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.

How Much Slower Would the U.S. Grow Without Immigration? In Many Places, a Lot

Good analysis of the disparity between rural and urban areas, once that is similar to that in Canada, and where various federal and provincial initiatives are attempting to address (e.g., Atlantic Immigration Pilot, Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot, provincial use of the Provincial Nominee Program):

As the United States debates the right levels of immigration — and whether, as President Trump suggested, there is room for much more of it — new census data shows that international migration is keeping population growth above water in much of the country.

Although international migration dropped in 2017 and 2018, it accounted for nearly half of overall American population growth in 2018 as birthrates declined and death rates rose.

International migration helped rural counties record their second straight year of growth, according to local population estimates for 2018 that the Census Bureau released on Thursday. And immigrants bolstered urban counties that have been losing residents to more affordable areas. Even so, the three largest metro areas in America — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — all shrank slightly.

Without these international moves, 44 percent of the nation’s population would be in shrinking counties, instead of the current 27 percent. Dense urban counties and sparse rural areas, despite typically being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, share economic concerns related to population decline.

In rural America in particular, shrinking populations can lead to a vicious cycle, causing local businesses to fail and young people to leave in search of opportunity, saddling those who remain with a smaller tax base for local services.

Some tiny communities grew as much from international migration, in percentage terms, as large global magnets did.

The metro areas where international migration contributed the most growth in 2018 include the big, diverse metros of Miami; Orlando, Fla.; and San Jose, Calif. But that growth was rivaled by college towns like Brookings (South Dakota State), Pullman (Washington State), Ames (Iowa State), and Champaign-Urbana (University of Illinois) — as well as by the meatpacking center of Huron, S.D., and the Transcendental Meditation center of Fairfield, Iowa.

Although that’s an eclectic list of places, there’s a clear geographic pattern. International migration contributes to population growth more in larger metros than in smaller ones or in rural areas — and most of all in the dense urban counties of large metros. These urban counties lose population as a result of domestic migration because moves within the United States tend to be out of dense, urban counties and into suburbs or smaller metros.

International migration — which includes immigration and other international moves regardless of citizenship or country of birth — is increasingly important for population growth in the highest-density counties of large metros.

The growth in 2018 for these areas slowed to the lowest rate since 2006, just before the giant housing bust. These urban counties rebounded in the years that followed, reaching a peak in 2011 and 2012 that looked like a demographic reversal of the long-running suburbanization of America. But then urban county growth slowed, and in fact had not been as impressive as originally thought. The latest census data has revised earlier urban growth estimates downward.

Americans are leaving urban counties over all as rising home prices and inadequate construction push people to more affordable suburban counties, midsize metros and smaller metros.

In all, nine of the 51 metros of a million-plus lost people in 2018. An additional 10 large metros — including Miami, Boston and San Francisco — would have lost population if not for international migration. And, for the first time since 2007, the rate of population growth in large metros slipped below that of midsize metros.

New report suggests visas for skilled immigrants to struggling U.S. counties

Some similarities with Canada in terms of the Provincial Nominee Program, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, and the recently announced Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot. Hard to see it going anywhere under the current anti-immigration environment:

The U.S. already has a special visa to attract foreign doctors to treat rural Americans — now a new report suggests expanding that to all skilled immigrants who’d be willing to settle in areas facing long-term demographic problems.

Why it matters: “Migration out of struggling areas has become skill-biased,” according to a new report released by the Economic Innovation Group.

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  • “Someone with a professional or graduate degree is twice as likely to move states as a high school graduate.”
  • “For every one college graduate that the fastest shrinking counties add, the fastest growing add two.”
  • “By 2037, 67% of U.S. counties will contain fewer prime working age adults than they did in 1997.”

The big picture: “At the national level, slower growth in America’s working-age population is a major reason that mainstream forecasters now expect the economy to expand around 2 percent each year rather than the 3 percent common in the second half of the 20th century,” the N.Y. Times’ Neil Irwin notes.

