econscius

Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

America’s- and the World’s- Baby Bust

In Economy, Immigration on February 3, 2013 at 1:22 am

Jonathan V. Last’s article “America’s Baby Bust” [1] is thought-provoking and echoes points I’ve made myself.  Specifically, the US birthrate has recently dipped below replacement and it already far below replacement in Japan and many European nations.  A surprising number of developing nations, e.g. Mexico, are below replacement rate as well. 

Mexico is a dramatic example, with female lifetime fertility dropping from about 7 in 1970 [1] to 2 today.  One implication is we should expect less immigration from Mexico in the future because there will be less need for the safety valve of El Norte.

The economic implications will be severe.  Think how much of the US economy is geared to market growth.  In sixty years or so, Europe, China and Japan will be shrinking at a fast rate.  The US may be, as well.  Construction will still occur, but for replacement rather than new growth.  Companies will have to take market share from each other or develop wholly new products to grow their revenues.

There will be significant social impacts.  Social Security programs will be challenged worldwide as a shrinking pool of workers is pressed to pay for large cohorts of retirees.  Schools and colleges will need to be closed.  In some places, roads and highways may be abandoned.  Even today, in the growing USA, there are areas that shrunk in population in the 2000’s (e.g. Chicago and Detroit) though they were offset by growth in places like Dallas and Atlanta.  Imagine how severe local depopulation will be if the overall US population is shrinking.  Since many municipal costs are largely fixed (e.g. maintaining sewer systems), a shrinking taxpayer base will challenge many towns in the future.

Mr. Last points out how this future is all but unavoidable.  Raising children is a cost and a major effort.  Even if government tax breaks for children are increased (which he recommends), people marry later, partly due to the high rates of college and post-graduate education, and have fewer children.  One unexpected consequence of national welfare and social security systems has been fewer children.  Baring major medical advances allowing the safe birth of children into later ages, the preference for fewer children is not easily overcome.  Thus, we will all have to plan for a future where the US, and especially Europe, China and Japan are shrinking.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323375204578270053387770718.html

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.

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Driver Licenses and Auto Insurance Are Sensible Steps for Undocumented Workers

In Illinois, Immigration on November 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm

 

Illinois is considering allowing special purple-colored “not for identification” driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. [1]   This is a common sense idea.

“Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, resulting in $660 million in damage, according to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition. Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims alone.  The Safety Coalition said on its website that since New Mexico made the change in 2003, the rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent.

The measure would expand to undocumented immigrants Illinois’ existing temporary visitor driver’s license, used by legal immigrants. The licenses are “visually distinct” from ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words “not valid for identification” on the front.” [1]

Undocumented workers are a fact of life in the USA.  Some get fake driver’s licenses or other documents, anyway.  For that matter, some teenaged Anglo kids obtain fake driver’s licenses to purchase beer.  Estimates range but somewhere around 11 million [2] of the nation’s 330 million people (about 3% of the population) is an undocumented person.  Be assured: some of the people who pick your fruits and vegetables, mow your lawn, clean your hotel rooms, wash dishes at your favorite restaurant, landscape your office building, and watch your kids at day care are here illegally.

Given that they’re here and driving anyway, doesn’t it make sense to have them educated about the rules of the road and road-tested for a license?  Isn’t auto insurance a good idea?   It is reminiscent of contraception: you probably don’t want your 16-year old daughter sexually active, but if she has a boyfriend and is active, anyway, would you prefer she use condoms to protect against potential diseases and pregnancy?  Or would you put your head in the sand and wish for the best?

The claim is made that offering a license is rewarding people who break the law.  If it protects the rest of the country by insuring them, the reward is as much for the populace as large. 

Also, in the cases of some young people, they broke no law.  If you were an illegal immigrant child, say age 12, when brought to the US by your parents, you did not commit a crime.  Western jurisprudence has always held that children cannot be liable for the actions of their parents.

It behooves us to take into account the fact many people commit small crimes.  Many of us violate traffic laws every day.  Is working here without the proper papers a major crime?  I would say no, it is not a big deal.  In fact, it’s really in the realm of “victimless crimes,” which is why it happens.  If an apple orchard in Washington state hires an illegal worker to pick the apples you eat, who is harmed?  No one else wanted that job and I mean that literally.

Growers mostly blame rising tensions around illegal immigration that have spooked migrant farm workers, the majority of whom are here illegally, while worker advocates say there’d be no shortage if growers were willing to pay workers more.

 “Truth be told, we’ve always had a labor shortage in this state; 75 percent of these workers aren’t authorized to be here,” said Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association.  From Wenatchee to Wapato, in orchards up the Okanogan Valley and across the Yakima Valley, apple trees hang heavy with still-ripening fruit.   At the entrances of a few farms across the region are variations of a sign: “Necesitos Piscadores” — pickers wanted.  [3] 

Labor shortages are a fact of life in the Dakotas.  I don’t buy that Americans are being denied these jobs.  If you are unemployed, are you moving to North Dakota?

