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July 2021, Volume 27, Number 3

Immigration, Population

President Joe Biden, in his first speech to Congress in April 2021, pledged to push for comprehensive immigration reforms that would allow the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US to become legal immigrants and US citizens. Biden also endorsed bills approved by the House with some Republican support in March 2021 to legalize Dreamers, who are unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before age 16, and unauthorized farm workers.

A May 2021 DHS blueprint to implement Biden’s immigration vision laid out administrative changes that could make it easier for foreigners to obtain immigrant visas and naturalize, including substituting virtual for in-person interviews. Another change would make it easier for foreigners to receive asylum in the US due to domestic violence or discrimination in their home countries based on sexual orientation.

Biden stopped work on the border wall with Mexico, reduced efforts to locate and deport unauthorized foreigners from inside the US, and rescinded the ban on travelers from particular countries. However, an upsurge in the number of Central American families and unaccompanied teens seeking asylum may make it difficult to win Republican support for any large-scale legalization proposal.

A bipartisan group of 21 senators launched an effort in May 2021 to develop an immigration reform proposal. Republicans say that immigration reform must deal with the influx of Central Americans at the Mexico-US border, while Democrats say that immigration reform must legalize most of the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US. Some Democrats want to attach immigration reform to Biden’s infrastructure package, which they say could be passed via reconciliation and a simple majority vote because of its budgetary implications.

Immigration reform may be upstaged by Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure investment program and a $1.8 trillion plan to provide universal preschool, cost-free community college education, and government child care subsidies. Congress approved a $1.9 trillion corona-relief and stimulus bill in March 2021, prompting some economists to warn that additional government spending may fuel inflation.

Migrant advocates who in the past insisted on comprehensive immigration reforms now urge piece meal or incremental reforms to legalize Dreamers and farm workers. Previously, advocates feared that incremental reforms would reduce Congressional support to legalize other unauthorized foreigners.

An analysis of 2020 voters warned Democrats that they need to develop an economic agenda that appeals to minorities to keep them from switching to Republicans. Many anti-Trump voters liked the economic boom under Trump and agreed with Trump’s refusal to close the economy to fight Covid. Some Democratic candidates have been tagged as defund-the-police socialists, scaring immigrants from countries ruled by leftists. Republicans who appeal to working class whites stress the need for low taxes and a strong military.

Refugees. Candidate Joe Biden promised to raise the number of refugees resettled in the US to 125,000 a year, but was slow to raise the 15,000 limit established by President Trump after taking office, drawing protests. The upsurge in the number of Central Americans seeking asylum at the Mexico-US border reportedly slowed the increase in the refugee quota.

President Biden ended Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols or Remain in Mexico program that required asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the US and in Mexico for court hearings. Many of those outside the US did not learn about or participate in their hearings, and less than two percent were recognized as refugees. In June 2021, DHS announced that over 30,000 asylum seekers who missed US court dates while they were waiting in Mexico could re-apply for asylum via a web site maintained by UNHCR.

Population. The US population grew at the slowest rate in decades, up 7.4 percent during the 2010s to 331.4 million in April 2020. The fastest US population growth was in the 1960s, when the population increased by over 18 percent during the decade, and the slowest growth was in the 1930s, when the population grew 7.3 percent.

Five states grew by 15 percent or more, Utah, Idaho Texas, North Dakota and Nevada. Three states had shrinking populations, Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia. The census shows that Americans continue to move south and west, from higher-tax and colder states to warmer and lower-tax states.

Five states, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Oregon, will gain one House seat, and Texas will gain two House seats. Seven states will lose one House seat each, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

There are 435 House seats. The average House district had 761,000 residents in 2020, up from 711,000 in 2010.

The US population quadrupled in the 20th century, from about 70 million to 280 million. During the 21st century, the US population is expected to stabilize at less than 400 million. The median age of US residents in 2020 was 38, and there were more US residents in 2020 who were 80 and older than children two and younger.

There were 3.6 million births in the US in 2020, an average of 10,000 a day, the smallest number since 1979 and well below the peak 4.3 million births in 1957. Some 25 states had more deaths than births in 2020, and the fertility rate dropped to 1.6 children per woman, below the 2.1 rate required to replace the population.

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