The year was 1907. Not even 50 years had passed since our bloody Civil War. America was still celebrating her emergence as a world power, a label cemented by involvement half a world away in the Boxer Rebellion and a hemispheric victory in the Spanish American War. Our population continued to boom as people longing for the opportunity this land offered poured through Ellis Island, most of them of European descent. And, there was controversy over immigration.
Yes, nearly 125 years ago the issue of immigration, controlled immigration that is, was being addressed. Much like today, the measures spoken of were largely ineffective, perhaps intentionally so.
It seems there were concerns over rapid growth of the Japanese immigrant population at the turn of the century, mainly on the West Coast. Like some Republicans today, Teddy Roosevelt dared to address the problem, at least on paper. After a few years of communication and negotiation, the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907 was signed in which the government of Japan agreed to cease exportation of its laborers to America (mainly California) in exchange for our promise to cease discrimination against people of Japanese descent living in the United States. Of course, the Japanese government did nothing to hinder the emigration of their citizens to beautiful Hawaii, where they could then travel almost without restriction to the continental U.S. This agreement was replaced a few decades later by the Immigration Act of 1924 in which East Asians were all but banned and a limit placed on the number of immigrants from any country entering our nation in a calendar year (2% of the number of existing U.S. residents in 1890 from any particular country).
Just a few decades later racial inequalities of the previous immigration acts were addressed and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was born. While the new bill retained the quotas on nationalities and regions, it was notable in that it identified immigrants by category, one more desirable than the other. Those categories were immigrants with particular skill sets and/or relatives in the U.S., average immigrants and refugees. In other words, our government had already concluded that an endless wave of “tired, poor, huddled masses” might seem a noble endeavor on face value, but would ultimately do America no good. The retention of national and regional quotas also spoke to the awareness that limited numbers of immigrants from any one segment prevented the urge of that group to resist assimilation to the American culture.
To this point, immigration history is far from perfect, but relatively functional. Then, a scant 13 years later, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was signed into law, supported and heavily promoted by an ambitious young senator from Massachusetts by the name of Ted Kennedy. The passing of this legislation into law saw the passing away of a critical component of American immigration policy, control. The long accepted National Origins Formula which had limited the number of immigrants from any one nation since 1924, was done away with. And thus, in the opinion of many, a new nation was born.
In the 5 years following the I&N Act of 1965, immigration doubled. It doubled yet again in the twenty years following 1970. While the exponential increase in immigration was a troubling dynamic, it was not the only questionable byproduct of the bill. For while the uber liberal and behaviorally challenged senator from Massachusetts had actively argued that passage of the bill would do nothing to upset the “ethnic mix” of the country, others suggest that is exactly what occurred. A definite change in immigration patterns emerged with a shift from traditional European nations to those of Asia, Central and South America.
Welcome to 2011. Intended or not, the American landscape has changed since the I&N Act of 1965. The most notable change was in the growth of our Hispanic population, 12.5 million from 2000-2010, alone. Viewing this in perspective, this number represents over 50% of our total population increase. The Hispanic population is outpacing the national growth rate (24.3% to 6.1%) by more than a 3 to1 margin. Not surprisingly, Mexicans account for 64% of the total U.S. Hispanic population, over 10 million having come to this country since 1970. The total population of those identifying as Mexican-American is now estimated at almost 32 million.
Equally as alarming as the numbers coming here are the numbers born to those already here. While the Hispanic population sits at 15.5% of the nation’s total population, they comprise over 23% of the children. The Pew Hispanic Center recently reported that the 7.2 million births to Mexican-Americans nearly doubled the number of new immigrant arrivals in this century’s first decade.
Why sound alarm bells for one group? You shouldn’t. However, if you make it past the temptation to label these observations as racist, you’ll have no choice but to admit that a healthy percentage of the Hispanic growth rate is due to the dirty, but not so secret invasion of illegal aliens in this country. This is less an issue of race than geography. Still, their numbers comprise the majority of growth for this troubling demographic.
Conservative estimates of our alien population now sit between 8-11 million. Of course, others insist that the number of aliens here is much closer to 20 million, perhaps more. Furthermore, whatever the actual number of illegal aliens in our midst is, what occurs when they get here is also startling. 350,000 children were born to at least one illegal alien parent in 2009, accounting for 8% of total births. And perhaps the most troubling dynamic with regard to this birth rate is the number of children living in poverty, over 6.1 million in 2010, the largest of any racial or ethnic group. Of the 6.1 million, a full two thirds are children of immigrant parents.
A national problem, you might suggest? Well, consider this; the Hispanic population accounted for half of the nation’s growth between the years 2000 and 2006. But Luzerne County saw its Hispanic population jump by 176% in the same time span, establishing itself as the second fastest growing county (at least 10,000 population) in the country. The burden placed on local, state and federal governments by this uncontrolled immigration is staggering, impacting nearly every facet of life.
Certainly, this article is less than a complete history of immigration in America. It’s point was not intended to be such. But, in case you’ve missed it, the point is quite simple. We need controlled immigration; numerically controlled, nation of origin controlled, and method of entry controlled (read legal vs. illegal). All people, of all origins, of all languages, of all race, of all creed should be welcomed to this country with equal passion to which they endeavor to become an American citizen, legally. That means no border jumping, no overstaying visas, no use of fraudulent ID, no encouraging others to come here illegally. We will not thrive if we continue as a land of mere co-existing enclaves, unregulated and separated by nation of origin or tongue as opposed to being united in our country of choice.