When it comes to labor shortages on dairy farms, owners have few options to find the workers they need. Unlike vegetable and fruit growers, dairy farmers have no federal program they can utilize to solicit immigrant labor. If they can’t find domestic labor, their work is likely to go undone.

Dairy farmers don’t talk openly about their labor dilemma for fear of drawing unwanted attention from immigration officials in their region.

One organization, Rural Migration News (RMN), regularly summarizes and analyzes the most important migration-related issues affecting immigrant farm workers in California and the United States. Their efforts are supported by the Rosenberg, Giannini and Farm Foundations.  RMN reported in October 2011 that some Wisconsin dairy farmers believe E-Verify would “kill the dairy industry in Wisconsin.” John Rosenow of Wisconsin’s Rosenholm-Wolfe Dairy commented that, “60 percent of the milk that’s harvested is harvested by immigrants, and the vast majority are probably undocumented.” [4]

You benefit from lower apple prices.  Some argument illegal immigrants create a heavy burden with costs but the fact is that working age adults come, not elderly people who need significant medical care.  Anyone who lives here, regardless of immigration status , is contributing to the local economy by buying gasoline for their car, buying groceries and clothing, paying rent, purchasing other goods and services.

Who are the illegals?  Perhaps one million of America’s undocumented aliens are from Asia. [5]  I knew an Irishman who overstayed his student Visa and stayed to marry an American.  Any rational discussion of illegal immigrants must consider those from the Ukraine, Philippines, Poland and other places who overstay tourist or student Visas.

In recent years it is estimated that about half of all illegal aliens in the United States enter through the US-Mexico Southern sector. Among those who ‘enter without inspection’, the great majority are Mexicans and Central Americans (Gonzalez Baker et al., 1998). The other half is ‘visa over stayer’. They typically fly into US international airports with proper documents and overstay their permits, This is an extremely heterogeneous population. Most U.S. citizens would find it surprising that today Canadians constitute an important group of illegal immigrants in the USA.” [6] According to Pew, just 58% of illegal aliens are from Mexico. [2]

If you’re a Republican and still disagree, you may wish to reconsider in light of the politics.  Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election solely on Latino votes, which went 71% for Obama. [7]  Asian-Americans, despite being America’s wealthiest ethnic category, voted even more strongly for Obama.  Many middle-class and upper class Asian-Americans and Latinos voted against their economic interests and perceived unfriendliness on immigration.  The Latino voting population will double in by 2030. [8]

If the GOP wants to be more than just a debate club, it would behoove the party to focus on more important conservative issues, anyway, like entitlement spending, taxes and the role of government in health care.  Trying to stop a few percent of the population from obtaining driver’s licenses and auto insurance is a fool’s errand.

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/illinois-may-grant-drivers-licenses-illegal-immigrants-001637595.html

[2] http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1876/unauthorized-immigrant-population-united-states-national-state-trends-2010

[3] http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2016652587_farmlabor31m.html.    See also http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/morning_call/2011/10/lack-of-washington-state-apple-pickers.html

[4] http://www.farmandranchguide.com/news/dairy/stalled-lack-of-immigration-reform-complicates-staffing-at-dairies/article_69ebc837-a669-578c-82ce-3cb6a92e02bf.html

[5] http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/immigrants-coming-from.html

[6] http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~gstudies/latin/curriculum/intro.htm

[7] http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/11/07/latino-voters-in-the-2012-election/

[8] http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/11/14/an-awakened-giant-the-hispanic-electorate-is-likely-to-double-by-2030/

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.

The Reality Show of Voting: You And Your 129 Close Relatives

In 2012 Elections, Hispanic Assimilation, Immigration on November 8, 2012 at 2:03 am

 

 

Your 129 close relatives decided your vote.  No, it’s not a strange Univision reality TV show, though there sure are many of those.  It was the 2012 US Presidential Election.You see, you’re a middle class American and you were born in lovely Guadalajara, Mexico in 1975.  Your average family meant a busy childhood for you and your six siblings.  In 1976, the average fertility of an average Mexican woman was an astounding 7.2 children [1], though it is nearly the same as the USA today at 2.3 [2].  Dad and Mom’s generation was a busy one.

Each of your parents had six siblings.   Of those 12 blood-related aunts and uncles, five of the six married and they had the average six children each.  That meant 22 aunts and uncles and sixty total cousins.  For some reason, three were named Jorge.  You recall youthful Quinceañeras, weddings, Easter and Buena Noche family events were always crowded.  Your four grandparents each lived to around seventy years.

When you immigrated to the US at age five, your family absorbed American culture.  Only four of your six siblings married, and they each had just three children.  That gave you 12 total nieces and nephews.  You married your high school sweetheart and had just two children.

Your spouse was a second generation Mexican-American and had two parents and two siblings, one of whom, Marissa, married with just two children. 

