Greg's Opinion Greg's big blog of whatnot


The Lovers, The Dreamers … and Maps!

» Washington Post: For Maryland Democrats, redistricting referendum forces a look in the mirror
» Washington Post: Maryland ad war coming over same-sex marriage vote
» Washington Post: Costs, benefits of Md. Dream Act hard for voters to measure

I foresee a lot of interesting post-election analysis out of Maryland this season. That is all.


A Quickie Early Vote Aggrepost

Since I'm up early and a few links seem worth a mention ...

» New Republic: Achilles Tar Heel
North Carolina and Virginia are definitely going to be some of the most interesting states to see how the Presidential race moves (or doesn't).

» Chron: Galveston dropping resistance to public housing
» GC Daily News: Isle officials briefed on GLO’s housing plan

I'm not one for denigrating the wisdom of voters, even if my preferred candidate loses. But Galveston voters aren't helping much with their choice of mayor in the last election.

» Wash. Post: Baltimore puts out welcome mat for immigrants, hoping to stop population decline
There are actually a number of tenents to Baltimore's efforts. Not harrassing undocumented residents is one of them. If I were the scorecard-carrying type, I might bemoan this sort of coverage as "biased." Instead, it's just incomplete and a little lazy. There is a quote from a Baltimore elected who does begin to introduce some of the additional context, the reporter just ends the story there for all intents and purposes. The city of Baltimore has apparently been focusing on population for quite a while and the latest Census info didn't exactly do any wonders. Here's the Baltimore Sun's topic page for "population decline" for more context.

» NY Review of Books: Getting Away With It (Paul Krugman & Robin Wells)
Set aside for reading on Wednesday or any insomnia attack before then. I downloaded a preview of the Scheiber and Edsall books. Edsall's is a definite for continuing on with and I may opt for Chris Hayes' latest instead of Scheiber's. For his review, I'm merely hoping that Krugman is better suited for elaboration in a long-form take rather than his usual spotty analysis in his blog or column. That said, I wasn't much of a fan of his book, "The Conscience of a Liberal."

» Foreign Affairs: Confucius and the Ballot Box [$]
This looks interesting for a little dose of continuing education in Asian politics. So it goes into the Wednesday reading pile. I'm assuming this will relate more to the impact that a lack of democracy has to American foreign policy. But I'll be reading for some extra hints on any meaning for Asian voters (and more importantly, non-voters) here at home.

And on a non-political, non-current-affairs sort of note, I'll offer a sermon of choice ...

» Mars Hill Church: A Church That Believes in "We" and "Opt-In"
With a little bit of gratuitous back-patting over catching up on some Mars Hill podcasts, I happened to spin a few old sermons in order of their delivery. So now I'm on a kick to read through the book of Acts (and possibly restart this old habit), which this sermon is part of a series on. Sadly, I realized that my spotty record of downloading sermons finds me 7 downloads short of the 24-part series on Acts. So a small sacrifice of remuneration to the altar of archived podcasts must be given.

ADD-ON: One late entry via facebook discovery ...

» Texas Monthly: Why Johnny Can't Learn
The book under review definitely seems like a worthwhile read if I ever remember to pick up Ravitch's last one to read as a preview.


About That Immigration Slowdown …

» NY Times: The Next Immigration Challenge (Dowell Myers)

Another solid datapoint that highlights the slowdown in immigration:

The most startling evidence of the falloff is the effective disappearance of illegal border crossers from Mexico, with some experts estimating the net number of new Mexicans settling in the United States at zero. The size of the illegal-immigrant population peaked in 2007, with about 58 percent of it of Mexican origin, according to the Pew Hispanic Center; since 2008, that population has shrunk by roughly 200,000 a year. Illegal immigrants from Asia and other parts of the globe have similarly dwindled in numbers.

This new equilibrium is here to stay, in large part because Mexico’s birthrate is plunging. In 1970 a Mexican woman, on average, gave birth to 6.8 babies, and when they entered their 20s, millions journeyed north for work. Today the country’s birthrate — at 2.1 — is approaching that of the United States. That portends a shrinking pool of young adults to meet Mexico’s future labor needs, and less competition for jobs at home.

I'm still fairly skeptical of the impact that a declining birthrate will have. If anything, I'd bet on it being a negligible influence that can once more be overwhelmed if we see a good economy in America combined with a stagnant once in Mexico or elsewhere in Central America. Bottom line: the economy on both sides of the border are the biggest drivers of immigration.

