American exceptionalism has become a theme of our immigration debate. From both sides, we hear that America is a uniquely desirable place that, for good or ill, draws an outsized share of the world’s immigrants. The truth of this matter is that large-scale immigration is a worldwide phenomenon tied to contemporary globalization. Porous borders and rising education levels have allowed tens of millions of people in developing societies to become more mobile, and new communications and transportation technologies give everyone access to information about other countries and ways to get there. Perhaps most important, rising global demand has created vast new opportunities for foreign labor – whether it’s to bolster shrinking labor pools across much of Europe, provide services in thinly-populated, oil-rich countries in the Middle East, or cater to wealthy global elites in dozens of tax havens.
So, despite dire warnings that U.S. immigration reform will set off another invasion of America by new immigrants, the data show that many other countries are stronger magnets for foreign workers than the United States. In fact, when it comes to foreign-born residents, America looks fairly average.
It is true that more foreign-born people live in America today than anywhere else. But that’s mainly because we are a very large country, with more native-born people as well than anywhere except China and India. And most of our immigrants came here with our permission: Two-thirds of all foreign-born people living in the United States are naturalized citizens or legal permanent resident aliens, and another 4 percent have legal status as temporary migrants. That leaves about 30 percent who are undocumented.
Consider the percentages of foreign-born residents living today in various nations: America with just under 13 percent of its population foreign-born, according to U.N. data, ranks 40th in the world for immigrants as a share of the population. By contrast, across the 10 most immigrant-intensive countries, foreign-born people account for between 77 percent and 42 percent of their total populations.
These unusually high proportions of immigrants appear to be generally linked to global trade and finance. In the top 10, for example, we first set aside the special cases of Macau and Hong Kong, whose Chinese populations are counted as foreign-born, and Vatican City. Of the remaining seven nations, four are in the Middle-East – Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain – where tens of thousands of foreign workers are needed to help meet global demand for oil and provide services for native populations grown wealthy off of their oil. The other three countries in the top 10 are global tax havens and financial centers – Andorra, Monaco, and Singapore -- that draw thousands of global elites followed by foreign workers to provide their services.
The next 10 most immigrant-heavy countries, where foreign-born persons comprise between 42 percent and 22 percent of their populations, include five more tax havens (Nauru in Micronesia, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, San Marino, and Switzerland) and three more oil rich, Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Brunei). The two others in this group are the special cases of Israel, where Jewish national identity is the draw, and Jordan, home to tens of thousands of people displaced by the Iraqi and Israel-Arab conflicts.
Beyond the top 20 countries for foreign-born residents, numerous other nations that more closely resemble the United States, in economic opportunities and social benefits, also draw immigrants in greater relative numbers than America. For example, some 19 percent to 20 percent of the populations of Australia and Canada are foreign-born, compared to our 13 percent. Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway also lead the United States in immigrants as a share of their populations, as do the smaller and less-advanced nations of Estonia, Latvia, Belize, Ukraine, Croatia, and Cyprus. A similar pattern emerges from OECD data covering 25 industrialized countries from 2001 to 2010. Over that decade, the share of the American population born somewhere else has averaged 12.1 percent. By this measure, the United States trails not only such countries as Australia, Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Israel, as noted above, but also Sweden, Germany, and Belgium.
This pattern also does not change much when we look at the most recent, annual “net migration rates” of various countries (2012). That’s a standard demographic measure calculated by taking the number of people coming into a country, less the number of people who leave, and divide by 1,000. Using that measure, the United States ranked 26th in the world. At 3.6 net immigrants per-1,000 in 2012, we trail far behind three oil-rich countries averaging 24.1 net immigrants per-1,000 (Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain), 13 tax havens averaging 10.8 per-1,000 (from the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man, to the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg), and two countries that have become sanctuaries for refugees (Botswana and Djibouti at 14.9 per 1,000). In addition, at least four other advanced countries also had much higher net migration rates last year -- Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy, averaging 5.3 net immigrants per-1,000 or a rate nearly 50 percent higher than for the United States.
Given the role of labor demand in migration flows and the particular demand in the United States for skilled workers, it is also unsurprising that, according to the Census Bureau, almost 70 percent of foreign-born people residing here, by age 25 or older, are high school graduates. In fact, nearly 30 percent hold college degrees, the same share as native-born Americans. On the less-skilled part of the distribution, of course, we find many undocumented male immigrants. But as we showed in a 2011 analysis for NDN and the New Politics Institute, undocumented male immigrants also have the highest labor participation rates in the country: Among men age 18 to 64 years, 94 percent of undocumented immigrants work or actively seek work, compared to 83 percent of native-born Americans, and 85 percent of immigrants with legal status.
On balance, the data show that the United States is not home to an unusually large share of immigrants, legal and otherwise. As globalization has increased the demand for labor in dozens of countries while lowering the barriers to people moving to other places for work, America has become fairly average as a worldwide destination.