You graduated from the University of Texas and live today as a successful accountant the pleasant Houston suburb of Katy.  Your lawn is trim and green; you own a Toyota Camry and a Ford SUV.   You fly the American flag from your front porch.  Every Sunday, you attend Catholic mass.  While politics is of little concern to you, you’re generally for reasonable taxes, helping those who need help and like most Mexican-Americans, you’re uncomfortable with abortion.  You remember your Dad liked Ronald Reagan, who granted citizenship to your parents back in the 1980s.

At least once a year, you go back to visit relatives in Mexico.  You lost touch with some of your cousins, but most are a phone call away.  Some stayed in the large commercial city of Guadalajara, a few moved to the capital of Mexico City or to the growing metropolis of Monterrey, and others moved to California and Illinois.  Your siblings live in Texas, Florida, Arizona and the two sisters live in different suburbs of Denver, Colorado.

You were underwhelmed by the economy 2009-2012 but you have deep roots in Mexico.  You are, first and foremost, an American but on occasion in your life, someone screamed “wetback” or “Spic” at you from a car.  No, your car doesn’t run on tacos.  Most of the whites and blacks you come across with are very nice but sometimes you received unpleasant stares.  Last summer, when your cousin Isabella visited from Jalisco state, her husband played some ranchero music from the rent-a-car and some local teenagers laughed loudly through their open window.  These things are not a really big deal to you, the economic opportunities and freedom in the US make it well worthwhile.

But, deep down, you’re always a tad bit aware that some people don’t much like “Mexicans” and, American-citizen that you are, it’s always there in your mind.  You know your cousins Rosa and Maria snuck into the US with their husbands and have been living illegally in an apartment in Iowa, of all places, where they work at a slaughterhouse doing work no native-born American will do.

You heard about legislation in Arizona to demand proof of citizenship for anyone who looked like they could be an illegal immigrant.  You sure didn’t like that; you wondered why a Mexican-American citizen of the USA like yourself would be apt to get stopped when your Chinese-born and Korean-born coworkers would not, to say nothing of the rest who simply looked white or black. 

At times, there was national press about some obscure Republican from Colorado, a Tom something or another, who ran for President on a platform of shutting down the border.  You hear that term from time to time, shut down the border.  Since you cross it periodically to visit relatives or for vacations, you know it’s already shut down.  It can take eight hours to cross the line and the Border Patrol agents often are a bit icy.  You wonder what would happen if you ever had your wallet stolen in Mexico and lost your ID; getting back into your own country, the USA, would be a nightmare.  You have a hunch it’s a lot easier to cross from Canada.

Prominent national Republicans seem reasonable enough; you were okay with George W. Bush, who actually spoke Spanish.  You’ve already forgotten some words from disuse all these years, but you’re aware a lot of Americans are strangely obsessed with the Spanish language.  Which is odd, you know every aspiring Mexican wants to learn English and people in Mexico grow up listening to American pop music and watching US movies and TV shows with Spanish subtitles.  You know #1 hit albums in Mexico in 2012 include English-language hits from Adele, Madonna and that boy band called One Direction.  There aren’t any Spanish-language #1 albums in the USA.  You laugh when you hear English is “under attack.”  From what?

But there are some small-time Republicans, some sheriffs out west, that Governor of Arizona and some US representatives who sometimes get mighty angry about “immigration”, “the border” and “the illegals” that steal jobs.  You know that last point is a joke.  If all the illegals left tomorrow, America’s lawns would grow long and America’s plates would go uncleaned in the nation’s restaurants.  You don’t even remember the name of the Republicans, they were low-level ones, mostly out  West, but a few spoke of taking away birth right citizenship, which struck you as deeply unfair and targeted at Mexican-Americans.  The political TV ads these folks ran, you saw excerpts on national TV, always showed dark-skinned Latinos sneaking under fences.  It’s never an Irish college kid who over-stayed his Visa, which is funny, because that guy Martin in the computer lab at work, the programmer guy – yeah, the dude who actually sings about Guinness beer – he was an illegal when he over-stayed his visa.  But no one runs TV ads about drunken Irish illegals.

You heard something on the radio news about an obscure Republicans talking of “live ammo” for the Border Patrol.  You shuddered at that, after all, some of your cousins crossed and who knows who else might someday.  Other crazy ideas were sticking alligators in the Rio or using unmanned drones to take out illegals.  You know there are Minutemen out there who spend their free time wandering the Arizona desert to stop immigrants.  They’re trying to stop the same people who clean the dishes at Applebee’s and wash cars at Spick-N-Span Wash for those same Minutemen.  You really get the sense some people really don’t like “your type.” 

That bothers you because it cuts against your family.  Like most Mexican-Americans, you’re big on family.  You loved your grandparents, your parents and your uncles and aunts.  Uncle Jose is the one who taught you to pitch a baseball!  Uncle Pablo was a blast when he used to tell you and your brothers stories about women when your dad wasn’t around.  These are your gente, your people.  And no one is more pro-family than your extended family.  Some people are all hat and no uterus!

