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Entries in immigration (17)


America Without Latinos - The Cost to our National Economic Resilience

IS THERE A MORE HOT-BUTTON ISSUE IN THIS YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN THAN IMMIGRATION? ARGUABLY NO. And there are plenty of reasons for why that's so: the historic influx of Latino immigrants in the 1990s/2000s; the steadily declining fortune of the American middle class over much of the same timeframe; and, of course, America's (still) recent (enough) financial crisis/"great recession." Of course, those dynamics aren't all that well related to one another, but their subsequent synergy is clear enough in US history: scare the socio-economic-political middle and you'll get an angry electorate that turns on foreigners. Yes, I know that immigration has declined rather dramatically since the downturn. But long term, we know the die has already been cast: Latinos now are the #1 minority in the US and by mid-century they'll surpass a 1/4 share of the US population, making them the #2 "majority-minority" after whites.

Put it all together and you get the new normal in which  (a) two of the leading GOP contenders are Hispanic (Cruz, Rubio), (b) no one really talks about that being novel (the leading part most certainly is), and (c) both are considered "tough" on illegal immigration. Then again, we also see Donald Trump on top of many polls, and he has most definitely tapped into white discomfort over the rising Latino quotient. Thus, if the Democratic side of the campaign seems very class focused, the GOP side (for now) seems very identify-focused (the whole "real"/"true" America vibe).

Neither party's focus should be a surprise, given how globalization has challenged and changed America's socio-economic landscape since the Cold War's end. There is little doubt that the nation continues to endure a period of great transition. But it's one I can spot all around the world.

Most of us tend to view the world in East-West or longitudinal terms, but I see that changing in the years and decades ahead, shifting to more of a North-South or latitudinal perspective.

  • Northern populations are aging, while Southern populations remain youth-skewed. That alone puts people on the move, overwhelmingly northward. We're watching that now in Europe, but it's really a global phenomenon.
  • Climate change will only turbo charge this people flow, because it'll become that much harder to live and grow food in equatorial regions. Additionally, warmer temperatures and milder seasons in the North will push habitation and agriculture northward.
  • Revolutions in energy production will render regions less dependent on longitudinal flows, something we're already witnessing with the US.
  • Age imbalances between North and South will be matched by economic growth disparities (younger economies, on average, grow faster), leading the North to seek further trade and economic integration southward.

Add it all up and I see an America far more focused on the Western Hemisphere in this century, resuming a southward integration dynamic that was there, roughly a century ago, only to be hijacked by global geopolitical events (WWI, WWII, Cold War, OPEC's rise). I could say that it's only natural for this north-south reorientation to return, given that the fastest growing economies will be found in the South in coming years and decades. But I could also say it was inevitable given the already high rate of economic/trade/financial integration that exists east-west. Thus, the north-south reorientation is both what's next and what's left.

It will also represent - as always - our economic system's instinctive reach for that which will most increase our national resilience in the future.

As evidenced by this year's presidential campaign, that tectonic shift in US perspective will be politically tumultuous, and, by that, I mean, replete with "shocking" revelations and realizations of just how much has already changed. We're just such a laissez faire system that we're constantly "waking up" and discovering things that have been in the works for decades, right under our noses.

A classic way to explore such new understandings is to employ a "counter-factual" - i.e., to explore the completely opposite scenario in which the newly dominant element of reality never really happened. A classic example: what if the US had never entered WWII and the Nazis still ruled Europe?

So, no surprise in seeing such counter-factuals being deployed as political tools with regard to the profoundly pervasive role already played by Latinos throughout much of the US economy.

Today, in my town of Madison WI, we witness the following political demonstration, as reported by a local news channel:

Organizers of "A Day without Latinos and Immigrants" are calling for businesses and individuals to assemble at the state Capitol at 10 a.m. Thursday to protest against what they say are two anti-immigration bills being considered by the Legislature.

One bill would address the issuance of local ID cards by local governments to immigrants. The second bill would prohibit municipalities from creating laws restricting law enforcement officers from inquiring about the immigration status of people whom they contact.

In asking businesses to close their doors on Thursday morning, organizers are hoping to illustrate the void that would exist in the community if Latinos were not participating in the economy.

“I think that’s what mainstream America has to understand, that the Latino, that the immigrant community is highly important to the contributions, and Latinos want to contribute. Latinos, all we want is one word, and that is opportunity,” said Luis Montoto, programming director for La Movida, the only Spanish-language radio station in the community.

Organizers said they have commitments from local restaurants, grocery stores, tax preparation firms and other businesses to close on Thursday in support of the protest. They also expect construction, hotel, manufacturing and farm workers to attend the protest.

Madison Mexican food favorite Taqueria Guadalajara is participating. Imelda Perez, manager of the restaurant on Park Street, said the bills attack immigrants, and she believes closing the restaurant will serve as a wake-up call.

