Immigrants in America — both legal and illegal — are the new Whipping Boy masking a cascading facade of deeper fissures embedded in our nation.

Immigration in America

HARD NUMBERS

Immigration is carving a new landscape in New York City and, as New York City goes, so goes the country: 60% of the babies born in New York City have at least one foreign-born parent. The fastest growing groups through immigration are Mexicans, Guyanese and Bangladeshis and those three groups also have the highest birth rate.

There are 3.5 million immigrant residents in New York City alone. Mexicans quadrupled their immigration numbers in New York in the last decade jumping from 17th to 5th largest immigrant group in New York City. Dominicans are the number one immigrant group followed by the Chinese, the Jamaicans and the Guyanese. New York City holds only 1% of Mexican immigrants in the United States compared to 54% of the nation’s Dominican-born immigrants and 45% of the nation’s Bangladeshis.

This rising tide of immigrants in America cannot be unwashed from our land and drained away in prisons or stuffed in ships back to the homeland. Immigrants in New York City play a vital role replacing city residents who die or move away. Immigrants fill vacant housing, start small businesses and count for 43% of the city’s work force. Immigrants are vital to the economy — both locally and nationally — and to stem the need for immigrant infusion is to be anti-American and biased against those who are desperate to come here for a better life while, in turn, making our lives better. Immigration into New York City stanched the catastrophic loss of population in the 1970’s.

Immigrants solidified the city in the unpredictable 80’s and they pushed the city’s population number above the 8 million mark in 2000. This country was made great on the backs of immigrant huddle masses.

BLACK EXODUS

The influx of immigrants into New York City masks the massive loss of American-born Blacks in the city. In the four years between 2000 and 2004 New York City lost 30,000 Black residents
— a 1.5% decline. Whites are still more likely to leave the New York City urban core than Blacks, but Whites tend to move to the suburbs to live while still working in New York City thus keeping White investment in the New York City core alive.

Blacks choose to scatter to other cities in the South and upper Northeast in search of cheaper housing and better paying jobs or a quieter retirement. More Black residents who left New York City chose to move to Florida than New Jersey.

A net loss of black residents, even between censuses, would apparently be the first since the Civil War. In 1863, after mobs attacked blacks during the draft riots, many fled New York City. “By 1865,” Leslie M. Harris wrote in “In the Shadow of Slavery,” the city’s “black population had plummeted to just under 10,000, its lowest since 1820.”

THE WAVE

Those who believe immigration is a bad thing need to re-evaluate the role of the immigrant in the long scope of the history of this nation.

You cannot repress the hope for freedom and the want to work a good job and expect good things to happen back to you for taking that hard-line position. If you try to poke a finger in a thousand holes to stop the flow of immigrants into America you are only creating a tidal wave of anger and fury that will overwhelm those who refuse to learn the lessons of history.

Immigration in America

The immovable human forces that built this country into a powerhouse economy cannot be stopped. Those forces are driven by the dreams of immigrants who yearn to settle the land and to tame the wild demons that chased them here in the first place.

56 Comments

  1. It’s an interesting point that NYC would have lost population if it hadn’t been for the immigrants.
    I wonder what would have happened to many of our large and vibrant cities if they had been left to die like many of the urban areas in the nation’s rustbelt.
    When a huge number of a people abandon a city, all that is left is a hollow shell of a ghost town in formerly grand areas.
    I’m glad this didn’t happen to New York City.
    I’m sure NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago wouldn’t be the great cities they are today without the immigrant influence of today and earlier generations.

  2. Hi Chris!
    New York would be a dying city without the large influx of immigrants. There can be no doubt about that at all.
    Immigration sets new pathways for promise for those who do not live here. Families move here and bring each other over.
    Is it better to have workers earning money here and sending it back to the home country for investment or is it better to have the money stay here paying for an entire family to live and breathe freedom while also paying rent and taxes and contributing the nation’s bottom line?
    I agree the abandoned rust belt will only get rustier. Once an industrialized city stagnates and refuses to grow technologically — or when it fails to replace an aging workforce — death to the entire area is soon to set down forever.

  3. But what about the idea of legal vs. illegal immigrants. I’m not going to pretend I’m remotely informed on this but I’m learning. I listen to Michael Graham on talk fm sometimes and it makes me wonder why we can’t expect these people to just become legal like everyone else. What are your thoughts?