All that talk about immigration rubs you the wrong way when its said “lazy” people want to come to the US for its welfare system (you’d go to Spain for that!) or to drop by and have “anchor babies.”  Anyone who thinks Mexicans are “lazy” has never seen your brother Ricardo juggle three jobs like an acrobat.  If anything, the Mexicans you know probably work too hard, they should relax once in a while.  That’s why your Dad always looked so tired with his full-time janitor job plus the side job as a handyman. 

That Mitt Romney guy never spoke crazy but he did talk tough about closing down illegal immigration.  Obama promised some immigration reform, but he didn’t even try, which frustrated you.  Still, he eventually came up with this complicated half-measure, a “Dream Act.”  It wasn’t much, just letting some college kids stay for two years.  You noted their parents and siblings could still be deported in the meantime.  But… it was something when the Republicans offered nothing so you took the meager Dream Act and thought, well, it’s a start.  And you voted Obama in 2012.  Like 71% of other Latino American voters. [3]  Will the Republicans compete for your vote in 2014 and 2016?

[1] http://www.colby.edu/personal/t/thtieten/pop-mex.html

[2] http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/mexico_statistics.html

[3]  http://news.yahoo.com/poll-latino-vote-devastated-gop-even-worse-exits-181922111–politics.html

 

How Much Should American Students Study? Ask China & India

In Education, Immigration on September 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Is the SAT test too tough?  Are American kids buried under too much homework?

We can look at American math and science secondary school educational attainment, which suggest a system-wide failure.  Another factor  we can consider is to compare ourselves to the two largest nations, India and China.  Their college entrance exams are taken far more seriously than most Americans take the SAT.  I share below anecdotal tales from actual Indian and Chinese MBA students I’ve known.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal includes a 1,200 word piece looking in detail at the difficulty of the Indian and Chinese university entrance exams. The article is free, there is no paywall barrier.  [1]   Statements like “Good luck finding a place in the [Peking University] library” should catch American attention.

India’s top engineering programs are world elite, the Chinese have committed to creating a “C9” League on par with the US Ivy League.

At the Indian Institute of Technology…we met Shriram, a 21-year-old man who ranked 19 out of 485,000 on the school’s very demanding entrance exam…

The exam—and the preparation for it—dominated his teenage years. He was singled out as a “big talent” at an early age, with an aptitude for mathematics and science. To get ready for the IIT entrance exam, he enrolled at a private coaching institute that prepares students with aggressive drilling in the major testing areas—physics, chemistry and math. Over those two years, Shriram estimates that he studied 90 hours every week.

When Shriram arrived at the IIT, he found a class filled with academic superstars. The faculty has high expectations. On the first math exam, his freshman class received an average grade of 30%. Shriram did poorly too but soon bounced back, sacrificing sleep so that he could study. “All my life I wanted to be here,” he says. “I knew that if I could go to IIT, major in engineering, work and study hard, my life would be perfect. I would marry a beautiful girl, start a company, help my country advance and deliver on my family’s hopes and dreams.”

My Master’s is from the University of Chicago and a number of classmates earned their undergraduate degrees from Chinese and Indian colleges.  In my time there, one of the largest feeders of Chicago MBA students were the campuses of the Indian Institute of Technology.  I was impressed with their talent for quickly grasping complex financial theorems and economic concepts, given their backgrounds in science.

 

At a ten-year graduation reunion last fall, I spoke with a number of alums.  The topic of American education came up.  One Indian-American first emphasized his appreciation of the American economic system and the freedom here.  But, he said, in a bit of an undertone, Americans don’t understood our position.  He and his wife, though living in a pleasant American suburb we would consider home to “good schools,” pulled their daughter out of the town’s public school.  The reason?  To home-school her, not for religious reasons, but because they believe American schools are too soft.  Since the alum graduated from a top Indian school before graduating from the University of Chicago and advancing into a very successful career, I think his opinion is worthy.

Other alums from China and India expressed similar feelings that native-born Americans simply do not work hard enough.  One alum, who manages people, said he believes many Americans hold these values not just in school but in the work world, where many  feel “entitled” to a job.  He expressed that there are many, many people worldwide who would be willing to work much harder than many of us, if they could enjoy our living standards.

The rejoinder to the assertion Americans should study more and complete additional hours of homework is that there is more than rote memorization to learning.  This is true.  The linked WSJ article points out the World Economic Forum rates 81% of American university graduates as (many of whom are actually students from other nation’s primary and secondary systems) being immediately “employable”, compared to 25% in India and only 10% in China. 

The argument against the Chinese system is that it is primarily focused on rote memorization of knowledge compared to original thought and innovation.  The Indian and, especially, the American universities are superior in original thought.  Thus, countless hours of memorizing chemistry tables may not create the next Silicon Valley inventor.  Still, is the Chinese focus on memorization actually worse than an American student’s after hours viewing Keeping Up With the Kardashians in lieu of homework?