“People will come here to the door, and they ‘ll try to have lunch, and the door will be locked, and then people will realize how important we are,” she said.

The image above is from a 2004 movie based on the same counter-factual premise:

When a mysterious fog surrounds the boundaries of California, there is a communication breakdown and all the Mexicans disappear, affecting the economy and the state stops working missing the Mexican workers and dwellers.

Could other ethnic-immigrant groups have made the same claims during previous periods of America's national history? Absolutely. A great deal of America's economic resilience over its history is owed to various influxes of labor (both slave and free) that were subsequently exploited by the system for all they were worth (or could stand before organizing themselves politically for better treatment).  Our ability to process such immigrant waves is our primary social-resilience skill. This time will be no different.

So yes, expect all manner of "push" from the native-born population in coming years, along with all manner of "shove" coming back from the foreign-born population. This is not the first such stressing political dynamic in US history and it certainly won't be the last.

But it will, I predict, be the one that re-orients America's vision of its future from a predominantly longitudinal perspective to a more latitudinal vision.

And we will be stronger as a nation as a result.



The micro-corollary of sovereign land sales: wooing foreigners to unsold properties

Again just back to a pet notion of mine:  all this debt + demographic aging in the West is going to lead to some countries selling off or making available for sale things that otherwise would not be considered to outsiders they would also not otherwise tolerate.

Point came up in recent Wikistrat sim on the Arctic:  Can you imagine China buying its way onto the Arctic Council by so bankrolling/purchasing/whatever a member state (bankrupt Iceland, independence-minded Greenland, etc.) that it effectively captures its seat.  I know, it sounds impossible, but then you remember how America got its seat (Alaska).  But then you say, those were different times when bankrupt states or overstretched regimes would sell off that which they could no longer manage/exploit/defend (like Russia on Alaska).

But then I wonder:  why can't we collectively head back into that territory with all this debt and demographic aging in the West.  Is this not the elderly couple downsizing their house - just writ large?

So you look at Spain right now, and the NYT headline reads, "Spain woos foreigners to thin its investory of unsold homes."

Now, Spain has always been sort of interesting on immigration - as in, innovative.  They wooed foreign workers in the good times, and then subsidized their return home in the bad times.  So now they're being aggressively innovative in the bankrupt times.

But it gets you thinking, huh?


Too few immigrants = an absolute ag industry loss

WSJ story on how 1/4 of second-biggest crop ever of Washington State apples is going to rot on the tree/ground due to a severe shortage of immigrant labor.  Compounding the insult, the apple crops elsewhere in the nation are dramatically down this year due to drought conditions, so the nation's is really screwing itself on an agricultural bright spot this year thanks to our inspired national crackdown on illegal immigration.

Apples are Washington's top ag produce earner: $7B supporting 60k permannent jobs in the ag sector.

But it doesn't work without the access to seasonal farm workers....

Yes, they have tried with prison labor in the past.  Turns out prisoners don't work very hard - go figure.

Damn (lack of) illegal immigrants are ruining this country!


The only solution to our immigration "crisis" that matters

In the 1950s, there was a scare (mostly in NYC) about the seemingly endless influx of Puerto Ricans (you remember "West Side Story" and Leonard Bernstein's attempt to dance the problem away?), but the stream thinned out dramatically when the local GDP per capita reached somewhere in the region of 40% of the US's number.  When it got to that point, all things being equal, PRs preferred staying in PR.

This dynamic is well know and has been pointed out many times before in print.

Point of these charts from WAPO story about how returning migrant workers are bolstering Mexico's middle class is that we are reaching that point on Mexico, where - commensurately and with no surprise - the birth rate falls dramatically.

No, it doesn't end the flow of immigrants from LATAM writ large, but the point is made:  as long as a huge opportunity disaparity exists, they will come.  If you want a more manageable flow, you need to whittle down that delta along the lines I just described.

From the story:

 For a generation, the men of this town have headed north to the land of the mighty dollar, breaking U.S. immigration laws to dig swimming pools in Memphis and grind meat in Chicago.

In the United States, they were illegal aliens. Back home, they are new entrepreneurs using the billions of dollars earned “on the other side” to create a Mexican middle class.

The migrants “did something bad to do something good,” said Mexican economist Luis de la Calle.

Where remittances from El Norte were once mostly used to help hungry families back home simply survive, surveys now reveal that the longer a migrant stays up north, the more likely the cash transfers will be used to start new businesses or to pay for homes, farm equipment and school tuitions.

From Santa Maria del Refugio, a once rural, now almost suburban, community of 2,500 in central Mexico’s Guanajuato state, young men have gone to the United States seeking the social mobility they could not find at home.

