Tuesday, June 2, 2015
America, Land of Opportunists!
The immigration debate appears to remain a hot button in the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign. Social conservatives have made it clear that they do not want a policy that enables those here illegally to have any path to legal residency or citizenship. This seems to apply even if they are the “dreamers” who, as little children, accompanied their parents across the border and have been raised almost entirely here in the United States.
Less dogmatic pragmatists outside of the GOP/Tea Party “Base” and most certainly those who are left of center see the necessity of dealing with the roughly 11 million “illegals” now living and working in the United States. Some have laid down the prerequisite of solid border control (read: not the white folks from Canada, but the brown people from Mexico and points south) as a precondition to creating that pathway to legal residency or citizenship.
But what people tend to do when they dig in their heels is lock into slogans without looking at the actual changes in immigration patterns that might suggest there is a new playing field if one simply looks at the new landscape. First, let’s start with the harsh fact that most of the new jobs created in our post-recovery years have overwhelmingly been at the lower reaches of employment, from food services and construction, to lower-end maintenance and support. Maybe Americans still won’t accept some work – like stoop labor agricultural work or dishwashers in dives – but a whole pile of openings that couldn’t be filled by any U.S. workers just a few years ago are catching desperate citizens willing to take what they can get.
In short, the number of opportunities here for illegals has dropped like a stone… and they know it. While Mexico still has its drug wars (due to demand from U.S. users and abusers and armed with guns we smuggle down “there”), but at least it has a growing middleclass (ours is shrinking) with a hopeful longer-term economy. There’s reason for those living south of the border to stay there and find local opportunities.
“What’s increasingly clear is that the shifting fortunes of the U.S. economy account for less of the ebb and flow of illegal immigration. Even as the economy bounces back from recession, illegal immigration flows, especially from Mexico, have kept declining, according to researchers and government data. Since the 1990s, the opposite was true: The better the economy, the more people tried to come.” The Washington Post, May 27th.
And believe it or not, our border controls (with Mexico, silly!) have gotten a whole lot more stringent. We are stopping and sending back wannbe illegals in record numbers at our southern border. “As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.
“A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more…
“President Obama says the border has never been more secure and is urging a series of legislative steps to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, streamline the visa system and further fortify the border. He has already moved to protect certain undocumented immigrants from deportation through executive actions. But these actions have faced resistance in the courts, including the decision [May 26th] by a federal appeals court to keep one of the president’s signature immigration efforts from moving ahead.” The Post.
So it looks as if the underlying motivations to keep the debate hot have a lot less to do with facts than they do with partisan politics. If the facts were well understood by the average American voter, then immigration would move to a “farther back burner” in the upcoming election. But keeping the country polarized seems to be an anointed mission with too many candidates. “If Obama supports it, I’m against it” is often the justification, elevating to a Democratic vs. Republican chorus.
I’m Peter Dekom, and as much as politicians want to keep the antagonism inherent in immigration policy strong, a simple examination of the facts will tell anyone interested that this issue is whole lot less important today than at any time in the last decade.