Immigration

In a 5/14/09 WSJ article, Conor Dougherty reports on several Census Bureau studies.
“Four states, including California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, already are majority minority,” meaning that there are more non-whites than whites in those states. Florida and New York are approaching the halfway point. Arizona and Nevada are not too far behind. In 2000, 40% of Californians and 37% of New Mexicans reported speaking a language other than English in their home.

The 1900 census counted a total population of 78 million, more than 10 million of them foreign born, or approx 13%. Responding to a growing hostility toward immigrants, Congress passed strict quota laws for immigrants in 1921 and 1924. During the 1920s, the foreign born population began to decline and, beginning with the 1950 census, stayed below 8% for 40 years.

However, the 2000 census counted 11% of the population as foreign born. The 2010 census will probably show an increase in foreign born, so that the composition of native born to foreign born becomes similar to that of the early 20th century.

It is hardly surprising then to see a growing antipathy towards immigrants in the past decade. Characterized by some as bigotry, this resentment towards immigrants may be little more than the natural reaction of human beings as herd animals. We will tolerate “others” as long as their percentage of the herd remains relatively small. In America, that tolerance limit seems to be 10% foreign born. What would a study of the immigration tolerance limits in other countries reveal?

For many of us born in this country, our foreign born ancestors were once regarded as lazy, shiftless, boorish, stupid, unpatriotic or criminal. In the 1800s, American Protestants, fearful of a takeover of the United States by the Vatican, tried to pass laws banning Catholics from entering the country.

As Kermit, the frog, once said, “It’s not easy being green.”

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