Republican presidential candidates are debating how to seal the southern U.S. border against unauthorized immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. This is yesterday’s news.
Pew Research Center reported that immigration from Asia already exceeds immigration from Latin American and is likely to predominate for at least the next generation. Immigration from Mexico has been declining since 2007.
Currently there are three times as many Hispanics in the United States, including unauthorized immigrants, than there are Asians, and half again as many Hispanics as blacks. But in 50 years, if present trends continue, the number of Asians will exceed the number of blacks, and Asians will be the largest category among the foreign-born population.
The USA, more than most countries, is a nation of immigrants. Pew noted that United States has more Mexican immigrants (12 million) than any other nation has total immigrants.
Immigration to the United States has come in three waves. In the first wave, from 1840 to 1889, nearly nine-tenths of immigrants were from Germany, Ireland, Britain or other northern and western European countries. In the second wave, from 1890 to 1919, nearly two-thirds were from Italy, Austria-Hungary, Poland, Russian or other southern and eastern European nations.
In the third wave, from 1965 to 2015, slightly more than half are from Latin America, and immigration from Asia equals immigration from Europe. Pew projects a fourth wave, predominantly from Asia, based on recent trends.
Native-born Americans have always worried about how many immigrants the United States can absorb. Angl0-Saxon Americans worried about whether they could assimilate the Irish and Germans. Protestant Americans worried about whether they could assimilate Catholics and Jews.
Now we worry about whether we can assimilate Hispanics and Asians, and still maintain the continuity of our culture, heritage and economy.
I share these worries, but the decision has already been made that the United States is a multi-cultural nation. Even if we wished, we could not become like Japan or Quebec, where almost everyone is of the same ancestry and cultural heritage. Even before the age of immigration, the USA comprised African-Americans and native Americans and we could not pretend to be a merely a branch of the British nation.
Historically, immigrants have strengthened the United States. They have mostly been hard-working people who have come to the United States in search of opportunity, and many have been liberty-loving people who have come here in search of freedom.
If this ever ceases being true, I don’t think it will be because of immigrants. IT will be because the USA as a whole no longer offers opportunity and has lost confidence in freedom.
The American motto is “E Pluribus Unum” – “out of many, one.” Either we make that a reality, or we cease to be a nation, and the territory between Canada and Mexico is nothing but a labor force and a consumer market.
From Ireland to Germany to Italy to Mexico: How America’s Source of Immigrants Has Changed in the States, 1850-2013, an interactive map from Pew Research Center.
Future immigration will change the face of America by 2065 by D’Vera Cohn for Pew Research Center. (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)
Today’s newly arrived immigrants are the best-educated ever by Richard Fry for Pew Research Center.