American Demographics Are Changing Big Time
Immigration was a huge issue in 2016, and population trends signify why it remains one.
We’re closing in on two years since the election of Donald Trump on a get-tough, America-first platform regarding immigration and trade. His populist approach attracted millions of votes from people in states forgotten by Beltway bureaucrats; voters who felt threatened by what they saw as a rapidly increasing immigrant population unwilling to assimilate. Building a border wall was a winning issue with those voters.
So imagine the surprise when The New York Times trumpets a story claiming, while America is at its most ethnic point in over 100 years — with a foreign-born population of more than 44 million people, or 13.7% of the population — it’s because immigration from Asia has surged past the immigrant flow from Latin America.
Yet the Brookings Institution, which conducted the study, conceded, “While people from Asia make up the largest share of recent newcomers, a majority of the country’s total foreign-born population is still from Latin America — 50 percent, compared to 31 percent from Asia.” It’s worth pointing out that the sluggish economy under the previous administration — which covers the period from 2010 onward — led to a surge of self-deportation as immigrants couldn’t find jobs Americans wouldn’t do, resulting in a net outflow of people back to Mexico. Decreased demand for low-skilled workers coupled with increased demand for college-educated workers turned the numbers in the Asians’ favor. Oftentimes these new immigrants are the people you’ll find dispensing prescriptions, designing bridges, or becoming family physicians.
So immigration isn’t as bad as the White House makes it out to be, right? Only if there’s an important midterm election to be won.
Meanwhile, for the Trump administration, cracking down on illegal immigration has proven to be more difficult than bargained for. Mexicans still cross the border illegally, and the Washington Examiner reports that 98% of illegal immigrants apprehended after entering the country in FY2017 (covering the first eight months of Trump’s term) are still here despite having been detained. The Examiner notes, “Families apprehended and then released are typically given ankle monitors so Department of Homeland Security officials can ensure they show for immigration court dates in the future. The large majority of families apply for asylum after illegally entering the country.”
Frustration is evident from the White House on down. “Because of restrictive judicial orders and catch-and-release loopholes that leave us with no recourse for removal,” said DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman, “we are seeing a record number of family units apprehended at the southwest border. Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen has been urging Congress to act and close these loopholes that pull family units to the United States.”
To that end, the administration has been trying to redirect funds to enforcement: Democrats naturally criticized a $10 million transfer earlier this summer from FEMA’s budget, the news breaking just as Hurricane Florence bore down on the East Coast. They may have forgotten that better border enforcement is what voters wanted in 2016, so Trump is delivering as he can, and this money is not being diverted from disaster relief.
Immigration isn’t just an issue here, though. Take the oft-cited socialist paradise of Sweden for example: Last weekend a significant 18% of voters chose the Sweden Democrat Party, which has been uncharitably described as “a marginal party with obnoxious fascist roots.” Yet as writer M. Hudson observed, “What do people care about more than their economic security? Their physical security. A perception that ‘mayhem’ is growing fosters a quest for a political power willing to acknowledge the mayhem and fight it. The liberal Swedish Social Democrats were not prepared to do either.” But a “Sweden-first” party was waiting in the wings to address those voters.
Back in April 2017, our own Brian Mark Weber made a similar point in the wake of that spring’s French elections, where hardline nativist Marine Le Pen and her National Front party surprisingly advanced to the final runoff before losing. One example of Le Pen’s stance: “Mass immigration is not an opportunity for France; it’s a tragedy for France.” Politically incorrect? Certainly. But it was a message that resonated with a considerable (and, shall we say, “deplorable”) segment of the French people.
That’s not to say, though, that nationalist parties vowing to crack down on immigration are necessarily conservative or pro-Liberty. Europe is rife with center- or even far-left parties with that one platform plank in common with American conservatives — parties which would otherwise have nothing to do with limited government. And even here in the U.S., those who most fervently back Donald Trump often fall into a strata of occasional voters who were activated by Trump’s tough talk on immigration and his hands-off approach to entitlement reform. Instead, they cheered the prospect of budget cuts from targets favored by those in “flyover country,” such as PBS, the EPA, and ObamaCare, rather than a serious approach to reducing government by considering the legitimacy of all of its functions. And as long as the economy keeps humming along, these folks aren’t too worried about Uncle Sam’s take.
However, a booming economy may be a border hawk’s nightmare in one respect: As jobs become more plentiful, there’s more of an attraction for people to overstay their visas or simply work their way across a porous southern border without a wall.
In less than two months, voters will decide whether to reward Republicans with continued control of the House and Senate. But the constant drumbeat of Democrat and media criticism for the Trump administration, particularly on his misunderstood stance on so-called “Dreamers,” is threatening to erode support from the political center. The president must hope that his most ardent supporters still believe he can deliver on immigration.