The rest of the piece is worth a read in full. The results ... those we'll have to wait and see in the years ahead.


Weekend Cache Clearance

A little light reading from the week that I don't have the time to blog about ...

» Chron: Feds offer new guidance on when to dismiss immigration cases

» NY Times: Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains

» Wash. Post: Bolivian migrants ride out hard times

» NY Times: Disenfranchise No More


Chart of the Day: From Citizenship to Voting

The Asian American Justice Center releases an update of their big profile of the Asian population. This chart showing the disparity of voting-eligibility and voting practice is a pretty useful snapshot for understanding how electorates come to look so different from the populations that elected officials have to represent.

If and whenever time permits, I'll have to add creating a Texas version of this and a Harris County version of this to my to-do list. Among the differences is that I'd expect to see lower gray bars for Hispanic and possibly Asian. There are a number of indicators that suggest that Texas has more of a GOTV problem than a Voter Reg problem compared to other states.


Extreme Multiculturalism: San Diego Style

» NY Times: When the Uprooted Put Down Roots

Another datapoint to highlight some of the newer and more unique pockets of demographic change around the country. The fact that farmer's markets are popping up in urban settings isn't, in and of itself, the most curious thing to see. But the fact that these settings go well beyond the traditional entry-point cities is pretty interesting.

New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country. American agriculture has historically been forged by newcomers, like the Scandinavians who helped settle the Great Plains; today’s growers are more likely to be rural subsistence farmers from Africa and Asia, resettled in and around cities from New York, Burlington, Vt., and Lowell, Mass., to Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Diego.

With language and cultural hurdles, and the need to gain access to land, financing and marketing, farm ownership for refugees can be very difficult. Programs like New Roots, which provide training in soil, irrigation techniques and climate, “help refugees make the leap from community gardens to independent farms,” said Hugh Joseph, an assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts, which advises 28 “incubator” farms representing hundreds of small-scale producers.

Cameroonian peanut plants are growing at Drew Gardens in the Bronx, chronicled on the Facebook page of Angela Nogue, a refugee farmer. Near Phoenix, a successful goat meat farm and store was begun by Ibrahim Sawara Dahab, an ethnic Sudanese from Somalia. “In America, you need experience, and my experience was goats,” he said.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington formed a sustainable farming program in 1998, financing 14 refugee farms and gardens, including one in Boise, Idaho, where sub-Saharan African farmers have gradually learned to cope with unpredictable frosts.

Sub-Saharan farmers in Boise. Sudanese goat herders in Phoenix. And even Cameroonian peanut farmers in the Bronx. That's about as interesting a slice of multiculturalism as I think you can find. While I previously mentioned the "Des Moines phenomenon" of Hispanic population popping up in unexpected places, I'm not sure whether to classify what this article discusses as being part of the same thing, or maybe introducing the more obscure "Euless phenomenon" since this tracks somewhat closely to the seemingly inexplicable rise of the Tongan population in Euless, TX during the 80s.


Leaving Alabama

» NY Times: After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town
» Wash. Post: A tough new Alabama law targets illegal immigrants and sends families fleeing

Two similar stories on the heels of the Alabama immigration law being upheld, both worth a read. For those in need of some quick stats to go along with the read, The Post primarily covers Foley (located between Mobile & Pensacola on the gulf) while the NYT sticks to Albertville (inland, between Gadsden and Huntsville). Foley is about 9% Hispanic (out of a population >14k) while Albertville is 28% Hispanic (out of >21k total).

In both cases, the situation strikes me as somewhat parallel to a lot of other small town explosions in Hispanic population. In the early phase of this migration pattern, this type of growth used to be something of a "Des Moines phenomenon" ... places (like Des Moines) that weren't accustomed to seeing a natural pocket of Hispanic population in decades past suddenly getting an influx of them. Now the phenomenon is geographically broader than a few isolated examples. Closer to home in Texas, Smith & Gregg Counties (Tyler & Longview) are about 17-18% Hispanic. East Texas counties such as Shelby (16%) and Rusk (14%), just to throw two more random examples into the mix are seeing the same thing. And when you compare the CVAP population to the ACS's VAP, the ratios are particularly low. So it's not for nothing that the local rednecks - and I have kinfolk from Shelby County, so I can call them that - in various state legislatures are raising their alarm over illegal immigration in recent years.

