The United States began limiting immigration in 1924.  The United States currently has an estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the country.  The United States admits 950,000-1 million legal immigrants each year.  Both of those realities have become the centers of political contention.  Pro-foreign-life people argue that immigration is vital for America’s society and economy, that the illegals should be granted some kind of legal status (often phrased as a “path to citizenship”), and that the United States has some kind of humanitarian duty to welcome everyone who has been the victim of one of life’s hard knocks.  Pro-it’s-our-choice people argue either that the immigrants are a bunch of undesirables from failed societies who will wreak havoc, or that immigration is good, but we need to pick and choose while recognizing that massive immigration will disrupt American society.  Various combinations of the two views either make the most sense or are a recipe for disaster.[1]

There are about 7.7 billion people in the world.  They live in 195 countries.  Gallup polled people in 152 of those countries.  They report that 15 percent of adults in those countries, an estimated 750 million people, would migrate to another country if they could.  Of that estimated 750 million people, about 158 million people want to move to the United States.[2]  Obviously, the real numbers could be much higher.  For one thing, many adults have children.  For another thing, there are the 43 countries where Gallup did not poll.  One can imagine virtually every single person in North Korea or Syria wanting to bolt.

One distortion in the contemporary debate arises from geography.  The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans bar most foreigners from getting to the United States except by sea (rare) or air travel.  You can’t get on an international flight from most places in the world headed for the United States unless you already have a visa.  That’s not the case for Central America.  People willing to run the risks of traveling the Lawless Roads can end up at the southern border of the United States.  Where political stunts by all sides provide something for cameramen to do.

The 2017 population of the United States has been estimated at 325 million people.  Can we take in 158 million people from foreign cultures—many of them very different in values from that of the United States—without any impact on American society?  If so, at what pace?  A million a year?  Five million a year?  Ten million a year?  All of them at once?  No?  Then the pro-foreign life people accept the idea of immigration restriction.  They just want to set the threshold at some undefined higher level.  And they don’t want to talk about the social, political, and financial costs.

As for the pro-it’s-our-choice people, there are 158 million people who want to come here, but you think there aren’t any among them who would make a vital contribution to America?  Red China wants to take over Taiwan, just like it did Hong Kong.  So, many people from a leading Far East industrial nation are going to want to migrate.  Russia and Iran are going to add Lebanon to the bag, just like Syria.  Lots of Lebanese Christians will want an out.

It’s an important debate.  It would be nice if we had it.

[1] I don’t have a ‘source” for this statement.  It’s just my sense of all the stuff I’ve been reading for years.  While there may NOT have been “good people on both side” in Charlottesville, there are idiots on both side of this debate.  Just hoping that I’m not one of them.  No need to tell me if you think I’m an idiot.  That’s what my sons are for.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 21/28 December 2018, p. 17.

Migrants 1.

Social scientists posit that people experiencing disturbing social change can seize on particularist identities like ethnicity or nationality.  Demographic change and economic change and shifting social values all can trigger such a response.  On the other hand, cultural and economic elites in Western countries celebrate the free flow of goods and labor.  They also have developed more cosmopolitan views than have many fellow citizens.[1]

Illegal immigration provides a good example of the particularist-cosmopolitan tension.  In recent times, illegal migration has become easier than ever before in history.  In both Europe and America bitter quarrels over immigration rack politics.[2]  These controversies arise not from heavy current immigration, but from heavy prior immigration.  More importantly, the general backlash against elites–who led us to war in Iraq and then into the financial crisis—has ensnared migrants.

Illegal migration to the United States dropped sharply during the Great Recession.  It hasn’t picked up immensely in the past year.  However, that still leaves 10-12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  Human symbols of elite failure.  Liberals insisting on calling them “undocumented immigrants”—as if there is just some bureaucratic foul-up in Washington—adds fuel to the fire.  President Obama’s skirting of the law angered many people.  Illegal immigration in the European Union is more recent.  There the flood of migrants from various failed states mixes with refugees from war-torn Muslim states.

