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Yesterday, the Census Bureau reported that, in 2011, 50.4% of all births in the United States were to minorities:
For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S., capping decades of heady immigration growth that is now slowing.
New 2011 census estimates highlight sweeping changes in the nation’s racial makeup and the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is now resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.
“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”
The report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legality of Arizona’s strict immigration law, with many states weighing similar get-tough measures.
That set off a wide range of commentary and discussion from blogs, traditional media and, of course, the anti-immigrant fringe.
La Opinión’s editorial, “Betting on the future,” focused on DREAMers:
As a case in point, instead of wasting time developing proposals to strip the children of undocumented immigrants of their citizenship, why not think of how to educate them and prevent the high rate of school dropouts that negatively impacts African Americans and Latinos? We need to prepare these young people, the sons and daughters of immigrants who worked hard to contribute to past economic bonanzas, to join the workforce. The history of generations replacing each other is the history of the United States.
In addition to the blindness of the anti-immigrant movement that is swarming around many states, there is a wave to cut investments in education to tackle government deficits. Priorities are misguided when temporary political pressure blocks a vision that goes beyond today’s tax hikes or cuts.
It will take years until minorities become the majority population in the U.S., but the date looms on the horizon. Closing the eyes and ignoring this fact is irresponsible. Wanting to deport these children and deny them opportunities, as happens now with the dreamers of the DREAM Act, is long-term suicide. The future is in our hands, and depends on how we prepare the next generation by giving them opportunities to succeed. Their success will be everyone’s success.
Education was also a key factor in the Washington Post’s editorial, titled “America’s changing demographics” in the online version and “The Browning of America” in the print edition:
Education levels of today’s immigrants and their children may be no worse than their early-20th-century counterparts, but they still graduate from college in far smaller proportions than do non-Hispanic whites. That represents a crippling disadvantage in today’s post-industrial economy.
Elected officials have done too little to address that discrepancy. They also have been paralyzed by the presence of 11 million illegal immigrants, whose children, documented or not, are assimilating too slowly and risk becoming an intractable part of the long-term underclass. In the past, unauthorized immigrants were often eventually given a leg up and a path to legalizing themselves by amnesty or other means, affording their children a shot at the American Dream. Now, millions are stuck, and America is the loser.
Radical demographic shifts are occurring in Texas, Florida, Arizona and other big states as elderly non-Hispanic white populations, who control the political process through their votes, are being gradually supplanted by a wave of younger Latinos. America’s complexion is changing, literally. It will be up to politicians to manage that evolution without social upheaval and to ensure that younger Americans, even if they don’t resemble their elders, get the same opportunities.
On the blogs, Andrew Sullivan weighed in:
This is the great unspoken drama of American politics right now – and has been for a while. In a world of economic distress, where a globalized economy gradually eclipses any single country’s ability to control its own economic destiny, and when multiracial immigration tears at the cultural identity of nation states, it is utterly predictable that more atavistic strains of nationalism will emerge. Across Europe, the hard and far right is gaining, as the center buckles. In America, the fervor behind shutting down Mexican immigration is occurring just as that immigration has slowed to a trickle or begun to reverse itself.
The shrill argument we’ve been having over immigration and the obtuse opposition to immigration reform from the right side of the political divide starts to find a place in this context – especially in the last two words of the quoted sentence: it’s identity. Immigration is just the field where a much larger game is being played. I saw it in church on Sunday and read it this morning in the headlines.
It would be good to have an honest conversation, one that calls things as they are instead of circumventing ideas and definitions. The immigration debate isn’t about the border or about jobs or the letter of the law. It’s about the American identity and how it’s changing; it’s about what it means to be American, what it looks like, sounds like and feels like.
Let’s have that conversation. It’ll be good for America. And while we’re at it, let’s put education first in a real sense an not just in a political rhetoric sense. Minority kids need an education just as much as non-minority kids did when they were the ones filling the classrooms. Kids are kids, can we start the conversation there?
The only thing that has slowed down this process, this transformation of the racial composition of the richest nation, is the long recession, which for many minorities is a long depression. If the economy recovers, this process will be reenergized.
“Immigrants do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers. The NY Times liberals seek to destroy the American family of the 1950s, as symbolized by Ozzie and Harriet. The TV characters were happy, self sufficient, autonomous, law abiding, honorable, patriotic, hard working, and otherwise embodied qualities that made America great. In other words, the show promoted values that NY Times liberals despise. Instead, the USA is being transformed by immigrants who do not share those values, and who have high rates of illiteracy, illegitimacy, and gang crime, and they will vote Democrat when the Democrats promise them more food stamps.” – Roger Schlafly, son of Phyllis, writing for the Eagle Forum.