  4. Hello Robin!
    I love your new Avatar. You are still soooo cute!
    😀
    You ask an excellent question that has answers from many angles.
    We need to look back to 1924 and the new Immigration Quotas that were set in place to restrict access to America in a significant way for the first time:
    http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5078/
    http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics/legishist/470.htm
    That was the beginning of an “us against them” philosophy that percolates still to this day in many negative ways.
    When you place quotas on immigration you are, by default, encouraging “illegal” immigration in order to get around those quotas — and it is obvious the current immigration policy is broken because of all the “illegals” that still flow into our country.
    If we truly believe people across the world really want to live free in a Democracy then denying them access to that freedom and representative government based on country of origin seems to create more problems than it solves and it risks being achingly duplicitous.

  5. I would like to read all the information, I plan to this evening when I’m not surrounded by paperwork 😀
    What you say though makes sense but I feel bad for those who went through the trouble to be legal because it takes something away from all their hard work to become one I would think. Also, I assume illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes, doesn’t that hurt us as well? The radio talk show made it seem like we end up paying for the illegal immigrants through our taxes. One guy called up to say he knew an employer who would hire illegal immigrants and if they got injured on the job he’d fire them (I suppose so they could get a certain kind of healthcare) and then rehire them afterwards.
    I don’t know, idealy I’d like to see some kind of compromise. I’d like to see a way for immigrants to have an easier time becoming legal and maybe some of the bitching would stop.
    Thanks, on the gravatar, I like it 😀

  6. I can understand the issue of legal vs. illegal immigration.
    Many people wait for years to become eligible for a visa, while others just waltz into the country. There is an issue of fairness at stake.
    Is it fair that a Filipino brother or sister of an American citizen had to have filed his visa application on or before October 15, 1983 to be eligible for a green card today, while someone could sneak in illegally with seemingly little consequences?
    But, the way most illegal immigration works is fairly rational in an economic sense. The undocumented workers usually don’t show up unless there is work to be done. When the jobs dry up, they go back home or move on to other opportunities.
    The US has record unemployment — probably at the lowest levels statistically possible at 4.7%.
    The only way to fill the jobs is to have people come in from somewhere, or have Americans take on a couple of extra jobs.
    If we decide to kick everyone out, good luck doing it.
    There is no way that we’d be able to remove 11 million people from the country and not clog our prisons and immigration courts for decades to come.

  7. Just a friendly comment to say I’m back from the .. shadowy something over other .. 🙂 .. and possibly with an interesting story to turn into a post here. This of course would have to be after a good nights sleep, seems I’ve only just finished my blog revamp at all of 4am … but HEY!!!
    Dawn Raid is a record company in New Zealand, it has it’s own clothing label, as does Overstayer (it’s my understanding Overstayer is also sold in America). Both of these names come from illegal immigrants. Dawn was when they raided their homes, dragging them into the street ..
    I understand there are issues surrounding illegal immigrants, and immigrants as a whole. The issue I have with such things is the hatred, and lose forms of slaver, these people endure. The disturbing poverty a lot of them live in (or at least in New Zealand they do), and health problems this cause.
    What’s worse? That this is better than where they came from.

  8. Hi Robin —
    Yes, you make good points. We need an immigration policy that welcomes more immigrants and doesn’t reward those who choose to hire illegal immigrants. We can’t keep the immigration limits the same. We need to increase one to relax the other.

  9. Hi Chris —
    Right! The immigration policy needs to change. It is currently unfair and broken and it encourages illegal immigration. We must welcome those who wish to come here faster and get them enmeshed in our system of government and ways of living quicker.
    To set such severe limits on immigration and to delay absolutely legitimate applications indefinitely does no one any good.

  10. krome!
    There you are! We have missed you.
    I like your blog redesign and I look forward to your next article for us!
    You make fine points about immigration and the great desire to get away from treachery in search of a better life. If there’s work to be had that no one else wants to do but immigrants — legalize them and let them work!

  11. legalizing also stands to prevent them from being abused, because a lot of crime is committed against illegal immigrants but then don’t speak up for fear of being deported. Which in the larger picture hurts everyone.
    Also, where would all the yummy resturants come from if we didn’t have immagrants???