This analysis also shows the obvious value of immigration.  Driven, gifted students graduate from high schools and top universities in India, China, Korea, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.  They will go into engineering and science careers somewhere.  Why not allow them to bring their talents here, working for a Google or Apple, rather than having them living and working in Asia for HuaWei, Samsung or other competitors?

Comments are always welcome.  Do you agree?  Pictures of IIT campuses from Wikipedia Commons.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444358804578018531927856170.html

Obama No Friend to Hispanic Immigration but GOP No Better

In Immigration, Obama Administration on July 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The GOP allowed Obama to box it in on immigration.  Look at how little Obama actually did for Hispanics:

1. Obama is the top deporter in history at 400,000+ per year. [1]  He stepped up deportation audits of American employers.

“The president is trying to have it both ways–appease the enforcement hard-liners while appealing to Hispanic voters,” said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, a group that lobbies for a loosening of restrictions on illegal immigrants. The audits “routinely hit good employers who … treat workers well, leaving crippled farms and shattered families in their wake.” [2]

2. The President made no effort on promised immigration reform during the first two years of his Presidency, even with a supermajority in each house of Congress.  

3. In the Fast and Furious scandal, the Obama Administration illegally allowed guns into Mexico, resulting in the deaths of at least 150 Mexicans plus one US border agent. [3] 

4. Hispanic unemployment (11.0% in June 2012) remains stubbornly high and above the white jobless rate. [4]

5. The much touted Obama recent policy change on deportation delays did what?  It tells you, young undocumented person, you may stay in the US for another two years.  Then you will be deported (see #1 above).  In the meantime, your parents, your brother and your sister – all may be deported today (see #1).  Good luck fending for yourself in the meantime.  Obama offers no path to citizenship. [5]  [6]   In other words, Obama did very little but most in the GOP offer even less (exceptions exist, see Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Hello, Governor Jan Brewer.

6. Obama picked fights with the Catholic Church on matters such as whether churches can choose to cover contraception in their health plans.  Some 68% of American Hispanics are Catholic. [7]

Pinata ceiling at Mi Tierra restaurant, San Antonio, Texas

 

President Obama took Hispanics for granted, giving the GOP an opening.  But the Republicans failed to use their chance. 

America’s dismal economy diminished the need for new workers.  Recently, immigration from Mexico dropped to net zero as many recent comers have returned to Mexico for better opportunities. [8]  Mexico now has higher GDP growth than the USA.  The fact US Hispanic unemployment is higher than whites suggests Latinos are not ‘stealing’ jobs.

Jobs accepted by fresh immigrants tend to be work native-born Americans simply will not take, such as busing tables, mowing lawns in summer heat and working in dairy farms in remote corners of South Dakota. [9]

Kung Pao chicken

The GOP’s failure to move forward with serious immigration reform allowed President Obama to offer virtually nothing to Hispanics even as he looks set to win a strong plurality of Latino votes.  Immigration is one area where what’s best for the US economy happens to be what’s in the best tradition of America (openness to people who, after all, are eager to move here).  The utter lack of progress on immigration constitutes a political failure of Obama, the Democrats and the GOP, too.

[1] http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2158/latinos-hispanics-immigration-policy-deportations-george-bush-barack-obama-administration-democrats-republicans

[2] http://www.northernag.net/AGNews/tabid/171/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/6810/Homeland-Security-Targeting-Illegal-Farm-Workers.aspx

[3] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0309/Mexico-lawmakers-livid-over-US-Operation-Fast-and-Furious

[4] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm, accessed on 7/6/12.

[5] http://news.yahoo.com/us-halt-deportations-young-illegal-immigrants-143617764.html

[6] http://chronicle.com/article/Undocumented-Dreamers/132711/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/25/us/25cnd-hispanic.html

[8] http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Migration-Mexico-to-US-Drops-Pew-Hispanic-Reserch-Center-148567645.html

[9] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304870304577488973455967032.html

Mi Tierra picture by author.  Ellis Island, Chinese-American food and famous immigrant picture (Sergey Brin, founder of Google) from Wikipedia Commons.

Immigrants More Likely Entreprenuers than the Rest of Us

In Illinois, Immigration, Job Creation on June 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Famous Mi Tierra Restaurant, San Antonio, Texas (photo by author)

“Immigrants are more inclined to own small businesses than native-born Americans,” says today’s excellent Wall Street Journal article “Migrants Keep Small-Business Faith” by Miriam Jordan.  [1] The article is free, not behind the Journal’s paywall.

Highlights include 4.7 million people were employed by immigrant owned businesses in 2010 and generated nearly a trillion dollars in revenue.

I quote a vignette from the article about an immigrant entrepreneur near where I live.  This one of countless stories of newcomers who spoke no English but quickly adapted to American culture, learned English and started thriving businesses.  They employ many and enrich our culture.

 

Delfino Bello emigrated from Mexico unable to speak English. Now, he runs three popular Mexican restaurants about 40 miles from Chicago.

