U.S. Is Home to a Record 42.1 Million Immigrants

Monthly census data indicate that there are now 42.1 million foreign-born residents of the United States, the highest total in our history. This includes both legal and illegal immigrants.

For perspective, the entire population of Canada is 35 million. The census data indicate 12.1 million Mexicans–10% of Mexico’s population–are living here either legally or illegally. Immigrants now represent 13.3% of the population of the U.S., the highest proportion in 105 years.

There has been a fair amount of talk about illegal immigration during the current campaign season, but hardly any recognition of the fact that long-term, the bigger problem is legal immigration. This is not because immigration is bad per se. Of course it isn’t. The problem, rather, is that 1) we are being flooded with unprecedented numbers of immigrants, 2) who are overwhelmingly of the wrong kind, i.e., unskilled workers, 3) who drive down the wages of American workers, and whom 4) we are making essentially no effort to assimilate.

This is a recipe for disaster. The illegal immigration problem can be fixed with relative ease, through aggressive enforcement of our current laws, particularly against employers, and perhaps building a fence as a supplemental measure. The legal immigration problem is far more intractable, because our current laws are terrible. They are not designed to further the interests of American citizens; they provide for too much immigration based mostly on the wrong criteria (i.e., family unification rather than skills). And, of course, the anchor baby concept is a disaster. The problem is that legal immigration can be fixed only by changing our laws, which, in the present political climate, is close to impossible.

For now, about all we can do is try to educate voters. A starting point in that effort is to stop talking exclusively about illegal immigration, as though that were the only issue.