Their money, and many of the workers themselves, have since returned, as the U.S. economy slowed in the global recession. For the first time in 40 years, net migration is effectively zero. About the same number of Mexicans left the United States last year as arrived. Migration experts expect the northward flow to pick up again as the U.S. economy improves. It is also possible that as Mexico provides more opportunity for upward mobility, some potential migrants will stay home.

In Santa Maria, dollars scrimped and saved in the United States have transformed a poor pueblo into a town of curbed sidewalks, Internet cafes and rows of two-story homes rising on a hillside where scrawny cattle once grazed.

“Look at this place — it’s practically a city now,” said Roberto Mandujano, 50, who moved back to his home town and opened a hardware store five years ago. “There was nothing here when I left.”

Mandujano is a member of a new demographic in Mexico, the anxious, tenacious, growing middle class who own homes and cars and take vacations. They see the United States more as a model than an exploiter.

Another argument for the US focusing more on amping up growth across LATAM: If we want to grow long-term above what history says we should be restricted to as a mature economy, then the best way to achieve that is for countries in our neighborhood to be experiencing rapid growth. [NOTE: this is ultimately why China will need to cool it on seabed territoriality disputes, but no, this logic does not rule out Beijing's stupid behavior in the meantime - as humans have an unlimited potential for letting idiocy trump logic.]

The resurrection of cheap energy in the US is the lure we should use in such an integration effort, and yes, we should most definitely be thinking about adding more stars to our flag.

You either get busy growing or you get busy shrinking in this globalized world.


Chart of the Day: Migration map (site)

Found here, HT to Critt Jarvis.

You can click on any country and see where people are drawn from.  Very cool.


Stratfor: yelling "Holocaust" in Germany's "multikulti" theater

Stratfor's CEO George Friedman in his Geopolitical Weekly takes note of Angela Merkel's speech to the young members of her Christian Democratic Union.

As the FT reported it, "Ms Merkel said Muslim immigrants and indigneous Germans must do more to encourage integration."  To that end, she said:  "We should not be a country that gives the impression . . . that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here."

But how Friedman spun it was fear-mongering at its best--fairly shoddy for a company that says it will make you more intelligent about the world.

The piece starts out just fine:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an Oct. 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally' . . .

The statements were striking in their bluntness and their willingness to speak of a dominant German culture, a concept that for obvious reasons Germans have been sensitive about asserting since World War II. The statement should be taken with utmost seriousness and considered for its social and geopolitical implications. It should also be considered in the broader context of Europe’s response to immigration, not to Germany’s response alone. . .

The onus on assimilating migrants into the larger society increased as Muslim discontent rocked Europe in the 1980s. The solution Germans finally agreed upon in the mid-to-late 1980s was multiculturalism, a liberal and humane concept that offered migrants a grand bargain: Retain your culture but pledge loyalty to the state.

In this concept, Turkish immigrants, for example, would not be expected to assimilate into German culture. Rather, they would retain their own culture, including language and religion, and that culture would coexist with German culture. Thus, there would be a large number of foreigners, many of whom could not speak German and by definition did not share German and European values.

While respecting diversity, the policy seemed to amount to buying migrant loyalty . . 

Friedman then talks up the different experience of the U.S. and contrasts the German "grand bargain."

The Germans tried to have their workers and a German identity simultaneously. It didn’t work.

Multiculturalism resulted in the permanent alienation of the immigrants . . .

Then he gets truly weird:

What is fascinating is that the German chancellor has chosen to become the most aggressive major European leader to speak out against multiculturalism. Her reasons, political and social, are obvious. But it must also be remembered that this is Germany, which previously addressed the problem of the German nation via the Holocaust. In the 65 years since the end of World War II, the Germans have been extraordinarily careful to avoid discussions of this issue, and German leaders have not wanted to say things such as being committed to a dominant German culture. We therefore need to look at the failure of multiculturalism in Germany in another sense, namely, with regard to what is happening in Germany. [emphasis mine]

So far we've got Merkel saying she still needs foreign workers, but that she wants them to integrate and truly join the German nation rather than be ghettoized, but Friedman's already insinuating the possibility of something far more sinister, as if modern Germany's choices here fall into the binary pairing of multikulti versus the Holocaust!

Seems a bit stark, ja?  As if Germans today are barely self-contained Nazis just waiting for the right moment to break out?  I mean, where does Friedman get the evidence to jump back over the past 65 years of German behavior and simply bring up the Holocaust?  Sure, I can always find you some racist right-wing Bavarian pol who speaks of "alien cultures."  Heck, we've got these retrograde types in the U.S. in good numbers, but jumping from that modest reality to invoking something on the level of genocide is a bit much, is it not?  Can't we get some more sophisticated analysis that explores scenarios between those two extremes? 