 

In 1995, Mr. Bello opened his first eatery, called “El Faro,” in a shopping strip in Bartlett, Ill., that had fallen on hard times. As the taqueria flourished, it attracted other businesses. A few years later, he opened restaurants in Elgin and East Dundee, serving a clientele that includes both immigrants and Americans.

 

“I had nothing, nothing when I arrived in this country,” said Mr. Bello, 55 years old. If the economy continues to recover, he says he plans to open a fourth restaurant.

Immigrant businesses have enlivened otherwise dead cities and suburban areas.  One of Mr. Bello’s restaurants is in Elgin, an old industrial city near Chicago.  If you’ve been to Elgin or the very similar industrial city of Aurora, located on the same Fox River, you’ve seen the importance of immigrant businesses.  Both cities’ downtowns have very few national retailers or restaurant chains.  But they have many immigrant businesses.  If you travel Broadway in downtown Aurora, you see many immigrant businesses.

The country benefits from immigrant entrepreneurs.

Latin American products, San Antonio, Texas

Latin American products, San Antonio, Texas.  (photo by author)

 

 

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303410404577464853249366254.html

Pictures of Mi Tierra (San Antonio) and Latin American products at market stalls in San Antonio by author.  Picture of 26th Street in Little Village neighborhood of Chicago from Wikipedia Commons.

 

MexicUSA: What the Merger of Mexico and the United States Would Mean For English

In Immigration, Mexico, Political Rhetoric, Spanish Language on January 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

Let us consider the merger of the United States and Mexico!  Welcome MexicUSA!

I sometimes hear we need to limit immigration or else Spanish will someday overtake English in the United States.  Is that possible?  What would a hypothetical US-Mexican country be like demographically?

First, let me say this is a wildly hypothetical example.  Mexico is a proud country and a merger with the United States is as unthinkable to most Mexicans as it is to most Americans as well.

I bring up a US-Mexican merger simply to show what it would be like demographically, as an extreme case, since it helps address whether there are linguistic or cultural challenges to the United States from a half million or million immigrants.  Let us not talk small ball but instead consider welcoming all of Mexico as immigrants all at once!

Mexico has 112.4 million residents. [1]  The USA has 312.9 million residents. [3]  In our new MexicUSA, the old Mexico will account for just 26% of the new US population.

But what of the future?  Isn’t Mexico growing faster?  Even in 2050, the old Mexico population is projected to be 132.3 million [4], compared to 402 million in the old USA [4], meaning old Mexico would actually drop a fraction to be just 25% of MexicUSA.

That certainly does not suggest Mexico would dominate the MexicUSA.

Most Mexican elites learn English.  Many study in the United States.  The last three Mexican presidents (Felipe Calderon, Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo) all had degrees from top US universities.  I have been unable to find an exact statistic on what proportion of Mexicans, whether elite or general population, speak English, I did find this quote: “As far as second languages go, a relatively large number of educated Mexicans (and those with little or no education who have immigrated to the US and returned) have different degrees of fluency in English.” [5]   Also, “on an every-day basis most Mexicans listen to contemporary music such as pop, rock, etc. in both English and Spanish.” [1] 

Evidence of the popularity of American English culture can be found on the Mexican music charts.  In 2012, through May, the #1 spots are dominated by English language albums from non-Mexican artists (Adele, Madonna, & One Direction).  Contrast that with the almost exclusively English language pop charts in the United States.  The Mexican chart’s top Spanish language album is from Yuridia, who lived in Arizona for nine years and speaks English. [2]

It is well-known that Mexican elites in business, politics and culture generally speak English.  This is, of course, common for elites worldwide.  In MexicUSA, the political, business and cultural leaders from the former Mexico will be able to conduct themselves in English. 

An interesting piece of immigration assimilation is intermarriage.  It has long been extremely high amongst Asians and Hispanics.  “Among all newlyweds in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.” [6]  Twenty-six percent, of course, means one out of four.  I know many Hispanics who are married to Anglos.  Their children are as “American” as anyone else and always speak English. 

Some argue Hispanic immigrants in the USA, whether from Mexico or elsewhere, do not speak English.  That is simply untrue over time.  Hispanic immigrants learn English and their children speak it better.  By the third generation, many solely speak English.

Twice I had Latina girlfriends, both of whom spoke English.  One was an immigrant from Mexico and the other, born here, had virtually no accent and hardly knew more Spanish than me!  I have had many Hispanic friends and co-workers and invariably they speak English, usually fluently.

