Pretending it’s not happening will only make the consequences worse
The Biden administration’s continuing effort to conceal or lie about the historic rates of immigration into the country is fast becoming a crisis in its own right—a socially-toxic version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. “It’s not unusual,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre casually remarked in late December, a month that saw the highest number of recorded migrant encounters in U.S. history. The Department of Homeland Security finally disclosed last Friday that more than 2.3 million migrants have been released into the country during the administration’s time in office.
The attempt to convince Americans not to worry about or even discuss the most consequential public policy issue facing our country cannot be healthy for American society or American democracy. Census Bureau data from October show that the total number of foreign-born immigrants (legal and illegal) in the U.S. has now reached nearly 50 million, amounting to 15% of the total current U.S. population. Both the total number of immigrants and their percentage of the U.S. population are also new records in U.S. history.
The enormous scale of immigration over the past three years has implications for nearly every aspect of American society—from public coffers, to labor markets, to the balance of political power, to culture. The rate of increase has been so fast that it appears to have already made the new Census Bureau population projections, published just two months ago, obsolete. The bureau projected on Nov. 9 that the foreign-born share of the U.S. population would not hit 15% until 2033. And yet here we are.
The foreign-born number and share are higher now than at any time in American history
The long-term growth in the foreign-born population primarily reflects legal immigration. In the 1970s, new green card holders (permanent residents) averaged roughly 400,000 per year, but immigration tends to build on itself. By the 1980s the U.S. was welcoming 600,000 new permanent residents per year. Recipients of the 1986 amnesty for illegal immigrants began to sponsor their relatives after a few years, stimulating more legal immigration. Legislation in 1990 increased legal immigration even further, and since the mid-1990s we have handed out about 1 million green cards per year.
The decision by certain universities not only to refrain from suspending foreign students who endorse or espouse the activities of foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas, but to also actively scrub the internet in order to protect the identities of these students—who in many cases are violating the conditions of their visas—should be viewed in part against this reality: Namely, it is paving the way for some foreign nationals, who by law are inadmissible, to remain indefinitely in the U.S., as part of a wave of immigration being encouraged from above, by federal authorities who have simply decided to no longer enforce existing laws, and in doing so to change the character of American society in ways that the administration seems unwilling to even begin to explain or discuss.
While legal immigrants make up most of the growth in the foreign-born population since 1965, the recent surge under Biden appears to be driven primarily not by legal but by illegal immigration. Since Biden took office, there have been 1.6 million “got-aways” at the border—individuals seen entering illegally but not stopped. That is three or four times the pre-COVID annual rate.
The sheer number of people stopped at the border or at ports of entry has been enormous. From January 2021 to October 2023 there have been nearly 8 million “encounters” of aliens not authorized to enter the country at U.S. borders and ports of entry, though in some cases it is the same person being stopped more than once. Encounters include individuals who are stopped at ports of entry, including at border entry points and interior U.S. airports, and those apprehended after crossing the border illegally, some of whom request asylum. Many of those encountered are subsequently let go within the United States…..
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