People leave their “shithole” countries for good reasons and not just on a whim.  Until conditions in those countries improve, there is not likely to be a significant drop in attempts at illegal immigration.  To complicate matters further, while many of the migrants are economic migrants, the law allows them to request asylum as victims of persecution.  This clogs the immigration system and delays repatriation.

In light of this reality, attention has turned to deterring them from reaching American or European soil in the first place.  Europeans have negotiated with pathway countries—Libya, Sudan, and Turkey—to stem the departures for Europe.  The implementation of those agreements involves a good deal of brutality that is much worse than anything suffered by Central American migrants to the United States.  Mexico is unwilling to play that sort of role for the United States.  The “zero tolerance” policy attempted by a Trump administration grown tired of waiting for Congressional approval of a border wall offers another form of deterrence.

Cosmopolitans sometimes phrase the choice in a misleading way: “What sort of society do they wish to be?  Do they wish to be immigrant nations with continual demographic and cultural change?”  First, both the European Union and the United States have long had substantial legal immigration.  Second, it is legitimate to debate what kinds of immigrants best serve the interests of the community.

[1] Benjamin Barber, Jihad and McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Shaping World Society (1996).  Barber’s analysis remains engaging, but it wasn’t new.  Late-Nineteenth Century sociologists had identified the problem of anomie.  For that matter, historians long ago diagnosed the rise of “mystery” religions as a response to the cosmopolitanism of the Hellenistic kingdoms.

[2] Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, “In U.S. and Europe, Conflict Over Migration Points to Political Problems,” NYT, 30 June 2018.

Internal Migration.

If you go, well, Donald Trump scored big in the areas hollowed out by Chinese competition against “old industry,” Hillary Clinton did OKish in the areas marked by “new industry,” then the problem facing Democrats is how to expand the ranks of those employed in those new industries.

In theory, the internet and high-tech industry should allow people to work from anywhere in the country.  Omaha, Nebraska should be as good—if not a better— place to live as Seattle, Washington.  This should reduce the need to migrate.  In fact, it hasn’t worked out that way.

In zee old days, earlier old industries got replaced by new industries.  Moreover, American workers moved in pursuit of job opportunities.  Before the Second World War, about 15 percent of Americans lived outside the census division in which they were born.  By 1970, 25 percent of Americans lived outside the census division in which they were born.  Thus, under-paid Southern farmworkers could get better-paying assembly-line jobs.  All you had to do was move from Fordyce, Arkansas to River Rouge, Michigan.  So, lots of geographic displacement.[1]  Then this trend began to slow down during the 1980s.

Instead, for decades now, workers with more education have been streaming toward the great cities on the coasts, while less educated workers have been left behind.  During the first decade of the 21st century (2001-2010), the migration rates for the college-educated were about 2 percent per year; the migration rates for those with only a high-school education were 1.2 percent per year; and the migration rates for those with less than a high-school diploma were 1 percent per year.

Regionally, the “Rust Belt” states (Iowa, Michigan, Ohio) and the Plains States have shown the greatest out-migration of college-educated people.  In contrast, California, Maryland, Texas, South Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts have witnessed the greatest in-migration.  So, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington, New York City, and Boston offer a certain cachet.  One puzzle here is that Michigan and Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa are all major research universities surrounded by “blue townships.”  The same goes for Stanford and Washington, but less so for Oregon. Brigham Young, .

Why do younger, better-educated people move?  One Michigan State economist suggested that “lots of talented young people all over the country are eager to see new sights…”  So, give them interesting cities, with lots of youth culture.  Whatever “youth culture” means.  It appears to mean talking to non-company people over coffee; lots of chances to co=operate.

[1] See: “The Grapes of Wrath” (dir. John Ford, 1940).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M9fJMqhlZY

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.