This post was originally published in Dr. Shapiro's blog
“After the first day of Senate Judiciary Mark-Up, it is clear the Senate Immigration Bill (S.744) retains significant bipartisan momentum. Some smart amendments were added to the bill, but more importantly bad ones were rejected. The thoughtful bipartisan core of the bill remains intact. The adept management of this early stage of the Committee process leaves us optimistic about the bill’s passage. Some additional observations:
The Grassley amendment Extending the Higher Border Apprehension Goals To The Whole Border – The Gang of Eight Bill called for new border security targets of 100% surveillance and 90% apprehension rate of people attempting to cross the border in what are called “high traffic” corridors where most of the north-bound flow lies. Senator Chuck Grassley’s amendment #1 adopted yesterday extended that goal to the entire border.
It remains to be seen if this is a good idea. The original target appears achievable with the amount of money allocated, the time required (5 years) to achieve these goals, and taking into account where these apprehension rates are today. A December report from the Government Accountability Office reported that of the Border Patrol’s nine southwest-border sectors, five had more than 30,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2011, making them a “high traffic” corridor. Of these five, San Diego, CA had a 92% apprehension rate, El Centro, CA 91%, Tucson, AZ 87%,Laredo, TX 84 % and the Rio Grande corridor in Texas was 71%.
Given where things stand now, it seems reasonable that with the time allotted and additional resources the 5 high traffic corridors, where the overwhelming majority of the north bound flow lies, can hit the new 90% apprehension rate target. Whether it is prudent to extend that goal to areas where far fewer migrants pass, and in places that are often remote and difficult to police, is something that deserves debate in the coming months.
The Feinstein Infrastructure amendment - We were further heartened to see that Senator Diane Feinstein’s amendment #10, was adopted. This important amendment would allow the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the governors of the States in the Southwest border region and the Northern border region to establish a grant program “to construct transportation and support infrastructure improvements at existing and new international border crossings necessary to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient cross border movement of people, motor vehicles, and cargo.”
Coupled with the far-sighted commitment in the Senate Bill to add an additional 3,500 new customs agents, the improved legislation makes a truly significant commitment to investing in expanding legal trade and travel with Mexico. As our new paper, Realizing the Strategic National Value of our Trade, Tourism and Ports of Entry with Mexico details, the economic relationship between the US and Mexico has become one of the most important in the world. In just the past 4 years, trade between US and Mexico has grown from $300 billion to $536 billion last year. Mexico is now our 3rd largest trading partner, 2nd largest export market. 23 states in the US count Mexico as their number 1 or 2 export market of all the countries in the world. The smart investments in this bill directed towards border infrastructure investment will help ensure that this explosive trade relationship continues to expand, and jobs on both sides of the border continue to be created.
On Thursday, April 4th, Simon debated noted restrictionist Mark Krikorian on in an extended segment on Betty Liu's morning show on Bloomberg TV. He argued: "the politics of this are not impossible... I'm very optimistic we're going to get something done this year." He then continued to defend the progress on the border, explaining "Crime is way down along the entire US side of the border... There's been tremendous progress made... and to disregard that is just lying," largely crediting the Adminsitration for this success. It is a spirited segment, well worth a watch.
Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
Homeland Security Today: No furloughs for CBP. Continuing Resolution to Provide CBP Boosts to Maintain Staffing: President Barack Obama is set to sign a continuing resolution (HR 933) to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2013, ostensibly increasing funding for border security efforts for the year. The appropriations bill allocated $39.6 billion to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), detailing DHS spending while keeping the overall budget within the caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — at $984 billion overall for FY 2013. The White House has not yet announced if Obama will sign the consolidated appropriations bill Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
Politico – Business balks at immigration deal A deal between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor groups on visas for low-skilled workers was supposed to clear a path for an immigration reform package in the Senate. Instead, some business groups are grumbling about the deal and they’re gearing up for a lobbying battle on Capitol Hill — where powerful interests helped doom immigration reform over the same issue before.
New York Times Op-Ed: Priced Out of Citizenship by Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Luis V. Guttierez AS Congress debates creating a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, it must at the same time remove one of the biggest obstacles on that path: the cost of applying for citizenship. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, charges $680 (including a mandatory $85 “biometric fee” to cover fingerprinting) to apply for naturalization. This steep fee, which can amount to more than two weeks’ wages for some immigrants, is so high that it effectively denies legal permanent residents a chance to become citizens.
Your Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include:
Senate immigration deal close to Obama plan: The nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would have to wait a full decade for a green card but could earn citizenship just three years after that, under a provision being finalized by a bipartisan group of eight senators working to devise an overhaul of immigration law, several people with knowledge of the negotiations said. Taken together, the two waiting periods would provide the nation’s illegal immigrants with a path to United States citizenship in 13 years, matching the draft of a plan by President Obama to offer full participation in American democracy to millions who are living in fear of deportation.
