Tuesday, 10 January 2006
Immigration (Finger Print Blues)
One of my favourite bits of New York is Ellis Island, I find it both inspiring and moving and I like the buzz about the place as children and adults trace their history. Amazing. Reminds me of what makes America the kind of place it is.
There's a section in the museum dedicated to moments in US history of anti-immigration feeling, a man was reading out a description of some of the darker moments to his partially sighted wife and when he finished he looked at the guy next to him and said: "That could be now, it's coming round again, how quick we forget."
Immigration is always a hot debate, the UK is only just relaxing from a good few years of frankly racist hot air about the perils of 'letting them in'. Xenophobia is never far from the surface in discussions about immigration and even bigger denials of racism, no likes to be a bigot but hey, they come over here and steal our jobs right? Right?
Inspired by Ellis Island I decided to look into immigration in the US and thanks to the excellent US Citizenship and Immigration Services I got some interesting facts. Unfortunately all the latest data is 2004 but it'll do and before I go on can I remind you that the population of the US is 295 million. Thanks.
Total immigration into the US in 2004 was just under 1 million people at 946,142 with the highest amount ever (1.8 million) coming in 1991. The lowest ever it seems was 1976 for some reason, with only 103,677 people deciding to try their luck in America. If anyone knows why or has some idea please share.
What amazed me is that only 75,000 of that 946,142 were refugees/asylum seekers, in other words the rest were economic migrants coming to see if the streets were paved with gold (more on that later). Indeed the most refugees ever admitted was in 92, when 120,000 were let in.
How many of those are willing to go through the 3-5 year naturalisation program? 537,151 became naturalised US citizens in 2004 with the peak being 1 million in 1996 and guess which two States most of them live in? California just pips New York.
I know what you're all thinking, what about all the ones that don't get in? These are split into different groups for some reason but the first group is the number of illegal aliens located (ie: logged but not ejected) and in 2004 that was 1.2 million (the peak being 2000 with 1.8 million) but that doesn't include those that are logged by the Border Patrols, this figure is 1.1 million (giving a total of 2.3 million illegal aliens) but these are ejected straight away. Guess how many of the 1.2 million located illegal aliens were expelled? 1.2 million.
What I'm trying to say is, consider the population of the US, consider the amount of people trying to get in and how many get through (and I'm sure many illegal aliens avoid being located) and see if that makes an immigration problem.
Here's what I think, most nations at some time start to blame immigrants for the social and economic ills of their failed policies, because that person is at the bottom of the pile, they are the easy target; the whipping boy but it's far harder to point the finger at those in power, those that set the economic parameters.
I was curious about how many US citizens emigrated every year to other countries and that info is far harder to come by, the estimate stands at 48,000 people a year leave America for good, for pastures new. The most popular destination? Europe and Canada.
As for streets paved with gold...
"But when they got here, they discovered three important things: First, the streets weren't paved in gold; second, they weren't paved at all; and third, they were expected to pave them!"