The EIG’s set of principles for a heartland visa:

  1. Communities must “opt in”: Towns or counties that don’t want to participate shouldn’t be forced to join.
  2. Distressed areas first: The program “should be targeted to places confronting chronic population stagnation or loss.”
  3. No work restrictions: Visa holders should be allowed to compete in the labor market, as long as they stay in a specific geographic area.
  4. This should be a path to a green card: “The prospect of permanent residency … should provide an extremely strong incentive for compliance.”
  5. Adding to, not replacing, existing skilled visas: “The scheme would therefore need to be accompanied by a commensurate increase to the green card cap.”

The bottom line: This is somewhat of a moot point during the Trump presidency, which has sought to curb immigration levels. But as the U.S. faces further demographic decline, this is one option for lawmakers trying to help the areas hurting the most.

Source: New report suggests visas for skilled immigrants to struggling U.S. counties

TVO’s The Agenda: Directed Immigration Across Ontario

Good discussion this past Wednesday of some of the issues with respect to encouraging immigration to rural and remote areas with Charles Cirtwill of @NorthernPolicy, Maggie Matear of @TimminsEDC, Effat Ghassemi of @NCPTweets.

Similar issues and discussion elsewhere in Canada where the Provincial Nominee Program, The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the recently announced federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

The record of the longest running program, Official Language Minority Communities (francophone) has never met its target of 4 percent of the total number of immigrants.

Every year, the Greater Golden Horseshoe adds thousands of newcomers, while other parts of the province struggle just to keep the residents they currently have. Already, such outflows for those communities mean labour shortages and stagnating local economies. The Agenda discusses what it would take to even out which parts of Ontario attract immigrants.

Jason Kenney announces UCP immigration policy

Kenney does know the immigration file and focus on rural Alberta reflects ongoing concerns in rural communities across Canada and the focus on the Provincial Nominee Program makes sense.

One of the interesting apparent paradoxes is that rural Canadians tend to have more reservations about general immigration levels (particularly family and refugee class) and multiculturalism but yet recognize their demographic needs require more immigrants:

Kenney said the UCP plan would aim to bring approximately 10,000 newcomers in total to rural Alberta every year.

Kenney, who served as federal immigration minister from 2008 to 2013, said the plan is meant to address population decline in rural Alberta and reinvigorate the provincial economy.

It mirrors a recent move by the federal government aimed at placing more immigrants in rural communities across Canada.

While immigration is largely seen as a federal responsibility, it is shared between the provinces and Ottawa.

Each province and territory negotiates its own agreement, but that falls within a broader immigration policy set by the federal government.

Alberta immigration policy

In Alberta, there is both a comprehensive immigration agreement and an immigrant nominee program that allows the province to target would-be Albertans based on labour needs.

The federal government assigns a quota of approximately 5,000 positions for the Alberta nominee program.

Kenney says for each one of those positions, typically four people — family members of the nominee — settle in the province.

“I truly believe we have not been as proactive or energetic as we should be in this program,” said Kenney, as he outlined the UCP’s plan if it forms the next provincial government in an election that has not been called yet by Rachel Notley’s governing NDP.

Under Alberta legislation, the election must take place between March 1 and May 31, 2019, with a 28-day campaign.

Kenney’s plan calls for partnerships with rural communities, where referrals from those communities can help place immigrants into the provincial nomination process.

He estimates these changes could bring 8,000 newcomers to smaller communities each year.

Kenney says the plan is based on Manitoba’s system, where 20 per cent of newcomers now settle in rural areas.

Entrepreneur program could add 2,000 people to rural areas

The UCP would also create what it’s calling a rural entrepreneur stream.

It would set aside 500 position for immigration to the province for those who meet minimum income and investment thresholds and are willing to invest in businesses in rural communities.

Kenney says those immigrants would have to be active majority owners of those businesses.

He says the UCP estimates the entrepreneur program could mean an additional 2,000 people coming to rural communities each year.

That system is based on one in British Columbia.