I, or anyone else in the world, can argue to the high heavens about whether their animus ought to be with the employers in their area who are luring the workers in and hiring undocumented workers. Whether an old and aging small town wishes to have a thriving business or just another abandoned building or nursing home may be more fodder for absolutely wonderful conversation. But the folks in areas such as these are definitely seeing something new for the very first time and laws such as the ones in Alabama and Arizona are the end result of it.

From at least one angle of the bigger picture of all of this, I'm curious to see what the impact of laws such as this have on re-shuffling Hispanic population on a broader scale. If nothing else, it's a point to chalk up as another reason to think that the type of demographic change we saw in the last decade won't necessarily be matched in the current decade. Birth and death rates still nudge some gravity toward increased Hispanic population shares. But the impact of laws such as Alabama's and the overall slowdown in international migration don't seem ready to amplify that shift as it did during the last decade.

One final parallel that might be worth making from the Post's version of the tale:

William Lawrence, the principal of Foley Elementary School, said frightened immigrant families withdrew 25 students last week, even though all the children were U.S. citizens. He said the Hispanic community was swept by rumors that parents would be arrested when they came to collect their children. Many families asked teachers and others to act as their children’s emergency drivers or legal guardians.

“We are doing all we can to reassure parents that their kids are safe, and things have calmed down some, but this was extremely wrong,” Lawrence said. “I hope our lawmakers did not do it deliberately. They won, because now people are leaving. But there is no reason to create such terrible fear of parents being separated from their children.”

Compare that to Ben Smith's observation from a recent panel discussion:

I participated in a panel on the topic of the Hispanic vote at Advertising Week in New York yesterday, and was struck by two items in the remarks by the pollsters and Latino politics on the panel: That immigration isn't the top issue for Hispanic voters ("I don't care about immigration," Univision executive Chiqui Cartagena announced), and that Hispanic voters are intensely sensitive to rhetoric -- more, in the view of some, than policy -- that comes off as bigoted or as playing to bigots.

As a general rule, it strikes me as unwise to reduce the matter to thinking that Hispanics tilt in favor of (or at least more neutrally toward) illegal immigration. My own experience instructs me that views toward immigration are far more complex among the audience sample that's in my network. But that complexity cuts two ways, as Smith's point touches on. In other words, just because there may not be a sizable share of Hispanic voters who sympathize with illegal immigrants, they're still likely to know when a bigot is just being a bigot and not respond sympathetically to that either.

So it's still a game of chicken that the GOP seems to want to play with Hispanic voters. It may not be quite as cut-and-dried as your garden variety hot button issue. But it's still a game of chicken. After all, it's not the undocumented population that can't vote that they're scaring off ... it's the legal, been here for a long time, and voting share of the Hispanic population. And that share is still going to grow over time.


The Baby Bubble

» Foreign Policy: The World Will Be More Crowded -- With Old People

Another driver of the slowdown in immigration ...

Which countries will be aging most rapidly in 2025? They won't be in Europe, where birth rates fell comparatively gradually and now show some signs of ticking up. Instead, they'll be places like Iran and Mexico, which experienced youth bulges that were followed quickly by a collapse in birth rates. In just 35 years, both Iran and Mexico will have a larger percentage of their populations over 60 than France does today. Other places with birth rates now below replacement levels include not just old Europe but also developing countries such as Brazil, Chile, China, Lebanon, Tunisia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Because of the phenomenon of hyper-aging in the developing world, another great variable is already changing as well: migration. In Mexico, for example, the population of children age 4 and under was 434,000 less in 2010 than it was in 1996. The result? The demographic momentum that fueled huge flows of Mexican migration to the United States has waned, and will wane much more in the future. Already, the net flow of illegal Mexican immigration northward has slowed to a trickle. With fewer children to support and not yet burdened by a huge surge of elders, the Mexican economy is doing much better than in the past, giving people less reason to leave. By 2025, young people on both sides of the border may struggle to understand why their parents' generation built this huge fence.

Harris County will be a particularly interesting datapoint to watch in the years ahead. As of the latest Census, the county is 40.8% Hispanic compared to 2000's 32.9% share. Whether the overall slowdown in immigration or Harris County's status as an immigration entry point drives Hispanic population growth up or down over the next decade remains to be seen. There's still the bubble represented by the already-present differences in age groups within Harris County. The under-18 population is already 51% Hispanic. That's not enough to drive the total Hispanic population share to majority status within a decade and it remains to be seen where that generation settles given that the previous generation has already started the process of diffusion throughout the county. If the county is to reach majority-Hispanic status in the next decade, it will because the older, more Anglo population continues to migrate elsewhere and to die off while the county's status as an entry point for immigration continues while the sheer numbers of those immigrating slow down.