Negotiations continue for business and labor Talks led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO over a new guest-worker program for lower-skilled immigrants are stalled, prompting members of the bipartisan group of eight senators to get personally involved to try to nudge the negotiations toward a resolution. Business and labor groups have been meeting for weeks in an attempt to put together a system that would allow employers to find foreign labor when American workers are not available and that would allow foreign workers into the country. The idea is to create a new “W” visa category for lower-skilled guest workers. No such visas exists right now, leaving a vacuum that undocumented workers have been filling.
Arizona Border More Secure Because of Enforcement Flying low along the Mexican line in a Black Hawk helicopter, the United States Border Patrol officer saw surveillance towers rising above the cactus. He saw his agents’ white and green trucks moving among the mesquite, scouting for illegal crossers. Far overhead, a remotely guided drone beamed images of the terrain to an intelligence center in Tucson. Pilots cruised in reconnaissance planes carrying radars and infrared cameras that could distinguish a migrant with a backpack from a wild animal from many miles away.
Today, I released the following statement. For press inquiries, please contact Anjani Nadadur at email@example.com.
We are pleased to see both President Obama and the Senate taking such serious steps towards passing immigration reform in this Congress.
As we move forward on this debate, it is critical to recognize how much circumstances have changed since we began the process of reforming our immigration system back in 2005.
A few examples:
Success on the Border - Additional resources, better strategies, and enhanced cooperation with Mexico have brought about significant improvement in the border region. Net migration of undocumented immigrants into the US has dropped from 500,000 a year a decade ago to zero today, crime on the US side of the border has plummeted, all while legal trade and tourism with Mexico have grown at very rapid levels.
Mexico Is Growing, Modernizing - The Mexican "baby boom" which encouraged so many Mexicans to migrate into the US has ended, and the Mexican economy is producing far more better paying jobs. The birth rate per Mexican woman had fallen from 7.3 in 1960 to almost 2 today. Mexican economic growth is equally significant: by 2010, Mexican GNI per capita had risen to nearly $9,000, up from $3,250 in 1991. Today Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world, is America’s 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market. If current trends continue, Mexico will be the 5th largest economy in the world by 2050. The result of these developments is that the enormous flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico into the U.S. we saw in the decade of the 2000s is almost certainly never going to be replicated.
The Immigration System Is Better - While Congress failed to act, the Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to improve the legal immigration system in the US in recent years, including: prioritizing criminal migrants for deportation, making it easier for families to stay together during the legalization process, replacing work place raids with more targeted and effective I-9 audits and removing the threat of deportation from deserving undocumented youth.
For those in Washington working on a 2013 Immigration Reform legislative package, it is essential that they take into account how much safer the border region is today, how much better the legal immigration system is, and how much Mexico itself is changing.
We are optimistic that the two parties can come together this year, building on the success of recent years, and take the critical next steps to reform the immigration system in America.
For more, see here for important NDN work on immigration reform and please find recent press on immigration reform here.
The NDN/NPI "21st Century Border Initiative" is proud to convene the latest in our series of events examining the opportunities and challenges in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Joining us today, Friday, January 18th at 4 p.m. for a public event are a terrific group of leaders and experts:
Eduardo Olmos, Mayor of Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico
Ken Miyagishima, Mayor of Las Cruces, NM
Raul G. Salinas, Mayor of Laredo, TX
Greg Stanton, Mayor of Phoenix, AZ
Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of International Affairs, Department of Homeland Security (who will be delivering opening remarks).
The discussion will take place at NDN's event space, just a block from the White House, at 729 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC at 4:00 p.m. Please RSVP here, and we look forward to seeing you next Friday (the event has been moved from its original time on Jan 17th).
If you cannot make the event today watch live on C-Span at 415pm.
Also make sure to check out our 21st Century Border Initiative website with fresh content daily on the border region and immigration issues here.
Daily Border Bulletin is up! Today's stories include, please click here for the full stories:
USA Today – Rep. Gowdy selected to head key immigration committee - House leaders chose a vocal opponent of illegal immigration to head up the chamber’s immigration subcommittee, which will play an integral role in the upcoming debates on how to reform the nation’s immigration laws.
BBC – Mexico to create new police force in drugs policy shift - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, has announced the creation of a new national police force as part of efforts to tackle crime and violence.
National Journal – Opinion: New Year’s Resolution for Congress Should Be Passing Immigration Reform - Amid all the talk of the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling, White House and congressional staffers are working behind the scenes on negotiating some consensus on another major issue: immigration reform. If they can deliver a Christmas present in the form of avoiding the fiscal cliff, then passing immigration reform should be their New Year’s resolution.