Hispanic, Asian Immigration Decline Is a Republican Opportunity--and Danger

A weak economy means immigrants are staying, or going, home. How will Republicans react?

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The Census Bureau report on the slowing growth of the Hispanic and Asian population in the United States should give pause to those critics of immigration reform, who insist that foreigners come here in search of free social welfare programs.

The report confirms statistically what those of us who live in areas of considerable immigration know anecdotally. With the collapse of the US economy, illegal workers are going, or staying, home. According to the AP story, the decline in the Hispanic population was especially notable in places like Nevada and Arizona, where the construction industry has been hard hit by the busted housing bubble, and in the Southeast, which used to lure immigrants to low-skill manufacturing jobs.

In short, immigrants are still coming here, as always, for economic opportunity. In a way that many entitled Americans are not, they are willing to pack up, risk much, travel far and work hard for a job to help their family.

I hesitate to guess what this means politically. But it's a pretty big deal, diversity-wise. The Census Bureau says that the economic downturn has slowed immigration to such an extent that the projected date (about 2042) when white Americans will become a minority may have to be pushed back by a decade.

This will give the anti-immigration wing of the Republican Party more time to get with the McCain-Rove-Bush argument that, in politics, demography is destiny. Or maybe this pause will only lead them further in denial.

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