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West Virginia's immigration 'problem'

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tags: immigration, West Virginia



Walter Kamphoefner teaches immigration history at Texas A&M University, having left his native Missouri in search of opportunity, which he found in the immigration hotspots of Los Angeles, Miami and Texas.

It is the height of irony that the president should launch his immigration restriction initiative in West Virginia of all places. True, the Mountain State has a problem with immigrants: Almost none of them want to come. Immigrants there are almost as rare as coal miners. If immigrants were crowding out "real Americans" in the job market, West Virginia, along with Mississippi, should be optimal locations. They have among the lowest percentage of immigrants and the highest proportion speaking English only nationwide.

Instead, states with a high immigrant presence such as Texas (with the largest population gain in the previous decade) and California (with an economy larger than all but six nations of the world) are the ones that are thriving. … 

Republican trolls have been shedding crocodile tears for those allegedly most harmed by illegal immigration: African Americans. If they had bothered to ask, they would have found them more generous than the public at large in their attitudes toward the undocumented, with more than four-fifths of blacks wanting to let the undocumented stay if they meet certain conditions, and over half favoring a path to citizenship.

Now Trump's indiscriminate xenophobia is on full display. His new initiative echoes the claims of the anti-immigration lobby with the deceptive acronym FAIR, which denounces family visas for promoting chain migration and allegedly undermining the "quality" of U.S. immigration. In fact, chain migration has been the norm across the centuries. Family preference visas account for less than two-thirds of current immigration. On the eve of World War I when immigration of Europeans was virtually unrestricted, nearly 80 percent of those arriving were coming to join family. Chain migration actually cushions culture shock and promotes acculturation in the long run.

Another important point that FAIR neglects: People coming on family visas from countries that had little immigration before the 1965 reforms have similar backgrounds and aspirations as their resident sponsors who gained their initial toehold through educational/occupational visas. (The two are closely associated; seven-eighths of those granted green cards on occupational grounds were already present in the U.S. at the time.) Today, immigrants from Africa, the world's poorest continent, rival Asian immigrants for the top spot in their average levels of education.

Trump's preferences for English speakers is based on another misconception. The language transition is proceeding faster than it did in the past. Despite a considerable immigration from the British Isles, more of the foreign-born were unable to speak English in 1890 than in 2010. Cultural anxieties about the prospect of a "majority-minority society" by 2050 are also based on equally dubious assumptions, ironically promoted by two diametrically opposed groups: fearmongers convinced that "real Americans" like themselves are going to be outvoted and crowded out, and self-important and often self-appointed ethnic leaders trying to exaggerate the size and influence of the groups they "represent." ...



Read entire article at Houston Chronicle


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