 2010 (67 percent).[8]

In one sense, Republicans have little to gain from seeking to the Hispanic vote. Only about 16 percent of Congressional districts held by Republicans have at least 20 percent Hispanics in their populations.[9] However, would swinging the Hispanic vote allow Republicans to make further inroads in currently Democratic districts?

Then, if one is to judge by the attacks on Asian shop-keepers during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, or the off-hand comments of people I know, African-Americans don’t much like Asians or Hispanics. Much of the traditional Democratic base is concentrated in a handful of major cities and in the South. The Democratic obsession with affirmative action is going to alienate the Asian and Hispanic voters.  In sum, the Democrats have some long-term problems cooking.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 9 October 2-15, p. 18.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week,

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 16 October 2015, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 December 2013, p. 17,

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 20 June 2014, p. 17.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 25 July 2014, p. 14.

[7] “Noted,” The Week, 15 May 2015, p. 16.

[8] “Noted,” The Week, 23 May 2014, p. 14.

[9] “Noted,” The Week, 19 July 2013, p. 14.

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