  12. Hi David,
    You are right.
    Making people wait 10 and 20 years to become eligible for family-based visas only encourages people to either give up or figure out alternatives. This assumes that the intending immigrant has any way — a job or family — that might make him or her eligible for a visa in the first place.
    If you are 25 years old in a third world country south of the border, it makes sense to roll the dice and cross the border. When people get caught, they seem to be dropped off only to come back again. Things are so bad in Central America, that Mexico has its own illegal immigration problem.
    If you have education, but don’t have a way to get into America, the alternative seems to be to go to Canada.
    Most cities are close to the border and once people get their Canadian citizenship, they can come and visit the US all they want.
    We need to make sure that we aren’t losing great minds to Canada who originally wanted to come to America.

  13. Chris —
    Your analysis and warnings are, once again, right on target.
    We have a brain drain caused by our current immigration policy and there are other countries, namely Australia, who are happy to take our place and offer those highly education minds access to terminal PhD degrees in their extensive university programs.
    Canada is a great country that does many things right. We can learn from their open and welcoming policy and hope to imitate it to good ends.

  14. At times I sense a panic in people here in context of immigrants/ foreigners. This is solely my perception, I might be totally wrong. When I first came here I faced this seemingly innocent question many times – “Do you want to go back after you are done with your degree or do you want to stay?” when some of those were out of pure curiosity, some of those probably came from a panic “are you planning to take one of our job?…..”
    Again, I have no intention to offend anybody – this is my interpretation. The reality I think lies in accepting the fact, seeing the potential immigrants/ foreign students as threat won’t solve any problem.

  15. Why are people dragging the legal immigrants into this debate about what should be done to illegal immigrants? this debate has never been about people that come here legally and yet somehow they were dragged into it. I think it is great that of government is finally doing something about the illegals that are already here and it should make every business that hires illegals cringe. In case you didn’t see the story about a national company that employs 5000+ people and it was discovered that more than 50% of them had problems with mismatching SSN’s and 1100 of them in 9 states that had offices of the company called IFCO were arrested and are being processed for deportation. The part that should make other companies worried is that half a dozen managers were arrested and face charges stemming from the hiring of illegals and face 10 years and $250,000.00 fine for each illegal alien that was hired. So as you can see the laws already exist and now all Congress needs to do is approve more funds to hire more Immigration officers and the States won’;t have to spend our hard earned tax dollars themselves.

  16. Jon —
    The reason legal immigration is necessary to this discussion is because the current immigration policy of the United States is broken. The rupture in that policy is what creates the illegal movement. You cannot discuss one without the other.
    Read Chris’ comment above to see specifically how the current policy breaks immigrant families.

  17. Hey David,
    1000 people asked me the same question in person (mostly my classmates) before you and I didn’t mean you – in fact I don’t remember you asking me this question.
    My apology if I hurt you in any way.

  18. Ok, sorry I missed it – here you go……
    I have a tentative plan to complete my Ph D here after finishing my Masters; then to teach – somewhere in the Universe…… as I am not a very good planner – at this point I don’t know where. I accept life as it comes – I might move to some other country tomorrow, who knows? 😀

  19. When I first met my partner I asked him if he’d stay in New Zealand. It was simply part of a conversation about plans for the future, it wasn’t really about taking jobs or even about if he would choose to become a citizen (which I’ve herd can also be a common question).
    Personally, I love diversity. I’ve learnt a lot about other cultures simply because I was lucky enough to meet people from other parts of the world. I feel they’ve enriched my life in ways that wouldn’t have been possible just online. Such as trying tradional HOME COOKED foods, taking part in festivals, and simply seeing how their ruitines may differ from mine.

  20. I have applied to a few other Universities along with the current one – whatever works! But I will prefer to be in my current school I like the teaching method and the teacher here.

  21. krome —
    I love your philosophy. Countries and people are meant to be free to intermingle. Nation drawing and border protections leads to saber rattling. Mixing everyone up — forced integration of the world — is the best way to understand and help each other.

  22. That sounds like a great plan, Katha.
    Do you have to renew your visa to study here every year?
    Are you required to go back to India and then come back in here on a regular basis?
    Does your school pay the new government fees now required for foreign student graduate study?

  23. I have my student visa for this country for next 4 years, I don’t need to go back if I maintain my full time status. Whether my school will pay the fees depends on my assistantship contract which I am not sure yet.
    The place I live in now is a very small town, and I am from one of the biggest city in India – this was a great relief!
    But I have seen the localites getting bored in such a small town here.