Kenney said there are details that would have to be worked out before the immigration policy was established, based on what he said would be extensive consultations with immigrants, agencies, municipalities and more.

He also said Alberta under the UCP would push for a larger share of immigrants outside of the provincial policy.

“My goal would be to get a larger share of the federally selected immigrants by getting our economy back to work,” said Kenney.

Source: Jason Kenney announces UCP immigration policy

Unlikely new residents are reviving Australian country towns

A reminder of the contribution some lower skilled immigrants can make to rural communities and a caution regarding the limits of encouraging more high skilled immigrants to settle there:

First came the Burmese, then the Afghans and the Africans. Since 2016, 400-odd Yazidis have washed up in Wagga Wagga, a regional centre south-west of Sydney. Its primary school has had to hire interpreters to communicate with families (fully a fifth of its students are refugees). The local college teems with parents learning English and new trades. Doctors have had to brush up on illnesses rarely found in the area. Few locals seem fussed about the changes. And to those fresh out of war zones, “Wagga” is an idyll. “My children are safe,” says Ismail Darwesh, a Yazidi who fled Islamic State’s attempt to wipe out his people, a religious minority in Iraq and Syria. “Everything you want you can get here.”

The refugees have been sent to Wagga Wagga under a scheme which brings beneficiaries from foreign camps to rural Australia (most settle in urban areas). The hope is that they can offset the population decline that threatens many outback settlements with extinction, as birth rates fall and youngsters head for cities. Wagga Wagga’s Multicultural Council says the population is only growing thanks to the new arrivals. Immigrants are helping to stem shrinkage in another 150 localities.

The scheme helps big cities, too, by easing the pressure on roads, schools and hospitals there. Thousands of Iraqis and Syrians descended on Sydney’s western suburbs after extra visas were dished out to them in 2016 and 2017. Many have struggled to find work, and conservatives grumble about ghettoisation. A recent report from the Centre for Policy Development, a think-tank, found that just 17% of “humanitarian entrants” have jobs after 18 months in Australia. Yet remote towns are crying out for people to fill vacancies on farms, in abattoirs and to look after the elderly. The cost of living is lower than in Sydney or Melbourne and, for farmers like Mr Darwesh, a quiet life is appealing anyway.

To stay afloat, some outback towns have taken to recruiting migrants for themselves. A piggery in Pyramid Hill, in northern Victoria, started sponsoring workers from the Philippines a decade ago. They now make up a fifth of its 500-odd population, keeping not just the business afloat, but also the local school. Another town in the same state, Nhill, lured 160 Burmese refugees from Melbourne with jobs at a food company, adding perhaps A$40m ($28m) to its economy. A group of residents in Walla Walla, a dot in New South Wales, is now scouting for refugees from Sydney. “We have jobs, we have housing and we have education,” says Andrew Kotzur, who runs the local steelworks. “We just need more people to sustain them.”

Asylum-seekers and farm labourers make up a tiny portion of the immigrants pouring into Australia. The conservative coalition government is keen to rusticate others, too. Scott Morrison, the prime minister, has suggested that some of Australia’s 500,000 foreign students could be sent to regional universities. The population minister, Alan Tudge, added that visa restrictions and incentives could be used to push skilled migrants out of Melbourne and Sydney. Almost all the best-qualified arrivals settle in those two cities, but luring them out will not be easy. It is partly owing to migration that Sydney and Melbourne are thriving. Foreign accountants and it geeks choose them for well-paid work and swanky suburbs. Rob them of both, and far fewer would come to Oz at all.

Source: Unlikely new residents are reviving Australian country towns

Australia’s Immigration Solution: Small-Town Living

Similar to strategies to encourage rural immigration in Canada (e.g., Atlantic Canada, Francophone communities outside Quebec):

PYRAMID HILL, Australia — A lanky Filipina girl with long black hair stood at the wickets behind St. Patrick’s School, waiting for a bowl from a burly dad with a reddish beard.

The cricket ball came in slow. Her swing was quick as a bee’s wing, sending the ball skyward as a gaggle of kids — mostly Filipino, some white — cheered and elbowed to bat next.