Remember, Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years, features a WWIII in the 2050s range, with Turkey subbing for Nazi Germany and Japan playing themselves in the new axis (Coalition), and the U.S. partnering with Poland this time. Germany, naturally, sympathizes with the new axis.  While Japan and the US duke it out on the Moon (our seemingly indestructible Battle Star buys it just like Pearl Harbor!), Germany sees its chance on Poland and launches a 21st-century bliztkrieg in 2051 (page 205)--France in tow.  But, as luck would have it, we pull a new Battle Star out of our toolkit, which stuns everyone (I know, scenario by George Lucas), and we rescue the embattled Poles (Germans to the right of me, Turkish to the south, here I am, stuck in the middle with you) with our cool new batteries fueled directly by the sun.

Anyway, to make this kind of dark-star future happen, Friedman needs a Germany that goes its own way in Europe--the return of 20th-century nationalism.

And he thinks he's found it in Merkel's speech:

Simply put, Germany is returning to history. It has spent the past 65 years desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity, the rights of minorities in Germany and the exercise of German self-interest. The Germans have embedded themselves in multinational groupings like the European Union and NATO to try to avoid a discussion of a simple and profound concept: nationalism. Given what they did last time the matter came up [emphasis mine], they are to be congratulated for their exercise of decent silence. But that silence is now over . . .

So there it is, subscribers, just in case you missed it.  The Nazis are back and all of Europe is at risk!

I have to you, I consider this to be complete nonsense and bad history to boot.  Germans have not spent the last 65 "desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity."  My God, these people have spent the last 65 years agonizing over it ad nauseum--and very publicly.  Friedman would have a better go of it pinning that analysis on the Japanese.

And all this because the Greeks couldn't handle credit cards:

After the Greek and related economic crises, the certainties about a united Europe have frayed. Germany now sees itself as shaping EU institutions so as not to be forced into being the European Union’s ultimate financial guarantor. And this compels Germany to think about Germany beyond its relations with Europe.

Wait for it, here comes the Lebensraum pitch:  "Ve need verkers, ja!"

Consider that Merkel made clear that Germany needed 400,000 trained specialists. Consider also that Germany badly needs workers of all sorts who are not Muslims living in Germany, particularly in view of Germany’s demographic problems. If Germany can’t import workers for social reasons, it can export factories, call centers, medical analysis and IT support desks. Not far to the east is Russia, which has a demographic crisis of its own but nonetheless has spare labor capacity due to its reliance on purely extractive natural resources for its economy. Germany already depends on Russian energy. If it comes to rely on Russian workers, and in turn Russia comes to rely on German investment, then the map of Europe could be redrawn once again and European history restarted at an even greater pace . . .

Once again, Germany looks East--with desire!

Okay, I kid a bit, but seriously, this is how Friedman extrapolates Merkel's fairly sensible speech?

How about this notion:

It is impossible for Germany to reconsider its position on multiculturalism without, at the same time, validating the principle of the German nation. Once the principle of the nation exists, so does the idea of a national interest. Once the national interest exists, Germany exists in the context of the European Union only as what Goethe termed an “elective affinity.” What was a certainty amid the Cold War now becomes an option. And if Europe becomes an option for Germany, then not only has Germany re-entered history, but given that Germany is the leading European power, the history of Europe begins anew again.

This isn’t to say that Germany must follow any particular foreign policy given its new official view on multiculturalism; it can choose many paths. But an attack on multiculturalism is simultaneously an affirmation of German national identity. You can’t have the first without the second. And once that happens, many things become possible.

This isn't analysis of the real issues; this is dredging up old imagery to scare you into thinking that Germany can't move beyond multikulti to anything but the destruction of the EU concept, and frankly, that's a whopper to begin with, given Germany's integral role in creating and sustaining the European community all these decades.  Truth is, you can attack the head-in-the-sand approach of multikulti without simultaneously boosting the notion of the exclusivity of German identity.  Merkel is searching for something bigger, not smaller.

European nationalism had its last gasp in the Balkans.  What Germany now confronts it a post-modern concept called identity. Nationalism is externally focused; identity is internally focused. Friedman, in my opinion, misuses the concepts to make you scared about untold-but-all-too-familiar-for-people-of-a-certain-generation possibilities.  The future is about what the young think, not about what the old fear.

It is an old story in this business: when you constantly bet on conflict/decline/devolution, you spend all your time looking for supporting evidence, rather than simply exploring where the evidence may take us.  The analysis I've always tried to bring to bear involves helping people get to where they want this world to be, versus running from past demons.  Leave that level of fun to Quentin Tarantino.

Friedman needs to elevate his game and stop peddling these reruns of the 20th century.  Stratfor does some nice work, but analysis needs to be more than simply regurgitating old scary stories to keep people up at night. The complexity of issues we confront going forward requires a collaborative solution-oriented mindset.


The "great wall of America" masks boiling points on both sides

LA Times column via WPR's Media Roundup.

Whenever I feel the urge to criticize Israel's security fence, I usually put down my brick when I realize what a glass house we live in back here in the States.