  24. The summer session is optional, I may or may not take a class.I cannot apply for permanent residency as a full time student. Your second question is not very clear to me – are you asking that if I can continuously stay here for next 4 years? Yes, I can.

  25. Ok, I got it –
    At the end of my current term I don’t have to go back if I start working here or join another course. I can reapply for another whatever term I want without leaving – but maintaining the visa-status is important.

  26. Thanks for the detail on your situation, Katha. These rules and regulations are fascinating. If you were from Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan instead of India — would your visa student status change in any way or be more complicated to maintain and renew?

  27. I guess so – but I am not sure. I know things vary in case of different countries and it varies in personal cases too.
    The visa interview in American consulate in India was interesting – I have seen four students being rejected in front of me.

  28. I know students from “known” terrorist countries have a hard time re-qualifying for graduate study and many were forced back home after 9/11 and were never allowed re-entry.
    Why were four students before you rejected? Wrong answers? Wrong families? Can they appeal?

  29. First of all, a strong financial document is required stating that one has enough (the amount has to be signed and stamped by the bank and it has to be in US dollars) money in the bank in cash (not in any other form) to stay here for whatever period he/ she wants to stay. And most of the time the amount becomes frightfully high for some countries where the exchange rate is high.
    Second, all the test scores and previous academic records has to be good; last but not least is one has to prove that he/ she has some ground to come back – they don’t intend to stay there for good.
    I exactly don’t know what went wrong with those students but I guess any one of the three. Theoretically one can reapply after a year, but practically the chances are very remote if one’s record shows that he/ she was rejected for some reason previously. You have to take the whole process as a bad investment. 😀

  30. Hi Katha!
    Wow! That sounds like a lot of pin money to have tucked away. Does that include the cost of tuition? Must you be accepted for study before trying to leave?
    What do you mean “ground to come back?” You mean a job waiting for you in India?

  31. Yes, one has to be accepted somewhere just to schedule the visa interview or else the consulate won’t entertain it (it is different in case of tourist visa). Once again, yes, the cost of tuition is inclusive in that and even if one has been awarded some scholarship – it won’t count.

  32. Sorry, missed your last question:
    it may be a job or some kind of family ties (as India is very family – oriented, it is often assumed that someone will definitely come back if he/she has a working spouse or working parents – the dynamics is a bit different if people have retired family members)

  33. Thanks for the fascinating information, Katha!
    I remember some of my Indian students saying land was important in India and that parents would put land and bank accounts in their children’s name to get them the approval to study abroad. The land seemed to be the most important because it proved an “investment” in India and a perceived intention to return.

  34. “land” won’t count while providing financialdocument unless you can show the proper valuation or you can sell it and put the liquid cash in bank!
    In context of “returning” – yes, property works.

  35. I know its wild.
    The consulate doesn’t encourage the so called “poor” to be here from other countries so that they don’t start working “illegally” or get engaged in “crime”. But, people come.
    You are correct, normally it’s a trend for the “upper class” to send their kids to study abroad (it’s the toughest to get in USA, the other countries like Canada, Australia and UK are not that difficult); it’s easier for the upper middle class with one child and both the parents working, risky for the middleclass people. Most of the time they take educational loans for kids from banks.

  36. Thanks David! I am glad to be here too and to meet you all!
    I wanted a change, pursue my studies further and wanted to try the best possible system!
    As I mentioned, I was never a very good planner and I wasn’t sure about the result of the visa interview even three weeks before my departure. I got my visa in the 1st. week of August 2004 and left my country in the 4th. week of that month. I was working full time at that point, gave only three weeks notice to my employer….it was crazy! But I won’t trade this experience.
    And, it was in that visa interview I was almost “grilled/ fried” with that question – “what is your future plan?” I had no clue then and I still don’t! 😀

  37. Heh! Say it to my parents and relatives….they will eat you alive for encouraging me to live the way I want!
    I am 30+, not yet married, don’t have a family……I am young? What are you talking about??? 😀

  38. Ha! I’m sure your parents are eternally worried about your not matter where you go or what you do or what your age or even if you were still living under their roof!
    😀
    Good things will continue to come to you Katha as long as you keep reaching out.