Trump Immigration Plan Could Keep Whites in U.S. Majority for up to Five More Years

Jeff Stein, Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, February 6, 2018

President Trump’s proposal to cut legal immigration rates would delay the date that white Americans become a minority of the population by as few as one or as many as five additional years, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The plan, released by the White House last month, would scale back a program that allows people residing in the United States to sponsor family members living abroad for green cards, and would eliminate the “diversity visa program” that benefits immigrants in countries with historically low levels of migration to the United States. Together, the changes would disproportionately affect immigrants from Latin America and Africa.

The Census Bureau projects that minority groups will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in the United States in 2044. The Post’s analysis projects that, were Trump’s plan to be carried out, the date would be between 2045 and 2049, depending on how parts of it are implemented.

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All told, the proposal could cut off entry for more than 20 million legal immigrants over the next four decades. The change could have profound effects on the size of the U.S. population and its composition, altering projections for economic growth and the age of the nation’s workforce, as well as shaping its politics and culture, demographers and immigration experts say.

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Trump’s plan calls for eliminating all family-based visa programs that are not used for sponsoring either minors or spouses. That means several family-based visa programs — including those that allow sponsorship for siblings, adult parents and adult children — would be canceled. It also calls for the elimination of the diversity visa lottery and the reallocation of its 50,000 visas to reduce the number of immigrants already on a backlog and to go to a new visa based on “merit.”

The Post analyzed a low-end and high-end estimate for cuts to legal immigration under the Trump plan. The low-end estimate, provided by Numbers USA, a group that favors limiting immigration, suggests that about 300,000 fewer immigrants will be admitted legally on an annual basis. A high-end estimate from the Cato Institute, which favors immigration, suggests that as many as 500,000 fewer immigrants would be admitted. Cato bases its number, in part, on assumptions that more family visa categories will be cut.

Last August, Trump endorsed a Senate bill written by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) that would cut legal immigration levels by close to 500,000 people annually, according to estimates by the bill’s authors. The White House has not released estimates of its own plan.

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But by reducing the country’s overall population, the plan could eventually reduce the overall growth rate of the U.S. economy. Under Trump’s plan, the U.S. economy could be more than $1 trillion smaller than it would have been two decades from now. That’s largely because the economy would have fewer workers.

The plan could also raise the median age of U.S. workers. About 4 of every 5 immigrants is projected to be under the age of 40, while only half of the country’s overall population is that young, according to Census Bureau data. {snip}

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Hispanic immigrants who are registered voters favor Democrats over Republicans by a 70-to-18 margin, and registered voters who are Asian immigrants favor Democrats by a 50-to-33 margin, according to the most recent data available from the Pew Research Center. (Similar data was not available for African immigrants.) Approximately 78 percent of immigrants from Africa and 65 percent of immigrants from Asia were naturalized within 10 years.

But while these effects of delaying the United States’ diversification would be significant, they would not fundamentally change the country’s demographic destiny. {snip}

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“You can shut the door to everyone in the world and that won’t change,” said Roberto Suro, an immigration and demography expert at the University of Southern California. “The president can’t do anything about that. If your primary concern is that the American population is becoming less white, it’s already too late.”

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Another big factor is what happens to the population of roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including the  “dreamers,” in the country. The Post’s calculations (like the Census Bureau’s) assume they will stay. But their future status is unresolved, and if any significant number of them are forced to leave the country, it could push back the minority-majority date as well.

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Others who favor immigration restrictions have pointed to the necessity of reducing what they call the social disruption of high levels of immigration, which strikes some liberal critics as code for keeping the United States’ white population in the majority.

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an immigration restrictionist in Congress, said on Twitter last year.

One of the biggest unknowns is how long new immigrants will identify as racial minorities.

Some academics, as Duke professor William Darity Jr. wrote in the American Prospect, argue that many Latino immigrants “identify less as Hispanic and more as non-Hispanic white” the longer they stay in the United States — a phenomenon similar to the absorption of Irish and Italian immigrants into the idea of “whiteness.”

Other demographers say a real and important shift is underway, with important consequences for U.S. politics. They note that many Hispanics already identify as white and yet still vote like a minority group. {snip}

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