The opening:

Between cynicism and hypocrisy lies the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. America is raising a wall in the desert to separate Mexican drug exporters from American drug consumers, to separate Latin American peasants who will work for low wages from the Americans who would hire them.

The Great Wall of America, straddling less than half the length of the border, descends into canyons and across the desert floor. For the Mexican, it represents a high hurdle. For the American, it is an attempt to stop the Roadrunner's progress with an Acme Border Sealing Kit.

In some places the wall is made of tennis-court-style cyclone fencing or dark mesh of the sort used for barbeque grills in public parks. In other places the wall is a palisade of 20-foot-tall bars that make a cage of both sides. The most emphatic segments are constructed of graffiti-ready slabs of steel.

Richard Rodriguez, the author, adeptly compares our fence to Israel's, but the larger point is that we should be expanding our definition of America, not contracting it.

On patriotism-for-profit talk radio and television, the illegal immigrant is, by definition, criminal. She comes to steal the American dream. But in my understanding, the dream belongs to the desperation of the poor and always has. The goddess of liberty in New York harbor still advertises for the tired and the poor, the wretched refuse. I tell you, there is an unlucky man in the Sonoran Desert today who will die for a chance to pluck dead chickens in Georgia or change diapers in a rest home in Nevada.

Great empires expand beyond their own borders. Empires in decline build walls.

Nicely stated.

I watched Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" last week.  It captures, glancingly, some of the intense, thoroughly righteous anger from the other side (albeit with rather fantastic expressions of gratifying violence), and when you examine the economic roots of that anger, it's not all that different from that of the Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel.


Global economic crisis' impact on people flow? Doom-sayers repudiated yet again

  Economist chart

WPR piece on global economic crisis' impact on immigration (slight reduction) and remittances (even slighter).

The opening:

Over the last three decades, international migration has become an important part of the world economy, providing vital labor for industrial countries. Migration has also become a major resource for origin countries, helping to lift millions of people out of poverty and contributing to national income and development finance. The global economic crisis (GEC), which led to massive declines in investment and production all over the world, was widely expected to also lead to a fall in migration. Analysts also expected that many migrants would return to their homelands, and that worker remittances would decline. Although the current fragmentary data means that any assessment must be seen as provisional, some general trends have emerged three years into the crisis. These suggest that in some areas, the effects of the GEC on migration were not as severe as expected, while in others they defied expectations.

Solid piece worth reading.

Bottom line:  alleged deglobalization or immigration "U turn" is completely unsupported by facts.


Evangelicals join Obama on immigration

NYT front-pager on Obama winning help from the evangelical community on the issue of immigration reform.

God bless ’em.

The founder of Liberty Counsel, Mathew D. Staver:

I am a Christian and I am a conservative and I am a Republican, in that order.  There is very little I agree with regarding President Barack Obama.  On the other hand, I’, not going to let politicized rhetoric or party affiliation trump my values, and if he’s right on this issue, I will support him on this issue.

Why the support?

As another evangelical pastor put it:

Hispanics are religious, family-oriented, pro-life, entrepreneurial.  They are hard-wired social conservatives, unless they’re driven away.

Hispanics are estimated to be 70% Catholic and 15% evangelical.


The third great wave of globalization: the flow of people

NYT Week-in-Review story, by way of WPR's Media Roundup, on how the flow of people, as I called it in PNM, defines the current era of globalization.

Basic argument: 

Theorists sometimes call the movement of people the third wave of globalization, after the movement of goods (trade) and the movement of money (finance) that began in the previous century. But trade and finance follow global norms and are governed by global institutions: the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. There is no parallel group with “migration” in its name. The most personal and perilous form of movement is the most unregulated. States make (and often ignore) their own rules, deciding who can come, how long they stay, and what rights they enjoy.

While global trade and finance are disruptive — some would argue as much as migration — they are disruptive in less visible ways. A shirt made in Mexico can cost an American worker his job. A worker from Mexico might move next door, send his children to public school and need to be spoken to in Spanish.

One reason migration seems so potent is that it arose unexpectedly. As recently as the 1970s, immigration seemed of such little importance that the United States Census Bureaudecided to stop asking people where their parents were born. Now, a quarter of the residents of the United States under 18 are immigrants or immigrants’ children.

The United Nations estimates that there are 214 million migrants across the globe, an increase of about 37 percent in two decades. Their ranks grew by 41 percent in Europe and 80 percent in North America. “There’s more mobility at this moment than at any time in world history,” said Gary P. Freeman, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

The most famous source countries in Europe — Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain — are suddenly migrant destinations, with Ireland electing a Nigerian-born man as its first black mayor in 2007.

Differences between this period of American-style globalization and the previous European colonial version:

First is migration’s global reach. The movements of the 19th century were mostly trans-Atlantic. Now, Nepalis staff Korean factories and Mongolians do scut work in Prague. Persian Gulf economies would collapse without armies of guest workers. Even within the United States, immigrants are spread across dozens of “new gateways” unaccustomed to them, from Orlando to Salt Lake City.