The Real “Two Americas”

» NY Times: Risks Seen for Children of Illegal Immigrants

Among the effects of the last decade's surge in immigration ...

Children whose parents are illegal immigrants or who lack legal status themselves face “uniformly negative” effects on their social development from early childhood until they become adults, according to a study by four researchers published Wednesday in the Harvard Educational Review.


“In late adolescence, they start to realize their legal limitations, and their worlds turn completely upside down,” said Roberto G. Gonzales, a sociologist at the University of Chicago whose research on college-age illegal immigrants is cited in the Harvard study.

Academic achievement does little to lift the prospects of illegal immigrants who have grown up here. Out of 150 immigrants Professor Gonzales studied in depth, 31 had completed college or advanced degrees, but none were in a career that matched their educational training. Many were working low-wage jobs like their parents.

The Harvard study found that many illegal immigrant youths, facing the “reduced promise of mobility,” had dropped out of school and begun the search for work they could do without legal papers, “forced deeper and deeper into an underground work force.”

The researchers said that a generation of young illegal immigrants raised in this country was moving toward “perpetual outsider-hood.”

The prospect of becoming more like Europe in how we deal with immigration is not exactly a compelling argument. If you want to see assimilation, you'll need to see a greater acceptance of immigrants into the workplace. The fact that this ultimately leads to a greater acceptance of those same folks into the polling place is among the hurdles that prevents this from happening. And the reality is that, beyond elite political circles, broader social acceptance of immigration is not something that tends to go hand-in-hand with tough economic climates. I'm not quite so pessimistic that I'd say we're locked into a vicious cycle with no escape. But it definitely bears watching to see how the debates around immigration, voting rights, and economic rights plays out. I can certainly see how it ends badly and the scenario I see for it resolving nicely is a bit of a stretch. But there does tend to be some amount of ability to self-correct the civic spirit, even if occasionally.

For the immediate point in time, I think it's worth noting what a missed opportunity there was in 2007 when you had a GOP President, some amount of GOP legislative support, and a Democratic majority ready to act on immigration reform. By the time that the biggest GOP legislative supporter opted to do a 180 on reform in order to salvage a Presidential primary campaign, the moment was lost. Now, any serious GOP legislative support is down to a negligible amount and the prospect of the 2012 elections altering that in the short term aren't much better. It's enough to warrant pessimism.

» NY Review of Books: The Big Muslim Problem! (Malise Ruthven; 12/17/09)
» CNN: Europe's resurgent far right focuses on immigration, multiculturalism (7/24/11)
» Foreign Policy: The Dis-Integration of Europe (Jonathan Laurence, Justin Vaisse; 3/28/11)
» National Journal: Bound Together: Why America must bridge the widening divide between the brown and the gray (Ron Brownstein; 9/9/11)
» Samuel Huntington: The Clash of Civilizations? (Summer 1993)


The Impact of the Immigration Slowdown

Two interesting reads from the weekend to share, re: the slowdown of immigration ...

» Chron: Texas border sees rise in illegal immigrants from India

Indians have arrived in droves even as the overall number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. has dropped dramatically, in large part because of the sluggish American economy. And with fewer Mexicans and Central Americans crossing the border, smugglers are eager for more "high-value cargo" like Indians, some of whom are willing to pay more than $20,000 for the journey.

"Being the businessmen they are, they need to start looking for ways to supplement that work," said Rosendo Hinojosa, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector, at the southernmost tip of Texas, which is the most active nationwide for apprehending Indian nationals.

Between October 2009 and March 2011, the Border Patrol detained at least 2,600 illegal immigrants from India, a dramatic rise over the typical 150 to 300 arrests per year.

The influx has been so pronounced that in May, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee that at some point this year, Indians will account for about 1 in 3 non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught in South Texas.

» The Money Illusion: A demographic depression (Scott Sumner)

Sumner compares the media coverage of the current slowdown in housing construction to that of depression-era consumer demand (and you thought I had peculiar hobbies!). Along the way, he identifies three factors that explain the slowdown we're in ...

1. Less immigration due to the post-2006 crackdown.

2. Less immigration due to the severe recession and high unemployment

3. 20-somethings who can’t get jobs are living with their parents.

Just to beat the dead horse ... the immigration pattern of the previous decade was unlike any other recent decade. And the current decade is not going to see the same pattern. That'll affect more than just demographics, as Sumner points out.

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