“Among second-generation Hispanics, 92 percent speak English well or very well, even though 85 percent speak at least some Spanish at home. Eleven percent of Mexican second-generation children speak only English at home, compared to five percent in the first generation.” [7]

English-only is the predominant pattern by the third generation. These children speak only English at home, making it highly unlikely they will be bilingual as adults… The level of English monolingualism is lower among Hispanics, but, at 72 percent, it is still a clear majority.  71 percent of third-generation Mexicans speak only English.” [7]

The evidence is clear.  Even in the extraordinarily unlikely instance the United States absorbed its Mexican neighbor to the South, the “old” USA would still comprise 75% of the combined population.  Mexican elites already speak English and often attend US universities.  Many Mexicans listen to American pop music and otherwise follow American culture.  Mexican-Americans in the USA learn English over time with second generation children speaking English.  By the third generation, almost 3/4 of Mexican-Americans speak only English.  Intermarriage rates remain quite high so that millions of 2050 Americans will be of mixed Hispanic-other ancestry. 

A half million or million more – or even ten million more – immigrants will never swamp English as a language, no more than your own ancestors’ Yiddish, Polish, Greek, Dutch, Tagalog, German, Italian, Cantonese, Lithuanian, Ukranian, Czech or Swedish held you back from learning English.  Do you even speak your ancestors’ native tongues?  Probably not.

Topography of the United Mexican States

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mexico retrieved 1/27/12.  Technically, Mexico is called the United States of Mexico.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_number-one_albums_of_2012_(Mexico)#cite_note-5 retrieved 5/17/12.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_states retrieved 1/27/12.

[4] http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2006/WPP2006_Highlights_rev.pdf

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Mexico retrieved 1/27/12.

[6] http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1616/american-marriage-interracial-interethnic

[7] http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=282  Emphasis in the original.

Pictures (flags, Yuridia, Mexico maps) from Wikipedia Commons.

Recent Drop in Immigration Will Not Impact Growth in Hispanic Turnout in 2012

In 2012 Elections, Hispanic Voting Patterns, Immigration, President Obama on November 30, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  

RealClearPolitics.com columnist Sean Trende’s otherwise sensible article “Obama’s 2012 Chances and Democratic Demographic Dreaming” makes one wrong assertion:

“Latino immigration has largely stopped over the past several years. It may have even reversed. There are multiple reasons for this, including the United States’ deep recession and slow recovery, as well as the continued modernization of the Mexican economy. In other words, to the extent that Latino immigration is what accounts for the increase in the Latino share of the electorate from 1992 through 2004, we should not expect it to do so from 2008 through 2012.” [1] (emphasis added)

Mr. Trende makes a mistake because immigrants cannot vote right away.  A new legal immigrant has to wait five years before applying for citizenship. [2]  A new illegal immigrant will not be able to vote at all. [3]  US born children of illegal immigrants will not be eligible to vote until they attain 18 years of age.

 

Mr. Trende is absolutely correct the recent decline in immigration reflects the aftermath of the economic recession.  But those immigrants who did not come in 2009-2011 would not be voting in 2012, anyway.

The purpose of Mr. Trende’s article is to critique the latest update to the popular “Emerging Democratic Majority” hypothesis of Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin.  Messrs. Teixeira and Halpin first argued in 2002 continuing population growth of American minority groups make a Democratic majority inevitable.  The most recent installment argues an additional 2% of the 2012 voting population will be minority, meaning President Obama can afford to lose white voters, abandoning Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan to adjust his 2012 trip to 270 electoral votes down a narrow road running through purplish states with fast-growing minority populations such as Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. 

The Hispanic population is by far the fastest growing in America, surging  by 35% to 50.5 million in the 2010 decennial Census. [4]   The Hispanic population is younger and a substantial proportion are not yet citizens so Hispanics comprised 9% of the 2008 vote but 12.5% of the 2010 population. [5]  The comparative youth of the Hispanic population means a disproportionate share of the growth in the electorate in 2012 and beyond.   Census data shows Hispanics were 18% of the 16-19 age cohort as of March 2009. [5]  When we contrast the 18% against the 9% of the total 2008 vote, it shows the crux of the Teixeira argument.  That 16-19 cohort of 2009 is sure to include many 2012 first-time voters.

One important point Mr. Trende makes about the Teixeira theory is voters are not static.   Obama won 67% of the Hispanic vote in 2008 [5] , which is fairly typical for a nationwide Democrat.  The Democratic share of the nationwide Hispanic vote slipped to about 60% in 2010 and a few candidates such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush won about 40% of the Hispanic vote.  Mr. Trende’s point about President Obama being judged on the economy is obvious.  He also notes Latino turnout has varied from year to year even as the overall Hispanic population grew [6], presumably for the same reasons white turnout varies:  turnout is based on how people feel about the candidates and the overall importance of an election.

