The 30 Million Immigrants Trump Would Turn Away

Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic, September 8, 2016

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{snip} Though largely overshadowed by his hard-edged proposals on undocumented immigrants, Trump proposed the most significant restriction on legal immigration since Congress slashed it after World War I. Projections by the non-partisan Pew Research Center suggest that, compared to current law, Trump’s plan would reduce legal immigration through 2065 by tens of millions. “The actual number of people who might not come to the United States would be at least 30 million, possibly more,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research.

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The key to Trump’s new proposal was his call for a commission to develop policies that would, as their first identified goal, “keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms.” Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to requests to clarify how he defined “historical norms.” But Lopez calculates that the foreign-born have comprised on average 10 percent of the U.S. population since 1850.

Today, immigrants represent around 14 percent of the population, well above that average. As Trump correctly noted, the share of the population born abroad is on track “within just a few years” to exceed its all-time high of 14.8 percent in 1890, at the Melting Pot Era’s height. Pew projects that under current law the foreign-born population share will pass that milestone in about a decade–and reach 18 percent by 2065.

Even limiting the foreign-born population share to around 10 percent would still allow considerable numbers of new immigrants to enter over time, both because earlier generations will pass away and the total U.S. population will increase, Lopez notes. But, he quickly adds, not nearly as many would arrive as under current law. As a result, after subtracting deaths and departures, the current U.S. immigrant population of about 45 million would remain unchanged or even shrink in coming decades under Trump’s limits. By contrast, under current trends Pew projects that immigrant population to grow by fully 33 million through 2065. And because future immigrants and their children are projected to provide nearly 90 percent of the total U.S. population growth over that period, “you would be talking about a country that would grow more slowly,” Lopez adds. {snip}

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