Quick, spend billions on completely sealing the 1,954-mile border the U.S. shares with Mexico, then man this wall with armed troops, military vehicles and killer drones. This will surely deter the immigrants and refugees, not to mention all the businesses, tourists and families that depend on border access.
GOP leaders make it sound like we’re facing a violent invasion, that we’re at war with Mexico. They zero in on one border and one kind of immigrant and they tell us that these immigrants are overtaking the country. Assuming this budget-busting wall would impede the dispossessed, families and children fleeing violence and poverty, it will do nothing to mitigate the flow of drugs into the U.S. or arms to the cartels.
All this hysteria comes as the irrational response to stop the near zero-net migration recorded along the U.S.-Mexican border since 2011. Southwest border security is 84% effective at a cost of $18 billion. Cost for completely walling the border would be $28 billion, the entire Justice Department budget. Think how much good these billions would do if put toward the nation’s decaying infrastructure – roads, bridges and rail lines.
The number of Undocumented in the country has dropped from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012. Though Mexicans are a majority of unauthorized immigrants (52% in 2012), their numbers and share have declined in recent years, according to Pew Research. As the Mexican numbers continued to drop between 2009 and 2012, unauthorized immigrant populations from South America, Europe and Canada held steady. Unauthorized immigrant populations from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and the rest of the world grew slightly from 2009 to 2012.
What has been upsetting to see in the past year has been the arrival along the southern border of not immigrants, but those more aptly designated refugees. Since October 2014, 35,000 children traveling alone and 34,500 mothers and children have fled their violent hometowns in desperation, most turning themselves in, hoping for asylum. They are sent back or await their fate in detention centers. This is a humanitarian crisis where further militarization of the border is not the answer.
While the nation’s attention is focused on building walls to the south, immigrants are flying in from all over the world, especially Asia, already 6% of the population. The patterns of immigration are changing. By mid-century Asians will overtake new arrivals from Latin America.
As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1900, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 20% of the population in contrast to 12% today. In 1965, when Congress rewrote the immigration laws, the foreign-born population stood at 5%. By 2055, the percentage is projected to be 18% of which Asians will comprise 36% and Latinos 34%.
If Latinos are not a monolith, then Asians are even less so. There is no dominant language and the cultures vary significantly. They come to satisfy the same needs as Latinos and even native-born Americans: family unification, housing, education, jobs and healthcare.
Of the more than 31-million foreign-born living in the United States in 2009, about 20 million were either citizens or legal residents. Of those who did not have authorization to be here, about 45% entered the country legally and then let their papers expire. This percentage is less now. In 2015, there are 41.3-million foreign-born out of a total population of 320 million.
Immigrants and their offspring will make up 88% of U.S. population growth over the next half century according to Pew Research. Without this growth, the U.S. will not be able to remain competitive in the global marketplace. What makes the nation so fortunate is that people want to come for the opportunity. They are tenacious, ambitious and willing to work hard. In recent years, a survey found that immigrants are better prepared with more education. For example, nearly half of Mexican immigrants, 25 or older, had graduated high school and one in eight held a BA.
America has always found a way to take advantage of the immigrant, too often in a dark nether- world working for low wages under inhumane conditions with no recourse for grievances. The current immigration discussion has been hijacked from finding ways to make the most of the unrealized potential of the millions of Undocumented to exploring mass deportation schemes to make us leave, to tear us from our families, jobs and communities. The nation needs us to add our skills, experience and knowledge to an aging labor force. The mere fact that we were determined enough to get here overcoming all obstacles, to stay despite discrimination and often paralyzing fear, and to continue to strive regardless of constant vilification – should make us ideal workers, leaders and citizens.
There is no human tsunami of Undocumented “aliens” crashing the border, waiting to take American jobs, ruin the economy and raise the crime rate. We, the 11-million Undocumented, who are already here, are predominately national assets: working hard, starting businesses, getting an education, paying taxes, contributing to community and country.
What should be remembered about the Undocumented is that we follow a long line of immigrants. Most every American is one of us – one or two or 10 generations removed from being immigrants themselves. None of us are here as invaders. We are here to invest, reaffirm and renew the American Dream, the dream that our political leaders seem so intent on sealing off from the rest of the world.
Research Sources: Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: “Republican Debate Missing the Point,” L.A. TimesKate Linthicum: “Asians To Top Latinos,” The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: “Immigration in the U.S.,”L.A. Times’ Don Lee: “U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants,” Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s “This Land Is Your Land” and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s “The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship,” ABC News,Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: “Trump’s Deportation Idea,” Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 “Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy,” linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s “What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About," attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Iván Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s Alicia A. Caldwell.