A second distinguishing trait is the money involved, which not only sustains the families left behind but props up national economies. Migrants sent home $317 billion last year — three times the world’s total foreign aid. In at least seven countries, remittances account for more than a quarter of the gross domestic product.

A third factor that increases migration’s impact is its feminization: Nearly half of the world’s migrants are now women, and many have left children behind. Their emergence as breadwinners is altering family dynamics across the developing world. Migration empowers some, but imperils others, with sex trafficking now a global concern.

Technology introduces a fourth break from the past: The huddled masses reached Ellis Island without cellphones or Webcams. Now a nanny in Manhattan can talk to her child in Zacatecas, vote in Mexican elections and watch Mexican television shows.

“Transnationalism” is a comfort but also a concern for those who think it impedes integration. In the age of global jihad, it may also be a security threat. The Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty last week to the attempted bombing of Times Square said that jihadi lectures reached him from Yemen, via the Internet.

At least one other trait amplifies the impact of modern migration: The expectation that governments will control it. In America for most of the 19th century, there was no legal barrier to entry. The issue was contentious, but the government attracted little blame. Now Western governments are expected to keep trade and tourism flowing and respect ethnic rights while sealing borders as vast as the Arizona desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Their failures — glaring if perhaps inevitable — weaken the broader faith in federal competence.

Exceptional piece in terms of analysis-per-square-inch of text. And yet another argument against the notion of globalization's easy reversibility (so-called deglobalization).

No, no end to Westphalian-era nation-states, the article concludes (and as I have long argued), but rather a defining characteristic of American-style globalization--the super-empowerment of individuals on a scale never before seen in history.  Yes, the bad comes with the good, but the bad (transnational terrorists et. al) is the easiest bad yet confronted in this worldwide evolution.


Arizona may be on the front-lines, but the Latinization of these United States is a much deeper phenomenon

WSJ story about a small town in Nebraska that's coming apart at the seams over a proposed, AZ-like tough law on illegal immigrants.  The town (Fremont) is almost exclusively European, with most residents of Swedish and German background. A substantial meatpacking company presence has--unsurprisingly--boosted the Hispanic presence recently (around 1k out of 25k total population), leading to the tension. Naturally, such a potentially divisive law attracts a lot of outside players joining the fight.

I was just more attracted to the chart, which details the biggest increases of foreign-born residents in states with more than 100k foreign-born already.  I mean, look at the spread that includes the mid-Atlantic/south with the two Carolinas and GA, New England with RI, the plains (NE), the north (WI), Appalachia (KY), and the mountainous West (CO). This is hardly just a SW America issue, thus the rule-set clash currently being played out in Arizona is but a harbinger of a large struggle to come.

My point: welcome the experimentation by states. Some will bad and some will be good, but the churn will help us collectively find the right mix over time.


How much has Obama preserved America's connectivity?

Last piece by outgoing Lexington at The Economist.

In it, Lex provides summarizing judgment on Obama's success to date in keeping America an open and connected society/economy.

The record is decidedly mixed:  no progress on an immigration bill combined with politically-insipid shows of military force along the border (the 1,200 guardsmen just sent); no great trade barriers but also no serious efforts to move free trade pacts on the books (Colombia, South Korea).  A Cato expert is quoted as saying the Obama administration seems to view trade policy as a way to advance environmental and social goals and nothing more. Our border bureaucracy is described as the worst in the advanced world (I guess I would agree).

Larger downstream argument advanced: US military dominance is waning in the sense that we can no longer play Leviathan to everyone and assume all the SysAdmin jobs that result. Suggestion is that we need to recalibrate alliances to account for rising great powers.

Good news is that US soft-power exports remain world-class.

China is contrasted:  one-fifth of college grads say they want to emigrate, but few peasants do.

Piece ends with call for Obama to stand up more for openness.

Kind of a sad finale for this Lexington.  He doesn't seem to be finding much improvement on this score from Obama.

I think we're going to see a lot more such arguments from big-thinking types regarding the importance of America standing up for its cherished ideals.  Obama's too-lawyerly approach does not inspire like his speeches, and the gap is becoming noticeable.


As usual, the radical solutions arise just as the underlying problems begin to abate

Newsweek piece.

The call-out text tells you everything you need to know:  “The fertility rate in Mexico has undergone one of the steepest declines in history.”

Leveraging Michael Barone, I made this point in “Blueprint for Action”: There is a combination of decreasing birthrate and increasing per capita income that usually turns off the emigrant flow out of any developing economy.

With Mexico, these developments are tied to the progressive economic integration of the northern Mexican states with the US economy.

