For years it’s been said that high levels of immigration are nothing to worry about. After all, we’re reminded, the proportion of the foreign-born population is still lower than it was during the Great Wave Era.
The Great Wave Era of Immigration was a period between the 1880s and 1920s when shiploads of immigrants would enter New York Harbor, pass the Statue of Liberty, and go to Ellis Island to be admitted into the country.
So don’t worry, the foreign-born proportion of the population is still lower than it was then.
That was true, but we are now reaching the 15% milestone, thus surpassing the level of the much-romanticized Ellis Island immigration days.
Jason Richwine, resident scholar of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), recently wrote an article in National Review entitled, "Census Bureau: No End in Sight to Record-Breaking Immigration."
Richwine begins: “In 1910, in the midst of a high immigration period known as the Great Wave, the Census Bureau found that 14.7 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born, close to the record of 14.8 percent set in 1890. The onset of World War I would soon lessen the flow, however, and restrictive legislation passed in the 1920s kept immigration low for the next four decades.”
That immigration restriction law, passed by Congress and signed by President Calvin Coolidge, initiated a low period of immigration which lasted until the 1960s, when the 1965 Immigration Act kicked it into high gear again.
“The years 1890 and 1910 stood as the high-water marks of immigration in the U.S. — until now. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the foreign-born share hit roughly 15 percent in August. Although there is some sampling error involved in that estimate, the U.S. is clearly at or near a new record.”
Yes, and the Biden Border Rush is probably pushing us to the milestone.
“Optimists may cite the Great Wave as proof that the U.S. can absorb the high levels of immigration that we are experiencing today. The problem with that analogy is that the Great Wave was followed by a long period of low immigration, giving newcomers time to integrate. By contrast, new population projections out today from the Census Bureau show no expected slowdown in immigration. The bureau projects that the foreign-born share will keep increasing throughout the century, setting new records year after year.”
That’s a good point.
Historically, immigration to the U.S. was never – in Joe Biden's words – an "unrelenting stream." High levels of immigration were followed by low levels, which allowed for assimilation.
For example, the surge of immigration from the 1880s to 1920s was followed by 40 years of net out-migration. More people were actually leaving the U.S. than entering it.
There were other differences as well:
1. During the Great Wave, the U.S. didn’t have a huge welfare state, and around a third of the immigrants went back home. Now, almost nobody goes home, and immigrants are rapidly recruited into the welfare system.
2. There was more pressure for immigrants to assimilate than there is now and not all this rhetoric about “diversity."
3. Most immigrants were white Europeans, which, despite the problems of the era, made assimilation easier.
What’s in store for the future?
According to Richwine, “In the bureau’s main analysis, the foreign-born share will approach 20 percent by the end of the century, and in the alternative ‘high immigration’ scenario it would rise to nearly 25 percent. As my colleague Steven Camarota notes, the acceleration of immigration under President Biden probably makes the ‘high’ scenario the more likely one."
Our current rulers seem determined to continue “an unrelenting stream of immigration” indefinitely.
“Absent a change in policy, our country’s absorptive capacity will soon be tested as it never has been before…With our country already divided along lines of culture and politics and heritage — witness, for example, the bitter clashes over Mideast policy — I fear that continued high immigration will worsen the division.”
As in the 1920s, is it now time for another drastic reduction in immigration?
You can find more of Allan Wall's work at his website.
Please donate to support our work.