Monday, April 24, 2006

We've Always Had Immigration. What's Different?

One often-said comment is that America has always had a lot of immigration, so what could be different now?

We are indeed a nation that was started by immigrants. One example (of many) was the inflow of the Irish. Irish immigration reached its peak in 1840, when Irish immigrant concentrations reached as high as 15-25% by county. (Source).

People who were already in America saw the Irish coming in and had many of the same fears I write about today. Fears about our jobs, our economy, our culture, etc. In the long term, Irish immigration was good for our country. So how is Mexican immigration any different?

To answer this, I would point to two things: 1) the intensity of this ongoing wave of immigrants from Mexico is immensely greater, and 2) the economic landscape of the country has changed since those older days.

The population density of Mexican immigrants is going to be a lot bigger than the 15-25% peak reached by Irish immigrants. Today Hispanics are 35% of Texas' population. Government predictions say it will be over 50% by 2020. And by 2040, English-speaking Caucasians will be less than 30% of the population of Texas. (Source) This mass migration is a lot larger than the flow of Irish immigrants ever was!

For my second point in the comparison with previous immigration waves I would comment that when the Irish came in big numbers in the 1800s, USA was a new country, kind of a "startup". Everybody was a blue-collar worker, and everyone had to put in some "elbow grease" to get the country going.

Today is a very different situation. America is arguably the most developed country in all the world. Manufacturing jobs (and many other blue-collar jobs) have been rapidly going overseas for several years.


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