No, that doesn’t mean the flow of illegals from the South goes away completely just because Mexico is leveling off.  Over time, I think it simply means people are both traveling farther to get to the US and, in some measure, stopping when they hit the improving conditions in Mexico.

Per the piece:

A little-known, but enormously significant, demographic development has been unfolding south of the our border.  The fertility rate in Mexico—whose emigrants account for a majority of the United States’ undocumented population—has undergone one of the steepest declines in history, from about 6.7 children per woman in 1970 to about 2.1 today, according to World Bank figures.  That makes it roughly equal to the U.S. rate . . ..

It will go even lower than that replacement rate in coming years.  Point is, Mexico will have less and less trouble absorbing its new workers as they age into employment.

The same is happening, to a lesser degree, throughout the rest of Latin America.

Bottom line:  immigration won’t remain a problem/advantage forever, so opening the brand back up for expansion will ultimately make sense to enough Americans.  Why?  That great demographic input will diminish just as the Boomers begin retiring in bulk, meaning our labor force could start shrinking in some parts of the country as early as 2015, according to experts cited in the piece.

One academic:  “I wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona starts pleading for Mexican workers who can help them in their retirement homes.”


Latinos leaning more Democratic

WSJ story saying that Hispanics who registered to vote since the last midterm are significantly less likely to vote GOP than those who registered 4 years earlier.

The fastest-growing bloc of voters in the country is trending Dem.

GOP affiliation fell from a bit from 23% to 19%, while the Dem share rose from 50% to 58%.  Fewer independents.

The driver is no mystery: anti-immigrant fervor is more identified with the GOP.

The good news for Dems is somewhat balanced by the new non-Latino voters, who favor the Dems over the GOP by a lesser margin (41% to 34%).


The "retreat" from assimilation isn't all that it's splintered up to be

WSJ story.

Recent study suggests that Hispanics are less often marrying non-Hispanic whites, hence the fear of lessening assimilation.

The trend of past decades for both Hispanics and Asians immigrants was that successive generations married outside their race in ever higher percentages.  So are we seeing a reversal!

Clearly, social taboos on interracial marriage have faded dramatically over my lifetime (almost 5 decades), but here’s the trick with the last two decades seeing a serious upsurge in Asian and Hispanic immigrants:  now there’s a lot more of them available in the marriage pool, so, what was assimilation in the past due to limited choice, is now lessened. 

As a “retreat from intermarriage” goes, this one is fairly defensible and hardly anything to get worked up about.  I mean, Hispanic women now marry outside the pool in the range of 15-20% (2000s) versus 20-25% (1990s).

The benefits seem clear enough for the individuals in question: 

The massive influx of new immigrants from Latin America and Asia has not only fueled the opportunity to marry one’s co-ethnics, but also revitalized ancestral and cultural identity.

So says a researcher.

Meanwhile, we’re told that the rate of Asian women marrying white men “stagnated” at 40% between 1980 and 2008.  Oh my!

Long-term, though, experts expect plenty of inter-marrying.  Why? Workplaces are far more integrated than in the past.

Still, plenty of anti-immigrant feeling post-9/11 and with the hard economic times, so the current “retreat,” such as it is, underwhelms me.


Now I take it ALL back on the myth of "deglobalization"!!!

NYT story kills the one "give" I made in my recent WPR column on "deglobalization's" many myths.

My mistake, because if I hadn't been so busy turning 48 (Sniff! My 49-year-old wife just joined AARP, but she's got a MA in elder studies, so I'm calling it a professional quirk) and watching Em graduate from HS (frugal babe, she refused to buy her academic honors and Japanese honors cords), I would have noticed this article just in time for the piece I wrote last Saturday!

In the piece, I admitted that guest worker numbers depressed, and thus so did remittances.  Based on this piece though, the former effect was negligible-to-unimportant and the latter?  Well, there was less money everywhere for a while, so that says little about "deglobalization" and simply says it was a financial crisis on a global scale (Boo hoo!  No repeal of the biz cycle!  Topple capitalism!).

Read it and weep:

The world may be staggering through its worst economy in 70 years, but international migration, an ever-growing force, shows few signs of retreat.

Globally, the number of migrants appears undiminished, and last year they sent home more money than forecasters expected. Many migrants did lose jobs, but few decided to return home, even when others offered to pay.

In some places, demand for foreign labor grew.

From the Arizona Statehouse to Calabria, critics warn that porous borders hurt native workers, threaten local cultures and increase crime. But even a downturn of rare magnitude did less than expected to slow the flows, revealing instead the persistent forces that keep migrants venturing abroad.

Perhaps no place shows the lure of migration as much as the Philippines, a nation of nearly 100 million people, where a quarter of the labor force works overseas. Despite the world’s sagging economy, the country set records last year for the number of workers sent abroad and the sums they returned.