The game, played on a recent afternoon, was a typical mixed gathering for Pyramid Hill, a one-pub town of around 500 people in central Victoria that has become a model of rural revival and multicultural integration.

“I’m still surprised they’re as open to us as they are,” said Abigail Umali, 39, a veterinarian from Manila who works at a local pig farm, and whose daughter, Maria, was the girl at bat.

“This school wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” said Kelvin Matthews, 36, the bowler, as he watched the children interact.

Towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun

Filipinos now make up nearly a quarter of Pyramid Hill’s growing population. New homes are going up here for the first time in a generation — and both the newcomers and lifelong residents say they have found the answer to rising concerns about immigrants straining resources in Australian cities.

It’s called small-town living.

“People in the country mix, and need to mix,” said Tom Smith, a pig farmer who inadvertently started the town’s revival in 2008 when he sponsored visas for four workers from the Philippines. “It’s just different out here; it’s the only way to survive.”

Rural collapse is a familiar tale, seen across the American Midwest and in many areas of Europe, where small communities have been squeezed by globalization. It’s no different in Australia: an urbanizing country, as physically large as the United States, where towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun.

But the success of Pyramid Hill — and many other small Australian towns — suggests that there are opportunities being missed and lessons to be learned. At a time when politicians in Australia, and around the world, are calling for restrictions on immigration, small towns in Australia are asking for more immigrants.

“There’s a real network of people who know how to make this work, who make it work in their community and can share it with others,” said Jack Archer, the chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute, a government research organization. “This is something we should really be thinking about scaling up.”

Landmarks of Despair

Pyramid Hill is a quiet drive of about 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, from Melbourne, finishing with a stretch of land that is mostly empty except for golden wheat fields and lint-gray sheep.

The community took its name in 1836 from a granite outcrop on the town’s edge. From its peak, I had little trouble seeing newer landmarks, which rose above the countryside and hinted at local despair: grain silos that are no longer used; a pet food factory that shut down in 2008.

Residents still talk about the era before the Filipinos came as one of quiet desperation. Streets without children. Homes decaying. The town’s population bottomed out at 419 in 2011, down from 699 in the 1960s.

“We were in dire straits,” said Cheryl McKinnon, the mayor of Loddon Shire, the municipality that includes Pyramid Hill. “We needed our population to grow.”

Economists often discuss immigration in terms of a multiplier effect. Newcomers don’t just fill jobs, they also create them, by bringing demand for new products and services.

This is especially true in Australia, where the minimum wage is 18.29 Australian dollars an hour ($13.70) and most migrants are skilled workers or students.

“Australia’s focus on skilled migration has demonstrated positive effects for economic growth,” a recently published government report on population growth found, “because our migrants on average lift potential G.D.P. and G.D.P. per capita.”

In many cities and suburbs, though, population growth has brought frustration. Melbourne added 125,000 people during the last fiscal year, its largest recorded increase, and Sydney added 102,000. In both cities, immigration was the primary cause, prompting complaints about housing, crowded schools and traffic.

The areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just jobs but a sense of community

The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to such concerns by restricting immigration: maintaining harsh offshore detention centers for asylum seekers and limiting the number of skilled-worker visas.

Places like Pyramid Hill offer an alternative.

“There just has got to be some employment opportunity,” said Mr. Archer of the Regional Australia Institute. “There’s more of that than people think.”

Statistics from the institute suggest that many rural communities suffer not from a lack of employment, but a lack of employees.

Labor market participation in regional Australia — the areas outside major cities — is well above the national average. And since rural populations tend to be older, that means many people continue to work well after they might have wanted to retire.

Research from the Regional Australia Institute shows that the areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just well-paying jobs but a sense of community.

In the Shire of Dalwallinu, a town in Western Australia’s Wheat Belt that is coming back to life thanks to migrants from the Philippines and elsewhere, residents helped workers move their families from abroad.