A flaw  Mr. Trende identifies in the Teixeira theory is the assumption black or Hispanic vote proportions for Democrats or the GOP will remain the same year after year.  This has not been the case in the recent past.  I believe the Hispanic vote is especially subject to generally adjusting to the Republicans because Hispanic voters have, unlike black voters, voted quite differently based on socioeconomic status.   As City Journal’s Steven Malanga wrote: “in the McCain-Obama contest, 83 percent of Hispanic voters with annual incomes of $15,000 or less voted for Obama, as did 71 percent of those earning between $15,000 and $30,000. By contrast, 51 percent of those with household incomes between $150,000 and $200,000 voted for McCain.” [7]   White voting also follows a trend of becoming more Republican as one moves up the income and education scale, though the Hispanic differential between low and high incomes is much more pronounced, indicating more potential upside to the Republicans if the trend continues. [8]

This suggests Hispanic voters tend Democratic at lower-income levels and become ever more Republican as they move up the education and income scale.  No one knows the future for sure, but it would be logical to think overall Hispanic voters will become Republican as the Hispanic population becomes more settled and financially secure.  To the extent some Latinos vote Democratic because they are offended by anti-immigration rhetoric from some of the more strident Republicans, I trust this will also change over time as those Republicans either change their ways or are voted out. 

Actual 2008 exit polling data (below) suggests another reelection headache for Mr. Obama neither Mr. Teixeira nor Mr. Trende suggest:

2008 Hispanic Vote Share: Obama:


New Jersey 78%
Nevada 76%
California 74%
Illinois 72%
New Mexico 69%
US Average 67%
Texas 63%
Colorado 61%
Florida 57%
Arizona 56%
   
Chart by author, data source: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1024/exit-poll-analysis-hispanics  

The Hispanic vote total for Obama varied greatly from New Jersey’s 78% to Arizona’s 56%.  This dispersion makes the Teixeira hypothesis more of a stretch if it holds in 2012.  Why? 

With the exception of Nevada, the reason is the states with the highest ratio of Democratic Hispanics are generally safely in the Democratic camp, anyway.  Nevada and New Mexico are battlegrounds with six and five electoral votes, respectively.  On the other hand, two larger and therefore more important battleground states in the Teixeira 2012 roadmap are Colorado (nine electoral votes) and Florida (29 votes). Mr. Obama won 61% of Hispanics in Colorado and just 57% in Florida.  A slightly larger 2012 Hispanic voting block in those states will not actually do President Obama  much good if he is winning 61% or 57% of those incremental voters.  Furthermore, Mr. Obama’s 51% current approval rating with Hispanics [9] suggests his 2012 vote percentages will be lower, meaning incremental Hispanic voters in Colorado and Florida may be a draw or even help the Republican.  Perhaps even more so if US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) were the Republican Vice Presidential nominee. 

The chart above shows how, from President Obama’s perspective, Hispanic votes are rather inefficiently placed under the winner-takes-all Electoral College with the largest Hispanic populations in states that are almost certainly already settled (California, Texas, New York, Illinois, New Jersey) or happen to have the Hispanic populace most amenable to Republicans (Florida).  

Despite Mr. Trende’s error in linking the recent drop in immigration to the 2012 election turnout, he does point out flaws in the Teixeira 2012 roadmap.  The Teixeira theory has a huge hole in assuming minority groups remain just as Democratic as they grow in proportion to whites.  When we look at subgroups of whites which were once considered distinct minorities, be it Italians, Poles or Irish, we see a gradual trend away from the Democratic Party as these groups have become increasingly assimilated and economically prosperous.   Anecdotally, most Hispanics I know personally are Republican or independents who lean that way; I trust this higher than normal Hispanic Republican experience reflects my socioeconomic status.  

That said, these changes rarely happen overnight and the demographic trends show future electorates will be increasingly Hispanic as recent immigrants gain citizenship and the young Hispanics attain age 18.  I happen to be a strong supporter of immigration on both humanitarian and economic grounds.  Though we have broadly discussed racial groups here, the fact remains everyone is an individual.  There is no prototypical “Hispanic” as Hispanic Americans came from myriad countries of origin, some do not even speak Spanish and some, such as Eva Longoria, happen to be descendents of people who immigrated to Spain’s American territories four or five hundred years ago, long before Texas, Florida and the Southwest were annexed by the United States.  Each Hispanic has a unique human experience.  The Republican Party would be wise to cater as best as it can to the growing Hispanic population, lest they someday prove Teixeira’s “Emerging Democratic Majority” correct.

[1]http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/11/30/obamas_2012_chances_and_democratic_demographic_dreaming_112221.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Citizenship#Eligibility_for_naturalization. (accessed 11/30/11).

[3] In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I assume the number of illegal immigrants who actually vote is immaterial.

[4] http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf

[5] http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1024/exit-poll-analysis-hispanics

[6] See figure 2 in Pew link (note [5]) where Hispanic vote proportion dropped in states like FL and CA between 2004 and 2008, despite significant relative population growth. 

[7] http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_1_snd-latino-voting.html

[8] McCain won 56% of whites over $50,000, 51% of whites under $50,000.  Exit polling data from page 1 of http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#val=USP00p1.

[9] http://www.tnr.com/article/the-vital-center/97938/obama-demographics-2012-latinos

Pictures of famous Hispanic Americans Sen. Marco Rubio, Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM), Demi Lovato and Eva Longoria from Wikipedia Commons.