“We hardly felt it — the global financial crisis,” said Marianito D. Roque, the labor secretary, who has been promoting the virtues of Filipino workers from Alberta to Abu Dhabi.

On every corner of this jeepney-jammed capital, someone seems to be coming from or going to a job overseas. At the Magsaysay Training Center, beside Manila Bay, college graduates scrub replicas of cruise ship cabins, hoping for housekeeping jobs that can pay four times the local wage. A park across the street doubles as a sailors’ bazaar, a reminder that the Philippines supplies at least a fifth of the world’s seafarers.

In government seminars a mile away, throngs of outbound maids learn to greet future bosses in Arabic, Italian and Cantonese. Some cry through a film about a nanny who wins an overseas job but loses the love of her children.

Doctors go abroad to work as nurses. Teachers go to work as maids. Would-be migrants set off sparks at the Tesda Women’s Center, where the government offers free training to female welders.

Naturally, the Philippines still provide large numbers of poster boys and girls for the whole "people flow" from PNM.

The financial crisis follows an age of growing mobility that has scattered migrant workers across the globe. Polish nannies raise Irish children and Indians build towers in Dubai. Of 15 million American jobs created in the decade before the bust, nearly 60 percent were filled by the foreign born, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. To be sure, the crisis has hurt migrants, often disproportionately. A report by the Migration Policy Institute found that in the past three years, joblessness grew by 4.7 percentage points among native-born Americans, while rising 9.1 points among immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Anti-immigrant feeling in some places has swelled, at times to the point of violence. South African riots in 2008 killed dozens of African migrants, including many Zimbabweans. In Italy, attacks on African farm workers this year brought condemnation from the pope.

But with few exceptions, the hard times have not sent migrants home. Spain, Japan and the Czech Republic tried to pay foreign workers to go, but found few takers. Likewise, the number of Mexicans leaving the United States has not grown, said Jeffrey S. Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center. While the economy and tightened borders have reduced new arrivals, he said, the total population of Mexican migrants remains unchanged.

Hania Zlotnik, director of the United Nations Population Division, said, “Worldwide, the crisis has slowed the growth of migration, but the number of migrants is still increasing.”

That's it:  the crisis slowed the GROWTH of migrant workers, but did not stall it or reverse it WHATSOEVER.


The key for resiliency in the face of crisis is an old one:  keep your network wide.

While remittances to Mexico took an outsize hit (16 percent over two years), the Philippines offers a contrasting model of overseas work.

Mexicans are closely tied to one place (the United States), and one industry (construction). Filipinos work across the globe in dozens of occupations. Mexican migration is unmanaged and mostly illegal. Filipino workers are promoted by the state, and most go with contracts and visas.

The key lesson:  when you know the vision is on target, don't join in the freakout that naturally comes with any crisis.


Keeping the A Types coming to America

Lexington column in The Economist.

IMMIGRANTS benefit America because they study and work hard. That is the standard argument in favour of immigration, and it is correct. Leaving your homeland is a big deal. By definition, it takes get-up-and-go to get up and go, which is why immigrants are abnormally entrepreneurial. But there is another, less obvious benefit of immigration. Because they maintain links with the places they came from, immigrants help America plug into a vast web of global networks.

So it's not just enjoying all those A Types coming over and interbreeding with us; it's the connectivity they bring.

Bill Easterly likes to write about the "bamboo network" that links countries with large Chinese immigrant pools back to China, something we see with Indians and Chinese, respectively, in Africa today.

America is unique, says Lex, because we don't have much of an expat population abroad but we own "by far the world's largest stock of immigrants, including significant numbers from just about every country on earth."  The all assimilate eventually, "but few sever all ties with their former homelands."

It is a huge advantage, our demographic make-up, in a globalizing world, but it speaks to why we, among all the world's nations, rose to our level of power and prosperity and freedom, and THEN chose to spread that economic model around the world in the form of an international liberal trade order-cum-the West-cum-the global economy-cum-globalization.

Classic story told here of Peruvian immigrant to US who builds a biz and then wants to expand it into South America.

To me, this is a no-brainer reason why we want to continue to attract these people, who, on average, are far more entrepreneurial than native borns--and far more networked globally to do something about that ambition.

Lex puts it well:

Immigration provides America with legions of unofficial ambassadors, deal-brokers, recruiters and boosters.  Immigrants not only bring the best ideas from around the world to American shores; they are also a conduit for spreading American ideas and ideals back to their homelands, thus increasing their adoptive country's soft power.

Piece ends with Lex asking Obama to follow through on his campaign promise to make America's "cumbersome immigration rules" more efficient in operation.  Would take some real courage, but something worth spending political capital on.

Interesting on this score how easily one can lump the US with China and India.  It's an old theme of mine:  as globalization grows, we find that we have a lot more in common with New Core pillars than Old Core allies, because we remain young at heart, and we're natural globalizers in this age by way of being such an immigrant nation.