In the small town of Nhill, in northwestern Victoria, locals have managed the arrival of ethnic Karen refugees from Myanmar since 2010, helping them find housing, learn English and engage in social activities.

Pyramid Hill’s evolution has been just as personal. Neighbors regularly meet to share food and learn about each other’s cultures.

“Every month there’s one Australian speaker and a Filipino speaker, and we cook for each other,” said Helen Garchitorena, 47, a leader of the exchange. “We explain the importance of the food, and we talk.”

Compared with those in many cities and suburbs, people in Pyramid Hill seem to have more time and interest in building bonds across ethnic boundaries. An annual Filipino “fiesta” was added to the town’s events calendar in 2015, and every week seems to include an opportunity to socialize.

Douglas Todd: Immigrants prosper in Canada’s small towns

Interesting commentary as always by Todd. After correctly rejecting a “sticks” approach (unenforceable given Charter mobility rights), he discusses possible “carrots.”

Not convinced that the “carrots” will necessarily make a major change to settlement patterns:

  • Awarding extra points to immigrants who settle in rural areas, whether through Express Entry or Provincial Nominee Programs,  doesn’t guarantee they will remain;
  • The StatsCan study mentioned that immigrants settling in smaller centres do better may reflect that they had a job offer attracting them to that community, and a smaller immigrant pool. For example, visible minorities in Newfoundland and Labrador have higher median incomes than elsewhere, likely reflecting the small immigrant labour pool concentrated in the professions.

There may be some lessons to be learned from previous efforts, whether with respect to Atlantic immigration (where retention has been an issue) or efforts to encourage Francophone immigrants to settle in official language minority communities in English Canada:

It’s been done before. From the 1870s to 1930s Ottawa offered free land to immigrants and refugees, much of it on the Prairies or in B.C.

The raw land was given to newcomers after they proved over several years they were developing it for homesteading, farming or logging.

A carrot approach is being tried in parts of Scandinavia. Sweden, for instance, has experimented with offering more generous social housing and welfare rates to immigrants and refugees who move to its smaller towns.

It wouldn’t be complicated to offer some carrots in Canada, especially to the one million people living here as permanent residents.

What about fine-tuning Canada’s immigrant point system — which favours those with high educational and skill levels — to grant extra points to newcomers who settle in Canada’s hinterlands?

That’s a suggestion from Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who frequently advises the federal government.

A points system that favours permanent residents who have shown (in part through their income-tax statements) they are committed to making a life in Quesnel, Timmins or St. John’s could do a lot for those cities. The small cities’ schools would fill and their housing and retail markets would strengthen.

Rather than Metro Vancouver and Toronto experiencing unaffordable property and rent ­costs —­ in large part because of high in-migration ­and offshore real-estate speculation — smaller cities and rural areas could enjoy modest boosts from the foreign-born.

Pressure would also ease on Metro Vancouver’s and Toronto’s over-stretched transit systems, as suggested by a StatsCan study that shows immigrants and foreign students rely on taxpayer subsidized transit at double the rate of Canadian-born residents.

A hinterland-related immigration points system is not far-fetched, even in Canada.

Kurland says it’s already virtually in place, in various ways, in B.C.’s provincial nominee program, which oversees a portion of the province’s skilled and educated immigrants.

Citizenship court judges dealing with people who are applying to be accepted as immigrants on compassionate grounds, Kurland adds, have also been known to treat favourably migrants who live in small towns.

The carrot approach would not only breathe new life into the hinterlands, it would give a leg up to immigrants themselves.

A little-known Statistics Canada study by Andre Bernard found that most immigrants who settle in Canada’s small towns do better financially than the majority who choose Canada’s 13 largest cities.

His report, “Immigrants in the Hinterland,” found newcomers who move to small towns and rural areas not only more quickly learn an official language, they soon earn more than other immigrants and those born in Canada.

That not only benefits the immigrants and their children, it does the same for our increasingly struggling small towns.

Source: Douglas Todd: Immigrants prosper in Canada’s small towns | Vancouver Sun