Even as Trump Cut Immigration, Immigrants Transformed U.S.

Of note, the growth of immigration to non-traditional cities and states:

To grasp the impact of the latest great wave of immigration to the United States, consider the city of Grand Island, Neb.: More than 60 percent of public school students are nonwhite, and their families collectively speak 55 languages. During drop-off at Starr Elementary on a recent morning, parents bid their children goodbye in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.

“You wouldn’t expect to see so many languages spoken in a school district of 10,000,” said Tawana Grover, the school superintendent who arrived from Dallas four years ago. “When you hear Nebraska, you don’t think diversity. We’ve got the world right here in rural America.”

The students are the children of foreign-born workers who flocked to this town of 51,000 in the 1990s and 2000s to toil in the area’s meatpacking plants, where speaking English was less necessary than a willingness to do the grueling work.

They came to Nebraska from every corner of the globe: Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans who floated across the Rio Grande on inner tubes, in search of a better life; refugees who fled famine in South Sudan and war in Iraq to find safe haven; Salvadorans and Cambodians who spent years scratching for work in California and heard that jobs in Nebraska were plentiful and the cost of living low.

The story of how millions of immigrants since the 1970s have put down lasting rootsacross the country is by now well-known. What is less understood about President Trump’s four-year-long push to shut the borders and put “America First” is that his quest may prove ultimately a futile one. Even with one of the most severe declines in immigration since the 1920s, the country is on an irreversible course to becoming ever more diverse, and more dependent on immigrants and their children.

The president since the moment he took office issued a torrent of orders that reduced refugee admissions; narrowed who is eligible for asylum; made it more difficult to qualify for permanent residency or citizenship; tightened scrutiny of applicants for high-skilled worker visas and sought to limit the length of stay for international students. His policies slashed the number of migrants arrested and then released into the country from nearly 500,000 in fiscal 2019 to 15,000 in fiscal 2020.

The measures worked: “We are going to end the decade with lower immigration than in any decade since the ’70s,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who analyzed newly available census data.

The president-elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has pledged to reverse many of the measures. He has vowed to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, an Obama-era program that allowed young adults mainly brought to the United States illegally as children to remain, and to resume accepting refugees and asylum seekers in larger numbers.

He has also said he would introduce legislation to offer a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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